Welcome to New York


I sit down at my desk to write, as I’ve done millions of times before. But today is different; I am different. No longer am I stuck in the grey stillness of my hometown, a town that is unsettling silent and slow. I left that place six weeks ago and already it’s hard for me to remember it. Since arriving in New York I’ve conquered the bustling subway commutes to and from work, I’ve learned how to be patient with people even when I find them intolerable, and I’ve lost love—although it was probably never mine to have. I didn’t step into the city and automatically feel at home or even that I had made the right decision by moving here. Rather, I felt afraid and overwhelmed and about a million other emotions connected to fear and regret.

I was welcomed to New York in a number of ways by many different people. I was greeted by my best friend and her bright smile, by my cousin with a loud laugh and long drag from a shared cigarette, by a broken window and a hole in my wall, a blizzard and frozen pipes, and finally with a whisper between the sheets in broken English. I never made any big declarative statement congratulating myself on stampeding towards my dreams—because that’s not what it feels like. It feels more like moving from a passionate affair right into a marriage. You’re in love, but you also had no idea what you were getting yourself into.

Sometimes in Brooklyn you can see the stars, they begin to show themselves just after 7:30PM and hang low over the park that sits caddy corner to my building. Sometimes at night I would stand on my back porch in Columbus and count them. Too often the trees or the orange glow of the city would block my view, but on a clear winter night I could still see them. It’s these little pieces that help keep me connected to my old life and give me comfort when I’m feeling lost or alone. It’s easy to feel that way here, regardless of the fact that I am usually actually lost.

The people are different too. They shuffle into the subways in herds with their headphones in and heads down. They all stand in close union with one another but are still alone in a world all their own. I watch them, and they watch me. We study each other silently as if there were glass in between us. The people move fast here. They push, run, and shove to get where they’re going, but they’ll also stop everything to answer a question or to point a stranger in the right direction. This is a characteristic of New Yorkers that I find particularly endearing.

The boys here are different too, I won’t call them men because most of them haven’t gotten that far. You have your wealthy ones, the son or grandson of someone who once mattered, but now all that is left is a handsome trust fund and a few entitled brats nursing from it. You have your poor ones; the ones who know how to work but grew up in a place so different from yours it might as well have been another world entirely. There are some that are fast and aggressive, born and raised in Queens or Staten Island or Harlem. They’ll kiss you hard, in the middle of a sentence without questioning it. Or, there are transplants who make jokes across the table in English so broken you can’t help but kiss them back, because you’re different too and you know what it feels like to be homesick.

I feel like I’ve brought little with me that was mine. One thing I made sure to bring was a portrait of my grandmother. I made my dad claim it for me in those few strange months between the death of my grandfather and selling his house. In the portrait, my grandmother is wearing a pale pink sweater with a white collared shirt underneath. In small letters in the lower left corner it reads, Captuto, Italia 1965. I assume she must have been in Italy when it was painted, but I don’t know and I never felt the need to ask. I like keeping her a mystery. Once when the howling winds slammed so hard into my building that my window broke I cried to her and asked for help. I knew she couldn’t here me but I figured it was worth a try, at least until my landlord could come and fix it.

Sometimes I yearn for the quiet stillness of home, or the small luxury of a personal washing machine, a car, or a bedroom wall without a gapping hole in it, plugged up carelessly with pink insulation and Styrofoam. But I also know that by spring I will have forgotten what easy living was like. The biggest change has been within myself. Looking in the mirror, my mirror, in a room that I recently inhabited, with things that are mine or aren’t mine, wearing clothes that are new, and thinking with a mind that is constantly changing makes it difficult to recognize myself. I like the girl looking back, I just don’t really know her yet—but I will in time.

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Zombies, Witches, and Blackface


Oh, white people. We’re in charge, we’re on top, and we relish in creating offensive situations and then deny our racist behavior. There is no greater example of this then on Halloween, where people young and old can be found donning Geisha makeup, “terrorist” turbans, and the ever popular and always horrifying; blackface. I love Halloween. I love hearing the crisp fall leaves crunch under children’s feet as they run door to door collecting candy, I love the spooky movies playing on cable TV and in theaters, I love dressing up in funny costumes and getting absolutely plastered—but I don’t love racism and sexism. Making a joke at the expense of others takes all of the fun out of the season. If you wear blackface or dress up as a “Mexican” (yeah, most Mexicans don’t just walk around in sombreros drinking tequila, but cool bro) then you’re essentially the guy who brings rufies to the party. You are the fun ruiner, the party pooper, the ignorant twat that no one wants to sit with.

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty pissed. Moments ago I stumbled upon an article which included Instagram photos of adults and children dressed as Ray and Janay Rice for Halloween. As if blackface wasn’t already tremendously offensive, let’s just go ahead and poke fun at the very serious issue of domestic violence while we’re at it—in fact, let’s just add our children into the mix, because they’ll in no way absorb this experience and grow up to think it’s okay or even laughable to hit a woman.

What kills me about offensive Halloween costumes is that they’re meant to be funny. Most people don’t put on a headdress to be mean, they instead fail to see the pain it causes. This is because white people fall outside of the minority experience. We have never been made to feel less than, or even obsolete because of the color of our skin. White women can understand this a little more because living inside of a woman’s body means that we will experience different treatment based on our bodies, how we dress, etc. What I’m trying to say is that minorities wear their experience. They cannot hide from it. Therefore they cannot escape the oppression. As a privileged race, we get to live in a bubble wear the color of our skin does not determine our worth. White people don’t always agree with this phenomenon but it’s because we’ve never felt it. Let me give you an example; two African American teenagers bullied me on the Cota bus once. I will call them teenagers to make myself feel better but I honestly think they were just gigantic middle schoolers. Anyway, one of them threw a pencil at my head and called me a pasty cracker. Hearing that didn’t hurt. I felt confused because I had just gone tanning and therefore couldn’t have been pasty, I also didn’t know what a cracker meant, but it didn’t stick with me. What stuck with me was the look on his face when he realized that I was trying not to laugh. That boy probably thought of the one thing that hurts him the most and tried to use it on me and it fell flat. Race can’t hurt me because everything in my world has been socially constructed to favor whiteness.

If those boys had called me a “slut” or a “bitch” I would’ve had a different reaction. My stomach would have turned; I would have felt unsafe, and probably ashamed. I know how powerful sexism can be, I learned it the hard way. So when I see women dressing up as Janay Rice or even worse, men dressed as Ray Rice, carrying lifeless African American dolls behind them, I get angry. I get angry out of powerful mixture of disgust and fear. Disgust, because if these people could see the crushing effects of domestic violence on women, if they could sit next to a survivor and hear her chilling testimony of living with a monster, they would never dream of making light of it. Fear, because the more we get comfortable with domestic violence and rape—the harder it will be to fight it.

There is no room for cultural appropriation and sexism in Halloween festivities. Nobody wants to see privileged bodies dance around in cultural staples that others have been oppressed for. It’s not a good look for anyone. So please, this year when you’re choosing your costume—choose carefully. Pass over the sexy Nava Hoe’s, the Osama Bin Laden’s, and for the love of God lose the blackface. Remember that there are literally millions of other options that won’t offend women and minorities. So if you’re sitting at the computer still thinking, “well what else is there?” just stay in this weekend.

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Love & Loss: How to Survive a Breakup


Lean in ladies, we’re talking breakups. Yes—the inevitable endings that we cry over, break our phones over, and swear off the entire male gender over. I’ve been through it. I’ve been dumped in just about every way a person can be dumped. Whether it was through a text, email, or even simply being blocked on Facebook (yes, that really happened), I’ve finally learned that there was one consistency in each of these situations—I survived it and I moved on.

My latest relationship has taught me a lot about well, being in a relationship with myself. It took a slew of unsuccessful, regrettable dating experiences to finally realize that at the end of the day, the only one who really matters is me. As women, I think we tend to place too much emphasis on our romantic relationships. This happens for a variety of reasons but the most glaring of all is that we have been conditioned to seek out and obtain a prince charming and if we don’t, we’re made to feel as though we have somehow failed. I see this phenomenon all the time in both the media and in my social circles.

Last Friday afternoon I was struggling through a gruesome mixture of flu and hangover. I flopped lazily on the couch and flipped through channels looking for something mindlessly entertaining to watch. I stopped at Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Let me first begin by saying that Bridget Jones is a sad, hot-mess and a horrible portrayal of a single woman. Her character’s only objective throughout the entire movie is to obtain and keep a boyfriend. I’m sorry, excuse me? She is a thirty-something journalist with a promising career but the only way she finds any value in herself is through the eyes of Colin Firth. Um, sure that’s an awesome way to teach little girls how to become powerful, independent women—not.

This sub-par film from the early 2000’s is just one of thousands of examples of how main stream media manipulates us into believing that happiness can only be found in the arms of a man. Listen, I love, love. Relationships can be beautiful and uplifting but they will never complete you—you have to do that for yourself.

Every time I get dumped I cry. My life is over, I’m unloved, it’s my fault—woe is me. This is my initial reaction, but it shouldn’t be. Breaking up is bound to be painful but that doesn’t mean we need to stoop to self-loathing. Blaming oneself also comes with being broken up with for someone else or being cheated on. Listen; there is never a good reason to cheat. I have heard every excuse in the book but what it comes down to is if you don’t want to be monogamous then you can’t be in a monogamous relationship. Being left for another is a definite blow to the ego, but it’s worth remembering that, that is a reflection on their indecisiveness and not on you as a person.

When undergoing a break up you have to be tough. By no means am I advising you to ignore your emotions. If you have to cry, then cry—but avoid falling into negative patterns. When something is over, let it be over. Take all of the love you had for that person and focus it on yourself. Become your own greatest love and nurture your dreams and goals the way you would have nurtured your budding romance. The harsh reality of life is that human beings aren’t always reliable—we are an ever changing fickle minded species. However, you can control your own life and can therefore create your own stability.

Friends are also very important. They’re the ones we cry with, they wipe away our tears while filling us with tequila and pizza. They are our support system and invaluable after a breakup. Our support system can often determine whether we grow positively or shrink back into toxic cycles. In other words, although your best friend took away your phone so you couldn’t drunk dial anyone, encouraging you to hate-fuck the skeezy guy at the end of the bar is probably a bad idea. Even though she tells you it will take your mind off of your ex, it will probably just leave you reeling and craving more attention from him than before.

Remember, it isn’t over just because your relationship is. Sometimes being alone is the best thing for us. When we’re alone and away from the dizziness of love and romance we are able to clearly see the most important things in our lives—ourselves.

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O-H-I Can’t Even


I don’t understand football—I never have. It’s not because it’s above me, or overly complicated, but really because I think it’s ridiculous. I know I’m going to lose half my readers with that sentence alone, but hear me out. I see men navigate more emotional highs and lows during one football game than I have during the duration of any of my relationships. Maybe, I’m just bitter because football gets more male attention than I do, or perhaps I just think it’s absurd to allow oneself to act completely belligerent over a game. As a child I’d run to my father’s arms after watching a terrifying episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark, and he would hold me and say, “Lizzy, why do you watch these things if it upsets you?” The only response I ever uttered was, “Well you watch football….?”

On Saturday I, along with several other miserable servers, catered a tailgate party during Ohio State’s homecoming. If you aren’t from Ohio than I’m sure you believe your hometown has the most ardent and true football fans this great country has ever seen—but you’re wrong. You are so wrong. Ohio State fans are some of the most blood-thirsty, emotionally unstable people you will ever meet, and they take intoxication to an entire new level. The thing is Ohioans, along with most mid-western people, are actually really kind. Ohio has more colleges and universities per capita than any other state. We are extremely intelligent, modest people—until you bring up football—and then everything goes to hell. Individually, fans are helpful and cheery, as a group they bleed scarlet and grey—which is a horribly disturbing motto. Once during an OSU-Michigan game tailgate, I watched a man drive up to a group of fans with a stuffed dummy in a make-shift Michigan football helmet strapped to the hood of his car. The man then proceeded to turn off his engine, get out of the car, and hand bats to the people in the group. All together they joined in beating the dummy with bats as they sang “Oh, How Firm Thy Friendship”. There was a car under that dummy. I’m going to bet that Allstate didn’t cover the damage.

Luckily, the group we were catering for was pretty tame. By tame I mean they were all doctors, aged fifty and over. My gynecologist was there. As uncomfortable as that hello was, if I’m at a party chances are good I’ll run into at least one person who has seen my vagina. She asked me how my boyfriend was—the only thing that all women of a certain age are interested in. I explained that he was fine and gave her my best fake smile. Really, I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure how we were doing—or if we were even still together. We had been fighting the night before but I was working through a powerful cocktail of Nyquil and champagne and couldn’t remember where we had left things.

The buffet lines grew longer as I moved effortlessly through the cramped tent, between tables and chairs, clearing the plastic plates and empty bottles as I went. The DJ was playing classics from the OSU marching band. Big brass and powerful base filled the air as I tried desperately to maneuver around wheel chairs and walkers. I hit a snag in the midst of clearing tables. I found myself completely surrounded by elderly doctors singing Hang on Sloopy loudly and proudly. My tray was too full and my arm began to shake under its weight. I tried to make a quick retreat but everyone was moving too slowly and couldn’t hear me trying to clear a path. I, along with the tray was going down, and it was not going to be pretty. Everything slowed, and the second act of Ride of the Valkyries began to play in my head. I crumbed, with a sort of floppy awkwardness to the floor, bringing with me beer, wine, and sticky globs of pulled pork. I was covered from head to toe in grease and backwash. For the rest of my shift I smelled like a hangover. No one noticed—they were too busy chanting along with the shrill cries of the Medical Director as she shouted, “O-H” the elderly crowd retorted “I-O” and everyone cheered.

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Spilled Milk

I quit my job. I spent the last two years working my ass off for something that literally didn’t pay off. It wasn’t a smooth departure either. I’m not saying I flipped my desk or punched my boss—just imagined it. It was messy but so is everything I do. Now, I’m back in food service. Catering for a large local company. Serving shrimp skewers and steak to the Columbus elite. I hate rich people. Standing against the high top tables, spilling scotch as they wave their hands around—congratulating themselves for being better than everyone else. It’s not ideal but it pays the bills, while I’m waiting to hear back about a job in the city.

Catering isn’t ideal and neither is he. He’s waiting for me there—in the city. By waiting for me, I really mean ignoring me. We never talk anymore, and even when we do it usually ends in an argument. I’m all alone in another non-relationship. Needless to say, things aren’t all rainbows and sunshine in my world. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a hamster cage. Endlessly climbing through the tunnels and up the latters, only to fall back down into a pile of my own shit and wood shavings. Lately, I’ve just been sticking to the wheel, running to nowhere, too proud to give up, but too tired to try harder.

I’m itching to leave but I’m also terrified. I don’t think him and I will make it so I’m trying my best not to add him into the equation. It’s really just about the money. At the end of the day, it’s always a numbers game. Unfortunately my skill set doesn’t guarantee me a livable wage. I know you don’t get into non-profit work for the money, but how awkward would be to stand in line for food stamps with the clients you serve?

I catered a business school reunion last night, it was terrible. Some man old enough to be my grandfather with the libido a frat boy told me I was pretty and placed his clammy wrinkled hand on my low back. I cringed, he smiled, and I refilled the water.

I walked into the venue with my hair knotted on top of my head—wiggling uncomfortably inside my oversized shirt. I almost threw up when I saw him. Tattooed from head to toe, slouching by the computer. The last time I saw him I was getting money from my ex for an abortion. There was fighting and screaming and his face had gotten in the way of a shoe I was throwing. When I saw him last night—we didn’t exchange hellos. He took one look at me, pulled out his phone and began to text furiously. Great—now my ex knows that I serve mini quiches to wealthy bigots for a living.

Life isn’t great—but I’m getting by the best way I can. I no longer have to deal with coworkers who are a dangerous combination of bold and stupid, I have time to write, and even though I spilled tomato jam all over a woman wearing a dress that probably cost more than the down payment on my car—I still have my dignity, for now at least.

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Standing beneath the Umbrella: Dismantling Privilege


“No” was a word I used often in childhood. When there was something I didn’t like or want I would get fussy and wiggle free from my mother’s grasp until I was standing. I would yell “NO” at the top of my lungs and stomp my foot on the ground. It was always easy to say ‘no’; especially to the people I loved. I believed in the power of choice and I never questioned it.

Something changed during adolescence. From the age of fifteen onward, my ‘no’ steadily began to lose its stability and importance. It was disregarded in the hallways at school, passed over in my part-time job, and ignored in nearly every sexual encounter I engaged in. As a rape survivor, most might conclude that the event of sexual assault was the moment I lost my ability to choose. In reality, I had been on the weak end of a losing battle over my body and voice for years. For me, being raped had just marked its ultimate demise.

My brain had been corrupted and my body colonized by the patriarchal idea that I owed men something. I owed them the only thing of value that I had to give—sex. Everything in my world was against me. From television and movies, showcasing women as objects meant solely to fulfill sexual desires, to popular music that divided me from my identity and placed me in such categories as “bitch” “hoe” and “slut”. The culture I grew up in left me nameless, faceless, and dehumanized me to the point where I was nothing but a hole for any and all men to enjoy.

Looking back, what I find most horrifying was my belief that this was normal. I thought sexism was a harmless part of life and sexual coercion was inevitable. The memories of my abuse pale in comparison to the sickening realization of my own inability to see. At eighteen I was blinded and enslaved by a patriarchy that was built to destroy me.

Privilege is blinding—it only allows you to see your own perfectly paved path and the paths of those who rest above you. A privileged lens is clouded, making it hard to focus on the individuals who have less than you do. We can’t see them because in order to move up, we have to stand on their backs. I know this, because I’m white. I was raised to be racially insensitive—it had been ingrained in the mind of my community long ago and was continuing to be passed on. Preconceived notions and stereotypes dictated my thinking for much of my young life in such profound, yet subtle ways that I failed to recognize them.

In the seventh grade, I proudly showcased posters of all my teen idols on my bedroom walls. Ripped from magazines and printed from the internet, I hung them with scotch tape and gave them life. At sleepovers my friends and I would giggle and daydream about the dashing men in those pictures, posing nonchalantly in their Tommy Jeans.

Unfortunately, one poster had to go. My mother saw Usher standing, abs exposed, dark and handsome, and immediately removed him from my door. “Oh honey, don’t start this nonsense. You can have Justin, Leo can stay too, but Usher has to go.” I looked at my mother side-ways and before I could interject she sat down beside me and spoke again, “If you start dating black boys, white men won’t want you anymore. You don’t want to be known as the girl who goes with black guys—protect your reputation.”

I didn’t fight what she said—instead, I internalized it. I learned to fall in line with my peers and look down upon other races. I disengaged and disconnected from minorities until it was simply, ‘us’ and ‘them’. It was easier than trying to fight it. There were 10 black kids who I attended middle school with. They fit the stereotypes that white media had created for them; they existed within these frameworks because they were safe and unchallenged. We knew nothing of their struggles with feeling ostracized—we just “knew” they were good at sports, and the hair from their heads felt funny between our fingers.

I didn’t hate other races, so I never thought of myself as being racist—but wasn’t I? The older, cooler boys constantly threw ‘nigger’ around, they were numb to it—raised with it—accepted it as everyday terminology. These were the same boys who called me slut, or weak, or stupid. I never chimed in, but I laughed along—afraid that if I didn’t they would turn their heckling towards me. It wasn’t safe to stand out. I used my privilege as a shield; I deflected my own marginalized experience by mocking those with less privilege. In their minds, I may have been a slut—but at least I wasn’t a beaner, a kike, or God forbid, a nigger.

Literature saved me. I felt different from the kids around me, but still not unlike them—I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I connected with different cultures, groups, and individuals through their written experiences. Books became my religion—if Sandra Cisneros was my saving grace, then James Baldwin was the son of God. By opening a freshly bound book, I could reach people who lived past the uniform trees and sidewalks that made up my pristine and perfect suburb. I could engage in someone else’s reality and for the first time I was able to see what life was like for those living on the outskirts of power.

Being exposed to racism in this way shaped my idea of who a rapist could be. I was taught by my mother and encouraged by the boys around me—boys I was supposed to be impressing—to be leery of men of color. They were the ones who drove around empty parking lots in dark cars waiting to pull young girls in. Dark men were lurking outside of bars and in alley ways, waiting for their shamelessly drunk victims to stumble by.

My rape didn’t happen in an alley, and I was sober. It wasn’t at the hand of some dark, hooded assailant either, but rather at the hands of a man I trusted with a face that I had lovingly caressed on several occasions. He took me the way he wanted me and disregarded my shaking body and begging. To this day, he fails to recognize it as rape because he was conditioned to believe that he was entitled to my body and I, owed it to him.

I fought hard for my ‘no’. I fought for my body, my voice, and for the futures of my unborn daughters. I took refuge in the sacred feminine and fed from it. I surrounded myself with powerful women who held me up and let me stand even if it was on their shoulders. I made peace with my body and fell in love with myself for the person who I am. I fought an uphill battle against my own shame and insecurities and came to realize that privilege, entitlement, and misogyny had kept me caged. There was nothing wrong with me, and there never was—it was all an illusion inflicted on me by those who are knee deep in power.

Subtle prejudices are usually the hardest to overcome. Mostly, because ways of thinking dubbed as ‘harmless’ are widely accepted. Privileged groups often don’t see their own power in the same context as those who are disconnected from it—when we’re not butt of the joke or the target of the insult, we fail to see how dangerous they can be. I’m telling you this so you can understand that even as a victim of sexual assault and sexism, I too carry privilege and that privilege is directly connected to the oppression of non-white, non-Christian minorities. As a community we must recognize the role that privilege and entitlement play in our lives. We need to take a closer look at the stereotypes we perpetuate and simply ask ourselves, ‘why’. We must educate ourselves and our children that stereotyping and profiling will ultimately snowball into victim blaming, taking the form of racism and sexism—the very two phenomena that hinder human rights and destroy our concept of community.

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I Am Unbreakable

My stomach dropped when we entered the room. I wiped my hands on the sides of my pant legs as we searched for somewhere to stand. We were late, but no one noticed. Everyone’s eyes were focused intently on the large screen that hung in the center of the room. Images of women and men rotated slowly on a PowerPoint presentation. One after another the photographs appeared in front of us—images of friends, mothers, neighbors, and sisters all holding up signs that carried the weight of rape, molestation, and trauma. I knew what I had come to do; I was there to share my story and to add his words to the collection of abuses obtained by Project Unbreakable.

Project Unbreakable, founded by Grace Brown, began as a Tumblr page. Brown’s idea was to help victims break their silence by photographing them holding signs that read quotes from their attackers. Since its start in 2011 Grace has photographed over 300 victims and this once small movement continues to grow.

I stood in the back row of the crowded lecture hall, listening to stories alarmingly similar to my own. Each word, piercing stare, and utterance of abuse pushed me back to a place I never wanted to return to. I saw his face emerge on the screen and shook my head—struggling to focus, I heard him hiss and spit poison into my ears and my hands began to shake. I am here, I am safe, I repeated it over and over again in my mind but his words muffled my attempts to stay focused. His voice was booming within my brain and I could feel his words slithering inside of me—I knew I was ready.

He didn’t mean to—or, at least that’s what he told me. I can still see the guilty look on his face as I laid crumbled and silent on his bed. “It was an accident….I didn’t mean it…. You’re making me feel like I raped you.” I can still remember thinking that no, of course it wasn’t rape—rape happens in dark allies, rape happens to strangers—not to me, not in this bed. But in reality, that’s when he silenced me. In that moment declaring that what he had done was somehow outside the contexts of rape was all the convincing I needed.  It was an accident and as we all know “accidents” happen.

I was eighteen when he raped me, but the abuse began a year earlier. At first it was verbal—he’d tell me I was worthless, call me garbage, and throw all of the familiar names at me, names I was already used to hearing. The more he broke me down the more I depended on him to build me back up. I used to think of my love for him as an addiction—that something deep inside kept willing me back to him. Or, that my love had turned him bad and everything he did to me I deserved—it was my fault.

I found myself identifying with the labels he had placed on me. He called me worthless and so that’s exactly what I saw when I looked in the mirror. The abuse wasn’t my fault—but I had internalized the feeling that I had deserved all of it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone. Today, one in three adolescents will be a victim of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

I used to wonder why it took being raped for me to finally break contact with him. Looking back, I understand that I was no match for the toxic cocktail of manipulation and coercion he was feeding me—especially when coupled with the idea that the messages he was sending me were the same ones I was receiving from my peers and from the media. I learned young that love was fear and sex was only for him to enjoy—not for me, my body and my pleasure were irrelevant.

I didn’t speak about my experience for two years. I had let myself become convinced that talking was useless  because no one would believe me—it was his word against mine and his was always heard first. Excusing abuse and placing a higher value on a man’s word over that of a young woman is a societal norm that must be changed. This phenomenon is a large contributor to the fact that only 33% of girls in violent relationships admit to being abused.

Finding the courage to tell my story was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life, but I couldn’t be more satisfied with my decision. I am fortunate enough to have a community of women and men who help me lift my voice and support my choice to speak. We didn’t choose to be abused—but we can choose to heal. We can choose to take back authority over our bodies and reclaim our power and purpose. I, along with the other one billion victims worldwide can rise against physical and sexual abuse. Together, we are unbreakable.

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