Abuse warrior, Neisha Kelly, sets herself free in Cannes award-winning documentary “Enough”

If you would have told me when I was 13 that at age 43, I would be speaking candidly about surviving sexual abuse, I would have thought that you were suffering from a case of mistaken identity. Growing up, I did not talk. I do not mean to imply that I was a mute, but for a while, I had to take speech classes.  In addition, I was placed in a resource (special education) classroom in my formative years. Somewhere along the way, I learned to only speak when spoken to.  Also, I deemed talking at any other time to be disrespectful, and as a young lady being talkative was not to be tolerated. 

During those years my timid nature was my sole means of survival. My mantra was to be seen and never heard. Frankly, timid is putting it mildly, being left alone with a man was something that I would dread. Fear was my form of respect. 

I remember when first meeting my stepfather, I held a great disdain.  Though he did not do anything to warrant that behavior, contempt was apparent.  He had an ominous disposition. Foreboding enveloped me whenever I was in his presence. At seven years old, I could not understand why I felt this way. 

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In this article, I would like to express why I decided to participate in Ms. Tona Buck’s documentary on sexual abuse and women appropriately called“Enough” and why it is important for you to see it. I want to get you to understand why such a story needs to be told, especially by survivors, I mean warriors like me. 

I met Ms. Tona while experiencing sexual abuse in my home, and like most adults around me, she did not know. I never told anyone. I had decided when it first started at age 13 that I’d serve as both victim and martyr. If no one else was victimized, I could sleep at night. I was on her drill team Nubian Queens. While most adults scared me, I adored Ms. Tona. She was beautiful, bold, confident, and amazing. For as long as I have known her, she has been an advocate for all. She’s always been larger than life, so imagine my surprise years later that we both had to bear that infamous title, “victim”. 

When she asked if I want to participate in “Enough,” I said yes. At that moment I did not weigh the gravity of what I was doing. Initially, I planned to speak of my abuse as an out-of-body experience. I was careful to never expose my perpetrator by name, hence preventing me from bringing any shame to our family or even his. Even when I blogged about my experience, I attempted to protect his identity by referring to him as a  “friend of the family”. 

I now know that protecting him would have put all others, including myself, in danger. See, when I protect him then inadvertently I would allow the cycle to continue. I had become accustomed to being frightened of exposure. But without doing so, I would also have to be accountable for what happened if he were to victimize someone else. Now, that is not something I can not live with.  That is when I heard my mother’s words in my ear, “Reveal your truth, even if that does not cast me in the best light.”  How liberating, yet I felt like I was in bondage. If I say to you that he, my stepfather, sexually abused me how does that reflect on her? I mulled it over and decided when being honest and true, there are no worries. Furthermore, I had to stop worrying about hurting those closest to me because it was causing me to suffer even more. 

So, candid was all I could be. No more secrets. While filming, I kept saying, this is for my healing and kept pushing even when I wanted to stop. Although I had no idea how far this would go, I kept thinking at least subconsciously this was bigger than just me. Just us! 

At 13, I never thought I would ever tell this story. I surely thought I would take it to my grave. Years before my mother passed in 2015, I was working on my memoir, “Remnants of a Shattered Soul”. She would call me every day. She’d ask, “ Did you write today?” I’d reply, “No, not yet.” And before she ended our call, she’d always say, “Make sure you write today”. 

During filming, as expected, I broke down a lot, but much to my surprise my tears brought a sense of relief. What I went through brought so much realization to me about me. I never wanted to be one who kept secrets, but I learned that they were necessary for my survival. I am still unlearning this skill. I also adopted the philosophy that the less others know about me the more they’ll like me. This ideology, while counterproductive, served to protect me for so long. 

Ironically, along this journey, I was asked why I never said no to him. And my response was, “I never knew I could.” If I would have ever thought that saying no was an option, I would have said it so long ago. 

This documentary was just a small thing to me. It was never supposed to get this far. It was never supposed to resonate globally. Thank goodness, I never thought about the full impact or grand scale that this would make. Someone that may or may not look like me heard me, and us share, and tears filled their eyes and compassion entered their heart.

When ENOUGH was entered into the Cannes Film Festival, I thought it was cool. When ENOUGH won 1st in the USA, at the Cannes Worldwide Film Festival, Best Women Film category, I thought it was amazing. When ENOUGH came in second place in the world, I did not think I could muster up a single thought. I was overwhelmed by pure joy and awe. God spoke to me and said, “Baby, you finally told the story you never want to tell. Now the world knows what he did and how what he did turned you into a warrior.”

Please come and show your support for “Enough”. This documentary is life-changing and can be the catalyst needed for you or someone you know. The purpose is to decrease the number of warriors to none. ENOUGH! ENOUGH! ENOUGH! WE CRIED AND NOW WE ROAR! 

Neisha Kelly is a writer and poet, watch her and others share their story at the Enough premier at the New Jersey State Museum on September 16th from 4 pm 6 pm. Click here to reserve free tickets.

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