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Many years ago, I was in a terrible car accident. I had a lot of serious injuries, but the most severe was my left arm. Torn to ribbons, there was barely enough flesh left for the doctors to staple it back together. I was lucky enough to survive with no loss of function, but it was nonetheless life altering.

Short of wearing long sleeves for the rest of my life, there is no hiding the scars, and people notice. Most are too polite to say anything, but I see their revulsion and curiosity nonetheless. A few months after the accident, however, I started experiencing a strange phenomenon among those who can’t contain their curiosity.

People ask me if my scars are art.

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They ask me this because they cannot conceive of an event so terrible and traumatic that it could leave such ruin in its wake. They ask me this because they think my disfigurement must be something intentional that I willingly agreed to.

People ask me if my scars are art.

They ask me this because they don’t want to imagine someone experiencing so much pain and suffering without having any control.

People ask me if my scars are art, and it has become the prevailing metaphor of my life because when I show them my real scars and not simply the superficial ones, they do not believe they are real.

I am a survivor of sexual violence and assault, and like so many other women, when I openly speak about my experiences, I am met with disbelief and blame.

People tell me that my scars are fiction because they don’t want to imagine someone experiencing so much pain and suffering without having any control. They tell me this because they think it must be something intentional that I willingly agreed to.

But I am here. I am real. All of me is real, inside and out. I may not have chosen any of this, but I am not going to hide it because I refuse to feel ashamed—of my body or my life.

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