Unbreakable

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:

26 responses to “Unbreakable

  1. You have an amazing and brave daughter. She obviously gets it from her mother, as you have the courage to allow her to make her own way and support her decisions.

  2. I’ve known Jemesii for nine years now, and I watched her suffer the long-term consequences of this abuse while we were in college. It is amazing to see her growth. Now, she is a strong, healthy, loving individual– and she has overcome these demons. She has survived. She became self-motivated, putting in time and effort into her mental well-being– and I am glad you can support her in this way.

    • Miss Amanda, I’m going to give you some credit here as well. you didn’t simply…. watch me suffer. you helped me through the suffering, time and time again. you are a integral part of what helped push me to get my ass in gear and find a way to an un-haunted life.

      love you missy

    • Amanda Jane, I know you were incredibly supportive of Jem at a time when her family was quite unaware of how difficult things were. I thank you. And you have remained a good and supportive friend all these years later–she cares very much for you.

      Linnea

  3. love and respect you both so much – always A

  4. she is indeed brave and more than that; she is giving voice to many others who have gone through sexual abuse.

    • when I first read about the project I knew I needed to participate. sexual abuse is something that is discussed with hushed voices and shame, if at all…… and when its incest that shame can become even more complex. while its terrifying to now be speaking so openly about it and to have my face firmly associated with “incest survivor” (I posted it on my own facebook as well) I felt that if a single person saw the photo and felt less alone, less like the monster under the bed, then it was worth it.

    • Lorraine, she is very brave indeed.

      Linnea

  5. There are no words to describe what you both had to go through, and how brave of you to share it now. The more people who talk about this, the fewer will suffer in silence and hopefully, the fewer will suffer at all. I love you (and Jemesi) for letting us into this deeply personal and painful catharsis.

    • Julia, I wish no one had to suffer silently–but it is not an easy thing to share. Jemesii is very brave and I have merely followed her lead.

      Linnea

  6. Oh my dear, dear Linnea (and your very brave and beautiful daughter) I am left speechless, and in awe of you both. I hope this has set you both free…what a wonderful project this is, and a way for all those who are the victims of sexual abuse to give a voice to their pain. Go in peace, both of you. Your courage is beyond measure.

  7. Kathleen Gereghty

    Your courage has been and continues to be an inspiration, and Jemesi has it in spades!!! may you and she be wraped in a cacoon of LOVE.

  8. Jemii — We are so very, very proud of you! Your tremendous courage and strength guide us all. We love you very much! And Linnea — thank you so much for sharing this with everyone. You two are very amazing! Much love, Melinda

  9. When I found your blog (a month or so ago?), I was taken with your courage in how you had been facing your cancer. And I continue to be amazed with your family’s courage as well. In spite of such very difficult situations, you both are finding the ways to be strong and centered. What a gift. Thank you for sharing these difficult stories here, both with people who know you and those of us who don’t. My family was never one for openly sharing difficult times, but I absolutely feel the strength you are giving to all of us to work through our own challenges.

    • I am glad you found the blog and I thank you for your comments. My family hasn’t always shared their difficulties openly either and I am certain that the fact that some of us do, is not easy for all. I am of the mind that no matter how hard it may be to face, the truth shall set us free.

      Linnea

  10. What a beautiful girl. I applaud her courage and admire her strength—as I do her mother’s.

  11. Jem, you are very brave and I am proud of you. I think the best healing can come when we have no more secrets, and no shame. Truth can set us free
    Katherine

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