Fierce

Eight Women Opened Up About Their Sexual Assault Experiences And How They Survived

Content Warning — The following stories share details of physical and sexual abuse that could be triggering to some readers. Discretion is advised.

If you’re a woman, there’s a certain amount of extra care you have to take in our world. That’s why we go to the bathroom in groups and buy things like mace and self dense tools just in case we find ourselves the targets of attack. The numbers tell us this is a very possible situation. Statistically, 1 in 6 women are victims of an attempted or completed rape. Additionally, 1 in 4 women are the victims of domestic abuse by a significant other.  

Whether physical or sexual assault, assault completed by a stranger or a loved one, the suffering caused by these actions are very real and can lead to a lifetime of pain. We can do a lot to prevent these attacks but one of the most important things we can do for survivors after the fact is to talk about it. Addressing this pain and celebrating the strength needed to continue on afterwards helps with the difficult healing process. 

With this in mind, we asked our FIERCE readers to open up to us and talk about these traumatic experiences. What they shared spoke of the strength and perseverance of the corazón femenino. Here’s what they had to say. 

1. Healing but stronger than ever!

Instagram / @_sexual_assault_survivors

“My stepfather’s granddad molested me from 3-5 years old. He would tell me that if I told my parents they would be angry at me, so I kept it silent until 1st grade when a school nurse briefly explained what inappropriate touching was. I told her everything [and] my parents/police were called. The next morning my abuser was on a flight back to his country. My family who was supposed to protect me, instead protected him. I am still healing but stronger than ever! I refuse to let that hurt inner child shape my life.” — @rosyyaret

2. Your abuse does not define you. 

Instagram / @_sexual_assault_survivors

“I was 4 and it was my older brother. I became incredibly depressed and suicidal in high school due to the fact that I was silenced. I dropped out as soon as I turned 18. It’s taken many years of removing toxic people from my life, self love and healing. I am now a mother of two beautiful girls, I graduated high school last year at the age of 25 and I am now set to graduate from college spring 2020 with a degree in Spanish, behavioral science and sociology. I’m currently working on all my UC applications and my life is mine, I reclaimed it.

I hope that these words help someone, anyone. Your abuse does not define you or dictate your life. It gets better and you’ve got a group of hermanas and hermanos out here rooting for you. My inbox is open to anyone in need of a listening ear.” — @lichalopez__

3. We can overcome anything.

Instagram / @_sexual_assault_survivors

“4-5 year old me playing at the yard and my grandma’s ahijado abused me. A friend (6 year old boy) saw what was going on and started knocking and kicking the door until he opened it and I could run away. Had to look at this guy for years nobody knew nothing until last year that I told my husband. I’m a proud Daughter of God, a mama bear and blessed wife. We girls can overcome anything 💪🏻💪🏻” — @yulia2401

4. You aren’t the one who should feel ashamed. 

Instagram / @_sexual_assault_survivors

“In 4th grade, I was sexually molested by 3 class mates of mine. They pinned me up against a wall lifted my skirt and touched me inappropriately. They got 1 week of ISS (In School Suspension), because they were “just being kids.” meaning I still had to see them every day. I couldn’t attend school for nearly a month after. I felt so ashamed and dirty, kids looked at me funny because the rumors had started after.” — @kisssinpink

5. Ridding your life of toxicity is self care.

Instagram / @sexualabuserecovery

“I was 9 years old and it was my Godfather, we were at a barbecue at their house. I told my Mom immediately after it happened, she walked me over to her sister (his wife), and asked me to tell her what I just told her. She then picked me up, called my Dad over and told him we had to go. She didn’t tell him til we got home, she was afraid of his reaction as a father. They called the police and pressed charges, during the police report the officers asked my Mom, “what was she wearing?”

My Dad said, “excuse me?! she’s 9!” “I have to ask”, the officer replied…

My parents never doubted me, and supported me, our entire family turned their backs on us for “calling the cops on family”. My parents decided to move far away from their toxicity and it’s been just us ever since. I hold a lot of resentment towards him and them, that day I lost my primos, tias, tios.” — @goddess_divine_515

6. Find your voice and use it.

Instagram / @sexualabuserecovery

“I was molested by my mom’s brother from 3-7 years old and felt dirty and carried shame all throughout my childhood. At 21 I was raped in college and it felt as if my whole world came crumbling down. I could no longer try and push down what happened. I got therapy and through it I found my voice. I now have a PhD, did my dissertation on the post traumatic growth of Chicana/Latina survivors of sexual assault, and am a psychologist that has supported other survivors. If you’re reading this and you’re a survivor too, know that it is never your fault. Find a therapist or tell someone you trust. It gets better, I promise. 💕”  — @biancayesss

7. Addressing what happened with yourself and others will be healing.

FIERCE/ wearemitu.com

“I was molested from age 5-9 by a family member. To this date I can’t even say who or speak his name but he passed away when I was 13. Up until a couple of years ago I thought I was stronger than what happened to me and I wouldn’t let that part of my life define me. And the fact that if I said anything, my whole family would fall apart, I couldn’t bare the thought of doing that to them. That’s what I repeated to myself over and over. Until I started losing grip on my emotions and realizing I couldn’t keep a healthy relationship. Girls seek help. I’m finally not too afraid to not do so.”

8. Learn what abuse means and no it’s not your fault.

justiceforourwomenza / Instagram

It took me nearly two years to say anything. I considered him a friend in high school and completely trusted him. I blamed myself for being alone with him, for “putting myself” in that situation. Sex was never the same after, but I thought it was just me, trying to be more “godly”.. Years later, I was in a sexual abuse prevention training and learned the different meanings of sexual abuse. No means No. Abuse is abuse. Please remember it was NEVER your fault, no matter what anyone else says.

Two Teens Charged With Child Endangerment After They Filmed a Video Of Toddler They Were Babysitting Smoking A Vape Pen

Things That Matter

Two Teens Charged With Child Endangerment After They Filmed a Video Of Toddler They Were Babysitting Smoking A Vape Pen

Parentology / Twitter

Pennsylvania police have confirmed that they are filing child endangerment charges against two teenagers who filmed a video of a two-year-old boy smoking a vape pen while they were babysitting him. According to police, the authorities were alerted to the video via the local youth violence prevention hotline, Safe2Say Something.

The video shows the toddler inhaling from a vaping device and falling down while he coughs and cries. The laughter of the two girls can be heard in the background of the video. The teenage girls–who are 18 and 17, respectively–allegedly filmed the video of the toddler smoking and then posted the 20-second clip to Snapchat. 

Shortly after being posted and reported, the video went viral on social media, with the public demanding that the police get involved. 

The Indiana Criminal Investigation Unit responded to the outcry with a statement saying that they were “aware of a video” and were “investigating the related incident in which a 2-year-old child was given a vaping device”. They confirmed that the “involved persons and child have been identified and charges are pending.” The authorities also revealed that the toddler did not display any other visible effects from the vape, which apparently contained 3% nicotine and no THC.

According to authorities, the local school district has identified the teenagers in the video as students who attend one of their schools. They provided the students’ names to the police.  “United administration was made aware of the video today, and the matter is being investigated by the authorities,” said United School District of Armagh Superintendent Dr. Barbara Parkins in a statement. “We believe that two of our students were involved in the situation. The names of those students were provided to the authorities.”

Viewers were especially disturbed by the video in light of the troubling cases of illness and death that have recently been associated with vape pens,

As of January 7, 2020, a total of 2,602 e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) cases or deaths have been reported to The Center for Disease Control. According to the CDC, 82% of those cases involved the use of THC-containing vaping pens, most of which were obtained from “informal sources” (i.e. black-market products). 

The media-dubbed epidemic has elicited a strong response from health officials who urge the public to avoid vaping pens and e-cigarettes at all costs. “E-cigarettes are not safe and can cause irreversible lung damage and lung disease,” American Lung Association president Harold Wimmer recently said in a statement addressing the health epidemic. “No one should use e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product.”. 

As for the toddler’s mother, she is horrified that her child was subjected to such dangerous activity without her knowledge. 

“I’m disgusted. I’m very upset.I’m in disbelief they would even laugh or even have something like that in reach of a child’s possession,” the child’s mother told local news station WXPI. “I’m not trusting anybody anymore to babysit my child,” she continued. “I’m done. I don’t even want to put him in daycare. I can’t trust anybody anymore.”

As for the fallout from this incident, the video is sparking a larger debate on social media about the callous way in which many Gen Zers use social media to publicize their problematic activities for clout and retweets. In an internet culture that glorifies problematic “pranks” and public humiliation, this kind of incident feels, for many, like the last straw.

The public’s outcry seems to largely stem from the fact that the teenagers were laughing while they recklessly put a toddler in danger. 

It’s one thing to put a child in harm’s way, it’s another to laugh about it, and it’s an entirely other case when you post and brag about it on social media.

Some Twitter-users pointed out the fact that vape pens have recently become incredibly dangerous. 

The reality is, EVALI is a new phenomenon that we still don’t know all the facts about. 

This Latina mother makes clear that, should anyone do the same thing to her child, she would take the law into her own hands:

We can only imagine the feelings of shock and betrayal this mother is experiencing right now.

This viewers still seemed to be in denial about the entire situation:

As much as we’d love for this video to have been doctored, we have a feeling that it is 100% real. 

This person is primarily disturbed about the girls’ reaction to the toddler coughing and crying

It is likely that these teen girls didn’t know the danger they were putting this child in by letting him smoke an e-cigarette.

A 5-Year-Old Girl Was Abandoned By Her Parents And Found Chained To Her Bed In Mexico

Things That Matter

A 5-Year-Old Girl Was Abandoned By Her Parents And Found Chained To Her Bed In Mexico

Daily Mail / Twitter

More often than we might like, headlines tend to describe literal, living nightmares—and the recent story about a 5-year-old girl abandoned by her parents in Mexico is no exception. On January 3, a young girl was found in an empty house in San Luis Potosi, tethered to her bed by a rusty chain. Neighbors had heard cries for help coming from the house and notified the local police. When authorities arrived on the scene, they discovered that the girl was living in terrible conditions: not only was she alone, but she was surrounded by piles of trash and filth. Mexican newspaper Excelsior reported that investigators also found a small bucket near the bed, which the child was forced to use as a toilet. She had bruises on her leg and ankle from the metal cuff. After noting her injuries, police transferred her to a local hospital where and she was found to be in stable condition. As of now, the state prosecutor’s office is collaborating with child protective services and police in an attempt to locate the child’s parents.

Not much is yet known about this child (her name is not being released), and no arrests have yet been made. But what we do know is that her situation is not unique.

When searching for information about this story, countless results recounting nearly identical situations appeared, with headlines like “Girl, 6, Was Chained to Bed for 5 Years in Norco Home;” and “‘They’re Chained Up to Their Bed’: Hear 911 Call From Girl Who Escaped Captivity, Saved Her 12 Siblings.” Although each case offers its own twisted nuances, we can’t help but wonder: How is it possible that this horror story of captivity, abuse, and neglect is so common?

The tale that garnered the most media attention in recent years—mentioned in the above headline about a girl who escaped to save her 12 siblings—chronicles the experience of the Turpin children, all of whom were held captive by their parents over the course of almost three decades.

The torture and abuse enacted upon the Turpin children started as neglect, according to officials. In the beginning, the children’s parents would tie them to their beds as a form of punishment, using rope before later graduating to padlocks and chains. At first, the children would only be confined for short periods; but over time, these stints began to stretch longer and longer, sometimes spanning days or weeks, and the siblings—aged 2 to 29—would not be allowed to use the bathroom.

When the siblings were discovered by police in January 2018, almost all of them were severely malnourished. Evidently, when they were not chained up, they were fed very little food according to a strict regimen. Sometimes, the Turpin parents would buy food and place it in plain sight, taunting the children by prohibiting them from tasting it. According to Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin, at the time the siblings were rescued, one 12-year-old weighed what an average 7-year-old might weigh, and the female 29-year-old clocked in at a mere 82 pounds. The family dogs, on the other hand, appeared to be in good spirits and overall good health.

In spite of her emaciated physical condition, the 17-year-old managed to escape by climbing out a window and dialing 911 on a deactivated cell phone (federal law requires that all cell phones be capable of contacting emergency services, even those that are not operational). According to Hestrin, she and some of her siblings had been devising an escape plan for over two years.

So, statistically, how many victims of domestic captivity are able to share successful stories of escape? It’s tough to say, as there is no definitive number of children in domestic captivity, and it’s ultimately impossible to compare the numbers of known cases with unknown, still-active cases.

Plus, experts say that the potential consequences of attempting to escape often deter victims from even trying. Fear of violence and/or punishment—paired with psychological conditions like Stockholm Syndrome, which occurs when captives become emotionally attached to their captors—is often a major reason that captives don’t try to flee. Long periods of abuse can also lead to a loss of perspective in victims, causing them to feel grateful for any sort of lull in abuse and potentially falling into complacency or acceptance when the abuse is paused or slowed.  

Although the children mentioned above were held captive by their own parents, human trafficking—and especially the trafficking of young children—continues to be a pervasive global issue. According to the latest global estimates, 25 million adults and children are currently being exploited for forced labor, and that is not a comprehensive metric. The statistics surrounding the breadth of human exploitation are staggering, and if you suspect that someone is a victim of trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is the best resource. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888: Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take any and all reports of potential cases.