23-year-old poetess Rupi Kaur hosted her very first TEDx Talk last week in Kansas City. Kaur, who first inspired us in 2014 with her best-selling book Milk and Honey and filled our social media feeds with words of inspiration and vulnerability, began her talk with a spoken-word performance about her body as a home that feels robbed after sexual assault.
Her voice is smooth and soft around the edges, each gesture of her hands graceful, but her words are a punch to the gut: “All the different parts in me turned the lights off, shut the blinds, locked the doors. I hid at the back of some upstairs closet of my mind while someone came and broke the windows. You, someone, kicked the door in. You took everything. You, someone, took me.”
Kaur’s poem of trauma resonates with those who have been the victims of sexual violence, not just the physical scars and sicknesses but the unspoken moments of pain: “When you broke into my home, it never felt like mine again.” Yet, her words are also ones of healing. In a time when victims are still shamed for their suffering, Kaur brings relief: “I can’t blame me for having a hole the size of your manhood in my chest anymore. It’s too heavy to carry your guilt. I’m setting it down.” It takes years, but Kaur finds a home in herself once again.
TedxKC’s theme this year was "Question Everything Better." Rupi Kaur’s question is a simple, yet heavy one: “What happens when your home, when your body, is attacked?”
Kaur doesn’t limit her question to sexual abuse. She includes domestic violence, bullying, living with disease, living displaced as a refugee, suicide and feeling as though you were born into the wrong body. These are all moments of homelessness, when you feel like you are occupying the space of yourself like a rentor, and they are ones many of us understand or have experienced first-hand. Rupi shares her own struggles with body image such as showering in total darkness and resorting to acts of self-harm.
Rupi answers her question with a solution that always sounds easy but is usually much harder in practice: you let yourself heal, you nuture your mind and your body with acts of love. For Kaur, it was the writing that would later fill the pages of Milk and Honey that was her greatest act of survivial.
Watch Rupi Kaur’s moving Ted Talk on reclaiming her body through poetry here. (Note: Her talk begins at 01:09:30 and includes stories of explicit sexual abuse which may be triggering to survivors.)
Photos via Rupi Kaur's Instagram
More from BUST