The statistics are devastating. Every 8 minutes, an American child is sexually assaulted. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1000 perpetrators will end up in prison for their horrific crime. According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult. Of all victims under 18 years old, two-thirds of them are between the ages of 12-17, which is unfortunately the category that Taylor Jay falls into.
Today the Oakland-based fashion designer behind the eponymous Taylor Jay label and mother of one (Brenda Sheree, now 24) is sharing her incredibly touching story in order to bring a sadly all-too-common situation into the light.
Read about her path to motherhood below, as well as her just-launched “Discover Her Journey” crowdsourcing campaign to bring plus-sizes to her democratic fashion brand.
Taylor Jay on her path to motherhood…
“I was 13 years old when I became pregnant. My parents separated when I was around 11. Soon after, my mother met a man from out of state and after a few months or so he moved in with us. That is when our lives forever changed. My mom gave all of us up for this man, and my siblings and I were all separated and went to live in different places. I moved in with an older cousin of mine. She was married with four little girls that I would always help babysit. Her husband was my sexual abuser and it went on often and for long periods of time. Their oldest daughter wasn’t much younger than me, so we would all sleep in the same bedroom. I can remember him waking me up from my sleep in the middle of the night, and taking me to abandoned streets to do as he pleased with me. I was afraid to tell anyone because, based on my circumstances, I felt this must be what I deserve. This was the beginning of feeling insecure, alone, and hopeless.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was so afraid and I just wanted to die. I attempted to commit suicide once during my pregnancy, by taking pills, but I was young and I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t harm myself at all. Thank God! I was terrified and I didn’t know what to do.
I never ever went to the doctor the entire pregnancy. I never embraced my pregnancy. I was very, very small, I didn’t weigh more than 90 pounds. It still amazes me how forgotten I was in that family because nobody noticed I was pregnant. That is crazy, I mean the people around me truly were not invested. I didn’t want to have a baby, but I didn’t know where to begin. My attacker knew I was pregnant and never said much about it, he just kept on sexually abusing me.
When I had my daughter, Brenda, I loved her from the moment I met her. I guess it is a mother’s natural instinct to care for her child. Growing up I do remember feeling like the cards I was given weren’t fair, but I was aware she was innocent and I just continued to love her and be the best mom that I knew how to be.
Often times I was mad at life, especially when I wasn’t able to really attend school. In my earlier days I was an honor roll student. I loved to learn, but when my parents split, I gained a new life, and the old one no longer existed. The fact that I wasn’t able to do the things my peers were doing really, really hurt. I just always trusted God. In my earlier childhood days we were Seventh Day Adventist and my dad was really strict. However, my love for God was always present, and I knew to pray and trust in him even in my darkest days. God pulled, pushed, and carried me.
My daughter was 8 years old when I told her about how she was conceived. I just sat her down and told her. As a little girl, she only knew mom and I am sure she was curious as to who her dad was.
Sexual abuse is often times hidden, but sadly because sexual abuse is so common it is my responsibility as a woman to share my experiences so I can perhaps encourage someone to speak out about something that may be happening or has happened to them. Also, to prevent this from happening. It’s about allowing people to be more aware and not so quick to trust someone. Oftentimes abusers are not who you would ever expect. Also, for those who have lived through experiences like mine, they often feel hopeless and I want to inspire and encourage them.”
Taylor Jay on finding her passion…
“When I was around 15 years old I discovered I loved vintage and used clothing. I would ask older women I knew if I could raid their closets and I would imagine who they were when they wore that garment, and I found myself loving old pieces. I found them to have so much meaning because each garment was dated and had a story, but was forever timeless. I was still very small, I think I weighed about 94 pounds at this time, and I was very insecure about my tiny frame. I turned that insecurity into confidence by standing out from most people I was around or those my age. This is when I realized I wanted to be in the fashion industry, so I could make people feel better with clothing.
Love has been the main inspiration for my Taylor Jay brand, along with confidence and comfort. Because my beginnings were filled with moments of feeling and being uncomfortable and not very confident, I am inspired by my past pain to make another woman feel and look her best.
Today, September 10th, we’re launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise $60,000 and expand our clothing to plus-sizes, as well as introduce a new collection. Supporting Taylor Jay means supporting things much bigger than all of us: women entrepreneurs, fashion inclusivity, and women’s empowerment and community.
Here’s how you can support us: Contribute to the IFundWomen campaign. We need 1,500 people to pledge $50 or more to achieve our goal. You can also email your friends and family about the campaign.”
You can learn more about Taylor’s Discover Her Journey campaign and support it yourself here.
This article was originally written by Katie Hentz-Zambrano and origianlly posted on Mothermag.com