When I was 7 years old I was sexually abused by my 16 year old cousin until I was 9 years old. It’s hard to process if he was the first, but he was the last that I remember. For a long time I kept it a secret but even when I spoke up, I was still voiceless and shut down. No one talks about child sexual abuse, but it’s more common then we think. For a long time, I hated myself, I hated my story. It was a story of shame, of regret, of blame, and ownership of pain. It created a huge amount of low self-esteem as well as anxiety. Healing to me is a daily commitment. It’s a commitment to give myself space to not be good at it, a commitment to try, a commitment to be loving and kind to myself and those around me, a commitment to growth, and a commitment to cry. It’s a commitment to listen to myself and what I need. Sometimes I am not there for myself. I lean on my community and I trust those around me. The trauma of my youth motivates me to try to empower the voices of others and provide space for others to be heard. It motivates me to advocate against policies that affect the most vulnerable in our communities and if anything, bring them to center. I know the impact of being voiceless and not being heard. It is a part of my story. As I contemplate what it means to be a survivor and when I came to identify as one, it’s hard for me to know an exact moment. Experiencing abuse at such a young age led me to grow and define my world in way to accept all the things around me and what was happening to me. It defines who I am in a way that I don’t know how to describe.
It took me a long time to recognize that what happened to me was wrong and that I am worthy of love. It took me a long time to understand that what happened to me is more common then we as a society acknowledge. It doesn’t happen to some people or certain people. I speak up because at one point I thought it only happened to me but as I continue to share my story, I hear others. More and more people that I know, that I’ve come to love, who I appreciate, those I admire, and some people that I barely know have experienced sexual assault, abuse, and trauma. That is not okay. Its an epidemic. I want to remind everyone to hold space for our loved ones to remind everyone that holding space means “to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” I encourage everyone to accept and reflect that these occurrences are not foreign to our immediate communities. It’s difficult. We must have deep and real conversations with our children, friends, and our families about our truth and our histories to undo the practice of solitary healing that might be unwanted isolation. Start having these deep and real conversations and hopefully we can create some change.