Full Title: The Grammys: Meet the domestic violence activist performing with Katy Perry tonight

I met Brooke Axtell in 2012 at a reading for an anthology we were both included in called “Dancing at the Shame Prom.” Her essay in the book, “What I Know of Silence,” explored her experience of child sex-trafficking by a male nanny and how she used poetry and music to both heal and help her connect with other survivors. In addition to writing, Axtell, a poet and activist, has spoken extensively about her experiences and how to improve the lives of those in similar situations to police departments, universities, and conferences such as the National Sexual Assault Conference.

Now, the 34-year-old Austin resident, who serves as director of communications for the nonprofit Allies Against Slavery, is poised to speak to the entire world, parlaying her advocacy right into the heart of American pop culture when she joins Katy Perry onstage at the Grammys tonight.

Before Perry sings “By the Grace of God,” Axtell will give a speech about her experience with domestic violence. In between rehearsals, Axtell told Salon about what to expect at the Grammys, casting aside victimhood and how you can help domestic violence survivors.

How did your involvement with Katy Perry and the Grammys come about? What will you be performing there?

I was introduced to Katy Perry by the Grammys’ Executive Producer, Ken Urlich. He is a true visionary. He heard about my work as an activist and speaker through SafePlace in Austin, an emergency shelter and anti-domestic violence organization, and wanted to bring us together for a collaboration. After an initial conversation with Ken and co-producer Terry Lickona [also the producer of Austin City Limits], they asked me to write a speech for the show. My message resonated with Katy and her passion to empower women. Our connection evolved from there.

Did you have any hesitation in accepting this opportunity?

No. I was immediately excited by the opportunity to bring the issue of domestic violence into the light. We know that 1 out of 4 women in the United States will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Our collaboration for the Grammys is a creative, intimate way to highlight this devastating trauma that impacts so many lives and show those who are currently in abusive relationships that we are standing with them.

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Salon | Brooke Axtell


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