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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I've Got Nothing to Be Ashamed of
I was gang-raped as a child, and I’m telling my story to help others
Wendolyn
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After school, on my 12th birthday, I thought I was heading home to have birthday cake. Instead, my cousin, who was in a gang, took me to a strange house where someone hit me in the head and knocked me out. When I woke up, I was bruised and had blood all over my body. I didn’t know what had happened to me.

It turned out that I had been gang-raped and that my mom had known it would happen. She and other family members were in the gang with my cousin. Her letting them rape me seemed to be part of an arrangement. My dad was angry and yelled at my mom, but he didn’t do anything about it because of the gang. We never talked about it again.

I thought that this nightmare, which I didn’t understand or fully remember, would go away and I could continue my life. I was wrong.

A Video

One week later, I went back to school. Kids were laughing at me and looking at their phones. Then a boy came up to me and said, “You look very beautiful in the video” and walked away. I didn’t know who he was or what he was talking about.

A girl named Stephanie from the 8th grade took me into the bathroom and said there was a video on Facebook of me unconscious, getting hit and raped. I asked her what rape was.

She explained it to me like this: “When two people love each other they make love, but rape is when a man forces you to do love when you don’t want to or you’re unconscious.”

As she talked, my eyes filled with tears. I had been confused about what happened to me. Part of me knew, but my heart was blocking out the truth. I had been trying to convince myself that I’d been beaten up and that was it.

Stephanie told me that people were saying different things: that the video was Photoshopped and someone created it for fun; or that it was real but I was probably drunk and asked for it. She asked if I wanted to see the video, but I wanted to forget what had happened to me.

I started getting bullied at school every day. Kids called me “the raped girl” or “drunky.” Nobody stood up for me; everyone looked down on me as if it was my fault. I started cutting myself; I felt like that was my only way of coping with my pain. Every night I would dream about the attack and I started remembering parts I’d forgotten. I attempted suicide many times.

I didn’t feel like myself anymore; my childhood felt ruined. I moved away from friendships and spent a lot of time alone. I had a hard time trusting anyone or letting any guys be near me. I was scared. I stopped treating myself with things I enjoyed, like painting my nails or curling my hair, because I didn’t want to draw guys’ attention.

A Terrible Toll

I became violent and aggressive and started fighting with people. I felt like the world was against me. I stopped going to school. I couldn’t look at my mother without fear of being hurt again. I had nightmares. I was disgusted with myself, my body.

This went on for several years. I lived with my family but kept to myself as much as I could. I was very alone. When I was 15, I ran into Danny, an old friend from elementary school. He could tell something was wrong. He was sweet and encouraging.

Even though I knew him from before, it was hard to trust Danny. Every time I tried to tell him what happened to me, I’d cry. I had never told anyone about being raped, and I was scared he wouldn’t see me the same way he used to. But he was very patient. He hugged me and said that when I was ready, he would be there to listen and that I didn’t need to rush.

I also got aggressive toward him when he got too close physically. I finally was able to tell him what happened and how I kept replaying the experience in my head.

I couldn’t hold my tears back; it was so painful to talk about it. Danny hugged me and said, “I’m here. I know they hurt you, but you’re the same amazing person I met before and I know we can get through this together.”

I Wanted to Love

Danny also made me feel special by saying things like, “Your smile lights up my world.” I felt loved and, finally, supported. I had been afraid that anyone I told would treat me like garbage, the way so many others had. But instead, Danny reacted with compassion.

I’m glad I trusted him. He went slow and didn’t pressure me to open up to him or to be energetic or happy. He pulled back if I was uncomfortable with him touching me.

A month after we started hanging out, after I’d told him all about my life, we were lying on the grass watching the night sky. I said, “It’s so amazing. I never took the time to see the stars.”

image by YC-Art Dept

Danny took my hand and said, “I will show you all the amazing things in life if you will let me.”

I pulled my hand back. “I don’t think I can ever trust anyone that much. I try to forget, but I just can’t.”

He held my face. “I can help you overcome it and get the help that you need, but you have to trust me.” Then we kissed. I felt butterflies in my tummy and I was blushing. After the kiss he looked at me and smiled. “Do you want to be with me forever, in the ups and downs of life?”

I was scared he would hurt me, but I wanted a chance to love and to be loved. I said yes. Danny talked me into entering foster care, and I felt safer there.

Danny gained my trust over time, and eventually he held all my troubles and all my joys. He introduced me to nice people from his church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I saw that not all people were against me and that some would even help me get past my trauma.

As soon as I got into care, I started therapy, which has helped me confront my past and learn how to manage my feelings. Talking about what happened over and over broke me emotionally, but I grew to trust my therapist.

Finally, I understood why I had to talk about it. I had gotten scared of boys and men based on what happened before, and the therapist helped me separate the past from the present. That helped me be stronger when the subject of rape came up and not dissolve into tears.

Inspirations

With the therapist I also realized I wanted to fix my mother and be loved by her—but that I couldn’t do that. I finally accepted that what the rapists and the enablers in my family did was wrong. It wasn’t my fault, and I had to heal myself without the help of my family.

My therapist also introduced me to spoken word poetry videos, including one by a rape victim who ended her poem with “I love myself,” which inspired me. I stopped worrying so much about what people thought of me and focused more on what I thought about myself.

I started learning about God with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which gave me faith and hope. I formed good relationships with some of my teachers by learning how to speak up when I had a problem or concerns. I moved in with a supportive foster mom, switched schools, and studied hard. Now I’m in college.

Helping Others Helps

It’s been almost six years, during which I’ve been jumpy around people and especially scared in big crowds. I began meditating a year ago, and my nightmares aren’t as frequent. It’s a relief to no longer relive that day every time I go to sleep.

I still wonder if it was my fault. Clearly, it wasn’t—I was knocked unconscious—but I still battle feelings of self-blame and shame. I still have PTSD and flashbacks.

When a man or boy on the street called me sexy or cute, I used to worry that I was provoking it. But then I’d look down and remind myself that I wasn’t dressed revealingly.

Now I dress the way I want. I learned that rape can happen to anyone, and you don’t cause it with your clothes.

Talking about it with my therapist helped me stop blaming myself; so did expressing my feelings through writing. I learned that my soul feels more at peace if I use my experience to help others. That’s why I’m writing this story.

If you were raped—and sadly, it happens to about one in five girls and women—don’t stay quiet. Call a hotline for rape victims and find a therapist. Because gang members threatened me, I was afraid to go to the police, but if you can and feel ready to, you should report your rapist.

You can find peace, and you deserve to. It’s not your fault.


Sexually Assaulted?

If You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted, Call:

In NYC: 212-227-3000
Outside NYC:
1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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(FCYU-2019-01-24)

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