We Believe Survivors - My Survival Story

 Trigger Warning: Post contains sexual abuse

Trigger Warning: Post contains sexual abuse

In light of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony I have come to realize that we live in a society where men think certain behaviors are acceptable. As I listened to her tell of her horrific experience I began to recall my own. I have had many unfortunate experiences with men taking advantage of their masculinity. I have been pushed by men, woken up to a man on top of me at a party, had bosses make comments about my body but there is one event that sticks out to me. One that my mind always goes back to. I thank Christine for coming forward. In order for men to know better we need to demand better.

Its strange how your mind remembers. I can’t remember the year or why we were there or anything that happened before but I remember everything after. I will call him Nameless. I was at Nameless’s apartment with a guy friend and his friend. I will call my friend Joe. It was dark in his apartment. I remember feeling off and I cannot for the life of me remember why I stayed. Joe left with his friend and I was alone with Nameless. They will say its cause I wanted to sleep with him. But I know myself, I just thought he was cute and I wanted attention. I chased it all the time. I was lonely. I had met him before and naively thought I was safe. He kissed me on the couch. Then took me into the kitchen to get a beer. Instead of the beer he grabbed my pants. I grabbed his arm. Suddenly I realized for the first time my own weakness. He pushed his hand down my pants and I tried to pull it out. I could not. Fear was knocking in my head but I remember trying to flirt my way out of it. Telling him no with a smile and pulling harder on his arm. As I was about to panic he pulled his hand out. We went back to the couch and kissed some more. I remember just waiting for him to give up so I could go to sleep. We had gotten there late and I assumed I wasn’t going home at this point. He took me by the hand and led me into the bedroom. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to do this’ but the prior encounter left me frozen and feeling sick. We started to have sex on the floor and I finally got the courage to say no. He asked me if I was serious and tried to convince me to go on. I said no again and told him I didn’t want to. He continued and I remember him saying ‘but we’re having fun’. He was having fun. I shut my eyes and waited for it to be over. When he was done he left me in his room. I fell asleep. When I woke in the morning he said he’d take me home and walked me downstairs. I didn’t want to speak. Once we got outside he said he forgot something and would be right back. He never came back. Minutes passed and I cried in disbelief that this situation had just gotten worse. The building was locked. This was pre-cellphone and I had to walk to a payphone to call a friend to come get me.

I felt violated but I also felt shame for putting myself in the situation...

Afterwards I battled in my head what had happened. I felt violated but I also felt shame for putting myself in the situation, for continuing to kiss him after he scared me the first time, for waiting so long to say no. I finally told a friend. I could tell she wasn’t sure she believed me which made me not want to tell anyone else. Until a mutual friend said she met this guy she liked and it was Nameless. I told her of my story to warn her and she went and told him. Next thing I knew I was being cornered by him and a group of his friends while he called me names and screamed in my face. I slid to the floor and cried… in a bar. I felt pathetic, betrayed and devastated. I never spoke of it again. Until now.

It is hard to share this story. Even now I fear whether I will be believed. I still can’t believe it happened to me. No matter when it’s said No means No. Clearly this happens to too many of us. Please share your story. Hopefully the more we stand together the less sexual assault will be tolerated.

Five Female Spoken Word Poets Who Will Change Your Life

I knew Spoken Word poetry existed but I didn't know the impact it would have on my soul. Bored one day at work I took a walk and searched spoken word on YouTube. The performances I heard took my heart and gave me a new level to reach as a poet. I was in awe like a tourist seeing Times Square for the first time. Hearing the artists words straight from their mouths transformed the experience of reading a piece on paper. It was like meeting a stranger and having them embrace you and their arms feeling like home. At least it was for me. Poetry is my "man cave". The one place where I can be me and say all that my little body can contain. I felt empowered by these artists. Today I share with you 5 beautiful female poets who have an amazing ability to compose words into magic.

Sarah Kay

Sarah is quietly unapologetic. Even her saddest poem is like sipping chicken noodle soup on the coldest day. The tone of her voice is an arm around your shoulder telling you it will be OK. She takes the simplest words and turns them into a winding road you always want to turn down. She makes me want to remember all the moments of my childhood so I can learn all over again, so I can live all over again.

Videos from Sarah you must watch: The Type, Table Games, If I Should Have A Daughter

 

Olivia Gatwood

If Sarah is quiet in her apologies Olivia is a tornado siren and she is not sorry. This poetess says everything you wish you'd said, everything you think and would never say and everything you wish you would have thought to say. She is brave and beautiful in her execution of words. Her truth is most certainly a sword, a sword I wish all girls would carry. I believe if you listen to her you're gonna want to pick yours up.

Videos from Olivia you must watch: Ode to My Bitch Face, Alternate Universe in Which I Am Unfazed, When I Say We Are All Teen Girls

 

Sabrina benaim

For me, Sabrina has been the only one to beautifully and accurately express what depression and anxiety is and what it feels like. She has become somewhat of an advocate for mental health awareness. I remember not wanting to tell anyone or even admit to myself that I had mental health issues. As I began to accept it I came across her poem, Explaining Depression to My Mother and it took me over the edge into the "I'm OK" and "I'm not alone" and "I am not crazy". For me her poems have been a little piece of the healing process. 

Videos from Sabrina you must watch: A Prayer / A Spell, Explaining Depression to My Mother, Glass House

 

Sierra DeMulder

Sierra-05.jpg

Sierra is a voice, a voice for women who cannot find the sound. This feminist carries the voice of truth with an incredible way of explaining how badly it hurts sometimes and how you will survive. She is the nudging every human needs to keep going. And as she is encouraging you, you will be enamored by her words. Her stitching of sentences is acrobatics at its best. On a side note, Sierra is now the host of a wonderfully honest and funny podcast about love, heartbreak and relationships with Sam Blackwell. The podcast, Just Break Up, is available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Videos from Sierra you must watch: Today Means Amen, Paper DollsUnrequited Love Poem

 

Denice Frohman

Denice.jpg

I first discovered Denice on the GAP commercial, She Inspires Me. It was fantastic and boy was I excited to see poetry go mainstream. Poetry is clearly not dead my friends. Denice inspired ME that day. Her tongue is like a razor, drenched in passion. She speaks for us all and speaks for many who are minority. As a mixed, Hispanic woman myself, my ears have always been drawn to her story. She is not shameless in who she is, a homosexual, multiracial woman (Puerto Rican and Jewish) and I love her for that. I love her tenacity in wanting to touch the hearts of young men and women of color. You want goosebumps? Listen to her word. 

Videos from Denice you must watch: Accents, First KissAbuela

Days From Marriage and Wondering If He's The One...

 Photo taken at my wedding. Blog written Feb 18'

Photo taken at my wedding. Blog written Feb 18'

 

Note: Written in February and never posted! I'm crazy.

You guys, I am officially somebody's wife! I am full of happiness and believe me I did not think I would be. I don't really know how the average girl thinks but I never really thought about getting married or having a wedding as a little girl. I knew I wanted it but never did I think about what ring I wanted, the dress style, or what colors I'd have. I was too busy focused on if the guy would even get passed the first date not if we were going to make it down the aisle.  My priorities are high ladies. It aint easy lovin me. I know this. So when my boyfriend started asking me what cut diamond I wanted I started at him blankly. 'What does that even mean?' LOL. Anyway, I figured it out as I always do and today, according to my countdown app, I am 35 days away from wearing my dream dress under the island sun!

Are you wondering how I am already a wife? Well, we went to the court house on Valentines Day and got hitched. We're, so cute, right? Apparently it is a royal pain in the ass to get married in another country and make it legal in the states. Our ceremony is taking place in Punta Cana with 28 crazy people who decided to join us. Let me tell you something, planning this wedding has been the most stressful thing. I wont get into it but my fiance and I have actually been in a very rocky place. With a new baby, a new house and a wedding ahead... we have been climbing mountains to find romance in our relationship. As the day of our courthouse wedding began looming I was freaking out on the inside. I knew that my man was the one after only weeks of dating and now I was days away and felt like I had no clue. I called my grandma cause she knows it all. She told me a secret. If you expect the world you're going to be unhappy. Be happy with the world you already have. Just envision a light bulb turning on above my head. I have been putting so many demands on him. The more stressed I am the more I expect from him. Which is totally unfair. My behavior lately goes against everything I believe in, which is, YOU create your own happiness. You can't rely on others to make you happy. This man is only human, not Ryan Gosling for God's sake. I mean sometimes he is or I wouldn't be marrying but NOBODY is that perfect. I felt better but then I knew he and I needed a talk. I sent him these ten questions to answer.

  1. What does a great night look like to you?

  2. Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?

  3. Is my debt your debt? How will we run our finances?

  4. What do you admire about me?

  5. What are your pet peeves?

  6. How do you see us 10 years from now?

  7. Why are we getting married?

  8. What do you want out of life as a couple?

  9. Accidental pregnancy, what do we do? One of us gets fired, what do we do? God forbid, sickness or death in family, what do we do?

  10. Define marriage. What are we committing to?

Ladies, the man made me cry. Every answer, except the first, was everything that I feel and think and believe. We ARE made for each other and he loves me even when I am being bat shit crazy! And the one answer that was different was question one, cause we're different people and that's ok. Some of these questions I had never thought to ask and shame on me for not and some we had discussed years ago and it was just good to hear again. It was everything and every anxiety and nerves I had just slipped away and I am so happy. So my advice, call your grandma and ask him some questions. If they're not in line or he's just a total jerk, run!!

 

The Definition of Anxiety

Words of Women hosted a writing contest a couple weeks back and I wrote the following piece but didn't submit in time. Wahnt wah. So I am placing it here. Anxiety and Depression are an unfortunate big part of my life, of my living and of my surviving. I want more people to know what it feels like and that its not something that anyone can control. It is something that can be overcome. The people around those who suffer from mental health need to be more educated so they can provide support for those that need it. I hope this helps someone. The event mentioned in this piece actually happened to me just last month as I suffered from a panic attack. 

It is kidnapping your body at your birthday dinner. Your skin catching fire. Sweat dripping down your forehead. Something isn’t right. Your body begins to warn you that it’s going to give out on you. You find yourself laying on the bathroom floor of the restaurant. The cool porcelain tile is the only thing that can comfort you. The heart is beating like a snare drum, a symphony, wasting all the breath in your lungs and you wait. Wait for the panic to exit. For your body to unfold. As reason and practicality return to the brain you try to figure out how you’re going to explain what just happened. Dread rolls its eyes at the thought of telling them you can't help it. I can’t just relax. It just happens. Anxiety is my unwanted cousin that always shows up at the wrong hour.

Please be open to hearing and understanding when someone with depression or anxiety reaches to you. Ask rather than tell when it comes to helping out. 

Thank you.

Mama Is More - a poem

Mothers Day

No its not Mother's Day but a mothers job lasts more than one day and is never done. I know from experience. Even though it can be taxing it is one of the most amazing gifts God (and anyone) has ever given me. Here's a poem about Motherhood. I hope you enjoy (and if you do please feel free to share)!

Mama
is woman interrupted,
sacrifice unnoticed.
Mama
is worry,
hands she hopes are soft,
love fuller than the moon.
Mama is bosom,
a nest for comfort,
ribs like teeth,
to cover her offspring.
Mama
is echo,
the call to little hands
not yet ripe.
Mama
is mother
more than female,
more than human.
Mama
is always more.
— Raquel Franco

THRIVE: AND KEEP DANCING

Self-love

Our hearts are natural composers. It starts with a simple beat until it has created a symphony of things to beat for. Your dreams, a lover, a friend, a child, coffee, warm laundry... There are so many things that pile up to create a song. But sometimes the record scratches. Just one halt in the atmosphere and the music stops playing. A door closes on a dream, a loved one dies, a lover tells you there is someone else and suddenly you have no idea what the hell this song is that's playing.

You hear yourself saying, "I didn't create this fucking song! This isn't what I requested. Um, Mr DJ? Can you go back? I wan't done listening to that."

But there is no going back. You have to re-write. You have to create new pulses, discover a new rhythm. There is room for new melodies and I promise they are just as beautiful. Don't hold on to that fear of what if. You can and you will and it will turn your bones into steal that can pull off one hell of a dance. I promise.

- Raquel Franco

A Tip on Bad Ass Bitchery

Social Media has given us a platform to scream but if everyone is screaming... will you ever be heard? The Future is Female they say and women are coming into their own and claiming their voices. Its a proud time to be a woman but I want to caution you to be careful how you take hold of your vocal chords.  A bad ass bitch never needs to announce that she is one. Let your walk talk the talk for you. Be the girl who's loyalty, accomplishments, passion and love speak for her. We don't need an Instagram quote to tell us how strong you are. Beyoncé doesn't tell us how fierce she is. She doesn't even caption her damn Instagram photos! She just is. 

This post is just a short, sweet reminder for you to be the break in the noise don't join in. 

Life Lessons: Going back to the days of a babe

Pain is inevitable but we all fear one weapon in particular that penetrates the deepest. For me it's the weapon that forms against my character. Not just anyone can cut me there. Most people just slice the air but when the person coming at me is one that I love... it cuts to the bone.

This week I got stabbed. Not literally, people. A friendship that I hold dear to my heart had recently come to a halt and when we finally got together to hash it out, I got hashed. She let me know that I had not been giving anything to the relationship. I lost my words. My body was kidnapped and refused to fight or flight. My purpose for living is to give and to be told I was failing, crushed me.

Life Lessons

Days later, I got to thinking. One, in my attempt to give I end up giving myself toward too many things. As a result I ultimately have nothing left of me to give. Women suffer from this often. We are crowned with so many roles: mother, caregiver, homemaker, girl boss, friend, daughter, partner/wife. I realize men carry these roles as well but women are natural thinkers. We are also naturally sensitive. Although these qualities are beautiful they also add weight to everything we are trying to accomplish. It gets tough to be the best you can be on a daily (or minute by minute) basis. I realize I need to slow my steps. Find a new pace so I can give the best of myself to everyone around me.

Two, I need to remember the basics of human practice. We are taught at a young age that we are to share, take turns, pick up after ourselves and to say please and thank you. In the struggle of "adulting" we forget the simplest life lessons. When you make a mess, clean up after yourself. As an adult these messes are greater than milk spilt on the kitchen floor but clean it up! We tell children they have to clean it up NOW! Don't let it sit their till it's molded and your friend is crying in your face telling you that you're a horrible friend. Kids don't get breaks from their mistakes and neither should we. Humanity has also forgotten how to share and care and to ask and appreciate what has been given. I am guilty as well but we all need reminding. We are not owed anything. Everyday is a precious gift. Everything you own and every person in your life is a gift. Show your gratitude. Let's be five again.

I am reminded of a scripture that tells us to "change and be like children". Always be learning, always be discovering and always remember the lessons you were taught. Wait your turn, clean up your mess and be thankful today. And if you have been ignoring a nasty spill on the bathroom floor, go clean it up. Call them! Make a plan to get the stains out. Life was not meant to be ugly. It can beautiful, if you let it.

P.S. Thank you to my dear friend who had the courage to tell me where I was failing. You can't fix what you don't know is broken.

 

Finding Inspiration in Chicago

This past weekend I went to Chicago for the Tone It Up fitness festival. I am a die hard TIU fan but we'll dive into that later. My plans were to visit my sister, who resides in the windy city, meet some members of the #FitFam and have some fun. Little did I know I would unveil more inspiration and creativity than I could ever imagine. Chicago became my muse, yolk cracked open for me to feast.

Raquel Franco in Chicago

Since having my daughter earlier this year I have turned into a more of a "Netflix and Chill" kind of girl... along side a bottle of wine. My sister, being used to party girl, had all these plans to get dressed and venture downtown. Sadly, I had no desire. So, she took me around her side of the city in Bucktown and Logan Square.  It was phenomenal. The food (omg the food), especially the brunch, had my taste buds break dancing. The street art, the hipsters, the diversity of the crowds... I was reminded that, yes, there is a whole 'nother world out there. It has been some time since I have traveled alone and without kids. It was a breath of fresh air and it allowed my mind to wander. My passion for art expanded in my lungs. The city and all it has to offer sprouted my need for more. I even allowed my sister to dress me up. I am the girl that wears pink and it was a blast to rock some braids and be another side of me for a night.

Food in Chicago

My soul was also encouraged by all the amazing women I met at the Tone It Up tour. I arrived solo, as none of my friends have any interest in my TIU obsession. Within in three seconds I met my first friend. She was the sweetest and my nerves instantly evaporated. We got in line together at Soldier Field and met the next girl we would spend the day with. She was 5'11 and gorgeous. They all were. I've never seen so many toned and gorgeous women. I am not sure why I expected anything less but I guess no one expects to be surrounded by thousands of models. I am 5'0 by the way... on a good day. Needless to say she was also super sweet. Everyone was. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by so much inner and outer beauty. There was not an ounce of cattiness. The only anger that ever rose was when Jillian Michaels was screaming at us to get off our fucking ass. I love that woman. She helped me lose over 40 pounds when I first started my fitness journey. I almost cried when she came out screaming. 

Tone It Up

Then, there was Karena and Katrina, the heads of the Tone It Up Empire. I knew they were beautiful but they were real, live Glamazons. I never knew they were so tall! And all that positivity and light they spread on social media is real! Katrina took the stage and exclaimed, "Everyone asks us how we do it and that we should be so tired. We're not fucking tired! You are the reason we get up everyday. You are the reason we are here..." The community they have built is so empowering and it gave me the fire I needed to keep going, to keep inspiring and to keep being the best that I can be. 

This blog and website is a result of my weekend and all the inspiration I soaked in. I am on a mission and I can't wait to forge ahead! Look out for more exciting things to come.

Subscribe to my newsletter and you'll get my list of tips to find inspiration while traveling. Go! Now! Love you!

- XOXO Raquel