Age Is Just A Number

Note: This is a real story, written by a real person. Please be aware of potential triggers in this important piece. To share your story, click here.

I’m 4 years old. I keep having re-occurring nightmares that a monster is coming in my room at night to change my diaper. I haven’t worn diapers in years, and I’m not a bed wetter. The monster always smells like beer, he touches me in ways that don’t really hurt, and I’m far too sleepy to pay much attention. These dreams happen almost every night until I start school. Then they suddenly stop.

I’m 6. I just got off the school bus and I’m walking home through the trailer park. I have to pass 5 or 6 houses before I get to mine. The neighbor boy is home already, He’s 14, he asks me if I want to see his train set. He must know I love trains. I tell him I have to go home first. I know that I have to go straight home after school. He tells me it’ll only take a minute. He tells me my dad said it was ok. So I go in. I only vaguely remember looking at the toy train, what I remember is being alone with him in his room, cornered, confused. He tells me “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” and he exposes himself. I’d never seen a penis before, I tell him I need to get home. I’m embarrassed, I have a lot of questions. I tell him that mine doesn’t look like that. So he asks what it looks like. He won’t let me go. He’s holding me in place, telling me I can’t go until I show him because he showed me and that’s only fair. I pull open the waste band of my pants and let him peer down, He tells me he can’t see and offers to help. I hear my dad yelling my name. I Feel saved. I bolt out of the neighbor’s house crying, and I run home. My dad had been drinking again, my mom was at work. My dad wouldn’t listen to me, he pushes me up against the wall and hits me. He wants to make sure I know to go straight home after school. No one ever hears my story.

I’m 7. I spend the night at my grandparents’ house, I’m sitting on the bar stools spinning around and around. My grandfather pulls me off the stool and spanks me. I tell him that it didn’t hurt. He tells me that it’s not supposed to. My mom came to pick me up and I told her what happened. She was too scared to tell my dad. I never spent the night at my grandparents again, but I heard stories about how my sister, mother, aunt and uncle were all assaulted by him. I wonder how he can work at a school, and how he can get away with that.

I’m 13, I’m meeting up with some friends after school and we’re going to the park across the street. Me and one of the boys’ kiss, It’s not my first kiss. He exposes himself to me, and I do too. We’re just experimenting, and there are other kids there too. The next day at school he tells everyone we had sex. The guidance counselor finds out and calls my parents. My mom brings me to the doctor. I tell everyone it didn’t happen, but no one believes me. My dad is calling me a slut. The doctor tells my parents that I don’t have a hymen, but I also don’t have any signs that I’ve had sex recently. The doctor questions my parents but suggests that maybe I was born without a hymen. My parents still think I must have had sex. The bullying at school doesn’t ever stop, and no one ever addresses this “deformity” again.

I’m 15. I meet a boy on the internet, he tells me he’s 18 but I later find out he’s 21. I ran away from home with him, and then I got too scared to return home. The abuse from my dad was getting worse, my parents were fighting all the time, my sister was off to college, and I had been gone for over 30 hours. I was only a block away, but I was terrified. I told the boy I wanted to leave and go back to Massachusetts with him. Before we head out the police pull up. They ask me if anything happened with the guy, and I lie, I tell them no. even though they recover my bra from my jacket pocket I still tell them no. We didn’t have sex, so I didn’t think it mattered. The boy is arrested, he stole a car, he’s a registered sex offender. The police bring me home even though I tell them of the abuse, I beg them to lock me up instead of bringing me home. My father strips my room bare and turns it into what he called a jail cell. He feeds me my dinner under the door. He beats me relentlessly, for a month straight. I tell the school nurse, I tell the guidance counselor. I tell everyone. I don’t understand why no one is helping me. I don’t want to live there anymore.

I’m 16. My mom decided to throw me a sweet 16 birthday party. I had never had a birthday party work out before, this one isn’t much different. Some of her family comes, and this guy Joey. He’s 23 I guess. He’s going into the army in a week, but we spend a lot of time talking. We play mini golf, we go swimming, we go for hikes. Joey tells me that we’re not related. “It’s like 3rd cousins twice removed” I had never met him before, never heard of him, no one ever said anything, So I just assume he’s telling the truth. Joey convinces me to give him oral sex. He’s going to teach me how. The next day joey tries to rape me in the back seat of his car, and when I tell him I’m not ready he pulls a knife. He tells me the army will protect him, and no one will ever believe me if I say something. Turns out he was right. No one did believe me.

I’m 19 I just had my first baby with my first real boyfriend. We had fought a few times, but it was almost never physical. We lived in poverty, we were new parents’ things were stressful. One day we got in a fight and I decided to fight back. I don’t remember what happened. I woke up on the floor in a pile of my own vomit. A knife had been planted in my hand and he was holding the baby. He told the police I tried to stab him. In the time it took them to find me innocent he took the baby and left. We got evicted from our apartment, and I didn’t have anywhere to go. Because he did he got temporary custody of the baby. I didn’t get to see my baby for 8 years, and in the end, she didn’t know who I was, she didn’t remember my family, all she knew was that she had been abused by him, and that he told her she was just like me. And I hope to God she’s not like me at all.

I’m 25 both of my parents have passed away, and I’m homeless. I get into a few relationships because I’m literally sleeping on the streets, in gravel driveways, and in the woods. I’m scared to be alone. There’re no resources, there’s no money, there’s no food. I just don’t want to be alone. None of these relationships are good. I get threatened with knives, I get raped, I get spit on… Eventually I leave, I face homelessness alone because I have to get out. I move back to Vermont. I find WHBW, I go into shelter, and I start to tell them my story. I never get a chance to tell the whole thing. I’m just sick, I’m exhausted. I start writing on the walls not to offend anyone, but because I desperately need help and I don’t know how to ask for it. Unfortunately, this action gets me kicked out of shelter. I end up staying in a hotel instead; while the people from WHBW still help me. until I can get a job. I land a great job. A couple years later though, my job begins to trigger me, and I get sick again.

I’m 28 and I spend hours a day staring at the same spot on the wall. I don’t remember the last time I ate anything. I keep calling out of work. I’ve had this noose hanging in my Livingroom for weeks. Sometimes I wrap it around my neck just to practice. I have a bottle of pills that I’ve been saving. It’s a mixture of over the counter medications and old prescriptions. One day I call the national suicide helpline and they ask me if I have a plan. I did not, but this information told me that I needed to have a plan. So, I make one. I can’t work at all anymore, and I’m making excuses to not go. I decided I needed a therapist, and It wasn’t long after this that I was diagnosed with C-PTSD. I can’t work anymore I need to recover and heal. I start to.

I’m 29 and I meet this local guy. He’s rich, and he accepts that I’m going through some things, we have a great time. I’m working off and on at this point, but I’m struggling to keep my bills paid. He tells me that he has space and I can move in with him. I don’t want to be homeless again, so I agree. Unfortunately, though he doesn’t have space for any of my stuff. I leave everything behind, and I go. Things aren’t great, but I have place to stay, and food to eat, and no bills. My plan is to stay there long enough to heal, and long enough to save money to get a different place. He’s very controlling in that he’s always criticizing how I do things, If I cook the wrong way, or clean the wrong way, or dress the wrong way. If I walk too heavily across the floor. It’s constant. About 5 months in I can’t take it anymore, and I decided to fight back. (didn’t I learn this lesson before?)  I raise my voice once. He gets angry, and the look that comes over his face is one I’ve seen before. I call the steps hotline, but they tell me there’s no shelter space anywhere in the state. I have to try to wait it out. I feel safe enough for the time being. Except he heard the call. He kind of snapped. He has me face down on the bed, his arm is around my neck choking me, his knee is pushing into my left side ovary. I feel like I’m going to pass out, I look to my right and he has a big knife telling me he wants to “fucking kill me.” But suddenly he stops. He gets up, I hear him walk away and it gets quiet. I assume he left the room. I go to get up, my plan is to just turn around and run down the hallway and leave. I won’t take anything I’ll just leave. I get up to turn around and he hits me in the face with a mini baseball bat. The police woke me up, they were standing next to me and I was covered in blood. I turned my head and the guy was being taken away in handcuffs. I lost my entire top row of teeth that night, and now I owe hundreds of dollars for a denture that I don’t even like. I also got a bruised ovary. I speak with steps and go back to a hotel for a while. They help me get into a new apartment. I get section 8 and food stamps, I have a therapist I see a couple times a week. For the first time in a long time I feel safe enough.

Last September I turned 33. I’m still in that apartment. I still have that therapist. I’m still not working in a traditional sense, but holy crap am I healing? I create a program that teaches people to use writing as a way to heal from trauma. I call it “writing for healing” and it teaches the skills I used to heal myself. I start doing photography on the side. I look around. My journey isn’t yet complete. I’m still not 100% healed. But I’ve come so far from where I was. I looked in the mirror recently and I didn’t see the same person I’d always known. So, what if they didn’t believe me? So, what if they continued to hurt me? So, what if roomers still slip their lips.

I’m almost 34. I am strong. I’m brave. I’m alive. I’m independent. I’m courageous. I’m wise, I’m smart, I’m funny. I’m a good writer. And you know what? I’m more beautiful than anyone ever told me. I am here. And never again will I there, getting less than I deserve. I am a survivor.

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Jasmine is a 30-something year old living in Burlington, Vermont. She's a life learner who's learned from both the books and the streets. Jasmine dreams of being a known writer. She also has experience working in education and psychiatry. Jasmine has C-PTSD and anxiety stemming from a history of abuse and neglect. It's become her mission to not only share her stories with other people, but to help people learn how to heal by sharing their own stories. Jasmine recently created a non profit program called "Writing For Healing" where she teaches survivors how to write, and heal from their own traumas. To find out more you can visit her blog at https://creativemindofjasmine.wordpress.com/ or her facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CreativeMindOfJasmine. There you'll also find contact information, resources, and upcoming events.