October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time when awareness and honesty can promote change on this issue. Domestic violence comes in many forms, including sexual abuse. It can leave victims with no sense of freedom, a word with such powerful meaning that often gets overlooked in our day-to-day life. But when you’ve been the victim of traumatic experiences, freedom can simply mean overcoming.

I never thought that this would be a part of my story, that overcoming trauma from domestic violence would be my version of freedom.  

When I was nine years old, my father raped me. When I was eleven, my grandmother groomed me as a sex-worker for money. Because of this, I’ve lived inside the foster system for the past seven years. I was shocked to learn that one in three young people are solicited for sex within 48 hours of running away or being homeless in the United States, and that one in six women are survivors of rape or attempted rape.

Sadly, I am one out of every six.

Image via Anna Howard

I was never able to really face my trauma until I participated in a program by Freedom and Fashion, an organization that uses the arts of fashion and beauty to create empowering programs that mentor, love and bring freedom to at-risk youth and sex-trade survivors.

One day, a male mentor named Crespatrick sought to comfort me while I was crying. I’ve been so afraid of men ever since I was raped, but there was something about him that made me feel safe. I opened up and told him about my life story. He cried with me and told me that I was valuable and worth so much more than how I was treated. Hearing those words meant the world to me. His response made me realize that my story could inspire others. If Crespatrick hadn’t invested in me the way that he did during the program, I’d still be afraid of men today, and that would cost me a great deal.

During the program, I not only learned skills like design and sewing, but I learned how important the language of fashion is. Its power is universal. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what generation you live in, fashion has always been the universal form of communication. It’s been proven to help mold the way we see others and ourselves.

fashion store
Image via Becca Tapert

Finding freedom by overcoming a traumatic experience starts with acknowledging that we have a voice and our story is valuable. Utilizing a form of art, such as fashion, can help express our thoughts and emotions in a healthy way

Here are some of ways I’ve felt empowered by fashion that anybody affected by trauma can experience:

Fashion helps explain your thoughts and emotions.

Wearing items based on how they make us feel embeds a sense of ownership for our emotions and thoughts. Fashion also helps us become more self-aware and stimulate the creative thinking process.

Fashion helps you establish an identity.

Fashion allows us to creatively incorporate our favorite pieces, most of which are linked to certain sentimental value such as favorite colors, textures and shapes. This further reiterates the uniqueness of our self-expression. Overall, realizing that we can be ourselves when we’re comfortable in our clothes is crucial to boosting our self-esteem.

Fashion helps you make a non-verbal statement.

Whether we realize it or not, what we wear communicates something to the world. We can use this as an opportunity to showcase who we are by wearing clothes that we have a strong connection to and let our outfit visually say so. At times when it feels like our voices aren’t heard, what we wear can say it out loud and have an impact.

Finding freedom by overcoming a traumatic experience starts with acknowledging that we have a voice and our story is valuable.

Ultimately, fashion can lead to something even greater: We are using our voices to tell a story through a very powerful platform. The next time you plan an outfit, try thinking about how you want to express what you are feeling inside, who you want to become, or what story you want to tell. Studies prove that when we dress the part, the chances of us becoming the part are greater.

We’ve all experienced pain, some more than others, and when that pain is not healed, the trauma can truly rob us of our value, identity, and freedom. Through fashion, I have found peace and no longer judge my past or use it to hold me back. Instead, I use my story to inspire freedom for others. If we intentionally used fashion as a communication tool to express ourselves more often, imagine how much more valuable and empowered we all would feel from this universally-understood language.

Join Freedom and Fashion for their upcoming fundraiser show, REIGN, on December 12 at CTRL Collective in Los Angeles, CA. For more information, visit HERE.

Feature Image via Michelle Madsen


  1. I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse also. I’ve never wanted to wear clothing that made me feel attractive because I didn’t want to be noticed & victimized again. Your story has made me aware of my fear & that the healing balm of true worth needs to flow deeply into the crevices of my still broken heart. Thank you for sharing your story Monica F.

    1. Mary,

      I, too, have chosen to wear more of a “tomboy” style of clothing to steer attention AWAY from me, but fashion has helped me learn that I can still express myself and still feel safe. I hope you find a personal way to rise from your fears.

      – Monica F.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story here. I’m so sorry that you experienced the sexual trauma that you did. How terrible, which is why your story is so amazing: that you found light and healing through fashion. It’s a powerful message to women everywhere, whether they suffer from trauma or not, that clothing is powerful and we can use it to our advantage and bring about healing with it, too. Thank you for sharing <3

    1. Marie,

      Thank you for reading this article and for reiterating what we all can learn from fashion. It truly is a powerful message to communicate!

  3. You are a beautiful and articulate woman who has so much to offer in making this world a better place. It makes me so sad to think of any child having their precious childhood robbed in this way. Your personal story made me cry, but your triumph inspired me. I never though of fashion in this way. Thank you for opening a new door. Sending you loving hugs a mother would give to her daughter.

    1. Maggie,

      Wow, the fact that you are sending hugs my way is overwhelming! Knowing that this story can touch someone so much that they would shed a tear means the world. I have made it my lifelong goal to be outspoken about my past so that I can be a voice for others who have experienced such things. Thank you.

  4. Beautiful article. Great to see how trauma can be channeled into creativity…. Inspiring!

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