Pretty Hurts

This is by far the most personal and hard post I ever had to do. I know I have to write it for no other reason than to let it out. I been sick to my stomach just thinking about these things.

With the release of Cyntoia Brown coming in next few days she’s been in the news again. And I have to say I thank God that she gets a second chance at life but mostly that her story is already impacting so many young life’s and will hopefully impact much more.

Yesterday I watched Me facing life: Cyntoia’s story, a documentary by Daniel Birman. It was in watching this documentary that I realised I’m not that different to her. I may not have had similar background to her or have a story like hers but her story speaks to so much more of mine.

I can only thank God that it wasn’t as bad for me as it was for her. It’s a constant reminder in my life that God was always there with me, there are so many ways my life could have been worse and so many things he saved me from.

Much like Cyntoia I was exposed to pornography before I was even 8 years old. My idea of sex basically was programmed from that. I experienced sexual abuse in the broad sense of unwanted sexual attraction before I was even 16, and this included child on child abuse.

I almost chuckled at the accuracy of how she described it. That idea that as a girl when someone wants to have sex with you, you just lay there, you could cry or whatever, but much like your consent your participation isn’t really needed.

When the subject comes up of why her parents didn’t know what was going on in her life, she says something to the effect of ‘if I said something to her(her mother) she would probably be like ok sweetie go play.

I know this all too well. And I say a little prayer knowing with my own 2 daughters I listen, when they start to talk to me I stop whatever I’m doing, I ask questions and i show interest. Maybe I overdo it sometimes but as a young woman who has experienced childhood sexual trauma raising girls is the scariest thing for me to do.

Half way through the documentary there was a moment that stopped me in my tracks.

Daniel Birman, finds that Cyntoia has cut her hair. Upon questioning her why she answers “because I don’t wanna be pretty no more….all it does is get me into trouble…it’s what got me into this mess…being attractive…”

I remember very clearly a day when I was about 9 years old. Some boys harassing me pulling my clothes down and some even forced a kissing on me. After all this happened I was crying and just feeling miserable, a bunch of older girls from my school say to me “it’s because you are so pretty, maybe you should start looking a little less pretty to avoid being so attractive”

For most of my teenage years and onto my early adult years I have been told this in one form or another, I don’t think I can put in words just what it does to a person to be told the reason they experience bad thing is because of how they are made and therefore will never be able to not go through those things.

The reality of it is as a child, you haven’t been introduced to make up and fashion. So there’s very little you can actually do to change your appearance, except for maybe poor hygiene, which is the suggestions I received, I know!!!

Most of my decision in relation to my hair have in some form or another been influenced by these thoughts. But more than that, I am not comfortable with being beautiful. I try but I can never sustain the effort. It’s a bold statement, I don’t think I ever even admitted it to myself but it is truth.

1 in 5 women will have experienced some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime. I hear this so many times and it’s still shocking each time. We as a society are not getting any better at addressing this at all.

The thing about being a young child, experiencing something that hurts you and your environment, exposure tells you it’s ‘normal’ is that it affects your ability to make better decisions for yourself.

I grew up not trusting my feelings, not trusting my judgements about men or people in general. What that meant is the sexual abuse continued well into my adult years.

It’s estimated that only about a third cases of sexual abuse are reported and an even smaller number of those reported are prosecuted. I fall on the other two thirds who haven’t and probably still wouldn’t report it. It doesn’t help knowing the ins and outs of the legal system. Because no matter how advanced we are as a society a woman’s appearance will always be a question when it comes to these cases, and the lines of consent becomes blurrier and blurrier.

I don’t know about you but I don’t believe that it’s that hard to make sure that someone actually wants to engage in any sexual act, whether someone wants that attention or not. Nor do I think it’s that hard to accept a simple no, without question negotiation manipulation or force.

Want is really all it comes down to. I’m willing to bet all my money that no matter what the girl did, whether she was flirtatious, whether she changed her mind half way through, whether she didn’t push you off hard enough, whether her no wasn’t strong enough, whether she teased you, whether she was a bit tipsy, if you genuinely and sincerely asked “do you want to do it” most of not all would have said no, I know I would have, and I would have appreciated that being honoured.

As for Cyntoia Brown, God indeed had a plan for her. The devil intended it for evil but God used it for good. From the little information we have now it seems like she has evolved, and turned her life around. Sure she has a lot of learning and adapting to do when she’s finally out of prison, I imagine people like me will have a lot to learn from her on how to move past our pasts.

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