Cheryl’s Story

“As a survivor, we always have to remember the sun is going to rise tomorrow.”

When Cheryl Cloyd Robbins was nine years old, she was the last stop on the bus route home from her elementary school. The bus driver was a teenager who attended the local high school. Cheryl never felt comfortable around the driver, but until that one fall day, she wasn’t sure why. “On the day of the first attack he waited until the other kids were gone, took me to a cotton field, and used me to masturbate,” said Cheryl.

Cheryl is a survivor of sexual abuse.

The route home from school became an unsafe place for Cheryl. The driver would use intimidation tactics to keep her from speaking out. He would stare at her in the rearview mirror while talking to other riders and friends, reminding Cheryl that he was always watching. That’s when Cheryl’s anxiety began.

“From then on, I put all my energy into figuring out how not to be the last kid on the bus. I spent a lot of time faking sick and leaving school early. I would get off the bus before my stop and walk home."

 

Cheryl kept the abuse a secret for more than 30 years. “It wasn’t a convenient time to tell or to disclose something that horrific,” she remembers. Coming forward isn’t always easy for children, who are still navigating the relationships among adults, older children, and their peers. “I had two loving, hard-working, supportive parents,” said Cheryl. “But I still felt added pressure to stay quiet.” Her brother was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which meant long hospital stays and high costs of medical care. Cheryl, always the people-pleaser, didn’t want to add to the family’s stress.

Keeping the abuse a secret was toxic for Cheryl. She grew increasingly anxious and depressed. As she got older, the stress only worsened. “I hit adolescence and the hormones from puberty definitely didn’t help. The memories became crazy overwhelming,” she said. “I couldn’t handle it—and didn’t know how to ask for help.”

One night when Cheryl was in high school, she attempted suicide. “I took a handful of pills. I didn’t want to deal with it anymore. It was like being in a war zone where you constantly feel like you’re under attack.” Cheryl survived. She woke up the next morning feeling groggy and sick “I woke up and was still here, so I thought, ‘I guess I’ll just keep going a little while longer.’"

Long after the suicide attempt, Cheryl continued to struggle with depression and panic attacks. She ultimately decided to seek therapy to help her work through the issues that were affecting her mental health. “It was impacting my day-to-day life so significantly, and I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand the connection. I had a happy life. I was married with kids, a house, and a job...and I was still having panic attacks.”

With therapy and a plenty of practice, Cheryl has learned to recognize suicidal thoughts, and she take steps to keep herself safe. “Overall I can recognize when I’m being triggered and recognize the symptoms. Today, I don’t get as fearful as I would have [when I was younger].” Cheryl is honest with herself and others—it isn’t always easy. “There are times when I get angry about still dealing with this long after the event. I just want to say, ‘Really brain? I still have to deal with this?’”

Today, Cheryl is a proud survivor and author of children’s book. In 2015, she published Imani Hates the School Bus, drawing from her own story as inspiration. “I wrote the book about kids finding their voice and being able to ask for help when they need it.” Writing the book was a cathartic experience for Cheryl, who ultimately found the courage to disclose the event to her own family.


Suicide Prevention Week was recognized September 5-11. If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide there are ways to get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.TALK (8255) or chat online using the Lifeline Crisis Chat.

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