HEY GIRL, WHY THE HECK ARE YOU STARTING BLOOM?
I’m starting Bloom because when I studied abroad someone whom I considered a friend sexually assaulted me in my sleep and it was the most isolating and powerless feeling. My faith in humanity, in one action, was stripped away because I was born a woman. Don’t get me wrong—I f*cking love being a woman. It’s my favorite thing. But I wish with my whole heart that I could have defended myself when he didn’t respond to “No” all the times that I said it. When asked if I wanted to press charges, I remember worrying that I could ruin his reputation, his family, his life—because I personally have been socialized to empathize, be polite and consider the feelings of others before my own. Because of these qualities, which I used to be proud of, I did not ruminate for a moment that this man would affect my life beyond comprehension.
F*ck that guy.
Fast forward five years to when he sent me an apology—the one I wish I had received earlier except not because he essentially said, “I’m sorry that you were hurt by what you think happened.” While the verbiage wasn’t spot on, the message was clear: it was finally confirmed by more than my own brain that I wasn’t crazy—that the assault happened in exactly the way I remembered it. You’re probably wondering why there was any doubt: shouldn’t we all stand behind our own truths? At the time, I lacked a community, a forum of people who would do their best to understand. Not many people believed me, and those who did didn’t know how to approach me. I was a victim of the thing that we can’t ever talk about because it doesn’t really happen to people we know, right? Wrong. So wrong.
Much of what I needed to happen didn’t. I needed to feel heard and nurtured and instead, I was called a whore, a seductress, and horny. I was told to “look on the bright side” but not explained where I could find it. With one month left in my semester abroad, I asked my university to allow me return home early and was told that if I left, I would lose a semester of credits. I finished that last month abroad with a reckless ambition I never knew I had. My goal was to get back home where I would have a gentle and accessible community, where I knew everything would get better. Well, it didn’t get better. It didn’t until it did.
My school was ill equipped to handle a rape case. My friends and family either did not understand or did not know how to talk to me. I have never needed people more and have never felt so isolated. Luckily, Susan Stiritz—professor of the freaking year—and my friend Elise Miller women saved me by simply acknowledging my truth, suggesting resources, reminding me that I wasn’t alone, and to take action in a time of immobility.
Once I healed, I felt guilt for not pressing charges and ensuring that he could not go on to harm more women. I wanted to fix my inaction which I knew was literally not possible. I applied to a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant through which, I returned to Latin America, taught English to incredible university students, and independently launched Girls Score Goals, a series of girls’ soccer programs in underserved neighborhoods in the Uruguayan public school system (Escuelas de tiempo complete) designed to teach leadership skills and English through sport. I wanted to inspire girls to see value in their intellects and develop confidence through collaboration because I have always felt most radiant in the presence of women.
So we’ve made it to my present where, despite the fact that I still think about it, my assault doesn’t define me anymore. I wake up most mornings happy because I have a job that challenges me, friends that make me feel so loved, and a family that I can count on to be strong when I can’t. So why am I restless? What am I missing? What’s missing is this project, which I have been dreaming about for years. Gosh, what’s missing is Bloom.
I am starting Bloom because when things went down, I wish that I hadn’t felt so alone, and that I’d felt the meaning of community. I wish I’d known of projects to focus on or hobbies to develop. I wish I’d known that not all men would hurt me. I wish I’d known of women (and men) who were starting businesses, negotiating salaries, working on progressive projects, building, and creating. I wish I could have heard from people with different perspectives and weird ways of thinking. Bloom is a community of change-making and progressive minded women (and a few men because I love men and they can be chill too) who are starting businesses, finishing PhDs, travelling the world, assessing life, and developing worldly viewpoints. There is always opportunity to Bloom and grow, and the best way that I can think of to do that is to learn from others.
So hot damn, welcome to Bloom Journal, a place you can go when you need to be reminded that in you, there is so so much more.