My father had abandoned my family when I was 8 years old . It’s been over 12 years and I have not seen him once from that day he left. From then on until now, I thought I needed the love of a man to fill the emptiness he left behind . When I was 11 my mother worked at in a small Latin shop where she was a cashier. She was extremely popular with all the different people she came across & one day she met a man from The store and brought him home. He quickly became a friend to our household & was trusting, loving & good company. He eventually became my mothers boyfriend even though he was 20 years younger than her. When I was 13 my mother couldn’t afford the apartment we lived in so we went on to live with him. “If anyone asks” she said, “he’s your cousin ” I didn’t hesitate or say anything against because he was my friend and I loved him and in him I saw the father figure I always wanted; and from that moment until this very day right now I would say he was my cousin. From the moment I entered middle school he would sexually assault and molest me whenever he had the chance to. Touching, groping, digitally assaulting me and making me preform oral acts. This went on for almost two years until I turned 15 and got a boyfriend of my own. Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant to be sexually assaulted, I didn’t think about it much until I turned 18. He had said he loved me and would protect me. He gave me whatever I wanted in return for things he wanted. I didn’t talk about it with anyone until now. I was in middle school when this happened. I’ll be 21 in March. It took me over 7 years to open up about what happened. I’m completely terrified to say any of this. All these years I kept it to myself because I thought I was wrong. I was so ashamed and disgusted with myself that I didn’t think anyone would talk to me or love me anymore. I felt like people would judge me or look at me different. My self esteem was to the floor and I had developed anxiety and chronic depression. But now I realize that I was wrong. It was not my fault first of all & I wish I could’ve opened up to someone or said it sooner or alerted someone. I kept quiet because I was afraid. Afraid of abandonment, and afraid that people would say I was lying because I wanted attention. They always said that about me. My biggest fear however was that if I told my mom she wouldn’t believe me. Sadly this past month I recently opened up to her about the events of what had happened and she didn’t believe me. She called me a liar and everything else you can imagine. That’s the relationship I have with my mother. But thankfully I received so much support from my best friend & sister, with them I found comfort and peace. In the end I learned that It was not my fault, all this time I acted like it never happened but it always haunted me. I pretended that, that part of my life didn’t exist at all. I always pushed it away but it kept coming back to me. All these years I said I had lost my virginity from a bad experience because I was ashamed of saying the truth. Keeping this locked up inside of me for more than 7 years is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. But now I want to speak up and let everyone know that they’re not alone, that there are people out here who know the struggle and that we are survivor . I am a survivor, I am not a victim. I made the mistake of keeping silent but I will no longer make that mistake regardless if anyone believes me, or sees me differently. I am strong & I am a warrior. I am breaking my silence. This did not define me but shaped me into the independent and strong woman I am.
— Survivor, age 20