"I was 11 years, too young to know much about sex but old enough to have breasts. I was at home with my baby sister and my 23-year-old cousin. My parents were at work.

I was alone in my room when my cousin walked in and started fondling my breasts. I was terrified! There he was, someone I trusted and looked up to, shamelessly enjoying himself. He said, ‘Do not tell anyone.’

When my parents came home that evening, I was afraid of causing conflict. How could I tell them he had touched me in ways I hated? I had no witness except a 3-year-old who could barely construct sentences. So I kept quiet.

It happened again the next day, this time lasting longer than before. Still, I remained silent, fearing the consequences of speaking out. I wondered, ‘Will anyone believe me? What if he comes back again? When will this end?’

Even though I wanted to just forget about it, I couldn’t bear the thought that my cousin might do the same thing to my sister. I finally found the courage to tell my parents the truth. Much to my relief, they believed me.

When confronted, my cousin denied everything, saying, ‘Why would I touch her? I am old enough to have any lady I want, so why would I waste my time with a child?’ But a year later, he finally admitted it.

Today, I am committed to helping fellow survivors and bringing public attention to the realities of sexual abuse. I’m now mentoring adolescent girls and young women, helping them find inner strength to challenge and overcome abuse and discrimination. It is so important for them to feel safe speaking out, so justice can be served."

*This story was published in DREAMS Innovation Challenge: Silence Speaks- Grantee Stories

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