College Beat

 My Journey Beating the Statistics

 By Lena Delgado

One in five women experience sexual assault, and among victims of sexual abuse under the age of 18, 34 percent are children under the age of 12. According to research, being a victim of sexual assault as a child can have both immediate and long-lasting effects, including physical, emotional, behavioral, and social difficulties, as well as subsequent abuse or continuing the cycle into adulthood. All these consequences lead to significant disruptions in development that affect cognitive ability, academic achievement deficits (39 percent of 7 to 12-year-olds), substance abuse that increases delinquency and crime (3 to 5-fold risk increase), teen pregnancy (2.2x more likely; 3x more likely for sexual behavior problems) and even death (13x more likely to attempt suicide). 

I am a Latin-Native American and a sexual abuse survivor who has defied these statistics since I was seven years old. By the time I was 13 years old, my abuse was reported to the police. I received services such as counseling and joined Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). After receiving support and, ultimately, justice, I knew my passion was to help create a safer environment for abused children and provide victim services.

Magdalena Delgado with family during graduation dinner in Houston,TX, 2016.

Growing up, my mother constantly reminded me that I would not become a statistic for the lasting effects of sexual abuse. This advice always resonated with me and helped me to stay focused in school and work toward my career goals. I joined the National Honor Society in high school, and I received the Cum laude honors for graduating in the top 11 percent of my class. As a first-generation Latina entering College, I had no idea what to expect or how challenging navigating a university and its resources would be. I had more independence after moving away from my parents than ever before, yet during my first two years in college, I started to fail classes. Fortunately, around that time, I had the opportunity to meet retired Air Force Colonel Lisa Carrington Firmin and former Marine Dr. Michael Logan. They mentored me and provided me with an opportunity to work at The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Veteran and Military Affairs Office. They had great expectations of me, and I exceeded them thanks to their leadership and accountability. I accomplished something that no one else in my immediate family had, I walked the stage and received my degree. 

I am pursuing a doctoral degree in behavioral analysis to provide services for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Being one of the 11 percent of violent victims who receive support from a victim-services agency has empowered me to achieve a healthy and successful lifestyle. I refuse to ever give up and have smashed through all barriers set in front of me thanks to my mother’s mandate, help from victim support organizations, excellent mentors, and channeling my inner person. I also aim to pay it forward. Today, I live with my three cats and continue to support college students affiliated with the military. By sharing my journey, I hope to show that although we all face challenges, we can achieve excellence if we have some grit, resiliency, and familia, ¡Sí, se puede!