I was about 5 years old when my older cousin started sexually abusing me.  Over the course of 4 years he attempted raping me and constantly would touch me inappropriately when the adults weren’t around. I would always push him off, but he enjoyed having power over me.  It seems like my whole childhood was a struggle to keep his hands off me.

When I was 11 a family member who was also a leader in the local church started to sexually abuse me. He would come into my room at night, and after I started to fight back with him (after the shock of it subsided) he began to bring his sleeping son into the bed with me and hold him like a shield in front of him so if I hit him I would hit his son and then his son would be upset. He would corner me a lot away from everyone else.  When I tried to tell my mother she said it was my fault.  Other family members were also aware but never said or did anything to help me.

I was afraid of boys for years but it seemed to be ok in adult relationships.  Then I got into a longterm relationship with a man who seemed soft, gentle and charming at first. He was everything I wanted, and everyone who met him liked him. He told me he had waited for me his whole life and persuaded me into consensual sex.  Then one night he started to hurt me during sex and I started crying for him to stop and he refused and held me down.  I got him off and ran, but he grabbed me and told me I was being selfish and cruel for starting up drama and not letting him finish.  I was in complete shock, and I let him finish because I felt bad and I didn’t know what to do and he wouldn’t let me leave or sleep until I gave him what he wanted.  The next morning I got away and he sent me pained messages saying I would ruin his life if I told anyone what had happened and how he was loved me so much and didn’t know why I didn’t want to make love with him and it hurt him so much and he’d never do it again.

He slowly started to isolate me from friends and family, degrade me for my looks and personality, and degrade all of my interests and refuse to allow me to talk and would talk constantly over the top of me so I would feel powerless. He’d force me to lie. I started to cry all the time, because he wouldn’t even allow me to finish sentences or would try to break up with me for being subgrade if I didn’t jump to his every bidding or speak about anyone but him.  He would attempt to stimulate sexual acts on me in public so I would feel too embarassed around people, we would get kicked out of places for his behavior, and tell me that he was doing it because it’s what I wanted.  He would also spread horrible lies about me in my workplace and threaten violence from himself and other workmates on me, then he would justify his abuse towards me as others told him I deserved it as well. He would always threaten to cheat on me if I didn’t do everything he said, and broke up with me twice because I woudn’t eat McDonalds for breakfast with him and apparently other girls had told him he deserved better because I just didn’t feel like McDonalds that day and I wasn’t making effort to compromise for him.

It got to the point where if I asked for him to contribute anything in the relationship he would yell at me, hurt me, and degrade me til I was in tears and then told me I was dirty and wanted sex to fix the problem and would force unprotected sex on me. He used to make me cry for hours all the time, and then he would ask what’s wrong and then degrade me again until I felt ashamed for having feelings.

I broke up with him and asked me to never speak to me again.  He then went around people I knew saying I was insanely obsessed with him and I was stalking him to stop anyone from believing me if I say anything.  I think I stayed so long, because he would make out other people were bad and would hurt me and he was the only one who truly loved me. He would bounce between two extremes: a sweet, kind, caring man, or a raging, violent psycho and he would always tell me it was my fault he was violent and I was doing enough to pacify him.

It took me 2 weeks to wake up and realise I wasn’t listening to constant putdowns and I could start to rebuild my self esteem. At first I wanted to do what he did and pull other’s down to feel good, but then I realised if I am to value people properly I need to love and value myself first.  I’m still rebuilding myself two months after, but I’ve learned and I’m learning to forgive those men who hurt me.  Because unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.