“This holiday season, I am not just thankful for the food I am able to eat and the clothes on my back, for the storytelling and laughs that will come at the table…
I’m thankful for the extended family members who have taken me under their wing for the last four years.
You see, each year I used to have to pretend to enjoy holidays.
Nobody knew that my anxiety was high, my emotions an all-time low.
Spread around the table were my parents, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my aunts and uncles bonding, cracking jokes, and enjoying themselves.
Nobody knew that my uncle was the cause of all my misery.
When I came out to my family about my sexual assault, they were hesitant at first. They didn’t know what to believe.
I could tell it made them uncomfortable, and understandably so.
My uncle was an otherwise ‘great guy’ to everyone else. No one saw it coming.
I vividly remembering them asking, ‘Are you sure?’ As if I could forget my own uncle abusing me at 12.
Yes, of course I was sure.
Rape is not a silly 5 a.m. conversation with a friend about nothing. It’s real. The pain, real.
It happened two weeks before Thanksgiving.
After the discomfort and initial shock wore off, my mom hugged me and told me everything was going to be alright.
I needed to hear just that.
Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t.
She finished the conversation with, ‘I hope you know we still have to invite uncle Tommy to Thanksgiving dinner.’
Well, she did. And she continues invite him to every holiday and sweep it all under the rug.
I was forced to face to my very own demon.
One day, I woke up and realized I could no longer be part of a family who continues to choose my abuser over me.
I had to choose between spending the holidays with my abuser and spending the holidays without my family.
Nobody should have to choose that.
Luckily for me, my aunt’s best friend, a family friend, decided to take in for the holidays.
I’ve spent every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, every Easter with my ‘auntie’ and her loved ones by my side.
I will never be able to express my gratitude to this amazing woman for not having to spend the holidays alone.
If you’re reading this, I beg you to choose your children over their abuser – again and again and over again.
No one should have to exist in the same room with the one who makes them want to vanish within it.
Us victims? We matter.
And to those we matter to, we are forever thankful.
May all of your holidays be spent with the ones who choose you first, always.
Happy Thanksgiving, Auntie Bee.
Not a day goes by when my heart doesn’t burst with love for you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ruby Izazaga. Submit your story here.
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