Terri came to us with a story and it is a story that many of you possibly have. Her story is the reason we do what we do.
At age 13 I had a crush on a boy. He told me that he would date me IF and only if I sent him a picture of me naked. So I did… A month later his mom found the picture. She called my dad and completely humiliated me over the phone. She told me that I didn’t deserve to live. That I was a horrible example of a woman. That she never wanted her son to be around a shitty person like me ever again. Back at school, this picture circulated amongst his friends, my friends and everyone in between. People that I thought were my close friends, shared this picture and I was teased relentlessly about different parts of my developing body. Just when I thought it was gone, it would come back. This happened for 6 years. I made a mistake, and I had to carry so much shame. I felt so alone. No one talked about it. When I was 15, I met my first love. He was the first man that ever made me feel beautiful. He and I had a connection unlike any that I ever felt, before and after. This is a connection I am certain that I will never feel again. Two years went by with him. He changed my life, and he saved me from my shame. He made me feel unbroken. He was my comfort and my best friend. When he left me, I tried to move on. I laid on a blanket in the park everyday for months waiting for him to come back. I eventually met a football player but it wasn’t the same. He wanted my body and not my heart. When he finally got my body (after much unrelenting pressure), he left me the next day. He got what he wanted and then he dropped me. I felt so empty. This was the nightmare cliche. That night I sat in the shower for hours. Then I laid on my yellow sheets covered in blood. I tried to kill myself but I just couldn’t. I went from feeling everything… to feeling nothing. Until my niece was born. That year I also started going to church. When I was 19, I met my first college boyfriend. When he looked at me, it reminded me of how I used to look at my first love. I’m sure I broke his heart, because my heart was simply too broken to love. When I was 20 I was giving a ride home to the Pastor’s assistant. He asked me to come inside, so I did. When I sat down, he put his hand on my thigh and I ran to the door. His hand flew up over my head and he slammed the door shut and stood in front of it. He wouldn’t let me leave. He told me to sit my ass back down. So I did. When he came back to sit next to me, I ran as fast as I could down the hall. Crying and screaming. He was running after me. When I told the church leaders what he had done, they made me tell them again what happened but in front of an entire group of my peers. They then said that I put myself in that situation and that I tempted him. This was my fault. He was then on Mankato’s Most Wanted a month later for entrapment to several other woman like me. They weren’t as lucky. I was wearing my converse, a tri-colored blue sweater, a huge scarf and dark jeans. I left everything associated with the church on this year. I had another boyfriend after that. He insisted that I wear makeup and high heels every day. I didn’t want to but I did anyways. My feet still arch and hiss in disgust every time a high heel comes near me. It just wasn’t me. When I was 21. He insisted that I wore long t-shirts to the swimming pool. He didn’t trust his friends around me so I couldn’t come out of his room when I was there alone. I’m sure I broke his heart, because you can’t really be with someone that’s already married. You also can’t really give a shit when you have no self respect. When I was 23, he would hold my hand, glance around- and then drop it if he saw someone attractive walking passed us. He told me “Terri, people don’t agree with us being together because you’re fat. I could be with someone so much hotter than you but I like your personality.” My confidence, the little I had in this immensely toxic relationship- floated away. I told myself I would never let a man make me feel like that ever again. But I did. When I was 25, I dated someone for a year. I saw a message he wrote to one of his girl friends about me, “She’s just a slut that I’m with for the time being, just a warm body. Definitely nothing serious.” This broke my heart. He told me to get my shit and leave, so I left. When I was 26, my niece turned 13 and my first love left this earth. I waited day by day for this year to be over. When I was 27, I went on a second date. I watched tears roll down my sister’s face as I told her about the evening. “You were raped, Terri.” But I felt like it was my fault. I shouldn’t have had him at my house. I shouldn’t have worn that dress. What if he didn’t hear me say no those countless times? I don’t know. I didn’t scream. I just closed my eyes. When I was 28, I reclaimed everything that I lost. I let myself be beautifully alone. I let myself be free. Free from guilt. Free from shame. Free to love myself in the form that I have morphed into. Miracles within happen when you accept your truth and realize that when you speak your truth, and talk about what’s real- you may actually help someone. You will definitely help yourself love yourself. It’s not easy to be a woman and it’s not easy to find comfort and confidence in a world that says you are not enough. But if you look around, you will see that you have a reason to try. Many reasons. I talked about my niece because she was the one that saved my life. I wanted to take it but I told God that I wouldn’t if he gave me a reason to live. When she was born I knew what that purpose was. Now that she is a teenager I feel it is my duty to teach her and hopefully keep her from at least some of the hurts that I have endured. This shoot was 100% for me. It’s something that I can share and no one take that from me.