Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Used for Good: My Story Matters

I grappled for a long time about writing a blog, and how much of myself to reveal in the blog. Like most people, education and my childhood have had a significant impact on the woman I am today. As I develop my education consulting company and write about education issues that move me, I believe it's only fair that I liberate myself first. I've spent many years hiding my truth from most of the world, wearing a facade to avoid revealing myself and the incidences that created the woman I am today. I consider myself an underdog, and I want to write blogs for Educate to Liberate that empower and raise awareness of issues that students, particularly young women and students of color, face that are often overlooked in our schools.

Here goes! Since I was 5, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. Books were abound in my home. I spent countless hours playing school, and forcing my sister and neighborhood friends to play school with me before they could go to recess (play on our backyard swing set). Learning was my life, and it showed because I was admitted into the Gifted Student Program (GSP) in elementary. Within a few years, I transitioned from a vibrant, inquisitive child to a broken girl and no one noticed.

Sixth grade is when my world changed. I had made the honor roll each reporting period until an adult tragically altered my life. He asked me to sit on his lap, and I did. His hands entered my pants and began to caress me. I tried to focus on the movie playing in the background. His tongue entered my mouth. I was paralyzed with fear, too afraid to speak, too afraid to move. I just sat. Somehow, I mustered the strength to say, “I have to go now.” Everything was a blur and so confusing. I walked away feeling disgusting and disgusted with myself. How could someone I trusted do that to me? Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time, and things became progressively worse. I acted out in many ways that led many adults to call me “fast”, or tell me that I was going to have a baby before I graduated high school. I still cringe when I hear someone say phrases such as: Know your worth, Love yourself, or Respect yourself. Today, I bear the scars of the betrayal of trust, violation of boundaries, and torment to my psyche.

As an 11-year-old gifted student, I came up with a brilliant plan to expose my secret. I would fail. I was on the Wizard’s Team: 4 core teachers, a band teacher, P.E., and a study hall teacher. This should be easy, I thought since I had made the honor roll on four or five of my report cards. I stopped doing classwork, homework, intentionally failing tests with the hopes that one of my teachers would question this recent change. Not a one. Filled with uncontrollable rage, I got in a fight with a boy one morning while waiting to return my trombone to the band room. It was the talk all day. My classmates nicknamed me Mike Tyson. When I arrived at my English class later that day, my English teacher pulled me aside to speak. Finally, I thought to myself. She said, “I heard what happened this morning. Nedra, that is so out of character for you.” I was waiting for more, but that was it, no questions. The remainder of the year was pretty much the same. I attended a predominately white school, with an all-white teaching staff, and their inaction led me to believe that they didn’t care about me. Furthermore, because I was a black student, I was supposed to fail.

By 8th grade, I had developed a f*ck the world attitude, and by my twenties I was so broken that I reconciled myself to being DAMAGED GOODS. Men became my drug of choice. Through my brokenness, I conceived my first child. Having my son put me on a path to stability, and he returned me to my first love, teaching. Surprisingly, to the same grade where I was first overlooked. I entered with much fear and trepidation. Afraid that a student would be invisible to me just as I was to my former teachers. Depression ensued because I was still living in survival mode, but now it involved children, my son, and my students. I could no longer live like this. There was no way I was going to enter my thirties and a new decade living as I had in my teens and twenties. After 18 years, I sought help. Fortunately, Travis Avenue Baptist Church was there with counseling interns from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Counseling showed me that I wasn’t alone. I was part of an unspoken sisterhood.

  •  Of children who are sexually abused 20% are abused before the age of 8
  •  About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
  • 60% of child sexual abuse victims never tell anyone
  • About 90% of children who are victims of abuse know their abuser
  •  About 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by the people the family trusts.
  • Adult women who were sexually abused as a child are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression as women who were not sexually abused.
  • There are 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S.
After counseling, I met two students who reminded me of my younger self. It was through my interactions with them that I learned they were also victims of sexual abuse. As they were working on their healing, I was able to provide support and encouragement that I didn’t receive from the adults in my life. Nevertheless, while I’m happy to have supported them in their own journey, I can’t help but wonder who I missed over the years. Although I am no longer a teacher, my heart still lies in education and the welfare of children.

Oh, I failed to mention another important person in my life, my daughter. She has inspired me to be a better woman, better role model, and the embodiment of strength.

Thanks for reading my first post! Feel free to comment, and if you prefer to read and not comment, that is great, too! I’m just glad you stopped by. 

UPDATE: Here's a video of me sharing my story on LCS Radio in April 2017.

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