My Korean American Story: Gina Kim
I am a survivor of sexual abuse. At 8 years old, I was sexually abused by my mother’s brother-in-law. In 1997, when I was 21 years old, I was raped at knife point by a stranger in Seoul, Korea. Then, a few months later, I was date raped by a college acquaintance in Seoul, Korea. I was told often that I attract abuse and that I should be more careful. Did I attract my uncle, the rapist and the date rapist? I have come to understand that such sentiments are akin to blaming the victim. I now understand that I am not at fault for having been victimized.
I spent most of my twenties healing and trying to find ways to cope with my feelings of sadness, confusion and anger. I dated a lot of men, accumulated forty thousand dollars in debt, and repeatedly told myself, “tomorrow will be my last day of living so I can do whatever I want today”. I lived as though tomorrow would be my last day on earth. I would make promises to be somewhere and break them. I would call out sick for work a lot. And, I would jump from one relationship to the next without ever breathing. I didn’t breathe much in my twenties.
In 1999, I was diagnosed with major depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and was persuaded to take anti-depressants. This was the beginning of my road to healing. I searched for help but didn’t find anything that called my heart. However, I joined groups such as the Mt. Sinai Sexual Abuse Violence & Intervention Incest Survivor’s group as well as a group at St. Luke’s hospital. I had extreme highs and extreme lows and was further diagnosed as being mildly bi-polar. I told my doctors that I would only agree to take medication for a temporary period of time and that I firmly believed that medication was not a permanent solution to coming out of depression.
In 2003, I was introduced to the Landmark Forum which is a seminar on living an extraordinary life. I completed their curriculum and stopped taking all medication. I never took meds again. This is when my life was transformed from victim to empowered survivor. It didn’t happen overnight though. It was a journey of many failures and many successes and making many new friends along the way. I explored different forms of spiritual healing, yoga, therapy, life coaching, etc. However, the most powerful form of healing for me was found in the arts; acting and singing. I had been singing since I was a little girl but stopped in my twenties. Finding my voice through art helped me to ground my spirit and nurture hope for an amazing future.
I have taken a very different path than my other Korean-American friends. I did not get my Bachelor’s degree at twenty-one, didn’t save a lot of money, didn’t marry in my twenties or have kids, and I had been sexually abused. At one point, I made all that mean that I was the biggest loser and completely worthless and I let those feelings drive me to helplessness and depression. Today, my past does not define who I am. I define myself in the present by staying active and aware. I choose my life and how it goes. If you ask me if I’d change anything in my life, I would respond, “no…it was exactly the way it was supposed to be, I would not be otherwise.” I may have just practiced piano more and read more books.
Gina Kim is actively engaged in sexual abuse education through art. She founded an organization called ARIA (Awareness of Rape & Incest Through Art) in 2004 and raised money for Mt. Sinai’s Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Program, NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault and Safe Horizon. Gina was a volunteer for Bellevue Hospital’s Rape Crisis Program. Recently, she released her first play titled, “MISS KIM” in the New York International Fringe Festival based on events of her life. Future projects include a short film, reorganization of ARIA, and she will produce programming for the Stop Abuse Campaign, driving their presence in the New York International Film Festival 2011; selected as the official festival cause. She is also closely involved on a parenting research project led by a Columbia University professor; her focus is on “protectiveness” of children.