I always liked Valentine’s Day. I liked exchanging themed cards in school. I liked the feeling of love in the air. I liked the beautiful bouquets of flowers and the sparkly red decorations. I liked seeing the couples celebrating their commitment to one another. I liked watching the romantic comedies and Valentine’s Day themed movies. Each year, even though I was usually single, I greeted the holiday with a smile.
Then last year my favourite day also became my worst day, it became the day of my sexual assault. What should have been a celebration of love and commitment between my boyfriend and I became a day I just wanted to forget. I felt that one of my favourite days had been taken away from me and ruined. That I had lost all control and would now become one of those people who declared they hated Valentine’s Day and spent the whole day in a funk. But the I was offered another option, reclaim Valentine’s Day.
I have taken control back of my life in so many areas, why couldn’t I do that with this day as well? Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be the anniversary of my rape but can instead be the day I celebrate me and how far I have come.
I made the brave decision to leave my abusive partner and to share my story. I took care of myself and sought the counselling and medical treatment I needed. I bought sage and smudged my apartment to clear it of bad energy. I sold my bed, bought a high security lock for my door, affixed glow in the dark stars to my ceiling and painted and rearranged my bedroom furniture. I chose to make my apartment my safe space again and be proud of it for being my the first home I purchased and owned, instead of viewing it as the scene of my rape.
I didn’t sell my apartment, quit my job and move to another city. I remained in my home and fought hard to get my life back. And through it all I held my head high; through the uncomfortable moments, through the tears and anger, sadness and shame I refused to give up or give another person control of my future.
Tonight as I go to bed I won’t be sure of what tomorrow will look like or how I will feel, but what I do know for sure is that I will move through it. There may be moments where I feel tempted to fall to pieces and give in to my feelings, but I will remember how I felt writing this post and looking back over this past year at all I have overcome and I will choose to push through. I will remember that I am reclaiming this holiday for me and I will repeat this safety statement to myself:
My name is Clare.
I am safe right now.
I dwell in the present, not the past.
I am brown, brave and bold.