Poem: Hero to Me

[Image description: A landscape portrait of Veronica looking to the left. Behind her is a forest.]

This reader submission comes from Veronica Bonilla. 

Trigger warnings: Eating, bullying, sexual assault, religion

Hero to Me

They say life is what you make of it. When I was only twelve years old, my mother was

constantly fighting my father and he began to lose interest in me. I wanted him to be proud of

me, but he only ever pointed out what I was bad at. My mother was always busy with work or

her friends. As they fell out of love, I myself, lost touch with reality. My sister was resilient, but I

resented her because she always made my parents so angry. I blamed her for challenging them

because I thought she was tearing us apart. I felt unseen at school, unimportant to my friends

and unwanted by my family.

At the age of fifteen years old, I was raped at a high school party by an eighteen year

old, High School senior. I blamed myself and struggled in school. It was hard to pay attention

on an empty stomach while being bullied at school and ignored at home. I was then sent to live

with my aunt in Florida. She was a strict Pentecostal woman. She told me that if I wore a long

skirt I wouldn’t seduce men. I wanted to tell her what happened, but she didn’t want to know. I

learned to speak my most painful memories only to God in secret. I had to act as if God had

healed everything in my heart and in my body and because I never felt better, I blamed myself. I

wondered why I couldn’t sleep at night. I wondered why I cried alone.

I dropped out of community college in the first semester because I felt too nervous in a

classroom. Two years later, I decided to travel to Bible college in the United Kingdom. I had

reached another dead end after another sexual assault and fell into religion again. I needed my

family’s approval and their help. I earned a Diploma in Theology within two years, fully

accredited by the British Accreditation Association. I studied the Bible, performed original

music, taught Bible studies and Sunday school, and traveled between fifteen countries. The

other students struggled to accept me. I became so overwhelmed and felt increasingly unheard

as my desire for true love, true transparency grew. I fell into a dark place. It became

increasingly obvious that the people I was working with for change were not changed

themselves. Our experiences pulled us miles apart, but all I wanted was to bring it to the

surface and work on coming together.

I felt disconnected, disassociated. I started to process what had happened to me again

after never speaking of it for so long, and I could never put it back away. The next year, my

class prayed for open doors. We met an organiser for the YMCA in Perth, Scotland and we

developed a youth drop-in for the local refugees and students with mental health. That was my

favourite part of college and this is how I found what I knew I was meant to do. I have passion

to right the wrongs in this world.

They say life is what you make it and I am still working what I was given into a story I

want to share. I can honestly express that I am proud to share what I have been through and

that I may be far from perfect, but I am whole. I am complete. I am learning. I am growing.

There are no definite answers, but we can get close to the truth if we try and, if we are open. I

want to continue that journey and secure a future in which I am challenged, using my talents

and organising with like-minded people.

I was taught fear. I was taught loneliness. I was taught judgement. But, I learned that

those ideas do not belong in my heart. I can rise above, and so can we. We can rise above any

hate that we’re shown and stay true to our intuition, and our heart. The worst of what we

experience will teach us who we are meant to be, what we are meant to do. What we lacked,

we can make abundant for others. We can be there to understand others when we had no one

there for us. We can be the change in the world if only for one person. We can be a hero if only for



About the author:

Veronica Bonilla, singer-songwriter and poet, uses writing and her ukulele to form her experiences of being a rape survivor into art that is relatable and raw. She uses her time as a youth pastor and Theology student overseas to help her share the importance of being genuine and believing in the power of free-thinking and self-love. As a queer, pansexual Latinx, Veronica believes that we are beholders of our own magic and intuition. Veronica has made the journey from tiresomely trying to win the love and approval of god, her family and her friends into the realisation that she was her own hero all along. Among her friends, she is known for trying to get people together. When not singing, Veronica enjoys playing DnD, watching anime and playing video games. She is currently studying cosmetology and is planning to return to school later this year for Communications. She hopes to use her gifts to create spaces for other people to express how they feel, turn their experiences into art that we can share and to speak on the topics that we are passionate about.