"My proudest moment is when I chose life over taking my own.
It was Christmas morning, I was 13 years old and a freshman in high school, when an older cousin raped me.
I was visiting my mother, who was staying with that cousin at the time. Estranged from her at birth due to her drug use, these rare visits were important to me. At dinner on Christmas Eve, my mother and cousin began drinking heavily and using drugs. Sadly, this was not an uncommon sight for me, so I just went to the room I was assigned for the stay and fell asleep. At 2am, both my mother and cousin came into the room laughing loudly, drinks in hand. My mother shook me and said Santa had brought me a present; a shot of vodka. I declined and rolled over. I fell back to sleep fairly easily despite their partying; something that also became increasingly uncommon.
It was 6:13 am when I was woken up again. I remember because the digital clock was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. There was the pressure of his body on me. And then there was the pain. He realized I woke up, pushed my face to the side, and whispered something about being quiet or he'd hurt my Grams (whom I lived with). I don't remember exactly what he said though because at that same time I noticed my mother passed out in corner of the room. I just cried silently.
It was over three months before I told anyone. During that time many of my teachers noticed a drastic change in my behavior and school work. A's turned into C's. I stopped talking. I had a problem being bullied, which got worse the more reserved I became. I was even spit on and had my lockers vandalized with hateful words written in black permanent ink. Those 3 months were hell. Finally one night I decided I couldn't bare any of it anymore. I took a kitchen knife and started cutting my wrist. Before I started on my other wrist, my Grams knocked and said goodnight. As she walked away she said, "I love you."
It was like an epiphany- I couldn't do this. I could not leave her like that. I didn't truly want to end my life anyway. I just wanted to feel happy again and be loved. Grams always made me feel loved, even if my mother did not. So I put down the knife, and chose life.
I continue to make that choice everyday, and also choose not to be a victim. Instead, I choose to speak out and be a voice for those who still haven't been able to tell their stories, yet." - RJ
Follow RJ's journey at @rjquiris