As part of her mission to carry her message for the prevention of sexual abuse, María Trusa, founder of the Yo Digo No Más Movement, participated in the program Mujeres en dinámica. In a pleasant conversation with Niurka Rivera, María took a journey through her life, from the traumatic moments that marked her, to her current role as a successful entrepreneur and happy woman.
A successful entrepreneur
Today, María Trusa defines herself as a “woman who has a wonderful life” and although for a long time this was not the case, today she feels very happy with her life and her story of strength and resilience has led her to be the successful woman she is today.
At the age of 15, when she arrived from the Dominican Republic, María dreamed of becoming a doctor. Despite not being fluent in the language, he built a successful career in medicine and today has a medical and urgent care center in White Plains, New York, dedicated to the Hispanic community, focusing on immigrants who are unable to afford health insurance.
She came close to her dream by becoming a medical assistant at a renowned medical center, where for 26 years she participated in and led a growth process that took the entity from 7 to 50 doctors and from 35 to 250 employees, mostly Hispanic. These accomplishments, coupled with the opportunity to help the Latino community in the United States, make her very proud.
Today, in addition to this mission, María feels called to share a message and tools to raise awareness among children, adolescents, parents and caregivers about the prevention of sexual abuse and to be attentive to the factors that may represent warning signs.
Beware of social norms
As part of the message María wants to convey is that millions of children are victims of sexual abuse every day and also have to face the indolence of the authorities when they decide to denounce, there are a number of social norms that make it difficult for survivors of sexual abuse to come forward and talk about what happened to them.
Among the social norms that fuel this ‘silent pandemic’ are:
⦁ Forcing children to hug or kiss an adult when they don’t want to. This may hide a motive and, if not, is an obstacle to children learning that when they say No, it is No.
⦁ Promoting that family matters should be kept secret and not talked about outside to protect the family also becomes a reason for survivors of sexual abuse to avoid telling what they are suffering.
These types of social norms that we internalize in the course of our lives, make victims of sexual abuse not feel confident to speak up and assume that no one might believe them the moment they decide to speak up.
Attention to behavioral changes
When children are abused and lose their innocence, they are filled with deep sadness and feel guilt and shame for what they are experiencing, explains María. That’s why they choose to keep quiet, however, some changes in their behavior may be warning signs that something is going on. Pay attention to signs like these:
⦁ Despite being trained, they wet the bed.
⦁ They eat too little or eat too much.
⦁ They are more shy than usual.
⦁ Self-injury (cuts or burns).
Paying attention to these signs is critical to supporting survivors of sexual abuse. If you have children nearby who show some of these warning signs, pay attention.
We need thousands of people marching
In conjunction with the Yonkers Mayor’s Office, the Yonkers School District and a group of experts, the Yo Digo No Más Movement will hold the first I Say No More March on Sexual Violence. Therefore, María extended the following invitation:
“On April 30th at 11:00 a.m. we are going to be at Yonkers City Hall, we will march one mile to Eugenio Maria de Hostos School, where we will have great workshops, with the support of Stony Brook Hopsital, we will have psychologists coming from Texas, from Florida. But we need you to support us, we need thousands of people marching to break the chains of sexual abuse.”
In this space we seek to carry out a day of awareness in which children, adolescents, parents and caregivers receive tools to prevent sexual abuse. If you want to see the full interview, go to the Youtube channel of Mujeres en dinámicas.
Remembering the saddest decade
As part of her conversation, María shared her life story and learnings. During her first decade of life, she remembers herself as a happy child despite the immense poverty in which she and her family lived, but in just one night, her life changed.
Once her mother decided to leave for the United States, she was left in the care of her father, whom she defines as a good man who was destroyed by alcohol. And one day in the middle of the night, her father decided to give her little brother, who was four years old, to a “Witcher” who was a friend of his. María decided not to let the man take her little brother and instead she was handed over to him.
That man forced her to drink a bottle of liquor, drove her to a motel and then sexually abused her, causing serious damage to her health for which she had to undergo surgery.
This experience has allowed her to overcome any kind of fear throughout her life, because if she was able to overcome the sadness she faced in her first decade of life, she feels she is capable of facing any situation.