Jess Crow is widely known for her captivating artistic woodworking. With a national epoxy line, sold-out classes across the country, and work in restaurants and offices worldwide, she has quickly become the leading expert on epoxy within the woodworking world. Jess is also an abuse survivor who grew up in remote Alaska on a secluded homestead. After 12 years of sexual abuse by her biological father and grandfather, she found her voice. She sent them both to jail to protect the younger girls in her family. Growing up in small-town Alaska and having two family members sentenced for sexual abuse was not easy. Jess turned to drinking, drugs, and self-harm to self medicate through the pain. Jess then became pregnant with her first daughter at 16 and had to learn how to overcome the cycle of abuse and drugs– this is part of her story.
What was it like surviving abuse?
Challenging. It has defined the way I love others, it has defined the way I parent and how I make friends. I am almost 42 years old now. Although I have broken the cycle, I still feel like I am an unlovable child seeking attention any way I can get it some moments. I have learned how to embrace those moments, pause through them, and evaluate them. It has come through years of self-induced pain, failures, loss, and, most importantly, self-growth.
Do you feel surviving abuse affected you in the long run or made you a stronger woman?
Yes, of course. There were times in my life that I felt I was “over it” and had moved through what my biological father and grandfather had put me through. Then I would see something or smell a particular scent, and it would set me right back to those feelings of terror. Through many years of therapy and self-guided care, I have learned that to overcome, for real, you’ve got to acknowledge what happened to you. While I had great therapists, they didn’t teach me that sex isn’t love. For me, I only learned that sex is not love much later on in life when I was forced to become stronger and make better choices. That is where strength comes from– learning how to define yourself through you, not through others’ eyes.
What advice do you have for someone going through similar experiences in life?
One size does not fit all when it comes to healing and therapy. I was a “cutter,” and then, as mentioned above, confused someone wanting me sexually for someone loving me. Depending on the type of abuse you lived through, Frankly will play a part in dictating what therapy will work best for you. Don’t be afraid to find a new therapist; don’t be ashamed if you’ve made mistakes in love and relationships because you have to start from scratch and learn what a relationship is. Abuse changes you in ways that will forever shape you. Some days you may be at peace with who you are; some days, you may hate who you are. Some days these days will all be the same day. As a society, we have shifted to an “always be positive, always stay strong…” mentality. I feel this has caused abuse survivors to fall right back into the trap of keeping secrets and hiding how we truly feel sometimes– scared and alone, confused and ashamed. Doesn’t mean we are not incredible, strong, trying, and doing the steps to break the cycle. It just means we have had a wrong moment, and it is okay to have them.