Today we’d like to introduce you to Dawn Marie.
Hi Dawn, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I am a vocalist with regular clients, including the former president. I was a model and actor in NY in the ’90s with spots on Law and Order and Sex and the City. I’ve hosted dozens of infomercials. I’ve been on magazine covers. I am a former Ms. Florida and Ms. United States. All fun and exciting, but I consider my most important and meaningful work to be that of Bullying and Human Trafficking Prevention. I have spoken at schools, foster homes, group homes, and mens/adult groups for the past 20 years. I have spoken on Bullying Prevention at almost all Palm Beach Middle and High Schools doing grade level or school-wide assemblies. In 2010 I was awarded by the Palm Beach County School District for my work in Bullying Prevention. Most recently, I was awarded the prestigious “Giraffe Award” for Philanthropy by the Palm Beach Women’s Chamber of Commerce for my work in Human Trafficking Prevention. I am an activist for these causes because I am a survivor of bullying and child sexual abuse and exploitation.
In middle school, I was held down and beaten in the bathroom by girls. Boys would punch me in the stomach in hallways. A boy seated next to me in the 4th grade molested me for the entire school year. My mother and school teacher did nothing to help me. Fellow students put tacks in my snow boots so that I’d get injured when changing out of my shoes. I was called vulgar names. During gym, girls took turns throwing balls at me. I sat alone at lunch. I was taunted on the bus. Boys brought me dog biscuits because my hair was frizzy and they said I looked like a dog.
At home, I faced a different set of bullies within my family. My father was violent. My mother escaped with my brother and me to a battered women’s shelter when I was four. At five, I was lured into a car in our neighborhood and made to perform a sex act on a stranger. I went on to be molested by my mother’s boyfriend. When I told her, he admitted to what he did to me, but she let him stay. Later it was a babysitter. When I told my mother, she said he didn’t charge her, so it continued. Around that same time, my uncle masturbated in front of me and later molested me. By the time I was 15, I had been sexually abused by more men than I can count on two hands. In every instance, my survival response was to freeze or pretend it wasn’t happening. When I tried to tell my mother or other family members, I was scolded for not fighting back.
Not being believed, rescued, or defended and not being able to talk about these experiences openly with the people I trusted caused a great deal of confusion and shame. I have also suffered with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, and insomnia my whole life.
Three years ago, I found an amazing therapist who helped me process the shame I carried, the anger and sadness I felt towards those who did nothing to protect me, and the rage I felt for those who harmed me. Speaking at schools on Bullying Prevention has given me the voice I never had. Helping kids feel heard and understood has eased a lot of old pain. Taking on the cause of Human Trafficking has also been pivotal in my healing journey. The only way to end child trafficking is to stop the demand for sex with minors. I feel I am making a difference by speaking at men’s groups to change attitudes about sex and how harmful the objectification of women is. When I am educating kids on how to stay safe from predators, I feel I am rescuing the little girl that was me.
My website, along with educational videos I produced, can be found at my website: www.shineassemblies.com. I also run a Facebook Group: Human Trafficking Heroes of Palm Beach County. We share information on keeping kids safe, offer support for survivors, and organize events that raise awareness in our community.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Doing this work is rewarding but can also be very triggering. Telling my story on TV or in a radio interview with a person who is not trauma-informed can cause a downward spiral into depression or anxiety. Hearing the stories of kids going through what I did can sometimes make me feel powerless. I want to rescue everyone. This can be exhausting. I have had to find ways to step back and give myself a break from it.
The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
I took note of how feeling manipulated, lied to, or not being given accurate information by leaders was triggering. I took it very personally. Then I observed what this did to people collectively. It has been interesting to observe how people have reacted and coped with this pandemic in different ways. I try to have compassion for all the reactions I see (including how this has been politicized) even if I don’t agree.
- If it is a corporate event that requires travel, my fee is $1000 per one hour engagement with travel and lodging expenses included.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.shineassemblies.com, www.musicbydawnmarie.com
- Instagram: dawnmarie_singer_speaker
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dawnmarie.alba.vocalist
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu5CAGUPIwu0xoNPO47yOTA
The last photo is State Attorney Dave Aronberg leading a pledge to protect women and girls from exploitation. I invited him to do so for this event I organized just before the pandemic.