I come from a very tight knit family, so we were all close growing up. When I was 15 years old, my older cousin was 30, and he was great. He was like another brother to me (since my own two brothers were away), and he also lived nearby with my grandparents. We did a lot together and I confided in him with a lot of things
Then one night, he wanted to take me to the movies. This wasn’t too strange but it was super late. We were talking about an old boyfriend of mine and I will remember these words for the rest of my life. He turned to me and said, “I want to see if you’re a good kisser or not.” I remember being stunned and I just froze. I didn’t know what to do. I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t do anything since we were in his truck. Then, he unclicked his seat belt and leaned over. I wanted scream and run away. When it was over, he put the car in drive and said, “Not too bad.” I then had to sit through an entire movie with him and then the drive back to my house.
He began say to me things like, “Oh man, your family would kill me if they knew what I did,” or “I shouldn’t have done that.” Yet, nothing changed. After that first encounter, things just steadily progressed. Every time something would happen, I would freeze, bottle it up, and compartmentalize it. For two years, I allowed this behavior to continue because I was so afraid to speak out and face what my family would say and think of me. It was the worst fear I’ve ever had to face.
Finally, after two years, I cracked and confided in my then boyfriend. He made me tell my parents and everything came crashing down. It was horrible, having to sit there feeling like I had somehow let my parents down, or disappointed them in some way. They sat there and told me the complete opposite though. They believed me. They supported me and they loved me. They understood that I was a victim but that they would not let that label define me. My parents and brothers had my back the whole time. At the same time, I also learned that sometimes people aren’t going to understand – and that is OK! My boyfriend had a really hard time understanding why I allowed this to go on for so long without saying something. He eventually became emotionally abusive because he thought (and I quote) “I feel like you liked it.”
I had a lot to overcome after all of this. I am now 21 years old as I write this and I’m still not 100% yet but I work everyday at not allowing that man have a hold on me. I am thankful for the woman I am today and how strong I have become. It’s not something to be ashamed of.
To anyone experiencing abuse… Don’t be afraid that people won’t believe you. There are people out there who love you and want you safe and protected. Don’t ever doubt your self worth, EVER! You are beautiful and strong and amazing. Know your worth! Talk to someone. Speak up, and don’t be afraid. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Know that some people don’t understand too, and that’s ok. You need to be able to let those people go and continue your journey of healing. You should never keep someone in your life who doesn’t have your back and support you 110%.
Ashlyn N., Know Your Worth