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I grew up with the worlds best, most loving single super-mom. I could never even to this day tell her anything that's happened to me (even though she's my best friend) because I don't want her to feel like she failed somehow. We were poor growing up, borderline poverty. I was diagnosed with several medical issues early on and the bills piled up quick, so my mom would work 2-3 jobs to feed not only me-- but SEVEN kids between me, my brother and sister, and my cousins all living in my grandmothers house. We were there alone a lot. My brother is 8 years my elder, my girl cousin 5 years older, my youngest cousin a year younger than me. The other older siblings were always gone during the day so the two aforementioned family members were left with me and my younger cousin. They would always initiate this "game," where my girl cousin would strip me down, sometimes put makeup on me, and lay my naked body on the bed. She was part of the reason I never knew anything was wrong with this. My brother would get naked and take me under the covers and touch me, among other things. And they always told me not to tell our parents because we weren't supposed to play it. I was around 4-6 throughout all the times it happened, and I had no clue what was going on-- just that I liked it. Then one afternoon, I stripped down on my own, and tried to cuddle up next to my younger cousin, telling him we should play the same game we play with my brother-- thankfully his mom came in the door right then and separated us. I barely remember anything except her calling my mom and mumbling worriedly over the phone with a horrified look on her face. They never asked me if it happened before, and we never talked about it again. It stopped after that. We moved out of the house after a couple years, and I ended up getting a high school grade level babysitter. She lived in our apartments, and was the worst human being I've ever met. I wanted her to like me and thought she was my best friend. I was in first grade at the time, and remember telling her about the game my brother used to play with us. Two days later, her boyfriend came to the apartment and they both took off my clothes and said they wanted to play the same game, but that we would never get caught. 

She was right. They never did. 

I've never confronted my brother or female cousin about what happened, and three years ago my younger cousin committed suicide. 

I have felt like it was partly my fault everytime I think about it, because I never spoke up, and I always wonder if he thought he was alone-- or crazy-- or that it would tear the family apart-- or he was remembering something that never happened like I thought maybe I was for years after. But unfortunately the memories I do have are as clear as day, and feel like they just happened. I just want to let people know that I've never had the courage to tell my story even anonymously, until I read some of these truths. I'm so grateful and blessed that I was led here. I want to let people know that nothing that happened to you is your fault, but you don't have to call yourself a "victim" either. I've grown to hate that word. I'm strong, I'm a fighter and a survivor. I'm not giving anyone the power to call me their victim. I'm giving myself the power to rise above what happened, and to forgive myself and the ones I love who did that to me, and even the person I don't love who did it to me. I hope you'll be powerful today too. ️

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