Tilitha Tilly Rivera Ulzi Story

The birth of my son triggered me.

I was 6 years old the first time I was sexually assaulted. He was my brother’s best friend, our neighbor, and also happened to be a P.E. Instructor at my elementary school. I can’t recount exactly how long the abuse took place, but I do remember telling my mom and older brother that I didn’t like him and that he hurt me.

My mom recalls me showing her how he pulled on the inner sides of my underwear but didn’t ask any questions. I remember my mom telling my brother “You don’t think he did this do you?” and my brother said “What? No. I don’t think so.” They both got up and left, and in that moment I felt totally alone. And with 5 siblings in a 2-bedroom house, that feeling didn’t occur often.

I think most of my friends and friends parents knew something was “off” when I was a child but, like most people, probably just summed it all up to “everyone’s different” or “well she never says anything bad” or “her family is so sweet.” Which were all true… but I was also being molested. I often wonder what would have happened if more people asked questions or if more people spoke up.

But as life went on, the abuse subsided and those memories faded into a distant haze.

Before I knew it I had graduated high school early, had finished my first marathon race, and was about to receive my Associates degree. I was 17 years old and so happy.

In the middle of that November, my sister gave birth and I was an auntie (again!). It was the first birth I had ever been present for and such a sweet and special night. I left the hospital late and when I came home and walked into my room where a man who I called a friend was waiting for me.

I told him about my sister’s labor and we joked around and starting singing that ‘baby baby’ song by Justin Bieber. I felt pretty sick though and told him I was going to go to bed. I went to bed and he did too, or so I thought.

I woke up in the middle of the night to him raping me. I was so confused. We were strictly friends and had never been sexual in any way with each other. I told him “stop” and “no” over and over again and dug my fingernails into his back as hard as I could trying to get him off of me. My little brother was in the room next door and my dad was in the living room, and the last thing I wanted was for them to witness something so horrible. So I pushed back as quietly as I could… and then he was done.

I spent the morning throwing up.

Later that day we met up and went on a drive. I needed clarity. I asked him why he did that if he knew I didn’t want to have sex and he said “I raped you.” I hate that it took him saying “I raped you” for me to believe my own truth, but it did. He had told me he had “kinda had sex” with another person and I asked him what he meant by that. And he told me “well I did to her what I did to you.” And I asked him point blank if he raped her and he said yes.

And I wanted so desperately for that to be the end, I wanted that clarity to be the end, but it wasn’t. When I gave birth to my son, in the same hospital where my sister gave birth the night I was raped, it triggered me.

The. birth. of. my. son. triggered. me.

When job applications asked to list my degrees, and I couldn’t put “Associates degree” because I didn’t show up to the one final I needed to earn my degree — it triggered me. It made me angry, livid, sad….

Deciding to report him was one of the hardest decisions of my life. When I reported, I didn’t think he was a BAD person and I think that was hard for some people to grasp. I thought he was a person who made horrible, horrible choices out of, what, ignorance? A person who could make anyone sing and dance but also a person who had proven to be abusive, malicious, and vindictive, to not only myself, but to another as well.

I read my statement in front of the court room FULL of his friends, family members, and supporters. I felt so alone. I remember looking up, trying to dry my eyes for just a second so I could keep reading my statement and meeting eyes with one of the deputies standing off to the side. He was wiping away tears and gave me a little nod.

Someone, SOMEONE in that room felt with me, and that gave me the strength to keep going.

My perpetrator was charged with felony rape, sentenced to 3 years in prison, and life on the sex offender registry.

It always makes me feel weird when I say that because it kind of feels like a moot point. I was raped and he was the man who raped me, and if he hadn’t been charged with rape or sentenced to prison, that wouldn’t have changed.

But I continue to say it because every time I say it, it brings power back to victims and survivors of abuse. It just maybe stops him from doing it again to someone else.

You can report and you can be heard. You deserve justice.

It shines light on all of the people along the way that didn’t just stand by, but who supported me and gave me the strength to keep going, even with a silent nod. They are all a part of this story, our story. 

There are too many stories of attackers, perpetrators, child molesters, and rapists getting off scot-free and this isn’t one. There shouldn’t be one.

1 reply
  1. Amy Bolger
    Amy Bolger says:

    So proud of you, Tillly! You are such an amazing inspiration. I truly wish just one of the possibly HUNDREDS of children molested by my grandpa had the support to get heard. They could have saved a lot of kids from trauma. I’m glad you and others like you have found your voice!


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