This post is part of our "Break the Silence" campaign. Please be aware that the following may contain descriptions of abuse that may be graphic in nature.
My name is Preston, I want to talk to you today about something that has affected me in a huge way throughout my entire life. The topic has come along ways over the past 20 years but its still something so many people try to avoid. So many people are affected by it but as a society were taught that it's a hush hush thing. I'm here today because as a kid I was not taught about sex or anything pertaining to sex which ultimately made me the perfect victim for my perpetrator. I was sexually abused as a kid, it started when I was 8 years old and went on/off until I was 13. The abuse itself was pretty typical, it was someone I knew and trusted--my best friends step dad. He gained my trust and little by little he began to manipulate me, the abuse started with small things, to be honest as a kid I didn't realize that what was taking place was bad or wrong until it was too late. Once I realized what was going on hurt me, scared me and made me feel uncomfortable he began to threaten me with a knife. The threats didn't happen every time but enough that I truly thought if I told someone he would either hurt me or my family. So I did what any other kid would do, I put up with the abuse. As I got older the abuse worsened and the times I tried to resist he made it tens times harder. I was lost, I was a scared kid who had no one to turn to so I kept it inside and internalized it. I wasn't his only victim, in fact the number is endless. He abused my friend, his siblings and a hand full of cousins that we are aware of. Once the abuse ended no one ever asked me about it so I kept it a secret, I felt some many different things. I was scared, ashamed, confused, I felt guilty inside and I was mad at my parents for not protecting me but as I mentioned I was never asked about the abuse so I tried to move on with my life.
After I returned from a LDS mission in 2002 I started having seizures and the seizures became my way of dealing/coping with the abuse. Over the next 7 years the seizures were my life, I did test after test and everything came back normal but they decided to put me on seizure medication. The side effects were horrible I had blurred vision most days and fatigue to a point where I could barely function. I slept 12 hours a day, I couldn't drive so I depended on my family/friends everywhere I went. I could only work part time when the seizures were more under control. My life became so restricted, I couldn't imagine living another 60 years like this I had hit rock bottom so many times that I was finally to a point where I was ready to deal with the abuse head on. I started seeing a counselor in 2008 and over the next few months the memories/flashbacks of the abuse came flooding back. I wondered if I was strong enough to endure this pain and agony. At this point I was faced with a decision that would change my life forever, I finally decided to report it to the police. From 2009-2011 I went through the court system, sometimes I wonder what was harder the abuse itself or now dealing with it 20 years later facing my perpetrator. I think it helped tremendously being an adult, I finally realized that if anyone was going to stand up for me, it had to be me.
I would like to share with you 3 days that made me who I am today, first was the preliminary hearing. This was the day I went head to head with my perpetrator, I finally got to tell my story. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done having to testify of the things he had done to me, I was scared, I thought I was going to have a seizure but I made it. I testified that day and walked out of the courtroom in tears, tears of relief I felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders. I finally got to stick up for that kid who had been so badly hurt. The second day I'd like to talk about was a week before the trial, he ended up taking a deal and part of the deal with he was willing to admit to it and go to prison. So instead of the trial they scheduled a hearing where he did admit to the abuse. It was a relief in a different way, I couldn't believe it was actually going to be over with. I walked out of the courtroom that day in tears that day but I felt a happiness I've never felt before in my life. Last day I would like to talk about is the day of sentencing, I was able to speak at it. This helped me so much, I stood up for that kid one last time. I wasn't scared, I didn't feel seizurey most of all the things I said I said it was confidence. As the hearing ended they handcuffed him and took him away, it was over. I walked out of the courtroom in tears but this day it was different, I left that day a man. I learned so much going through all of this, I learned that abuse doesn't just affect the victim it affects everyone around my family/friends. I learned that everyone deals/copes with abuse in their own way, with that being said it's an individual decision to decided to move on. Lastly I learned that you can't do it alone, once I realized this it made things so much easier. I had so many people play apart in me getting through this some did more than others. From my family, my friends, the detective over my case, the DA's office, the DA counselors over my case and the counselors I saw. They all gave me the strength I needed to deal/cope with the abuse. Early on in the case I was struggling, I felt hopeless and I didn't know how much more I could handle. I met with the detective and he wrote something down on a piece of paper, he said to keep it in my wallet and whenever I was struggling to look it. It says you're not alone!!!!!!! Short and sweet but to the point, I hope every victim out there knows you're not alone. Listen to me, having been through it and made it through I'm here to say that it gets better and easier. It's ok to tell someone, find someone you trust and let them ease the pain and heartache you feel because you're not alone!!!!!!!