I Survived, You Can Too

Trigger warning: Before reading this post, be aware that it contains descriptions of childhood rape, and other forms of violence and abuse.

My name is Leigh* and I want to tell you my story.
I was born in America to a woman named Alexis* and a man named Benjamin*. I had a big brother whos name was Theodore*. Theodore was four when I was born and my parents were happily married.. or so I thought.

When I was young, my family moved to Italy because my dad was in the military. I don’t remember those days, but I remember the stories I’ve been told about it. My dad likes to tell me this one story about when he would come home.

My dad would come home from work and feed my big brother and I. Then he would make a bath and bathe me. When he took me out of the bath, he would wrap me in a towel and we would sit in a rocking chair, with me lying on his chest, and rock until we both fell asleep. My dad told me he would only wake up when I peed on him. I always found that funny, but to hear it now is a little embarrassing. I was just a toddler after all.

When I was three, my parents divorced. Back then, I didn’t know why. My mother told me it was because my dad cheated on her. It wasn’t until I got older that I learned the truth. My mother was sleeping with my dads best friend and one of his co-workers at the same time. My dad wanted to make things work, even told me that they planned to have me to keep them together. I suppose I failed my life mission since they aren’t together anymore. But, that’s alright. They simply weren’t meant to be. My dad deserved better.

I moved back to America with my mother and brother, where my mom met a man named Mr. Jared.* Mr. Jared drove a truck for a living, so he made a nice bit of money to keep us going. I don’t recall many positive memories from that time since it’s always the dark things that stick with you.

Mr. Jared was an abusive man. He would drink and smoke and chew tobacco. My mother smoked a lot too. When Mr. Jared got angry at one of us, he would get a wooden spoon, or a hanger, or his belt, or anything within reach to beat us with. My big brother got it the worst because he would try to protect me. Sometimes, he would drag me up the stairs by my hair and toss me into a dark closet with broken beer bottles and lock the door. I was scared of the dark, I was just a child. I would pound on the door, crying for him to let me out, but he wouldn’t. I would spend hours in that room, sometimes with my big brother. By the time my new brother, August, was born, Theo had enough of the horrible treatment. He told my mom “I am going to live with dad if you don’t leave Mr. Jared. It is him or me. Who will you choose?”

My mom chose Mr. Jared and she let my big brother go. He moved into my dads house with his new wife, Mrs. Mandy. Theo wanted me to come with him, but our mom wouldn’t let me. She dangled me in front of my dad to tease him and torture him because I hated him. I blamed him. She filled my head with lies and such hatred that I would destroy my father when I visited him because I believed everything she told me. I was devoted to my mom even though she hurt me.

And she did hurt me. I was burnt with cigarettes, beaten, slapped, and abused. I didn’t know it was wrong. I didn’t know any better. I thought it was because I was useless and a waste of space. My mother and Mr. Jared had five more children together. I loved them all so dearly. I protected them. I adored them. They hated me. I wasn’t their real sister. As I got older, I began to feel isolated. I was a stranger in my own home. No one loved me. By the time I was twelve, I was depressed. I didn’t care though. As long as my mom and siblings were happy, I was happy for them.

When I turned twelve, Mr. Jared began to be nicer to me. I was surprised because I always thought he hated me. Around this time, I began to go through puberty. I even had my first period when I was in school. I was becoming a young woman. And Mr. Jared saw that. He noticed me. We would set up a tent outside the house with a long extension cord to watch movies and tv. Most of the time, he would be in there with me, the two of us alone. I thought this was good because I wanted a dad. I wanted him to love me. And he did. But not in the way I had needed. That night in the tent was the night I lost my virginity to my mothers boyfriend. He raped me. He violated me. I was scared. I was paralyzed where I laid. I didn’t know what was happening, I didn’t understand. I just knew I didn’t like it. But I did nothing.
I don’t know how many times he used me, but when I woke up, my panties were on the tent floor beside me, blood dried between my legs, coating my thighs, and I was alone. I was scared, I was hurt. My vagina hurt. It hurt to move. Just after I put my underwear back on, the tent unzipped and it was Mr. Jared with a box of Taco Bell and a brand new 3DS charger. He never brought me gifts before, and it was nice. Really nice. I loved Taco Bell and I needed a new charger to play my games. There he was, handing me these rewards because I had been a “good girl”. He made me think I did something good. I did something to make him happy. And that made me feel good, because all I wanted was to make him happy. He said he would give me more gifts if I didn’t tell anyone and continued to let him “play” with me. I didn’t know it was wrong. I didn’t know I should have told someone right away. I promised to be good because I liked being given things. I was just a child being groomed.

From that day forward, Mr. Jared would call me and molest me multiple times a week, sometimes everyday. He would wait until my mother left the house to rape me. He would make me wear my moms lingerie, use her sex toys, and roleplay for him. I did it all for him. Because it made him happy. I wanted to make everyone happy. I was nothing. It always hurt. It was always painful. No matter what he did, I hated it. He would stick himself in my butt and come in there, and it always felt like I was being stabbed inside. It hurt worse when he put himself in my vagina. But my pain didn’t matter. It never mattered.

As I grew, I started to realize that what was going on was wrong. He wasn’t supposed to be doing this to me. But I was helpless to stop it. I told my mom once, at the age of 13. I told her he saw me naked and touched me a lot. At first, she believed me. She even took me to the police station to make a statement. Before I went in to talk to the kind woman, my mom pulled me aside and said to me
“Leigh, if you tell that lady Mr. Jared has been having sex with you, your brothers and sisters will be sent away, split up, and sad. And if they get taken away, we lose the house and I kill myself.”
I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. If I told this woman what happened, I would be responsible for destroying my family. And I didn’t want to destroy my family. I did not matter. They did. So I told the nice woman that I lied about everything. I told her I would watch porn and I just wanted some attention. This worked and we were left alone.
Mr. Jared was mad at me for “lying”. He told me the next time I told anyone, he would kill my mom. And then he said if I got pregnant, he would kill me and then himself. Needless to say, I was terrified.

I tried to tell my mom three more times as it progressed, but she always refused to believe me. She became violent towards me. I would be beaten, punched, slapped, and even have objects thrown at my head. I would let her hurt and berate me. I was useless. I was a waste of space. I was lazy. I was a disappointment. I was everything she said I was. I believed her. I remember the night she broke my nose by smashing plates over my head. I would never hurt her. I loved her. Even if she didn’t love me. No one loved me. By the time I got into High School, I was incredibly depressed. I slept through classes, I didn’t talk to anyone, I did nothing. I didn’t want to live anymore. I always thought my mom could get money from my death, and I thought that would make her happy. I did reach out. I told her and Mr. Jared I wanted to hurt myself. Their responses were horrid. My mother told me how to cut my arms and how many pills to take. Mr. Jared showed me how to tie a noose and where to hang myself. He even said he would drive me to a bridge so I could jump off. I was unwanted. Undesired.

I tried to die. I really did. I slit my wrists, but I survived. I took a bunch of pills to drown myself, but I survived. I tried to hang myself from the banister leading to the attic, but the scarf I used broke and I survived. It seemed like I could not die.

The only reason I kept going was because of a tattoo. My mother asked me if I wanted a tattoo because her friend was offering her a deal. If he brought a new customer, he would give her %50 off her next tattoo. I got a tattoo. And to this day I love this tattoo. It says “Think Positive” and it is on my wrist.

Mr. Jared was mean. He didn’t like it when I would tell him no. I told him to leave me alone once, and he chased me from my home, threatening to kill me. I knew, I knew, that if he caught me, I would die. He was going to kill me. I was going to die. I ran to my grandmothers house, expecting him to give up, but he didn’t. He chased me around her home, running laps until I climbed up a board to get onto my grandmas balcony, hiding in the darkness as he circled the home. I waited until he got tired and went home. It felt like hours. It was cold. My hands and feet were numb, my skin was reddening. I had only my pajama shorts and shirt to keep me warm. I knocked on her door, over and over, crying. I was scared. I can still remember how it felt, how knowing your end was coming felt. It was horrific. Thankfully, she let me in and protected me the best she could. She would refuse to let him in while I was in the house, and she would comfort me.
I loved my grandma. She believed me. She loved me.

By the time I turned sixteen, Mr. Jared began drinking heavily and often got drunk. He and my mom would fight and fight. If I got scared and called the cops, my mom would beat me. I was scared for her life. When they got physical, I would get in the middle of it and take the hits. She mattered more than me. I was nothing. I was a failure. I was failing in school, considering dropping out upon my mothers’ recommendation, and I had no plans for my future. I didn’t think I had a future.

One night, my mother kicked Mr. Jared out and he was arrested for hitting her. I knew she was mad at him so I told her that I could get him in more trouble. This time, she believed me. She chose to believe me. We got a positive rape kit, and a restraining order. I thought, for the first time in my life, that she was on my side.
But she wasn’t.

A month after he was put in prison, set to go to trial, I told my mom I wanted to move in with my dad after the end of this school year. She responded by calling me a selfish whore, a bitch, and she threw me out. I didn’t live there anymore. I was kicked out in nothing but my shirt and panties, since I was getting ready for bed. I walked to my grandmas in a snow storm, my feet going numb. I couldn’t feel anything but cold. When I got there, my feet had started to bleed. Grandma took me in, and she even helped me go back to my moms house to pack for my parents that were driving to come get me. They were saving me. The night I left was hard for me. I wanted to stay, for my grandma. I loved her so much. But I needed to leave. My dad and Mrs. Mandy* arrived and packed the car up. They thanked my grandma for taking care of me and she and I shared a tearful goodbye.

She’s gone now, lost to cancer, and I miss her each and everyday. I love her. She helped save me. She motivated me.

My parents were supportive and kind to me. They put me into trauma counseling and helped me cope. They even flew back with me so I could testify against Mr. Jared. It was really hard, seeing him again. What was harder though, was seeing my mother. She refused to look at me. She refused to talk to me. And it hurt. I loved her so much and I felt like I let her down. But I knew I had to do this. I had to tell the truth. For the sake of my brothers and sisters, just in case he was doing anything to them.

My grandma spoke to me while I was there. She thanked my dad and Mrs. Mandy for taking such good care of me. Originally, I had no plan for my life. I didn’t think I would see the day I turned 18, I didn’t think I would be alive. Thanks to them, I was going to graduate High School and turn 18. Mrs. Mandy actually legally adopted me!! I am so happy to have her as my mom. I love her so much.

Mr. Jared was sent to prison. And I gave a final statement before his sentencing. The judge commended me for my bravery, and she even gave me a hug, wishing me well.
I am now almost twenty years old. I have a wonderful full time job, I go to college full time for my general studies so I can get into a nursing program. To this day, I still have a problem with intimacy. It still hurts. It still scares me. I still have nightmares, and I still have my problems. But compared to who I used to be, I’m better than I was.

Some things may never change. Like how I feel about myself. I do not love myself. I am not important. My two younger brothers are more important than me. Everyone is more important than I am, so I prefer to take care of them before I care for myself.
I wanted to share my story because this kind of abuse is more common than you would think. I want to raise awareness. I want to help people share. I want to support people. I want them to know the things I should have known.
YOU are important.
YOU matter.
This is NOT your fault.
YOU are NOT to blame.
YOU did nothing wrong.
Everything will be okay, just take care of yourself.
I hope that you can share with me your stories, for I am here to listen and confide in. I love all of you. And I think all of you are strong and beautiful. I am here for you.
Everyone has a story.
The ending of your story depends on what path you choose.
Will you choose to be a victim? Or will you choose to be a survivor?
Our past does not define us. It shapes us into better people. We just have to let it.
Thank you for listening to my story

* Ladybug has changed the names in this story to protect her anonymity.

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Ladybug