Author Erika Gilchrist Rises From Abuse Victim to an ‘Unstoppable Woman’

Tue., Jun. 28, 2011 10:35 PM EDT
by Zondra Hughes

Erika Gilchrist

Erika Gilchrist, author of The Secrets to Being an Unstoppable Woman and motivational speaker, speaks frankly to rolling out about the aftermath of her childhood abuse that began when she was only 5-years-old, lasted for 15 years and  left her a shell of a woman by age 20.

Depressed and literally crying in a corner, Gilchrist reached deep within and tapped the secret that set her free and, thus, began her journey of motivating other unstoppable women.

Why the unstoppable woman? Do we not know our potential, or are we not living up to our potential?
It’s a combination of things. We may believe that we’re unstoppable, but our actions are in total opposition of that. We think that just because we say we’re unstoppable that that automatically means that we are. That is not [true]. Because when life happens, as it always does, a lot of us shut down. We fall apart, and we don’t know what to do. So, being unstoppable is not the same as being invincible and believing that bad things are not going to happen to you. But being unstoppable means, when that stuff happens, you know what to do. You know that you have to do it, and, here’s the thing, you actually do it in order to get past it.

What is the origin of the Unstoppable Woman?
Just growing up with very traumatic beginnings. The very people in my family who were supposed to be there to protect me were the very ones who violated me and made me confused about the role that men played in my life, and it hindered me.

It wasn’t until I actually started talking about it that I was scared to death because I thought I was the only one going through these things. But when I actually started talking about it, other women started coming forward, letting me know this is something they had experienced and that they were so glad that somebody else said it because they were afraid of it, too.

So, when I calculate the hundreds of traumatic experiences that I’ve gone through, and I came out on the other side of it a strong, powerful, influential, empowered woman, that’s how I came up with an Unstoppable Woman. I believe the average person would have given up a very long time ago.

What motivated you to go public about your traumatic childhood experience?

I was lying in a corner crying, not exactly knowing what to do, where to go, who to turn to, and it was one of those moments where you were sick and tired of being sick and tired. And I decided I was mature enough to know that, if I wanted something different, I had to do something different.

But I had to ask myself, “What haven’t I done here? What have I been missing?” It just came to me that “You haven’t talked about this. You’ve tried to handle this all by yourself. And you have all of these resources available to you absolutely free, and you haven’t taken advantage of it. If you want to get out of this corner, get up off the floor, pick up the phone, and you talk to somebody.” And it wasn’t until I did that that my life started to happen. The life that I knew I deserved started to come into fruition.

Do we as “strong black women” feel that we don’t need counseling sometimes?
That phrase, “strong black woman,” I think a lot of women take that to mean that we don’t need anybody else. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions that black women have. Being a strong black woman has nothing to do with handling things on your own. Part of the strength you gain is from other people, drawing from their strength in the areas where you’re weak. What makes you strong is when you reach out when you need help.

What is your advice for women who are depressed and “on the floor?”

Get up. The Internet is at your fingers. I’m at your fingers. You can call me. You can reach out to places that assist women for free, but first things first.  Know that you deserve to be up off of that floor.

Erika Gilchrist, author of the Unstoppable Woman, also has a message for abusers: “We will not be defeated. We will rise above it. And from this point forward, I have two words: No more.

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