Survivor Story: Jeannette

Jeannette lived through a difficult and tumultuous childhood. “My father started sexually assaulting me at an extremely young age,” said Jeannette. “You won’t find one picture of me as a child smiling, not one. The power and pain of living a life of such violence, shame and secrecy was too much for someone so young to carry.”

The sexual abuse continued until she turned 11. Jeannette’s father was also physically abusive to her, her mother and her siblings, causing her mother to leave and return many times. The abuse stopped when her mother remarried.

“I had no idea that childhood sexual assault was prevalent. I thought this only happened in our family,” Jeannette said. “No one ever talked about it. [I] did what my father said. It was a scary and horrible time in my life.”

Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Jeannette struggled with feelings of guilt and shame. The pain was so overwhelming that she began to use self injury as a way to cope with her emotions. Survivors of sexual assault may use self-injury as a way to numb pain, feel a release, or regain a sense of control.

“I was not equipped to deal with the strong emotions that started to surface around the abuse,” Jeannette said. “Self injuring is the single biggest regret of my life. I have had to live with the scars every day. The scars remind me of the pain. Today, they also remind me of how far I have come from those hopeless and miserable days.”

Jeannette first realized she wasn’t alone in her pain when perusing a local library. She came across a book about others who had gone experienced sexual abuse as a child.

“This book – I don’t know the name now as it has been so long – changed my life. I had no idea I wasn’t alone,” Jeannette said. “It is the single reason I believe in talking about what we’ve gone through – so that others know they are not the only ones.”

Jeannette began to pursue therapy to help her heal from the abuse. Talking to someone helped her address her pain in a healthy way. Her young daughter also inspired her to continue pursuing healing.

“Understanding that being raped as a child was not my fault was instrumental in healing,” says Jeannette, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. “I began to surround myself with people who believed in me and who saw ‘me’ through all my pain.”

Jeannette joined RAINN’s Speakers Bureau to create something positive out of what happened to her. She wants to ensure children know they can speak to a trusted adult if something is wrong, and she encourages schools to discuss the topic of self-injury with their students. Jeannette hopes anyone who may be struggling in the aftermath of sexual violence knows they are not alone, and they don’t need to use self-injury to cope.

“You have a future where one day the pain won’t be so deep, where you will have hope, where your life will turn around,” Jeannette said. “Maybe you can’t see it now, but it really is true.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.

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