The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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How I Heal My Broken Heart
Childhood sexual abuse leaves strange wounds

My mother was 16 and an alcoholic when I was born; my father was nowhere to be found. I was taken away from my mother when I was about 3 because she couldn’t take care of me. Her older sister, my aunt, took me into her home with her husband in Brooklyn, New York. My younger sister stayed with my mother.

I missed my real mother and my sister, but I reminded myself that I was better off with my aunt. My real mother was smoking weed and drinking a lot and not taking good care of my sister. I felt like my aunt and my uncle were my parents because they took care of me like I was their own.

Looking back, I realize how little privacy I had living with my aunt and uncle, the three of us in a tiny apartment that was old and falling apart. I shared a closet with my uncle and some drawers in my dresser with my aunt. My uncle told me a door couldn’t fit in my room’s doorway, so they used a thick curtain instead.

My uncle was light-skinned with a yellowish tan and a lot of moles. He was from Grenada. Since I had no biological father, my uncle was my substitute. He bought me clothes and beauty supplies. He tried to teach me how to play soccer and went jogging with me. He attended my school functions. He drove me to school and helped me with my homework. I loved him.

But when I was 9, he began to tongue-kiss me and smack my butt when my aunt was away at work. I was scared and confused. I loved him, and, most confusing of all, I kept loving him even while he sexually abused me, from age 9 until I was 13.

I loved him but I feared him, too. I was scared of his large hands, which molested me and hit me once when I said I hated him. I was also scared of his voice when he got angry and it went from smooth to abrasive and ugly. My uncle trained me to speak when spoken to and chastised me for speaking out of turn.

No Amount of Soap

At first, I thought this is what all fathers do to their little girls. I thought he was just taking my real father’s place by molesting me.

I realized it was wrong on a snowy December day when my birth mother was coming to New York from Vermont to get me. She wanted me to spend some time with my sister. My uncle and I went out before they arrived, and on our way back into the apartment, my uncle told me how excited he was that they were late. “Now I have more time to see that butt of yours,” he said, as he reached to smack my rear. “I can’t wait—”

He cut off his sentence when I opened the door to reveal my birth mother, her boyfriend, and her friends standing in the hallway. He grew anxious and began to stutter. That’s when I knew it was wrong.

After I understood it was wrong, I developed a heaviness in my stomach. After he molested me I felt dirty and sick to my stomach. I’d try to scrub off his touch in the bathtub. It felt as if no amount of soap in the world would cleanse me.

I thought it might be my fault. I wondered if I spent too much time with my uncle, shared too much information with him, and confided in him too much. I felt tainted, not good enough for anyone anymore. I felt like a whore, a slut, and a dirty person.

A Relief to Tell

I don’t think my aunt knew. I don’t think she would have let me stay in that situation if she did. But I didn’t feel able to tell her about it. I felt trapped and alone with this huge secret and became depressed. I felt like God hated me. I needed someone to share this pain with, so when I was 10, I told my best friend at school about the abuse. I needed someone to understand my pain and not judge me for being abused. I felt like she was someone who would understand me and still love me no matter what.

So I opened up and told her. She thought I was kidding and laughed. I felt like Mike Tyson had punched me in the gut. So, fighting back the tears, I told her I was joking. We never spoke about it again.

When I was a freshman in high school, I said to my guidance counselor Andrew, “My uncle is good to me despite what he did.”

“Wait,” Andrew said. “What did he do?”

I spilled out the whole story, and he wrote down every word. Andrew was so kind and nice to me, and it felt like he was there for me while I was talking. It felt nice.

The next day, my principal called me out of fourth period, and there in his office were my guidance counselor, school social worker, and a person who worked for Child Protective Services (CPS). Immediately I knew why I was called.

Leaving my home was very difficult. The CPS worker gave me five minutes to grab what I needed from the room I’d slept in most of my life. I was so traumatized that I kept my eyes shut the whole ride to the CPS building.

image by YC-Art Dept

Angry at God; Ashamed of Myself

The first home I went to was overpopulated and filthy. Many nights I cried myself to sleep. I prayed to God for help many times but got no answer. I wanted to give up. That was my lowest point in care.

Things got better after I left the filthy home, after two months and one week. I was placed in a loving home that was closer to my school and also closer to God. They were church folk, and at that time, I needed a little Jesus Power. I had fond memories of church with my grandmother.

Part of me was angry with God for allowing this to take place, and part of me thought that I should pray for Him to stop making me feel all these terrible feelings. I wanted Him to make me stop feeling depressed, ugly, and dirty. I wanted to feel like a regular girl. People in church testified about how God brought them through, and I wanted that. I wanted Him to purify my soul.

I couldn’t stop blaming myself. I’d think, “Maybe I should have worn a bra around the house,” or, “Maybe I should have gotten dressed in the bathroom,” or even, “Maybe if I wasn’t born this wouldn’t have happened.”

It took about seven months away from my uncle for me to start realizing that being abused wasn’t my fault (though I still don’t completely believe it). When I told my current foster mother what happened to me, I saw a look in her eyes that wasn’t pity or sympathy. It was a look of acceptance and love. She made me feel as innocent as a baby and that it was OK to need a mother. Her look said to me, “You’re in bad shape. You look sick and fragile. It’s not your fault. I’m here for you. I love you.”

But realizing that being abused isn’t my fault is not the same as feeling healed. I feel as if my uncle has branded me WORTHLESS. When I’m at school and see couples kissing, I worry I’ll never have that happiness because I’m dirty and worthless. I am prone to messed-up relationships, and I can’t seem to keep one for more than a few months. For a long time I was sure I’d be alone forever.

Better Not to Hide It

There is some progress though. In my last loving relationship, I didn’t hide my abuse from my girlfriend. I trusted her, and she didn’t treat me differently once she knew my secret. She was as kind and as helpful as ever. She was the most supportive person I’ve ever dated. We ended the relationship due to her own problems, but she helped me understand that I can’t let my past control how I feel in the present.

I have many friends. Most of them don’t know my story. I’m closest to the ones who do. They understand that some things make me sad, like loving couples and father-daughter things.

My foster mother gets me. She knows about everything and tries her best to make me feel comfortable. She understands why I cry so much. She urges me to be less submissive and reminds me that I do not have to say “yes” to everything.

I attend weekly therapy sessions at the agency I’m in and they help a lot. My therapist helps me break down what I’m feeling. Sometimes, I get so fed up with being sad that I become numb. My therapist says becoming numb is my mind’s way of saying that I’ve had enough. She suggests that when I feel numb, I should speak kindly to myself. Another therapist said something similar, so now, after I pray at night, I look in the mirror and tell myself, “Your uncle’s wrong. You are beautiful.” My two therapists suggested the affirmations, but they’re my own words.

I started to hang out with my foster sisters more and it helped a little. When I first got there, I would only speak when spoken to. They were blood sisters so at first I felt like an outsider. But they developed a soft spot for me. And, as sisters often do, we argue. It feels healthy to have that arguing, sister relationship, though, like something from television. It gives me comfort. I also take comfort from my belief in a higher power looking over me.

Still Writing My Story

What makes recovery so hard is that part of me still believes I deserved it. I still make excuses for him. I feel like I led him to abuse me. Also what’s confusing is that I believe he cared about me, in his sick and twisted way. I look for reasons he abused me: Maybe he was angry that he didn’t see his own daughter enough. (She lived in a different country.)

The end of my story is unwritten. I can only tell you how I want it to end. I want to be happy. Part of me wants my uncle to feel the hurt and pain that I did for years. I want to get even, but at the same time I know that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

I want the battle between hate and forgiveness inside me to end. I can’t forgive him for hurting me, but I wonder if forgiveness is the only way to be free from the plague he left on me.

So I pray that God puts forgiveness and healing into my heart. I hope that, if I forgive him, everything that I have been through will feel like it had a purpose, and I will find peace. I already feel that the abuse has made me a stronger person, so I have found some of that purpose I seek.

The tears and the prayers soothe the feelings of hurt and pain that still linger from the abuse. My aunt didn’t separate from my uncle, but she has supported me since I moved out. My foster family has given me help and reassurance, and so has my ex-girlfriend. Writing about it and talking about it also makes me feel better.

Finally, being in care allows me to have many outlets for getting better. Workers at the agency have been willing to help and listen to me. I honestly never expected so many people to help me through my situation.

My uncle’s abuse left me with a broken heart. These are the things that help it heal.

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