I haven't known Jennifer very long. But she has definitely made an impression on me.
When we first talked on the phone and I heard her story, my heart went out to her so deeply. As she told me her story, the heavy importance and anxiety around a simple clock became strikingly apparent and I knew we had to use that to continue the healing and telling of her experience. You will see below the ever powerful image and result of Jennifer freeing herself from that hold and weight.
What more incredible is that Jennifer, the true phoenix she is here, took her experience and created something beautiful. As the owner of Southern Arizona Book Heroes, she took to creating something essential for young children coming out of trauma. It seems so simple to potential onlookers, but what she is providing for the children is something so important. More than just a distraction, she is creating hope in the midst of their anxiety and despair.
Read on to find out more about her story, her light and how she is turning that into making an impact, one child at a time.
This is the Art of Jennifer.
This is The Art of Her.
Jessica: Let's start by telling me who you are? Where are you from? What do you do? Tell me about You, The Woman.
Jennifer: I was born in Phoenix, Az but raised in Tucson. I am the manager of the family owned business called Sahuaro Trophy and the founder the nonprofit called Southern Arizona Book Heroes.
Jessica: What's Your Story?
Jennifer: When I was seven I was sexually abused. I was sexually and physically abused again from the time I was eleven till I finally spoke up at the age of thirteen. When I was in high school I was bulimic. At the age of 21 I was date raped.
Jessica: Tell me about a specific experience as it surrounds your story of what you had to endure or work through as you pushed to rise?
Jennifer: During the abuse, when I was a preteen, I would stare ....just stare at the clock in hopes the abuser would stop. When I finally spoke up - I was taken away and placed in a home where I lost myself in books and jigsaw puzzles. I didn't want to live in my reality - books were my saving grace.
Jessica: What surprised you about yourself the most during or after that time in your life?
Jennifer: I never talked about what was happening. I was closed off. When my clothing started changing and I started wearing long pants and long sleeves I did not want people to see the bruises. I did not want to show I was weak.
I was in drama during my high school years and the teacher wanted me to wear something that showed alot of skin and I broke down to my teacher telling her I couldn't - and she helped me realize I was ok and that no one was going to hurt me. Drama helped me be ok in my body again as I was still going through daymares and nightmares and fighting bulimia.
Jessica: What would you say you learned about yourself or others during or since this event?
Jennifer: Since the event and years later I have learned to not be ashamed. It is ok to talk about it and that it was NOT my fault. No matter what was said during the abuse - I did not cause it upon myself...i did not ask for it to happen.
Jessica: How would you describe the difference in you, before and after the event? How did it Change you?
Jennifer: Before the abuse I had friends and would like to say I was outgoing. Wasn't afraid to do things or be out in public. During the abuse I was scared to show my body - I did not show skin or have eye contact and lost my faith in adults. After I came forward about being abused - trust is a hard thing for me and I am just now learning who I am again 20+ years later.
Jessica: Have your values changed since the event? What do you value now?
Jennifer: Today I value the friendships I do have. I value the support and motivation as I am starting to open up more and share my story. I value MY BODY
Jessica: What is the one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Jennifer: Fight...fight for your body....
Jessica: What would you say has helped you along your healing journey?
Jennifer: I have hidden the abuse for so long and just within the last year really...I have brought it up and talking about it. I believe starting the nonprofit has been a huge step in helping me heal and learning I am OK.
Jessica: What is your story of now? What do you celebrate about who you are after these event(s)?
Jennifer: Twenty two years after the abuse in adolescent years - I started a nonprofit called Southern Arizona Book Heroes. The whole purpose of SABH is to provide resources like a book and/or a plushie that help treat children’s unseen injuries—their emotional wounds.
I WAS one of those kids that we try to reach today by giving them a book to distract, comfort, and soothe themselves after experiencing something traumatic.
Jessica: How would you like people to describe you or see you?
Jennifer: I would like for people to see me as one to not give up. Whatever obstacles are thrown my way I will find away to get through . When people describe me I hope they use the word determination.
Jessica: It would be really interesting to hear about any ambitions you have for the future?
Jennifer: One day I would love to be able to do public speaking without a puddle of tears.
I want to be able to publicly share my story when I am talking to a group and sharing the mission of my nonprofit and my "why"
Jessica: If you could talk to advertisers right now about advertising to women, what advice would you give them?
Jennifer: Advertise all body shapes. Coming from one who was bulimic and fought through not just one time of abuse but several - body shaming and advertising the "perfect body" does not hold true. Every body is different and perfect for themselves not just what is advertised.
Jessica: What do you wish other women or young girls knew about themselves?
Jennifer: I wish women knew that they are strong, beautiful and to not let anyone tell them otherwise.
Do you want to join us for The Art of Her Portrait Exhibition and Women's Event? To share in the stories, photos and celebrations of women? Make sure to join the list, as soon as we have those dates, you will be the first to know!