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If you were to die at this very second, would you have any regrets? I shouldn't be alive right now. I was always told that everything happens for a reason and every person that you meet plays some specific role in your life. At the age of nine, I was severely beaten by my biological mother's boyfriend. But as strange as this sounds I really began to find myself at the very moment that he was beating and taking every ounce out of me. That was when I learned to disassociate myself from any physical or psychological harm. I remember that I was on the dark blue couch as he stormed into the living room (all I could remember was looking out the window and wishing I was somewhere else) asking me questions to which, he claimed, I didn't have the "right" answers. As he got more frustrated, he took me by the throat and started unmercifully beating me with a closed fist. As I crawled into a ball to try and avoid the beating, he somehow hit a certain part of my back that broke my curled-up posture and rendered me vulnerable to his assault. He picked me up and threw me to the other side of the room. I landed near the TV. He stomped on me, repeatedly, as if I were an undesirable insect crawling around the kitchen. Blood dripped from my ear and my body was already severely swollen.

At the age of nine, the thought of death should never be on one's mind, but I was no longer the typical 9-year-old. I thought I was done for when he picked me up and threw me on another couch and began to smother me, his hand stifling my face. I was saved by my half sister. She was only 9 months old at the time. Her yelling and crying stopped him. I began to catch my breath as he left me to tend to her. It was baffling that a man could shift from extreme violence to a nurturing act so quickly. Equally as shocking was the realization that I hadn't made a sound throughout the attack.

Two days later and after he instructed me to say, "I fell," if anyone asked about by injuries, I reported to school. Faculty members didn't buy his story, and later that afternoon, my sister and I were pulled out of his care and immediately brought to child protective services where my sister and I were checked for wounds, even though my sister hadn't been harmed. I wasn't as fortunate. I had a broken eardrum and learned that I could have lost my hearing. CPS took us both to their main building where my sister and I awaited our fates. I heard the social workers discussing the possibility of separating us. There were no foster homes available, and my father was in New York. I was scared. It seemed that the system was going to take the only family I had left. I didn't know what to do, so I turned to God. I begged and prayed that my sister and I wouldn't be separated. Thankfully, God heard my prayers. A foster family located in Orlando, Florida, agreed to take in both me and my sister. It was extremely rare for a foster home to take in two children simultaneously.

I will refer to our new foster parents as Steve and Carol. He was a mechanical engineer, and she was a nurse who worked in a college medical office. They were both very warm, hospitable and religious. They fed us and showed us our room. At the time, I couldn't get over the enormous size of the house. I had become too accustomed to small basement apartments and attached townhouses. The next morning, Carol told my sister and I that we would definitely be staying over for the weekend, possibly longer, or even for a very long time. No one knew. Carol told me that I was fortunate to be alive and that she felt like the mother that I never really had. My biological mother was a prostitute. Later that weekend, the foster system determined that my sister's aunt was fit to raise both me and my sister, and we were supposed to be relocated. Around the same time, my mother came back from New York and we were instead placed with her. She seemed almost unfazed about all that had occurred. She had gotten her kids back and all was going to be great. She was wrong.

I had been nursing a gut feeling that he was going to try and come after us, so I locked all the doors and the windows and stood watch. I had a knife in my hand and had every intention of using it if necessary against a grown man that weighed well over 200 pounds. I stood awake and unafraid for most of that night, my mother and sister sleeping in the next room. It was around 3 am when I finally succumbed to sleep. At some point, even while unconscious, I felt his presence. I woke up, and there was the devil himself breaking into our home. I jumped up and ran for the door to try and stop him; my mother was a heavy sleeper. By the time I was anywhere close to the door, he had already entered the apartment. I grabbed the largest steak knife I could find and ran at him swinging it and wanting with all my heart to kill him, but that attempt failed, and he got the knife out of my hand and ran for my mother's room. He woke her up and raped her. I was in the next room, and there wasn't a damn thing I could possibly do about it. I heard the screams and his moans. I couldn't help but to be sick to my stomach. I started to bang on the door, the tears in my eyes wanting all this to stop. I went to the corner where the window was and rolled up into a fetal position and cried. The next morning, it was almost as if nothing had happened. She was smiling and he was, too. I felt stuck inside a bubble of insanity. The next morning, I went to school and didn't say a word to anyone. I didn't tell my teachers what had happened. I kept the horror completely to myself. I didn't know what to do. It took the school almost two weeks to realize that he was still in the house with me and my sister. I still remember the very last time I would ever see her. It was an 80 degree day in Orlando, Florida. I woke up for school, brushed my teeth, looked to see if she was okay and departed. Later, I went to my sister's aunt's house as I did ritually. She was acting strange. That day, CPS would take me back to the foster home. My sister would be placed on a plane bound for New York. She was going to live with her godmother. The police questioned me about his whereabouts and eventually found him. As they drove me to my next destination, I couldn't help but think that I was about to repeat the whole painful cycle of my life and was doomed to be and feel completely alone. Ultimately, some divine feeling told me I was going to be okay.

Most people attempt to achieve self-mastery. There is no academic course or coach that can help a person achieve this. Life experience, if acknowledged fully, can lead a person to total control over his or her mind and emotions. Though I can't honestly say that I would willingly choose to endure more abuse at the hands of anyone, I can say that no matter how extremely I was treated, I never broke mentally or physically. When I was 13, my biological father told me that he had also been abused by his father and other family members and that he actually had broken mentally, a condition that fueled the alcohol and substance abuse which eventually led to his untimely death. He had also always said that I would be better than him. He was right in one regard: I hadn't broken. He also shared with me a quote that I have never forgotten. "Mind over matter if it doesn't mind, it doesn't matter." I have the ability to block out any obstructive and unnecessary thoughts and emotions when focusing on a task. I have managed to truly forgive my mother for her role in my abuse, but am still unable to look at her as I did when I was still an innocent child naturally inclined to adore his mother. If you're strong, there is a benefit to facing death at such an early and impressionable age. Insofar as death is most people's ultimate fear, confronting it early can completely wipe fear from a person's life. So, if you were to die at this very second, would you have any regrets? I shouldn't be alive right now, but I'm more alive than most. I've learned that the hardest part of experiencing any trauma is letting it go. But it can be done, and there are often blessings on the other side of pain. I know who I am and who I want to be. I know where I am going. Above all else, I know that I will never again be a victim.





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