It’s like growing up thinking that the word “bitch” is a standard nickname for a woman, and that you only achieve what you achieve because of your nearly perfect looks. Well, if only you could do something about that ugly hair of yours.

It’s like being beaten physically and verbally for taking up too much space for a girl so small and so irrelevant because of her age and gender.

It’s like when your friend’s dad gives you a bath in the second grade; except for the fact that you weren’t dirty. And even if you were dirty, why is a grown man you barely know bathing you?

It’s like your high school boyfriend who tells you repeatedly that he will kill himself if you don’t do what you want him to do. Because you’re a good Christian girl and want him to be saved, so you do what he needs to stay alive physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

It’s like every time you see your perpetrator’s birthday on the clock, or when his actual birthday happens each year. The air catches in your throat, and for a brief moment you’re transported back into his basement, wondering what you’ll have to do for him this time.

It’s like stepping outside to exercise, covered head to toe in running gear–not that it should matter what you’re wearing–and you hear strange man after strange man commenting on your body and what you must like to do with it.

It’s like when a pastor compliments your low cut top anytime you wear it, and then steps up to the pulpit and tells his congregation that there is no other church that teaches the truth but his church. As if “his church” belonged to anyone but God.

It’s like the burden of proof etched onto your body, mind, and soul. You carry this burden all day, every day, but there’s nothing you can do to pursue the justice that is owed to you and to your community.

It’s like choosing hope in the face of past terror by sharing your story in fragments. Because you know that, unfortunately, you’re not alone.

It’s like knowing that your words mean something to someone. Even if that someone is just you.

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