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In grade three a friend told me, "I can't sleep over because my parents say your mom and dad are drunks." That was the moment it hit me: my family isn't normal.
I learned the language of silence. Keep your head down. Don’t say a word. Try to be invisible. Maybe if they forget you’re here it will stop. It didn’t stop.
Life is hard in general, but for those of us who are perceived as different, it can be especially hard.
I became a very quiet child, no longer the happy kid I used to be. I wanted answers. “Why did my mom leave me?” was all I could think about.
He used to lock me outside our house with no shoes or coat, rage at me for an hour or more, and make me doubt my sanity. When he hit me, it was the last straw.
At first it was a game to us, a kind of joke. We made a lot of money, got drunk, did drugs. We thought it was fun. But it all escalated really quickly.
After swimming in a motel pool, a man followed up alongside me. "Just wanna walk you to your room, make sure everything's all safe for you." When it was over, he ran a bath for me. I was still in that cold water when they found me in the morning.