For Child Abuse Prevention Month, we offered our youth the opportunity to have their voices heard and write a feature story for our blog. The below piece was written by a young woman named Esperanza.
April 25, 2017 – I remember the day EVERYTHING changed for both better and worse. I’ll never forget that day.
My name is Esperanza and I am now 18 years old. I endured physical, sexual, and verbal abuse until the age of sixteen. I describe my life like fireworks; I witnessed it go up so beautifully only for a split second, and then everything just vanished. For years I hid behind a mask. I carried a fake smile so others wouldn’t ask questions, knowing if they did I would have to face reality and expose the issues that I had buried within and learned to cope with. However, deep down inside, I knew this lifestyle wasn’t normal.
The day I entered foster care was difficult for me. That’s when I found out that my mom of 16 years was not my biological mother, but had adopted me as a baby. Sad to say, the lady that chose me and decided to be my forever mother was the same person who violated my innocence in the acts of physical and sexual abuse.
I remember waking up some days not knowing if the abuse was going to get better or worse. In fact, there were only a few days out of the year that I knew the abuse would be a little less than any other days. Those days fell on holidays.
Leaving that abusive lifestyle felt like I was escaping to freedom; yet coming into foster care, I still felt alone. I felt as though I was surrounded by those who were paid to be present in my life; making sure I was fed, clothed and taken care of.
All I wanted was someone to give me hope. I wanted someone to be there for me genuinely and with good intentions. I was lost and was still trying to find myself. For sixteen years of my life, so much was taken away from me. Coming into foster care gave me a short, two year window to restore the damage that was done to me by making use of the resources that was provided for me.
Fast forward to today, I am attending Seminole State College, President of the Florida Youth Shine for the Orlando Chapter, and President of the Orange County Youth Advisory Board. These positions are something I take pride in because it grants me the opportunity to be a voice for those that are victimized and feel voiceless.
Abuse is something that is below the radar, sadly it gets media attention only when it’s something drastic. In reality it’s happening every day. It’s happening around us and it can easily be overlooked. It can be the kid sitting next to your child in class, or it can be that next door neighbor child that always wants to come to your house because it’s a safe place. It can even be that young adult you see smiling or seeking for attention in many different ways. We must learn to see beyond this and know that some people are walking around with wounds that are not visible.