My name is Cali, I am 20 years old, and I want to share my story so that you know you aren’t alone. You are worth more than anyone can tell you. Don’t ever forget.

I was adopted into a family of 16 siblings, a mom, a dad, 7 dogs, horses and goats. I was forced to fend for myself, but also to look out for others. I grew up with drug addicted and alcoholic parents that knew what love was, but never knew how to show it. I grew up with parents that didn’t know how to love someone for who they are instead of what they have. I remember when I was younger, when there was thunderstorms, my dad would come into my room. No, he didn’t cuddle with me and comfort me, instead he would undress me and start molesting and raping me.

I was 7 years old and I remember going to my mom after it happened. I remember my mom saying that I needed to grow a thicker skin and to learn how to figure things out on my own. She then went on about how I was too fat for a 7 year old and started having rules about when I could eat and what I could have. My mom was bulimic, addicted to drugs and an alcoholic. My mom was very controlling. She controlled who I talked to, what I ate, and how many calories I ate. My mom never raped me, but she knew when some of the incidents happened and she always told me to get over it. As I grew up, my dad’s sexual abuse progressed from just during thunderstorms to my punishments, to when he was in a bad mood to everyday. I developed an eating disorder after watching my mother and hearing her tell me how ugly and fat was. I started taking drugs and I started self harming. I grew up thinking that my father having sex with me was what our relationship was supposed to be.

When I started going to middle school, my school had several assemblies on being sexually abused as well as health classes that talked about drugs, alcohol, self harm and mental health issues. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I realized how unhealthy my life was. I went home one time, did my chores, and got everything done before I talked to my parents. I handed them a paper about sexual abuse. My father started screaming, hitting me and breaking things around the house. That was the first time he locked me in the basement. I was in and out of foster care but always ended up with my parents. I always ended up taking care of my younger siblings and cleaning up after my parents.
By 15 years old, my dad started accepting money from other men to have sex with me. My dad loved the control he had over me and he ended up being so desperate for money that he gave me to this pimp that lived 30 minutes away from home in Manhattan. My dad would occasionally visit me but from that point on, I had no control, no privacy, nothing. I didn’t feel like a human, a kid, I didn’t feel valuable. I felt like an inanimate object. My self worth was so low that I thought I couldn’t get better. I went from living in my dad’s nice big house by the water to living in a run down, weed growers’, drug infested house. The house had no electricity and was always full of men waiting to have sex with women of their likings. I lived in a small bed room that had chipped painted walls, a mattress on the floor, a small cracked window and a bucket in the corner. For two years I lived like that and for those two years I truly was starting to believe that I wasn’t worth it. I was this rag doll that’s legs were forced to be spread when someone else wanted to feel better. I would cry after each man left. I got so uncomfortable and scared being alone that I started looking forward to the visits. I started being active when they were having sex with me. I stopped screaming “no” and fighting with them. I went along with it…and because of that, I thought that those weren’t rapes, that those times I asked for it. I starting hating myself even more.

I turned 16 and my dad brought me home, raped me, and that same day kicked me out. I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t have enough money for an abortion and my dad wrote a threatening email that if I were to abort the baby he would kill me. I was homeless so I started having sex with strangers for money. I got a sugar daddy (a man that will have sex with you for money) and I got a job. The day I was able to rent out my own one bedroom, one bath apartment was the day I started to recover. I was doing drugs while pregnant and had a lot of health issues that caused me to be sick.

I gave birth to my daughter. The day I gave birth, my father took full custody and I wasn’t able to hold my child. The day I got home from the hospital was the day I stopped doing drugs. I dropped all the men I was getting paid to have sex with. I got an additional job. I was working 2 jobs and going to school. I used school to cope with my emotions. I ended up starting college classes and graduated in the top 20 of my class. I started therapy when I was 17 years old and I started realizing how important I am. When I had enough money, October of 2016, I moved to Georgia with my uncle (who is also abusive) and got a job and a small apartment. I spent about 3 months in Georgia. I worked, but mainly focused my work at strip clubs. I’m not sure what clicked in my head, but I realized that for me, personally, I couldn’t live like this. I packed up my stuff and moved to Florida.

I am still struggling. I am still recovering. I am learning how to deal with flashbacks and nightmares. I’m learning that there will be people in my life that will stay in my life. I am learning that when people raise their hand quickly that they aren’t going to hurt me. I still have so much to learn but I am definitely progressing. I live in a healthy environment with someone who is healthy and adult adopting me. I work everyday with foster kids that are going through what I went through. To this day, I still have days where I flinch when people move their hands fast. I still struggle with food, but, I know I have gotten better, stronger, and more in control of myself. It takes time.
I have learned so much even though I am only 20 years old. I have learned that I have to be the one to tell myself that I am worth it, but I also learned to tell someone that I need help. I’ve learned that things will get better even if they take longer than anticipated. I’ve learned to take one step at a time, one bite at a time, one thought at a time. I learned to trust others and myself. The lessons I have learned have been a pretty amazing gift. I have a small support system but I have a pretty amazing support system. I learned what drugs can do to you. I lost both parents from overdoses.

I am only 20, but I can say with full confidence that it is possible to be happy sober. I can say that you can have fun when you are sober. I can say with full confidence that things do get better. Just take one day at a time!!! Lets be here for each other. Lets unite with Finding A Lost Voice and help those who feel alone. Lets give hope and courage to those who need it!!!!! You can still live a happy life with flashbacks and nightmares. It takes time to acknowledge what you went through, accept it, and to move forward.

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