It's like "eating food without actually tasting any flavor." That's how a 31-year-old D.C. woman, a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) described how sex feels to her.
Aisha K. Kamara may have been born in D.C., but as fate had it her story took an unimaginable turn at the tender age of nine.
She remembers the day clearly -- the day her life forever changed that is. No matter the age or place "there are some things you never forget," Kamara humorlessly laughed.
Kamara was staying with her grandmother in Sierra Leone at the time and was so excited to go visit her great grandmother. At least that's where she believed they were headed that day. Little did she know she was headed to a tiny hut in the very rural area of the country to "become a woman."
"We pulled up to this little hut. There were three ladies inside."
A total of five girls would experience the same unfortunate fate as the young Kamara. The youngest girl was 6 and the oldest was 11. Of those five girls, one of their lives would come to a tragic end after losing too much blood from the FGM.
As for Kamara, the customary festivities scheduled to happen after the FGM had to be put on hold because she too was losing too much blood and had to be sent to the hospital.
Fast forward to 22 years later, Kamara is living and working in D.C. all while battling to leave her past behind. But leaving it all behind is proving to be challenging even when it comes to things considered to be the social norm.
For years the FGM survivor suffered silently because she had nobody to talk to, including her friends who would discuss sex and talk about how enjoyable it was.
Consider not being able to enjoy having sex with your husband and for the longest time not understanding why. FGM is one of the reasons Kamara's marriage came to an end.
"My marriage didn't just end because of FGM but it was also because he felt sorry for me. He had a wife who didn't want to partake in anything sexual. We had a lot of tug of wars. I would make him feel bad because it hurt."
Kamara said even though her and her ex-husband got married very young, she believes the outcome of her marriage could have been different if she had known what she was dealing with.
But it wasn't until the age of 18 when she got pregnant that she really started to question what the problem was. To make matters worse even the doctors had no idea what they were dealing with during her first pregnancy.
"I felt like crap. The doctor would come in, then go get more doctors, experts and students and nobody knew what was wrong with me." Kamara said.
Not having medical facilities and doctors who have a good understanding of FGM is problematic and something that can only be changed by raising awareness.
And raising awareness is exactly what Kamara is focused on and it starts with her two girls. She is a mother of an 11- and 7-year-old.
"My number one goal is to make sure my kids never go through this. They are well aware and very sad. But I assure them that it will never happen to them. With my children, it stops with me."
Though the topic continues to be taboo amongst several cultures Kamara feels "tremendously blessed to be able to talk about it."
At this point in her life Kamara is more at ease when it comes to sharing her traumatic past. However, there is one person she will never discuss that day with -- her grandmother.
"I love and care about my grandmother. In her eyes, she was doing what she thought was best for me. I've never had a heart to heart conversation with her and don't plan on it. I don't want her to go to the grave with something like this."
Kamara stated that time is limited and her grandmother is going on 90. She wants to make sure the relationship ends on a positive note.
"It's just unfortunate that this happened. It was just the culture we were brought up in. If she had known better, she wouldn't have done it."
Despite bumpy roads and naysayers, Kamara will continue to speak up and hopefully save other girls both locally and internationally from facing the same fate.
"It's the cutting season...the summer time. If I can stop that, I don't care who looks at me funny."
The FGM survivor explained that she does not want anyone to feel sorry for her.
"I'm trying to be strong. I like to be strong. This isn't the end of my story. I don't want people to think this is my whole story."
Come next year, this chapter will come to an end.
"After my reconstruction surgery, that's the end of the chapter. Nine to 31."