135 Years, 135 Stories title image

I am woman with a future

SELENE, Oregon

I went through a lot growing up in Mexico. My mom worked all the time so at age four I was the one who took care of my one-year-old brother. I had to grow up really fast and learn how to survive on the streets. Caring for my younger brother was hard; I was like his mom even though I was only a few years older. Most of the time there was very little food in the house so when we were hungry I’d sometimes beg for food or even steal it. When I was five years old, my older brother came into my room and forced himself on me. He raped me. The sexual abuse by my older brother didn’t stop; it continued for years.

Luckily, my younger brother and I went to live with my older sister in the states when I was about 10 years old. I lived there for two years, more or less, but then moved in with my mom who was now also in the USA. I thought everything was going to be fine but then I found out my older brother was going to be living with us too. Just as I feared the sexual abuse by my older brother continued.

I wanted to ask someone for help, but because I couldn’t find the right words in English, I couldn’t. I felt helpless and eventually became depressed and couldn’t sleep. I was a not myself. Then when I was almost 13, a close friend of mine asked what was wrong because he could tell something was up with me. He kept begging me to tell him and I finally broke down and told him what had been happening. He said that it was wrong and that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. He came up with an escape plan for me right then and there. “Tonight at this time leave your house and me and my mom will be waiting outside for you,” he said. And that was that. When the time came I looked outside and sure enough there was the car waiting for me. I was so scared! Was this the right thing to do? I just grabbed my stuff and left. As I was making my escape, I saw my little brother lying in the living room, the one I had cared for all those years. The sight of him at that very moment broke my heart; he was a part of me; yet I had to leave him to take care of myself. That was the hardest decision I ever made.

I was later placed in foster care. It was so amazing that someone could open their doors to a total stranger and love me without knowing how long I would be there. I lived with this Cuban family for five years and then moved in with another foster care family who was African American. I can honestly say that these two families made me the woman that I am today.

When I was 17 years old I found out I was pregnant. At six months along, my boyfriend of three happy years split from our relationships because he was “confused.” I told him, you can walk away from me, but not his child.

Later I learned about White Shield’s parenting program from my caseworker. At first I didn’t want to be there. The first night I was there I cried to my caseworker. She encouraged me to stay regardless. The staff knew how I felt yet they were still very nice to me. I decided to stick it out. I needed to do what I needed to do for my life to get better for my baby and I. There I learned to value what I have in life. I am thankful for all the programs and support I’ve received. I was at White Shield for nine months. Today, I’m living in foster care with my son and I also have a case manager. I’m proud that I’m the first in my family to have traveled outside of Portland, Oregon.

Today I am a young mother who knows what to do with her future.

Selene's Story Photo