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Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Breaking the SilenceJasmine Lopez2 Comments
Photos by: Heather Manwaring

Photos by: Heather Manwaring

Please share your story:

The first time my innocence was taken from me was when I was six years old. My parents had divorced two years prior, so my sisters and I split our time between two households: one with our mother and her partner, and one with our father. At one point, my mother had family in town visiting, and along with them came a friend. Both parents had a funny feeling about Steve--something was not quite right, but in order to keep the peace and evade awkward confrontation, he was allowed to stay in the house with us. He was weird, and quite mean. He would do things like pee on the living room floor, enter the bathroom while we were showering, and kick my sister's butts all in the name of "fun". Of course, none of this behavior was displayed in front of my mother. 
I shared a room with my sister, Kristi, at the time, and it was located in the very back of the house. One day, he somehow got me alone in that room with him. He locked the door behind him, and firmly pushed me up against the dresser. He knelt down before me and started by unbuttoning my pants and pulling down the zipper. By this point I started to make noise and attempted to scream, but he covered my mouth and told me to stay quiet. His finger found its way through my panties and into the folds of the most private part of my body. His finger felt hard and cold on my very sensitive skin as he probed me to his satisfaction. 
I have no idea how she knew, but it was my sister who came and knocked on the bedroom door. Steve mumbled a response, and smart little Kristi ran to get Mom. Seconds later, she was banging on the door to demand he unlocked it. Right before he did so, his hand still suctioned uncomfortably over my mouth, he whispered into my ear, "if you tell anyone about this, I will come back to kill you and your whole family."
My mother glared at him as he opened and exited what was supposed to have been my sacred space. Nothing substantial ever happened after that in the sense of a direst repercussion for his actions. My mom never questioned him or checked in with me, even though she knew something weird had occurred during his stay. It wasn't until a few years later that I came out with a modified version of the story (partially because I had blocked out the most painful part of this memory), after learning that he had passed away from AIDS. There was no longer the fear of the possibility that he would come back to hurt my family, although he had already inflicted plenty of damage already. It wasn't until a couple years ago (I'm now 26) that the repressed memories of the abuse came to light.
Fast forward twelve years, and the second event of this nature made its way into my life. I had just turned eighteen and was playing water polo at the local community college. I was constantly around all of the male athletes: in the gym, in study hall, in physical therapy, at all the parties (not that I attended many of those). I received a lot of attention--more than I'd ever received in my entire life. It was a new experience and it was one of the first times in my life when I felt beautiful and desired by the opposite sex. This made me desperate and way too eager to connect, in a way that made me undiscerning of who was truly worthy of me, my body, and my time. Freddy was the first man to ask me out. He wanted me to come over to his place and watch a movie with him. Naive as I was to the whole dating scene, I believed him and happily agreed. We entered his room and put on a that we never ended up watching. He stole my virginity that night with a penis as large as an English cucumber, leaving my vagina ravaged and bloody, my senses completely numbed, and broken-hearted by the realization that my first sexual experience was with someone who didn't care about me. I could never get that back. I cried for days, and didn't look at any man in the eyes or find very many men sexually attractive after that night.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

It has shaped me in a multitude of ways. It has affected me negatively in the sense that I lost my sense of trust not only in men, but in the world. I shut down emotionally, became very withdrawn and kept everyone at an arm's distance. I was angry, bitter, and abrasive to myself and everyone around me. In order to hide my most broken and vulnerable parts of my psyche, I put on a happy face...a mask that I felt I could control. I couldn't control what had happened to me at six and at eighteen, so I thought that if I tried to control everyone and everything around me, I would never again be hurt like that. 

Now that I have gone through healing of many of these layers, these experiences have shaped me into a very passionate person. I am committed to bringing love to myself, others, and every situation to the best of my ability. It has helped me to develop compassion for others in similar situations, to bring multiple levels of understanding to pain and darkness, and to rediscover my sexuality in healthy, life-giving ways. It has also inspired the direction in which I want to take my career in photography. I want to bring awareness and healing to this issue, because so many women have gone through traumatic experiences like mine and so much worse. We would all be better off working through and letting go of the pain many of us hold onto. 
I envision a world where everyone has vibrant, healthy, loving, honest, authentic relationships!

What compelled you to share your story?:

My story is like countless others, and one that I am willing to share because I no longer want to stay in the dark. I want complete, radical honesty, because I feel like it is the only way we will ever heal as a collective. I want my story to bring light, love, and understanding to those willing and ready to make their way out of their own holes and breathe the fresh air of the light of day.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: 

That they are not alone. That even in a world where stories and emotions like these are swept under the rug, there are those out there who understand and will listen to you, and even more than that, will love you through it all. That you are still worthy of love and happiness, regardless of how broken you feel. And, I would highly recommend finding an outlet for the pain that works for you, whether that be going to see a therapist, painting, dancing, hanging out with supportive friends...whatever makes you happy. Go and do more of that. The world isn't as scary as you think it is. We're all hurting, and we're all doing the best we can.