Junot Diaz on The Legacy of Childhood Trauma

Junot Diaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." (RICARDO HERNANDEZ / AFP / Getty Images)

In a harrowing personal essay at The New Yorker, Junot Diaz breaks his silence about being raped by a trusted adult when he was 8 years old — a horrific trauma that ended his childhood, destroyed his sense of self, prompted a suicide attempt, and has shaped every day of his life since.

Yes, it happened to me.

I was raped when I was eight years old. By a grownup that I truly trusted.

After he raped me, he told me I had to return the next day or I would be “in trouble.”

And because I was terrified, and confused, I went back the next day and was raped again.

I never told anyone what happened, but today I’m telling you.

And anyone else who cares to listen.

That violación. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldn’t be enough. That shit cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. I can say, truly, que casi me destruyó. Not only the rapes but all the sequelae: the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. It fucked up my childhood. It fucked up my adolescence. It fucked up my whole life. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me. I spent more energy running from it than I did living.

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