Celeste Muniz: On Sexual Assault, and Healing

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women in the United States has experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. Sexual assault is not limited to women of a certain race, social class, or dress. It occurs in all spaces, including those we consider safe. The sad truth is that we all know someone who has experienced sexual violence of some kind, and we may not even know it. What’s worse: we probably know someone guilty of committing the act, too. In a society that has shamed and victim blamed women for so long, oftentimes ridiculing those who have chosen to speak out, many choose to remain silent and bury their burdens deep within, hiding them even from herself.

Celeste Muniz wants to change that. 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. With the support of Healthy Hood Chicago, the young Latina (she is just 22 years old) hosted an event focused on “educating women on sexual violence, as well as heal and feel empowered through the arts.” At the Secret Flower Project, female victims shared their stories while experiencing live art. For Celeste, it was the first time she publicly shared her own story of abuse to an audience that included her mother. 

“Having the courage to address sexual assault is actually helping us define it, and that leads to more women speaking out. It’s a huge domino effect.” 

Photo by Mike Kremel.

Photo by Mike Kremel.

Celeste centered the discussion on complicated topics like consent, rape culture, and dress.

“We always have to second guess what we wear when we go out. Is it going to harm us?” 

The Secret Flower Project is just the beginning of Celeste’s journey on helping women heal. In her formative years, Celeste survived sexual abuse twice. After, she left Chicago for New Jersey in her late teens to learn how to navigate her life and deal with all that she couldn’t change. 

She came back refreshed, and discovered Healthy Hood, which she says has the power of saving lives. The Healthy Hood community accepts all and is led by women who are welcoming, loving, and kind. They focus on change from within in order to change the environment around them. Celeste’s involvement and contribution to the team (she is an intern there) is helping women overcome many of the obstacles accompanied by a traumatic experience, or even just an unpleasant one. Like her mother said to her after the event, Celeste is allowing women to heal while she herself is healing. 

Celeste, pictured with her Healthy Hood family.

Celeste, pictured with her Healthy Hood family.

“That was my ultimate goal. To help people either begin their healing process, continue their healing process, or more so, help others heal.” 

The easiest way of supporting victims of sexual assault and stopping the abuse from happening is to speak out. "Your voice is going to be heard, no matter what." 

Follow Celeste on Instagram @ceemuniz to stay updated with events focusing on surviving assault and life after.