*trigger warning* The story provided below contains abuse and violence. Please only read what you’re able to and what you can. Thank you.
I was invited on April 7, 2016 to give a TEDx talk at my alma mater, Roosevelt University. The video still has not been uploaded today, and many people have been curious with what I spoke about. Below is the manuscript of my talk and a piece of my heart. 🙂 <3
The date is March 2014, and I’m in this huge air conditioned tour bus. I was in Cape Town, South Africa, one of the most beautiful places in the world. The weather was perfect, and the views were just stunning. Anywhere you go in Cape Town, Table Mountain was in the backdrop. I was on my way to a township in South Africa, I had just signed up for a trip through Semester at Sea, and all we were told was that we would be visiting some schools that day. I didn’t know a lot about South Africa, but I knew that if I stayed in the sanitized version of Cape Town, where all the tourists were recommended to go, then I would not really be learning about the country’s true identity. I signed up for a trip to visit schools in the townships, where poverty and violence pervaded.
What I didn’t know, was that we would be visiting a home in which children had been taken to because they were victims of child sexual abuse. My group was only in this home for a few minutes, maybe forty… but the facts that I learned shifted something inside me and I was devastated.
There were little girls that walked out into the playground there, as young as three years old.
Child sexual abuse is a health epidemic in South Africa, and has been for the past few decades. A government official announced that if someone with AIDS had sex with a virgin, that the person with AIDS would be cured once and for all.
And what is the only way you can be guaranteed to find a virgin? To prey on an innocent young child. Sometimes even babies.
I couldn’t find any words to say. I felt the shame and the guilt blanket over my mind. The feelings of guilt and shame felt familiar and uncomfortable, and I didn’t know what to do with it.
Sexual abuse is a world epidemic, yet, no one wants to talk about it. It is a world epidemic, and it is also a huge issue here in the United States.
There are 42 million sexual abuse survivors here in the United States. That is 42 million too many.
Often this dark secret is hidden behind closed doors, never to be spoken of again. Just as the perpetrator wants it to be.
I vowed from that moment on to no longer tolerate silence, not even my own.
From this visit I felt something inside of me move- I was disturbed, and my identity shifted. I felt it shift, and I knew that silence is a perpetrator’s best friend, and silence is the only way a perpetrator can survive.
And I tell you this story because I believe that TEDx and Roosevelt University has an identity.
As an alum I can look back to my days here when I walked through these hallways being pushed out of my comfort zones from my professors.
An idea that is born here at Roosevelt University and this TEDx event has meaning and power that it wouldn’t necessarily have outside of these walls.
There are 150 of us in this TEDx room tonight.
1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18.
1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they are 18.
Which means, that among us in this room there are at least 15 survivors of child sexual abuse. How many of us suffer in silence, and how many of us have told our stories?
I am one of the survivors.
From the time that I was seven years old until recently, I believed that I was dirty. On the outside, you couldn’t tell. I hated the part of me that was in pain.
Thirteen-year-old Aurora kept trying to come back. I kept trying to ignore her, I kept trying to make her go away. I wanted her to stay away from the new and improved me. I thought that by doing this, that eventually she would just disappear.
When I was seven years old, I was molested by family member. I remember wearing my school uniform, I grabbed my backpack, and I was about to run out of the door. And then, this elderly family member told me to say goodbye to him. As I said goodbye and I got closer, he stuck his tongue down my mouth. I was seven years old. I was confused and grossed out. Egh. Yuck. ,
I went on about my day, not telling a single soul about what happened. I kept my silence. The situation with this man gradually got worse every time he came for a visit. I thought that if I told anyone, I would get in trouble.
I questioned the validity of my experience and told myself that it was all my fault.
It would end someday, I said.
My mom left my family when I was seven, and immigrated to the United States to work. This was in 2000. In 2002, my father, two sisters, and I finally immigrated to the United States. I was full of hope that HOORAY! I would finally have a mom again. Turns out, we were going to settle down in Chicago, which was about 1000 miles away from Los Angeles, California.
So when I had the chance to live with my mom, I accepted the offer.
Child sexual abuse victims have been found to be 3-5 times more likely to experience subsequent adult victimization than respondents who had not experienced any type of child abuse
Five years later my first abusive experience happened, I was living with my mother in Lakewood, California. I had a stepfather, and he was nice. He bought me gifts, brought me to school and even picked me up. He was supportive, funny, and someone who attended church twice a week. He was someone you would think that was nice.
And then, we struggled financially. My mom began to work on the weekends as a caregiver and I was left alone with my stepfather. At first it was okay. Then he began to sexually abuse me. He began to do inappropriate things.
Silence pervaded through every corner of my life again.
After he was done with me…
He told me that if I told anyone, he would divorce my mom and that she would be deported to back to the Philippines.
My grades dropped. I gained 30 pounds. I didn’t want to tell anyone this dark and shameful secret. I didn’t want to worry my mom who was always tired from working. I believed she had enough problems of her own. I didn’t want to live a life without her again.
And then, one day I was sitting in my sixth grade classroom in Lakewood, California. It was a beautiful day outside, and our class just come back from the playground. I don’t remember what our class was learning about, but my teacher stood up, in front of the classroom and told us:
“If you have something you need to tell someone, I am here for you. I am here for you and I will listen. If you don’t feel okay with talking to me, then you can talk to another adult.”
And in that moment, I remember thinking to myself:
I have to tell my mom. I have to tell my mom. I really, really, have to tell my mom.
After the bell rang I remember the heaviness of shame hover over me. A secret that was tied down with silence made me feel like I was the worst person in the world.
I had to tell someone.
I was on a mission once i got home and I sat down in front of the computer and began writing an e-mail:
Please don’t get mad at me, but I’ve been keeping a secret from you. I know I should have told you, but you work a lot and I didn’t want to worry you. Your husband has been touching me…
This isn’t the only time this happened in my life. This also happened to me when I was seven years old by Dad’s dad.”
After my mom read the email she talked to her husband in their room. 15 minutes later he comes out, looks me in the eye, and demands for me to tell the truth.
I stood my ground.
I knew that what I was telling was the truth.
Although my grandma was not always present in our life, my mom called her mom right away. My grandma told us to pack our bags and to move to Chicago as soon as possible. That day, my mom and my grandma became my heros.
They believed me and didn’t reinforce the guilt and shame that I had been living with for so long. They didn’t blame me for what had happened.
After I moved to Chicago, I vowed to never go back to this dark part of my life again. I was satisfied with having a clean slate, and leave behind the painful memories.
According to the CDC, This year alone, there will be 400,000 babies born into this world who will experience sexual abuse before they are 18, unless we do something about it.
While all of us may not have gone through child sexual abuse, all of us, at one point or another have believed that we are less than who we really are.
We have struggled to love ourselves. There are voices that echo in our mind and tell us that tell us we’re not good enough, and that we will never be.
I still have moments where I struggle to love myself. I become the meanest person to myself and somehow become convinced that I’m not good enough. I know that all of us in this room have gone through this. We are our own worst critic.
And when this happens…I take a deep breath. And another one, and maybe another one.
And then, I tell myself: Aurora. YOU are Aurora. You are amazing and wonderful. You are kicking ass in life. You are loved, you are worthy. You can’t change the past, and change what has been stolen from you.
If we don’t face our identities, we will not be able to be as effective as the world needs us to be.
There are so many of us that suffer in silence.
I believe that silence is the residue of fear.
A child sexual abuse survivor once said:
Vulnerability is being willing to express the truth, no matter what. The truth of who you are, the essence at your core, what you’re feeling at any given moment. It’s being able to open up your soul, and let it flow, so that other people can see their soul in yours. -Oprah Winfrey
It is only recently that I decided to open up about this. It’s been a tough journey, opening up this uncomfortable conversation that makes me feel the most vulnerable that I have ever been, even though it was ten years ago.
I believe that we as a TEDx Roosevelt community need to find ways to embrace these challenges, these problems, and the human suffering that happen in front of us. We cannot be fully evolved human beings until we realize that silence does not solve anything. It will not solve the 400,000 child sexual abuse that is about to happen. Silence tolerates and perpetuates further suffering.- Aurora Lucas
I invite everyone in this room today to have uncomfortable conversations. This is the only way we can ever change worlds, change ideas, and move forward. I invite you to face your struggles, truly face them, and truly love yourself.
The world needs you.
(If you would like to read more, I wrote this piece a few hours after giving the talk)