Once you become a young adult, it's just so hard to take care of yourself.
You get exhausted.
It was a constant struggle for me with the brain of a child but feeling like an adult that needs to constantly try to protect myself.
I became 30 when I was six years old.
My cousin was the abuser.
He was a teenager.
I was 5 and a half, 6 years old.
We were at my grandparents’ house in a room, alone.
And he asked me to take off my underwear and show him my parts.
I was a baby.
I didn't really understand what's happening.
He kept pressuring me, so I did it.
That's all that happened that day, but it broke something in my concept of being a child.
It felt wrong.
It felt violating.
And that's how it started.
He used to come over a lot.
Jewish family, so a lot of gatherings, staying over, sleeping over.
He had a lot of opportunities.
It was always so planned.
He would know when to take me away, even if he was sleeping over.
He would take me from my room in the middle of the night and lock me up in the attic.
Or he would do it when all the family was around, and they were in the next room.
Sometimes he would lock the door and also put a futon bed—move it from where it was and block the door with it.
He was torturing me.
He would do oral sex over and over again for hours.
But the thing that was hardest was he always took sheets from a closet and put them over my face with a pillow.
You're hardly breathing and someone's just touching you.
It's all dark, so you feel like you're dead.
When I experience flashbacks, I actually start choking.
I get asthma attacks.
I try to use my inhaler but it doesn't help.
That's why I take herbs and supplements that get rid of inflammation in the body.
He would just place me in different positions.
He used to watch porn, so he would direct me.
I begged him that I don't want it.
He would not listen.
There were two other cousins that he told, and they did it with him a few times.
I think it hurt me even more, that instead of stopping it, they jumped in and they made it a game. I will never forget them laughing about it.
People used to ask me, "Did you scream? Did you yell?"
I was a child.
I didn't think I had a voice.
I didn't think I had any power in me.
I think that people need to understand that those questions are so damaging for survivors.
That's what's preventing them from disclosing.
My parents used to fight a lot.
My older sister used to be abusive also, and never liked me.
I didn't try to make relationships with other people in the family, like uncles or aunts.
I was so lonely.
It's just like my soul was born in the wrong place, to the wrong family.
I had teachers in school that I liked.
I wanted to tell them, but I was scared that they're going to think I'm disgusting.
And my abuser also used to tell me that if I tell anyone, they'll think I'm a whore.
That word always kind of haunted me.
I was also really bullied in school.
People would tell me, “Just be quiet, and act like nothing is happening.”
Nobody told me to stand up for myself.
So it just made all the bullying a lot worse, because I was the easiest target.
At one point at 14, I don't know what happened.
I was like, “I can't take it anymore.”
I lashed at the girls in the bathroom that were bullying me.
That was the last time I was ever bullied in school.
They were just like, "Ok, she'd not taking it.”
That is when I started to physically fight him.
I would kick him and was able to get away from his grip.
But eventually what stopped it was I just stopped going to family events.
Nobody taught me, “This is abuse.”
I didn't know I was abused until I was maybe 18.
This is normal, life sucks.
I took an acting class, Meisner—it's a technique that teaches you to use your instincts.
I was close to the teacher, and I felt really uncomfortable.
I felt like my personal space is invaded.
It triggered the trauma that I trapped for years.
I had a breakdown.
The teacher spoke to me after and told me that it's considered abuse, that I should start therapy.
I currently work with a psychologist that specializes in trauma.
She's very good.
But it took me a long time to find the right help.
I left right after high school.
And now I'm in college, studying literature, psychology and dance.
Dancing, singing, acting are a way of creating art from my pain.
It’s a way of transforming it to something else.
It's what kept me sane.
It belonged to me.
New York was always in my heart.
I came here and was like, "Finally my soul and body are in the same place."
The people in my life in New York became a real family to me.
They're kind of the nurturing safe family that I didn't have.
I still get flashbacks sometimes.
I can't see most movies or comedies that have sexual jokes and stuff.
Comedy shows I avoid, because there's a lot of sexuality jokes in them.
I completely shut down sexuality in my life.
I consider myself a non-sexual human being.
I get physical flashbacks.
I feel physically being raped.
I can wake up in the middle of the night—it actually happened last night.
Usually I cross my legs and I try to breathe.
Sometimes it can pass in 10 minutes.
Sometimes it can pass in hours.
It's a physical and spiritual feeling.
It's a violation of the soul's temple.
I cannot do a GYN exam awake.
I have to look for a doctor for 6 months that will completely sedate me.
They do it like a procedure at a hospital.
I'm not able to do it any other way.
There's emotional flashbacks that are symptoms of complex PTSD.
You feel really vulnerable or really hurt or not safe or abandoned.
I got lady, who is a hypoallergenic dog.
She was not trained to be a therapy dog, but I got her acknowledged as a therapy dog.
She's very intelligent emotionally, so she knows when I feel bad.
What helps me the most if someone is with me in the moment is just a hug.
It grounds me immediately and I just feel safe.
A lot of people tell you, "It's over. Move on.”
But it's not like that.
It's not a fact you can change.
It's in you. It's in your body.
Complex PTSD and PTSD are not a mental disease.
They are the most normal reaction to trauma.
The fact that we have flashbacks and nightmares, that means that our brain is working the way it's supposed to work.
One of my dreams is to one day open a center to treat sexual abuse survivors and rape survivors in a healthy way.
I feel like the most important part of healing is for a survivor to feel safe.
Because your whole sense of safety as a human being is crushed at such a young age.
And it's never really healed again or fixed.
I would invite family and friends to be involved in treatment.
I really believe that to heal from that it's plain unconditional love.
Especially when it's in the family.
I was burnt so many times by people that were supposed to protect me.