Melissa St. Vil has been a fighter all of her life, both in the ring and outside of it. The champion boxer, who first experienced abuse as a child, was violently assaulted in 2009 by her then-trainer and uncle to boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., Roger Mayweather. Mayweather pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of battery, ultimately avoiding jail time.
It's been almost 11 years since the attack and Vils remains as valiant as ever, refusing to be painted as simply a victim, and committed to sharing her story with survivors.
That's why Vil teamed up with NoMore.org, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault, to bring her story of survival to life.
Commemorating Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which kicked off April first, Vil shot a black and white video called "Let it Out" which embodies the struggle and courage the athlete experienced in her quest for inner-strength. The video, which was written and directed by Maya Albanese, features Vil turning her tears into sweat as she boxes to a poem written by Albanese and narrated by Melissa. The empowering video and poem includes lines like, "Do I fight the fire, or do I befriend it?" and "Whatever your punch is, pack it."
Vil tells POPSUGAR she hopes the video will encourage other survivors of abuse to speak up about their experiences. She said she understands the fear some victims might feel to tell their stories, and that even her own mother had no idea of the hardships she went through until recently.
"How do you tell your parents this?" Vil tells POPSUGAR. "There was one girl who came up to me crying and saying, 'I thought I was the only one who went through this,' and I was like 'Oh my gosh, no, I went through it too.'"
Vil also described feeling outraged when people would ask her if she had a sexual relationship with her attacker. Vil, who only had a professional relationship with Mayweather, was shocked by the questions and assumptions, noticing a double standard. "How come any time you see a story or see in the news a man attacking a woman, we automatically [think] the woman has to be sleeping with the man or have some type of relationship with him," Vil questions.
Matters like these are what Vil is passionate speaking about, and the driving force in her mission to spread awareness and inspire.
"Let it Out" was written by Maya Albanese, produced by Jonathan Biebl, and shot by Catherine Goldschimdt.