Posted by on May 19, 2018 in Featured

Violence Against Indigenous Women by Sara London

Violence Against Indigenous Women by Sara London

I’ve always been a fighter

Never knowing one day I would really have to fight
fight my boyfriends, fight casual friends, fight strangers
fight for my self-worth and fight for the strength to keep going

Ever since I was young I was told how pretty I was
How my eyes were so big and brown
How my hair was so beautiful
How nothing would be hard for me
My beauty will make everything come easy

Soon enough I learned that “praise,” those statements, would nearly ruin me, break me, and instill fear in me

I grew up in poverty
I saw sexual acts at a very young age
I was forced to know what sex was and that I was supposed to be desired

I wanted to be desired

I didn’t know until recently that Indigenous women were disproportionately assaulted, raped and murdered

I thought sexual assault was normal
That it’s just part of the process
It was part of being a Native woman.
That is what I have been dealt

I rationalized and normalized my experiences, especially when I was diagnosed with a mental illness

An Indigenous woman who is crazy…
What does it matter that during my episodes I was sexually assaulted over and over again?
That even when I was depressed it continued to happen

I thought this was supposed to happen
I rationalized that these men didn’t know I was sick, they thought it was just me
They thought I wanted it
But other times I thought, how could any man do such things to an obviously unstable woman?

But it was normal, it was supposed to happen

Dating as an Indigenous woman is unique
I am fetishized
I am desired
I am exotic
I am beautiful
I am Pocahontas

I used to be proud to hear these things

I felt special

This was before I realized men used these terms to manipulate and minimize me
To coerce me
to justify the disrespect and abuse they forced upon me

In my early twenties, I fought to be seen
To be appreciated
While continuing to let men use me and abuse me, in hopes that they would love me

They never loved me
I had to learn to love myself
I had to fight to work through these experiences to not only survive
but thrive
I threw myself into school, counseling, into loving my family, into praying, into self-care and self-love
I took myself back
I stopped giving men what they wanted as an expense to my health

My ex-boyfriend took this picture not too long ago June 9, 2017

He mentally abused me for almost a year
Made me fear walking out the door
Screamed at me for just saying hi to a man that was in my building
Then he would shower me with gifts and apologize profusely
This was a regular thing

It took everything in me to leave
But I did

This picture shows a woman who despite being manipulated and abused most her life

Survived and succeeded

I look at this picture to remind myself that I can still keep going
That despite being with an abusive man I could achieve so much
And to remind myself to learn from these experiences and never let them happen again

I have fought and won the battle
From men who taught me my whole life I am only worthy if I had them by my side

I don’t need a man
I will never need a man
I will be whole and loved on my own

It took me my entire life to realize this
I am more powerful than I ever thought I could be
I’ve always been a fighter
fought my boyfriends, fought casual friends, fought strangers

I will never fight again

Watch Sara London (Aleut) read her story here

Sara London is a Higher Education PhD student at the University of Washington. She is an Aleut tribal member, but her roots are in the Lummi reservation. She’s working toward supporting Native Students with disabilities in their journeys toward higher education. She is currently researching for the Brotherhood Initiative and seeking to create programming for the Native students in the program