I will not be defined by what happened to me. I have taken my life back, my voice back, and my strength back.

I am a 26-year-old survivor of 10 years of molestation and 2 attempted sexual assaults. My first sexual experience was at the age of 4. It was nonconsensual. I did not have a consensual sexual experience until I was in my 20’s.

I can vividly remember my first sexual experience. It was at a Comfort Inn hotel. My mother had just married the man who would become my stepfather, and abuser. He travelled a lot for work, and sometimes he would “allow” me to join him on his trips.

The first time I remember getting ready for bed he asked me to sleep in his shirt and only his shirt. I figured he was my stepdad, and this must be normal. Once I had begun falling asleep, I was awoken by the feeling of someone rubbing on me. I continued to pretend I was asleep, since I wasn’t sure what was happening. I remember feeling as if someone was urinating on me. He rolled over and went to sleep.

I had never been more confused in my life. I remember him saying it was our little secret, and he loved me so much, that is how daddies treat their girls. I had no father in my life since I was born, so I did not think he was lying. I assumed this was how all little girls were treated.

This went on for 10 agonizing, long years. Eventually I knew it was wrong, but did not know what to even do to stop it. Even after my little brothers were born he would take us all on trips. But I would be the one forced to sleep in his bed while my brothers shared a bed. In some ways I felt good that I was protecting them in a sense. In other ways, I was angry. Angry that no one realized what was happening.

When I was about 7 or 8 years old I watched a movie about a young girl being sexually abused by her father, much like my own story. I remember it being the movie that made me realize what was happening was not normal.

Even when I knew it was wrong, I didn’t tell anyone. To this day, I do not know why I allowed it to happen to me. There are times I remember thinking I must have some type of disorder or something to continue to allow this to happen to me. I thought something has to be wrong with me. Why am I not telling anyone?

When I was around 12 or 13 years old, my mom asked about it. I broke down and told her what was happening on these trips. We both cried, and she called the police. I remember being in my room, and overheard her telling my abuser about my allegations. He denied it all of course, and said that I must have been dreaming.

The next day I was interviewed by the police. I told them I had a bad dream and nothing happened. And until much later in my life, I denied it ever happening.

Eventually things did not work between my mom and stepdad. They ended up getting a divorce, and my mom, myself, and my little brothers moved to Canada. I struggled a lot with depression, anxiety, and self-harm. I did not know how to channel all the feelings I had regarding what happened to me for 10 years. I started down a very self-destructive path. I was abusing drugs, drinking heavily, hurting myself, and not caring about life.

Still, no one noticed.

It wasn’t until grade 11 English class. We had to write a poem for each member of our family. So I wrote about my little brothers, and my mom. Then I figured why not about my abuser/stepdad. So I wrote a poem, did not outright say what had happened, but definitely implied something happened to me. Luckily my teacher took it to the counselor’s office, and I got called in to see her.

Initially I was ANGRY. I remember thinking how could my teacher do that? My mom came to the school, along with a police officer. I had to tell them everything the happened to me. My mom said it was her fault, and I kept telling her it wasn’t her fault, it was his fault. From there, a series of interviews happened, and then the waiting game. Because my stepdad was in the States, and most of the abuse happened in the States, they would have to apply to extradite him.

That was about 7 years ago. He still hasn’t been extradited. I still haven’t gotten my closure. He is still free to live life, and do what he wants to do.

But that is not where my story ends. I decided I will not be defined by what happened to me. I have taken my life back, my voice back, and my strength back. Now I have an amazing group of friends and family that always support me. I have an amazing boyfriend who treats me with respect, and loves me for who I am. I went back to school, and began my career as a youth care worker. I got clean, quit the drugs that were bringing me down. I now work with sexually exploited girls. I have an opportunity to help girls get through what I got through, something they often think they cannot get through alone.

Life has been full of ups and downs, full of anger, hurt, happiness, and joy. At the end of the day, I cannot and will not let my past define me.

I still have hard days. Certain smells, words, sights, anything can trigger me. I still have days that the anger comes back, and sometimes it gets the best of me. But all in all, I survived. I am thriving. I have an amazing life, and I would not change it for the world.

There is hope. It does get better. You can be a survivor.

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