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Breaking the Silence

DEAR BOY WHO TOUCHED ME INAPPROPIATELY

Breaking the Silence, Sexual AbuseJasmine LopezComment
 Photo by: DeAnda Photography

Photo by: DeAnda Photography

Dear boy who touched me inappropriately,

I was a freshman in high school when I learned about incest and bestiality. I’ll never forget the disgust and embarrassment my classmates had. That’s when I realized that what you did, what I experienced, wasn’t normal.  I mean you weren’t that much older than me, and I wanted nothing but your love and approval. I remember going home that afternoon, lying in my bed in the fetal position asking God, who I wasn’t sure I believed in, to take all my memories away….and you know what, He did.

A few years later I met Jesus, and I started walking through a healing journey, and He was slowly beginning to walk me through my dark past, but I didn’t remember, until one day, I had a trigger, and bits and pieces began to come back. I cried, I couldn’t believe it. In fact, a small voice was telling me that I was making it up, that it didn’t really happen. I shared it with one person, and that voice was even stronger…. telling me I was lying. So I pushed it back, and continued to live my life.

In my early 20’s, my mom noticed I was acting weird. For some reason she asked me, “Did he do something to you?!?" And I told her yes….yes you did, as I began to cry. She cried and I cried more. She also said something that made me realize that this was generational curse. I was too afraid to dig deeper and ask more questions, but it gave me so much more understanding.

And then I got married. We were so fearful of how our marriage would be affected by the things you did to me. And I’m not going to lie, it did. After one year of marriage, we got pregnant, and I pleaded with God to give me a girl as a symbol, a covenant, that this curse was broken over my bloodline, and He did! Through His faithfulness He gave us a daughter. And I truly believe that this curse is broken. When I was at home with her, I struggled to connect with her, I had that same small voice telling me that I would end up hurting her, the way you hurt me. I said no that’s not true, that I will not allow that to happen, and it didn’t!!!

It was in my 4th year of marriage when things got even harder. My intimacy with my husband got so distant. I didn’t know how to enjoy what God created to be beautiful, because of how distorted it was to me. I remember driving to you. Confronting you. Telling you that I remembered everything, and we cried. You said you were sorry. I saw you covered in such shame, and helplessness. And on that day I forgave you!

It’s now been many years later, and I’m still not made whole. I thought that forgiving you would make me whole, but I was wrong. I’m starting to see that, I’m still broken because while I forgave you, I haven’t forgiven myself. I mean how did I not know that this was wrong? How did I think this was okay? And so here I am broken, ready to face the rest of my past. I want the courage to face those broken, lost pieces so far back in my brain. I want nothing more than to put the puzzle pieces back together, and understand the full story. I want Immanuel to walk with me, holding my hand as ABBA, telling me He is with me. I want to be made whole. I want nothing more than to walk in the fullness of who God created me to be.

And you know what?!? I want that for you too!!! I want to see you forgive yourself. Yes it was wrong, we were also kids. I want to see you living life to the fullest, believing that you are forgiven, loved and worthy of love. Don’t isolate yourself, don’t stay in your dark dungeon anymore. Please get the help you need!!! Begin to walk in truth, and begin to walk in your own healing journey, as I will be embarking in. I’m going to see a therapist who’s going to help me process, and in the processing, I may hate you again. I’m okay with that, because it’s the process I need to go through in order to heal, and once I can heal, I can then truly forgive you, and walk in freedom.

And to you who was inappropriately touched,

I am sooooo sorry!

For what you went through. For experiencing a distortion of what intimacy should be. I believe you. I stand with you, and believe that we can find our healing. Our voices matter. Our stories matter. We need to break the silence. We need to tell our stories. We need the "1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys" to know they aren't alone. We need to find our freedom, but we can't until we shed light on those dark things. It's when we do, where we find freedom. I'm praying for you, as I'm praying for me. Let's pray for each other as we walk through this.

HE RAPED ME THAT NIGHT

Breaking the SilenceJasmine LopezComment
 Stock photo by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache

Stock photo by: Jazi Photo Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache

Please share your story.:

It was March of 2015 and I was 25 years old. I was working in the suburbs of Chicago and a male coworker offered me a ride home in his Jeep. I had only had what felt like safe interactions with him at work up until this night. When we got to my apartment, I asked if he'd like to come up because I thought it was the polite thing to do. He raped me that night in my apartment. I froze and couldn't fight back and would later learn that is a normal response to a traumatic event like this. I eventually got away to my bathroom and when I came back into the main area of my apartment he put me in a restraint holding my arms behind my back. I was able to fight back and get out of his grip. He left around 2 am. I saw him later at work the next day and he pretended as if nothing had happened. The moment I left work that night, I had a panic attack and I knew I needed to tell someone what had happened. I reached out to a friend. I reach out to my therapist. I called 911 and went to the hospital to be evaluated the next day. I was re-traumatized by police officers, a detective, a sergeant, doctors and nurses. When I was struggling to get words out to tell the ER nurse what had happened she said, "I don't understand why you can't just tell me??" One of the responding officers told me, "I don't see how there was a crime here." A detective told me, "If he wanted to rape you, he would have .... it doesn't matter what those advocates and your therapists are saying, he didn't do anything ... you were blocking the edge of the bed, he couldn't even get up if he wanted to ... you can't hide behind your dissociation." I found an attorney. I found a safe place to stay with a couple from my church for a few nights. I found an amazing organization downtown called Rape Victim Advocates. I found help and support, and I found people who believed my story and took me seriously. I did not get justice in the court rooms I would attend or from the detective I would meet with. I'm still coming to accept that as what is final for my case. A Chicago Police Officer said my case was labeled "non-criminal" because "I didn't fight back or say no." My case will go no further and I'm still trying to make peace with that. I will continue living. I will continue fighting. I will continue healing every day from that night.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It took awhile before I could see anything good coming from what happened. I can now see that I am more resilient. I am stronger as a human. I am more compassionate and understanding when I hear others stories. What happened that night has inspired me to one day work with other survivors of sexual assault. I participated in a research study that UIC did about how the Chicago police react to sexual assault cases, to in the end, provide better training for the CPD. I am a resilient person and I believe that is the main truth I will take from this experience.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I wanted to share my story simply in hopes that my story would resonate with someone else and it would help them or at the least, make them feel less alone.

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

You did nothing wrong. None of what happened to you was your fault. You did not deserve any of it. There are people who will believe you, me being one of them.

I TOLD HIM TO STOP...

Breaking the SilenceJasmine LopezComment
 Photos by: Dylan Cruz

Photos by: Dylan Cruz

Please share your story: : My life as a teenager, people would think I would be out playing with my friends or thinking about what am I going to have for lunch the next day. At the age of 13 I was in a relationship with a 15 year old boy that I thought I could trust. We were just a regular teenage couple calling each other at night and hanging out at the mall. Until the day I lost my virginity to him, I was 14. Once this happened, the controlling started, as well as, the physical and mental abuse. I was the most blinded and naive person. I was thinking to myself, "I am so young to be going through these horrendous things." Then it happened, one night we were in his room and we started kissing, and one thing led to another. I told him to stop and as I was telling him to stop, he was ripping off all my clothes and was doing what he wanted to do with me. At this point I was crying and just asking him to please stop. I never told any one my story. I just let the same thing happen over and over again. At a young age, I did not think, I did not know what to say to any one because I loved him. I was so manipulated by him. Feeling the way I did, I felt like the most dirtiest and unworthiest person. I was with him for 4 years. At the age of 17, I met my now husband and we were just talking at the time. I never told him my story, but he knew I was broken. He asked me one day come to church with me. I went to church and I loved it. God spoke to me, he was healing me. I was getting delivered, and I was baptized that very same year.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

Today I am a free women. I do not look back, I look forward. I have been married with my husband for 7 years and with 2 beautiful children and one on the way. My life has changed drastically. I am blessed and thank God every day of my life that I did not end up dead or with issues of not being able to have a baby. I am always motivated to be a better person every day.

What compelled you to share your story?

I feel that my story should be selected because there are a lot of young women that go through this obstacle at a very young age and are afraid to speak. I was one of them, I was not able to speak about my abuse and rape that happened in my relationship. Many young women become naive and blinded by what they think is love. I would love to save a life! And give women hope that there is life at the end of the darkness. Speak up and do not be afraid.

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

I would let them know that they are the most beautiful young women that God has created. God heals all wounds and never gives up on you. The joy of the lord is your strength. Being strong doesn't mean you have to fight the battle. True strength is being adult enough to walk away from the nonsense, with your head held up high.

I WAS HELD CAPTIVE

Abuse, Breaking the Silence, Sexual Abuse, RapeJasmine LopezComment
 Stock photo by:  Jazi Photo

Stock photo by: Jazi Photo

Please share your story.: When I was 16 years old, I was held captive by someone I thought of as an uncle. He repeatedly sexually assaulted me and hit me. He tied me up so I had no chance of escaping. I was there for 4 days and no one looked for me. To this day, it is still a struggle to sleep. But I've overcome so much since then. I'm now 19, almost 20, and things are still hard due to it. But I've been helped by so many.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

I'm a much stronger person. I'm going to school to be a therapist to help other traumatized teens get through their issues.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

Nobody should blame themselves.

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

It's never going to be perfect, but it'll be better. So many people can help. And with your story you can help others.

AND STARTED BY UNBUTTONING MY PANTS...

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 movie...one 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.

HE CORNERED ME AGAINST THE WALL

Breaking the SilenceJasmine LopezComment
 Photo by: Jazi Photo Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache

Photo by: Jazi Photo Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache

My story isn't one that should be reported to the police because it is an everyday occurrence. I'm sure most women have experienced some version of it making it important to still discuss.

I was at my first job and was warned that the male owner had a history of hitting on the female staff. It only took a few weeks for him to start making inappropriate comments that I would laugh off (my main coping mechanism). Once he cornered me against a wall and leaned into whisper in my ear.

Nothing happened, but I was intimidated. If he had done something, I'm not sure how I would have reacted. I'd like to think I would have pushed back and stood up for myself. But honestly who knows. I'd seen shorter shifts given to some staff he didn't like. I needed the job to save for college. He had the upper hand and I hadn't ever let him know his behavior was actually unwanted.

Would it have been his fault if he had made a move? Or mine? Would anyone have supported my claim? Or instead thought "she was asking for it" or "she flirted back"? The power of female sexuality and subsequent mixed messages make it hard to take action if one is victimized. 

One could argue that I haven't learned my lesson 10 years later. Flirting is a tool I use regularly to get my way. Why? It isn't my fault it's effective. But by using this as a competitive advantage, am I also blurring the lines of implied consent? 

HE GRABBED MY ASS

Breaking the SilenceJasmine Lopez1 Comment

Please share your story: : I remember when I was in high school I was dating a guy and we went back to his friend's house. He kept trying to nudge me and hug me into a dark bedroom. I said no, and tried to push him off me. He kept saying come on and still was trying to get me in that room. I finally had to push him firmly off me, and sternly tell him to stop, in order for him to get the picture. His response was, why am I making such a big deal and to chill out.

Another time, I had just moved to Chicago. I was walking home after work and it was just getting dark. I was about to walk past a guy, so in my friendly mid-west nature I said hello to him and nodded. He said hello as well and as he walked by he grabbed my ass, and this was no accident. My outspoken instinct kicked in and I turned around and yelled at him to never fucking do that to another woman again. He was startled at my response, but in return yelled back and called me a bitch.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It's a double edged sword. In one way it makes me aware and see the need to stand up for people that are being discriminated against. As humans we can become so focused on not wanting to get involved that no one wants to make the first move with standing up. Also, the importance of someone's story and voice. We all have things we struggle with and experience. I believe one of the most powerful things in humanity is being able to relate and connect, it makes you feel not alone. Then in another way it causes me not to be my true self. It's hard to not hang on to things that happen to us and not be jaded by our experiences. I feel like I am always having to be aware of my surroundings and doing whatever I can to not be put back into a similar experience. It's hard, but fear robs you of your true self, and learning to move forward and not carry these burdens is a day to day process.

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

Believe in yourself and stand your ground on who you are. Life isn't fair and it never will be but that doesn't change the fact that you are valuable. Sometimes you are gonna be the only one going against the norms of society but just hold on to your true self. Find someone you can open up to and confide in with things that happen, no one should go through it alone. I firmly believe in the power of counseling and the healing that comes in that, so don't ever be ashamed to share your story.

"I KNOW YOU WANT THIS..."

Breaking the Silence, Rape, PTSD, SuicideJasmine Lopez2 Comments
 Makeup:  Jacqueline Gamache  Styled by:  Co Chic Styling  Photos:  Jazi Photo

Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache Styled by: Co Chic Styling Photos: Jazi Photo

Please share your story:

It was my freshman year at the University of Iowa. My first year living away from my family. I shared a dorm room with two best friends from a small town in Iowa. We were very different people, but, still managed to enjoy being roommates. Being from Iowa, they often had friends from their home town come visit. It had never been an issue as they all usually went out at night together leaving me in the quiet of our room. One night, after having gone to sleep, and while they were all out partying, there was a knock on the dorm room door. Before opening it I asked who it was. I knew one of the guys who happened to be my roommates' friend, and had met on numerous occasions. He and his friend wanted to wait in the room for my roommates to return. They had been out partying and had had too much to drink, so just wanted to lay down.

The friend I knew immediately passed out on my roommates bed. I laid back down in my bed to try to get back to sleep. Next thing I know there is a weight on top of me. The other friend was laying on top of me and put his hand over my mouth so I couldn't yell out. He said, "I know you want this and it will be good for both of us". He proceeded to rape me, then got up and left, while the other friend was still passed out. I never knew the name of the person who raped me and didn't tell anyone the next day or even over the next year what had happened, in fact, I completely wiped it out of my memory.
 

For the next year I felt horrible about myself and had no idea why. I broke up with someone I had had a 2 year relationship with. I would cry at the drop of a hat. I started to not feel worthy of others' attention and withdrew a bit. I would take long walks at night hoping something bad would happen to me just so I could have something to tie to all of my negative feelings about myself. Because I had blocked the memory of the rape, I was lost and had no understanding why I didn't like myself at all.

About a year after the rape, I was feeling so low. I still had no understanding of why I didn't like myself. I became very depressed. I think on the outside people had no idea as I had always been a happy, bubbly person and tried to continue that persona around my friends. But, it was killing me inside. One night, I was done with feeling miserable and decided to commit suicide. I took a bunch of pills and called my family to say goodbye. My mom realized something was extremely wrong and got a hold of my brother who was also at U of I. He contacted 911 and had me taken to the hospital.

Oddly enough it was while I was vomiting up those pills at the hospital that I started remembering all of the details of the rape. Those memories, strangely enough, were a relief to me. I finally understood why I had fallen so deeply into the depressed state I was in. This gave me the ability to begin to heal. I saw a therapist who helped me understand that the rape was not my fault. However, I also went to a psychiatrist who told me that the rape is in the past and I need to forget about it and move on with my life (essentially snap out of it). I had repressed those memories for a year and now he wanted me to repress them again. I was mortified. I told him what he "wanted" to hear to get out of his office and move on with my therapy and life and never saw him again.

Has it been easy?!? No. Sometimes I find myself making horrible life choices due to still having some of the feelings of not being good enough, or, not feeling like I am worthy of love. I also have had many issues with intimacy. This can be hard for my husband who is a very understanding person. I don't always like to be touched. It has been about 30 years since the rape occurred, and, I am happy to say I survived.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

My story has changed me in the fact that I understand and empathize with others who are going through issues in their lives. I am a support group leader for Alopecia Areata and feel that my past experiences have made me want to reach out and be there for my group. I am one of the first ones to say, "your story is your story and your hurt is your hurt, don't let anyone tell you it shouldn't bother you".

What compelled you to share your story?: I want others to know there is life beyond rape.

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

My therapist once said "depression is like being in a dirt hole. No matter how often you try to claw your way out the dirt, it just gives way and you make no headway". Accept someone's ladder into that hole and let them help you pull yourself out. Life is worth living once you can see the sun outside of that dirt hole.

I WAS BEATEN, WHIPPED, & THROWN ACROSS ROOMS

Abuse, Breaking the Silence, Sexual AbuseJasmine Lopez4 Comments

Please share your story: : When I was little, I lived with my mom, her boyfriend and my older sister. We lived in a trailer home in New Hampshire. The events of my abuse started when I was around the age of 3. I was always struggling to eat. I was always dirty. My older sister, who was also going through the same thing, was the one who took care of me. I was sexually assaulted by my mom's boyfriend. He played with me sexually and made me things that I didn't want to. He made have sex with my older sister. I was beaten, whipped, and thrown across rooms. I was raped by my mom and her boyfriend. I couldn't eat unless they felt like it. If I missed behaved, I had to drink hot sauce. Then at 6 I moved in with my dad.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

It changed the way I see people and how cruel that people can be. But it's also has given me passion for others, and it's given me the ability to listen to other's stories and give them advice based on what I went through.

What compelled you to share your story?

I want others to know they aren't alone, there are lot of people who have gone through similar things. I want to break the silence, especially since I'm a guy.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Keep your head held up high, and move forward. The past is the past, but the future is not here yet.