Today, I’m living a robust life pursuing my passion. When I was a child, it was a different story.
When I was a little girl my family moved to our dream home. My father always worked hard and when I was six years old, he was promoted to manager. My dad strived all his life to provide incredible opportunities for his family, including a nicer home and neighborhood. I am so thankful for his example.
Shortly after we moved, I started being groomed by our neighbor. Although he was a teenager at the time, my sisters and I would often go over to his house to play with him and his brothers. He would try to touch me and ask me to touch him. The incidents always occurred when the adults were out—we would be playing in the playroom or having a sleepover (his parents let us all sleep in the same room). I’m not sure whether or not his parents knew what went on, but I remember that at one point, the only thing that made him get off me was his dad (who scared me) walking into the room.
The truth is, I’ve blocked out a lot of my childhood memories between the ages of six and ten. I do remember saying to myself one night, “just pretend you’re asleep, pretend you’re asleep, he’ll stop soon.” I wanted to flee but I was too frightened to move.
My childhood experiences left scars: as a teenager, I was insecure, depressed, and rebellious. I developed several eating disorders, one of which almost took my life. I couldn’t make sense of what happened to me against my will. Eating felt like the only thing I could control. I was always trying to fix myself because I thought something was wrong with me.
As I became an adult, I was ultimately able to find healing with the help of counselors and Jesus. I began to overcome my fear, my pain, and my feelings of insufficiency through grace and hard work. Today, I feel like I’m thriving. I am a wife, mom, child abuse prevention advocate, and founder of a project called The 42 and Me: Project Hope. As Mrs. Lake Norman America, I’m currently running for Mrs. North Carolina America 2020 on the platform of protecting kids from sexual abuse. I’m passionate about teaching kids about protecting their bodies because I never want any child to experience what I did.
I have one main message I hope you take from my story: you have so much ahead of you. Don’t lose hope. It can get better if you just keep going.