Reclaiming My Body: A Human Trafficking Survivors Road to Empowerment
Written by: Darby Alexandra
It did not take me long to realize that I had fallen in love with the sport of pole fitness; however, it did take me a while to learn why I had fallen in love with pole. I am a survivor of long-term childhood trauma. I am a victim of childhood human sex trafficking. My story goes deep, but to put it more simply, I did not realize the extent of my abuse until recently. The moment I realized the depths of what occurred, my world began to shift. I was suddenly processing the trauma’s again, while figuring out how to process the things that were just brought to my consciousness. It has been an incredibly difficult year. I would not have survived this year if were not for my pole community- they not only changed my life, but they saved my life.
It felt like parts of me went missing the more I learned about my history and myself. This was incredibly difficult to grasp. One of the things that went missing was my voice. I began to seclude myself, and I did not say much for a while. I did not believe that I was someone worth hearing, so I almost always resorted to silence. The pole dancers from my studio, Elite Pole & Fitness, consistently reminded me that I was not only worth hearing, but I was someone worth being around. They did this without even knowing what I was going through. They made my presence feel welcome. They made me feel like I was someone worth remembering.
The owner of the studio, Amie Archut, helped me find my voice through movement. I was suddenly able to tell my story without having to say anything, and eventually, this transpired into words. She was one of the first people to bear witness to my story. She was one of the first people to not make me feel wrong or dirty for being a trafficking survivor. In fact, she made me feel valid and powerful.
The individuals at my studio helped me find the courage to share my story. They heard me. They believed me. If there is anything I’ve learned throughout my journey, it is that being heard and being believed can be one of the most empowering and healing things.
Due to my trauma, I also lost ownership over my body. It felt like it no longer belonged to me, but to those who had downloaded it and taken advantage of it. My mind and body were incredibly disconnected. I struggled with identifying which muscles were supposed to be activated or if I was in the right position in a trick. Learning how to do this took an abundance of time, which the instructors demonstrated a substantial amount of patience in breaking down moves more thoroughly for me. The women at Elite helped me reclaim ownership over my body, which is one of the most important things that pole dancing has given me. Pole has given me a choice. I am slowly regaining connection between my body and my mind, which has made me feel like I have some of my power back.
Overall, my pole family has played one of the most intricate roles in my healing. They helped me rise in a time where I was unsure if I would ever rise again. They have made me stronger (physically and mentally), more resilient, and more brave. Because of them I survived the most difficult year of my life. I have embraced where I came from and am learning to embrace who I am now. They helped me relearn how to forgive and love myself. They forgave and loved me when I didn’t ask for it (and when I was likely very unloveable). Being a trafficking survivor has violated and taken many parts of me; however, gaining the love and connection I have found through Elite Pole & Fitness has helped me make peace with it.
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