From the time we were both children, we knew in our hearts we were destined to do something big. At the time, we had no idea what that meant.
As we each grew into young adults in college, sadly, we both became victims of rape- and didn't tell a soul. For one of us, the result was pregnancy. We both went on to receive Bachelor of Science degrees in Interior Design, working diligently to graduate at the top of our design program; one of us with a one year old daughter in tow, who would turn out to be one of life's greatest blessings.
After graduation, we individually moved to South Florida, where we began to pursue our careers and shared passion- Interior Design. We worked for local firms for a few years before meeting through fate on a sunset cruise (true story). There was an immediate connection and from that day forward, we knew our bond would be unbreakable.
As the years passed, we had many successes layered between trials and tribulations. We began our own interior design firm in our mid-twenties, which was crazy in hindsight, given that one of us was pregnant and the other was a single mother of a five year old.
Nothing could have prepared us for what followed seven months later, when our country was brought to a standstill by the attacks on 9/11. The phones stopped ringing and everyone seemed to be in a daze- including us. Like our resilient American peers, we were too tough to remain feeling like victims- so we got back to work... harder than ever.
Within a year, we hired our first employee, then our second. We were on our way. The phone was ringing off the hook with old clients and new. It was so exciting! We never even considered failure an option.
We began juggling pregnancies, travel and work. From the outside, it looked as if we had it all- great careers, amazing friends and big dreams. Behind closed doors, it was very different. We were each dealing with domestic violence at home and were blindsided by the news that one of our children had been sexually violated by a spouse we trusted.
We put on the mask of bravery and persevered, knowing we were heading toward something, still unsure of what it was. Then by chance, we began doing product design and it turned out we were good at it. We received awards and patents for our products. We couldn't believe it. So, we had a stable (and fun) career, five spectacular kids and a few patents... What could be next?
We had always talked about designing handbags, so we thought, why not? We excitedly began sketching, designing and trying to locate a manufacturer. Unexpectedly one day, we received a call from a friend. In that moment, everything changed and our mission became crystal clear.
"Have you ever considered giving a portion of your handbag proceeds to an organization such as It's On Us?" he said.
He really had no idea the power in his words. That was it. That was what we were meant to do... We were meant to be survivors, not victims. We were meant to spread the word, tell our story and leave the world a better place than the way we found it... Finally, we had found a vehicle and means with which to do it.
We no longer carry the shame and embarrassment of rape and abuse. Instead, we carry our courage, with our heads held high. We wholeheartedly shift the ownership of those heavy weights to the people who did this to us and our loved ones.
We stand strong as survivors, grateful for every experience that has brought us to where we are today. And most importantly, we are the overwhelmingly proud mothers of five of the bravest, most resilient, intelligent, beautiful children in the world.
It is for them that we will shout from the rooftops until everyone hears our message of awareness and prevention. Please join our mission and share our message. Otherwise, it's a lot of work for just two people - and we won't stop.
Be confident, bold and fearless.
Carry your courage,