‘I see you as an attractive woman, not my daughter.’ Then he said, ‘You’re the kind of woman I always wanted. If you weren’t my daughter I would marry you.’ 

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“I grew up in a small town in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. Like many my family and I had a dream: The American Dream. Sadly that dream turned into a nightmare for me. Not only did I experience the worst kind of abuse but it was at the hands of the people who were supposed to love me and protect me.

My biological mom came to America when I was about 6 years old to get my family’s legal citizenship sorted out since she was a USA citizen. Leaving me and my two sisters at the hands of my biological dad. While she was gone my dad started molesting me. He would come home drunk every night and touch me inappropriately while my grandparents, uncle and sisters slept next to us. All 7 of us shared one room! My sisters, dad and me shared a blanket we used to sleep on the floor. I blamed the abuse on the fact he was an alcoholic/addict. At the same time my uncles mentally, physically and on one instance sexually abused me. I never said anything to anyone. I put up with it because I knew it would end. Plus I had to be strong for my two little sisters who I had to help raise during all this. Eventually it paid off.

Courtesy Jennifer Mata

Around the age of 10 my mom was able to get my sisters and me our USA citizenship. My father got denied after they found drugs in his system but still came into the country illegally. I thought moving into a new country would mean the end of my abuse. I thought my dad would change now that we were in a better place so I didn’t tell my mom. Sadly not long after settling in America he began molesting me again. And once again I kept quiet for years until I was around 14.

There was an incident where he did something absolutely traumatizing to me.  He said, ‘It’s not my fault. I am a man and I have man instincts. It’s normal for a man to be attracted to a beautiful woman. I see you as an attractive woman, not my daughter.’ Then he said, ‘You’re the kind of woman I always wanted. If you weren’t my daughter I would marry you.’ It was too much for me so I told my best friend at the time who told her mom. The next day Child Protective Services scheduled a home visit.

My parents went crazy when they got the call. Especially my mom, she couldn’t believe it was true. My father made me feel guilty about it. He said I would destroy our family. That he would get deported to Mexico and my family would lose everything we worked so hard for. He told me to say I made it up because I was a rebelling teenager angry at my father. So I lied to them, I told them exactly what he told me to say. They left and closed the case. I thought he would definitely stop this time. He had to right? Nope. He went back to molesting me not long after the CPS visit. If anything the abuse just got worse. Luckily I was able to start putting up fights, I was older and stronger. I started pushing him, kicking him and punching him off me every time he would do something to me. Every day was a struggle against my father. Most nights I went to sleep with a knife as he regularly snuck into my bed.  That’s when I started to lose control. I felt like I had no one to trust. I couldn’t tell my mom, I had no family in the USA. Now I couldn’t even go to the law or CPS. I was labeled a liar and a rebellious teen. So that’s what I became; rebellious in my own way. I developed eating disorders at 14. I started stealing my mom’s diet pills and taking them for breakfast and lunch every day. Skipping as many meals as possible, puking anything I ate and working out as much as possible. I was a professional dancer so no one felt it was odd for a ballerina to be so thin.

Courtesy Jennifer Mata

I was able to hide my eating disorders and abuse from everyone for years. Never really showing signs of a troubled kid. I excelled in school  joining marching band, Academic Decathlon, mock trial and every AP (college) course possible. I was a smart kid but I did it mainly because it gave me an excuse to be at school and away from home. I graduated high school in 2015 and started at California State University of San Bernardino.

Courtesy Jennifer Mata
Courtesy Jennifer Mata

I was proud of my accomplishments, being the first one to attend University with full scholarships. College was the time to explore and find myself, I was excited for my new life. Living in a dorm room, having a car and even a boyfriend! For the first time in my life I had a private place for me to think and be myself.  Having a dorm room meant a private place for my boyfriend and me. Unfortunately every time I felt him touch me was a reminder of my father. I knew he wasn’t my dad but my mind couldn’t tell the difference. We couldn’t be intimate without my boyfriend ending up with cuts and bruises. This caused us both extreme stress. I had suffered abuse for years but I had never processed it. Finally after all those years of holding on to the pain my dad caused me I exploded. I got to the point where I had to be hospitalized. I was finally diagnosed at age 19 with Anorexia, Bulimia, major depression and PTSD. I needed to get help. I put my studies on hold after I was approved for a medical leave of absence. After leaving college my health went from bad to worse. My eating disorder was so bad I had to give up dancing as well. I wasn’t a normal person at that point. I had reached my lowest weight at 84 pounds. I couldn’t dance, I could barely walk or talk. I felt like I had nothing to live for at that point. So I had a suicide attempt on 2018. I was rushed to the ER after my roommate found me next to a puddle of blood. I don’t remember much after that day. I was drowsy from all the blood I had lost. I was given seven stitches and put on a 72 hour hold at the mental hospital. The doctors then put me on a 14 day hold but I was released early. I think for good behavior.

Courtesy Jennifer Mata
Courtesy Jennifer Mata

After being released from the hospital I asked my mom to take me to the police station so I could file a report against him. She refused to help me. She claimed she had two other kids who still needed their father. She had already divorced him and kicked him out the house, to her that was enough. She claimed she needed the financial support and it would hurt my sisters not having a dad. To me these were excuses. Having no dad is better than having a sh** one. She didn’t need his money, she was a strong women with a successful job as an accountant. My boyfriend and I offered our help but she said it wasn’t enough. She needed 2k monthly from his photography business to afford her lifestyle. I feel like she just wanted to be comfortable and cared about what people would say if they found out. I decided to go solo then. She was only making my health worse. I cut my mom out of my life completely along with my sisters at that point. After I filed the police report and failed to catch him I decided to leave. We didn’t have a strong case against him. I didn’t care much though, I just wanted to be as far away as possible from my dad. I thought of moving back to Mexico but went with Minnesota instead since my boyfriend’s family lives here, plus it’s basically across the country from CA. We packed as much clothes and shoes as we could. We sold and gave away everything we had ever owned. Material things didn’t matter at that point. We just wanted a fresh, healthy start where my family couldn’t find me or hurt me.

Courtesy Jennifer Mata
Courtesy Jennifer Mata

This was one of the best decisions of my life. It hurt so much the first few months. It hurt letting go of the only family I had but it was what I needed to get better. Minnesota has being a great place for a fresh start. The snow wasn’t so fun but being in a new state with new faces and places was amazing. I have been able to recover slowly the past few months thanks to my adoptive family. My boyfriend’s family took me in with open arms. Treating me always with kindness and love. My mother-in-law says she sees me as one of her own and will care for me as such. I finally have the mom I always wanted along with two amazing sisters-in-law(new sisters). I know they can’t replace my family. I know my biological mom will always be my real mom. I will always be thankful for everything she did for me and for bringing me into this world. Unfortunately giving someone life isn’t enough. You have to be there and support them no matter what. Now I have the moral support I always needed.

I think of myself as very lucky. I was able to escape my abuser, I survived my suicide attempt and I’m on my way to recovery. I have an amazing boyfriend who has always been there for me, a new loving family, a roof over my head and a second chance at life. How lucky am I?! Now I just have to get my life back. I want to be a normal person. Go to school, have friends, maybe go to parties on the weekends? I am almost at 100 pounds which is healthy enough to start dancing again. Who knows? Every day is full of opportunities now. Every day feels like a new chance at the life I always dreamed of. I just have to keep being strong and know that my past doesn’t define me. I will no longer be the girl who was molested by her dad. I am more than that. I am a survivor. I am a strong, independent, Mexican woman. I am Jennifer and I matter.”

Courtesy Jennifer Mata

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jenny Schrute, 21, of California. Follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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