*Please note, in this interview, we discuss severe sexual abuse.*
Brave. Joyful. Love.
How do you turn your life around after years of abuse and trauma? In this week’s episode of The Brave Files, Kirsten Palladino shares the story of how she did just that.
For a long time, Kirsten was living in two different worlds: by day, playing the part of a happy teenager, but by night, being subjected to horrible abuse. As a young girl, Kirsten was molested by a family friend and later victimized by several classmates in her high school. Finding the courage to tell her story allowed her to begin putting herself back together.
Today, Kirsten has risen above the traumatic events of her young life to build a successful life and business. Together with her wife, Maria, Kirsten founded Equally Wed, a magazine and digital resource for same-sex weddings, and authored a book of the same title (Equally Wed).
Kirsten’s #MeToo story is also a story of #WhyIStayed, shedding light on how victims of sexual abuse can wrongly blame themselves for the things they are forced to endure thus staying in a dangerous situation.
Kirsten’s three words say everything about this brave woman. Despite the horrors she has experienced, she chooses to live a life that is brave, joyful and full of love. There are so many gifts in this episode.
Kirsten sent me her personal thoughts on her story and I simply had to share them with you.
My story may be unusual and I love telling how I am working through sexual trauma. But I also believe that we are all brave. When people hear my story or even segments of it, I'm often told "You're so brave" or "You're so strong." And yes, I am. I will own that. I can be humble and still proud of how far I've come. I've been close to death. I've been locked up in a mental institution on suicide watch. I've held my dead baby in my teenage arms. I've wondered if I'd ever make it out of houses alive. I have wondered if I'd ever be able to make love without feeling fear. I've wondered if I would ever be able to forgive myself for being so vulnerable, for being such easy prey, for simply being a child.
But I also love Emily Dickinson's words of wisdom that essentially say that we are all brave:
We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies—
The Heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
For fear to be a King—
Trauma doesn’t have to hold us back from living a full life
One helping hand may be all someone needs to get out of a bad situation
Connecting with others who have shared your experience can be a pathway to healing
Giving is Good!
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) operates the National Sexual Violence Hotline (800-656-HOPE) and works to prevent sexual violence and help survivors.
Kirsten is also active with Georgia Equality, which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people throughout the state of Georgia.
Kirsten Palladino is the editorial director of equallywed.com, the world’s leading equality-minded wedding website for LGBTQ+ couples, which she cofounded with her wife in 2010. She is the author of the newly published book, Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding (May 2017, Hachette Book Group and Seal Press).
An award-winning editor and writer, Palladino has enjoyed having her work appear in esteemed magazines, newspapers and websites. For more than 17 years, she’s covered equal rights, weddings, art, travel, restaurants, fashion, beauty, celebrities, profiles and music. She’s been a recurrent guest on CNN discussing marriage equality and same-sex weddings, as well as an invited speaker at wedding industry conferences and equal rights conventions around the globe. She blogs infrequently about recovering from sexual trauma on foragedwellness.com, and she’s at work on a memoir centering on the same topic.
Kirsten’s expertise has been sought out by luminary media outlets including The New York Times, CNN, CNN International, Politico.com, NPR, Martha Stewart Weddings, Washington Post, A Practical Wedding, Bridal Musings, The Knot, Brides Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, ABC News, The Advocate, AOL, Yahoo News, The Associated Press and The Los Angeles Times.
Kirsten Palladino was the 2010 recipient of Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Up & Comers award, and Fenuxe Magazine’s 2011 Top 50 award “in recognition of her dedication to the Atlanta LGBT community.” Equally Wed recently was honored by the Webby Awards as an honoree in the lifestyle category.
Kirsten lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her wife and their twin 7-year-old sons, where they try to enjoy each day as it comes, walk barefoot in the grass, make nightly dinners together as a family, and laugh often.