Hope

As a child, your imagination is unstoppable; it’s what keeps you alive. The creativity that you conjure expands with no limits. Often times, unforeseen events creep into your life which clogs the flow of your abilities. Now, you wear a mask to face the world in front of you. I remember all the good that happened to me when I was seven; constantly drawing, writing in my diary, and the laughter shared with others. However, what I experienced one day by my uncle –whom I trusted with every fiber in my body, will remain engrained in my memory forever.

I was sick which rendered me weak. My uncle entered the room to check up on me –or so I thought, but instead, asked me if I wanted to play a game. Given that my brother and cousins were in school, I was bored; and so I agreed to play, unaware of the dangers that lay ahead. He whispered in my ear that the game was called Silence. He began playing the game by taping my mouth shut, as well as his. With all my imagination and creativity constantly coursing through my body, little did I know that what I thought was a harmless game, was about to strip away my innocence.

His weight was all on me, I could not get away; I couldn’t scream. The overpowering pain I endured had me shocked into a state of helplessness. What felt like the duration of my years on this Earth, lasted only a few minutes. Once he finished, he removed the tape and I screamed the only way I knew how: with all the power my body manifested inside. The stinging pain of his hand striking my face and yanking my hair left me voiceless. In a devilish voice –with his breath too close to my cheek, I was told “Stay silent, or Ashley is next”. At this exact moment, a tidal wave of fearsome realizations crashed into me. Ashley was more than just my older cousin, she was my best friend; my sister. I couldn’t fathom the thought of her innocence being taken away the same way as mine. One half of me may have been shattered, but I was not going to let my other half become shattered as well. Thinking that I was protecting Ashley, I listened to him. Afterwards, in a tone that reeked of dominance and superiority, my uncle said “We are going to put the sheets in the wash. If the blood stains don’t fade away, just tell your mother you had a nose bleed.”

My head was spinning, my legs shook, and the pain in not only my body, but my heart left me numb to the core. All the imagination and creativity I once felt, was gone. I was left in a state of loss –feeling paralyzed but able to move, senseless but conscious, benumbed yet overwhelmed with emotions. Once the sheets were in the wash he brought me back to my room. With a smile of accomplishment and arrogance on his face, he gave me a lollipop –a symbol that I was still a child. Right before he walked out, he said four words that still make me cringe “you’re still beautiful Princess”.

About an hour later, my brother came home from school. He found me drowning in tears. Many questions were asked, but I lied and said I was crying from feeling so sick. However, I was sick; sick of what just happened. I was told to just “suck it up”. That fearful night, I chose to wake up my brother and tell him everything. We both became rattled with fear, yet we promised not to tell anyone; he too felt it would protect Ashley.

A few days later my aunt had told us she was moving; my cousins would no longer be close to my home. My world felt dried out, my home broken. My family moved to the upstairs apartment where my aunt had been living. My brother and I ended up in separate rooms; no longer comforted by his safety in my nights filled with nightmares instead of dreams. He became so angry with me and I got blamed for my cousins moving. He thought I gave way and said something –leading my aunt to move so that nothing would happen to her daughter.

When I had my first sleep over at her new house, I wanted her to help me. Help me understand why terrible things happen to the innocent, why she left, have her help me escape from this wrath of suffocating fear and memories! I craved the comfort of healing. I was told that she moved to raise her children in a better environment. Angrily and pleadingly, I responded “So why wouldn’t you help me be in a better environment!” She could tell something was wrong, yet I refused to speak upon what was tearing me apart.

My mind felt scattered; filled with self questioning.

Why did my uncle do this to me?

Why won’t my brother believe me?

Why can’t I go back in time?

Why can’t I just live a normal life?

Will I ever feel like I used to?

I didn’t feel like an ordinary seven year old girl anymore. Seeing as the only person who I confided in wouldn’t speak to me, I thought everyone else would do the same. So I continued the game, I remained silent. I would wake every morning in hopes that it was all just a nightmare. Loneliness became my best friend because I allowed myself to be hidden.

Never did I think that others may be going through worse. I only saw and felt my own agony; only until I met a girl who felt like my long lost sister. Her name was Aisa and during my middle school years, we were inseparable. She showed me the realm of her childhood, which resulted into me finally being able to release mine. It was as if we saw each others’ soul. Aisa explained to me what constituted as rape and here I was, having no clue that what occurred to me even had a name.

A remarkable friendship formed a sisterhood woven together by strength, empowerment, and hope. We knew one another like the palm of our hands. We took every class together; faced guidance counselor sessions that left us drained together.

Aisa tried her hardest to have me control my anger the way she was. It didn’t work, mainly because I wouldn’t try. Slowly we both drifted away and stopped helping each other in certain areas. Our sisterhood was gone, there was nothing left; and my hope left with it.

Throughout my teenage years, I would allow men to treat me how they wanted rather than how I deserved. When it came to being sexually active, I let myself be controlled by whoever I was in a relationship with; only, never did I enjoy any of it. Young and lost I just thought I had no worth…See, in my confused mind, I assumed that if I allowed this to happen, then maybe I could forget everything; yet my mind wouldn’t stay silent. Instead, it roared until it left me drained of energy. Eventually, I thought to myself “How does anyone find this enjoyable?” I would feel disgusted with it all, but I was still determined to have my dumb theory work so I can forget. But I was just an actress because in reality, I wasn’t forgetting. I was picturing that seven year old girl, and I wanted it to be over. It took me a while to realize that what I assumed would expunge that petrifying experience, was most definitely not working. You can never forget an event like that. It took away your innocence, altered your view on the world forever, and took everything you knew and threw you into the realm of the unknown; the realm no child should ever have to enter. There is no forgetting; only feeling continuously numb until that numbness turns into moving on, strength, hope, rising up to acceptance and self-empowerment, courage.

It saddens me that so many people have these nightmares and continue living them. They are victims of rape but remain silent. These sexual abuses of our bodies leave us with no voice, only a cursed memory that haunts us daily until it twists the life out of you. Many of us destroy our future since it’s wrecked our past. I chose to claim my life back. His monstrous actions will never define who I am as a woman. They will never label me and he has failed at breaking the woman I have become.

I will not play the game anymore! If this resonates with you or anyone you know, please know that you are never alone within this journey. You do not have to shake hands with the devil; nor do you have to keep your voice silent. Share your story, even if it is just to one individual who you trust for support. As said by Danielle LaPorte, “your scars are someone else’s signs of HOPE.”

If you are or know someone who is suffering from sexual assault, please call this number for 24/7 support:

National Sexual Assault Hotline:

1-800-656-HOPE (4673 )