Trigger Warning: This blog contains sexual abuse
I remember the legal process more than the trauma itself. I’ve come to appreciate that memory loss, a defense mechanism that I’ve had a love-hate relationship with for the past decade. I was young, sitting in a large conference room whilst a woman in a pantsuit explained to me that the large glass wall mirroring my scared face hid a panel of people watching from behind.
I’ve loved writing since high school, but I avoided it at all costs. Same with reading. To this day, I have a writing minor and yet, I shy away from my pen at any given chance. I was afraid of the language, that words could ever explain the true terror of living afraid of my dreams. I struggled to read other survivor stories, avoiding the idea that I had my own to tell. Avoiding the fact that I was a survivor.
For years in my elementary days, I was abused and taken advantage of by my grandfather. Busy work schedules, long commutes, and trust contributed to my brother and me spending most of our time under our grandparents’ control. Not to mention my grandmother taught at my same elementary school. Every day, I was faced with someone that I innately trusted, a family member, who used fear to dictate my understanding of our relationship. When I was in the third grade, I told one of my friends something that inevitably fell in the lap of our social worker. I remember the night I came home vividly. I didn’t want to admit anything because I thought it was my fault, that I was doing something wrong. I’m so glad I told somebody.
The following days foreshadowed the obstacles that would arise for the rest of my life. I lost an entire family. Never again would they send a card that included my name. I lost my innocence. My family would never comfortably address sex with me. I lost my vulnerability. I could never tell my story again without fear of judgment. It wasn’t for another five years until I began to understand. Then it got worse, sometimes better, and ultimately, became one of my biggest motivators. It wasn’t always easy, or ever, and it never will be. Every single day is a choice, a commitment to learn and grow bigger.
Building a Future
When I got to college, I came face to face with my trauma all over again. Alone and needing to make friends, I realized I had no trust in people. I didn’t even have an interest in growing close to anyone. I fought every day to get out of bed, to try. One morning I decided to research some family members I never had the chance to get to know. Their backgrounds and history shocked me. Countless of my aunts, uncles, and cousins had made history doing the same work I had a passion for.
On a whim, I reached out. Before I knew it, I had plans to meet an aunt and cousin who lived in the same city I studied in. The week leading up to it was debilitating. I didn’t attend classes or interact with my roommates. I had a huge fear I would have to live through abandonment again. But I took the chance and went. And so began the long process of fighting for the family that was taken from me. It has been worth every moment.
While I have not overcome my sensitivity to touch, or my tendency to shut down completely when I am faced with my fears, I have come to love the person I am. I am, a powerful reminder I have my own story to tell, one not dictated by anybody. I am a survivor. I am making my own path. I am driven and accomplished. I am.