We had the honor of interviewing Mrs. San Antonio 2016, Mrs. Maricella FitzSimon, about her mission to bring awareness to the problem of child abuse, and her own experiences with being physically, sexually and emotionally abused as a child. Not only is she Mrs. San Antonio, but she is also a teacher at Bowden Elementary and getting ready to compete for Mrs. Texas.
We commend you for standing up and being a voice for the voiceless! You are a positive example of how to take a horrific experience, and turn it into a message of empowerment. We are proud to call you one of our featured All-Stars!
At what age were you first sexually abused?
It started when I was 5 years old and went on for a few years.
Did you or your family know the person?
Yes, it was the husband of a friend of my Mom. My parents divorced when I was very young, and my Mom worked a lot. On the weekends, she would send us to her friend's house in Floresville, and he started taking advantage of the situation.
How did he keep you quiet and why didn't you tell anyone at the time?
He threatened me by telling me that it was our little secret and if I told anyone then I would be in trouble. So being 5 years old, I believed him. I was so scared, that even at 14, when questioned by my Mom and Stepfather about my reaction to not wanting to visit her friend house, I still denied it. I think my Stepfather suspected something, but I denied it. I didn't have a close relationship with my mother at the time of the abuse. I was actually terrified of her.
Once there, we were all going horseback riding. He insisted I get on the horse with him even though I kept protesting, I ended up having to ride with him. He was rubbing himself against me the entire ride and saying things like, "You never told anyone about our little secret. That's good." I cried the entire time.
When you finally told you Mom, what was her reaction? Were you relieved and felt like you should have told her years before?
No, I didn't feel like that, because she never made me feel safe like that. I never had that kind of relationship where I could tell her stuff, because I was the only girl and she favored my two brothers. So when I finally did tell her, she was real hurt, cried and asked why didn't I ever tell her. But at the time, I just bit my tongue, because what I wanted to say was, "Because you never made me feel safe enough to tell you or comfortable." When I would try to hug my Mom, she would shun me and push me away. She was physically and emotionally abusive and her boyfriend at the time did really bad physical abuse to me and my brothers.
What gave you the courage to finally open up about your abuse?
I was holding it in for so long, and didn't tell anyone until I was 24 years old. I told my husband I felt like I had to be strong and put up this shield all the time. I finally reached a point where I felt like, "No, I can't be strong all time and it's okay to cry. It's okay to hurt." That's what made me finally say something and go talk about it. I had to go to counseling and that helped, but that wasn't what completed it all for me.
I think the more I talk about it, the more I understand what happened and the details of it, it becomes okay. That's what I went through, but it's not going to be what stops me from achieving different goals. I've always used what happened to me to make me stronger and become the person I am today.
I didn't have anyone to help me go to college. I got my my Bachelor's and Master's degrees on my own. I got a golf scholarship to help pay for school. I bought my first house on my own. I did everything on my own with no support from my Mom or anyone else. I did it on my own and I believe it made me stronger, and I don't regret it happening to me.
We have noticed that the whole child abuse situation seems more hidden here in San Antonio than other places we lived. Kids need to understand that they can speak up, and they're not being a snitch or disloyal if they tell someone they're being abused. Do you think it's because of the culture here?
Yes, I think it has a lot to do with the culture and how we are raised here.
What is your goal or the mission of raising awareness about child abuse?
My goal is to let kids know that even though you might be in a bad situation, it's okay to talk about it. It's okay to move forward. Because a lot of people in that situation, and not to be rude, but they start to feel sorry for themselves. I don't want that for them. I want them to know even though this happened to you, you can still make something of yourself. You can still make the right choice, because whatever choice you make is going to dictate the life you lead. So if you decide that you're going to let this get to you, then your whole life is always going to be a letdown.
If I only impact one person, then I've succeeded. I want to impact many, but if I can get my point across to one person, that's going to be the start for me. I'll continue from there. I'm finally able to open up about it and talk about it. I just want to continue this awareness journey for years and years to come.
Please follow and support Maricella on her journey by liking her page on Facebook - Mrs San Antonio International 2016 and on Twitter - @MrsSanAntonio16
Interview with Mrs. San Antonio 2016
Mrs. Maricella FitzSimon