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Someone had to be brave. I always had to tell my mom it was okay. No matter what, we were going to be okay....

Eighteen-year-old Gedany knows what it means to be brave. One of her earliest memories is hiding in a closet around the age of four, watching in terror as her father hurt her mother. “I remember watching my mom get beat, and I couldn’t do anything,” she recalls. “No one would help my mom. No one helped, and I felt so powerless, for my mom. I thought she could die, and I couldn’t do anything, and it happened several times.” Even at that young age, Gedany realized, “Someone had to be brave. I always had to tell my mom it was okay. No matter what, we were going to be okay. So, I was brave for my mom.”  

Life in those earlier days was difficult for Gedany and her mom, living under the same roof as her controlling and abusive father. “We wouldn’t have money, and when we would ask for money, he wouldn’t give us money,” she says. Gedany learned to live without, remaining a source of strength and solace for her mother. “My mom felt really bad because she couldn’t get me things I wanted,” she reflects. “She would cry at night because she couldn’t get me things. And I remember telling her, ‘It’s okay. I don’t need anything.’” 

Eventually, her parents divorced, but the terror and repeated trauma she had endured manifested in a deep-seated fear and pattern of distrust and self-protection that made life, friendships, and relationships with family – like little sister Jazmine – very difficult. “I honestly didn’t have friends. I had people that I know, but friends, I did not have that,” she shares, “so I just always felt excluded.” Her childhood experiences left her feeling isolated and guarded, struggling with feelings of abandonment. “I just feel like, every time I trust someone or I’m close with someone, they just leave,” she discloses. “All my friendships that I actually care for, they leave. They never stay.”  

However, Gedany didn’t need to remain a prisoner of these paralyzing fears forever. For the past seven years, Gedany’s family has been working with Brenda, a St. David’s Center therapist, to understand the source of their fear, how to name it when they feel its grip, and how to use new skills to shift their thinking. Not only Gedany individually, but the whole family collectively has felt the profound impact of Brenda’s guidance. “She helps us all come together,” asserts Gedany. “She’s like everyone’s therapist here. My mom gets lots of help from her, and she’s helped Jazmine and I get along better. She just has wise words to give you sometimes, even though you don’t like them. She gives you things to think about.” 

It was through this therapeutic relationship that Gedany was able to confront an even deeper, darker trauma – abuse by someone close to her father, compounded by the fact that he refused to believe her. “Even with proof, he still said I was lying,” she says tearfully. “He just didn’t trust me enough to think I was saying the truth.” Her mother, however, knew she was telling the truth and intervened, but the impact was visceral and far-reaching, affecting her to this day. “I hate speaking to older males, just alone,” she states, “and I hate being around them without someone else.” 

Brenda has helped Gedany channel the bravery of her childhood self – summoned out of self-preservation – into confidence and a belief in her own abilities. “I don’t want to be scared like this anymore,” she declares. “It’s scary to be scared like this, looking over my back all the time.” Now, thanks to the unwavering support and love from the people in her life, like Brenda and her mom, she can look forward in anticipation instead of backward in fear. And there is a lot to look forward to.  

Trust people when necessary because they might be able to help you, even if you think they can't. At the end of the tunnel, there's a light. So don't give up....

Today, Gedany’s life is fuller, including her family, which consists of her mom, stepdad, and her younger sister and brother. Always a student who excelled academically, she is poised to graduate from high school while simultaneously taking college courses and working at Best Buy. In the fall, she will attend college. “I could’ve easily not listened to Brenda, but no, I listened,” she says with conviction. “Now, I’m going to college.” She dreams about owning her own business someday, perhaps a shop that combines her passions for stationery, fashion, and coffee.

It’s still hard at times, when fear paralyzes her, but she believes in herself, and she has the skills to continue moving forward. As Gedany faces her own future with courage and determination, she has her own wise words of advice for those who need to be brave, which are “not to give up,” she affirms. “Trust people when necessary because they might be able to help you, even if you think they can’t. At the end of the tunnel, there’s a light. So don’t give up because if you give up, you might not know what waits for you. You should always keep your head up and just fight through it. Your work will pay off.”

Gedany's Story

To learn more about Gedany, watch the video on the left, created for our 2021 gala.
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