Click For Hope

Breaking the Silence

I WAS MOLESTED FOR MANY YEARS

Breaking the SilenceJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story: 

I have very many stories, However one that changed my life forever, where my NORMAL will never be anyone else's. I was molested, sexually assaulted, almost sexually assaulted, and over all, I believe I had a very sexually abusive life. There is a lot to my story. However in short, I was molested for many years by someone not that much older than me, which was very confusing. For a while I thought it was okay, even though I didn't want to do the things he made me do. I was intimidated and for some reason I felt had to do it. I was then raped by my male "best friend" at 18, and then almost assaulted by some random person. I never saw his face. I was raped again after just beginning to heal at 30, by a old classmate. And then I was raped again after the devastating loss of my mom at 36.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

I had to realize that my life will never be the same. I learned that my world is not safe. I still worry, and have developed PTSD. Often times I worry and have fear that others may feel is irrational. My "normal" is not someone else normal. And that's okay. Through the process of healing 4 times, I have learned to stop apologizing for my fears, my normal, and my trauma. I stopped blaming myself, at the same time recognizing and understanding why I may have had a lack of boundaries. I have learned to stand up for myself. I have learned there is a profile type for a person that does this to someone. Finally I am so strong. I have learned how to press, push, and I have learned to not care about others opinion of me. I have learned to love my flaws and who I am, and not allow people to put me in "THEIR" little box.'

What compelled you to share your story?: 

I have been through so much on so many levels, I have learned so much, and God has healed me and made me whole each time. I am more than a survivor, I am an overcomer, a conqueror. I believe I can help many by telling my journey of pain and continual healing, and the testimony of being whole. I have also volunteered as a rape advocate so I could help other women who share a similar story. I've been through counseling. I have a BA in psychology and am currently in school for my Masters in Social Work. In which a few years ago, one of my classmates, who works for DCFS, knew that I had my foster care license but no kid. We got to talking, and I told her I love teens. I was interested in an older youth because most who foster don't want older kids.  These older kids tend to age out of the system and end up on the street. She told me about a coworker who was looking to place an older youth and connected me to him. When he told me about Mary, I fell in love before I met her. I prayed long and hard for a child that really wanted a home, a parent, and wanted to be loved. I wanted to meet her to see if it was a good fit. When I met her, we ended up talking for 5 hours. I couldn't wait to see her again. I was so sad to leave her, but I knew she would come home to me one day. A few LONG weeks later, she came home and the rest is history. It will be two years at the end of August, but it feels so much longer. We have struggles but I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world. She's my daughter from another mother, and just wish I could have had her sooner.

You can read Mary's story here: http://www.clickforhope.net/blog/2017/3/26/awakened-by-a-man-on-top-of-me

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

Time does heal if you allow GOD to heal you...and simply LIVE...don't just breathe...LIVE.
Don't allow people to tell you how you should feel and react.
You are Awesome..no matter what, you are not what you've been through.
Don't get OVER it, move THROUGH it, soar BEYOND it.
Wholeness and Healing is possible.

WORDS AND TOUCHES CAME VERY UNINVITED IN MY LIFE

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

Please share your story:

I was a freshman in high school, a young fourteen years old. I was innocent by nearly all definitions of the term. The guy at the desk behind me was much older and started verbally harassing me. He would draw disgusting pictures of us together and pass them around the class. He started touching me without permission while sitting in study hall. I was terrified and disgusted and revealed it to the dean of the school. I felt listened to, but simultaneously, the response felt unexceptional and I felt minimized. I felt this was perhaps expected conduct for a boy of his age. I started to believe this was commonplace behavior- and maybe next time I should not complain.

That same freshman year- a different boy sat next to me in the back row of a class. I didn't know him- but after a few days- he began taking his penis out of his pants before the teacher came in and told me to suck it. It became a daily act for nearly a semester. Most people in the class didn't notice- others laughed with him. I sensed there were people present that knew it was inappropriate- but they didn’t say a word. I often asked him to stop, sometimes I ignored it hoping he would find someone else to aggravate.

One day, this same boy pulled me aside in the hallway and demanded me to give him a blow job after school in the bathroom. I told him to go fuck himself and loudly declared to him and his friends what a piece of shit he was. My heart raced inside my chest. It was the first time I had used the dreaded "F word," and I felt the weight of it on my tongue- but I felt it was warranted. Obviously embarrassed- he pushed me against a wall after I refused and whispered "I will make everyone believe that you did." Two days later, I was sexually assaulted in a bathroom before soccer practice by a older student I had never even seen before. To this day I wouldn't be able to name his name or tell you much of what he looked like. It took me by such shock- I didn't even fight him- I just wept bitterly until he ran out of the bathroom mid-assault and left me sobbing on the floor. I later learned he was friends with this boy in my class, I saw them walking together in the hall. I was still a young fourteen years old but the innocence began to slowly but surely seep out of my body like a bad paper cut.

When I was fifteen, a guy from another class began walking too close behind me as we went down the stairwell during passing period. He grabbed me between the legs- and I can still feel his hot breath on my neck as he said "I am going to fuck you so hard it's going to make your ass bleed." I proceeded to turn around and punch him in the face. I was called into the main office for disciplinary action. I raised my voice in the meeting and told the Deans what the boy had said. They told me I could go- but as far as I know, that guy received no discipline whatsoever. Once again I learned that maybe this was part of life for a young teenage girl. Though the words were never said to me, I couldn't help but wonder, is this all part of "boys will be boys?" 

I remember a cook I worked with cornering me in the freezer at the restaurant- "jokingly" kissing my neck. Every time I fought him- he pushed back harder. If I let him do it, he would open the door of the freezer so I could get back to work.  He did it every time I went back to get something from storage. I couldn't even work without wondering if one day he would take it further. 

When I was in college, my much older boss at a steakhouse told me that my skirt wasn't short enough. He did this by taking me into his office and running his finger up my skirt and pointing to where on my upper thigh, my short skirt should end. I was so numb I don't think I even said anything. I was making good money and I was no longer shocked by anything. 

Words and touches came very uninvited in my life on and off for multiple years. The absolute worst moment was when I taken advantage of fully.  I was manipulated and forced upon by an older coworker. We were alone working and he told me go and get something from the back storage room. I woke up on the floor with a bump on my head and saw him zipping up his pants. My jeans were around my ankles and I knew what had happened. He made threats that he knew would succeed in making me stay quiet. Because I was unconscious- my memory until a few years ago- was very limited. I remembered running out. I remembered chain smoking half a pack of cigarettes on the hood of my car at 1 in the morning trembling listening to "footsteps" by Pearl Jam on repeat. But because I had no memories of the event at the time- I was able to isolate it- and extract it from my life. I went to school the next morning. I never told anyone the full version of what happened- except a standard teenage quote "I quit that job, my boss was a pervert and I was getting sick of it." Though I pushed the memory down and away- my social life suffered. My relationships suffered. Any innocence I had left hemorrhaged out of my young body like a trauma victim. A world I felt once was beautiful had turned grey. I was jaded, I was cynical. I smoked more, I drank more. I did what I could to numb feeling used. 
I quit sports to pursue working full time at other jobs. I kept very busy and slept very little. 

Fast forward to a few years later and I was doing fairly well. I was in nursing school and I had been successful at staying numb and busy. I had been in good relationships. I had not disclosed full stories about my past- but the pieces that I did tell were met with full support and compassion. I became the class clown- I stayed goofy and light-hearted. Because deep down, if you stripped it all off- I think I felt a hundred years old.

One day I was sitting in my psychiatric nursing class and we were to watch a scene of a rape from a movie in order to gain the worldview of sexual assault- so we could work with the victims. I squirmed in my seat until I could no longer take it. I went to the bathroom and threw up. I realized it then- there was nothing about this I had healed from. I did what I could to try and heal within my own power. I started a group for women across campus who were trying to heal. I met with dozens of girls cross legged on the floor of my tiny apartment- other women who had been assaulted. We shared stories, tears, and we built friendships. I thought that fixing others would somehow fix me. It worked temporarily. 

Fast forward a few years down the road and I was married with a young daughter. I was (and am) married to a wonderful man who is understanding, patient and gentle. But in mid 2013- what had started as a very long season of postpartum depression started spiraling into night terrors. Touches from my husband I loved began feeling toxic and uninvited. I felt sick all the time. I stayed in bed often. I didn't want to see friends, I didn't want to be social. It was so difficult to go to work, I remember being on the red line and thinking "what if this train de-railed? Would it really be that bad?" 

I met a Christian therapist in 2014. It was my hesitant new years resolution after my husband had pleaded for over a year. I was determined to pick myself out of the bed, save my marriage and my own sanity. It took over a year of hard gut-wrenching work- but I do believe that was the best decision I ever made for myself. It was hard- as I am a mental health professional- to admit to myself that I needed help- and a lot of it. It was hard to humble myself and sit across from someone who picked apart my past. But she did it gently and lovingly and she prayed over me each session with words that I had always needed to hear. I do believe that year was the year that my healing began. I learned how to talk about what I needed to talk about. I learned how to set boundaries. I learned that none of the behavior I had experienced should have been minimized- by others or by me. I slowly learned how to heal, that Christ covers all. I can't begin to convey the importance of finding a therapist and doing the hard work- this was the cornerstone of the entire healing process for me. My story will continue- some days I feel amazing, and other days of feel twinges of memories. Some nights I sleep soundly and others are interrupted by dreams I can't wake up from when I want to. But this is my story- healing has come and though it hasn't cleaned out every dark closet of my heart- it opened the curtains to let in light- so I can breathe easier and not live in terror or anger any longer.

clickforhope_jacqueline-8.jpg

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

I think I have a deep desire in my heart to be soft. I meet peacekeepers and so many gentle, loving women. I spend a lot of my time fascinated in how I can be like them. I am just recently realizing that life hasn't shaped me to be a peacekeeper. Through these events, life has given me the gift of righteous anger- and the kind of empathy that makes you weep. When I see a wrong- I can't shrug it off easily. When I see war, I don't think "God is in control- this stuff happens," instead I think, "What can I do? This is disgusting. I'm so angry right now. God gave me this anger so I can do something." 

I used to think that feeling angry meant I wasn't doing well. I've come to realize that there's multiple types of anger- and there's a kind that is good. The kind that sees something unjust and can't hold still. You clench your fists around the arms of your chair until your knuckles are white. You feel it rise in your chest and you exhale a prayer- begging the Lord to help you stay grounded. 

I have peace. I have peace in knowing that God is good no matter what. I also have peace knowing that God has gifted wounded warriors all over his planet. There are billions of people on this planet whose world turned grey at one point or another. Innocence was stolen, sometimes all at once, or sometimes it dripped out like a leaky faucet. It's through these broken humans who should be jaded- that God says - "You- I need your story." 

I have learned forgiveness. For some reason, this seemed like the easiest part for me. I work in mental health and I see how the cycle of violence twists and poisons people- trickling down through families and generations. If I imagine perpetrators once being victims (which most were)- forgiveness tends to lend itself easily to me, and for that I am grateful. 

I've learned that I'm not invincible. No matter what, no matter how much therapy you go through or how much you've forgiven- we are still human. 

One day at a hospital I worked at, we got the name of an admission coming in. I recognized it immediately- the age- the background-everything. He was a man from my past. One of the men who had taken something from me- who had stolen my innocence. My whole body stopped functioning- my brain slowed- and I couldn't quite communicate why- but I begged the supervisor to let me go home. I was in a daze the drive home and found myself in bed much of the following days. Just his name had taken me from a healthy functioning human being- to a completely broken and empty vessel. I was not immune- I was not invincible- but I was not overcome. He was discharged and I came back to work- shaken- but still ready to do my job. I needed to remind myself that though I was not all powerful- I was redeemed.

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

Everything that happened to you is part of your story. Every story we read has conflict. For some people, the conflict is small. For some, it's so great that you want to toss the book across the room and are too heartbroken to try to complete reading it . But so many times, the stories we remember are the ones with the greatest amount of conquered conflict. I wouldn't want to read a biography about my life if it were about a girl who walked around cynical all the time- seeing this beautiful world through a grey lens. 
I wouldn't read about a woman who spent her life scared, angry and bitter. I'd love to read a story about a girl who went through something hard and instead made something beautiful of it. We can do that through Christ. Christ rescues us from our bad stories. Then he restores us to new life. Then, when we are ready, he redeems those stories to always be used for his good in the world. I really believe that. If I don't live that- I'm going to read a biography about a girl who didn't allow herself to be redeemed- and that's going to be a sad life to read about. 

Let yourself hurt, let yourself feel, let yourself remember, and finally -heal. That needs to be part of your story. 

Then, let your story be redeemed through Christ- there's a whole lot of people out there who NEED the redeemed version of you. And they are waiting.

MY BRAIN MADE ME BELIEVE IT WAS MY FAULT

Breaking the SilenceJasmine Lopez2 Comments
Photos by:  Jazi Photo  Hair by: Ashley Vela Makeup by:  Jacqueline Gamache

Photos by: Jazi Photo Hair by: Ashley Vela Makeup by: Jacqueline Gamache

Please share your story:

Hi my name is Marissa Colclasure. I am a survivor of rape. When I was a little girl between the ages of 3 and 4 I was forced to have sex with a grown couple. They were severely addicted to methamphetamine. For many years, I did not remember the rape. However, I had many emotional issues. I was severely depressed my whole childhood. I knew about sex and had knowledge of things I should not have known about and was definitely not mature enough to understand. I didn't know how I knew about these things. I didn't know that children weren't suppose to know about these things and I felt so different from all the children my age. I felt disgusting like I was lower than everyone else like I was less. But I never knew why. I was also physically abused and isolated as a child, which added to my low self esteem and self hatred. I never had a stable home. My whole childhood was just a mess. When I was 17, I was finally on my own away from the abusers and ready to start my adult life. Even though I had gotten away, I still had to deal with all the emotional pain and scars that were left behind. It wasn't like just because I got away it was over. Nope, everyday I was still tortured on the inside.

After I had my beautiful daughter at the age of 18 my repressed memories of the sexual abuse decided to resurface. They hit me like a train! Flashbacks, severe depression, anxiety, and fear that I would become an abuser because I couldn't understand what made my abusers do that to me so what if whatever made them do it was transferred to me. I know what an irrational fear this is now, but at the time I was going through it, it was torturous. I suddenly was afraid of children like the way a person is afraid of spiders or snakes and they run away, that was how I felt about children. I was so terrified and it was killing me inside because I love children so much. My daughter Selena is literally my whole world. She was about 1.5 years old when this was all happening. I even distanced myself from her. I would get scared if she hugged me too much or sat on my lap for too long. I would put her down or walk away, I was so afraid. I didn't have anyone I could really confide in or anyone that could understand and help.

I was so confused, my brain had made me believe it was my fault. It took some time but I finally started to heal. I turned to Jesus Christ for peace and strength, for help with forgiveness and healing and also for his love during the process. I started going to counseling for help to understand the psychological effects of sexual abuse and how it scars you emotionally. You can never forget but you can forgive, heal and make peace with what has happened to you. It doesn't happen over night but slowly you will get better and will get back to yourself. After it's all said and done you realize how strong you really are. I am a survivor!

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

My story has helped me grow stronger. I look back at all I have been through and how far I have come and it makes me feel like, wow, I really am a beautiful person. Maybe someone else would have let these things tear them down and take over their life, but I chose to stand up and face it. I took back the control that so many people had stolen from me. I love harder now because I know what it feels like not to be loved. I am so strong now because I know how it feels to be weak. I am so happy with my life and so excited for my future. My dream is to serve God anyway I can, and I want to help people who have been abused. I want them to know it's not the end of the world, that they are not alone, and they don't have to go through the healing process alone. I want to be an example of God's love and how He can turn even the worst situations for good.

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

That they are not alone. Not to try and hide it, forget it, or blame themselves. I would tell them that, yes the healing process is painful. It doesn't happen over night but it is better to work through it and face it, than to run away from it, and be tortured by it for the rest of their lives. I would want them to know that they couldn't control what happened to them and it was NOT their fault. They have the choice to choose how to deal or not deal with it. I would encourage them to get help, so they can have their control back.

I ENDED UP BROKEN AT A VERY YOUNG AGE

Abuse, Breaking the Silence, PTSD, Sexual Abuse, SuicideJasmine Lopez4 Comments
Photos by: Vivian Sinya Productions

Photos by: Vivian Sinya Productions

Please share your story: : I was seven years old when I attempted to help my first wounded animal. Being the nature lover that I am, at six years old on a breezy spring day I discovered a robin with a broken leg, tangled in a pop divider. I urgently tried to help the helpless bird break free. I will never forget that moment when my father and I did just that, and will never forget the moment God helped me to do that very same thing on my own. We all end up broken at one time or another, and unfortunately I ended up broken at a very young age at the hands of my abuser. Growing up no one ever suspected a thing because I hid it so well, and covered it with an infectious smile, that my parents couldn't even tell the difference. It was a secret of indescribable pain that I was going to take to the grave with me, because I didn't want to admit that someone I knew, trusted, and loved had sexually tarnished me. It's not an easy thing to come to terms with on your own, and then you grow older and the wound grows bigger and bigger as you continue to cover it with the same bandage until one day, God steps in. 

That day was a Saturday in 2007, my senior year of high school, as I sat in my parents room getting my hair brushed by my mom. One situation led to God opening up the truth about the daughter my mom thought she knew, and all I can remember is going into complete shock as the words fell from my mouth. The world turned black and the tarnishing moments began to replay in my head so fiercely as if they'd happened that day. My body was a limp leaf that was uncontrollably shaking, my mother was yelling out for my father to come into the room, and for such a fast moment, it felt like a scene in slow motion.

Fast forward to 2014, after the interviews, medical checks, and the court dates I skipped out on because I couldn't face him... I was informed he'd be released soon. Talk about your world shaking again after years of trying to get past the crap you buried for so long. The year of 2014 was my hell. I drank all of the time, was diagnosed with PTSD, stopped my career, cut out my family and friends, made decisions that could have caused a lot of trouble in my life...I hit rock bottom. Every single day I slept, I wept, and when I did make it out I wanted to jump in front of a bus. My mind, and spirit had been completely broken and one night I decided that it was the night I was going to die. I wrote my suicide note. I remember crying to God, yelling at Him, so angry that it had to come to that point. Then my phone rang. I will never forget this moment as long as I live, it was my co-worker calling for the 100th time telling me I am loved and that everything was going to be okay. It was God's last attempt to get through to me, and I answered. Out of all the texts and calls this girl bugged me with that I had ignored, I answered. She was at my apartment within minutes and that was the day, I for the first time, in my life, started to heal. 

Two years later, after counseling, facing my demons, getting back in church, and creating new music, I am SO THANKFUL to be living for the first time ever in my life. Though it took a lot of breakthrough, broken decisions, and much more to get here, I'm here and ready to help others live a life of abundance.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: It makes me everything that I am. The strong, resilient, gracious, and understanding woman has always been inside of me, but after everything I've seen, I can really say those qualities breathe truth throughout my life.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: 

I believe this story will speak to your viewers who may be feeling the need to hide their brokenness. I hold the banner for the broken, beautiful and want to see people set free from their bondage of anxiety, depression, addiction, and secrets. I truly know if this story is selected it will help in a way do just that.

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

You were created to live a beautiful life beyond the pain. Pain is real and your feelings are valid but don't settle there and give up. FIGHT. Surround yourself with solid people that will love you through each and every crack, and allow yourself to heal in your valley. It's there you discover who you truly are. It's there you discover who God truly is. He does not sit by while you suffer, he is there in the depths of what seems like endless sorrow. Let him in, and I promise you healing will flood your soul. Lastly, know that you are SO LOVED and cherished on this earth, even by a stranger like me.

I WAS DRUGGED THAT NIGHT

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

Photos by: Jazi Photo Makeup by: Jacqueline Gamache

How to even begin. I am a Type A control freak and I have a night of my life that I have no recollection of. I have only been able to piece it together, with photographs of that night and nightmares. I was the poster child. I did not drink in high school or go to any parties. I was very predictable and only hung around other kids like me. In college, I had my fair share of dates and of course I went to the bars, however, I was always in control. I learned as a child about stranger danger and never left a drink unattended. If I did, I spent the extra money and bought another. I always thought I was super careful. 

In college, my drink of choice was commonly referred to as "my old man drink." What 22-year-old girl drank gin and tonics? None that I knew. I knew how much I could drink and I knew when to stop. Like I said, I was always careful. Until I wasn't. 

I went to a party at a life long friend's apartment. We had grown up together and been each other's dates to every school dance. We had a pact that if we were 30 and unmarried, it would make sense for us to just get married. That is how good of friends we were. I was casually dating this other guy and brought him to the party. Being that it was my friend's house, I brought my own alcohol along so we could share. Let me repeat that, I brought my own alcohol. How much safer could I be? Right? Wrong. I set the bottle down on the counter and walked into the other room to meet everyone. There was this casual acquaintance of my friend (I had never met him before) and he offered to make me my gin and tonic. Not even thinking, I said, "Sure, Thanks!" I remember him handing me a large plastic cup and taking a few sips. This was my first drink of the night and the very next thing I remember was being slumped over on the bathroom floor. My friend came to check on me and said that I was acting strangely. I had been passed out for 45 minutes on the bathroom floor. After my first drink. I got up and said, "No, I am fine." I came into the living room and continued to hang out. The very next thing I remember was waking up on an air mattress the next morning with nothing on but my shirt and my pants around my ankles. The same guy who made my drink was passed out next to me. I never met this person before and was not into the casual hookup scene. I would have never hooked up with this person. I did not even know his name. I got up, got dressed and left the apartment as soon as I could. I walked all the way home and never thought about that night again. Why would I? I couldn't remember any of it. 

A few months later, I moved across campus to start my graduate program and began having nightmares about that night. Nothing concrete, just flashes of that evening. I still can not remember anything except waking up on the bathroom floor and leaving that next morning. There were pictures taken that night with a bunch of us having fun and I looked completely out of my mind. I would have never normally acted that way. I believe with every fiber of my being that I was drugged that night by the guy who made my first drink. I only had one drink that night and have never felt the effects of gin as I did that night. I later asked my friend who that guy was and he had no idea, he thought I shared a class with him, but couldn't remember. I haven't spoken to that friend since. I completely distanced myself, I know it wasn't his fault, but being around him just brought back the bad memories. 

I do not really consider myself a victim. I am not really sure what I consider myself. I have not let it define me and I think I am stronger because of it. I have never touched gin again and can't really stand the smell of it anymore. Unfortunately, sexual assault, workplace sexual harassment, and rape are so prevalent in our society today and it needs to stop. People need to be aware that it doesn't have to be the creepy guy following you in the alley. Though, you should always be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut. It can also be the nice looking guy who hands you your first drink of the night. My gut was clouded by the allure that I was safe at a friend's house. In hindsight, I do not think I was.  I am not sure what is worse, knowing for a fact and having to live with that knowledge or not being sure; always living with the question.

THEIR STORIES & STRENGTH HELPED ME UNCOVER MINE

Breaking the Silence, Sexual Abuse, RapeJasmine Lopez1 Comment
Photos by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup by:  Jacqueline Gamache

Photos by: Jazi Photo Makeup by: Jacqueline Gamache

Please share your story:

In 2011 I was blessed to have the opportunity to lead 2 volunteer organizations at UIC. When it came around to planning our first collaborated fundraiser I asked myself, "What cause should we fight for?" The very first thought, without hesitation, instantly said "rape survivors". I didn't question it and it didn't take me back that it came to mind first, but that doesn't mean I understood why it did... but the team and I just began working.

I've learned from great, inspiring leaders that you live by the story you tell yourself. If you tell yourself you are a great dancer, you'll be the first on the floor at weddings. If you tell yourself you are a bad dancer, you stick along the side of the circle and hope not to get pushed in the middle. If you tell yourself, you're strong... You'll always find strength, always. This challenge of choosing a story is what I've uncovered for myself since 2011. As our organization, Good Knight, grew to help others in Chicago, a part of me started to realize I was helping myself more than I realized. Helping with what? Still today I can't remember clearly. But with each year, each show, each new team of advocates and survivors, as soon as someone starts to speak or share their story of resilience I could never help but break down. I'd shake, cry, shut my eyes, and find myself gasping for breath between my words of "thank you" for sharing their story. In a silly way, it's kind of become a joke how emotional I get at Good Knight events that our wonderful board brings tissues on stage for me. (That's just one reason why I love them (: ) Their stories and strength helped me uncover mine.

But as I type, I feel my hands pause. I think my thoughts and beliefs, the story I've told myself and the other story that's buried in my memory, are fighting to take charge. So though I may never truly, minutely uncover the details of that "story" I know there's something there. Something there that mattered to me so much as a little girl that it never left my heart and made an imprint, so much so, that I am passionate, almost eager and anxious, to be there for anyone who may have felt the same. Something is there that makes me want to comfort... to love anyone who has ever felt that something is missing, something is wrong, something is hurting...but still knowing through grace that something will make everything okay. 

Being a child, we believe stories so easily. We hear someone else tell us how life is supposed to be and we go with it whether it was the student in my class that touched me when no one was looking or if someone had just "tickled" me too hard in the wrong places. Or if it was a boyfriend that hit me too hard because I was being dumb or another that kept lying to keep me believing I was supposed to give myself emotionally and physically so recklessly. I believed their stories and hid mine. Some of those times seemed so quick I didn't acknowledge them. My mind told me "You're strong, it's okay. Keep going." While my heart has been saying "You're strong, but you can find a better way. I'll be here." Those stories.. that others tell us. They're not true. They're not how you need to live your life. 

There are still moments when I try to dive into my memory, because the fear in those times when I was alone with someone and trying to get out, that fear still creeps up and I feel it again. My mind throws up the red flag, I go way in over my head, and my body begs "Run!" But now... I come back down to the ground and I remember my real story... In 2011 I was given the blessing to love others and in turn fell in love with myself. In 2011, I found a friend who had been praying for me and helped me begin my walk in faith. In 2011, I found a family and we built a community that told others "It's going to be okay. You're never alone." Then in 2014, I found a man that when I saw, I actually sighed and instantly thought "everything is going to be okay now"... a man who helped me sleep through the night for the first time, and when I would wake up shaking could always say "I'm here." In 2016 Good Knight became a registered non-profit charity and my soul felt that these dreams are now my reality and my stories. And now in 2017, Morgan and I will have a baby girl and I will share stories of strength, beauty, grace, and love so that she can grow into the most wonderful person she will believe she can be. Those are the stories I will believe and I will live by. These are the stories that I will continue to grow with because I choose to. I am free of fear, for there is no person or story that can calm my love for the world and my story that is still unfolding.

To someone with a similar story...

I'd say you are loved in every moment. When you're at your absolute best and when you're completely lost, you are loved. God brings you closer to Him in each of those moments, sometimes we just forget. So even when your story is not going according to "your plan", remember that His grace has a bigger purpose for you and it's even better than we know. Your story is not over.

AWAKENED BY A MAN ON TOP OF ME

Abuse, Adoption, Breaking the Silence, Clickforhope, Depression, Forever Family, Foster Care, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Single MomJasmine Lopez13 Comments
Photos by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Photos by: Jazi Photo Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Please share your story:

It all started when I was 14. I lived in Gary on 21st Sve . I was going to school and just living a normal teen life, chilling with friends and having fun. It had its ups and downs but hey who's life doesn't right?!? So in March 2012, my dad takes a trip to Puerto Rico to visit his mom, leaving my brother, mom, and me alone at home. So one day, being the nosey child that I was, I went looking for my mom but couldn't find her. I went upstairs to check and nothing. Something said go look out the window. So I went and looked, and saw my mom talking to some guy. I didn't know who he was but they exchanged something, and my mom walked back into the house. I didn't think anything of it. I'm 14, why should I really care, right? My mom always told me to stay out of grown folks business, so that's all I knew.

So a couple days later my mom comes downstairs and says "We're having company for a while." I told her, "Ummm...okay?!?" To soon found out it was the guy who she was talking to outside. I told myself, "Something is wrong here. A man is staying in our house that isn't my dad. He shouldn't be here. But she said it's only for few days, and she gets paid for it?!?" Now money was tight since no one had a job at the time, so my brother and I had to panhandle a couple time for money just to get through one day at a time.

One night, I'm asleep and the night is still. Only to be awakened by a man on top of me, touching me, and taking my innocence. My brother was asleep in the bed beside me. The man whispers, "Shhh don't tell anyone, and your mom will be okay." I laid still thinking my life is over. I'm scared...Where's my mother to protect me? He left soon after. The next morning, I walked downstairs to see my mom scooping some type of substance on a plate... Is it flour? Sugar maybe? I walk into the kitchen and she hurried to cover the plate, and told me to get back upstairs. It's now April and the same thing happens again, while I'm asleep in my bed, in my house...while my mom is God knows where. My brother and I were barely surviving and it's up to me to stop this from continuing. May is here and I have no menstrual cycle. My mom is all of a sudden curious, and asks me. "Where's your cycle?" I replied, "I don't know, late probably?" I can't even look at her. I stopped going to school because I had no motivation and no drive to do anything but live in fear.

One day my mom sent me to my grandma's church to ask for some money, but something in me said enough is enough. I went to church and I told my aunt that I didn't want to live with my mom anymore. I was tired of everything going on and I was dying inside. My other aunts, who attended the church, came over too, to gather my things, along with my brothers. We left and stayed with them for a while. I told them what happened and everyone was disappointed in my mom, in how she let her guard down and let drugs break her wall of being a real parent.

The next day, I was in the hospital getting rape kits done, swabs, and shots, only to find out I'm one month pregnant. Yes, I was 14 years old, pregnant and felt like a piece of trash without anyone or anything. My aunts told me and everyone cried. Three months past by and I'm now four months pregnant. I'm tired, big and taking everything in, all at once. I have a journal to keep me sane and it wasn't working. My aunt found it and kicked me out because of something I wrote. I was then placed into foster care and I can honestly say it was the best thing that could have ever happen to me. I missed a lot of school, so I had to do 8th grade over again which was my choice. Even though everything was bad, I was blessed with a beautiful son on December 24th, 2012. Yes I can really say he was my gift from God. I named him Alejandro Nicholas Kirkland.

I moved again shortly after that to Whiting, Indiana and my son got a terrible fever of 104.3. My foster parent really didn't care and kept saying to give him water. God whispered to me and said be patient, just watch. A few hours later, my therapist came and saw Alejandro so hot and called the abuse hotline. We went to the hospital and stayed all night. Lets just say God has his ways and perfect timing. The doctors said if we had waited any longer, he wouldn't have made it. That made my life take a turn it really needed to. We were removed from her care and moved to East Chicago, and spent a summer there. We then were placed in a foster home in Gary once again. At this time, I just couldn't deal with my life and putting my son through that didn't feel like it was right. I couldn't do this to him. I was in school but I didn't have a job and I couldn't provide for him like I wanted to.

So winter of 2014, I got placed in Dyer at a mom's home for some help and to see if I still wanted to have the role as a mom. I found out that I didn't. I didn't have help andit was hard seeing my peers with their baby's father. I was alone and no one came to see me. I loved him with all my soul and being, but I wanted better for him. I want him to have the world and some. I wanted to give him everything I never had. Summer of 2015 I gave him up for adoption. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I signed the papers and he was officially adopted. He deserves better and that's what he's going to get. God has always watched over him and I trust Him.

So its been a little over a year now and his new family spoils him and some. He loves it. I'm also glad that I could be a blessing to someone who couldn't bare on their own child. But, overall God gave me an amazing person to help guide me and steer me in the direction I needed and her name is Kiessa Hamilton. I love her so much and shes my rock. I'm sure I wouldn't be here without her pushing me to keep going forward. I will be 19 on September 18th and its crazy to think about how I've been in 6 placements, 5 schools over 4 years. Where did the time go.?.

I can't end the story here. I always told myself good things come to those who wait. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for God. I wouldn't be telling my story without Him. And I'm a firm believer, because God's work is so pure and unbelievable. He's amazing! When you think it's over, God sneaks up and says "No you're just getting started."

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It shaped me to know that life isn't over. Keep moving forward and know you have more to live for. Life is more valuable then you think. Keep pushing through the pain and you will find healing.

What compelled you to share your story with us:

Because I've been through a lot and I feel like I can help someone overcome their troubles. To let them know they can get through what they're going through. You are a strong independent person!

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

You're strong!

You got through it!

I'm proud of you.

Keep going.

I knew you had it in you.

Never give up on your dreams.

God has plans for you.

 

I KNEW HE WAS DANGEROUS...

Breaking the Silence, Suicide, Depression, Abuse, Sexual Abuse, RapeJasmine Lopez1 Comment
Photos by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Photos by: Jazi Photo Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Please share your story: :

 I do not remember how young I was when it first started, but I do know that I was quite young. I only have a few memories of actually being molested as a child, because I repressed the memories. I mainly remember the times I lied to get away because I knew he was dangerous, but I loved him because he was family. I was conflicted, but I knew he was not safe, and I would do anything to make sure we were not alone together in the same room. I remember when I was around 10, he grabbed me and I was finally strong enough to pull away and run away. I ran to another room, and closed the door crying and saying "I got away today", but at the same time not understanding why I did not want to be alone with him. It was so confusing to me. When I was fourteen and I was a freshman in high school, a group of senior guys were goofing off in the crowded hallways and they thought it would be funny to circle me. They had me trapped and reached out and started grabbing me and touching me and I freaked out. It was a few months later when I had nightmares about them and I acknowledged what they had done was wrong. As I was dealing with those emotions, the memories from my childhood came back full force. It became a burden as I kept the secret from my parents because I felt like I would not be believed because of who the person was in my family. I clung to the Lord during that time, but it was overwhelming for me and I did not have the best counseling at the time.

When I was sixteen, I started dating a guy, but it turned into a very controlling relationship. He had a bunch of crazy rules, and for some reason I kept going in the relationship despite these vivid warning signs. A few months into the relationship, he showed up at my job while I was working alone, and I was happy to see him, but he ended up raping me. It would have gotten even worse, but I believe the Lord allowed a customer to ring the front bell and stop him. I had frozen, I could not say no to him, because I reverted back to the little girl in my mind. I know that I was praying for it to be over and for me to get away. I also remember at one point seeing the back door and thinking "I need to go out that door...I need to leave and get away from him, but I can't...because this is my job...I can't leave...I'm stuck here...how do I get him to leave...Lord help me". This was a controlling relationship too, I was also scared to make him angry. I remember after I helped the customer, I went to the back room, and tried to put on a happy face, and he was so angry with me. He stomped out, and I kept smiling until he left then I fell to the floor crying. I was so scared because I thought I was the one who was wrong. I knew I could not let anyone know because I had just come back from a mission trip and they would think that I was bad. I locked up and went to my best friend's house and I never told her what happened. That night changed me. 

My relationship with God changed, how I viewed myself changed (which was already tenuous from severe bullying in junior high). I was still a Christian, but I was so angry with God. I felt like He left me that night. I still played the part, but inside I was so broken and did not know how to put it together again. I had an older friend who was such a blessing to my life. A few weeks after that night, she walked in while he was arguing with me and he had grabbed my wrist forcefully. As soon as she came in, he dropped my wrist and pretended everything was good and then left. She looked at me and took me to her car to talk privately. I confessed to her about the abuse, but I still never told her about that night. She handed me her cell phone and told me to call him and break up. I did, even though he started spreading rumors which attacked my reputation, and they were all lies. The more I tried to defend myself (as teens do), he would make up more and more lies until I stopped talking to my friends. One thing I understand now and I did not understand then, was that all of my childhood memories came back full force because I had to deal with the anger I had towards God. I had felt that my childhood molestation was now my fault too. 

This made me desire to leave the state for college. I needed to get away, and I needed a change of scenery and I thought going to an out of state college would give me that. This is when I started realizing that I was so afraid of being raped in college. I started having some fears come out, and I sank into deep depression and became suicidal. I even attempted one time, but the Lord graciously saved me. I was a mess and all over the place. I reached out for counseling, but without the repressed memories coming forth, they were not able to help me. They put me on anti-depressants and they did not work. In some ways I felt like they made me worse. The side effects were horrible and made me feel like I was going crazy. Even though I was in a Bible college, I felt so far away from God and I could not understand why. I would see others and feel like God was not happy with me and that I was not worthy of Him. I remember crying out to Him over and over yelling "Can you hear me??" Meanwhile I was teaching Sunday school and showing the world I was still the "good little Christian girl". The depression got worse and worse to the point I could not function and I was becoming suicidal again. I even began cutting, I literally felt like I was going crazy. I remember walking by the side of the highway in three feet of snow at 2 am and thinking I should just jump in front of the trucks because living life as a crazy person was not worth it. My world was so dark that light did not even seem like it was a possibility. Then I came back to Chicago to be admitted to a Mental Hospital. 

Once back in Chicago the hospital would not accept me because I did not have insurance at the time. I ended up staying with my friend and her husband, and this was the biggest blessing to me. I was able to just stop for a while. While I was there, my medication ran out and I did not have a doctor in Chicago to renew the prescriptions. I was nervous because of the dosages I was on made it dangerous for me to stop them cold-turkey but I had no other options. I had no side effects, and in fact, I started doing better and it became clear that my issues were not chemical imbalances. I slowly started coming out of my depressive fog and back to the Lord, and realizing that He had never left my side during the darkness. He was always there. I just took life one day at a time from there, but I would slip into depression periodically. I knew there were parts of my heart that I knew were there, but I did not know how to access them. While I was back with the Lord, my relationship was still different. I felt like I had to perform for Him, and and that I needed to do everything right. In my head, I knew that it was illogical, but I could not change my heart. I would talk to friends, and pastors about it because I was desperate for help to change it. I would tell them that the distance from my head to my heart was a very long way. I still dealt with horrible anxiety and fear of being raped. I was afraid to live alone because I felt that I would never be safe. I was even afraid to stay home alone when my parents were away. I went to counseling, but it was not helping either.

One day in November 2011 (about 2 years into the counseling), I went to church for early morning prayer. I told the Lord that I had enough of this and that I was ready for Him to deal with it because I did not know what else to do. I remember telling Him that He had permission to open the closed doors of my heart and to deal with stuff that I didn'teven know was there. The next night at my counseling session, my counselor asked me about my boyfriends. I counted off the relationships (which were few), and in my head I knew that there should be five but I could only remember four names, and two of those guys I dated for like one day and really did not count. We just started talking and offhandedly I said a name and she looked at me and said "who?" I looked at her and was like "I didn't tell you about ***?" She said "No". So I started telling her and all of the sudden I was telling her about that night at my job. As I told her I remember looking at her and saying "Oh my God, he raped me". With that it was like the floodgates opened and the memories came back in vivid color with emotions and feelings as if it had just happened the day before.

The following two years were some of the most difficult years as I dealt with, not only the rape but my childhood as well. I am so thankful for the friends and the support I had around me at the time, and of course for God's love. While the memories were so difficult to deal with, I cannot begin to tell you the freedom that came from allowing God to go to those dark places. My relationship with God is so beautiful now. I can finally see myself as He sees me, as His precious daughter whom He loves and cherishes. There is freedom in telling your story. It gives you back the power that was taken from you. I now control who I tell and when. This is my first time sharing the story publicly, but I knew that it was time. Those men no longer have anything to say over me. I remember telling people that there has to be a reason for me going through this, if I can someday help just one person, then all of this pain was worth it. If I can save one girl from being abused, then it is worth it. If I can help one woman heal, it was worth it.

I am telling you, that it was worth it to share my story!

I can't end it there though....I need to share that I have many reasons for my weight gain, for health conditions which contributed, emotional eating etc.It definitely became my comfort during the years of the pain I held deep inside. It is still a struggle that I have, and is very difficult for me. Because along with what I mentioned, it has become a shield to protect me from unwanted advances. As I have gone through times when I've lost a little weight, something will happen to make me want to have that shield back up. I believe that this will be the final step to my healing, to conquer this wall and break this shield, and I am nearly there. I needed to mention it in my story because it is something I rarely share. God will be with me along the way and I know this battle will eventually be won. God has more than restored the years that the locust have stolen, and I am blessed beyond comprehension. 

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

I am who I am because of what happened to me, and what I went through. I am no longer fearful of my own shadow, but I am growing stronger each and every day. I am growing bolder, and standing up for others. I am compassionate because I know what it is like to be alone. I feel like I can help others because I understand the emotions and the feelings even if my story may be different than theirs. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." This has been my story. I have been seeking Him, and I have been finding Him. I want to help others find Him and to find the freedom that I now have.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: 

I believe this opportunity is for the Lord to fulfill plans that he has for my life. To share my story to those who are going through their own pain, and hope they know that they are not alone. Also to share my story with those who knew me during those times but may not have understood what was happening at the time. And ultimately for God to get the glory for what He has done in my life.

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

 I pray that you will continue to keep pushing through the darkness. You are NOT alone, despite how you feel. God has not left you, He is still by your side. Ask Him to reveal Himself and He will. There is light and there is joy on the other side of the tunnel. I promise it will end, and you will look back and realize just how strong you have become during the process.