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TRANSFORMATION FROM A VICTIM TO A VICTOR, by Jillian Bullock

To say I’ve had a rough life is an understatement. I grew up as a young, black girl with my two older siblings, my mother and my white stepfather, Jake, who was a member of the Philadelphia Italian Mafia. Jake raised me from when I was two years old and as the baby of the family he had a soft spot for me. As I got older, Jake and I spent a lot of time together. He taught me about the ways of the Mob and the oath of silence. So, when I witnessed a Mob hit at nine years old, I knew I had to remain silent, especially because it was my stepfather who pulled the trigger.

When Jake wasn’t doing Mob business, he’d take me to the movies every Sunday. He was a big movie geek and it was Jake who instilled in me that I would become a screenwriter and a filmmaker one day. That was his dream, and over time his dream became mine.

When my mother decided to leave Jake, I was devastated. He was not only my ‘dad’ but my best friend. It was only Jake who I told about the rape that occurred when I was ten. Crying in his arms, Jake told me he would take care of it. And he did. The next morning, the guy who raped me was found with a bullet in his head.

Even after my mom broke up with Jake, we still hung out and often I’d cut school to be with him. Jake never wanted me to be a victim of rape again, so he paid for me to take karate lessons and he took me to the range and taught me how to shoot guns.

When I was 14, my mother married a new man, who was physically abusive to her. She begged me not to tell Jake because she, and I, knew what would happen if I did. A year later, when Jake died I fell into a deep depression. I no longer had my best friend and I was living in a violent household. After my mother had a baby girl a few months later, my new stepfather felt it would be a good idea to move to Florida.

We weren’t in our new apartment for more than two weeks when my stepfather started beating on my mother, yet again. One day I decided to intervene and defend my mother. As a black belt, I was highly skilled and I used my martial arts skills to fight and break my stepfather’s nose. Instead of my mother thanking me for coming to her aid, she was furious. She screamed at me to get out or she was going to call the police and have me arrested for assault.

At 15, I was homeless and alone in Orlando, Florida. I knew no one. I had nowhere to go. I had no money. I was distraught that my mother turned her back on me and sided with her husband. Nevertheless, I had to suck it up and remember all that Jake taught me about being tough for now I was responsible for my survival.

For weeks I was homeless, digging into trashcans for food, begging people for money and sleeping in parks or abandoned buildings for shelter. When I got tired of fighting off other homeless men who tried to rape me at night while I slept I was offered another alternative by a Madam of a whore house. She told me I’d get three meals a day, a room with a bathroom, a small weekly salary, and protection from Jacko, the house pimp. I hated to choose that lifestyle, but I knew I would eventually end up dead on the streets, because that’s exactly what happened to another teenage girl, who was homeless. She was beaten up by two guys and then shot in the chest. As I held her in my arms, she said: “I don’t want to die alone.” She was 14.

Trading sex for money with multiple men each night became old really fast. I had to indulge in alcohol and drugs to numb myself in order to get through the night. One night I couldn’t take it anymore and I decided to end my life. But something stopped me. I saw words written on the bathroom mirror that read – “What happened to my dream, our dream.” I knew it was a sign from Jake or God.

When I turned 16, I found out I was pregnant. It was then that I knew I had to try to find a way to get back to Philadelphia in order to give myself and my unborn child a fighting chance at a better life.

After I found out my mother was back in Philadelphia and she left my stepfather, I contacted her, and told her my predicament. She sent me a bus ticket and I returned home a few months before I delivered my son, who was born two months premature due to my drug use.

I made a pact with God that I would get my act together, if He allowed my son, Clinton, to be healthy. Although, I struggled to remain drug free, I managed to return to high school at 17. I was placed in the 9th grade, because I had been of school for two years.

Everybody, including family and my mother, told me to put my son up for adoption because I was just a kid, trying to raise a baby and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. They told me Clinton would end up on drugs, in prison, a school dropout, a deadbeat father of numerous babies, or dead from violence before he turned 18.

Nobody believed me when I told them I was going to graduate from high school, go to college and become a filmmaker. Nobody believed me when I said Clinton was destined for greatness and that his harsh beginnings, (being the son of a former homeless, drug addicted prostitute), would not change what I had planned in my mind to do, no matter how hard or crazy it seemed.

Despite the lack of support, the doubters and the naysayers, I dug down deep, hung on to my faith and my fighting spirit, and I pushed onward toward fulfilling Jake’s dream. Throughout the years, my journey has been rough and I’ve had many setbacks, like cancer. However, I’ve always had this quote I came up with planted in my mind that kept me going – “When life hits you hard, you have a choice. Either lie down and quit or stand up and fight.”

Today, I am a professional transformation speaker, author, fitness expert, and an award winning filmmaker. I am also the CEO of Jillian Bullock Enterprises, LLC, a film production company in Pennsylvania.

People often ask me what became of Clinton. I’m proud to say he is a very accomplished young man. He speaks several languages and is a world traveler. In May 2019, Clinton will receive his Ph.D. in Education from USC. More important, he is an outstanding, productive, successful, thoughtful, and kind person who does humanitarian work internationally and in his community.

I want people to know no matter how hard it is, what difficulties you are going through, or the naysayers whispering in your ears, don’t give up, don't quit, continue to push forward and excel. You are destined for a wonderful life as long as you believe it, have faith, and put in the work to make the changes that are necessary to become successful and obtain greatness. Don’t allow excuses to consume you. Don’t turn your back on your dreams and goals. And remember this – “Your past doesn’t dictate what your future will be.” #changes