This is a teen-written article from our friends at Youth Communication, a nonprofit organization that helps marginalized youth develop their full potential through reading and writing.
My father abused me for 14 years, since I was little. He hasn’t hit me in a year and a half, and six months ago he apologized. I don’t fully trust him, yet I want to forgive him because I think it will help me let my anger and shame go.
I don’t remember my mother at all, but I’ve been told she did a lot of drugs and left me with nuns. I lived with my grandmother, my father’s mother, in Lima, Peru until I was three years old. When I was three, my father and I moved from Lima to the Big Apple. My first memories are of living with my father, his wife and her daughter, and my aunt in Queens. My stepmother cared for me. My father was nice to both of us and to my stepsister, who was older.
But I saw another side of my father. One day when I was in the first grade, my aunt gave me a pair of her earrings to wear to school. I took them off in class because they were hurting my ears and I put them in the desk. I forgot about them until I got home.
My aunt was mad and said, in Spanish, “Why did you take them off?” I said, “Because they were heavy.”
“I’m going to tell your father!” she yelled.
I started to cry and begged her, “No, please” because I knew he had a terrible temper. When my father came home, I told him I’d forgotten the earrings in the desk at school. He said, “You’re lying! Where are the earrings? I know you have them!”
“No, I don’t, Papa! I forgot them in school.”
He called me a liar. Then he grabbed my hands and put them on a lit burner on top of the stove. I cried and screamed. He stopped, and then he did it again. My hands were bright red like blood, with some black spots like coal.
Gloves in School
After he did it, he said “Sorry” and kissed my boo-boo. Then he went into his room. The next day, I wore gloves to school. My teacher told me to take them off. I was scared because I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened. I was also mad. I was also ashamed; I don’t know why.
I finally took off the gloves and my teacher and the principal called the police and a guidance counselor. I said I was playing with the fire on the stove and I got burned accidentally. They didn’t believe me so they called Children’s Services (ACS).
That was the first case that ACS opened on my family. Before ACS and the police came to the house, my aunts and uncles said, “Your father is going to go away really far unless you lie about the stove incident. But if you lie then he’ll stay here with you.” I lied so my family would stay together.
My stepmother was furious at my father for burning me and making me lie to ACS. She left about a year later. I was devastated. I cried a lot and my grades in school got worse. Then the abuse happened more. My father would hit me to the point of a nosebleed, a swollen lip, and bruises. Every time my teachers would call my father about my bad grades, he would hit me. Since I got in a lot of trouble, my father beat me most days from 2nd grade through 5th grade, sometimes in the shower so it would hurt more.
I hated him, and I started to feel like I was worth nothing and like I was nobody. Even when he wasn’t mad, it was never nice with my father. We never really talked; he was too busy with work, and at home he’d avoid conversation with me. After I cooked us dinner, we would watch TV together while we ate. He hit me every time I did something or said something wrong.
When I was eight, I started to run away. At first I would go to older friends’ houses. I also started drinking. Then when I was 10, I met this 24-year-old guy and I lived with him, though we didn’t have sex until I was 14. I didn’t understand at the time that this “relationship” was child abuse. I stayed with him for more than four years and then got into other relationships with much older men.
At first I felt safe when I was with these guys. They would tell me they loved me and they wouldn’t harm me. One of them kissed me on the head like a father should. They filled the hole I had inside my heart, and they protected me from danger, including my dad’s abuse.
But when one of them hit me, I felt no safety from anyone anymore. I felt betrayed and trapped inside a ball of depression, abuse, and heartache.
ACS opened about 10 cases over the years because I ran away so much and because they would see bruises from my dad on me. But I always got put back in my dad’s care because I always told ACS that I had hurt myself. My uncle and aunts did tell my father to stop hitting me and they’d have these big arguments. In many Latin American families, hitting a kid is considered normal discipline. But I don’t think it’s OK to hit a kid, and besides, I think my father hit me to relieve his own stress, not for discipline.
ACS opened the final case when I was 14. After I’d run away a few times, a cop told my father that he could get a PINS warrant on me, which is when parents (or a caregiver or the school) can’t control a kid and ACS takes over. I got placed in a diagnostic center and eventually was moved to an RTF called Linden Hill, where I still live now.
I was happy I was away from my father (the monster, that’s what I called him back then), but I didn’t want to be in the system. I was alone and miserable. I got depressed when I saw my peers going home and having relationships with their families. I felt like the only girl who couldn’t keep her family together.
I was ashamed of my father and of myself. I felt ashamed of being the girl who was abused, who ran away, cut herself, and tried to kill herself. People at Linden Hill didn’t know the girl who was a great poet, had a nice smile and positive things to say, the girl who was smart and talented.
I’d had therapy before, on ACS’s recommendation. Starting when I was 12, I would go once a week, and once a month my father would come to the session too. I told that therapist about cutting myself but never about my father’s abuse.
Reprinted with permission from Youth Communication.