LEANDRA

 

My truth is that is happens to anyone, at any age. It also happens again and again for some and others just the memory of abuse feels like it happening again and again.  

The first time I was sexually assaulted I was three. THREE! I have a flashbulb memory of wanting to ride the bus with my brothers and wearing one green sock and one red, my two favorite colors. My biological mother had said I could go to school with them. I ran up to my (then) father crying because I missed the bus. He looked at me differently than he had ever had before. He went to the bathroom. Moments later he called me, he needed toilet paper. I had to shut the door to get the toilet paper. I brought it to him, and my heart sunk…there was an entire roll next to him already. I knew in my heart that something was not right. He called me his princess and began to undo my dress. I had to “kiss” him down below. I had to bend over the tub and then I just cried. He left the bathroom. My tiny toddler frame climbed into the tub and turned on the water. No matter how hot the water got, no matter how much soap I put on my body, I could not get clean. 

Since that day, up until age 11, I would experience over 22 other accounts of sexual assault from various men, brothers and strangers who entered my parents’ drug infested home. In foster care I would experience two more accounts of sexual abuse from a foster brother. 

It seemed abuse would follow me my entire life. When I was 14, I could barely sleep. The sound of a creaking floor, or the wind whispering in my ear would send me cascading down a mountainside of bad memories.  

The sad part? I hadn’t experienced the worst. My younger sister was sold for sex at age 9 so our mother didn’t have to pay rent on the shady roadside hotel we called “home.” My brothers were molested by their father and then beaten every time after. 

It was not fair. It is never fair. Only one person gets hurt, one person is left behind feeling worthless and guilty; one person is left with the fear to breathe and live.  

Sexual abuse of children is so common and, sadly, so easy! Parents don’t educate young children about their body parts and that they are THEIR private parts, no one gets to touch them. Children want to please, they want attention and they don’t want to hurt a grownup—after all, grownups are superheroes and best friends. I have weekly conversations with my four children about their body and they understand they can come to mommy if anyone touches their body in a sexual way.

The abuse I suffered left me feeling empty and thinking that I would always be a victim. I have chosen to not be a victim any longer, but a victor; to stand triumphant over my offenders and love myself. It’s amazing how easily you can "forgive and forget" someone who has hurt you, yet your own soul remains stained, hurt and feels worthless. Whoever thought that we would have to forgive ourselves for being wronged by someone else?  This guilt, this “what if I” and “if only I” battle, is the hardest to overcome.