When Jane was about 9, her mother drove her and her friend to a Houston strip mall. She told Jane there was something dirty on their bodies that needed to be cleaned. There, in an empty room, a woman subjected them to female genital mutilation.
“I remember feeling pain for a good three weeks after that. I was continuously bleeding, it hurt to use the restroom,” Jane, who is now 28, said. “It was never something that was discussed even after it happened.”
Jane, who spoke anonymously to protect her family’s identity, is one of a growing number of American survivors breaking the silence on the centuries-old practice of FGM. Despite reports of FGM being performed on Americans, in December a Michigan district judge struck down a federal ban on the practice, leaving girls in many states at increased risk. In April, President Trump’s Department of Justice ignited outrage by declining to appeal the case.
VICE News talks to survivors turned activists about how they are advocating for change and providing safe spaces for others like them.