Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse.
I grew up sitting on the poverty line. Proud Caribbean parents who took absolutely no nonsense raised me and luckily for me, I had both of them in my life. My mother, a workaholic, also took great pride in maintaining her home. My father arrived in Canada at age 13, was a former musician and unlike my mother was more eccentric and outgoing. They wanted the best for my siblings and were always pushing us to get the best grades so we could become doctors or lawyers one day.
My parents both worked a lot and regardless of the hours they worked, found it difficult to afford daycare so they often looked to neighbours to babysit my brothers and I while they were at work. Little did we all know: my babysitter would become my rapist. I didn’t understand much of what she did to me until I started watching porn at age 14. I suppressed most of this incident for much of my life and felt intense sexual urges but felt shame attached to this feeling. My parents realized I experienced these urges one day when they caught me with my pants down in my room touching myself. I explained to them that what I was doing is something the babysitter and I would do when my brothers weren’t around. Needless to say, she didn’t babysit after that.
As with most Caribbean families spankings as a form of punishment is quite normal. As I grew and became a less mischievous child, I long forgot what those beatings felt like until I reached the stage in my life where I hit puberty. My father grew weary of me becoming sexual and would constantly stop me from wearing certain clothing and wouldn’t allow me to go out after school unless it was for an activity tied to schooling. This was somewhat understandable to me as I understood my parents’ upbringing and why my sexuality might be a problem for them but it was also conflicting because my brothers were allowed the freedom I craved even though I had always been the most responsible one of their children. I grew resentful and started lying to my parents about extracurricular activities so I could spend time with my friends after school.
For background, I had always been an honour roll and sometimes principal’s honour roll student. I’d participate in extracurricular activities in school, was in the school’s orchestra, and made sure my brothers were always taken care of and the house was clean before my parents got home from work. I was able to achieve and maintain all of these things starting from the age of 8. Even with all this, my parents still didn’t feel like I could be trusted out of the house with friends or have male friends over even if they were home. This was upsetting for me because I had always been a tomboy and most of my friends were males.
At age 16 I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to hang out with my male friends and so I did regardless of what consequences came later. My father didn’t like the rebellious nature I developed and he punished me by beating me. When he saw that the beatings didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted, he became harsher: beatings with cables, choking, he would bash my head against the concrete floor, rip my hair out and verbally abuse me; calling me everything from a prostitute, to a crackhead, to a bitch. I found myself facing severe depression.
I lost my virginity at age 16 to my boyfriend after one year of dating. We broke up after two years as he didn’t know how to deal with the black eyes and welts on my body that my father would leave. A man ten years older than me raped me for months because he knew about my boyfriend and threatened to tell my father so I stayed quiet and endured the sexual abuse that came. I didn’t see this as cheating, I saw this as a way to protect and save my relationships because if my parents found out, my relationship would be over. Once I realized he was doing this to other young girls, I stopped this because I now had information to threaten him with so he would leave me alone. I was still afraid of him so I didn’t go to the police but I felt I did my part by warning him against doing this to anyone else. I had low self-esteem at the time and could only scare him with his words.
Between the ages of 17-19 I turned to sex to relieve myself of my depression from the lack of freedom I was given, the sexual abuse, and the beatings from my father. My parents had already categorized me as a whore so it didn’t matter to me what I did with my body. They created my sense of worthlessness. The only thing that could stop me from researching ways to kill myself was finding a boy who wanted to be my boyfriend for a while and having as much sex with him as possible. It filled a void and I got into abusive relationship after abusive relationship with multiple men.
When I was 19 I realized I couldn’t continue the method I was using and instead turned to excessive weed and alcohol to help my feelings of self-hatred and depression. At the time and to only me, this seemed like a great time in my life. I met someone and I was in the best relationship I had ever been in and it lasted two years; we still remain friends to this day. During this period though, I would party every weekend and drink every day with other alcoholic friends but thought I was functioning because I managed to get through work every day. Even when sneaking vodka in McDonalds cups to work I didn’t realize I had a problem. Now, I can’t look at vodka without feeling nauseous.
My parents had been threatening to kick me out since I was 17. At times I would leave and sleep at my boyfriend's house or a close friend of mine for long periods of time until my mother eventually asked me to come home. My life remained turbulent until I turned 21 when I moved out on my own. My ex and I were broken up but still remained close. I hadn’t let my parents get to know him because my father had always physically fought me whenever I tried to bring a guy friend home and I didn’t want my ex to see what my home life was like.
One day I was feeling my lowest. I lost my job, I had betrayed a close friend of mine and we were no longer close, and I felt unaccomplished because I wasn’t successful at completing my post secondary education despite several attempts to start. I felt like nothing more than a whore who had wasted her life. All the nasty things I had heard about myself is what I started to believe.
I asked my ex of two years to come over one day because I needed someone to talk to; I was feeling suicidal and didn’t trust myself to be alone. My father came home early and before I could explain what was happening he began choking me in front of my ex. I was mortified and this time tried to fight back. I called the police because I couldn’t handle the abuse any longer but when they arrived they sided with my father. I was outraged. Luckily my ex stood by me through the entire process and that night I went to sleep at his house. His home where he stayed with his family felt like more of a loving environment than my own.
This became my turning point. The next day I went home and packed all of my things and stayed with a friend. I had no idea where I was going from there but I managed to talk another friend into letting me stay with her for six months, using my welfare to pay a portion of the rent until I got back up on my feet. From there I got and maintained a job and secured my own apartment where I lived for two years until I started going back to school. I had mostly quit the heavy drinking that contributed to me being stagnant and when I was 21 I started participating in healthy activities such as yoga and playing my violin. At 24 I moved back into my mother’s house, focusing primarily on my education and my job. I began helping her pay bills and was happy to contribute to the household financially because she had kicked my father out after I decided to come back. I was more than happy to help her make her house a home again.
I am now preparing myself for my next move to Montreal where I will finish a degree in agricultural science and make a difference for other people’s families who have as little or maybe less resources than my own family did when we first started out. I won't lie and say that some days I don’t imagine I’m still that destructive young girl who had nothing to live for and was ready to end it all but those days are so far and few for me now. I will never say I’m grateful for all of the things that happened to me in the past and throughout my life, but I am more than happy with the woman that has emerged from those events. I am stronger than ever and I am ready to make a difference in the world.