Today

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse

Today

I saw him

He saw me too

I froze

Just like I always do when our paths cross
My heart dove into my stomach
I wanted to run and cry and yell and disappear

All at the same time

Today

I saw him
The man who raped me

Last year around this time, I was sitting in a cafe
I heard his voice right behind me
He was talking to his friend, pretending not to see me

So with my heart beating way too fast, I pretended that I didn’t hear his voice
I pretended that we weren’t close friends a time long ago
I pretended that on that summer afternoon, he didn’t look into my eyes and tell me

You’re beautiful

When I heard his voice that day

I felt completely invisible
I felt like my whole being didn’t exist

When I walked outside

It immediately started to rain

The rain was a gift letting me know that I do exist

The wet drops on my skin and the wind in my hair told me that I am
A human being that is breathing, alive and visible to the world around me

When he saw me today

He hid
He lowered his eyes and his head and once again pretended that I was invisible
That what he did to me didn’t happen
That I didn’t exist

Are you alive?

These were his words to me, the day after it happened
These words would shatter my heart each time he crossed my mind

Today

I want to say to you
Yes, I am alive
I am breathing
I am brave
I am brilliant
I am beautiful

I am worth so much more than the violence other people have inflicted onto my body, heart, and mind

To you, I say this:

You could not face me after it happened
You still cannot
And I understand
You don’t want to be a monster. You don’t want to be a villain

I want you to know that I forgive you

I forgive you because I no longer want to hold onto the pain I’ve carried for years
I no longer want my whole being to freeze when you cross my path
From this day forward, if our paths cross again, I will keep walking in strength and in peace
Shame and pain will no longer make me too afraid to acknowledge what you did to me

To you I ask:

Have you acknowledged what you did to me?

Have you forgiven yourself?

Today was the first time I was brave enough to go back to the place it happened
I am writing these words sitting in the place my body became yours

Without my permission
This is my healing, this is my closure

You will no longer haunt me
The tree beside me gives me comfort
At least I know, I was not alone.

Distraction

Trigger Warning: Abortion.

Sitting in the waiting room dressed in my long gown and socks I feel I look like my Grandma. They told me to remove my underwear and I feel uncomfortable sitting on the hard seats, they’re trying to make comfortable with blankets.

The few women in the waiting room display an array of emotions on their faces: calmness, fright, relaxed,
I have to wonder what they see on mine,
Am I doing the right thing?
Is this going to hurt?
I just heard I’m almost 8 weeks,
AM I DOING THE RIGHT THING?
One by one they are leaving me,
It is now me and the calm girl with the bounce in her step…she asked if I was given the IUD pamphlet…
No.

She jokes and I laugh,
We talk about being hungry,
We laugh,
We laugh in this place,
We are all here making a big decision,
And we can laugh,
She gets called and I am now sitting alone on this hard seat,
Why would this place want me to stay hungry while making a big decision?
I am the last one here,
Seeing the locked exit from the corner of my eye.

Deep breaths…
Listening to the opening of the Ginger Ale can on the other side,
A distraction,
After all of this I will be able to eat,
Distract yourself with thoughts of food,
I hear my name being called,
It is my turn,
My heart beats faster,
I’m getting rid of ‘him’
Oh my God am I doing the right thing?

The nurse tells me her name: Ricky,
I want to tell her that that is the name of my brother but I think that would be awkward,
She seems nice,
Her glasses…her glasses are nice; distraction,
Walking to the room I pass a room on my right and see the same woman I was in the waiting room with,
I see their faces and some still look calm others look like they’re in pain,
Oh my God my heart beats faster,

I enter the white room and I sit on the bed,
“Are you sure about your decision?”
I say yes but am I?
She says she likes my glasses and wants to know if I get compliments all the time too?
Yes I do and this is when I tell her I like hers,
We are like glasses sisters;
Connect,
Distraction,
I laugh nervously,
I lie down.

I look up and I see a picture on the ceiling,
What is it a picture of?
Distraction,
I don’t remember and everything is white,
Very white,
Ricky is talking to me as she is inserting an IV,
Memories of me in the hospital start to pass,
I can hear Indrani from work telling me I should not have gotten pregnant,
That word: “Pregnant.”

“Squeeze the blue ball” she says,
“Squeeze it,”
It’s in and she rests my hand on my stomach,
The IV hurts and it’s uncomfortable,
I look up to the picture and this will be my distraction,
I will not tell her this hurts.

She leaves the room briefly to get the doctor,
I hear I’m the last one; I hear I was 8 weeks,
I hear rustling… everything is starting to spin and I feel tired,
I feel like I’m pass being hungry now,
I put my hand to my head and close my eyes,
I open them to see Ricky,
She says the meds are working,
This is actually really happening!
Everything is about to change in less than ten minutes.

The doctor enters with a black nurse,
They’re talking,
The doctor doesn’t look like a doctor to me,
I see brunette hair…
She’s asking me about birth control options,
Condoms?
No condoms are bad,
I look back up at the picture,
Distraction,
What the fuck is this picture of anyway?

I can’t believe this situation I’m in,
“IUD… you can have it inserted for a week and some women keep it up to five year and take it out when they want,”
No I do not want that,
Ricky asks questions and now she’s talking to me,
I look briefly at the doctor,
Oh my God this really is happening,
Speculum,
I can feel it,
She’s telling me she’s going to dinner with her husband after,
My words jumble but I manage to tell her “that’s nice,”
At least they get to eat,
What am I going to eat after this?
I really, really am doing this,
Ricky is told to rub my belly,
She’s still talking,
I don’t know what’s going on,
Focus on her glasses… her glasses are nice,
“You’re done, everything is complete.”

Everything is spinning,
I feel nothing,
I gave it back and now I feel nothing,
Benjamin.

I am now one of the women sitting on the chair,
Eyes dancing,
Ricky pours me some Ginger Ale and says it will help,
“Heating pad?” I say no thanks,
The calm girl sitting across from me says the heating pad will feel nice,
I take the Ginger Ale but it’s going to choke me,
I can’t swallow,
Everything is going fast,
Ricky is gone,
It’s slowing down,
The pad is making me hot.

I don’t like being around these girls,
They look like they are in pain,
I feel nothing,
Nothing,
The calm girl leaves and waves bye,
I start to eat the crackers,
Focus on empty chair across from me,
Head spinning,
Salty,
Crackers drying up in my mouth,
Ginger Ale is done,
Another nurse gives me a package to read,
Purple paper “Post Abortion,”
I was pregnant ten minutes ago,
ME,
It is now gone,
I am now,
Empty,
Benjamin.

Little did my Parents Know My Babysitter would Become my Rapist

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse.

I grew up sitting on the poverty line. Proud Caribbean parents who took absolutely no nonsense raised me and luckily for me, I had both of them in my life. My mother, a workaholic, also took great pride in maintaining her home. My father, arrived in Canada at age 13, was a former musician and unlike my mother was more eccentric and outgoing. They wanted the best for my siblings and were always pushing us to get the best grades so we could become doctors or lawyers one day.

My parents both worked a lot and regardless of the hours they worked, found it difficult to afford daycare so they often looked to neighbours to babysit my brothers and I while they were at work. Little did my parents know: my babysitter would become my rapist. I didn’t understand much of what she did to me until I started watching porn at age 14. I suppressed most of this incident for much of my life and felt intense sexual urges but felt shame attached to this feeling. My parents realized I experienced these urges one day when they caught me with my pants down in my room touching myself. I explained to them that I was doing something the babysitter and I would do when my brothers weren’t around. Needless to say, she didn’t babysit after that.

As with most Caribbean families, spankings as a form of punishment is quite normal. As I grew and became a less mischievous child, I long forgot what those beatings felt like until I reached the stage in my life where I hit puberty. My father grew weary of me becoming sexual and would constantly stop me from wearing certain clothing and wouldn’t allow me to go out after school unless it was for an activity tied to schooling. This was somewhat understandable to me as I understood my parents’ upbringing and why my sexuality might be a problem for them but it was also conflicting because my brothers were allowed the freedom I craved even though I had always been the most responsible one of their children. I grew resentful and started lying to my parents about extracurricular activities so I could spend time with my friends after school.

For background, I had always been an honour roll and sometimes principal’s honour roll student. I’d participate in extracurricular activities in school, was in the school’s orchestra, and made sure my brothers were always taken care of and the house was clean before my parents got home from work. I was able to achieve and maintain all of these things starting from the age of 8. Even with all this, my parents still didn’t feel like I could be trusted out of the house with friends or have male friends over even if they were home. This was upsetting for me because I had always been a tomboy and most of my friends were males.

At age 16 I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to hang out with my male friends and so I did regardless of what consequences came later. My father didn’t like the rebellious nature I developed and he punished me by beating me. When he saw that the beatings didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted, he became harsher: beatings with cables, choking, he would bash my head against the concrete floor, rip my hair out and verbally abuse me; calling me everything from a prostitute, to a crack head, to a bitch. I found myself facing severe depression.
I lost my virginity at age 16 to my boyfriend after one year of dating. We broke up after two years as he didn’t know how to deal with the black eyes and welts on my body that my father would leave. A man ten years older than me raped me for months because he knew about my boyfriend and threatened to tell my father so I stayed quiet and endured the sexual abuse that came. I didn’t see this as cheating, I saw this as a way to protect and save my relationships because if my parents found out, my relationship would be over. Once I realized he was doing this to other young girls, I stopped this because I now had information to threaten him with so he would leave me alone. I was still afraid of him so I didn’t go to the police but I felt by did my part by warning him against doing this to anyone else. I had low self-esteem at the time and could only scare him with his words.

Between the ages of 17-19 I turned to sex to relieve myself of my depression from the lack of freedom I was given, the sexual abuse, and the beatings from my father. My parents had already categorized me as a whore so it didn’t matter to me what I did with my body. They created my sense of worthlessness. The only thing that could stop me from researching ways to kill myself was finding a boy who wanted to be my boyfriend for a while and having as much sex with him as possible. It filled a void and I got into abusive relationship after abusive relationship with multiple men.

When I was 19 I realized I couldn’t continue the method I was using and instead turned to excessive weed and alcohol to help my feelings of self-hatred and depression. At the time and to only me, this seemed like a great time in my life. I met someone and I was in the best relationship I had ever been in and it lasted two years; we still remain friends to this day. During this period though, I would party every weekend and drink every day with other alcoholic friends but thought I was functioning because I managed to get through work every day. Even when sneaking vodka in McDonalds cups to work I didn’t realize I had a problem. Now, I can’t look at vodka without feeling nauseous.

My parents had been threatening to kick me out since I was 17. At times I would leave and sleep at my boyfriends house or a close friend of mine for long periods of time until my mother eventually asked me to come home. My life remained turbulent until I turned 21 when I moved out on my own. My ex and I were broken up but still remained close. I hadn’t let my parents get to know him because my father had always physically fought me whenever I tried to bring a guy friend home and I didn’t want my ex to see what my home life was like.

One day I was feeling my lowest. I lost my job, I had betrayed a close friend of mine and we were no longer close, and I felt unaccomplished because I wasn’t successful at completing my post secondary education despite several attempts to start. I felt like nothing more than a whore who had wasted her life. All the nasty things I had heard about myself is what I started to believe.

I asked my ex of two years to come over one day because I needed someone to talk to; I was feeling suicidal and didn’t trust myself to be alone. My father came home early and before I could explain what was happening he began choking me in front of my ex. I was mortified and this time tried to fight back. I called the police because I couldn’t handle the abuse any longer but when they arrived they sided with my father. I was outraged. Luckily my ex stood by me through the entire process and that night I went to sleep at his house. His home where he stayed with his family felt like more of a loving environment than my own.

This became my turning point. The next day I went home and packed all of my things and stayed with a friend. I had no idea where I was going from there but I managed to talk another friend into letting me stay with her for six months, using my welfare to pay a portion of the rent until I got back up on my feet. From there I got and maintained a job and secured my own apartment where I lived for two years until I started going back to school. I had mostly quit the heavy drinking that contributed to me being stagnant and when I was 21 I started participating in healthy activities such as yoga and playing my violin. At 24 I moved back into my mother’s house, focusing primarily on my education and my job. I began helping her pay bills and was happy to contribute to the household financially because she had kicked my father out after I decided to come back. I was more than happy to help her make her house a home again.

I am now preparing myself for my next move to Montreal where I will finish a degree in agricultural science and make a difference for other people’s families who have as little or maybe less resources than my own family did when we first started out. I won’t lie and say that some days I don’t imagine I’m still that destructive young girl who had nothing to live for and was ready to end it all but those days are so far and few for me now. I will never say I’m grateful for all of the things that happened to me in the past and throughout my life but I am more than happy with the woman that has emerged from those events. I am stronger than ever and I am ready to make a difference in the world.

My Rapist is my Son’s Father

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.

It was a late December night and I was excited that I could finally get into a club. It was my nineteenth birthday, the night I got pregnant.

The previous year my girlfriends went off to university and since that time the connection we built over the four years during high school was slowly lost. I had taken a year off of school because I was at a point in my life where I was confused about what to do next or even how I felt about myself. Growing up in a household of violence and addiction really took its toll on me and I needed to figure out how to move forward with my life even though I was still living in a hostile environment. Slowly the violence and addiction of a family member had subsided so I made the decision to go back to school although the trauma, pain and lack of love were still there. On top of it, my mother had been going through a very tough time in her life and struggled with her mental health since I was twelve – this too made it difficult for me to navigate as a young woman who wasn’t able to discuss much of anything with her mother.

I began drinking at 16 and smoking at 12. People thought it was because I wanted to “fit in” but mostly it was because I needed a way to cope with everything that was falling apart around me. I learned at a young age that the way to cope was through the use of drugs and alcohol. The volatile environment I called home was a ‘no talking zone’ where feelings and love could never be spoken about freely or honestly. Violence was the norm – a way to express yourself. Addiction to drugs and alcohol was not hidden and suicide attempts were front and centre. At only twelve years old I was trying to figure out how to cope with seeing all these things; coming up with stories to tell my teachers if they asked me where the bruises and deep cuts on my forehead, legs and arms came from, while my friends hung out peacefully at home complaining about their parents not wanting them to wear mascara because they thought they were too young.

The night of my nineteenth birthday I accepted the invitation of two male co-workers to go out to a club downtown Toronto to celebrate. One of my friends picked me up in a cab where we would then meet the other at the apartment he lived in downtown. He bought me a Ciara album for my birthday and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had already bought it. I left my bag at my friend’s apartment downtown because we had discussed earlier in the day that I could stay the night to save money by not having to take a cab home. I lied to my father and said I would be staying the night with a girlfriend of mine. We made our way to the club and got in without an issue. There were no assumptions or expectations for the night ahead, at least on my end. We were all friends.

I had a crush on one of the guys that came out that night. We spoke about it in the past as the feelings were mutual but there were no plans to act on it. Growing up I never received much attention from boys. I was the quiet girl yet quick to stand up for myself or anyone else that was bullied or picked on. I was the girl who couldn’t afford to wear expensive clothes. The girl who barely passed her classes and came to school with bruises and cuts, the girl who hung out at the back of the school drinking and smoking; I was the girl who was never asked by anyone if she was okay. So, to receive the attention of an older attractive man was exciting but intimidating and nerve wracking for me. I wasn’t ready for anything from him – not even a kiss. We would be friends, I decided.

As I danced the night away one of my friends decided to go home so it was just the two of us left: me and the one I had a crush on. He kept bringing me Smirnoff after Smirnoff after Smirnoff while he sipped on water the whole night. He was a fitness and health buff so he wasn’t interested in alcohol whatsoever. I think I lost count at four Smirnoff Ice’s. As 3am rolled around it was time to leave and we headed back to his place where I had left my stuff earlier in the night. He took me on a tour of his building, showing me the amenities it had to offer, and then we headed up. We agreed that nothing would happen that night and even decided we would sleep head to feet. From there things got blurry.

On my nineteenth birthday I was raped.

When I gave birth to my son my whole life changed. Not only because I became a single mother at nineteen years old but something felt off. I didn’t realize I was raped on my nineteenth birthday until I was 25 years old. I always knew something didn’t feel right but I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t have a label for it. I slipped into a deep depression that I couldn’t even recognize. I didn’t know I was severely depressed for the first several months of my son’s life until well into my twenties. I remember having a hard time doing just about anything. I stopped calling friends, answering their calls or returning them. They slowly stopped inviting me out not realizing that something serious was going on for me. Then the phone calls stopped. I lived with my parents at the time and my father, now a sober and completely different man, was extremely supportive. He knew what was going on with me even though I didn’t but he didn’t know how to help me. He would let me sleep while he took care of my son. He would feed him, bathe him, and hold him when I couldn’t. He would try to talk to me but was only met with anger or silence. He would encourage me to go out and take care of myself. I resisted but eventually accepted. I would go out not to drink but to get drunk. I had this constant need to escape so that the pain I couldn’t label would go away.

When I was 25 I decided to see a counsellor. I was always hesitant to go to one but I finally decided to. I forced myself because I needed someone to talk to. I had run into my sons ‘father’ after six years of his chosen absence and I was beginning to have confusing memories; flashbacks to my nineteenth birthday and confusing thoughts that I didn’t understand. Within five minutes the counsellor had me in tears and within ten she told me it was normal to feel the way I was feeling about running into my sons ‘father’ because he raped me. I let the word sit in the air, not understanding it; as if I didn’t even recognize it. I remember this intense anger boiling up inside of me towards her. I screamed, “I was not raped!” I immediately grabbed my bag and ran out the door making sure I slammed it on the way out.

I didn’t understand how a complete stranger could tell me I was raped. Wouldn’t I know? Of course I would know. Right? I willingly drank on my nineteenth birthday. I went back to his place on my own free will. I put my pajamas on and decided to sleep in his bed. What do you mean I was raped? But then everything started making sense. The fact that I didn’t remember my clothes being taken off and that I didn’t remember having sex. Do you even call that sex? What would you even call it? I went to sleep but woke up during the night to him on top of me. I vaguely remember trying to push his body off mine. In the morning I woke up without clothes and I couldn’t stop wondering how. I recall going to the washroom in the morning and crying because I didn’t understand what was dripping out of me.

I always thought rape had to be violent until I was 25.

Growing up I was told what rape should look like. It was described as violent, aggressive, and painful – an event that will have you running for your life; for your well-being, mentally and physically. So how could this counsellor possibly think that I was raped? It wasn’t violent, it wasn’t aggressive, and I don’t recall feeling any pain. I didn’t wake up with any injuries. I didn’t have to run for safety. So how was it possible for someone who had only known me for ten minutes claim that I was raped on my nineteenth birthday?

Then I began to remember. I was drunk and was given drinks until I was at a point where I couldn’t even defend myself or give consent.

Consent. That was the missing piece. That was what I was missing for so many years.

Yes, I went back to his place. Yes, I laid down to sleep. No, I didn’t give consent. How could I? I was heavily intoxicated. Blacking out. Unable to even understand how and when my clothes even came off. Was a condom used? I didn’t know. I had no idea because I couldn’t remember anything. I willingly went back to his place but my intention was to sleep, his wasn’t. He was sober and I was not.

For years I blamed myself for getting pregnant at nineteen and for getting drunk that night. For trusting someone enough to sleep at their place. I did not want to have sex with him that night. Yes, I had a crush on him but I was not ready to have sex with him. I did not want to have sex with him. I just wanted to sleep but he decided he wanted to have sex with me. He did not have a drop of alcohol the whole night – he knew what he was doing and I wasn’t in the right state of mind to say no, to deny consent. And yet I did physically but it was ignored.

That night he took a piece of me. He helped himself to my body and made me feel like a stranger inside of it for years. He turned my life upside down and walked away with no consequences. No repercussions.

My rapist doesn’t know he is a rapist.

My rapist is my son’s father.

My son is my life. He is everything to me. I am his mother and he has no father and never will. My son is innocent and is not to blame for anything that happened that night. He has nothing to do with any of it. He did not ask for this to happen. He did not ask to have a rapist for a father.

My son changed my life – for the better. He makes me see the world in a completely different way. He is my light, my motivation and my life. I love him with every cell in my body. When I look at my son I see him and only him, not the man that raped me. My son is an innocent light full of love and this is all I see when I look at him; peace. I wouldn’t change what happened on my nineteenth birthday because then I wouldn’t have my son and yet I would want to. These are complicated feelings that I can never fully express or explain and I don’t think I will ever be able to but the people in my life would get this.

Rape doesn’t have to be violent in order for it to be considered rape. This is one thing I wish I was told when I was young. I blamed myself for getting pregnant for so many years before I realized that it wasn’t my fault. I went out to have a good time – to dance and have some drinks. The plan was to go back to a trusted friend’s house to sleep. Period. Full stop. I am not to blame. It was not my fault. The only thing that was my fault was trusting the wrong person to spend my time with, and even then, don’t we all at some point in our lives?

On my nineteenth birthday I was raped. Nine months later my son gave me a new life; a life full of hope, joy and unconditional love. My son has healed me in ways I could have never imagined and I am truly thankful for him. He is not to blame. I am not to blame. It was not our fault.

My Cousin Wanted to Play a Game but Not the Kind I was Anticipating

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.

Family, to me, is supposed to mean safety. Security. People who would never dream of hurting you. Not everyone has the same idea of what family means, though. My cousin and I sure didn’t see eye to eye about that.

I was six. I think. It’s been a few years of repression for me to remember what my actual age was, not that it matters.

I was in Jamaica with my family, visiting my grandmother. My cousin lived with her at the time. My parents had gone into a nearby town to get hardware supplies. Concrete. My grandmother had gone with them to shop for groceries, therefore I was left alone for the time being with my teenage cousin.

Seems okay, right? I mean it’s not like I was a toddler or something, surely enough he was old enough and mature enough to watch me for an hour or two.

I remember reading in the room I was staying in, across from his. He called me over. I went eagerly, thinking he wanted to play a game or something. He wanted to play a game, but not the kind I was anticipating. He told me I was pretty. I said thank you. I sat on his bed, waiting for the game to start.

It did.

He hovered over me, eventually pushing me back on the bed. He started kissing me. My first kiss. He forced his tongue into my mouth, swirling it around. I think I went into shock. I kind of just… shut down. For years, I thought this meant I let it happen. That I wanted it. I later came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the case. His hands went places that I didn’t even know hands and fingers could go. I just lay there, motionless. He started kissing me harder and harder, undoing his pants. I shouldn’t know what my cousin’s penis looks like, but I do. That image was forced into me against my will, just like his fingers. He told me to hold it. I did. I honestly don’t even remember what was going on in my head at this point.

It’s funny how even writing this, I’m still subconsciously blaming myself for what happened. Still subconsciously telling myself that I let it happen, that I wanted it. That if I had done something then, I could have stopped it.

He continued to forcefully kiss me. His tongue tasted disgusting. I’m starting to think that this is why I’m not such a huge fan of French kissing at 24. He started to thrust in my hand. I think that’s what snapped me out of whatever trance I was in. I let go of his penis. My eyes grew wide. I started to panic. I think he sensed this too, because as soon as I sprung up, he pushed me right back down into the bed. Hard, like he still was. He clearly wasn’t finished with me yet. He put a firm hand on my chest, with enough force to keep me in position. With his other hand he yanked my shorts down. I started to kick. He got them down far enough to focus on what was going on between his legs. He started kissing me again, while trying to simultaneously rub his penis on my exposed genitals. This time, I bit him hard on his tongue. Hard enough for him to immediately yank his tongue out and pull back. I kicked him as hard as I could in the nuts and didn’t stick around to see the aftermath. After a brief struggle getting my shorts back up, I ran out the door, through the living room, though the kitchen to a hallway with outdoor access on either end. I had no shoes on, but I ran through anyway. I ran off of my grandmother’s property, down the gravel road to where my aunt lived, which was about a 5 minute run. She had dogs guarding her yard. I didn’t care, the adrenaline blinded me. I ran straight through, not caring if I got bit or barked at. Miraculously, none of that happened. I made it to her porch. She wasn’t home, but I hid there anyway.

That’s where my memory stops. Through years of repression, the details have become a little fuzzy but there were some parts about it that I could never forget. Parts that I wish I did forget. I tried telling my parents about what happened maybe a decade after what happened. It never got dealt with, so I never really brought it up again. Until recently.

Since then, I’ve gone to a few CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions and had a few heart-to-hearts with family. As much as I blamed myself and told myself that I wanted it over the years, I think I owe it to my childhood self to free her of that guilt. I’ve since learned to love myself in a way that I didn’t think was possible for me at the time. I deserve better than what happened and I’ve promised myself that I would do right by me. Healing has certainly started from within with me and I’m more than excited to see my progress in the coming years.

The First Time I was Sexually Abused…

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.

Sexual abuse is a thief that comes in and violates your sense of protection, identity, purpose and robs many of us of our essential selves. This type of abuse has the capacity to steal years if not all of our lives. I have never judged and will never judge anyone who has completely given up on life or who has thought about giving up on life after experiencing this kind of abuse.

For those who have never experienced it, I pray it may never break into your life; your sacred space. For the rest of us who have experienced the utter devastation of this act(s) know that you are strength and whatever may have been violated and stolen mentally, physically and emotionally/spiritually, you are everlasting and unbreakable.

The first time I was sexually abused I was seven years old still living in the Caribbean. I was at school on the playground with my friends when a local villager passed by. He decided it was a good idea to grab a hold of me and place a blade to my neck while dragging me away from the school compound. As he was doing this, he took the liberty of placing his hands in some of the most intimate places on my young body. My friends had of course alerted the closest teachers who were able to intercept the man and get me safely away from him. When asked about the encounter later on I would only refer to being afraid of having the knife held to my neck-nothing else. I always thought that even though I never said the words my family members knew something more had occurred. As long as I did not speak about it, they were happy to leave the situation as is.

The second time I was sexually abused occurred when a family member touched me in inappropriate places as a nine year old child. To be perfectly honest, this is a memory I have worked hard at erasing over the years. Though I cannot provide much detail on that moment in my life, I do know it was the catalyst for much of my negative behaviour later on in life. I developed the habit of always seeking out men to take care of and protect me. Hoping deep down that one day I would be able to share this experience and they would know the right words to say and the right thing to do to defend me. As an adult I would recognize that my inherent need for male protection developed after this male protector in my life shattered my taught and inherent perceptions of family values.

The third time I was sexually abused, again, a family member violated my body. This time however, it was made known to my family. The response I received did not live up to my expectations; or at least the expectations of popular culture as to what should happen. Everything was handled quietly. I had no idea what conversations took place and counselling was never mentioned.

Later on in life I would learn these occurrences which I believed to be uncommon were very commonplace to most of the women and men in my life. When I finally spoke up about the second incident, the fact that they did not jump on their white horse and dash off to champion and defend my honour made more sense to me as an adult.

Now as I continue to self-heal, trying daily to bring myself to a place without hurt and anger; I know unequivocally, I am my own white knight. As hard as this may be to understand we have to acknowledge the depth of our strength and our spirits which is outside of the reach of these experiences.

For many of us, a large part of our strength of character will be shaped by these acts of violation. Wherever we are in life, it is always for us to remember we are beauty, untouched and ever protected in our spirits; where the best of our being dwells.

I Wore a Cross and People Told Me To Take it Off Because I Killed My Child

Trigger Warning: Abortion.

Every Mother’s Day since 2012 instead of writing posts on social media about and to the mothers I know – I started to write to the ones I know could have and wanted to be mothers. My heart goes out to those who feel a void because their child is away from them, has passed, has been taken from them, or who had to give up being a mother because she knew the timing wasn’t right; and like myself, the ones who still feel a void despite how many prayers they’ve said in their head and to God for solace in dealing with their loss and the pain that comes with it.

I’m not ashamed of this anymore and so I write. My friends and family know I tried. They saw me bawl my eyes out to the point where I was numb and looked lifeless. I know in my heart what I would have done if the situation were different. For God sakes my child’s name is tattooed on my back. I wanted him. I hope someone takes something from this. If nothing else, understand this is such a common experience and you’re not alone.

I am very choosy with my words when I describe my experience around abortion. I say: “I have lost my child.” My child was taken. I did not choose this route for myself and without control during this time it happened. I did not want to lay on a table drugged to the point where I couldn’t feel the pain but could hear the sound of my child being sucked from between my legs and tossed in a garbage as if it had absolutely no meaning. To me (based on my beliefs) it was still a life. This was in 2012 and still I feel pain. Four years later I still feel it. So no, if asked I do not say, “I decided to have an abortion,” instead I say I lost a child. This wound slowly healed (to an extent) but there will always be reminders and days that force me to reflect; like Mother’s Day.

I don’t believe I’m the only female that experiences a sense of pain around May. I know this because I have friends and family who have lost children. I always call or text to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day whether or not their child is alive. I understand that tears flow and I understand that regardless of whether or not you’re excited to spend the day with your own mother you think of what could have been done for you if your child took its form. Instead they remain a memory in your head and a soul that touches only your heart.

I’ve heard it all:

“It wasn’t meant to happen for you right now.” … I understand, maybe not, but I still housed life.

“He wasn’t meant for you either, he wouldn’t have been a good father.” … I understand but I still carried our first child.

“Your child is in heaven looking over you, don’t worry.” … I understand but how nice would it have been if my child made me breakfast on Mother’s Day? One of the few points I’m trying to make about this situation is that all feelings relating to this experience do not just go away – at times it still hurts.

These are reoccurring thoughts when I’m bombarded with everything I see leading up to or on Mother’s Day. I am fine most of the year. I love my mother and I appreciate all of the women in my life. I appreciate those who have blessed me with children that call me aunty, sister, or friend… but my void still exists.

Many judged me. I wore a cross and people told me to take it off because I killed my child. My older sister told me that I killed my parent’s first grandchild and so I should be ashamed of myself and my actions. She said I don’t deserve to be a mother ever again. What she and many didn’t understand was that I was verbally abused, I was forced into a situation I didn’t want and I was forced to choose whether or not it was worth bringing my baby into a situation with a man I knew wanted my child dead anyway. I tried.

The strongest woman can suffer from mental abuse and when or if she does, it is not a reflection of her strength. It’s a cycle people don’t understand unless you’ve experienced it. Nobody knew about my sleepless nights. They don’t know I cried every single night and begged him to change his mind. I begged. They don’t know that he went back and forth. I drank myself to sleep for months because I felt numb and couldn’t handle the pain. The insomnia wouldn’t pass so I drank and I cried some more. They don’t know he chose a name. They don’t know we decided we’d ignore what his parents thought. They don’t know he changed his mind after he said he would protect me. They don’t understand I didn’t know what to do.

The mother of my God daughter called me the morning she knew I was going through with the procedure. She said, “If it’s money I’ll pick up an extra shift at work.” My brother/one of my closest male friends said he’d fill in as my child’s father because the man who fathered my child didn’t want to be. My little sister said she would be the support I needed even if I couldn’t get it from him. The afternoon I came home after having the abortion I remember my sister calling me as I was going to my room to tell me she saved something I had been craving, for me to eat. I shut my door and I bawled my eyes out.

At the time your head isn’t on straight. You start panicking because what you thought was your main support system failed you. So I cried some more and I did what he said because I didn’t want to raise my child alone and I didn’t want to be a single mother. I wanted my child to know both parents. And so I terminated my pregnancy. Not because I was weak; because he left me and I was scared to do it alone.

My experience with my own pregnancy does not mean I have a hard time being happy for new and existing mothers around me but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take some time to get here. I avoided newborns for a while; I didn’t go to my cousin’s baby shower because I couldn’t handle it. I cringed every time I heard a child cry and it wasn’t mine. I had many conversations with myself. I had many conversations with my friends and I had many conversations with my mother who told me she experienced a similar situation and nothing besides crying herself to sleep every night helped her too.

So I continued to cry until I didn’t have it in me to cry anymore.

Not choosing to be a mother when God presented me with the opportunity is not something I should allow myself to be punished for, especially not for the rest of my life. It just wasn’t my time as much as I wanted it to be.

For those of you who are here, have been here, or struggling to cope: what helped me was talking to my baby. I apologized to its spirit and I apologized for being irresponsible. I said sorry for not being as safe as I could, for its conception and I apologized for bringing it into a situation where both people involved couldn’t handle the responsibility. I spoke to God from my bedroom and to my minister in church and she told me to punish myself was an even bigger sin than to let my baby go.

I am not less of anything because I am not a mother when I could have been. I am not less of a Christian, I do not need to take my cross off nor do I deserve to be punished. My child is in my heart and although at times I feel a sense of guilt, I would not have been able to provide the life I wanted at the time. This does not make me weak or selfish. This makes me a woman who tried her best, who is still resilient, and who understands her capabilities – I wasn’t capable at the time. After understanding this, I chose to let myself heal.

I’ve hated Mother’s Day since 2012 and this is okay. Maybe I’m still healing in my own way and again, this is okay too. I don’t need to say sorry anymore. If you’re still healing, I promise you it gets a little better every day. Give yourself time. Abortion, miscarriage, stillborn – a loss is a loss. Pain can’t be differentiated even if you want to categorize it – pain is pain. This day is for us too. We might not be celebrated in the way we’d like but we know what it feels like to talk to a child or to talk to a spirit we’ve created. Whether or not they’re here, they love us and we love them. Even if the human form of our children did not manifest. We’re forgotten on this day because what we created cannot be seen but there was a life in us too.

I harboured an immense amount of guilt. It’s one thing for other people to punish you but punishing yourself is the worst possible thing you can do. I’ve taught myself to release myself from my own mental scrutiny and guilt. This does not take away from how I feel/felt about my child and it shouldn’t for you either.

If you needed a refresher; on Mother’s Day I posted: “Today, thinking of all those who don’t fit the Mother’s Day norm. Those who miscarried, aborted, or gave up for adoption. To those women who don’t have children but have helped raise others. To those who can’t make babies so they blessed the world with other talents. To those who weren’t ready to be mamas, but gave birth regardless. To those single fathers, step mothers. To the children who have lost their mothers. Whatever it is, love to you on this day.”

Mother’s Day is for ALL women.