On My Own Terms – I needed to feel safe and in control to face my past.

For the most part, my childhood is a blur, but I remember being about 7 and my uncle feeling on my backside when I was asleep. That’s when my hell began. At the time, I lived with my uncle and my mom, who was deep into an addiction. My baby sister slept in her crib. I lay on my top bunk feeling scared and confused.

I first told my story when I was 14 and spent the night at a close friend’s house. I loved being around her family and we’d always speak about how great it would be if we lived together. My friend’s mom was also a foster parent. I wanted to tell her what was happening to me, not so there would be an investigation, but so her mom would quietly push for me to live with them. I wanted to leave my house. I wanted to leave my hell. But mostly I wanted to get away from my uncle’s abuse without everyone knowing my secret.

Cornered, Not Saved

Things did not go as I’d hoped. Her mom overheard our conversation and went to the school. The school called child protective services. I’ve never been more scared in my life than the day I had to tell CPS what was being done to me for so many painful years. I felt cornered into telling my story.

The CPS workers, doctors and police wanted me to write my story down in detail. It was a nightmare. They didn’t just want me to write what was happening. They wanted thorough details about when, how he was touching me, where, how far it would go, how far I thought it could go. They wanted me to write whether I thought my grandmother knew. I even remember being asked if I had enjoyed it. I was mortified. I wanted to vomit. I felt dizzy. It was like I was outside my body, watching what was going on.

In foster care, I still didn’t get what I wanted—to feel safe, to have privacy, to feel that my life was under my control. I was sent to speak with counselors and therapists but I hated people knowing what I went through. It was nasty. I felt nasty. So I chose to quit therapy and not talk or think about it ever again. No one would know my pain if I didn’t show I had any. If I didn’t think about it, it wouldn’t bother me.

Trying Again

Shortly after I went into foster care, I met a boy named Brian. When I realized that he was the same boy I’d had a crush on in elementary school, a bit of my innocence came back.

Brian’s family also took me under their wing. When I got pregnant, at 16, Brian’s mom never made me feel like I had to do anything about the baby. She simply asked what I wanted to do. When I decided to keep the baby, she became my legal guardian and I soon moved in to her home. She even let me have the upstairs apartment. For the first time since I was molested, I began to feel protected and had a sense of control over my life.

Memories Can Hide

Now, 12 years later, my oldest is 11 and I have another son who is 18 months.

Recently, though, I’ve found myself constantly thinking about the things I put so much effort into trying to forget. Six months ago I joined a leadership training and started helping out at a support group for parents whose children had been placed in foster care. Time after time I found myself listening to women who had gone through what I did, or whose children did. Hearing their stories brought me back to the top bunk each time.

Anxiety took over listening to others speak. I was surprised to realize that memories can hide for a while without disappearing. That’s when I decided to write my story for Rise. Through writing my story, I hoped to gain some freedom from the things I lived.

Writing My Story

For me, writing my story has been easier than speaking about it. I think that if I’d gone to therapy to talk about it, it would have reminded me too much of being in court where I’d had to talk. I never felt obligated to keep writing, and if I felt too overwhelmed, I would take a break. I felt like I was in control.

It is important to me that I am writing for others, too. I hope to help others speak up if something is wrong in their home, or to know how to respond if a child is in pain. I was a very quiet child and no one ever bothered to ask me why. Maybe if they had, it would’ve saved me years of being molested. And if the foster care system had asked what I needed when I spoke up instead of taking over and taking control, I would’ve been spared more pain.

I’m proud that even though I live with memories, they haven’t consumed my life. I fear every day that someone might hurt my boys. That’s natural, I guess, when you know the ugly of the world. But my boys don’t know it. They laugh loud and smile big. That makes me feel proud.

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