I decided to finally share my story because I’m hoping someone else can find the strength to carry on as well.My life has been ups and downs as everyone else’s has, but it took me a long time to realize that the things that happened to me weren’t right, nor were they normal. Our family has always prided itself on excellence, pushing each child to go onward and upward, but never addressing the trauma that shapes us. I think that’s a major flaw of Black families, the need to keep what happens at home, home. No matter what happens, no matter who touches you, no matter who hurts you, no matter how it affects you. My first memory of someone trying to take advantage of my innocence and naivete was when I was four, and my mother kept me away from a neighbor who was trying to convince a friend and I to come to his apartment and see the monster in his closet. Only as an adult did I realize HE was the monster. She did her job protecting me from strangers, making sure the right friends watched us, but it was family members she trusted me with who ultimately hurt me. Even she did. She was going through her own battles and was physically and emotionally abusive, and while she admits her mental state was off, she still refuses to admit the wrongs she had done or come to terms with what was done to me. I was five when one of my older cousins convinced me I was his girlfriend, offered to watch me all the time, and did everything but penetrate me. It took me a long time to figure out how wrong that was. Throughout my life there have been family members and even church members who have sexually harassed or assaulted me in a number of ways that got dismissed because I was “fast”. There was even an instance when I was 14 when an older boy I knew gained access into my grandmother’s house with a friend looking to rape me. My grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s, had let them in. I found the gun she had hidden, hid behind the door, and by the grace of God, my grandfather told them I never go in there, so they didn’t come in. I would later on be raped in high school by a boyfriend because he “didn’t know I was serious when I said no”. My trauma has led me to some extremely dangerous situations and tumultuous relationships, because I didn’t know how to associate love without pain. I didn’t know how to get support without there having to be a trade off. Sex and sexual acts had been such a part of my life that I didn’t really know not to seek that kind of attention and instead of attempting to help me, I was shunned and degraded by a family that refused to even listen to me. It led me to being diagnosed with depression at 15 and multiple suicide attempts before I even turned 18. After so much pain, I wanted to die. I didn’t understand my purpose here until I turned 20 and I had my first child. Seeing him for the first time, I knew my purpose was to love him and guide him, to protect him as best as I could. Regrettably, he had to be with me as I was still broken, still trying to find myself past the pain. It all came to a head again when I was drugged at a party and raped by a family friend. No one helped me. No one called anyone for me. They covered it up and I remember finally making it home the next day and staying in bed for days. I lost myself again after that. I partied, did drugs, ended up in an abusive relationship, had two other children. I completely fell off the tracks, but the universe saw fit to have people come into my life and help me find my way back to me. I found a group of sisters who helped me rebuild myself, to find the God in me and excel. That didn’t come without it’s own struggles. I am still unpacking a lot of my trauma and dealing with the consequences of a lot of my actions and unfortunately, it got so overwhelming that my last attempt was earlier this year. But God saw fit to keep me here, to see my children smile, to seek and find help, to share my story. It is a hard journey, but I am still here. I am still looking for a reason other than my children to remain here, but I am slowly finding it. I want to help others know that it’s not over. Hardships don’t have to be your end. You are not the sum of your past, you are the direction of your future. Letting go is the hardest part, but worth it.