I’ve been a survivor of child sexual abuse since the age of five so all I’ve known is shame. Throughout my teenage and early adulthood years, I thought I was the reason why men and boys chose to have sex with me. Back then, I never considered it rape so I grew up thinking it was my fault; there was an energy or something about me that made them do it. In some aspect, there was and we’ll explore that later. Because of the guilt and shame, I was a promiscuous teen. In today’s slang, I was a ho, a thot. I didn’t want to be that way, but looking back, I realize I had been groomed to do it. I didn’t feel love or acceptance at home, I had few close friends which was ok but the rest of my peers ridiculed me for the way I dressed or looked or for being too smart or too dumb. And when the boys were done teasing me and calling me ugly, they raped me. So I didn’t grow up with low self-esteem. I had NO self-esteem.

Fast forward to today. I am healed. I understand now how I was preyed upon and groomed. I was a victim of child sexual abuse. I’m now a survivor, no thriver, of child sexual abuse. The mind games no longer work and my mission is to help other survivors let go of the shame and guilt and start the healing process. I’m not a coach and I don’t have a counseling degree. I’m a former victim whose life took an unfortunate turn because I let the shame and pain guide my decision-making. What do I mean by that? Because I believed I was only good enough to be used, God didn’t love me and no decent man ever would, I concluded I wasn’t good enough to be anything but a stripper. I let the pain, shame, and guilt from what others did to me define me. And know I’m not the only survivor who’s done this. You might not have turned to exotic dancing but you could have married an abuser, dropped out of high school or college, did drugs, etc. Just like me, something inside of you is broken and you’re hurting because of the abuse you suffered. It’s not your fault. I promise you: It’s not your fault. If you want to heal and have a better life, the first step you can take is to look in the mirror and tell yourself: it’s not my fault. The second step: get counseling. Counseling and self-help books saved my life esp. the book The Courage to Heal by Laura Davis If you’re a child sexual abuse victim, I highly recommend that book.

Aside from the obvious, NeNe, Cardi B, Draya, Amber Rose and Blac Chyna I wanted to know if there were any famous or successful people who had pasts similar to mine. I discovered Stormy Wellington a millionaire author and coach, Lady GaGa, a sexual assault survivor whose riveting Oscar performance of ‘Til It Happens To You encouraged other survivors to speak out. In an article in Elle magazine, she said, “I will never forget it because I’m forever changed because I don’t have to hide anymore. I don’t have to feel ashamed that it happened. I went through this, but I’m stronger now, and I’m not alone, and I’m not disgusting, and I don’t have to feel ashamed, and I’m not the dirt on the bottom of people’s shoes because I went through this. I’m still the talented, educated woman that I know myself to be.” There’s Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning actress from Juno who chose to strip out of boredom. Ironically, her writing career took off because of it and she’s quoted as once saying, “I feel much more naked as a writer than I did as a stripper.” Strippers for Jesus was founded by Jaime Hindman with the mission to share the love of Jesus with current dancers in the hope that they’ll seek a better life.

I was shocked upon discovering that my idol, the woman I admired before I ever became a writer or a stripper: Maya Angelou, shared a past similar to mine. Maya wasn’t just a dancer, she was also a prostitute and madam for lesbian hookers.She was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at seven years old and found the courage to name her attacker. Infuriated that he served only one day in jail, Maya’s uncles murdered him. She was so wracked with guilt, she didn’t speak for five years, believing her words caused his death. She eventually reconciled her guilt and shamed and shared her story in her anthology, Gather Together In My Name. Maya admitted it was the most painful thing she’s ever written yet in the quote below, she explains why wrote about it:

“..if you happen to fall into that sort of experience, what you have to do is forgive yourself. If you’re in the gutter, see where you are and admit it. As soon as you admit it, you can be like the prodigal son, prodigal daughter. Get up and go home – wherever home is. Get up and go to a safe place, someplace where your spirit is not kicked and brutalized and your body not misused and abused. Get up. But you can’t get up unless you see where you are and admit it. I wrote about my experience because I thought too many people tell young folks, “I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? – never I. I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet.” They live like that and then young people find themselves in situations and think, “Damn, I must be a pretty bad guy. Mom and Dad never did anything wrong.” They can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives. So I wrote the book, Gather Together In My Name, meaning that all those grown, all those adults, all those parents and grandparents and teachers and preachers and rabbis and priests who lie to children can gather together in my name and I will tell them the truth. Wherever you are, you have got to admit it and set about to make a change.”

Now that I speak and write about my past, I still have peers who talk about me, what I used to do and they try to make me feel shameful. They even try to warn my man about me. They don’t even know me but believe I’m unworthy of him and their circle. But it won’t work. I understand the reasons behind my actions and they do too, which makes their smear campaign sleazy. When I hear of them or people who try to other sexual assault victims or strippers or prostitutes or whoever, I’m immediately reminded of the kids and adults in my neighborhood who called me a freak and ho because I was 7, 8, 9, 10 years old and being raped by boys 5-10 years older and men old enough to be my father. They’re no better than the abusers and are another reason why victims are so afraid to come forward. I will never deal with anyone who shames another person for anything. I don’t have time for it. It’s partly because of hateful people like that that’s we’re in the mess that we’re in.

“I have no patience for modesty. Modesty is a learned adaptation. As soon as life slams a modest person against the wall, that modesty will fall off faster than a G-string will fall off a stripper. Whenever I’m around someone who’s modest, I run like hell and all of fire. You don’t want modesty; you want humility. Humility comes from the inside out. It says someone was here before me and I’m here because I’ve been paid for. I have something to do and I will do that because I’m praying for someone else who has yet to come.” – Maya Angelou

Remember, when folks trash you, the Love & Hip Hop cast, your neighbor Jane or coworker Tameka, they’re also trashing Lady Gaga, Diablo Cody, Maya Angelou, etc. and basically giving a middle finger to all the inspiration that Maya and others hoped to instill in us. We cannot be shamed and blamed for what we did not know, for what we erroneously believed was our fault. So, please find a network of nonjudgmental people who support you. Healing from abuse is like recovering from an addiction. There is no cure. It’s a continual process and we need to surround ourselves with positive people who are good for us. You can’t find healing from hate.