BE LOUD Story from Cindy

BE LOUD Story from Cindy

I was born in a small town on the coast of Honduras. As a toddler, I was quiet and curious. I enjoyed carefree days exploring outside and took afternoon naps in a hammock. I was an only child in my home where I lived with my mom, my great-grandmother and five aunts who always made me feel safe and loved. My father had left for the United States soon after I was born. When I was 3 years old my mother and I left our home and everything we knew to join my father in the United States in search of a better life together.

When we arrived here, we moved in with my father and his family and we began to settle into our new lives. My mother started her job as a housekeeper. My father soon became a preacher and leader at our church. My job, as I got older, was to learn English and go to school and get good grades.

Over the next eight years we lived in several different homes, each one filled with different aunts, uncles and cousins. But there was one thing that always remained the same. Since as long as I can remember, from the time we moved to the United States, my father sexually abused me.

As a small child, I didn’t understand what this was. I felt awfully confused because I loved and trusted this person. I remember thinking, “If I tell him no, I might hurt his feelings or get in trouble.” He manipulated my trust and love to keep me silent of his abuse.

Over time, I was forced to believe my body did not belong to me. Over time, I learned to not cry… or move… or think when the abuse was happening. Over time, I began to believe it wouldn’t do any good to speak out because no one would believe me or, even worse, they would think it was MY fault for not having spoken up sooner.

When I was 11 years old, I sat in my elementary school counselor’s office after overhearing that my parents might be separating. I was flipping through the pages of children's books about divorce the counselor had handed me.

There was a part of the book that talked about children sometimes being separated in a divorce.

My little sister was 2 years old at the time— almost the same age I was when I believe the sexual abuse started. At this point in my life, I had already accepted this as ‘MY reality.’ I thought that as long as it was happening to me, I was protecting others from having this happen to them. But when I read this part, I realized I couldn’t do this alone anymore. If my sister and I were ever apart, I realized I couldn’t protect her from him. And I feared for our lives if either of us lived alone with him.

Most of all, I was exhausted. My entire childhood had been stolen from me. I simply could not take any more mental, physical or emotional pain. After eight long years of suffering in silence, I finally spoke out for the first time in my life to my school counselor.

That same day, my counselor called Child Protective Services. I told them my story once again. I remember being scared, thinking I was going to get in trouble when my mom picked me up after school. I’ll never forget when she pulled over to the side of the road and cried with me.

The next day, I had to tell my story again. This time, I had to tell two male police officers who had me called out of my 5th-grade class. I remember being so afraid sitting in a room with police officers that I attempted to take back what I said about my father or pretend I didn’t know what they were talking about. We went back and forth until I admitted it DID happen.

My father was questioned by the police. After being questioned, the police told him he needed to stay in the area for the next three days while they investigated. They asked my mom to keep my sister and I away from him in the meantime.

Shortly after, police gave my information to Erin, a bilingual Family Services Specialist at KCSARC. Erin made an outreach call to my mom. She explained that another interview was being set up at the Prosecutor’s Office where I had to tell my story again, this time to a child interviewer. It was exhausting explaining to strangers, again and again, what had happened to me when I still didn’t really understand what “IT” was.

But this time, my mom and I were no longer doing this alone. My KCSARC Legal Advocate, Martha, walked me through this process and came with me on the day of the interview and I was able to tell my story to the child interviewer.

That same week, police officers set out to arrest my father. Soon we all found out it was too late.

He had already fled the country.

My mom, my baby sister and I were left to pick up the pieces after our traumatic experience. I felt terribly confused, ashamed, and, on most days, just numb. I lost the support of my father's family and members of our church who believed I was lying about the sexual abuse.

In addition, we were an undocumented family. That meant we were afraid to reach out for any more help. My mom thought our only choice was to move back to Honduras. But we had heard that's where my father was. We didn’t know what to do.

During this time of confusion, KCSARC kept in touch with us. They offered me counseling and offered my mom parent support and education. At first, we were reluctant to start but I am so grateful we did.

My therapist helped me understand what sexual abuse was and that my experience was not my fault. At the same time, my mom received parent education services through the Dando Voz (Giving Voice) program in her native language. KCSARC made sure we both felt safe and validated, and this made all the difference in our experience. Erin also let us know we could be eligible for a special visa. She and Martha helped us apply. With their help, it was granted, which meant we could legally stay in the country and get the help that I needed without living in fear of being sent to where my offender lives.

After completing therapy in 2010, I was 13 years old. I felt confident leaving KCSARC. I did well, and the abuse wasn’t constantly on my mind like it was before counseling. But, over time, as I got older and began to understand more about what sexual abuse really was, I found myself experiencing flashbacks of my trauma.

I carried crippling feelings of anger, sadness and shame that weighed heavy on my chest. I returned to KCSARC in 2014 because I was experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Once again, my therapist at KCSARC helped me face my fears and talk about my trauma. Through our sessions, we worked together to build up my sense of confidence, self-love, and to recognize how strong and courageous I had been all along.

All these events took place during my years in school; therefore, going to school was never easy for me. There were many dark days and many dark feelings that I could not break free from. For years after the abuse I still felt ashamed of the person I saw in the mirror.

But when I finished therapy, I shined in a completely new light! For the first time in my life I felt confident, alive, and hopeful for the future. In 2016, I became the first person in my family to graduate from high school.Counseling through KCSARC had given me hope and empowered me to break through the darkness that I felt consumed my life for years.

In fall of 2019, my mom, my sister and I finally returned to Honduras to see our family for the first time in 18 years. Our family again received help from KCSARC to make sure we were protected from my offender on this trip. We experienced a beautiful time together with no fear, only love. And I, once again, enjoyed carefree days exploring outside, and taking afternoon naps in a hammock.

My offender may have never faced the criminal justice system, but I do believe I got justice from this experience.

I returned to KCSARC again in 2019, this time as a member of staff. I was hired for the position of bilingual receptionist, which meant I got to be the first person that people reach when they take that brave step and call KCSARC for help.

Today, I am a part of the External Relations team in my role as Development Coordinator and continue to help give voice to survivors. Every day I get to be a small part of the amazing healing transformations that take place when survivors come forward, like I did. There is no greater justice for me than this.

I want to say thank you to my mom and family for supporting me through my healing process. Thank you to everyone that believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, to those who listened to my story, and to those who pushed me to keep moving forward. You have changed my life completely and it all started when you believed me.

Thank you KCSARC for being a family to me throughout all these years. Thank you for helping me find my voice. Thank you for your kindness and compassion. You inspire me every single day to continue to be loud for myself and for others.

If there’s anything that I want you to take away from this is that there is hope.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, I want you to know that you deserve to be in a safe space. You do not have to live in fear or silence. You deserve to be surrounded by people who support you. You deserve to be surrounded by people who believe you and validate your feelings and experiences. KCSARC is ready to do that for you. We believe you. It’s never too late to call.

 

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If you have experienced sexual assault and need support, or if you would like more information about sexual violence, call King County Sexual Assault Resource Center’s 24-hour Resource Line at 1.888.99.VOICE 

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