Imagine for twenty-three years, having to get permission to eat, get your television programming approved; have all of your phone calls screened; have restrictions on if and when you could bathe, and at the risk of being punched in the face, ask daddy if he could leave you alone for one night so you can get some sleep. 

For my childhood, adolescence and half of my young adulthood, I was dictated to, brainwashed by, raped, bred, sexually exploited and physically abused by the one person that most little girls look to for guidance and protection; my father. But like all things created by the Almighty, there is an antithesis to his abuse. I’ve learned much from my father; that’s a fact I can’t deny. And the four children that I bore under his oppression are my pride, joy and at the heart of my purpose for living. 

This was a picture of my children and I taken at my grandmother's church. My first three were still living with my grandmother as her and my aunt's foster children. 

Because of the damage he has done, it almost seems wrong to acknowledge my father’s (unintentional) cultivation of positivity in me. For instance: my spiritual practicality was a seed that he planted by exposing me to various religious belief systems, indoctrinating a fear and love of God and then testing my faith by making my Creator the only thing I could depend on in an abusive atmosphere. My employment of positive mantras to boost self confidence and maintain a optimistic attitude, was a practice that my father used to program obedience and good behavior in his children. And even down to my entrepreneurial spirit, outside of the box perspective and “I can do anything” way of thinking; it’s difficult to imagine having those personality traits without watching my father swindle business partners, confuse and control women, evade government authorities and achieve anything he set his mind to no matter how ridiculous it appeared. It almost seems illogical for something to be the source of the poison and the cure for its damage at the same time. But history has proven that pain and pressure can indeed make you stronger. And in medicine, it isn’t uncommon to make a cure by using the poison itself.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my current personal power may indeed have been encouraged to grow through my father’s sick and demented treatment of me and my siblings. 

Much like the way that our bodies produce antibodies when we are exposed to a toxin, the resistance that I developed to the effects of my father’s abuse, I now use to help others heal. My conscious mind (now effected by societal standards) tells me that I do not want the person I’m supposed to hate, to be a source of my evolution and survival. But without accepting that I am my father’s daughter assigned by my Creator to be molded by him well into adulthood, I risk constantly fighting against and hating myself. 

As a woman of color my ancestral history is ridden with abuses similar to what I suffered. Women like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth ultimately learned to fight against their oppressors only after being oppressed. Once subjected to the pain and suffering of slavery and discrimination, they and many others like them accessed a power that without that challenge may have never surfaced. Unfortunately not every person feels they have the power to prevail. But I theorize that we all have that power; some just don’t know how to pull from it. With a little assistance, whether from a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a peer, literature or even the media, all the tools necessary to use your personal power is within reach. 

We may not know how to eradicate domestic violence, child abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children completely. These deviances fester in our communities like a cancer. When I was eight years old my father became a tumor in my life that seemed to metastasize throughout my entire being. And since I was separated from the outside world for over seventeen years, my access to treatment was limited. Which is why I’ve dedicated myself to sharing my “antibodies” with others that may be going through similar challenges. And while life’s hurdles come in many forms and effect a vast selection of people, healing essentially requires five factors to be effective. Acknowledgement, acceptance, treatment, time and consistency. Within every last one of us lies the potential to become an antidote for violence against women and children. We can nurture that potential by educating ourselves, supporting victims and survivors and at the very least, keeping ourselves aware.

Q&A segment from a book reading I did in Newark, NJ

It’s been thirteen years since the last time I’ve  had to get permission to eat, get my television programming approved; have my phone calls screened; be instructed on when to take a bath; and at the risk of being punched in the face, ask daddy if he was finished so I could get some sleep. And though like a cancer, the trauma I’ve suffered threatened my health, mental state and will to live; I take solace in knowing that like the development of an antidote or vaccine, I can use the “antibodies” that have been created through me to assist in the healing of others. Despite the many challenges I have faced, I am here living, loving, thriving and using my strength as an example to encourage those that don’t know how, to cultivate their own. 

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