I thought I had to keep it quiet. I thought nobody would believe me. I thought I'd never feel heard. I thought I had to live with this secret and guilt every day of my life until the Lord took me home. Five years has come and gone, yet the insurmountable pain still lingers. It's easier to distract myself for longer periods of time now, but unexpected flash backs of that night continues to ring in my head when I least expect it. And when it does, I fall physically ill.

Many women have come out to share their story and because of their bravery, I am empowered and encouraged to speak out as well.

Vacation is supposed to send you back home relaxed, refreshed, and de-stressed. Yet I came back with a broken heart and a new best friend named anxiety. I had hours to reflect on what happened while I made my way back home, and after bottling so much of it up, it was time to explode. I decided to tell somebody in the car about what happened to me.

..."Last night I got back to the house and all the beds were taken. Joe came out and told me that I could take his bed and that he would sleep on the floor in some other room. I thanked him, put on my pajamas, and laid down to fall asleep. As I was drifting off, I felt a presence hovering over me. I tossed and turned on my side to signify I was sleeping, but that presence crawled into the bed with me. I knew its smell. It was Joe.

Fear gripped my body and I wasn't able to move. I pretended to be asleep through my confusion, but then he began touching my body. I tossed and turned some more to show him that I may "wake up", but he began touching me harder and faster. Some chemical released in my brain that made every part of my physical nature numb. He ripped a hole through my pajama pants in order to feel me up some more. I wasn't able to do anything. I wasn't able to speak. I kept pretending to be asleep.

I laid there, motionless, while one of my family members (who is a father btw) satisfied himself right next to me. Afterwards, he got up, went to the bathroom, and then came back and laid near me once more. I waited for him to do something more, but now I could just hear him snoring.

I was too confused to cry. I just remember counting little paint specs on his wall trying to pass the night away, while the man that just took such a sacred part of me, laid sleeping next to me like nothing was wrong."

As I told a trusted person what had happened, I was met with sadness but not much of anything else. It was silent on our drive back and then never brought up again. I decided to speak up and tell another person, but I was told that I was "too old" to ever be sexually abused at 15, so it must have been my fault somehow. Then when I told the next person, I was met with anger and disbelief. That's when I began to think that it was all my fault.

Maybe if I hadn't accepted his offer of sleeping in his room. Maybe if I hadn't been wearing such tight clothes to sleep. Maybe if I had just screamed it would have stopped. Maybe, somehow, it was all on me.

My soul yearns for my present self to go back to my past self and hold her while she cried. At just 15 years old, I felt so alone, hurt, and betrayed by someone in my family and lost all hope for men in general. It distorted my self worth in a way I never could have imagined, and thinking about being intimate with my husband is still hard for me because of what I experienced.

The only time our predators win, is when we let fear take over and we refuse to speak up. For the longest time, I felt bad for him. I never wanted anybody else to know because I convinced myself that he was just a broken human and I didn't want him to be judged. Though I was right and he is a broken human, there is no excuse for somebody to get away with taking the innocence of a young girl. No excuse at all.

I'm speaking out and believing that none of it was on me and that there isn't anything to be guilty about on my end. I'm declaring that though I may feel like a piece of me is still missing, I am made whole because of the blood of Jesus. I am determined to move on, stronger and fiercer than ever before, grabbing the hand of the next one and pleading them to tell their story to the masses, until finally, there are no "next ones" because men fear our voices.

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© 2020 by Jonni Nicole Parsons