My Fellow Survivors,
I'm truly sorry.
I'm sorry someone put his or her hands on you as a child. I'm sorry someone forced himself on you. I'm sorry that the people who were supposed to protect and love you tried to break you. I'm sorry if anyone could have helped by intervening, yet chose not to. I'm proud of your strength and endurance. You are strong and amazing and you are not in this alone.
Do not give up hope!
Six years ago I had a shotgun in my mouth, and now I'm the COO of Vera Wear, a columnist for this wonderful publication, an entertainer, manager of models, a coach, professional speaker, and the list goes on.
Do I share this information, bragging? Yes, I do!
I take pride in the fact that my blueprint in life, like you, was to fail, to become a monster, to be hurt and broken, and angry and bitter. But here I am, still standing. Happy, whole, healed, and complete. I am living proof that you can achieve anything, when you truly want to, regardless of the odds being stacked against you. I represent you.
Pathetically, in the U.S., one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of eighteen. One in six women have been the victim of an attempted rape or completed rape.
Being a part of this statistic can feel humiliating and embarrassing, and make us feel weak and powerless. This is wrong . Being a part of that statistic is a badge of strength, determination, resiliency, and empowerment.
We were supposed to be knocked down, hung out to dry, and left behind. We were supposed to be the freaks in life, the nobodies, the angered, and the powerless. But we have strength and courage within us that no one possibly could realize they have, unless they have walked in our shoes.
We know what it's like to have to dig deep within us and rise above the water trying to cover our heads. We know what it's like to find the strength to heal the cracks in our armor, to put ourselves back together again. But we're not the same: we are stronger, smarter, wiser, and more loving and accepting because of it.
We can heal and transcend through the past, transform to greatness. Yes, I'm sure you all relate to the residual effects from abuse that may never go away, and that's ok. We will never know what normal is, besides a setting on a dryer. We're a bit weird, and a little crazy, odd and eccentric.
But, we're not broken, we're not hiding from our past, and we can love who we are. I now embrace my crazy personality quirks with pride, rather than hiding from them in shame. Maybe we're different, but different is beautiful.
We define our past. Our past does not define us.
To the raped, to the molested, and to the sixteen year old rape victim of Steubenville High School, to the strong young women and brave man who recently inspired me, to all the victims of abuse and rape, we will not be left behind, we will not be hung out to dry, we will heal, we will transcend, we will triumph, and we will achieve greatness. They will not break us. I believe in you!