One of my favorite quotes is, “if you can’t handle my worst, you’re not getting my best”. It is true what people say…a true victim of sexual assault never forgets the injustice that has been done to them.
I am sharing my story with you here today. I may have pushed it far back into my memory. I now am tapping into it to share.
This is my story; I was sexually assaulted by my father at the age of thirteen and it continued until I was eighteen years of age. It was the darkest time of my life. I felt so alone and disgusted with myself. I started self-medicating with common cold medication, attempting to numb the pain. I had also resorted to self-harming, not eating,and even attempted suicide a few times. At this point in my life I was in high school. I was always the odd girl out. I did not do the normal things a teenage child would do. My mother had left my father with me, the oldest among my siblings, and I had to step up and play the mother-figure roll.
I was assaulted several times a week. I was terrified if I told anyone I would be beaten and made out to be a liar. I endured years of assault and abuse at the hands of my “so-called father”. I would cry myself to sleep every time an assault had taken place. I was afraid to fall asleep at night, in fear that if I did, something worse would happen. For years I would pray and ask God, “Why me? What did I do to receive such a horrible life?”
One day my father took me to the clinic with him because he wanted me to have an HIV test. This was shocking to me because I was not having sex. I was so scared of my father that I would completely stay away from all males at school and anywhere else. I did not want to add any more permanent marks to the extending ones. When he took me to the clinic, I got the most bone-chilling thing happen to me that could have possibly happened. At age sixteen, I found out I was HIV-positive. I sat in the clinic shocked and in self-denial. I thought my life was over. The nurse had asked me if I was sexually active; I told her no. I was so scared to tell her what was happening to me, but I could tell she knew something was wrong. I was so scared of what my father would do to me. I had seen him beat my mother multiple times in the past with her resulting in severe injuries. From that day onward, I would sleep in the same bed with my sister to attempt to stop the sexual assault. It did indeed work, but the physical abuse had gotten ten times worst. On Christmas, when I turned eighteen years, I finally built up the courage to run away from home.
After what would be my last serious physical assault, I ran away to my mother for help. She took me to my local police station where I proceeded to let them know what was happening to me. This resulted in no outcome; nothing happened to him. I went back to the clinic to see the nurse who I had previously seen. She was kind enough to offer me help and believe me when I told her what happened to me-unlike family members who told me I was lying and looking for attention. All they saw was a man who was taking care of his children because his wife left; Nothing more, nothing less. I was so mentally unstable and needed help. No help was given to me to help me cope, so I decided to seek help on my own.
I got better after starting medication. To this day, nothing has resulted in me confronting my father. I even had a counselor at the police station tell me that it was so sad that the system had failed me and she felt sorry for me. I used to feel sorry for myself until I was told by a nurse, “It’s up to you, some people find out they are positive today and by the end of the year,they are dead. It’s all up to you.”
I chose to live and be happy with my life. Some days are harder than others; Some days I find myself falling back into that tunnel of self-loathing and pity, but I just remind myself of how far I had come and how far I have left to go. I chose to help young ladies who may have been in the same situation as me.
To the ladies hearing this letter or reading it; I am you, you are me. I know your pain and struggles; you are not alone. We are our sister’s keepers; we need to stick together as one and be there for each other. Do not let anyone try to make you downplay your pain and struggle for their benefit. If anyone feels uncomfortable by you sharing your survival story then that’s a personal problem they have with themselves. I encourage all young ladies to share their stories. Now is the time to speak up. I hear you; We all hear you. Let’s work together to help each other heal and move on. To all the allies reading or hearing my story-thank you for your support.
– A Butterfly –