You are a survivor, not a victim
It’s taken me years to understand through the abuse I endured as a child/teenager that I have a voice. I was never allowed to be heard. I grew up as if “victim” was embedded on my forehead. It started shortly after my parents separated, 2002. My father never liked my older brother and not long after my parents’ separation, the abuse on him became apparent. I can recall times where my father beat my brother and would not stop unless I started screaming as if I were being killed. I was 7. By the time I was 8, my brother’s visitation with our father was halted. However because there was no mention of me being abused, I continued visiting my father… alone. I didn’t understand what was happening, that what my father was doing to me was wrong. He had taken photos of me plenty of times, yeah. But shortly after my brother stopped seeing him the kind of photos he wanted changed. I try to tell myself I don’t remember it but your own parent sexually abusing you isn’t something you ever forget. I realized it was wrong after a visit with my father where my mom was working, I was sick so he stayed home with me for the day. I went to sit in my father’s lap while he was using his computer. He was looking at pornographic images. Some of children, some not. I remember not saying a word of what I saw but asked to see my mother. October 25th, 2004 was the last day I ever saw my father in person. I told my mom, she dropped me off with a family friend and immediately drove to the police station. My father was arrested. It took almost 2 years before he was sentenced. The FBI came to my school to see me. I remember sitting in the conference room with the agents and a video recorder. I was 9. Back then this kind of abuse in my area was basically unheard of so it landed front page of our local newspaper. My father was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and my case is listed in the Library of Congress. I received a name change, a federal order of protection until my 18th birthday, and the county gave me a citizenship award for my bravery. My story doesn’t end there. I was diagnosed with PSTD and my mother never really recovered. I didn’t understand how much it damaged her or how she blamed herself for being unable to protect me until I had my own children. My mom left me when I was 15 in 2011. I’ve been on my own since then. It threw me into severe social anxiety, depression and self harm. I couldn’t leave my home, go to school or open doors. I was terrified of everyone, I didn’t know how to trust. When I was 19, I had a daughter and 15 months later a son. They changed my life. I no longer was afraid of the world around me. I found myself being fearless. I started a part time retail job and fell in love. I became outgoing, social. I started a second job during my pregnancy with my son. I at times find myself still struggling and I’ve learned to accept that taking medication isn’t something I should be ashamed of. I am now 25. I haven’t self harmed in almost 5yrs. I work 3 jobs! One is a management position where I have my own store. I am also a merchandiser and have an entire store I’m a vendor for. I also have a great relationship with my mom. My children are 4/5 yrs old now. I have learned not to hold resentment, how to be less angry at the world for the things that have happened to me that have been out of my control. I have made it my mission to help those children who cannot speak up for themselves or feel like they have no voice. I scream for suicide awareness and mental health in ALL ages to be taken more seriously. I live by “there’s a will, there’s a way”. This is where I start. I challenge you to be more selfless and less selfish. Be less judgmental of someone’s struggles, reach out! Always check on your loved ones, whether it’s to ask how they are doing or to tell them you love them. We all have our demons, our battles, and our own struggles whether it’s mentally, emotionally, medically, physically, or spiritually. We are all human.
What advice would you offer to encourage others?
I know you believe you’re alone in what you face but the truth is, you’re not. It’s cliche of me to say, yeah. You have a voice. You will overcome this, you will strive. You are a survivor, not a victim. You are more than what your abuser has told you. If no one in your direct life is listening, someone else will. Whether it’s a teacher, a friend, a friend’s parent, a pen pal, or someone on social media you trust.
– Keli Collins, Survivor
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