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Before I Left Saudi Arabia, I Almost Lost My Life

As I sit by the water, I think about my first birthday here in Canada when nobody wished me a happy birthday. I had no friends yet, and my host family forgot that it was my birthday. Here I am in 2021, and I just celebrated my 8 year “Canaversary”. I also celebrate the love and the memories of surprise parties, magical birthdays, and delicious homemade-for-me tiramisus. Here I am with friends from across this country, across the world, and on these stolen lands I’m calling home.

But it’s not just love, building community and cultivating friendships that I reflect on. But also on the pain from the past that my 24 years old self brought with her alongside her 5 bright pink suitcases.

*trigger warning*

A year and some months before I arrived in Canada, I was kidnapped by my ex-husband after I filed for divorce. I don’t remember much from the seven days with him. But, I vividly remember him telling me that he would rather cripple me, and take care of me for the rest of his life, rather than divorce me. That he would rather walk me in a wheelchair, clean my body, and change my sheets, rather than let me go, and be in the hands of another man. I vividly remember him sitting on my chest, choking me, leaving a mark on my neck. A mark that the court later never cared for or even acknowledged.

Growing up, I remember hearing my grandmother say that “a woman hits herself.” By that, she means that if a man hits a woman, it’s because of what she has done to “provoke” or “disrespect” said man. Thus, a man does not hit a woman, “a woman hits herself”.

I remember feeling my chest burn and my jaw tighten every time I’ve heard my grandmother say that. I remember glaring at her as she moved on to the next topic of the pain, sadness and misery that she had internalized. I remember refusing that idea. I remember refusing to take on that responsibility. I remember thinking to myself that I am, and we women are not to blame for the violence against us. Yet, my body as it faced that trauma, and as it carried the generational trauma, my body kept the score, and just like my grandmother, I internalized that pain.

For years, I walked heavied by the mock of fear, shame and guilt. I couldn’t open my heart to love again, I couldn’t trust in love. I felt stuck in my head unable to cultivate deep meaningful connections. I walked my days in my head, judging myself for what I said or didn’t say, questioning everything I did, always trying to prove my worth to someone, looking to others to give me answers and validations. And for many times, I was able to intellectualize what I needed to do, I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I went to therapy. I read every book I can put my hands on. I attended every yoga class, retreat, workshop and conference I could find. All in desperation to find my power.

I thought that was it for me, and I did not know that healing is possible.

Here I am in 2021, and I celebrate my open heart, my practice of radical self-love, the lightness and aliveness I feel in my body, my ability to tap into my inner wisdom, to show up as I am, to sit in my grief and rage and stand in my exuberance, joy and pleasure. Here I am in 2021, and I celebrate not just my healing journey, but that I’m in a place where I am holding a safe and brave space for others to heal themselves. Through my business, I’m All Courage I guide women and vulva-bodied people on sexual reclamation, healing and liberation. Healing the pain from the past and reclaim their power from religious, societal and political oppression.

It is perhaps my human way to make meaning of my trauma, and transform it to be my greatest power, but I show up in love and I do it in service to our humanity. I deeply believe that when we heal our own bodies, we will heal the world.

I can’t help but acknowledge that my healing journey required my money and my time, and so I invested my resources in myself and in my healing. I can’t help but acknowledge the privilege to have had the resources to study and do the deep work. I can’t help but acknowledge that much of my “accomplishments” from giving a TEDx talk, getting elected as the President of UBCO students union, to representing BC students to the Provincial and Federal Government, to getting awarded as Top 40 Under 40 by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce were all because I had the resources to show up to my community in the capacity I did. I can’t help but acknowledge that many do not have the resources I had.

Since the pandemic started, our eyes have turned to look and question our “old” ways of being. For many of us, our eyes have turned inward. For many of us, our eyes have turned to the economy, to our own personal loss of income, or perhaps an increase in income. For many of us, our eyes were forced to turn towards the injustices and violence of racism, towards the rampant inequalities that have made many communities more vulnerable in the first place. One of which is the women and children stuck at home where domestic violence numbers have increased by 30% in Canada and around the world.

Many organizations are set up to empower women and gender-diverse people financially, socially, and politically. And I think there’s an important piece missing. I truly believe that sexual oppression, violence and threats against women and vulva-bodied people in Canada and around the world went hand-in-hand with the financial, social and political disempowerment.

As we look forward to what’s next, let’s also look behind. Let’s not leave those women and children behind. Those domestic and sexual violence survivors have so much to offer you, to offer their community, to offer our society. Many just don’t have the resources, yet.

On Oct 4th, I’ll be speaking at Voices Against Violence 5:30pm PT | 8:30pm ET, a virtual ceremony to raise awareness and funds for sexual and domestic violence survivors. The goal is to raise $25,000 to fund trauma counselling sessions through the Elizabeth Fry Society.

Today, I ask you to turn your eyes to empower and support domestic and sexual violence survivors. But first, what’s your capacity to show up? It might be to DONATE, it might be to join us and learn, it might be to go and take care of yourself, and it might be to go and ask for the help and support you need.

Today, I choose to put my eyes on love.

Today, I choose to put my eyes on hope.

Today, I choose to put my eyes on the beauty and radical generosity of our humanity.

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