“What’s Your Story?” is a new, guest post feature on BCBA web. Authors-traditional and self-published-are invited to write about their books, writing journey, creative process, inspiration, rewards and challenges of publishing, etc. They can go in whatever direction they choose. We are excited and grateful for their willingness to share, and we hope you enjoy our guests’ stories.
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month: Is This Story About You?
by Kamichi Jackson
I’ve had the same dream for nearly thirty-five years. I’m a young girl or tween creeping down a flight of stairs, hoping to reach the front door before anyone sees or hears me. So far, so good. But then I spot a man. His back is to me, and he’s sitting on a couch that I’ll need to pass to make my exit. Heart pounding, pulse racing, I feel the distinct sensation of terror at the thought of him catching me. I reach the bottom step, and he turns his head slightly as if he senses I’m there. I freeze. Neither of us moves again, and the dream stops there. Right there. Every time. Sometimes, it’s because it ends on its own. Other times, it’s because I make it end by forcing myself to wake up before the man turns his head enough for me to recognize him.
Years ago, I told a therapist about the recurring dream-slash-nightmare. She suggested we explore my memories in my next session.
I never went back.
And then there’s this fragrance—I can’t identify it exactly—but whenever I smell it, I’m instantly thrown into a panic attack. The last time it happened was a year ago at work when I allowed a co-worker to spritz me with a scent he was wearing because he was thinking of gifting it to me. Immediately, I was transported back to a memory—a memory too fuzzy for me to know what exactly was happening to me, but I had enough recollection to feel that all-consuming panic. Thirty seconds later I was in the ladies’ room crying and scrubbing my wrists until they were red. I had to get that scent off. I can’t say for sure why. I just knew it had to go.
Fast-forward to now—April 2017. It’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (#SAAPM), and I have a new young adult novel out called K My Name Is Kendra. In almost every interview I’ve done since its release, I’ve been asked, “What was your inspiration for this book?” My answer to that question changes almost every time, but what I’ve definitely avoided admitting up until now is that I have that terrible recurring nightmare and unclear and unsettling memories. “Are you Kendra?” they ask. I’ve never said whether I am. But I will say this: I definitely know her.
Statistics (from organizations like RAINN and the Joyful Heart Foundation) show that 1 in 9 girls (and 1 in 53 boys) under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault. These numbers, to make the tragedy worse, apply to crimes committed at the hands of an adult—often a trusted one. Unfortunately, only 3 out of 10 assaults are ever reported, meaning the offenders go on to live their lives unbothered and unpunished. The victims, meanwhile, often blame themselves for the attack, many suffer from anxiety and depression. Some engage in life-altering reckless behaviors. And others, unable to cope at all, tragically take their own lives, leaving behind loved ones to grieve their loss.
I didn’t know the numbers when I created Kendra and began writing her story. I just knew that I had these fuzzy memories and that recurring dream-slash-nightmare. And, I understood that there were probably many girls and women out there who could benefit from my character’s story. So, I started listening to Kendra and writing down her story as she told it to me. There were tears. Plenty. It took several years because sometimes it became too real, and I had to push Kendra away for a while.
I never forgot about her, though. So, when there finally came that moment when she demanded her story be told, I was ready—and it’s been the most amazing journey ever. I have written stories in the past, and I will write stories in the future. But Kendra’s story—which is sadly that of too many real-life girls—is the most important one I will ever tell. My readers have been affected by these words. I have been affected by these words. And, I feel honored to use my pen to help raise awareness of youth who suffer these crimes.
Am I Kendra? I can’t say for sure yet. But, I do know her. You probably do too. Please help the Kendras of the world by being there to protect them, lift them up, and help them put their lives back together. They need you.
In addition to K My Name Is Kendra, Kamichi Jackson is the author of an eBook entitled Where Present Meets Past (originally available as part of the now-defunct Amazon Shorts Program), the middle reader book You’re Too Much, Reggie Brown, a forthcoming adult novel entitled The Brownstone, two unproduced screenplays, and several short stories. KJ has made numerous appearances in support of her work, among them the Baltimore Book Festival. When not writing, Kamichi is likely off somewhere singing karaoke. The South Norwalk, Connecticut native currently resides in Northern Virginia with family.