My grandfather, my best friend and mentor, had a stroke. He could never walk or talk again. He and my grandmother moved to another city, and I was left in the house with my uncle and his family. My cousins soon began to bully me and even beat me because I was the smallest girl in the house. I also felt my mom had abandoned me, because she lived in a city three hours away. Yet, as I look back, I actually never told her my situation because I thought she would not believe me.
Luckily, I moved to live with my dad in the United States, where I thought I wouldn’t suffer again. However, in middle school, I was bullied for my curly hair that was uncombed because I would let only my grandmother touch it. I told my dad about the bullies, but he did not believe me. I cried every night because I missed my grandparents, but I knew I couldn’t go back to the Dominican Republic.
One day, my father’s cousin came to our house. This cousin was drunk and tried to touch me. I pushed him away, but that wasn’t the only time. I told my sister and brother, and even though they talked to my dad, he told me I was inventing things. That’s when I started to have nightmares. When I woke up from these nightmares, I cut myself. However, every time I cut into my arms, something in my heart stopped me from going further. Maybe it was the memories of my family.
One day, my eighth–grade adviser noticed that I had been wearing many sweaters, even on hot days, and when she asked me if I was okay, I lied to her. I knew she would have called social services, and my dad would have been furious. Yet, over time, she continued to talk to me. When I cried, she held my hand, looked at my arm, and saw the cuts. After she called 911, I was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where I lied to the doctors and everybody else about my life.
Eventually, my father sent me back to live with my mother in the Dominican Republic, and I experienced the impossible. In church, a woman I had just met, and who my mother didn’t even know, first hugged me and then looked deep into my eyes. She told me about the problems I was having. I cried like a little girl, and as I cried, the weight inside me lifted. At that moment, I began to believe that God existed, that He loved me and would help me love myself. That day was the first time in a long time that I thought I wanted to live. I wanted to show people that the damage they had done to me was not enough to stop me.
Yinelfi Duarte studies in a CLIP class at CUNY’s City Tech. She writes, “I am 18 years old. I was born in Nagua, in the Dominican Republic. My first language is Spanish. I came to the United States in 2014. I’m a shy person, and I like to help people. Thanks to the opportunity that my teacher, Caryn Davis, gave me, I discovered that I like to write.”