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Bridges High School, Carbondale, Colorado

When I was 6 years old my mom worked at a hotel near my school.  My sister and I would walk to the hotel after school and play while my mom finished cleaning the rooms.  Sometimes my dad would pick us up and take us to eat.

One day my dad called to tell me he was going to Mexico because my grandmother was sick. I thought he would be back but no one talked to us about immigration or the struggle to cross the border. He told me he would return in a few days, yet those days turned into years and I stopped asking about his return.

Sadly, I started to get bullied at school but didn’t know why. Was it because I was a female, hispanic, or because my dad left? I remember getting home with my hair messed up, my backpack ripped, and my clothes dirty but that's another story.

After my dad left, our uncle would pick us up from school and would take us home while our mom worked late. I always noticed my uncle was a bit more caring towards me, and felt like I was his favorite. Afterall, kids always hope to be someone's favorite and get spoiled with gifts.

I was right, but I wasn’t his favorite in the way I thought. I got abused by my uncle when I was six. He no longer was my favorite uncle - all I felt was disgust, sadness, and anger. I wondered what I had done wrong, and never spoke about this to anyone.

I was scared no one was going to believe me because he told me no one would believe me, and that if I said anything I wouldn’t see my mom again. My dad’s absence gave my uncle the opportunity to abuse me daily because he was in-charge and my mom was working.

This needed to end, needed to go away, and I needed to tell someone. His words replayed in my head and there was no way to get them out. I didn’t want to lose my mom, and I feared there could be other victims.

After 7 years of suffering, I got tired of the abuse, of feeling disgusted daily, and of seeing his face. I was tired of him. The day I told my mom she didn't believe me just like I feared. She thought I was making it up, so he kept abusing me. The second time I told her she talked to him and he said he would never do it again. He lied and it got worse.

I realized I needed proof so he’d stop.

One day I was just sitting in the dining room and my mom was sleeping on the couch next to my uncle. Moments later he started sending me extremely disturbing messages - I finally had my proof and my way out.

I showed my mom and she went straight to the police. He was arrested and I was free, until I discovered he was out on bail. I was nervous to see him again in court but it turned out he was nowhere to be found - he fled. Part of me was relieved, yet also worried because I didn't want him victimizing others. He shouldn’t be free, he needs to pay for everything he did, I thought. Years went by and I never heard from him again.

I learned that it is definitely better to tell someone. It may take multiple attempts, but I am happy I did. I should have done it earlier because my childhood could have been better.  Regardless, I’m grateful I was brave enough to speak up because no one deserves to be kept quiet. Now I will scream my lungs out if necessary because no one will keep me quiet again.

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