We Are America

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Photo ofAlejandra Lezama

When I was very little I was assaulted by someone close to my family. For many years I kept that a secret. But it haunted me. Sometimes the pain was too much, and I felt like I wasn't able to take any more pain. I tried keeping it from my family for some time. I kept that as a secret until I was way too tired to remain quiet. When I told my mother she was shocked and furious. It took me time to realize she wasn’t mad at me, but rather she was mad at the person who hurt me and mad at herself for not being there to stop it. 

Because of this assault I grew up being a very shy person. I could not trust anyone at all. I had a lot of trouble getting to know guys because I was afraid the same thing would happen. I felt ashamed of myself. Many people always blame survivors. They say that what we wear is the problem or how we act is the problem. They say wearing makeup is the problem. This is never the problem. 

I moved to the United States in 2016 with my family. I thought it was going to be better. At first, I thought everything was going to be better in all ways possible. I thought that people in the United States would not get harassed at all and that everyone would respect each other. I thought that coming to the United States would make me feel like a new person and help me get through it. Help me move on and leave it behind so it didn’t affect my future. 

However, when I moved to Lowell, after a few months I was walking to the park one day and I heard some men whistling at me and cat-calling me. Their cat-calling at me made me feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. My friends told me they experienced the same. After realizing that I wasn't the only one experiencing this I felt so mad that this is still happening to others.

Then, last summer a friend shared with me that she had been assaulted by her boyfriend. Many people don’t know that girls can also be assaulted by their partners. It makes me so stressed and upset that people don’t understand that you can be assaulted by anyone and act like it’s not true. After she told me her story, I told her mine, even though I had never told any friends before. I had not told anyone, but I had always been haunted by it. I went to therapy many times but it never helped me move on. When I told her she made me feel safe and that made me feel more encouraged to tell my other friends. I was afraid that they would see me differently and feel pity for me, but I decided to tell them so they could understand me a little bit more. And after I told them they didn’t stop talking to me, which is what I worried would happen. And, though it took some time, I felt relieved. 

By telling people my story I don’t want them to feel sorry for me, but to understand that I'm moving on from this. I want people to understand that this is a big problem that has been going around the whole world for centuries. I want people to know how to comfort their friends who have gone through this. Just being with them and making them feel safe and hugging them can be very comforting for them.

Now that I'm older I think it’s time to let go and get that out of my head. This story is my way of letting it go and moving forward by helping others who are afraid of telling their story. You are not alone. 

© Alejandra Lezama. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.