Photography by 1000 Words Photography
Meet CherylAnn. She is Beauty Revived.
Awaking late for school. I rushed to get ready, but was stopped by my dad. He asked if I had brushed my teeth. I lied and said yes, just wanting to leave. He went to the bathroom and found my toothbrush dry. He began furiously kicking my legs, lecturing me to stop lying.
Being terrified. My brother brought me to my room and abused me in my sleep. He told me that it would be my fault if he went to jail. He threatened to hurt me if I said anything.
Police cars and officers. The realization that my mom was going to jail for drugs. I wouldn’t see her for a year.
Like any child, people used to ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I would say I wanted to help people, to insure they didn’t have the memories I did. I made that decision when I was very young, yearning for someone to help me, but knowing nobody was there. In that moment, I decided I had to do it myself. I ached for other people to know that they never had to feel like that – they would have me. My hope is still the same. I want to help people.
I didn’t have an idyllic childhood – instead emotional, physical, and sexual abuse were part of my life. As I grew, I realized I wanted to use everything in my power to protect others from the same. I now volunteer at Gillette Abuse Refuge Foundation (GARF), a local organization helping battered women and children. There’s a peace I receive when I watch someone escape an unsafe environment.
My mother works at GARF as well and is much of my motivation. She has shown me that no matter what life brings, I have to stay strong and push through. Despite hardships she unselfishly tried to be sure we were okay before she took care of herself. She taught me the meaning of “stay strong”. With my stepdad, she taught me that life will knock me down, but it’s whether or not I get back up that counts.
I watched both of my parents get sucked into drugs and watched both of them overcome addiction for their family. It takes a strong person to fight that lifestyle and I’m proud of them. I value what I have because it could be gone in an instant.
My siblings are my lifeline. My older sister was always there for me. My little sister was a shoulder to cry on and then make jokes to make me smile. My younger brother will push me to the edge, but he makes sure I’m doing right with my life. My littlest brother is my best friend, the one who knows when I’m upset and not showing it. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am.
When I was 12, my little brother was violently shaken and almost killed by his father. After what I had already been through, this gave me a new perspective; I learned what it meant to stand up for someone else and to guard them. Because of this incident, kids hold a special place in my heart.
Memories of my childhood play over and over. Then and now, I escape reality and the memories with music. Making something so beautiful covers up the ugly memories in my head. The viola, guitar, and piano are what kept me going. They showed me that beautiful things can come out of disasters. After I broke my hand and wasn’t able to play anymore, I had to find new ways of distracting myself. My dog, Bear, is my best friend and distraction. He is always there for me, waiting by the door. He knows when I need to play or when I need to just cry.
I often get questioned about my tattoos. They are a constant reminder and each of them holds special meaning. Music notes on my back remind me that beautiful things can grow from vile. A semicolon reminds me to keep going, even if I feel I can’t; a dream catcher reminds me to achieve my dreams. The flower on my ankle I got with and is a reminder of my older sister.
I try to search for good out of the circumstances of my childhood. My heart’s motivation is to make sure no other child goes through what I did. I use this today in my volunteering by being living proof that difficult obstacles can be overcome and I hope to use it in the future as a child psychiatrist. I want to be able to help children and I will go out of my way to make sure every child I know is happy and safe.
About the Photographer
1000 Words Photography by Jessica Lass located in Gillette, WY grew out of a fundraising effort – a stay at home mom with 4 boys – to bring home a little girl from Russia. Eventually what started as a hobby at 11 years old with a camera ordered from a cereal box and then a way for an artist with five kids to make “instant art”, evolved into a part time business. 1000 Words may seem a bit cliche, but I tell moms I wear their “mommy goggles” for them to capture those words that only a photo really can, seeing each person in a unique way and capturing their beauty and emotions rather than poses.