It’s a place for New Yorkers to gather and share their hidden sins, secrets, and suffering. Submissions are printed on-site at an installation at 401 W 14th Street in the Meatpacking District.
1) No names or personally identifying information (yours or anyone else's)
2) No profanity or hateful language or terms
3) Speak your truth
Note: By submitting your story, you are giving the artist and her partners permission to store, print, display, and read aloud your submission. See full terms.
Please be aware that this site is not regularly monitored and is not to be used to report an emergency or make a complaint. Call 911 if you are experiencing or think you have an emergency. Contact (212) 416-0197 if you wish to make a complaint to the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
Your first initial:
May we all know our own strength
Week of Monday, 19 April 2021
Y FROM BRONX
I was an abusive relationship for six years. In that whole time, I dealt with pain, shame, suicidal thoughts, and homelessness. I used to smoke weed and/or drink daily just to escape reality. I left him two years ago and never looked back. My life has done a complete 180. It makes me wonder why I stayed for so long but coming to terms with the fact that it had to happen...I had to go through that part of my story to prepare me for the life I’m living now. But I still feel the pain. It’s there when I’m by myself and have no distractions. My body still remembers how he beat me head to toe. How he used my body even when I didn’t want him to. How every day he made me feel worthless and took away my dignity. Truth of the matter is, a lot of women don’t survive these experiences. I used to have nightmares of becoming just another statistic. Of becoming a headline in a newspaper or news channel. Of becoming a Facebook post of a woman in a hospital bed, face mangled beyond recognition. Every day I thank God for getting me out of that situation alive. I am so blessed. I’m so grateful I finally chose myself and decided I deserve better. On that note, I hope God frees all my women who are in this or similar situations. Thank you for reading my story and I hope you find your peace...
S FROM BRONX
The first guy I ever kissed, the first guy I ever dated, wanted to have sex. I told him I wasn't ready, and a week later, three weeks after we first held hands, he tried anyway. It traumatized me. The second guy I ever kissed, the second man I ever dated, told me I was safe with him. When I still wouldn't have sex, he repeatedly told me I should get over it. When I got triggered, he'd make me feel bad for being sensitive. It's been over four years since I finally broke up with him and I'm still not sure if I can ever date again.
T FROM QUEENS
At the age of about 8 I was raped by my friends brother while she sat playing a game. I had previously been subjected to grooming.I was innocent. I didn’t tell anyone. I buried it so deep it wasn’t accessible to me. I then suffered secondary trauma with the divorce of my parents due to mental health and domestic abuse. We lost our home. I did a lot of damage to myself & I spent a lifetime trying to fix it without knowing why. At 36 I remembered. I had dissociative memory due to the trauma. I had undiagnosed PTSD, flashbacks, nightmares & fear. Now I’m making headway & training to be a Counsellor
J FROM QUEENS
I was raped by me ex boyfriend when I was in my early 20’s. We began dating when I was just turned 19. There was a significant age difference. Looking back at it now I believe he has been grooming me. I couldn’t believe that someone I loved and trusted so much could violate my body and mind so severely. We shared a ton of mutual friends and I told some of them that he raped me and they didn’t believe me. He’s in a metal band Mary Todd and has a good reputation. So eventually I stopped bringing it up. What’s the point in trying to hold him accountable if no one will believe me? Anyways I hope if you are reading this and you are going through your own traumas, that you find peace and solace.
M FROM MANHATTAN
I went to the church yard on Wednesday afternoon. It’s very peaceful there and you can watch the squirrels digging up pinecone scales. The graves are very old and crumbled with time and there’s a sense that you’re sitting in the laps of the past, with all the other ghost people. They’re crying. I was too. It seems I have no control over where or when the past will come back to prey on me. But I’m crying because of everything I’ve lost in life and can never get back, like all those people lying in the earth. And the dead can’t speak, they can only leave behind memories because everything else is dust. I can’t speak because my words were crushed and made into dust and the memories I have are not ones you’d want to pass on. Death terrifies me and yet it can be very alluring. Can be. I can’t die in peace, because of what I know and because of what happened to me. I was left with the demons that still keep me awake at night or wake me up screaming. I have shadows shooting through me. I couldn't protect little me, and now it’s too late. She knew more than one little girl should ever know. She sat, not beside me in the church yard but inside me, and held my hand. She held my sadness with me, but that’s wrong. She’s too small and I have to protect her and somehow piece together the shattered pieces of her life. She cried with me and I told her we have to cry until we find our strong, until our inside lonely goes away, because it’s going to be just us. We have to find hope or else we’ll close our eyes and go into a forever sleep.
J FROM QUEENS
It was all a lie & I believed it. Be a good asian girl, behave, honor your parents, go to Harvard, get a good job with benefits, get married...live happily ever after. The truth...shut up, work hard, work harder, be smarter, dont cause a fuss, support the white man, tend to white womens tears, be invisible, serve your husband, lose yourself. Glass ceiling, bamboo ceiling, racism, sexism, classism. Meritocracy and the american dream is fiction.
M FROM MANHATTAN
From my earliest memory I was abused by my parents. My father sexually abused me over several years and my mother knew. They are both drunks and are emotionally absent, they were very handy with slaps and kicks. I cannot remember ever feeling loved, safe, warm or well fed. IM 64 now and have my own family, I know my children feel loved safe warm and nourished. For the third time I am working with therapists to heal, to recover, to learn to look after me. I am proud that I am strong. I am full of rage that my parents did what they did to me. I am still confused.
A FROM MANHATTAN
In 2012, following Hurricane Sandy, as a North Carolinian, I was in NYC with the Red Cross volunteering to help people because I knew the pain of being hit by a hurricane myself and losing my home to Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Walking back to my hotel one evening in broad daylight after leaving headquarters, I was accosted on the street by a white male in a black limousine who had help to force me into it. I was wearing the Red Cross vest and heavy winter clothes. I was 53 years old. He was wealthy and raging over his hatred of the organization itself. I survived but tried to take my life, and have never gotten justice.
E FROM STATEN ISLAND
I was sexually assaulted by my father from the age of four until I was twelve. After each assault he would put his hands around my neck and squeeze enough to cut off my air but not enough to leave a mark. He told me that if I ever fought him or told anyone he would kill my sister (we shared a room) and make me watch. When I was twelve he trapped me in our house barn. I decided I would rather be dead than raped one more time and I fought back. He strangled me and I died, my soul left my body and I remember looking down at myself lying very still. He didn't try to recucitate me. He just walked away. I came back into my body and started breathing again. I'm breathing still.
M FROM MANHATTAN
I was raped by my first boyfriend. This set me up for many years of very unhealthy relationships. I didn’t know what love felt like, and I felt unworthy of it anyway. I actively ran away from anyone who was too kind to me. I’m 52 now, I have learnt to love myself at last.
K FROM MANHATTAN
After it happened they put me in a hospital so no one would have to hear my cries for help. I can still feel his hands on my hips and his lips on my neck.
J FROM BRONX
People see me as independent, but really I’ve spent my life being a slave to other’s approval
P FROM MANHATTAN
I felt a bear hug from behind. I thought it was my sister. We were in a crowded plaza. I soon realized it was not her; it was a man and there were more than one. They held me down on the ground, they used a knife to take my bag, they broke my glasses, they kicked my sister. While I lay on the ground and screamed, I saw a nearby security guard turn turn his back and close the door behind him. Later the police told us that this often happens to Asians, because we are weak, we don't fight back, and we keep our bags organized. When I saw the video of the 65-year old Filipino woman being brutally attacked in Times Square while the doormen did nothing, the face of the security guard from that night long ago came back to me. I couldn't stop crying.
C FROM QUEENS
In my dreams I recreate my trauma. In a way, I’ve become my own abuser.
A FROM BROOKLYN
It wasn't me, but my friend. She seemed ok, I asked if I could walk her home. She said no, she was fine. I saw her the next day, after being interviewed by detectives. She told me what happened, showed me the bruises and bite marks. I couldn't sleep for more than 20 mins at a time for weeks, woke up in cold sweats, screaming and gasping. I had seen her rapist , and didn't think he was dangerous. They tried the case; he got away. Not proven. Like it never happened at all. Now I carry mace all the time. It took me a year to go out after dark; another year for the panic attacks to subside. And it didn't happen to me. It happened to her.
J FROM BROOKLYN
I was raped one Saturday night by a supposed friend when I was 20 years old. I have no memory of any of it. When I regained consciousness, it was light out and I was alone on a residential block. I was missing my bra and my cell phone. I went to the closest MTA station to ask the man behind the booth if I could use his phone to call my dad to pick me up, but before I could get my question out, I broke down and started crying. The look that man gave me was of pure disgust and he muttered something and just walked away. There was another employee behind the booth and she was really nice and let me use her phone to call my dad. It was Father's Day. I never told my dad what happened. My best friend doesn't even know that happened. It makes me wonder if things would've turned out different (like if I would've reported the rape, if I would've told my dad, or if it would've led to proper treatment of my trauma), if that man behind the booth didn't turn to me with such disgust in his eyes and face. The moment I saw his reaction to me, I internalized it and felt like this was my doing and that I could've avoided getting raped.
Week of Monday, 12 April 2021
L FROM QUEENS
When I was 7, I was sexually abused by my two cousins who are 3 and 4 year older than me. I never knew how to talk about it but I always had low self esteem and felt I was not worthy of anything. When I’m 13, I started to have suicide thoughts but fortunately I never took any action. My parents had no clue and thought I was just going through teenager years. They would invite the two cousins over for dinner and offer help on their schoolwork and career. I did not understand what they did to me was not okay until I become an adult. When I was 26, I met my husband who encourage me to tell my parents what happened. I cried and said “I don’t think I’m brave enough to do that.” After over a year in therapy, I finally had the courage to tell them. I drafted what happened and what I want to say in writing. The summer of 2018, I read the letter to my parents and they were shocked. They told me they’ll stop seeing these two individuals and their parents as well. I was surprised because my father value his family very much and he told me he will disconnect with his two brothers who are the fathers of the two cousins. That’s when I realized how much my parents love me. I later sent my letter to the two cousins and their parents to confront them, I was so relieved I was able to do that and their apologies did not mean anything to me. Now I am in better place mentally. I feel extremely lucky to have a supportive family to help me find closure. However the trauma will never disappear and I will wonder for my whole life what type of person I would become if I never experienced this, unfortunately I will never find out.
K FROM MANHATTAN
I'm in my 40's now. My first memory of assault is still fresh in my mind. I was 6 or 7 then. There was a children's clothing store in my hometown. The shopkeeper, would touch my private part in the pretext of helping me see if a dress fit. This happened every time. It did not feel right. I did not know who to confide in. We didn't have a lot of things while growing up, getting new clothes was a luxury and for special occasions- each time my special occasion was marred by assault.
A FROM MANHATTAN
When I was sixteen I was raped in the back of my own car by my then boyfriend. I kept it hidden inside of me and it tore my life, and me, apart. Years later I still struggle with the fear and fallout from this and surrounding abusive treatment.
T FROM MANHATTAN
I’m a gay man who has never had a real relationship and I just turned 46. I don’t think or act 46. In my head I still feel 30. I’m panicking now about being old and ugly and never being able to do or have the youthful things I never got to do out of fear of rejection and ridicule and being single and alone while still longing for things that are not possible. It’s going to be torture to be trapped in an old body waiting for death with a mind that never matured and still thinks and wants like a young man’s mind. I’m frightened and depressed and don’t want to face the future.
E FROM MANHATTAN
I lost everyone I thought would be there during a difficult time period in a matter of a few weeks. While I try and try and try to be patient in finding the right psychiatrist, I truly just feel alone.
L FROM MANHATTAN
I'm having a hard time watching my family get old and grow apart. I miss the way it felt to be a little kid, playing outside everyday, enjoying school and not knowing what was going on in the world. I miss going for hikes with my parents, traveling with my family and doing things we all loved. My sister who used to know absolutely every detail of my life lives far very away and rarely even calls or texts, she hasn't been home in almost 2 years and I feel like she doesn't know who I am. She is growing more distant from my parents, who have given her everything she has wanted and it is really confusing for me. I know nothing would be how it used to if we were all in the same room again and I worry for when that will next happen. My parents don't know how to talk to me about important things in hopes of shielding me of what is going on in the family, I resent them for this act of sheer love and I hate myself for it. Sometimes I feel like I'm mourning my childhood, I feel lonely thinking about it.
A FROM MANHATTAN
My experience is not nearly as bad as many of the ones described here but a few years ago when I was 14 I got dressed one day to go shopping and felt super confident. I was wearing these cool blue pants I got that summer and I distinctly remember looking in the mirror and really liking how they looked. I even have a mirror selfie of the outfit. Anyway, I took the subway to the store and noticed as I left the station that a big man was following me. Naturally, my senses heightened as I detoured down one block and then another, trying to see if he would stop following me. Finally, after he was right behind me, I panicked and turned into the nearest store but as I did, he reached out and squeezed my butt. It wasn't until I was in the store that I fully processed what had happened but I went straight home and never wore those pants outside again.
C FROM BROOKLYN
6th grade. I was 12 years old. I had fewer than 5 menstrual periods all my life. I thought we were friends. We are lunch together and exchanged snacks. We sat next to each other in class and hung out together at gym class. One day in class, in front of our teacher — he suddenly grabbed me from behind without warning. I stood there in shock. My teacher looked at me wide-eyed and whispered, “Are you okay?” I was silent and just nodded. I never wore shorts to school ever again.
M FROM BROOKLYN
I still blame myself for my sexual assault. 16 years later. My partner still has to deal with its consequences. 16 years later.
S FROM MANHATTAN
On a vacation he attacked me while I was sleeping in the hotel room. My 7 year old son was also in the room. I locked myself in the bathroom until panic subsided then I took my son out to the car. We tried to drive away but couldn't. My son was terrified. I was numb. Family vacation.
Week of Monday, 05 April 2021
J FROM BROOKLYN
My parents had their homes broken into. They lived in one of the safest cities in America. It feels like you can’t be safe anywhere.
A FROM QUEENS
Oral sex was forced upon me by my older half brother from ages 3-5. He would have me suck his ear lobes, ask me to give him a kiss on the cheek just to turn at the last second so I would kiss his mouth. I can't hug him at holidays. His smell makes me feel sick. But I love him because he is my brother. I feel conflicted. It's affected my sex life. I jumped into having sex with boys who didn't value me. I have a great boyfriend now, but sometimes when we have sex I have these flashbacks and I want to scrub myself raw to get my brother off me. But he's not there, it's just in my head.
T FROM QUEENS
I miss chance encounters and hugs
O FROM STATEN ISLAND
It is me--don't you remember? The shell of an assaulted girl, waiting to crack.
O FROM STATEN ISLAND
His arms wrapped around my stomach before I memorized its patterns and grooves. Each day for months his hands went under my shirt. He groomed me. He told me things. I was not ready to hear them. I was assaulted, and no one knows. I am not sure they ever will. I have never felt at home in my body ever since. I like as a ghost--haunted by the secret that has defined me. And no one knows.
L FROM MANHATTAN
I'm hurting for my family who are far away and I cannot visit due to COVID. I fear for their safety every day. I'm afraid they will die before I can see them again.
J FROM BROOKLYN
When I was 12, my godmother wanted to take me shopping after she got off work and asked her husband to drive me to her office. Two blocks before her office, he pulled over and asked me to give him a kiss on the cheek for driving me here. I was confused and felt strange about it but I did it so I didn't seem like a spoiled child. As I leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, he full on grabbed my breasts. I was so shocked that when he asked for another one, I gave him a cheek kiss again - and he once again, grabbed my breasts. I didn't understand what just happened and he tried to ask me to lay my head on his lap so he could kiss me on my lips. I refused and demanded to sit in the back seat. He let me go and we continued on to my godmother's office and he asked to hold my hand til we reached her office. Even after my godmother was in the car, he would reach behind the seat to try to touch me. My mind was working so hard to try and understand, I felt so violated but I loved my godmother so much, I didn't want to hurt her by telling her about what her husband did to me. We went shopping and thankfully, he let us shop in peace - for the most part. I remember him creepily staring at us while we were in the lingerie department. That night, I went home and I cried. I didn't know what to do. I was filled with rage and I felt so violated. A week later, my mom oblivious to what happened, asked me to bring some things over to my godmother. I didn't want to but I also couldn't tell her the reason I didn't want to. They lived two doors down so it was a quick walk over, and of course when I knocked on the door, HE came rushing to open it. He had a sly smile on his face and he leaned out and whispered for me to give him a kiss. My anger from the past week boiled up and exploded. I leaned in and I told him in a profanity laced manner that if he ever even thought to touch me again, I would destroy his life. For years, I never said a thing. I kept the secret to myself. He, even now, will see me walking down the street and stare at me but he never dares to say a word to me. My godmother still has no idea to this day, and she is such a sweet woman that I can't bear to hurt her. I hate him for taking my innocence away. I grew up much earlier than I needed to and I will never forgive him for this.
I FROM QUEENS
What is happening has made me realize I am a victim of gaslighting. My family made me try to believe I wasn’t treated differently because I was Asian. My mother is white passing and does not comprehend that we have different experiences. My memories of verbal and sexual assault and harassment keep flooding back to me. I feel overwhelmed. I used to commute to high school, and I realized that I did not feel safe. On the first day I did not have to wear a skirt to school, I wore a dress and was sexually harassed. Even from the age of 14 people would assume I was a sex worker. I then began only dressing in masculine clothing so I would be ignored. I hated being a girl, hated it. I did not realize until later that I hated being an Asian girl. I was told to never talk back, not just told but screamed at, and that lead me to believe I could never speak up for myself. I thought no one wanted to listen.
A FROM QUEENS
I feel little glimmers of hope, but it’s still dark in here most days.
S FROM QUEENS
Once I was groped walking down to the subway. It happened so fast and I was so mortified I could not even confront my attacker. The shame I felt should not have silenced me...
T FROM BROOKLYN
I was molested by my older cousin on a weekly basis when I was 5-6. I tried to tell my aunt who was my caregiver at that time and who is also my cousin’s mother. She asked my cousin if he did it and of course he denied it. She believed him and never brought it up again. She was the most trustworthy person in my life at that time and I didn’t have the courage to bring it up to other family members. My brain kind of suppressed the memories until my college years when I started dating and it started to affect my relationship. I went to therapy and processed what happened as an adult. It’s getting better but I feel like I am still healing day by day. As a young Asian American, I still feel that this is a very taboo topic in Asian culture and it may bring shame to the family if I ever disclose it. I am hoping if I have any kids in the future, I will not ever make her and him feel this way no matter what happens to them.
Week of Monday, 29 March 2021
A FROM BROOKLYN
I carry the secret that I was raped at a party when I was 19 by a friend of a friend. I wish it hadn’t happened and I wish I had known then that I didn’t have to hide it.
J FROM BROOKLYN
How lucky that I haven't been raped? And yet my innocence was taken from me. Time after time after time a man made me feel weak and lost and confused and scared and disgusted. I still blame myself for answering the phone when I was 8. For not telling the police the dirty threats the man made over the phone. For being too repulsed to repeat them. Sexy talk is still revolting to me. Or the time the faceless boy rushed into the church basement bathroom and kept trying to get into my stall. Me, terrified while my parents prayed just down the hall. Or what of the time my so-called best friend rubbed his groin hard against me when we were playing hide and seek? Or the time the man rubbed his hard penis against my arm while I rode the packed bus? Remember the time the photographer with his lecherous eyes posed me for the senior portraits. I was silent each time, despite using my voice for others. No more.
G FROM BROOKLYN
I am so afraid of trying to find intimacy that I resign myself at 30 to be alone for the rest of my life. I struggle with society's view of me and the idea that in order to have anyone interested in me I must take off my scarf. I use preconceived notions of success to attempt pursue a career but I know that I want nothing more than to do nothing. I seem stoic but my life is an amalgamation of the fear that my dreams are too numerous and the time to limited, the world too big to accomplish anything.
C FROM BROOKLYN
I've been raped twice. It broke my mother's heart each time. I think about how paralyzing my trauma is, and the disappointment I feel when I think about my Vietnamese mother's struggle to come here to make a better life - just for me. I look in fear constantly because I think I'll run into those who have attacked me. I wonder when that'll stop.
C FROM QUEENS
It's really difficult to trust others in this environment...I don't see much hope for my professional career as my views clashed with the one widely shared by others that tend to like the system...mentioned above. And I'm very often afraid to meet those people when I get out on my own..
F FROM BROOKLYN
I am a survivor of sexual abuse. My older male cousin molested me when I was 12. What makes this even more complicated is that he is from the AAPI side of my family, so I often find myself struggling to accept that the source of my connection to this beautiful community also contains my greatest wound. I want to believe that there is a greater purpose, an opportunity to turn this pain into something creative and healing for others. I don't know what that is yet. But I hope for it every single day.
J FROM BROOKLYN
I grew up with my mom making comments about getting me eyelid surgery (to get double eyelids) and trying to make my nose bridge higher by wearing a clothespin on my nose. They were always said half-jokingly but also with enough seriousness that I knew if I ad said yes, she would have proceeded to do those things. I wasn't even in the 2nd grade yet when these ideas were drummed into my head. Come 3rd grade, we moved to California and I had already learned to hate my defining asian features. From my teenage years to adulthood, I feel like I floated around from place to place, with the weight of my internalized self-hate, seeking acceptance within western beauty standards. This led me to strange relationships with med, ones where I betrayed myself letting myself be fetishized for acceptance and adoration. This led me to many sexual encounters where I betrayed myself doing things I didn't want to do with people I didn't like because I liked acceptance. This led me to think I should feel a sense of flattery when people say, "You should meet my friend. He loves asians." All of this eventually led me to marry a white man who believed the model minority myth and when encountering asian tourists, would proudly tell me that I'm not like "those other asians". Someone who believed he could deny my experiences because he had dated enough asians to know better than I would. Someone who denied my individuality and told me my interests in <insert anything> were simply because I'm asian. What level of self-hatred had I sunk to? I'm no longer with him. This has all just been a reflection on how much self-hatred my upbringing bred in me. Also the recognition that the self-hatred was instilled in my mother with the glorification of western beauty standards. I can I even hate her from what she taught me? It takes a lifetime to unravel this and I am tired. Many of these memories bring up strong feelings of disgust and anger. The worst part is, sometimes I wonder if it's even more painful when people dear and close friends "innocently" make comments that remind me that I'm "other". Because that's so much harder to stand my ground on and I'm afraid of how far I'll let it eat away at me until I just feel broken.
M FROM MANHATTAN
What is my purpose? Why did I get to see life as it is. I liked being naïve. I wish I could unsee all that I've seen. Not being a bad bystander. Not letting them treat me when I was being hurt. But I am here, and my survival has to be my source of resilience. And finding that in all of us is what will bring change. Keep on moving.
Week of Monday, 22 March 2021
T FROM STATEN ISLAND
I have been thinking about all the times people have called me weak, or young, or a nerd, or didn’t see me as ready for leadership. When will the bias end? When can you see me for who I am?
J FROM QUEENS
What happened this week was a twisted act of racism, misogyny, and gun violence by a white man who sought to excuse his behavior as to a “sex addiction”. Garbage. To rub salt on our wounds, the county police captain had the gall to say this killer was just having a “bad day”. A bad fucking day. We’ve all had bad days this year. Terrible days. And not one of us has gone out to multiple immigrant businesses to shoot and kill multiple people.
Week of Monday, 04 January 2021
X FROM QUEENS
I can't even count all the amount of times that I have felt unsafe on the train when I was a high schooler. I always took the train hoping that no one would bother me, but sometimes that wasn't the case. The first instance was in my freshman year when I was sexually harrased by an older man. I was lucky to have people near me who actually said something. I always think about that moment.
H FROM MANHATTAN
It's hard to live in the world right now. It sounds selfish - I know I have a lot of privilege - but I still feel helpless and alone most days. I'm not sure when things (there are a lot of things I'm referring to) will get better. I really hope better times will come soon.