I, like many other women all over the country, was sexually abused as a child.

I can remember it starting at 3 with being encouraged to engage in sexual behaviors with little boys in my neighborhood by my brothers, at 7 I was molested by my grandfather and as I got a bit older, faced being raped.

There is something that happens when you grow up around sexual abuse, it takes a toll on your self esteem, yourself worth and the way you see yourself in general. I hated myself. I began cutting myself when I was a teenager, drinking heavily, engaging in very risky behaviors and my grades were always up and down. I was in and out of counseling and me and my mother, who was a single mom and an alcoholic at the time, were always at odds. At 17 I became pregnant and my mother got married and moved to California, leaving me by myself in her home to struggle to pay the rent and bills. I managed, moving from place to place before finally trying to make it work with the father of the baby. He was very abusive, physically and verbally and we were having lots of problems. When the baby was still only a few months old, i took too many of the pain pills I had been sent home with and my boyfriend took advantage of the fact that though I was saying no, I could barely stay conscious long enough to fight him off and it got much worse as our son grew. He would throw bottles at me while i nursed his child, kick bags of garbage against the walls, throw dishes at me and push me down and so on. I stayed much longer then I should have, but I had nowhere else to go and I did not feel like I deserved more. It all came to a head when I found out I was pregnant as a result of the night I took pain pills. He would threaten to kill me, rip my head off and pull the baby up my throat to stomp on, all in front of his son. One night he forced me to sleep with him, I was 6 months pregnant and he was so rough that the sheets were covered in blood when he was done. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and stayed there for two weeks while they made sure Ii was not going to lose the baby. I got a restraining order and that was the end of our relationship. My mother brought me to California where I lived for several years.

I wish I could say that my story ended there, that by 19 I was finally able to see how strong a woman I was, that I was finally able to see my worth, to move from my past to a bright future yet sadly I was not quite to the point. I moved back to Oregon and found some old friends who introduced me to a man they knew. Everyone warned me about him, told me not to get involved. You would have thought that I would have seen the red flag at that point but I believe a part of me wanted to die, that a part of me did not care anymore.

There are many parts that I will skip, simply because at this point, to look back and remember what I have lived through serves no purpose but to bring tears to my eyes so I will say that I became pregnant and that the father left soon after that and I became a single mother who not only worked full time, but also went to college. I will always be proud of that fact. I landed a great job doing something I loved and making enough money to support myself and my children without struggling. I was stable enough to fully go off of state benefits and for a while, I was happy.

The father found me when his son was 3 years old, and after that, my life spiraled out of control. It started off innocent enough, I was a mistress being strung along easily because of my need to be loved, but it soon took a horrible twist that found me being raped by strangers he would bring into my house at night, being raped by his friends on car trips and eventually being raped by him. I lost my job. I lost my sanity.

The first question anyone asks is why. I don’t think I have ever been able to answer that. Why.

Why did I let a man sneak into my home with someone I did not know, especially a man who had paid for the opportunity to do so.

Why didn’t I change the lock, was I so messed up, so desperate for someone to love me that I would allow this to happen? I guess I have no answers. None that would make any sense anyway. I was terrified; I would start crying when I heard the key in the lock, wondering if he was alone or not. I was on tons of medication for depression and anxiety. Still I said nothing, never cried out, never screamed or fought back. I simply shut down. At that point I felt that I was worth nothing more, that all of my life I had never had a choice, that I was worth nothing more than this right here, this life, that this was what love was.

When he raped me, I told myself I could not do this anymore. I was forced to perform oral sex on him for 4 hours, my knees bruised from kneeling on linoleum, I can still remember that there were a few pieces of gravel that had been tracked in and they were digging into my skin. He was very drunk, so if he dozed off, I tried to as well, it was the only rest I would have all night. He choked me, bruised my neck. He pulled chunks of my hair out. He had always enjoyed cutting me, biting me and under normal circumstances I had tried to enjoy it, though then it was much less intense, but now I was covered in cuts, bruises and bite marks. Never once did I cry out, my children were asleep and I would never want them to know what happened to me ever. So when it was over, I dressed for work, gathered the children and left him asleep on the couch. I lost my job, changed my locks, got a restraining order.

For several months i suffered from Agoraphobia, I was too ashamed to be seen in public. Anytime I was out, I feared people were looking at me, talking about me, shaking their heads and thinking I was bad. Anytime a man looked at me I feared I would be hurt again. With children however I could not hide from the world, I needed to work; I needed to function in order to survive. I began gaining weight as a way to hide myself. The worse I felt, the higher my anxiety, the more I would gain.

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Manic Depression and Anxiety but I refused to go on any more medication. It made me feel worse then I already did, instead I have simply learned to deal with it, to acknowledge my past, my feelings, my pain and deal with the long term effects it has caused. I still struggle with my weight, part of me wants to feel attractive, wants to date, to eventually marry, to wear cute clothes and get male attention but the part of me that has suffered a life time of sexual abuse wants to hide, to protect itself and to never be hurt again. Needless to say, I have not had a successful relationship and at 36 years old I have never been married, heck I have not even really dated for 7 years now. When I lose the weight I feel better about myself but then the fear and anxiety kicks in and I start packing on the pounds again. I have no self esteem even though I have learned to mask it for the benefit of my children. I still in many ways hate myself to the core.

I do not enjoy sexual encounters with men, I cannot experience orgasm with a man either. Most of my “relationships” turn out to be nothing more than a few weekends, as I do not know how to get involved in a lasting relationship.

I have no memories or experiences about being in a healthy relationship at all, and though I feel the effects of being alone, though I dream of having someone by my side, I cannot fathom how anyone could possibly want, love or choose to be with me in the first place. I have negative self talk every day of my life and it is exhausting.

Needless to say, my past has influenced me greatly and in all aspects of my life regardless of how far I have come, how strong I am and pretend to be or how well I am managing myself. Trauma never goes away, many people don’t understand that. It never stops hurting, there is no forgive and forget and time does not heal all wounds.

So that is my story, that is what helped to make me into the person I am, for bad or for better, these are but a few of the scars that I carry around on a daily basis.