Living Proof

To honor Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month, we have invited our youth to share their stories first-hand in their own words. Child abuse is a taboo topic, and children are often left to suffer in silence. Hear their voices. Read their stories. The below was written by a young woman named Tania

April 22, 2016 – Somewhere in Clearwater, Florida lived a little girl named Tania. Cheerleading was everything to her. She was always so energized and goofy. She was beautiful and kept a smile on her face. Nobody would have ever guessed what was happening when she went home.

Behind closed doors she was being sexually, mentally and physically abused by her older brother. Nobody knew because Tania never showed any signs of abuse. Around two in the morning almost every night, her older brother would sneak into her room and touch her. Her older brother wasn’t the only one who sexually abused her. Her older cousin and one of her brother’s friends did too.

Her brother also mentally abused her; he called her all types of horrible names. She even started to believe that she was what he said she was. She spent so many nights crying and asking “why me”. She wanted him to stop so badly, but nobody in her family noticed what was going on.

Now to the physical abuse: he would beat her for no reason. He hit her with anything and everything you could possibly think of. He felt no remorse as he beat his own little sister. She was so terrified to tell anyone because he told her that if she did, he would kill her. She continued to take the abuse for years and years.

Tania turned 14 and her favorite aunt, Nutsy, went to jail. This hurt Tania more than anybody could have ever known. Her aunt called her a few days later to ask Tania a question, one she was not expecting. She asked, “Has your older brother been touching you?” Tania eyes got watery and she broke down crying. She replied to her aunt “No.” Her aunt told her “Don’t lie to me.” Tania still insisted that nobody was touching her.

That conversation changed the rest of Tania’s life. She felt so bad for lying to her aunt that it gave her the courage to tell her family. She decided to write her grandmother three notes: about her mother and father, herself and her older brother. Her grandmother read them and then told the rest of her family. They insisted on Tania going to get checked to see if she was still a virgin or had been touched. Tania was so hurt that her own family didn’t believe her.

Two years later she was removed from her home and placed into foster care. Being in foster care wasn’t easy for Tanya, she missed her little brother and her little cousin the most. There were times when Tania wanted to kill herself because she felt worthless. She felt like nobody was there to protect or save her. Tania would run away from all her problems and never face them. Eventually, she got tired of running away and had to face her problems. Once she stopped running, things started getting better.

How do I know you ask? Because I am Tania. People should know that child abuse is not something you should joke about. It’s not only physical abuse, but it can also be mental or sexual. There are a lot of kids who are being abused, but they are too afraid to tell.

Parents: emphasize to your child that they can tell you anything. Let them know you will always be there for them and protect them. Don’t feel ashamed if you didn’t know your child was being abused. Help them and encourage them to talk about it. Abuse is something that could ruin anybody’s life. Nobody knows if it will affect you in the future or not. Only you can determine that for yourself.

My advice to people who have experienced child abuse is to stay strong and don’t be afraid to say something. Don’t let what someone else did to you ruin the rest of your life. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Let go of all the emotions you feel towards your abuser. If you hold your emotions in, or hold on to them, they will only hurt you and your future in the end.

I am living proof that you can overcome your child abuse, past or present. I am 18 years old now and have been in foster care for three years. I will be graduating on May 24 of this year and going off to college to become an obstetrician and gynecologist. I’ve overcome so many obstacles in my life that it’s a miracle I am where I am today. I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like if I never said anything.