The Clothing Line I Created for Survivors of Sexual Assault
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
I remember being 20 and working as a hostess at a high-end restaurant in the heart of the financial district. I received a decent hourly wage and fantastic tips. Our attire had to be professional, sharp and most of all, “attractive.” All of the hostesses were stunning in their own way, and as a team, I believe we were hired for our ability to appeal to men.
This was never spoken, but most of us understood and were OK with this fact because we depended on our tip money. One happy hour, the bar was swarming with expensive suits and blondes with fancy bags. In walked four men trying to get a table. My co-workers and I smiled and charmingly said, “It’s going to be about 25 minutes, but you can feel free to grab a drink and wait at the bar.” They said OK, and a good-looking one winked at me. My stomach shifted. I was instantly uneasy, but at the time, I was unaware of my triggers and where they were rooted. I shook it off and kept working.
The bar was at full capacity, and when I walked past the table of four men waiting, the “wink guy” pulled me close by the waist. I was wearing a high-neck, sleeveless top with a blazer and slacks. He yanked me close, his friends adding to the momentum, and that’s when he shoved a 20 dollar bill down my shirt. “Get us our table, sweetie. Thanks!” Even with a high-neck blouse, the man had no problem violating my space.
I was three years old the first time someone taught me they could touch me. That’s when I was first molested. It happened again around age five. I was also date raped in college. Many of my experiences confirmed for me that I wasn’t in control of my own body.
I shielded myself by creating controlled relationships. I felt empowered because I did not allow emotion into the equation. I told men how it would be: I did not need or want anything from them. I wanted to be a fantasy, this easygoing woman who asked for nothing because I expected nothing. I did this so I wouldn’t get hurt again. What I realize now is that although it sounded and sometimes felt like I was a strong woman, I actually felt like I was nothing.
Because of my job responsibilities, I had a mission to sell a product. When you work on commission, the grind is real, so I enticed many men to get my work done. I was appropriate and professional, but I would dress in a certain way so I could get the job done and make more money.
Throughout my medical leave for PTSD and thereafter, I wear clothes that make me feel safe. In so many ways, I felt broken. In so many ways, I felt like I was in pieces. A dear friend of mine posted the phrase, “Broken crayons still color,” which inspired a piece I designed for my clothing line called Traumattire. Traumattire is clothing made specifically for survivors of trauma, this particular look is for sexual assault victims, but not the line in its entirety.
One outfit concept is a dress called, “Broken Crayons Still Color,” because despite what I have been through, I still color. The dress is a soft, with full-coverage, adjustable strings and another soft underlay that is more colorful. The piece is also available in muted, calming colors. The woman wearing the dress can control the neckline and the hemline. The piece has messages stitched into them. It has pockets and is form flexible, adjusting to body changes that are common to people who may have lived with trauma.
Traumattire puts survivors needs first. Because my stomach easily shifts now and a wink can put me in a panic, I want to wear a dress I feel good in, but only brings me the attention I’ve allowed. If I feel like I am in a safe environment, I am able to show a little more shoulder. If I start to have an anxiety attack and my entire body becomes riddled with goosebumps, I can pull the strings, hold on and bundle up the neckline to feel safe and secure in the “Broken Crayons Still Color.” Each item of the Traumattire line affirms new truths to someone who has survived sexual assault, someone who is downtrodden with depression or someone who just wants to feel attractive but doesn’t want to garner unwanted attention.
These clothes are for fighters because, “even broken crayons still color.”
If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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