© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

I don't remember how old I was when it first started.

I just kind of have an idea.

Must have been 10 or 11 when I first experienced something that I didn't feel comfortable with.

 

I was at my mom's house.

And her brother had moved in with us.

He came from Nicaragua.

And he came to live with us for a while until he got himself situated.

 

I used to sleep in the bedroom with my parents.

And I came home from school one day, and I went into that bedroom.

I laid down on my parents bed.

And I started doing my homework.

But I wind up falling asleep.

I didn't know he was home.

 

The way I was woken up was because he already had my pants off, panties down, and he had penetrated me, while I was sleeping.

He raped me in my parents’ bedroom.

 

I was scared, because he said, “Don't tell anybody, because they won't believe you.”

When he left the bedroom I got up, I pulled up my panties, my pants.

And I just stood there on the bed crying.

I cried myself to sleep.

 

*

 

My mom had caught him once.

I was on my knees, and he had kind of had me propped up like what we call now “doggy style.”

My mom caught him raping me, and that was the last time that it happened with him.

My dad and my mom kicked him out but didn't do anything—didn't call the cops, didn't press charges, didn't do anything.

I kind of got in trouble myself instead of him getting in trouble and being arrested or anything.

 

They probably were afraid, because we were immigrants, of being deported.

It's not that I'm making excuses.

I'm just trying to find out why didn't you do anything?

And I can't answer that, only they can.

I was in my last year of elementary school when my older sibling started molesting me.

He would put his fingers in me.

He would grope my breasts.

He would kind of touch me in areas that felt very uncomfortable.

 

He was like, “Don't worry about it, everybody does it.”

And I'm like, “Everybody like who? 

You're supposed to be my brother.

You're supposed to protect me.

Why are you doing things like this?”

 

He also threatened me.

“No one would believe you, you know.  If you say something, it's my word against yours.”

 

*

 

The first time he raped me I was in the small bedroom.

I was sleeping on the bottom bunk.

I was laying towards the window on my side, and I felt someone come in back of me, pull down my pants and my panties.

And because this already happened with the uncle, I started experiencing what I know now is the “freezing moment.”

 

He raped me, wound up ejaculating on my behind.

And when I did try to scream, he covered my mouth.

From there it started happening every so often whenever I was home alone, at night mostly.

 

I wake up a lot during the night.

It’s like my body doesn't allow me to sleep.

Even until this day.

 

*

 

I try telling my mom when I was about 16, 17. 

She didn't believe me. 

When I told her and she said, “You're lying.”

 

I was dating someone that I went to live with on the west side.

And he actually gave me the courage to come forward and kind of press charges.

 

Two weeks before that that was the last time that my older brother raped me.

So it took two weeks for me to really have the courage to go to the precinct and file a report. But I did it.

They went to where he was living at and arrested him in front of his kid and his girlfriend at the time.

 

But then I get a phone call maybe a couple of days later saying that my mom came to the precinct and took him out.

She said that I was lying, that me and her have been having problems and that I had left home.

I don't know why they believed her, but they did.

And they let him go.

 

I got the phone call from the detective saying all this.

There was nothing else they can do, because it's kind of like his word against mine.

And I'm like, but I'm the victim here.

This has been going on for so long, and this even happened with my uncle.

My parents knew about it and didn't do anything.

And now I'm telling you about my brother.

And now you're telling me you're not believing me?

How am I supposed to live? 

The way I dealt with it was drinking.

I was drinking since I was about 12, 11?

And I didn't stop drinking until I was about 22.

 

I was in the hospital maybe every other week.

It was kind of like drinking whatever I can get my hands on so if it was beer, liquor, mixed drinks, whatever.

I would just kind of drink my pain away.

 

I hit a breaking point.

I don't know if I was poisoned, if someone put something in my drink, I don't know.

I just know I woke up in the hospital, and they pumped my stomach.

I had charcoal all over my face.

I didn't remember where I was, what happened, how'd I got there, nothing.

 

Maybe two to three days I couldn't do for myself.

My sister had to help me bathe, eat, do things for me, because I was kind of frozen.

 

I just kind of like slowed it down a little bit.

 

But then when I found out I was pregnant with my oldest I said, “I can't continue drinking.

If I'm going to keep this baby, I have to protect her or him.”

 

I was living with my mom again.

I had to put aside the hate and the anger that I had toward her to be able to live there and to have a relationship with her.

My post-partum depression was really bad.

All this stuff form when I was young started coming back and it was horrible for me.

I would cry all the time.

 

But then I started realizing that I have to be strong for her.

So I got a job at a pharmacy and was working.

 

*

 

Mid-October I met my boyfriend now, the father of my four kids.

 

Fast forward to 2011, things were kind of rocky between us.

We finally wind up separating completely.

That’s when everything about my past really crashed, kind of like boulders going on me.

 

I started getting flashbacks, panic attacks, anxiety, depression was getting worse, couldn't sleep, couldn't stay asleep, would go two to three days without sleeping.

I would cry all the time, I would lock myself in my room, not take care of the kids sometimes, sleep sometimes all day in the daytime.

 

That's when I started saying, you know, I have to get help.

I decided to get help with a therapist.

 

I started writing about what I was feeling at first, the emotions I felt, the breakup, the separation, being home alone with the kids.

I realized that I needed to go back to school, to keep active, to keep my mind from thinking.

 

I started doing a GED here in 2013 with Columbia University.

My English teacher said, “You write excellent essays.

You know how to structure them.

You're ready. Take it, you never know.”

 

I passed it.

I was so excited.

 

I started at Monroe College in the Bronx.

Being at Monroe helped me come forward.

Being in the major criminal justice helped me realize that what I'd been through, what happened to me wasn't my fault.

I wasn't alone.

It was okay if it took me that long to come forward, because it's not easy. 

 

What I don't feel comfortable with is the statute of limitations.

We only have what 10, 15 years to report it, and if it's past those years there's nothing you can do? 
We live with this for the rest of our lives.

Most of the incidents happened in the living room.

I still don't feel comfortable being in a living room by myself.

I mainly stay in my bedroom a lot.

But if my kids are out here I'll be out here in my living room.

The reason why I'm comfortable in my bedroom is because I know it's mine.

 

I don't live too far from where it happened.

I live in New York City housing, so I didn't have a choice to where I could move to.

I think that's why I experience anxiety sometimes, panic attacks, or the fact that I don't sleep well.

 

I've had what I just was told yesterday by my psychiatrist is “dissociation.”

You don't feel like yourself, you don't feel like you're in your body.

You feel like you're out of it.

It's kind of like if that's what it feels like being dead, that's exactly what it feels like. 

 

*

 

I have a great support system.

My partner knows about it.  

He knows when I'm having a PTSD episode or a panic attack or an anxiety attack.

He helps me get through them.

 

The first child I told was my oldest.

I think that the reason why I told her was because she asked something about sex.

I couldn't find words on how to tell her.

I grabbed a spiral notebook.

I have stuff written in it, and it's kind of like my experience.

I decided to read that to her.

I didn't get to completely read the whole thing.

She had told me “You know what mom, stop.”

She's like “It's scary. Not that I don't want to hear more.

I'm angry that this happened to you, and you know it was a family member.”

 

She was understanding.

She said “You know it's horrible that a lot of people go through this, and no one believed you.”

She gave me a hug, and she said it's going to be okay.

It felt so good to know that my daughter believed me.

 

*

 

I write about it.

I did that writing called “Letter to a Monster.”

I was able to incorporate both of the incidents within that one nine-page writing.

I did that in one night.

 

{Letter to a Monster was published in a book of collected essays from survivors.}

 

I didn't realize that 52 people were a part of that book, and each story was different, unique.

It was just like - wow. I'm not alone.

There's many of us out here.

I don't have to close my mouth.

I don't have to keep quiet. 

 

 

-Maria