Skin and Kin

We were the ones who stuck together. We were the survivors and the dreamers, the givers and the movement makers. We held each other up—saviors. We discussed accountability. Discovered spirituality through supporting one another.

Apna Ghar, a community organization in Chicago, works with immigrant communities to end gender violence using art therapy programs, in which community members create artworks such as the one above.

There, above my doorway, the purple-painted wooden sign that reads Intend. Harm-reduction. Trauma-informed. Advocate. Intentions we made to heal from oppression. We kept each other strong, empowered despite struggles. Gave each other care, confidence, survival. We thrived, together.

My community extended past friends and unfurled through the neighborhoods in which we lived. Those spaces made of safe, well-lit sidewalks, our flourishing community gardens, and the welcoming courtyards of each apartment building—from many windows waved a rainbow flag. Our little corner of Chicago. The one I floated through, peacefully, on that one particular July night. Weaving my way from bar to home, alone, I soon heard a jogger’s footsteps barreling down the sidewalk behind me, toward me. I stepped aside to let him run by, but the end of his run—that finishing line—wasn’t beyond me. It was me, my body.

Hands pulling, clawing. My screaming and fighting until I finally broke away from his grasp. Then he left. But not soon enough. The one-minute interaction my memory could never ungrasp.

I was assaulted on a Sunday. I taped signs to a sidewalk on Wednesday. Because three days after that Sunday assault, my friends cooked me dinner and we took Sharpies to poster boards. “My short dress does not give you the right to grab me.” “He took my safety but not my strength.” “I was assaulted here X on Sunday.” “Protect your community.”

And the edited street sign my lover graffitied:

someone else’s space

Regardless of the care we held for one another, regardless of the support and strength my community gave me, I still felt scared, anxious, defeated. Violated. Flayed. I needed to get away from the places he touched—my body. All of it. I came up with a strategy. Without a body, there would be nothing of me for the next him to grab. I started to get rid of my body—to separate myself from it. I cut.

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