Whether young or old, some women will always be a daddy’s girl, and no man can ever take their father’s place, but it is becoming far too common for young girls to grow up without their fathers nowadays. So what happens to these young ladies left without a positive male influence? Shade Ashani is our first feature in our newest section, Survivor.
The 26 year old is a Goodwill Ambassador to Gambia and founder of Kids International. Ashani is also the author of In Search of My Father, a memoir which tells of her experiences since her dad abandoned her family.
Since a young age, Ashani has always wanted to help others. At the age of 12, inspired by the movie, Annie and its main character, Ashani started her own non-profit, Kids International an organization for the betterment of orphaned children’s lives. When asked why an orphanage, Ashani replied, “Being an orphan is the hardest thing to overcome. I just could not imagine….”
A year after she had successfully founded her organization, Ashani’s father went away on a business trip. The trip which was supposed to last six months lasted twelve years until his death.
“When my dad left he took my self-esteem. ‘Why did he go?’ Eventually became, ‘Why wasn’t I good enough?’” Ashani confesses.
Ashani explains that by the eighth grade she was boy crazy, and began to rebel. She recalls putting on make-up and dressing for attention.“I did not know what I deserved.”
When she was fifteen, she started at a new private school. As the new girl, she was shocked and flattered to be invited to a party for one of the most popular male students there. For weeks she prepared for the occasion. Though the party went smoothly, after the party, while waiting on her ride, Ashani was suddenly shoved into a closet.
“At first I thought it was some kind of joke, and they had grabbed me by accident, Ashani says, “But as I waited my instincts began to tell me something was wrong.” Ashani describes her fears being confirmed when a male finally did enter the room and without ever saying a word sexually assaulted her.
For months Ashani told no one what happened. She did not want to trouble her mother and felt that it would only cause more stress at home due to the financial problems they were already having. Instead she decided to run away from home. She decided she would go to Baton Rouge, La by train but once at the bus station, she assumed that she would be caught.
“I decided I would lay down on the train tracks and end my life. Wait for the train to run me over, and I laid there for a while. The train tracks were like scorching hot. It was terrible. I saw the train coming… um…I was crying. I began to feel that there was something better. There was some point to all of this, all of this loneliness that I felt, and I felt like in my heart there was- there was a point to my life. There was a destiny for me, and I had to get up and get better, so I did. I got up before the train made it’s way over to me.”
Shortly after this suicide attempt, Ashani told her mother about her rape. She took a year off from high school and sought help. Apparently, she had snapped from the pressure of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although she and her family did pursue legal action against the young man who assaulted her, they were never able to able to find out his identity. He did not attend her school and it was assumed that he must have been a guest of someone who attended the party.
Since then Ashani, has graduated from Columbia University and now attends Tulane University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in Public Health. Her foundation is still going strong and she is currently touring and speaking and promoting her book, In Search of My Father. Ashani wants young women who have shared the same experiences as her, to know they are not victims but survivors.
“I would love to see young women take time for themselves to figure out what matters to them, what makes them happy, what makes them feel passionate and excited. I want them to seek that out before they look for love in another person. I want young women to remember that before they choose a partner, that they are choosing a hero for their children, no matter how unworthy that person may be of that title, that is how your children are going to view this person, so remember that when you choose a partner for yourself, and I want women to know that it is okay to have a long list of things to do in your life instead of just picking just one thing and thinking that is what you have to do for the rest of your life. Anything you want, you can do. You can be a teacher, a photographer, and a mom…”
In spite of her experiences with men, Ashani is no longer bitter. Upon noticing the mistakes she was making with men, she decided to take time for herself. She says for a year, she did not date but instead took time to herself. She made a list of the traits she would like her ideal spouse to possess, and surprisingly she found a suitable mate shortly after her year was up.