Heroism requires sacrifice, profound bravery, and valor. A hero puts others before all else, even at their own risk. As a child I would dream of the day when a hero would come and save me. A knight in shining armor or a military man, strong and courageous, willing to fight my abuser and rescue me from the torturous hell I’ve been living in.

When I was about 16 years old, I started to lose faith that such a hero even existed. Everyone around me was nothing but a disappointment and I felt like they failed me. I was so desperate for a savior that I began resorting to promiscuity in hopes to cling to someone, anyone, who would steal me away and never let me go. Eventually, I would meet Michael.

I was so enamored by Michael, he was intelligent, soft spoken and most of all he seemed to accept me for me, or so I thought. I was so attached to the idea that someone genuinely cared for me that I was blinded by the reality that he was just another user, taking advantage of my desperation and promiscuous lifestyle. Michael was smart, he knew exactly how much to give to keep me feeling safe and connected but, his embarrassment of me prevented him from committing himself to me fully. I mean, why would someone want that poor girl who reeked of cigarettes and shopped at good will, a girl who by the true definition of her peers was nothing but a loser. I was merely a secret lover hidden in the night.

I thought Michel would be the one, the one that would fight for me, help me when I needed it most. Instead, he used me to satisfy his needs and when the sun came up he tossed me away like I was trash. I can remember how hurt I would feel when I would see him in school and he would either ignore me or make a mockery out of me. He was so good at playing mind games, stringing me along for his pleasure. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me, why was I so incapable of being loved, was I that hideous or stupid or was it knowing the drama that would unfold by being entangled in my families web of disgrace. I asked myself these questions so many times and I still don’t have an answer.

Between the cockroaches and the regular visits from the police it was hard to maintain any normal relationships. I could never have Michael over, at least never inside of our house. I was to ashamed by the conditions that we lived in and I feared the punishment I might receive if my father knew of his existence. Making accusations against me was another manipulation tactic on my dads part, if I had a male friend or wanted a boyfriend I was a whore, if I had a female friend then I was a lesbian. He was so convincing that I started to think I was a whore and I even began to question my sexuality. I was confused and frustrated that I let him get into my head. He made me believe that if I was a whore or a lesbian, I would never be able to maintain any real relationship, I would just scare off anyone I tried to get close to.

I tried hard with Michael, sneaking out in the middle of the night and riding my bike down to his house. I would stay with him until I had to rush home and get ready for school. Every time I left my house I would go over the potential consequences and every single time I would question if he was worth it. It wasn’t long before I realized he wasn’t and just how little he thought of me.

I have been using my bedroom window as an escape route for a while now. Ever since my failed escape and my father started barricading the doors and windows on the main floor, I needed to find a new way to free myself from this hell, even if it was only temporary. The fear of what my father might do to my sisters and the punishments I have endured in the past is what keeps me coming back. I couldn’t allow him to hurt them, I felt I was strong enough to continue to take on the torture I had been experiencing for years.

I waited until I knew my dad was in a deep sleep, it was easy to tell because he had sleep apnea, therefore, he snored and very loudly. I slowly climbed down the ladder and hopped on my bike. I always rode my bike as fast as I could because I feared I was being followed or it was dark and I feared the night. Michael didn’t live far, his street was just past the cemetery that my mother was buried. Every time I would pass it, I would close my eyes for a moment and say a swift I love you before continuing on my nightly adventure.

It was about a 20 minute bike ride to Michael’s house. He always sneaked out to the side door and we would tip toe back to his bedroom. We would share some laughs and each other before falling asleep. I was never able to stay more than a few hours and this night was no different, I must head back before everyone wakes up. I started petaling down the street when suddenly my chain broke on my bike. I knew I needed to figure something out and fast. I couldn’t very well walk home because I would be late and I couldn’t take the chance of getting caught, so I walked back to Michael’s house and I knocked on his bedroom window.

I asked him if he could drive me as close to my house as he could take me. He responded with a quick no because it might wake his parents. I then asked if I could borrow one of his bikes, he had at least 3. Without hesitation he said no. I didn’t understand this, I explained to him what might happen if I didn’t make it home soon, I pleaded with him. I was sobbing so hard that he began to shush me. If I took his bike and somehow one of his friends would notice, his reputation would be ruined. He closed his window and I was left with no choice but to walk.

I walked through the darkness, tunnels of trees swaying in the moonlight, spreading shadows across the ground. I hated every step I took and I could feel the rage brewing inside of me. I was heart broken, I had put my trust in this person. Why did I think that someone would care about me enough to risk their reputation. The cruelty of his actions was beyond disheartening and it added to the feeling of hate and disgust I had for myself. I was nobody, I was nothing and I was worthless.

I prayed for a hero to save me and I was naive to think that there was someone brave enough to challenge my abuser, fight for my freedom and save me from this hell. It was in that moment when I realized that I needed to be my own hero and one day I will don my cape for the last time and be free at last.

Thank you to ALL the heroes in this world. Men and woman who fight so gallantly to defend our rights and freedom and without hesitation. Thank you to the silent heroes, who are in the fight against rapists and abusers and go above and beyond. Thank you to anyone who puts others before themselves even at their own risk. I think you all are amazing and I wish I had half the courage as you!

Much love, -Elizabeth

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