© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

I grew up in a house with a lot of family members. 

Big house, three floors, and each floor was their own little apartment. 

And on the bottom floor, my aunt, uncle and two cousins lived there. 

And I was always down there. 

 

My mom and aunt, there was a period of time where they would go out frequently at night, where there were obligations at church. 

My mom used to be a cabaret singer in the city, so she used to have gigs, and my aunt would go with her. 

Things like that.  

 

*

 

One evening while they were gone, I was asleep in the bed with my younger cousin. 

My uncle, he came in the room. 

And I remember just being woken out of my sleep. 

And I turn around and he was just kneeling on the side of me at the bed. 

And I'm just looking at him in a daze, because I just woke up. 

 

And I was like, why is he there?

 

He put his hand under my shirt and started touching my breast. 

I couldn't have words coming out of my mouth, and I literally just froze there. 

And while he was touching me, he was also touching himself. 

 

I just had an out of body experience

I'm like, "What is going on?  Is this what he's supposed to be doing?”

 

My mother never had “the talk” with me about sex. 

I knew nothing about what men and women do. 

But I knew it didn't feel right. 

 

I laid there, and I remember that happening and him leaving. 

And I just turned over, because my cousin, his daughter was in the bed next to me sleeping.

 

*

 

It happened another time. 

 

He came in and touched me in my vagina area, and he was masturbating at the same time. 

I just looked at him, and he was like, "Oh, you look so good.  You just turn me on." 

And in my brain, I don't even know what that means, you know?

 

And after the second time, I was like, "Ok Jo, you're not going to sleep down there when mommy's gone.  Just stay upstairs."

 

And any time I saw him in the day time it was always uncomfortable.

He would and give me these looks, what I know now to be sexual looks and looks of lust.  

Even before this happening, he would just hug me a little too tight or kiss me on the cheek a little too long. 

 

*

 

I never told anyone about it until maybe a year or two after.

 

{Jo was talking to her cousin, the older sister of the cousin who was in the bed with her that night.}

 

I don't know how we got on the conversation, but I was like, "Yeah, well, your father like did x, y, z to me." 

 

And she was like, "Me too." 

 

We were in her bedroom, and we literally just broke down crying, hugging each other. 

I was just like, damn, maybe I should have said something to her. 

We could have been there for each other. 

 

She probably was going through the same thoughts in her heard and not knowing how to tell anyone.

After those encounters with him, in like 8th grade, that's when I also started being sexually active. I went through a really, I don't know what to call it, just a period of being very promiscuous as a teenager. 

 

I always look back and think if that hadn't happened, I don't think that would have been a thought in my mind.  I would have made a lot of better decisions with who I allowed to come into my body and the types of men that I entertained.

 

I've definitely become a lot wiser in the choices I've made with men. 

And this was recently, maybe in the last 2 years. 

But all before this has been just not good. 

And I know that it stems from that encounter that I had with my uncle.

 

*

 

I'm a better person now. 

I always think God, He never allows things to happen that He knows that you can't get through. 

 

*

 

My cousin, who it also happened to, she had a breakdown.

And she ended up just spilling everything to her mom, which in turn I had to tell my mom. 

 

I was on spring break in college.

I was on the phone and she was in the bank. 

She passed out. 

There were people on the phone like, "Who's on the line?  She's passed on the floor." 

It was just a mess. 

I think about what she went through just from hearing that. 

 

If I were to have kids, just really fostering that relationship with them, like, "You can tell me anything.  If something doesn't feel right, you have to say something." 

It's still my family's house. 

We own the house. 

So weekends and stuff I go over there to see my nieces or my mom. 

Sometimes when I go in that room, even that could just trigger something for me. 

 

Looking at pictures of my cousin, the younger cousin that was in the bed with me, his daughter.  Maybe about two years after she passed away.

In some aspects he's jaded that memory of when I think about times I had with Courtney.  Unfortunately that's one of the memories that comes up. 

 

It's just mind-blowing to me how you can do that and your daughter's sitting in the bed right next to me.

Once you start thinking about that stuff you start going down that spiral, and it's really hard to get out of. 

 

*

‚Äč

I started journaling after that incident, just as a way to get my thoughts out. 

It's not something that I do consistently, but if I feel myself just not in a positive headspace, just with anything in life, I take out my journal and write.

 

I'm a spiritual person. 

I pray when I feel compelled to.

It's like, "God, listen.  I am here.  I just need some strength." 

It's very conversational, like I'm just talking to my friend in the sky. 

That definitely helps.

 

I think it's really making a purposeful decision in your mind like, "Listen, you're strong, you're beautiful, you're going to get through this.  Let's just start doing something a little bit different so you can be a happier person."

 

*

 

I also like to travel.

And I purposefully go away by myself so I can be lost in myself and whatever's going on in my life that I'm able to escape. 

If it's for 4-5-6 days, whatever. 

I bring a good book, my notebook, my journal.

And I'm just free. 

Free of the problems for a little bit.

 

I just came back from Colombia on Friday.

I got to learn a lot about the Afro-Colombian culture which I didn't even know really existed. 

It was very historical and empowering for me just to see a lot of people that look like me. 

We don't know each other's language, but we still find a way to communicate. 

So that's a great escape for me honestly.

I like to tell my story, especially to younger girls. 

 

If I were to have gotten the intervention then, mentally I would have been a more stable teenager.  I think that would just make a world of a difference. 

 

People don't feel safe to come to people about it. 

That's the scary part for me. 

 

Even as a society, that's a stigma we need to try to break down. 

Because that may have happened to certain kids, and they may have taken their life or may have turned to drugs or other things. 

I definitely self-harmed, but not in a way that put me in a hospital or in jail or in the grave, you know?

 

It was bad.  It was really really bad. 

But I'm here. 

I'm still standing.

If I can help anyone along the way with my little story, then I feel like it didn't all happen in vain.

 

-Jo