It’s not every day you get the opportunity to participate on a prestigious platform like TEDx. At first I could feel all the nerves in my body going haywire. Speaking in front of people was quite terrifying for me growing up. My palms got sweaty. Heart racing and my stomach felt queasy. Whenever I attempted to share my thoughts, it felt like a lump appeared in my throat and the words could not make their way out. But that was not always the case. For at one point, I remembered a playful little girl who was free from the opinions of others. She was unashamed and unafraid.
However, at age ten on a cold winter night, two weeks before Thanksgiving everything changed when a social worker showed up to our two-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. There I was standing across the room from the man who molested me. It was my words against his. And as the social worker asked multiple questions, I could feel my voice getting quieter, distant and unclear.
What possibly could a ten-year-old girl have to say about her body? Who was I to defend and stand up for myself among the adults in the room who were now carrying their own denial and shame. And although I knew exactly what transpired between me and the perpetrator, that night I walked away defeated by fear and apologetic because I had learned in that moment, the “truth was not worth hearing. The world I lived in preferred fantasy over reality” (Beautiful, Unashamed and Unafraid). The adults who I once trusted to protect me were now who I feared.
However, we don’t have to allow tragic events to become the final narrative of our lives. Over time as we take responsibility for our healing, we will discover that we are greater than our circumstances. And that is exactly what I did.
I took an eight-year journey to finding that little girl who once tried to outrun the moon and dance under the stars. This journey entailed me not waiting for those who wounded me to heal me. Because in order to love ourselves, we must believe that we are worthy of rescue.
This journey to wholeness finally led me to stepping on the prestigious platform of the TEDx Delthorne Women Stage with thirteen other brilliant, innovative and powerful women. It was not only magical, but also affirming that we are living in a time where women voices are not only amplified but necessary for social change. Here I was given an opportunity to wipe my sweaty palms, ground myself and trust that my scars had turned into something beautiful to bring others healing. It was my moment to confront the cultural silence victims of abuse experience, to protect and not expose when they have been sexually assaulted.
Sexual trauma is an epidemic worldwide. According to the Child Help Organization, “Yearly 6.6 million children are referred to child protection services” due to abuse in the home. And Child Maltreatment Report also stated, “60,000 children are sexually abused in the United States alone”. Childhood trauma is probably the biggest public health challenge we need to address, especially from its early stages.
Stepping on that TEDx stage that day reminded me once again that our voices are valid and sharing our stories are significant for a new and free world. I wanted to remind every woman and every child that they no longer need to be silenced by shame and fear. The little girl who walked away scared that night had become the woman who was ready to join other freedom fighters to help break the cycle of fear and shame when it comes to sexual abuse and child molestation.
My TEDx Talk, Breaking the Cycle: Beautiful, Unashamed and Unafraid releases January, 28 2020. May it encourage us as a community to continue breaking the taboo on sexual assault in order to leave a legacy of people, who are free to speak their truth, walk in their unique beauty and be completely fearless. Let’s to do it together.