My abuse started when I was 8 years old.
It ended when I was 14.
I was 7 at the time when he moved in with us.
He seemed very loving and kind of like a father figure.
My own dad at the time wasn't in my life, so it was kind of nice having him around.
He would buy us stuff and spend time with us.
And I do think that there was a shift.
I remember walking in on him when he was watching porn one day.
I didn't know what porn was, so he would show it to me.
After that, he started with the molestation progressively.
He started by touching me.
I didn't really know it was bad.
He told me that if I sucked his dick that he would give me a donut.
He really used food as a way to groom me.
He would give me porn.
I would watch it.
He would perform oral sex on me.
I would perform oral sex on him.
When he first moved in with us, I shared a room with my brother.
We wound up moving to a three-bedroom apartment.
I do believe that he really wanted to isolate me.
I had to come home at a certain time every day.
I like wasn't allowed to hang out with friends after school.
My brother was forced to go to chess after school or go to the library.
My mom would be working, and he kind of worked at night.
He used those moments to abuse me.
When I turned 12, I remember that he actually raped me and took my virginity from me when my mom was doing laundry and my brother went with her.
He started raping me every day.
It definitely was progressive.
At the end it was every day, multiple times a day.
One of the ways that I coped with the abuse is that I liked to paint a lot.
And I liked to play with my Barbie’s.
That kind of helped me disassociate.
I think my mom lived in a state of denial for many years.
I think a part of her might have seen red flags.
But I don't think that she was capable of really admitting it to herself.
I think it was just too traumatizing for her to admit that this person who she loved and cared for was so abusive.
Because then it's like, “If it's really happening, then I'm playing a part in it too.”
I know towards the end he was beating her.
It stopped when I was 14.
I remember he was in my room.
And it was maybe 4 o'clock in the morning.
My mom and him had been fighting earlier that night, so I think she woke up kind of looking for him.
But he heard her coming.
Before she got there, he turned on the light, he got dressed.
When she came and she saw him in my room she was like, “What are you doing here? What are you doing to my daughter?”
I was so in shock by the whole experience that I ran to the bathroom and I tried to kill myself.
He told her that he was trying to help me and that I was going to hurt myself.
And like, “Look what you did.
This is your fault.
I was trying to help her.”
And that was the last time that he ever raped me.
He tried to approach me multiple times after that.
Some of the things that he had said were like, “Oh, can you wean me off of it? Like a mother weans her child off milk?”
I just was so over it and so dead inside.
I just told him that you're never going to touch me again.
He didn't want to be there anymore, because he couldn't rape me anymore.
And my mom didn't understand why he was leaving.
I knew why.
One day he was gone, and I was telling my mom, “I can't live here anymore.
My friend told me I can live with her.”
And my mom was like, “I don't understand.”
I wound up telling her.
I feel like the rape was easy compared to the trauma of not feeling supported.
I had to go to the hospital, and I got a rape kit.
But it had been a few months, and I had already started acting out sexually.
So the rape kit didn't really support me.
I did wind up opening a case.
It was about a two-year process of going to court.
But my mom would support him.
And she just sabotaged everything.
She, on multiple times, threatened me and told me that if I continued with my story I wouldn't be able to see my current boyfriend at the time.
She threatened to beat me up with a broom.
Once I came out and actually said what was happening to me, I do feel like I acted out a lot.
I liked to smoke weed a lot.
I was a high school truant,
I was cutting.
I mean I was really fucked up.
So it didn't help my case at all.
I had a really supportive friend.
I would run away and go to her house, and we would go for a walk.
She just listened to me.
That was so huge for me.
I just remember feeling supported by her.
Two years later, he wound up pleading guilty to child endangerment.
But he served no time.
I think he had to do like a year or two probation.
I wish people would have been a little bit more compassionate, more understanding. Because I acted out a lot.
I stopped going to school.
I was doing drugs.
I hung out with the wrong crowd.
I started cutting myself.
I was morbidly obese.
I was like 300 pounds at the time when I was 14.
I dated a pimp; he almost exploited me.
I just feel so grateful, because I didn't end up getting killed when I acted out sexually.
I feel like there was so much judgment from everybody.
Like, “Oh my god. She' s a high school truant.
What's wrong with her? Why can't she just get her life together?”
I really wish they could have been like, “Are you ok? This isn't like you.”
I think people forgot who I was or they didn't really know who I was.
I almost dropped out of high school.
People, like family –people that i loved--thought that that's who I was.
Even when I got my undergrad, and I graduated from high school, people were shocked!
And then when I got my master's, it was like, “Oh my God, dear Jesus.”
And then when I got a second master's…
I actually graduated from Fordham.
I got my master's in social work.
And then I decided to go back to school, and I have another master's in nonprofit leadership.
And I did start a nonprofit.
It's been three years now that it's been founded and incorporated.
I just did the by-laws, fleshed out the mission.
The mission is to create a supportive network to promote mindfulness using yoga, meditation and the arts to support survivors of traumatic experience.
That's what I live for. That's what I'm here to do.
Now I feel like a whole person.
Before I always felt this horrible void.
I always felt like I needed to fill it with something.
And now I actually feel like a whole person.
So, I am a whole person.
Yoga really changed my life.
I don't like when people touch my body in a certain way.
It's helped me understand my body more.
And it's also helped me feel good about my body.
How empowering it is to do things with your body that you've never been able to do?
I can get so anxious and so future-tripping and stuck in the past.
I get so overwhelmed by the fear.
The meditation helps me remind myself that I have to stay here, in this moment, and that every day I have to be in this moment.
My peace is a choice, and I have to think about life in a loving way.
And the arts really help
I feel so free when I'm painting.
I go into a trance.
I can pour how I'm feeling into the paper.
I can make it any color, and I can move it in certain ways.
It helps me go through the things that I'm thinking about.
I think in the last like five years, more in the later part, either I attract really co-dependent people who are obsessed with me and I fucking hate them or I attract emotionally unavailable people whom I'm obsessed with and they fucking hate me!
I have such a hard time accepting people for who they are and accepting myself.
I made loving myself my New Year's Resolution.
It's really changed my life.
Loving myself looks different every day.
Because yesterday loving myself meant eating four brownies.
It wasn't self-sabotaging, emotionally eating binge eating.
I just need some chocolate in my life right now, and it's gooey and it tastes good.
But loving myself also means not eating when I'm not hungry.
It means going to the gym even if I don't really want to.
Because I really love losing weight, and I've met my weight loss goals.
It means going to yoga when I want to go home and lay on the couch.
It means spending time with friends and nurturing friendships and spending time with my family and being emotionally available.
Loving myself sometimes means taking the day off from work or staying late at work.
I'm trying to do this practice where every day I figure out,
“What's the most loving thing for me to do?
I feel very privileged in my life, the fact that I was able to go to school.
I'm privileged enough to have really great insurance.
I do art therapy.
I am able to afford to go to bikram yoga, which is extremely expensive.
And I think about the girls that I serve at the organization that I work at.
These girls that I work with, how much potential they have and how, if things just were a little bit different for them…
If they don't have money does that mean that they don't deserve to feel peace in their own life?
Other people in my situation have the same capacity but they don't have the opportunities.
I think that's why I'm so invested in making the nonprofit work.
I can’t lose sight that that it's extreme privilege.