Kleenex Designer Goes Public as Survivor of Sexual Assault

Share
Copy

Mau struggled with growing up in a dysfunctional Wisconsin family filled with emotional, sexual and physical abuse.

"I was trying to be as small and invisible as possible," she said. "Because I was afraid of males, I would prefer to spend lunch inside my locker. To me, this was normal behavior. When I was home, I would find places to go and hide so as not to be discovered."

As a child, she moved around, living in trailer parks, summer camp grounds and even a farmhouse without heat. Mau's father, who bought and sold used furniture, lived in another state with a girlfriend not much older than Mau. But she says he would return periodically to abuse his daughter.

She kept silent about her father's advances. "You never talk about it in school and you don't talk family business outside," she said. "I didn't even have the capacity to have friends. I kept very isolated … and you don't learn how other people live by comparison."

A perceptive teacher reached out to Mau. She invited the girl to go to her art room and work on project, building Mau's confidence and eventually making sure she applied for college scholarships.

Unhappy at home, Mau fell in love at 16. The minute she graduated from high school, she moved in with her boyfriend, who was also violent. "I picked someone who was going to repeat what I knew," she said of the abuse.

But she was "hell-bent" on going to college and it was there she found the support to eventually leave her abusive boyfriend.

One day, with only five minutes to go before finishing a project in the photo dark room, Mau told her fellow students she had to go home and prepare dinner for her boyfriend.

When they questioned her, she responded, "You don't understand, if I don't do this, I'll get hit…To me that was a normal expectation. He would allow me to go to school if I had Hamburger Helper on the table."

Those bystanders, her friends, empowered Mau to see things differently. "And that's where I got the courage and strength and understanding that I didn't have to live like that," said Mau. "It gave me the power to leave."

Later, when she sought professional help, a therapist shocked Mau by telling her, "Your parents didn't love you."

"It was the hardest thing for me and I thought this was a really cruel thing to say," she said. "But I realized, they had to teach me that was not love. I accepted that if someone loves you, they would not allow this to happen."

Today, Mau is happily married to "the most wonderful man on the planet" and has two children, aged 14 and 17. When she thinks about her rocky path to adulthood, she is grateful.

"I am living my dream," she said. "People think I am making this up, but one of the few branded things that came into my house was Kleenex and I thought these were little pieces of art and saved them. My dream was to design boxes.

"I didn't even get to go to the grocery store when I was little," she said. "Believe me, I do not take anything for granted. Every day I am surrounded by generous, kind people. When asked to donate one day of my time on how to brainstorm brand messaging and a name to help stop domestic violence and remove stigma -- I am 100 percent there."

Mau said working to create NO MORE was her first step forward.

"I am here, because no one stepped up for me," she said. "And my mom wasn't strong enough to stand up for herself. So I stand here for others."

To help or learn more, go to NO MORE.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
Leopard Cub Chills in a Basket
Odd Anderson/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: Left, actor/comedian Robin Williams arrives at the premiere of Monty Pythons Spamalot in this March 31, 2007, file photo; right, actress Mila Kunis arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of Third Person at Pickford Center for Motion Study.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images| Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
PHOTO: The koala was nicknamed Sir Chompsalot after the rescue effort.
Steven Kuiter and Michelle Thomas/Animalia Wildlife Shelter