Melynda Su Roland-Sanchez blinked as another tear rolled down her cheek, while she listened to a recording of a teenage girl withstanding a series of punches and slaps from her father.
Roland-Sanchez, 19, tried to wipe it away, but a cascade of tears followed.
She just let them come. There was no point in trying to hold it in.
Visiting the Lisa Project exhibit in the parking lot of Lodi's First Baptist Church was something Roland-Sanchez said she wanted to do.
Roland-Sanchez walked through the various rooms depicting child abuse stories — all but one of which were true tales from San Joaquin County. In her life, she has suffered her own challenges, her own nightmares, she said.
Roland-Sanchez was accompanied by her grandmother, Emily Roland-Sanchez, who rubbed her granddaughter's back as Roland-Sanchez quietly cried.
As the two traveled throughout the exhibit, their eyes widened and Emily Roland-Sanchez occasionally shook her head in bewilderment when she learned of how children lived in squalor or how parents physically, emotionally or sexually abused their sons or daughters.
How could anyone do that to a child?
Emily Roland-Sanchez is still in the midst of trying to help her granddaughter.
But as she walked through the Lisa Project portable, comforting her granddaughter when she cried or when she let out a quivering sigh, Emily later said realizing that help is out there and that help is part of the healing process.
"Everything just doesn't happen in a day," she said. "(Melynda Su) is capable ... she has so much potential. She is so smart. She has so much to offer."
By the end of the tour, Roland-Sanchez broke down. In the last room, a grown-up version of the little girl Roland-Sanchez had encountered in the first room of the exhibit told her tale of overcoming years of abuse.
Roland-Sanchez just shook her head back and forth and buried her face in her hands. Her grandmother pulled her to her shoulder.
"There is help out there for people like us. We feel as if it is the end of the world, and it's not," she said. "We think that it sucks to be us, that no one wants to listen, that no one wants to care. And that is not the case. It's not your fault ... and it only gets better from here."
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.