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  /  Esmeralda Barnes

Esmeralda Barnes

After facing physical abuse in my family of origin, a family court judge put me in foster care when my birth father refused therapy. 

In 1986, child welfare laws weren’t great. I was placed witha family that did not complete the training, worse yet, the father was a pedophile who raped me and likely his own toddler. His girlfriend left me alone with him. I was her gift to him for not leaving her. 

He groomed me well. Soon, I was isolated from everyone I knew and loved

and getting raped by this 38 year old man. I was 16. He raped me day and night and physically abused his girlfriend in front of me and his toddler. 

One day, he took me to Marland from our Virginia home. It was a test. If I showed loyalty to him, I would go home with him. If not, the tension in the air was filled with danger. I knew I wouldn’t survive the night.

My physical health deteriorated, and he’d take me to clinics under fake names, to get medical attention in an attempt to hide his rapes of me and the consequences. My personal relationships were dysfunctional and I was on a collision course for more violence. 

When I tried to finally report it, I got “why didn’t you tell someone” and other condemnations. I shrunk and felt like it was my fault. I was 19 the first time I tried reporting it. 

The social worker didn’t make it safe to talk to them because they threatened me with group homes. This is the overview of my abuse story and what happens with many of us not

being believed or being scared into silence. 

Decades later, not much has changed. There is a culture of silence and worse, we don’t believe victims. We are fighting for agency, and to live. Now, I fight for those with no voices.


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