Trigger warning: This blog post contains specific information regarding an individual's trauma and survivor story. As such, it has the potential to cause significant distress, intrusive thoughts, or recurrent thoughts. Please proceed carefully. If triggers occur and you need support, please refer to the hotlines provided on our page of Resources for Survivors.
At SHIELD, one of our most important goals is to empower survivors and help them find their voice. As such, we allow survivors to tell their stories in their own words, uncensored, with as much or as little detail as they choose. We believe it is important for us, as a community, to listen. We must never lose sight of the horrific realities of child abuse, domestic violence, and child sexual assault — and their effect on survivors.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you should call 1-800-352-6513 to make a report via the DHHR hotline. In an emergency situation, please call 911.
I am a 31-year-old mother of three who has been living with a burden that is not mine for the past 20 years. You see, the burden I have been carrying with me through life is that a man took my innocence when I was only 11 years old. This man took me from my home, took me to several different states, and raped me on multiple occasions.
For years, I thought what he had done to me was in some way my fault. He made me believe that what he was doing to me was normal. For years, I thought that I was not good enough as a person or as a human being. I felt broken, and I felt tired, and I felt small.
I was tired because I was carrying around an invisible bag filled with secrets, regrets, and what ifs. At times, this Santa Claus-sized bag weighed me down so much that it would make my shoulders ache for days.
I felt like I was not normal like my classmates, and my childhood and past were something I was told not to discuss. People would ask me why I was a certain way or why I said certain things, and I would say nothing because I couldn’t respond without telling them about what had happened to me so many years ago.
I didn’t like to talk about it because I felt like people's view of me would change. I thought they would feel sorry for me or feel pity. I couldn’t stand the thought of people thinking less of me because of something that happened to me — something I had no control of. So I would choose to say nothing, stay silent, and continue carrying that bag full of burdens.
It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized that what was done to me was not only NOT my fault, but it was also not my burden to carry. I have decided to place that bag full of burdens on the ground for the rightful owner to have to pick up and carry himself. For it is HIS burden and not mine. However, I will continue to speak out, bringing to light what’s in that bag that I had been faithfully carrying with me through life.
As I sit and watch my children grow up, I have realized that although I would wish that experience on no one, it taught me to be a strong individual and made me more aware as a parent.
If I could give some words of advice, it would be to tell your story. Don’t be afraid to speak your truth, or it will start to eat you up inside. Know that it was NOT your fault, and you are NOT alone. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and your past does not have to determine where you go in this life. You are an amazing person, and you are worthy of being loved and respected.
Although some days can be really, really hard, don’t stop. Keep going, and don’t be afraid to put down that bag full of regrets. You don’t need it where you are heading.
You can find other Survivor Stories here.
If you are a survivor and would like to tell your story, you can email us at email@example.com. You can also private message us on Facebook or Twitter. You can share as much or as little of your story as you like, and you can stay as anonymous as you want.
If you are a survivor in need of support, please refer to the hotlines provided on our page of Resources for Survivors.
About the Author: G. Lopez is a mother of three and a full-time Registered Dental Hygienist in Virginia.