Not all heroes wear capes. Daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, wife, and truthteller, L.Tomay Douglas shares her story of survival and her road to restorative recovery.
Gloria spoke with Tomay in an episode of Self Love Conversations about surviving sexual assault, breaking generational curses, healing from trauma, and learning to soar! You can watch the Self Love Conversations episode here.
We get to know the inspirational woman that is L.Tomay Douglas…
Who is L.Tomay Douglas?
I grew up in a Bronx housing authority also negatively termed as “the projects” which would become a site of trauma for me. I come from a Catholic and Christian background. My dad is Catholic which meant going to Catholic school and my mom is Pentecostal which meant going to church almost three times per week. Education was a huge focus in our household, however, my education was interrupted by various traumatic experiences and it changed the trajectory of my life.
I believed that my experiences led me to a higher calling bigger than myself and I became a Rape Hospital Advocate and Crisis Hotline Counselor in 2003 and have been in the helping profession ever since. Currently, I am a Restorative Equity Educator, Racial Justice Advocate, and Social Worker. I am also a Ph.D. student at the University of San Diego although I’m based in New York; I’m a Bronx native.
Tell us about your advocacy and Brand Me Beautiful.
My advocacy began when I healed enough to work as a Rape Hospital Advocate and Crisis Hotline Counselor and it continued as I served in the church working with women, and as a ministerial counselor. One of the things that I realized is that women (including myself) shared a common thought that they were damaged goods, worthless, or simply put, not beautiful. It was hard for them to accept a kind word or acknowledge their worth. And because I believe in Ubuntu (I am, therefore, we are), I viewed each woman as a mirror image of other women and that is when I knew that a universal call Brand Me Beautiful was needed instead of all the labels that were assigned by self and society. Brand Me Beautiful helps survivors to no longer hide their pain behind a smile. I have held events and spaces where survivors can see and embrace the totality of their lived experiences. It’s why I created Survivors Soar and my Tamar’s Healing Circle and Coaching program for women of faith.
As a survivor of child sexual abuse, what do these awareness campaigns mean to you?
They mean everything to me and I am talking about all awareness campaigns connected to healing on every level, especially as a Social Worker, Restorative practitioner, and survivor. An important reason that I appreciate and create awareness events and tools such as Survivors Soar or the SANE TALK model is to offer additional resources to survivors, their loved ones, and our community. For me, the purpose of awareness is that we all participate in the prevention of CSA, SA, and DV.
What is something you wished someone would have told you when you were going through your most difficult times?
“I hear you. How can I best support you during this time?”
How did your road to healing begin? What does healing mean for you and what were the things you learned along the way?
I would like to say that it began immediately after my first encounter with CSA which it did, however, it was simple like putting a bandaid on a scrape. Eventually, I began a deeper healing that was more like triage and being on the fast track at the emergency room to get in and out. I did not know that healing is a process and not a destination until I encountered a situation where someone I love was sexually abused and it kicked up all of my trauma. I knew that in order for me to be supportive, I needed to be healthier. I began with spiritual healing because I needed to hold onto my faith and I couldn’t at first because I was angry with God. I had to heal my faith journey and that’s when the real healing began. Healing is like learning and we do it every day and having material things, a spouse, children, and a thriving business does not equate to healing. Healing is what we are designed to do on a biological level daily. It’s why I understand that many folks hide their pain behind a smile, job, or some form of success, however, it shows up in other areas of one’s life.
What do you hope could be improved to provide support for abuse victims?
I hope that I can improve conversations, hearts, mindsets, and relationships with self first and others as a way to provide support for abuse victims.
What do you want to say to those who are struggling to find their voice?
Wherever you are in your process is okay and when you are ready to share or speak out, your voice will be there because that is something that can not be taken away. You decide how, when, and how to use your voice, whether in silence, song, or words. It’s yours, so be compassionate to yourself and know that you can honor the power of your voice and be heard. So struggle if you must, just keep leaning into your healing, heal you and love on you because this is a Forever Work.
For 24 hour support, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)