Sometimes, I can’t believe I’m alive. After being raped by my uncle and neglected by my family, I had no idea how I would make it through.
When I was younger, I moved around from family member to family member because my mom was in and out of jail. When I was 10 I moved in with my aunt. My older brother and my mother also lived there. I didn’t expect it to be a happy family reunion because I barely knew that side of the family. It was just another move to me.
A month after I moved in my uncle (my mom’s brother) came home from jail. When I was 7 he had introduced me to crack cocaine. He didn’t tell me that it was a drug, he just said to inhale then exhale. I had no idea what was going on. I liked how it relaxed my body and numbed me. I thought nothing was wrong with it because he was family and I didn’t think he’d do anything to hurt me.
Now he was back and so was the cocaine. At first he was the nicest uncle on earth. He bought me all types of Hot Cheetos and Now and Laters. Then one day I was chilling in my bedroom when he came in and asked, “Do you want to have those feelings again?” I told him that I didn’t mind. He melted white rocks into a pipe. I smoked it and was lost in my world. I felt so far away from myself and I liked it.
I was only 10. I didn’t know, but I was becoming addicted. I felt a rush for it, like I had to have it and I couldn’t focus on anything else besides the drug. Whenever he came to give me some, it was like teasing a dog with a steak. It had gotten that bad. One night he made sure that I was totally high and out of it. My aunt was in her room, two doors down. He pulled me onto the floor in front of the couch and started to have sex with me. I started to cry. He told me to shut up and I tried but I couldn’t stand the pain. He raped me. I yelled even louder and he stopped.
I took a bath to clean myself up because I was bleeding between my legs. I went to bed with an irritated, painful feeling between my legs. I tossed and turned that night wondering if I was pregnant or not. I was scared and I felt dirty.
The next day my uncle gave me more drugs than usual and I was not in control. He raped me again. I was scared. It happened almost every day. My mom was always out and my brother and my aunt were usually at work. I felt as if no one was there to help me and I had no choice but to do what my uncle said. He told me that if I told my brother or my mother, he would hurt them and me.
On Sundays I still went to church with my grandmother (my father’s mother). One Sunday, my uncle raped me just before the church van came to take me to church. I threatened him that I would tell my family that day at church. He pulled out his gun and said if I did he would kill me. I was terrified. I believed him because I knew he was crazy since he was raping me. And since my uncle was in a gang I knew it would be easy for him to hurt me.
After six months I told my uncle that I wanted him to stop. I told him I just wanted the drugs. He said OK. I was surprised. Maybe he agreed because he was tired of raping me too. Then I understood why he would give me drugs. It was because he knew that when I was high and out of it, he would have an opportunity to have sex with me. I think he stopped because he knew I was at the point that it didn’t matter what he said anymore, that I would tell someone regardless of what he was going to do.
The next week I went to school and talked to my fifth grade teacher. I was too afraid to tell him about what my uncle had done to me. If I told my teacher, I didn’t know what my uncle would do. So I told my teacher that I was being neglected. I didn’t even know what “neglected” meant. I just knew it was bad. I told him no one was taking care of me at home, that there wasn’t always food in the house and I mostly only ate at school. He sent me to the counselor’s office. I didn’t know what would happen, but I wanted someone to know something was wrong.
A couple of days passed and a social worker came to my house. The social worker told me to pack enough clothes for four days and I moved to my first foster home.
The foster care system saved my life. If I would have stayed I think my uncle would have killed me or that I would have overdosed because I was addicted. But leaving didn’t make my life all better. I wanted to be happy to be away from my uncle, but I was still scared because I wasn’t sure if he was going to come and find me.
Years of silence
The secret was locked inside of me. There were many times when I could have told someone about what my uncle did to me, but I didn’t. I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed or feeling like I’d done something wrong. I was scared of my uncle coming after me.
After living in three foster homes in three years, I moved to a group home when I was 14. I was slowly starting to open up. I told my therapist about my uncle and I also told the girls in my group home who had been through the same thing. One night the staff members at the group home took us to see a Kirk Franklin gospel concert. Franklin asked the audience if we needed to forgive someone or needed to ask for forgiveness. I thought of my uncle and what he had done to me. I used to tell the girls in my group home that I wanted to kill him for what he did. I kneeled down at the altar and prayed, silently asking God to forgive him. I cried because I knew that forgiveness was the right thing to do. I realized that even though he had hurt me it wasn’t my place to punish him. Even though I forgave my uncle for what he did, I still wished he would pay for the crime. I believed that God would take care of my uncle’s justice, and I didn’t worry about it anymore.
When I was 16, I went to visit my mother at my aunt’s house because I hadn’t seen her in a while. I thought my uncle might be there, but I wasn’t intimidated because I didn’t think he’d do anything while my mom was there. I told her I was a lesbian but I didn’t plan on telling her about my uncle raping me. While asking about my sexuality she asked if a guy had done something to me when I was younger. (I guess she thought me being a lesbian was a result of something that happened to me as a child.) I told her yes. My mother started to name family members. She got to my uncles. When she said his name I stopped her and said yes. She went ballistic and started screaming out his name.
He was in the back of the house where he stayed. He came in and my mother confronted him. It was weird to see him again because he was acting all cool like he’d never raped me. She asked him to confess but he didn’t. His face was blank. I think he got scared and I was too. Seeing him again made me wonder if he was going to yell at me or hit me. I couldn’t understand why he lied. But in the end, he didn’t lay a hand on me.
I was proud of myself because I had the courage to tell my mom. It felt good to see my mom stand up for me. She had never done that before and I was surprised.
Last summer, almost a year after the confrontation with my uncle, I was ready to talk to the police because I felt like he couldn’t hurt me anymore. I mean, five years had passed and he hadn’t hurt me. I went to the police station with my therapist and made a report about my uncle. It went pretty OK. I felt in control. An officer sat me down for a quick interview to get basic information like how old I was, what happened and where. At the end of the interview he told me that I would hear from a detective soon. Three weeks later, a detective called to schedule another interview. I asked my assistant principal to go with me because I wanted adult support.
When we got to the police station I was so scared. I knew that this time they would ask me to go into a lot more detail. I started to panic. I had no idea what they were going to ask me. I followed an officer through steel doors into a room with a small table with two chairs on one side and one on the other. Two officers sat in the chairs across from me and asked questions for about 20 minutes. Did you have oral sex with him? Did he return it to you? Did he penetrate? What did the crack look like? The questions shocked me a little because they were so explicit. I didn’t have trouble answering and did so in a clear voice. I wondered if they would ever prosecute my uncle. I wanted him to get locked up.
I was relieved that I finally got it out and told the police. Afterward, I was able to start telling my friends. I felt free and able to share my story.
I wanted to help others
My best friend asked me to write a poem about being raped for a program at the women’s center where she worked. I wanted to be open about being sexually abused. I wanted this poem to really help someone out there having the same problem.
The day I was to present it, I broke down in tears at school. I realized that this had really happened to me. I had separated it from myself as if it never happened to me. I couldn’t believe I really went through that. It felt like it had happened to someone else. I wanted to be a person who was in control of my body and the girl I used to be wasn’t because I didn’t have control over what my uncle did to me.
When I got to the women’s center I was so nervous about speaking in front of people who didn’t know anything about me. When it was time for me to read my poem, my stomach dropped. It was completely quiet. I read, “I now believe in Strength not weakness, Love not hate, Freedom not captivity. I couldn’t smile then, because I couldn’t find who I was. But I smile now because the past made me who I am now and has made me a better and wiser person for the Future.” When I finished, there was thunderous applause and a shiver of joy went through my body. I was done. I shared it with the public and I felt that I could share with anyone after that. I felt like I was reaching out to someone else who had been through what I’d been through. I realized that I was a victim but that doesn’t prevent me from succeeding.
It would be OK if the police don’t ever get my uncle. I’m not afraid anymore. It’s taken a long time for me to get over this, but I thank God I had the strength to do it.
If you’ve been a victim of rape, sexual assault or domestic violence, you can get support and referrals to counseling centers by contacting:
Los Angeles County Rape & Battering Hotline (24/7)
National Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7)
(800) 656-HOPE (4673)
Find a rape crisis center in your area at this website: