Writing this piece is more difficult than I ever thought. My emotions go crazy every time I look back. It still hurts. I still feel humiliated and powerless… but today is different. You see, my dear Isa, my pain is evolving, and I’ve finally accepted that every experience, good or bad, has something to teach you. Applying that learning makes you wiser to face the endless string of challenges that make up your life.
I procrastinated the process of healing myself long enough until the weight was too heavy to carry. The few times I spoke out, I felt like a victim, and it didn’t feel good sharing any details. Over and over, I ended up crying and feeling helpless when reviewing in my mind the flashes of that afternoon.
To me, breaking silence means that I am recovering my inner power and saying to the world: yes, that happened to me, but it doesn’t define me, and it is not strong enough to break me. I have millions of good and more important memories that make me the person I am today.
I haven’t faced my aggressor, and I have decided not to as my healing process is only centred around myself. I decided that there is nothing he could say to make me feel better, and I don’t care about his reasons. Now, it’s time to work on me, therefore any consequences for my aggressor if someone he knows reads this is not my concern. I must admit, I would love to see him facing legal repercussions for his crime. But I am at peace with the fact that it happened a long time ago; I don’t have any proof, and my testimony wouldn’t be enough in court.
I would like to help any person who reads this article who maybe is going through the same thing. My dear Isa, I wanted to tell you my story and emphasise that you are not alone. You just need to use your voice to defend yourself and look up for help when necessary. If something like this has ever happened to you, please look for help because you will need it. If you want to heal and allow yourself to live new experiences in total fulfilment, without past burdens that make you cry in your moments of loneliness… I think you will need a professional to walk with you through this to correctly guide you.
This is my story…
I was 6 years old, the oldest of 2 sisters (at the time). I lived with my parents and my uncle on my mother’s side, who was aged approximately 18 – I don’t remember exactly. Our house was located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of the city. My days were busy helping my mum with the housework and taking care of my baby sister who was 1 year old. My mom wanted to buy a dress for my sister’s christening, and she thought it would be a good idea to leave her older daughter in the care of her brother. I don’t blame her; we lived in one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia and managing 2 small kids would have been a challenge for any person.
I don’t have clear images of what happened. I just remember that he suggested playing “the queen and king”, and I was happy to be the queen. Soon things turned out weird when he said that the “kingdom” needed kids. So, the king started to undress the queen… he took advantage of my innocence. I have a few flashes of what happened, and every new memory is more painful than the previous one. To revive it during my therapy was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I went to therapy for the first time in my university years, but it didn’t work. I think that was because I kept some details to myself to hide the shame of being abused. My second and final therapy took place 34 years after the event; this time, I shared everything, every single detail I could remember, it was extremely helpful to me and my therapist as we discovered together that even as a kid who didn’t know about sexual relationships, I did what I could to resist the abuse as much as possible.
It was difficult to accept that as a kid, in a vulnerable position, you maybe feel as though you don’t have the knowledge or physical strength to undermine an adult. I didn’t punch him or yell… he was in control. And the things would happen as far as he decided it. You see Isa, my experience is not better or worse than any other. Every day, you see horrible cases of rape on the news that break your heart. I often compared my testimony with others, and I thought it wasn’t significant enough to think or speak about. Let me tell you, every experience is different, and any kind of abuse is important enough to look for help. Especially if the abuse is inflicted on kids.
I was inappropriately touched by a person I trusted, a person my parents trusted, and I continued to be in danger as this person lived with us for many more years. I don’t remember why I didn’t tell my mom at that time. Still, I remember the feeling of shame, confusion, and humiliation. Those feelings were with me during my childhood.
My secret was safe until one day, I came home from high school, and I found my very same uncle in a room with one of my younger sisters. My mom had left one of her children alone again. I didn’t see anything suspicious at the time, but just the idea of them being alone gave me the strength to speak with my mom and tell her my secret. I was expecting her strong reaction, but she didn’t do anything about it. After 34 years, I still don’t understand what happened, why she didn’t believe me… why she didn’t protect her family.
When I was around 12-15 years old, another uncle came to our home. This time my father’s brother, I remember he hid under the veil of helping me with my math and trigonometry homework from school. But he was an abuser too. This time, I was older, and I understood the danger of letting men approaching me. So, when he told me that I was being followed by a gang that wanted to take my virginity and assigned himself the role as my saviour who would take it first to avoid me being kidnapped by those monsters, I didn’t believe a word, and immediately I told my mom. I don’t know what she did this time, but my uncle never brought up the subject again.
During my teenage years, I was subject to “light” touching when my uncles decided to grab my behind every time I opened the door. I let it pass a few times, but one day I got angry and told them that I would inform my father and everyone else in school, even the police if that continued to happen. I didn’t realise at that moment how powerful my voice was, as I could defend myself and prevent myself from being a victim again.
I write all of this because I want to tell you that it doesn’t matter how strong you think I am, or how old or grown-up… I was a child once, and I depended on others who ended up disappointing me. But I have learned how to live with that and accept it. That gives me peace, and that peace gives me freedom. My pain is still there, but now I’ve learned how to walk with it and understand it as a source of strength.
I used to think that facing these people would help me to move on. I did it with my mom a couple of times, and it didn’t work. I continued carrying the weight as nothing she said explained her actions, so I decided to work on myself. My best friend recommended a therapist that turned out to be the best I could have asked for. I think it is essential to have someone that really listens to you. Someone that understands your points of view and has experience dealing with these issues. Today, after 12 sessions, I can speak about my abuse without crying. For the first time, I tried to understand the reasons of all the adults involved in my childhood experiences. Now, I recognise that as this doesn’t define me, it doesn’t define my mom either… she made enormous sacrifices for her family. I love her very much and appreciate all she did for us.
It was challenging, but I got there. Acceptance healed my soul rather than theirs, and that was my responsibility through all of this. Working on my feelings, my healing, my life. I believe that everyone pays for what they do, and justice comes to all of us in one way or another.