Healing after sexual assault is a journey that presents itself in many forms. It is often deeply personal, but sometimes there is strength to be found in reaching out to other survivors.
Morgan Klinkowski, 23, is three years into her own journey. There was a time when her life was in shambles and she felt as if she was bogged down in the mud.
However, in recent months, Klinkowski has tapped into the strength her mother demonstrated when she finally broke the news to her — 10 months after she was raped by Jason Relopez, someone she considered a friend.
Klinkowski said her mom turned to her with conviction and said, “You are so strong, and so beautiful, and so capable — you are going to get through this.”
Those words have since become the premise for Strong Beautiful Capable, a newly formed nonprofit centered on the lotus, a flower that emerges from the murky waters of adversity to bloom and inspire others — no mud, no lotus.
Klinkowski was raped in 2014, but her first experiences with telling people were not met with acceptance, so for nearly a year after, she kept her secret until she heard the awful words: He did it again.
Within 30 minutes, she said, she was seated in the Logan City Police Department where Det. Brandon Bevan didn’t just take her report, he made her feel heard for the first time since she was sexually assaulted.
Relopez was charged and convicted in 1st District Court and ordered to serve jail time until he was accepted into the Northern Utah Community Correctional Center for treatment.
“My body had been used as a tool without regard for the soul that was inside,” Klinkowski said.
While she grappled with that reality, she eventually immersed herself in her education, something that allowed her to have dreams again and see a future Morgan.
“If I quit, I let everyone down, and I felt like I had already let them down by allowing it (the sexual assault) to happen,” she said.
Klinkowski, who has nearly completed her undergraduate studies in physical fitness, started competing in Spartan races, and in August last year, she entered the Beast, a half marathon with 38 obstacle courses that tested her strength more than she thought possible.
During that state of exhaustion, Klinkowski said her mother’s words came back to her.
“You are so strong, and so beautiful, and so capable — you are going to get through this.”
In that moment, Klinkowski said she knew her journey had to include empowering other women.
“Every woman deserves love, strength and beauty, and the opportunity to know they are capable,” she said.
In the short term, Klinkowski plans to establish a scholarship for sexual assault victims so that when they are ready to focus on education, finances are a little less of a worry.
Her website, www.strongbeautifulcapable.org, features hats and shirts with a lotus flower emblem, with all proceeds funding the scholarship — but why stop there?
This weekend, the USU hockey team is donating a portion of all ticket sales to Strong Beautiful Capable. While the team is in the rink playing against Weber State, Klinkowski will be participating in the Miss Utah International in American Fork.
The weekend pageant is the second for Klinkowski, who says she is not a “girly girl” at all. She competed in the Miss Cache Valley pageant in November, where she went against the grain and deadlifted 245 pounds as her talent.
Word of her nonprofit spread, and she was invited to Miss Utah International, where she will run on her platform, Strong Beautiful Capable.
In time, Klinkowski said she hopes to establish a resource center where sexual assault victims will find everything they need for their own journeys in one location.