098: Break the Silence

Content warning: The following post contains references to sexual assault, abuse, self-harm, and depression, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Break the Silence," Javier Negrete

Hello. I want to share something very personal in hopes that if you or someone you know has struggled as I have, may you find hope as I did. This is my story. 

I am 22 years old. And I am a survivor of sexual abuse.

When I was seven years old, I was sexually abused by another male. The abuser was around his mid-teens at the time and was a friend of the family. A complete stranger to me, but to the rest who knew him; he was a son, a brother, a friend, probably trustworthy, and just a kid. It all began at what should have been a fun day at the pool, but I left confused and afraid.

He said, "This has to be our secret if you tell anyone, I will hurt your family.” I was really afraid, what would happen to me if I lost my family. I was afraid of being sent away. He also said, "If you don't do what I say, I will do it to to your little brother."

I thought I was safe when we finally left his house. Until him and his family showed up at every gathering my grandparents (dad's side) threw at their house. It continued for that whole terrifying summer of 2001. Something I would have to live with the rest of my life. I told no one. Summer was over and the new school year began and I never saw him again.

I started 2nd grade at my new school where I began with what appeared to be school phobia. I began to worry every Sunday night worried having to go to school or, at least, that is what I said at the time; I just remember being afraid. After a few months of this, I was taken to therapy and I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and were apparently it was not caught that I had been abused though I did learn breathing exercises to help control the "anxiety". I still shared nothing of the abuse and continued my third, fourth and fifth grade without further incidence.

I culminated from elementary and started middle school where I was in the Magnet program; I joined drama and other school activities. I completed 8th grade and started high school in Fall of 2008.

In high school magnet program, I busied myself with Link Crew and Student Government, organized the Blood Drive, Homecoming, and joined in the AIDS Walk in my Junior year to name a few activities. In my Senior year, I was voted School Secretary where I was part of daily school announcements crew, helped with fundraisers, helped with planning Homecoming to name a few school activities. I was a regular happy, outgoing, fun-loving teen with thoughts of graduation and enrolling in a local college with the regular thoughts and fears of what will happen after I leave high school and join the "real" world. 

I enrolled in college and started the semester with some minor anxiety. All my classes were on campus. As the semesters passed, a few memories of my abuse would pop up here and there but I'd brush it off. I think that at some point, I made myself believe that it did not happen; because men do not get raped. I do not remember any boys or men for that matter around me ever sharing anything like this.

Around the age of 20, a slideshow of images began emerging in my mind. I began to feel nervous, worried, concerned and constantly looking over my shoulder. The anxiety crept up again and the feeling that I was not safe lingered. In the back of my mind, I knew this person was still out there, and still, I told no one. I began to distant myself away from everyone. I only remembered the face of his younger self, I did not know what he would like all grown up. Could he be the man serving my food, could he be the older student sitting next to me, the mail carrier, or the Uber driver.

After years of silence. I've begun to fall apart little by little. Everyone around me knew something was wrong before I even knew myself. But I managed to put up a smile and say I was "fine.”

How can I share what I've hidden for 15 years? Would anyone believe me after such a long time of silence? The moment I finally shared with my mom was a huge blessing. No judgment. No blame. Just love. She persuaded me that therapy was the best option. I felt I did not need it, but I went anyway. The first session helped me understand I was not at fault. The only person to blame was my abuser. He took advantage of everyone.

With help from therapy, I was given the advice to share with the family. So I could know who the monster was and continue with a police report. I had the courage to tell my family but still had a fear of how each would react. Everyone was very supportive and made it clear to me that they will have my back no matter what. I shared with the family what I remembered. And we discovered who it was. With the support from my family, I was ready to make a police report ―
which I did. I felt better knowing the police knew and was ready to get my justice.

Now, for the hard part ― waiting.
It was a struggle.

I finally received a call Thursday afternoon in February. My heart racing and fingers crossed for great news. Sadly, the detective said they could not pursue with any charges. Why? The monster denied my truth. My stomach fell to the ground. Feeling defeated. Did he win? Not yet. I will continue to fight. I broke his sick minded agreement when he told me not to share our "secret". Well, the cats out of the bag. I no longer will be silent. This is just the beginning of my story. I am a survivor.

If you have been abused, please don't be afraid to speak out. Regardless of your gender. It can happen to anyone.

As you read my story, think of how you would protect yourself and your loved ones. Think about how you supervise your kids, nieces, nephews or grandkids. 
Break the silence. Let's end it.


About the art:

Javier submitted this story to us MONTHS AGO! And after some miscommunications with who was making the art for it, I stepped up and made sure that his powerful story was shared with our project.

Javier told me he wasn't particular about colors for the piece, so I went with something brighter in hopes that it would bring some vibrance to his situation.

I chose the lines, "I am a survivor - Break the silence," because they not only appear in the story, but they align perfectly with our mission as a nonprofit and I'm so glad we're able to have this piece representative of our project.

Thank you for your bravery in sharing this story, Javier, and for being able to process such a challenging portion of your life.

- Craig