Taylor Rippy Monson is originally from San Diego, California, and lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, Grant. She is a conflict consultant at The Arbinger Institute. She is also on the Young Women’s Leadership Council for YWCA Utah and volunteers as a conference team member with Initiatives of Change. She and Grant enjoy exploring the outdoors, going to Bonwood Bowl in Salt Lake, and eating different cuisines. If that’s not enough, she and her best friend, Taylor Jarman, also co-founded Honey, a sexual assault awareness organization.
Taylor Rippy Monson and Taylor Jarman’s friendship began about six years ago—both were students at BYU-Hawaii with mutual friends, yet they hadn’t met in person. Monson read Jarman’s blog and thought she was a great writer. She emailed and asked her to write a guest post for a blog she was starting. Jarman wrote a beautiful post but Monson decided not to do the blog. Months later, Jarman emailed, apologizing in case the blog post she wrote offended Monson. Monson said she felt rather silly and explained to Jarman why she hadn’t published her piece. Monson said Jarman responded with one line: “Wanna be pen pals?” They emailed each other every day—sometimes more than once—for over a year. They finally met in person in February 2014 in a little coffee shop in Salt Lake City.
After communicating for so long, Monson and Jarman didn’t find out until spring of 2015 that they had something in common: they had both been sexually assaulted during their teenage years.
“It was so crazy to us,” Monson said, “because we had talked about everything under the sun, but hadn’t talked to one another about such significant, traumatic experiences. It got us thinking—if we, as best friends, hadn’t opened up to one another about experiencing sexual assault, how many others were suffering in silence? We didn’t quite know what to do, but we knew we had to do something.”
In April of that year, they decided they were going to stop the silence about sexual assault. A few months later, they launched Honey, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of sexual assault and to changing public attitude.
Besides reading and publishing survivors’ stories, what else do you do to break the silence?
“We often speak in college classes, and hope to expand to high schools as well in the future. We’re in the process of developing a campus club program, where individuals can host Honey clubs on their high school and university campuses. We also hold events called Survivors’ Dinners, which are intimate gatherings for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters to come together in a safe space to talk about things that are difficult, or taboo to talk about. They’re such powerful experiences. We’re also excited to be holding our first retreat coming up in May. It’s important to us to support other organizations and ongoing efforts to combat sexual assault and to support survivors. There are amazing organizations and people doing powerful work in this area, and we jump at any chance we get to collaborate with or support others. We recently wrapped up a program we were doing with Art Access in Salt Lake City around art therapy for survivors, and next month we’re sponsoring a Rape Awareness Conference at Brigham Young University—the first of its kind. For individuals who want to stay up-to-date on Honey happenings, we have an events page on our website here.”
How have you already seen Honey make a positive impact on individuals and the community?
“The greatest part of all of this is receiving a message or an email or a text of an individual whose life has been touched by a “truth” that was shared, or an “essential” we posted, or an event we held. It’s bittersweet to know that Honey is affecting so many people, because on the one hand, you think, ‘Great! People are finding a space to open up about this pain, this heartache!’ And on the other hand you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, sexual assault is so much more prevalent than we ever could have imagined, data and all.’ There is something so liberating about knowing you’re not alone in your trauma, and that while each individual’s experience is different from the next, there’s a network of people who ‘get it,’ or if they haven’t experienced assault personally, they are wanting to help, wanting to learn and support. Seeing Honey explode the way that it has has been incredible.”
You said your goal for 2016 is be to recognized worldwide. What steps are you taking to reach that goal?
“Utah is such a fantastic home for Honey—we have found that the community here is so amazingly supportive of our work, and are willing to empower what we’re engaged in in any way they can. The universities, the local companies, other non-profits—it feels like everybody is there to lend a helping hand, to spread the word, to do whatever they can to be of service. We’ll be forever grateful for that, and Utah will always be Honey’s hometown. Taylor and I are both in our early twenties, and therefore have schooling to complete, degrees to earn, moves to make, etc. and we plan to bring Honey with us wherever we go. In April, we’ll be hosting our very first out-of-state Survivors Dinner in San Diego, California, and this summer I’ll be taking Honey to Switzerland for the second year in a row as part of my work with Initiatives of Change. Sexual assault is a global pandemic, so advocacy and education around support and prevention resonates worldwide.”
By Creelabelle Howard