“I’m waving an obvious bright white flag, like, I surrender. I can’t do this you guys – come get me.”


At my high school, people knew not to start things with me. I had my mother’s sharp tongue, and I absolutely used that to my advantage. After moving to this country as a young kid and suffering countless rounds of bullying at my new school, I knew I had to find a way to protect myself. So I started to study the bullies from afar, and I learned their limits.

I then figured out how I could take it further than they ever took things. I was vicious. If you said, “Chris, you’re stupid,” I came back with, “Your Mom deserves to die.” I didn’t mess around. And, I got away with it. Like any good bully, I kept it up. I acted this way until there was no one who wanted to challenge me anymore.

I didn’t really have friends. I had people that I rode the bus with; people that could put up with my attitude. In hindsight, I now realize that these people weren’t my friends; they were my associates, friends by default. My world continued to spiral as my family unit seemed to abandon me one by one – my brother to college, my dad to his new family, and it felt to me like my mom could hardly look at me without being pained by my resemblance to the man who she had just divorced. I was desperate for someone to connect with. I was flailing, and I didn’t feel like I had anyone who was able to throw me a raft.


My father was in the Army, and my parents were stationed in Germany when my brother and I were born. My dad was my everything. You know how a dog runs to the window and looks for their owner to come home? That’s how I was with him. My dad was the softer of my two parents. To see him angry you would have to really poke the bear a lot. So, when my brother and I started seeing our mom and dad arguing more often, we knew that the situation was not good.  My mother, like stereotypical Caribbean women, had a temper. She wasn’t one to back down often when they got to the point of arguing.  I’m my mom’s son in that respect.

Eventually, my parents separated, and when I was seven, my dad moved back to the States for work. My brother and I followed soon after, bouncing around for a few months before finally landing in Maryland. By this point, my father was engaged to another woman. My mom came over to the US to finalize her divorce with my father and was awarded sole custody of myself and my brother. She chose to stay in the area to make it easier for us to see our dad regularly, but I really struggled when we first came to the States.

Transitioning into school was challenging because we hadn’t been taught all of the American nuances— the slang— what it means to be a “guy” and a person of color in this country. Plus, I didn’t hit a growth spurt until late in life, so I was smaller than everyone. Rather than talking to my family about the hard time I was having, I decided to turn into the ultimate bully.

I couldn’t take the constant ridicule at school and was over feeling nervous all the time, so I learned to go straight for the jugular when provoked. I would tear your head off if you looked at me wrong. Eventually, people stopped messing with me. That behavior went on for years. It got dark. I wasn’t eating right; I was stressed and not taking care of myself; my “friends” disappeared; and I started to get suspended from school. “I’m over here waving a bright white flag. Like, I surrender. I can’t do this anymore. Come and get me!” But it seemed like everyone was ignoring me. I was very angry.


My dad had already moved on with his new life with his new wife. They had money and houses and cars. I was just this dude named Chris that came around every other weekend. When my brother left for college, I was devastated. I was mad at him for a long time for leaving. I took it out on my mom. We would have fights that were out of control. All the other males in my life were my age. There was no one for me to look up to in a “man” sort of way.

I created an online profile in a chat room to try to find someone that I could connect with. Back then you had to be 18 to use those places, so suddenly, poof, on the screen I was 18. There I was, talking to these older men, not in a sexual way but just looking for a father figure. I befriended this one guy, and I eventually invited him over to hang out. We met up in an empty apartment in my building, and we sat and talked for hours. We talked about any and everything. I really let my defenses down. This guy could be like my dad, and I can just talk to him. But this man had other ideas.


Before I knew it, he had pinned me down and sexually assaulted me. I really spiraled after that, and I started bouncing between my mom and dad frequently. There were a lot of dark moments in my life following that experience. I started to abuse alcohol and I turned to prostitution during this time. I was so lost, and I attempted to take my own life. It got bad. I have been arrested three times in my life, but the second time, when I was eighteen, it was a felony charge for forgery and larceny. I didn’t end up getting jail time, but I do have to live with the fact that my dad had to spend his 10th wedding anniversary in a courtroom watching his youngest son be sentenced by a judge and not with his wife. That was a hard one.

So, now I had a criminal record, a legit criminal record. Some time after that third arrest I decided to move to New York.  Right before I moved, I wanted to finally tell my family about my sexual assault. The pressure had started to be too much, and it felt like someone was standing on my chest. I just needed to get it all out in the open. All of this time I had assumed that no one would want to hear it.

Like, after all of the stuff you have been doing, now you want to come and tell us that someone did something to you, and you’re asking for support? I didn’t think the news would be well received, so I had internalized everything for 20 years. It got to the point that I needed to tell them. I knew that until I did I would always be held in place by this anchor of secrets.


When I finally told them, the reaction was not what I was expecting. My mom broke down in pieces, but her first instinct was to protect me. My brother had a similar response. He was ready to find the guy and fight him. It was like having someone wrap their arms around me. I could finally see how much they cared about me.


I was worried most about how my dad would react, but he was so calm. He was, number one, concerned about my physical and mental health, but like my mom and brother, he wanted to avenge me. Mostly, I think that it led to a sort of a-ha moment for everyone. It made some sense of things: life doesn’t just switch like that; people don’t go from rebellious teen to felon overnight for no reason. My family was really understanding, and I was hit with an immediate feeling of unburdening. Now everyone knew, and I was still alive.

I had no interest in wasting another 20 years. My new life was waiting for me. I felt the need to start talking to people, people who might also be in pain or who need to talk about their traumas. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It may just be a two-word statement: I’m hurt. But it’s a start. Don’t torture yourself. There is no “right way” to go about it. If you need help, please sit someone down and say, “Look, please give me two minutes of your time.” And use the opportunity to start rolling that pebble down the hill toward your healing.

I work full-time as an IT engineer, but I’m also a dancer, actor, model, personal fitness trainer and I have my own production company. I am happy, and I now know how to defend myself appropriately. Now I am free because I know the world isn’t against me. I want to put myself out there and extend my hand. I didn’t have that, and I want to extend that to people. You’re not dead. Your circumstances haven’t killed you. You’re still here. You still have a chance to get it right. Just talk.