My name is Tanya Monteiro, and I’m 43 years old. I’m a marketer, social media buff, yoga teacher, African, daughter, girlfriend and human being. I was also sexually abused by my stepfather from the age of twelve to the age of sixteen.
For a long time I guarded this secret, telling myself I was okay because I was working, I was living, I had friends and I had a life – which, by the way we measure these things, was a successful one. I travelled, met people, had relationships, made money and it took me a long, long time to realise that surviving is just not the same thing as thriving. Not by a long shot.
I was surviving because I was keeping quiet about what had happened to me and what ultimately changed who I was when I was too young to know how to stop it. For fear of hurting my family and the people I loved, I held this secret close to my heart telling myself it was okay now, that it was in the past and that I didn’t have to visit that place of sadness and pain any longer. And I half-believed my lie as I numbed myself with work and projects and the things we find to do when we’re crying inside and don’t know how to make the hurting stop.
This project is about making the cycle stop. Not just for me, but for everybody out there who’s been injured in this way and has been suffering in silence. It will never go away unless we confront it head on; look our heartbreak in the eye and go, ‘hey. I see you. I’m doing something about this’.
For me, it’s speaking my truth by sharing my story. It’s my way of taking it out of the dark and flinging it into the light so that it can stop festering and growing like mould does when it’s left undisturbed.
Part of this process turned out to be documenting, in audio form, a face-to-face conversation I had with my stepfather and his wife. I confronted him and tried to get answers to questions I’d held on to for far too long. I needed some acknowledgement of what he had done; some semblance of an apology that would help me to heal. I didn’t get exactly that, as many of us in this situation don’t.
But, as I discovered, that doesn’t even matter. What it did do is set me free, and I hadn’t even realised that I wasn’t free from him.
Sharing our conversation feels like a small part in my responsibility on breaking the silence and helping to make these cycles stop. I’m proud of myself for standing up to him, looking him in the eyes and forcing him to confront what he did to me.
I never realized how powerful that meeting of the eyes would be, and this is the deeper reason I want to share this audio – to encourage and inspire and help others whose desire is to Thrive.
What I learnt when I was numbing myself with work in London and on Wall Street, with interviewing loads of people for my documentary across the USA, and with teaching yoga and learning to surf in Portugal, is that I will never achieve inner peace until I do something good with the bad I lived through.
It happened to me for a reason, and denying that means denying myself, and what I believe to be my way of living with purpose. It’s time to jump into the arena!
I don’t know exactly what this project looks like yet or how it’s all going to fit together. For now I’m taking the leap and hoping that by sharing what was a meaningful and very real experience for me, I will encourage others to speak out about their experiences too, – maybe even visit their perpetrators and take back their own power.
Embarking on this project makes me feel less like a victim and more like a part of the solution to a situation, which is far too commonplace. I can’t say that I can fix anyone but I can say I’ve been there, I get it, and you are not alone.
I hope to be a small stepping-stone in helping others find their own voices, and to offer the courage to bring their own secrets into the light. I also hope this will help others to discover that inside each of us there is the strength, resilience and passion for living and thriving, something I never knew I had.
Here’s to Surviving AND Thriving!
Thank you for hearing my story.
NOTE: My stepfather was given an opportunity to listen and comment to this audio. I received no answer.