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“My terrible past has given me tools to help young people. I am thankful that I can use my experience to help others.”

By Julio Cruz

My older brother raped me when I was eight. The abuse went on for years. Then, when I came out as gay, my family kicked me out of the house. I was only fourteen.

I lived on the streets of Mexico City for three years. I stayed in cheap motels or any other place I could find. I cleaned buildings at night so that I could go to school during the day. Sometimes I turned tricks to afford food.

I constantly felt unsafe. 

I had to go from being a child to being a grown-up overnight, and I wasn’t ready for it.

My education suffered. I had always done well in school. But when I was homeless, I just did whatever I could to graduate.

I coped by focusing on survival and trying to get out of the situation. I also coped by pretending I was tougher than I felt. I suppressed my feelings of loneliness and terror. I couldn’t allow myself to feel any emotions. It would have made me vulnerable.

When I finally found a place to live, I kept myself very isolated because I didn’t trust people. I felt that if anyone knew how weak I was, they’d take advantage of me.

The abuse and homelessness affect me to this day. I still have symptoms of PTSD. For years, I felt constantly on edge. I was reclusive. I abused substances.

I only began to recover after I came to the U.S. at age twenty-seven. After going through a failed relationship, I realized I needed to work on myself. I wasn’t able to open up and let anyone in.

It was only when I started going to therapy that I developed a sense of self-worth. I learned that despite what I’ve gone through, I am still kind and loving toward others. I struggled for years to learn that I could be kind and loving to myself. I’ve also worked hard to believe other people care about me. 

When people say they love me and think highly of me, I need to believe it.

Now, I’m married. It’s the happiest relationship I’ve ever had. My husband and I have two beautiful dogs. They are my companions and the best part of my therapy.

I find joy in giving love and help to others. I work as a youth mentor and counselor for a nonprofit called the Spanish Speaking Citizens' Foundation. My terrible past has given me tools to help young people. I am thankful that I can use my experience to help others. 

Abuse & Sexual Assault Education Homelessness Immigration LGBTQ Rape Sexual abuse Supporting others Mental health
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