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It has taken 20 years to come to terms with the reality of my experience and it gives me so much hope that there are people fighting for change and better care for survivors.

I was sexually abused from the age of 8 until 13 by another student a couple years above me. It started what I had assumed was innocently enough with him physically showing me on my body what parts did what during sex. Then it moved to him showing himself to me and having me stimulate him so I could "see what an erect penis looks like," and then explaining verbally, showing me pornography, and then showing me physically how you have sex.

I remember from the very beginning how uncomfortable and terrified I felt and would throw up after every interaction with him, but I also felt that I had to go along with it and that maybe the reason he had picked me was because there was something about me that said I was interested and I was incredibly ashamed. I was constantly afraid and anxious knowing I would have to see him at school, every time our families got together, and especially any time I was alone at school or at home. I was afraid he would show up.

I was growing up in a Christian missionary community, going to a missionary school, and was already experiencing a lot of verbal and physical abuse and shaming at home for any minor missteps or not meeting expectations. Along with that, the peer who was abusing me was the son of another teacher who was also my dad's best friend. I knew I could never tell anyone because if someone did believe me it would ruin their friendship and make my dad angry at me, and if no one did believe me I would be blamed for what was happening and be shamed for being so sinful and unclean. So I kept going along with it, convincing myself it was my choice and I was just sinful and broken. I came to believe that I'm only alive for the benefit of others and resigned myself to a hopelessness that there was nothing truly lovable about me.

For years afterwards I have still viewed myself that way, that sex and sexual pleasure is something I have to give anyone that wants it because that's all I'm good for. I started seeing a therapist this year and for the first time started to begin to accept that what happened wasn't my fault. I know there's a long ways to go and even as I write this I know some of those "truths" I believed are still present, but I hope that my story can help make a difference.

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