Some experiences hang within the hidden constructs of time, creating an invisible realm that co-exists inside— like tenants of our minds. We associate time with healing, but without mending, time can only find familiarity with suffering. It creates a home out of our flesh and bones, a pain-body if you will. If I've learned anything from my trauma, anything worth having is worth tending to. Understanding sadness and the knowledge it can hold is the fundamental missing piece to comprehending growth and self-discovery.
There aren't enough words to accurately describe the power, strength, and admiration brought into existence in the fragile moments following someone who has been sexually assaulted. If only we could analyze the courage and foundation of knowledge woven into our minds, bodies, and souls during this complete invasion of privacy to our bodies we call home. Our flesh and bones provide a house for us. The first home we've ever known outside of our mother's womb, yet it's not viewed as a home-invasion unless it's in the material sense. I've never heard blame fall on a house that's been robbed for allowing itself to be broken into, that it must have liked it, or how its paint colour was too inviting to keep strangers out. Yet, the number of sexual assault victims blamed for their attack is a large part of our rhetoric today.
My trauma is almost the same age I was when it was created. In retrospect, that moment conceived more than just my son; It bent the course of time. My fourteen-year-old frame held the transition from student to teacher, child to mother, while turning my flesh into a home. It was invisible to the unknowing eye, spending countless hours explaining to curious strangers that I am, in fact, his mother, not his sibling. It's become second nature to establish myself with this detail—predictability in facial expressions seem to pronounce themselves. I've had to run laps around others to gain respect as a teen mother, and then I'm abruptly told to slow down.
Curiosity often outweighs consciousness.
From my experiences of being left pregnant as a teenager to becoming a teenager's mother, several lessons have articulated me into the woman I am today.
It was essential to partner East 29th with an organization aligned with our core values like SafeBAE to continue my growth and help others with theirs. Our thoughts breathe differently when we hear we're not alone. East 29th has become a love letter from my current self to anyone in similar shoes of my past, saying what I needed to hear all along, you are not alone. Relatively simple, but these four words I hold close to my heart. I went over a decade feeling unrelatable and internally lost. I wanted to feel understood, and now I'm driven to help others understand themselves. Our goal is to focus on being softer inside and out.
What is consent? Allowance, authorization, permission.
I've tried to wrap my mind around how this word lacks so much presence, understanding, and teaching. These seven letters strung together are impactful and can immensely change a life. If your actions are not harmful, what would be the harm in ensuring you've gained consent before doing them?
Sexual assault is not a one size fits all experience. I want to make it abundantly clear that you can be sexually assaulted by someone you know, someone close to you. What I endured in my teen years and my journey through self-discovery helped me through a second challenge by being sexually assaulted by a boyfriend. To be hurt by someone I had explained my previous pain to was a different kind of suffering. My first real relationship, the first man I had allowed myself to open up and trust, had resulted in years of on and off sexual and physical abuse. If presented with this situation today, I would know how to walk away. It was a few years after having my son, and I wasn't aware of what self-love was or how I deserved to be loved, if at all. In my teen to adult years, I had grown through trauma. Even in the darkest moments of this relationship, I was just thankful for not being abandoned. I mistook this for feeling loved. The words that sum up this portion of my life are the ones I repeatedly heard from him, "no one else could ever love you. A single teen mom with stretch-marks is unloveable." Stretch-marks may embroider my abdomen, but they look a lot like poetry to me. Perspective is everything.
I was once afraid, embarrassed, and self-conscious, but now I'm humbled, conscious of self, and most importantly, I'm free.