I rise because at the age of 17 I was raped on a cold concrete slab in the dark of night.
I rise because I was asked for my first kiss the same night I was robbed of my virginity.
I rise because his prelude before the rape -- "I can never love you" -- has haunted me ever since.
I rise because the shining future of a self-confident girl was ripped to shreds in the matter of minutes.
I rise because I was taught what sex was supposed to feel like by a criminal.
I rise because the selfish, violent act of one man sent me on a very long path of self-inflicted destruction.
I rise because it took me 19 years to return back into my body after leaving it at the scene of the crime.
I rise because my rapist left me with a health condition that remains, only to remind me of my past and test my future relationships.
I rise because sexual assault lasts but a moment yet has a story that never ends.
I rise because he taught me to hate myself and no matter how many times I was loved, the self-hate always won.
I rise because it took another act of violence 19 years later to heal me.
I rise because women are absolutely allowed to be sexy, sexual beings without being violated or possessed because of it.
I rise because being violated sent me to the gutter to crawl until God gave me wings to fly.
I rise because my mom was also a victim of assault as a young woman which led to a devastating outcome.
I rise because I don't want my two young, beautiful nieces to follow in our footsteps of knowing this kind of pain.
I rise because "I was raped" should not be the typical coming of age story for one in three women.
I rise for the women who can't.
I rise because I finally can.
One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women dancing is a Revolution. I am but One girl -- Yet I am all women.
February 14th. Valentines and victories. Vessels and vacancies. Validations against violence. This is a day to love and cherish those close to us with remembrances of all that is romantic and sweet. This is also a day to recognize the most important love affair you will ever have in your life - You with yourself. Many women have suffered the loss of self-love because they were taught by a stranger, a family member, or a date that they were not worthy through a violent act against them. Innocent women. Young girls. Mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. This is the day we lift them up in celebration. This is the day we dance wildly and free in the revelation that women are not for sale, to be taken against their will or to live in fear of simply being female. This is the day to rise as One Billion in One Voice and One Dance for One Purpose - Freedom from violence. And so it begins...