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This is the twenty-first profile in our Society Nine Storytellers series where badass female fighters across all sports, media and culture in our community share their definitions of femininity, strength and empowerment and discuss what they fight for.
Have a story to tell? Submit it here! Tell us who you are, a little bit about your journey and what you fight for – in life and sport.
When I was 12 until I was 16 years old I was physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by my stepfather. I had glass plates broken over my head, my hair pulled out, punched in the face for pronouncing a word wrong. I moved from hotel to hotel, state to state, and my stepfather would hide me under the hotel bed and a lot of times it was a tight squeeze, my nose would hit the mattress.
These are a few things that happened to me over the course of four years. But what affected me the most was the words that were spoken in my life. He would tell me, "Dawn you're stupid, a dimwitted white trash." He would keep me up all night until morning drilling this in my head! Until one night I couldn't take it anymore and I went to the bathroom, locked the door and starred in the mirror. I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to die, so I picked up a razor and slit my wrist. My stepfather started pounding on the door yelling at me to get out so I did and he saw blood running down my wrist. He grabbed me, shoved me up against the wall and with his nose to mine he yelled at me with a crazed look in his eyes.
"Dawn go ahead and kill yourself, all you are good for is to be barefoot and pregnant. You're better off dead than alive!" So to say his words have been stuck in my head ever since is an understatement; I almost let those words paralyze my life. I was afraid to try anything, afraid I would find out he was right. Until one day, I was laying in bed and I felt a warm presence fall on me. I felt God spoke to me that night not in a audible voice but spoke to my spirit and this is what I heard: "Dawn, enough! I created you for a purpose, you are precious, you are my workmanship, I love you! Your stepfather wanted to destroy you but I'm going to use you to bring hope and encouragement into people's lives."
I am a Christian and without my faith in Jesus I could not fight. My story would be different. God gives me strength and peace everyday to be able to wake up everyday with a smile.
My fight is this: to reject my past, to reject the negativity, to reject the lies so I can fully and completely walk unashamed with my head held high, knowing I am good enough and loved.
Because of that, my heart is filled with love and compassion for others. My heart feels other people's pain. I'll smile at you; I will hug you; I will pray for you; I will laugh with you, I'll cry with you. Whoever you are, just know you are not alone in your pain.
I am a champion of my struggle and so will you!! Have faith. Be strong, don't give up. You are loved. Fight for your life - YOU are worth it. The world needs to hear your story.
Dawn Soto is a proud single mom of two boys. She works as a supervisor in a dental office where she has loved her patients for 10 years now. She trains at the UFC Gym in Fullerton, CA where she fully enjoys pounding on the heavy bags! She aspires to be a inspirational speaker to encourage people to live their best life ever, and is in the process of writing a book.
Follow her on Instagram: @dawnsoto74