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'm Glad I Spoke Up

When I was young, I was scared to go to bed. I knew that as soon as the lights were off, my cousin would come in the room and touch me.

I felt that if I ever told, nobody would believe me. And that was sort of the truth. People are afraid to admit that things like this are happening. Especially if it’s someone in the family who’s doing the abuse.

When I was about 11, I tried to speak up. I was in the bathroom with my grandmother and my aunt. I told them my cousin had touched me. They didn’t believe me because, they said, he was “a good kid.” So I lied and said he touched my stomach real hard. I just had to swallow the pain.

When I was about 12, I told a school counselor. I didn’t tell him everything, just a few things. One day when my grandmother took me to school, my counselor spoke to her. After that, I was taken away to the Dominican Republic, where my family is from. My grandmother and I never sat down to talk about what had happened. I felt like I was the one who had done something wrong.

While I was adjusting to a new atmosphere, free of the sexual abuse and making new friends, I felt scared. I mean, what if my cousin was doing it to my little cousins back in New York?

A few months later I was returned to New York City.

My cousin found a girlfriend. The abuse stopped and I learned to forgive him. Not forget, just forgive. We never spoke about it. Nobody in the family did. I was carefree for two years. Then my “uncle” came along.

He was really my cousin’s uncle, but I considered him my uncle too. We became good friends, and I trusted him. I told him a lot of secrets about me. I felt he listened. I was wrong to trust him. I felt him look at me in a weird way, but I didn’t want to think about that. Not again.

My uncle became friendlier. He was constantly nervous around me. He looked at me as if I were a piece of meat. I grew scared. He hugged me in a weird way. He brushed his beard in my face, and my tears ran down my cheeks.

I was the target, always. I think that’s because I’m the one who has a “crackhead mother” and a careless father. But whatever reason made me the target, I knew it wasn’t right. I looked for help. I told my aunt. My aunt told me to avoid my uncle. Hello! My uncle was the one who came looking for me. How could I avoid him in my own home?

I thought my aunt would tell my uncle something so that he would stop. But he never stopped. He wrote me a letter. I couldn’t believe it. The nerve of this guy. He talked about how good it felt to have sex. About how little girls are doing it too. I didn’t want to hear those things and he knew it. I didn’t know what to do.

I was cutting school. My grades were so low. I was an honor roll student who went down to the “dropout class.” My aunt was constantly screaming at me. I joined a gang. I didn’t really do all the bad stuff, but I used to fight a lot and steal little things, like key chains or whatever.

I started to cut myself. Seeing my blood relaxed me. I didn’t eat much or sleep much. I dressed real big. I drank pills, but I got so used to it that they didn’t cause me any damage. I tried everything to die, but God didn’t let me go.

One day my school counselor called me. She couldn’t believe my grades. Overwhelmed, I told her everything. She called my house. She spoke to my aunt, who said she knew nothing about it. When I got home, my aunt asked me why I told the counselor.

That night some cops came to my house. They said I had 86 absences from school and there were complaints about me being touched.

My aunt was told to keep my uncle away. I thought things were about to change, but they didn’t. My uncle kept coming in and out of the house and touching me. A year after the cops warned my aunt to keep him away I started having nightmares, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I decided to kill my uncle. I got a friend to lend me his gun.

At home, I wished he would come into the room so I could kill him. I imagined shooting him. I knew it was wrong but I wasn’t thinking straight. I saw myself in jail, just like my mother. I saw my family hurting because of me.

image by Edicson Estevez

One night my little cousin came over to my bed where I was crying. She hugged me and told me not to cry. She burst into tears, next to me. I decided not to touch the gun. I couldn’t do it. I gave it back to my friend. He asked if I wanted him to do it for me. That sounded tempting, but I knew it wasn’t right.

One day my uncle followed me on the street to school and offered to take me there. Thanks to a friend I saw, he left me alone. That night he came in my room and started to feel up on me. I began to cry and tried to push him away but it was hopeless. I felt his hardness rubbing against me. I felt disgusting, dirty, and hopeless.

That night I stayed up crying. I thought about running away, but I didn’t know where to go. I wrote many letters. Good-bye letters. I was going to kill myself once and for all. That was the only way out I saw.

At school I gave one of my best friends a goodbye letter. He started to cry and told a teacher. The teacher told my counselor. My counselor told my psychiatrist, who then called foster care, and I was placed in a hospital’s mental ward.

While at first I felt out of place, and all I did was cry, little by little I got better. I had therapy, doctors, social workers, lawyers and so on. They asked me so many questions. I felt I needed some answers, too.

I found out that my little cousins had been taken away from my aunt. I found out that my aunt had finally stood up to the “uncle.” My aunt won custody of my little cousins but not me. That was killing me. Everything was happening so fast, and I felt so alone.

I had to trust somebody, so I decided to tell my social worker, my therapist, and my doctor the truth. They put me on medication to help me sort things out. I didn’t want to take it but I needed to do things right. That was the only way to get out of there.

In a short time they found me a foster home. It was a nice family and they helped out when I used to feel homesick. They let me call home and go out.

I wanted to be home with my family. It was time for my aunt to prove she was going to take good care of me. But I always felt my aunt didn’t love me. While I was in the hospital she told me she loved me, but she had never showed it or protected me. Now it was time for her to show it.

She did pretty well. She got an order of protection to keep my uncle away from me, she attended parenting classes, she went to counselors, she spoke to lawyers and social workers. I was returned to her. It was a trial discharge, to see how things were going to go.

I had to do good also. I had to go to school. This was hard, because I had so much confusion in my head. I was wondering if I had done the right thing by speaking up. I felt I had destroyed the whole family.

I had to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and travel one hour just to get to school. That was hard, since I was on medication—I was taking anti-depressants, sleeping pills and another pill to calm my nerves. I had to take my pills and see my doctor every Saturday. I went to my foster agency regularly. I attended independent living classes. I had to go to court cases on my own. I had to speak to lawyers. I even wrote a letter to the judge.

But it was worth it. I was the student of the month in my school. I was (and still am) admired by my counselors. My aunt and I have a better relationship. We are working on our communication with our counselors and psychologist. My aunt has proven that she does love me. And I feel happy, because she’s pretty much like a mother to me. The agency checks on us from time to time. Soon our case will be discharged completely.

I am doing so much better at school and I’m not on medication anymore. I don’t get so depressed like before. I still think about my past, but now I think of it as a learning experience. An experience I’ve survived.

At first I thought that I’d done the wrong thing by speaking up. That’s because everyone hated me for it and I felt it was all my fault. But I’m not even mad anymore at those who hated me. They only hated me because I did something that they were scared of. I was strong enough to do it and survive. And I made a difference in everyone who surrounds me.

Now my aunt knows better. My little cousins also know to speak up. They know that it’s wrong to be touched and right to stand up for yourself.

Every time I find myself laughing and enjoying life, I know I definitely did the right thing. All the suffering paid off. I know that life isn’t a fairy tale, but at least it can get better.

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