The other day I posted this picture in the morning.
And I had twenty-two people tell me I looked nice/pretty/hawt/gorgeous and so on…twenty-two people! I bet you have no idea what that did to me. After all, it’s just a dress right?
Well, not exactly. You see, there’s something you may not know about me. I’m a survivor. A survivor of sexual violence that impacted my life more than once. First as a youngster, which rippled out into my life and impacted my developing sexuality in many ways. These ripples, like with many victims of childhood abuse, placed me at risk for further victimization later in my life – for me, a risk that was realized.
I was fortunate to have so many supports in my adult life and so many reasons to confront the impact of my experiences and to take the difficult road to healing. And I’ve learned to live with this as part of my life story that has had a role in shaping the woman I am today. Still, there is a part of me that wonders who I would have been if I’d been allowed to develop into my womanhood innocently and safely. If I’d been able to assert boundaries better and identify threat better? If my voice had not been silenced for so long? Would I have been able to look at myself in the mirror and see someone there that felt strong in her femininity, confident in her sensual self, and safe in her own skin?
Don’t get me wrong. I like myself. I’m proud of the woman I’ve become. I’m assertive and strong. I understand the impact of sexual trauma in my life and I’ve slain some big dragons. My husband is my knight in shining armour – he’s stood by and helped me slay the ones I couldn’t face all on my own. I’ve found my voice and helped other people find theirs. I’m a good example of how you can bring this into the light and find a way to thrive. I even think I’m sometimes sure that this journey has given me a strength and understanding that I wouldn’t want to give up. I think. But it doesn’t really matter because you can’t go back and undo. You can only accept, and move forward. One step at a time. But it hurt. Oh, it hurt me. And silenced me in so many ways. And though I am not silent now with my mind and my heart and my voice – my body is another story. It hasn’t found its way to comfort yet. I tend to ignore it a lot. I haven’t quite figured out what messages I send with it so I keep it simple. More likely you will see me like this:
But rarely in anything that MIGHT be considered sexy. Just in case. Which makes a little part of me sad. And really mad. Lately, I feel a whisper of my middle-aged self saying that it’s time to take another step. To reclaim still some more of what was lost. My beautiful daughter inspires me. She is gorgeous and confident, so feminine and strong. She nudges me forward when we shop together, seeming to see something in me I can’t see for myself. She is a gift, a reminder of what femininity should be and I revel in her sense of herself. She picked the dress and gave it the seal of approval. For her, I tried. I want her to see a confident mother, a woman unafraid to embrace womanhood in all its facets. I never want her to have to hide herself or fear her own innate self. In her I see what might have been.
And at least twenty-two people helped nudge my confidence up a whole notch. I thank every one of you for your kind words that were more powerful than you could have known.
So, I am woman. Hear me roar. Or at least growl a little…for now.
If you or someone you know is needing support for experience of sexual victimization you might benefit from the information you can find at VoiceFound, an organization very close to my heart, or the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, a place that held me when I needed to find my way.