Prince James Story
Warning: This article discusses topics of sexual assault, child abuse and sexual violence.
As sexual assault awareness month drew to a close last week, one local woman agreed to share her story of abuse and trauma that began in childhood. She did so in hopes of helping others find their way from victim to survivor. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
“It’s actually one of the first memories I’ve ever had since I was a child. I was at daycare, and this guy who was supposed to take care of us ended up molesting me on multiple different occasions. I went home and told my parents after one time, and they ended up getting the police involved,” Marie said.
“I wasn’t allowed to talk about it at home. I would try to bring it up to my dad, and my dad would just tell me to stop talking about that. If I brought it up to my mom, she was just very quiet,” Marie said. “She avoided it, and it just made me feel very unsafe.”
One in nine girls and one in twenty boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network(RAINN).
The pattern of assault didn’t end there. Marie said she was assaulted a few years later by her brother.
Then in fifth grade, two boys coerced her into letting them inappropriately touch her.
“I didn’t feel like I could say no. I just kind of accepted that this was something that was just going to happen to me,” Marie said.
A desperate search for love
Marie went on to show how as a teenager, she was taken advantage of by older men who she thought loved her but were predators.
“I would play Play Station, and there was this one guy in particular that I met, [he] was 29, and I was only 15. We were talking on FaceTime, and it just became very sexual, very inappropriate, very fast. Immediately, I knew it was wrong.”
Marie said she attempted to block him and cut off all contact. To this day, the older man who preyed on her still watches her Instagram stories.
At 16, Marie entered a toxic relationship with a man three years her senior.
“I was just really desperate for just love and affection. I just felt like I was neglected for so long. I just really wanted a relationship. I wanted somebody to love me unconditionally. When I met him, and things started off, I was really in love with him,” confided Marie.
At the same time, there were many things she felt pressured to partake in; because he was older and would push her to participate in harmful activities. He got her involved in smoking and drinking while she was still a minor and sexually forced himself on her.
Emotion, physical and verbal abuse
At 18 years old, she moved in with her boyfriend (at the time), his dad, and his brother. She was subjected to verbal and emotional abuse from all three.
“Things got so bad between him and I that I started cutting myself, and that was really weird for me. I’ve never done that before,” Marie confided. “Living with them every single day, I was walking on eggshells. I didn’t know if I was going to come home to them talking about me or [if I would be] getting yelled at and screamed at until I cried.”
According to Marie, she was called derogatory names on multiple occasions, her finger was fractured after one of the men tried to snatch an item away from her, and she was chastised for minimal things like trying to organize the kitchen cabinet.
At 20, she left that relationship and moved back home with her family.
“When I finally [prepared to] move back home, my mom questioned [whether] she should let me move back. That hurt a lot, and at that moment, I just put it to the side that she would even [have to] consider it,” Marie said.
“Deep down, I knew that a lot of [what happened to me] was her fault,” Marie opined. She further expressed her belief that it was her mom’s responsibility to make sure Marie was safe and didn’t get hurt. “I was not safe, and that’s on her. A lot of things that I did were because of [what happened to me].”
According to Marie, over the past couple of years, she and her mom have worked to repair their relationship and started the healing process together. Reading books like The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori has helped them move forward.
“It’s a blessing, you know, to have my mom on my side and to have her in my support system. She’s trying harder than she ever has,” Marie stated. “My life has really changed.”
The importance of local support
Getting involved with the nonprofit community organization based in San Bernardino, Partners Against Violence (PAV), has helped Marie by providing her with vital support to help her heal from past trauma.
“I had finally gotten out of that abusive lifestyle and realized that it was a pattern. The first step to realizing that was reaching out to the sexual abuse hotline, which is what led me to Partners Against Violence. Now, anytime anyone talks to me about any type of related issue that may have occurred in their life or their loved ones’ life, I always recommend Partners Against Violence,” Marie said.
Marie is currently in a new healthy relationship with a loving partner, and they also go to couples counseling together to support each other and work on healing from past trauma.
PAV provides advocacy services to victims of abuse who need help navigating the reporting process with law enforcement or going to the hospital for a forensic exam.
PAV provides weekly empowerment groups and counseling services.
PAV operates with about 40 volunteers spread out between three facilities. The number of volunteers has dwindled in the wake of the pandemic, and the organization is still trying to recruit.
PAV’s prevention team travels to middle schools, high schools, and colleges, educating students on healthy relationships and recognizing and making safe decisions and the signs of an unhealthy relationship.
Sergeant Joshua Parker is the supervisor of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Unit. His team travels to the department’s eleven patrol stations to conduct internal training on handling child abuse and sexual assault investigations.
“[Sexual assault is] one of the most traumatizing things that could ever happen to a human being. I would say in law enforcement, we know how difficult it can be to come forward and speak about incidents of sexual assault,” Parker expressed. “The sheriff’s department is dedicated to conducting compassionate, thorough, and aggressive investigations to bring suspects who commit these crimes to justice.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, there is help. Beyond PAV, other local organizations offering victim services include the Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center provides a 24-hour crisis hotline, hospital and court companion, Advocacy during law enforcement interviews, In-Person Crisis Counseling, Support Groups, Primary prevention education, and Community Awareness for more information, call 951-686-7273.
You can also contact REACH, an organization that specializes in preventing, intervening, and treating sexual and domestic violence, childhood trauma and abuse, and human trafficking. You can contact the organization at 951-652-8300 / 866-373-8300.
Another local resource is the SAFE Family Justice Center provides advocacy and support services to individuals who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, child/elder abuse, and youth services who are at risk. You can contact this organization by calling 951-955-6100