Yesterday Jemesii told me it would mean the world to her if I would promote a project she was part of. I hesitated.
My reasons are complicated. To be certain, it opens a pandora’s box of bad memories. However, I am the one who handed the contents of that box to Jemesii in the first place.
A bit of context: When I was in my early twenties, I married a man I barely knew. Four months earlier, after dating for six weeks, I became pregnant. Refusing to have an abortion, I let my parents talk me into a marriage that never should have happened. When Jemesii was eleven months old, I left her father, and two months later I gave birth to August, my eldest son.
Before Jemesii turned two, it became apparent that she was being sexually abused. Despite referrals by our pediatrician as well as a child psychiatrist who interviewed Jemesii over a period of weeks, Social Services dropped the ball. A year later it was obvious that the abuse continued. This time I called the police. What followed was hell; court time (I was sued, twice), invasive exams, endless interviews and good/touch, bad/touch counseling.
As a young single mother who was just scraping by, I had few resources. I trusted the authorities to do the right thing. The end result was inadequately supervised visitation and one severely damaged little girl, who, at the age of 12, bravely decided to cut off all communication with her father.
Two years ago I told her that I had a box with all of the notes, transcripts, drawings and even an audio tape from that horrible time. It had sat unopened for over twenty years. It is yours, I said. If you want, I will destroy it for you. However, if you wish to go through it, you may.
She took the box and six months later worked up the courage to review the contents. And then, she fell apart.
It was a long time coming. As a teenager, Jemesii engaged in a predictable pattern of self injury, promiscuity and anorexia. And even though she managed to cover it up, much of her self-destructive behavior persisted well into her twenties.
Jemesii has worked hard to heal and rebuild what was broken. As part of that process, she volunteered to be photographed for Project Unbreakable. I am so proud of her and if she has the balls to do this, than so do I.
Her amazing statement of courage and survival follows: