Tiffani’s Story

Tiff’s Story

“I’m not really sure how to start this, but I’m going out on a whim. I’m turning 19 in a week, and I still don’t feel ready to take on the world. 7 years ago now, is when the abuse ended, but some days it feels like it never has. At 12 years old, I was sexually abused by one of my mom’s abusive boyfriends. 4 years later, it just came out. I didn’t even want it to. I had this really great therapist, who I saw after I tried to kill myself and was diagnosed with PTSD two years earlier due to my mom’s abuse to me and the domestic violence going on at home. After years of talking to handfuls of caseworkers who didn’t listen, I finally found someone who did, and I was thankful, but regretted it at the same time. I have a really hard time expressing myself verbally, and one of the things that kept me alive was writing. I kept a journal, and started sharing it with my therapist. But, I said some things I didn’t want her to know- that I was raped, beaten, and almost shot and killed by a man who was 30 years older than me. Since she is a mandated reporter, she had to file a report with DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services here in Maine) and it ultimately got to the police department where I lived when I was that age. Even though I felt betrayed, I still trusted her, and trusted her when she convinced me to talk to the detective, that she would be there every step of the way. And she was. I talked to a sexual assault support advocate named Jenna days before also, and she was sweet, but I couldn’t stand to talk about things to another stranger. She knew I had been abused and she supported me, but I was terrified and also extremely independent and told her I could go into it alone. I walked into my high school, and into the conference room alone, because my mom refused to believe that I was telling the truth, she called me a liar, and months later, I became homeless and went into foster care a few months after that, after spending 2 months in a crisis stabilization unit. The detective and I sat down, and the little voice recorder across the table made my stomach turn. I’ve always struggled with older men, because the ones I’ve met have all been abusive, except for the ones in my family- my uncle and my grandfather (who has passed away). Detective M, he started asking me questions like what I was wearing, was the door locked, were the curtains shut? After just a few questions, everything just started to get fuzzy, I felt the room spinning. I asked him 3 times I think, if he would find out that I was talking to him. He said that if I told him his name, and if I told him what happened, then yes, he’d find out. I completely shut down. I started to cry, and then he said “if you’re not telling the truth, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble” and that because it had been so long, we wouldn’t go to trial anyway, and proceeded to tell me something along the lines of you’re wasting my time, so if you’re not going to speak we’re done here. I didn’t say anything. I just walked home, crying the entire way, and throwing up on the side of the road. I’ve been terrified to tell anyone in authority since, I’ve been in therapy for 3 years now with a different therapist and it wasn’t until three months ago that I could say the words “rape” or “sexual abuse” out loud. I live in even more fear that no one will ever believe me, especially if my own mother doesn’t, and I just want to feel okay again. I want to be able to walk down the street and not feel heavy on my feet, I want to get through therapy, to heal and get through this. But I don’t know how, and I know that I’m probably speaking to a wall right now, but I need advice from people I can trust, people who won’t judge me, people who will believe me. The Joyful Heart Foundation, and Mariska Hargitay, even though M has no idea who I am as well as anyone from the Foundation, have saved me in so many ways and just to hear something.. might give me the courage to finally speak up to my therapist and get through this, I can’t feel this way any longer. I need to find joy, I need to find peace, I need to find healing.
I have just recently discovered my voice, and the power of advocacy. I’m in college now, I’ve been given a second chance after I went into foster care. My college has a club called the CVPC (Campus Violence Prevention Coalition) and along with the Joyful Heart Foundation and Mariska, have helped me find my voice, and find something I love doing- advocacy. Advocacy has helped me find purpose- to help others, and use my story to do so. Slowly, I’m starting to get to the point where I know I can’t let him have power over me anymore, and even though I’m past reporting my story to the police again, I will encourage others to tell their story, no matter how hard it is, because they will heal from it, even though it takes time and a lot of strength. One particular thing that I post about in my blog is about a foster sibling I had, who went through some things and an experience I had with her realized how much I could make a difference, how one person can make a huge difference. The power of being there for someone, of making them smile can change your entire world. And that’s what I need to do to stay alive.”