The Butterfly Effect of a Sexual Abuse Survivor: The Joyful Little Girl Returns from a Forever of Fear
"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day, and think it is forever."
For much of my life, I believed that I would be “stuck in my present” forever. I was convinced that I would be unhappy until I met “the one,” until I was accepted by “that group,”, or until I had enough cash-flow for the weekend.
“Happiness is not outside - a person, place, or thing - but something within oneself.”
-Emily Fletcher, Ziva meditation instructor
A few weeks ago I was recently talking to a my friend, Dave, and heard myself saying, "I want to be like Gabriel Bernstein..." and "...once I'm like her, then I can..." He reminded me that, rather than try to to be like someone else, I should instead strive to become a better version of myself. And then I had a meditation that inspired me to return to my joyful little girl.
The Joyful Little Girl
While meditating, I was reminded of one of the happiest times in my life. I was in kindergarten. I was cool (in my own mind). I was always raising my hand, ready to jump in on class discussions. I was giggling as the Italian twins proposed marriage with Ring Pops and dandelions. Thinking about this version of myself, I recognized that, as I learn and grow, I can feel more and more of that kindergarten-aged, enthusiastic, vivacious girl. And I’m happy to see her again….
Fear as My Forever
So what happened during all of those years between my joyful little girl and my grown up self?
Where did this joy go?
For several years my mom always said, "Te ves muy nerviosa, mija" meaning "Daughter, you look nervous." I always blew her off, but she was right. For several years, I was anxious, and living in constant panic.
It all started during Hurricane Andrew, a Category-5 hurricane, that hit Louisiana in 1992. I was living in Louisiana at the time, and was physically located in the eye of the hurricane. It was a strange feeling...all was peaceful and calm before the storm hit the hardest.
I had a similar feeling, emotionally, that same year. I was five years old, and was playing in my bedroom, surrounded by dated, cherry-covered wallpaper and scattered barbies. My stepdad called me into his room to come watch "I Love Lucy" with him. I felt safe and calm watching TV, until he told me that he was going to teach me how to be a woman.
That day, I lost my childhood, and never thereafter experienced the simple joys of youth - riding a bike, going to sleepovers, playing outdoor games. For the next seven years, I would fight to survive in my own personal war-zone every time my mom went to work. There was literally a gun next to the bed during these years, and ever since, I have viewed sex as an act that is deadly and dangerous.
I remember asking my stepdad, "What will happen if I tell?" He responded in his bitter Cuban voice, "You will go to jail and then sleep near the dumpsters." I cried and prayed that one day, I would get married, and escape from this reality. I feared that I would be living like this forever.
Learning My “No”
"’No’ is a complete sentence."
It all changed for me when my cousin came to visit. I felt safe while we were playing Nintendo, but once my cousin left the room, my stepdad called for me. He told me to “do my duties" and somehow I had the courage to say "No."
That “No” was the beginning of a new life for me. He was furious as he whispered, "You’re a selfish little girl." In response I simply said, "You made me selfish," as I ran to my room.
I’m not a big religious person, but that day, I fell to my knees and prayed for God to give me answers and to save me from living with my stepdad.
Finding My Voice
Eventually, I told my mom what was happening to me, and we moved to California to stay with my aunt, uncle and little cousins. We went through the typical process of getting tested for pregnancy and STDs, and I eventually testified against him in court. I remember that, before the trial, my lawyers were a bit worried because, when I told them the story, I was expressionless - numb. But as soon as I took the stand and saw my stepdad in his smug suit and yellow tie, I lost it.
As my lawyer asked, "Can you point to the defendant," I couldn’t stop crying. And I was not only crying for myself, but also for the other victims involved, including his biological daughter and the former babysitter. This version of “forever” came to an end on July 3, 2000, when I found my voice, and he was found guilty and charged for aggravated rape.
The Journey from My Frightening Past
While I wish I could say that it was easy to move on, I can’t. Years later, in 2009, my uncle wouldn't let me see the rest of my family because he was convinced that I sent an innocent man to jail.
Without access to my extended family, I turned to a man for support, and began dating someone who I believed was the one. Growing up as a Latina and watching my cousins getting married, I thought that finding the "one" would be the solution to everything.
From One Man to Another….to Drinking
I had two significant relationships in my early twenties. In the more significant relationship, I was the “doormat girlfriend.” Much like my mother, I found myself making his bed, cooking for him, and always bending over backwards to please him, only to be told to "sit there and look pretty." Luckily, I recognized the red flags after three years, and was able to walk away.
I then fell head over heels in love with a hip-hop dancer, only to be told that he didn't "feel good enough for me," and then watch him date my friend and shortly thereafter propose which did feel like the Adele song, “ Someone like you”. That was my anthem song for several years after. I was embarrassed to the point of heavy drinking.
My Path to Sexual Healing
In 2010, I graduated from San Diego State University and became a teacher, all the while trying to deal with my past and my insecurities around sex and men. I then found myself engaged with a sex-positive community that has helped me to forgive myself and my family, and to embrace my inner beauty and sexuality. This may sound crazy to my more conservative friends and family, but I have found power and therapy in this highly-conscious community. I am a proud Latina and I have only begun my journey to embrace my sexuality, while, in turn, helping others to embrace theirs.
In the process of working on myself to become a better emotional and sexual coach, I have learned to incorporate exercise, a healthy diet, and the practice of Ziva Meditation. While the media is flooded with war, violence, and corruption, I'm happy to embrace my inner monologue, femininity and sexuality with open arms. I have finally turned inward to seek my happiness.
My Path Forward
I will no longer hide who I am as a sexually-conscious woman. I am no longer embarrassed by a conversation about masturbation or pleasure techniques. I am proud of my inner voice, and thanks to the oxytocin and dopamine that have resulted from my sexy-soul filled activities, I sincerely love sex now. (I have never enjoyed sex. This is a huge step for me.)
I am living proof that, when you incorporate sexy, soul-filled practices like meditation, healthy fitness and diet, and prayer, you are able to derive true pleasure from the food you eat, music you hear, and intimacy with your partners and self.
Back to My Joyful Little Girl
Although I can't send a message to my eight year-old self, this message is for the little girls in fear and fighting their own personal wars. This message is for the grown up girls stuck in their adult bodies, wishing that they could meet someone on Tinder or find the perfect job, thinking that will make them happy.
We may feel like we are living in the eye of the storm sometimes, but with the right foundation and tools, I believe that, wherever you are in life, you will be able to find your joyful little girl again.
I invite you to play with me. I invite you to wake up hungry to see the bright colors of the orange-pink sky. I implore you to stop hiding behind your phone and breathe in through your nose. Know that you are not alone, and the “forever of fear” is behind you.
Finding your joyful little girl is an ongoing practice, a journey back to one’s self every day. I have not reached my destination. I’ve simply found my way back to my joyful little girl, and I will work daily to celebrate her. Instead of asking why settle for happy? Why settle for instagratification? Why just settle for happy hour? If anything know mindgasms, dancegasms, and blissgasms are waiting for you in this sexy-soul filled world outside your iOs upgrade.