It happened when I was fifteen years old. I remember telling my mom when she picked me up from work the day after it happened and I told her as soon as I got in the car. She screamed. She was shocked. My little sister was also in the car. I couldn’t hold it in, I knew what happened was wrong and I felt awful. We pulled up in our driveway and my mom got out of the car and left me there for what felt like forever. I was curled up in the front seat balling my eyes out. My brother’s best friend, who I had called that night for him to try and find me after it happened, came and carried me out of the car like a baby. He put me in his lap and rocked me back and forth on the couch.
As much as I replay the story in my head, hoping it will change, the only thing that has changed is me. After it happened, I became so numb from it. I wished it would all go away. My body wasn’t mine. It felt like it no longer belonged to me. I dyed my hair and gained weight. I lost myself. I didn’t even want to be myself. The aftermath of it all was almost as worse as that night. Girls would push me into lockers at school causing bruises on my body. I was called a slut, among other names. I switched schools, only to have my tires stabbed and my car keyed by old friends. I watched the movie Ella Enchanted for a whole year every night. the most painful thing of all is that I have never once changed my story, while my perpetrator was telling a new one every day. His friends messaged me on AIM and said, “So what if he was a little forceful, did it really ever hurt anyone?” Yes, it did. It ruined me, but I was told that I was ruining him. I had a couple teachers who believed me and to this day, I am forever grateful for their support.
I hate that this has happened to anyone, but I am comforted in the feeling that I am not alone and this is not ok. My story still challenges me. I’m stronger and more vulnerable because of it. Even when I let the tears fall, I know I am brave. Too many people have been victims of sexual abuse. I wish I could put it eloquently into words, but all that comes to mind is, it fucking sucks.
I use flowers as a way to heal. As a way to channel my emotions. I want to help others cope, even if it is just for a moment. I want them to feel able to express themselves without words, but through using the color, shapes, texture and smell of flowers. Creating movement and evoking emotion through nature. People are known to lose their senses through trauma and I feel working with flowers reignites those senses. My business name is Lily of the Valley. Lily of the Valley symbolizes purity and humility. It also means return to happiness; something I have been trying to capture through my years. My dream is to help survivors tell their story through flowers. I recently did a photo series titled, Ocean Flora. Here is a description I wrote of the symbolism behind the series:
“There are high tides and low tides and within them is a consistency of current. We either feel high or low. Change can come crashing in like a wave sometimes. We either let it break us or we let it take away parts of us. I've learned to swim with the current this year. I didn't realize how tired I was trying to keep my head a float when if I just rode the wave and let the water take me, pieces of me, I would begin to feel new energy. I would submerge into something fresh. I've been swimming deep dark waters for so long, believing I could touch my toes to the ocean floor at any moment but when the riptide came in and brought me to shore I realized I was stripped of what I thought I was. I was left with myself. My raw, tormented and broken self. I watched the tides roll in and out while standing still. I saw what I was and what I wanted to be. I finally put my feet back in and step by step I began swimming again. I am not stronger than the tides I now know, but I also learned that I can move with them. It's scary, the unknown, but it guides you to your truth, your light.”
Flowers are a symbol of female sexuality. I am in the process of creating a photo series replaying that scene on the bed but with an abundance of flowers and growth. Representing that it has changed me, but I will leave parts of me at that scene and I will grow and learn new meanings from it. I create journal entries using petals from flowers. I create the piece and then throw it away. There is something so releasing about throwing it away afterwards.
I’ve realized I will always be healing. I will always hold myself in new ways, trying to gain new perspective on life and what it brings my way. I’m a firm believer that we are given dark days to truly find our light. I have been chasing the light for some time and some days I grasp it and hold it and beam. There are still days where I can’t seem to capture it, but I know it is there. It’s in all of us. We share a light and together we hold each other up and shine.