It Happened ….
It happened between the ages of 14-18 when my mother married my abuser. It slowly progressed. At first, he would not let me sleep with a bra on because “it would cause poor circulation”. Then he would not let me shower with the bathroom door closed because “it would cause mold on the bathroom ceiling.” He said his little finger did not have feeling in it so it was ok that it was between my legs when he would tuck me in at night. He was the first to give me alcohol. He was the first person to put their tongue in my mouth, the first person to lay on top of me. He worked nights, and watched porn in the mornings and would wake me up. He would hold my hand in public as if I were his property and conquest; I hated it.
He normalized all the touching. “Oh that’s just how he is” my Mom would say when I complained about being pulled down on his lap. He does not mean any harm; you just do not know what it is like to have a loving Dad. No one knew I hated being around him and everything about him. And at the same time, he was family, he was everywhere and involved in every aspect of my life. He would fixed my flat tire; he gave me money for gas, and other normal Dad gestures. I felt guilty and ungrateful for hating him.
Everyone in town knew him. He was a volunteer fire fighter, rescue squad volunteer, and active in the band boosters. He was friends with all the town police officers.
It Was ….
It was his temper and complete control over the family that kept me paralyzed with fear. I had witnessed his violence against my mother and my stepbrother. His fuse was short and it was hard to tell what would set him off. The community and public knew a God fearing, slow talking mountain man from TN, but at home, he was different.
It Made Me Feel...
I always wondered what was wrong with me. He told me he was trying to “fix my hang-ups”. I did not know what he meant by that. I felt alone, like an outcast. No one could help. No one seemed to notice.
I dreamed of killing him with a chain saw, my fist, a drinking straw. My dreams were angry, and I would wake up frightened. I because hyper-vigilant. I took inventory of everything around me, people, objects, escape routes. I developed the ability to gauge every mood in the room and a quick sense of humor. I kept busy, housework, schoolwork, work. I was excused from being at home to work and when I was not at school, I tried to be at work.
The first person I told was my first serious high-school boyfriend. He was very support, he believed me. We were 16; neither of us knew what to do about it. By that time the majority of the physical abuse had stopped. I was still reminded that he had control by slaps and grab of my butt or forced to sit on his lap and hug him, but being tucked in at night had stopped. He had already taken my virginity. The mental abuse and control never stopped.
I eventually told my Mother. I was in my 20’s. She did not believe me and we did not speak for 3 years that time.
Therapist and bodywork have helped me manage PTSD. Severing ties with my Mother and my abuser 7 years ago helped me break the cycle of abuse.
Telling my story and breaking the silence gave the opportunity for others in the small NC town to come forward and share their experience with my abuser. I have an amazing group of supportive friends who have listened, cried, laughed, and shared with me. Volunteering for a sexual assault program, helping women at the hospital after they have experienced a sexual assault, has helped me use my experience in a positive compassionate way. Educating myself about pedophiles has helped me understand that what I experienced was not my fault. I did not ask for it. I did not condone it. My partner. She is supportive, loving, and patient. She has provided me a safe space and comfort as I began my journey of healing from my experience. I started the Facebook page Selfies of Survivors. I wanted to go public with my truth, and provide a space for others to do the same. https://www.facebook.com/SelfiesOfSurvivors/
I Dream… What would you like to see done or changed to better protect children, support survivors, and bring offenders to justice? Is there anything you do or support to address these issues? I dream that time limits to bring pedophiles to justice are removed as it sometimes takes years to remember (if you can) and deal with the abuse. Schools need additional resources to teach body safety at a young age and counselors training in this specific field to reach out to kids exhibiting signs of abuse. Women need more support to enable them to leave unhealthy situations when their children are in harm’s way.
I dream that all states will pass the law allowing abuser filmed by the abused without their knowledge, to be used in court as evidence.
I dream of a day when churches, sports organization, clubs, and schools become free of pedophile participation because pedophiles face prosecuted quickly and without mercy. I dream of a day when community members will rally around the victim and turn their back on the abuser.
I want other survivors to know that taking care of your mental health is important to healing. Processing the complex intricacies of sexual abuse with a therapist will help you understand why it happens, why your feelings are valid, how you can move past the abuse. Be patient with yourself.
I am also a firm believer that removing the abuser from your life and creating firm boundaries is paramount to healing. If your abuser is in the family, those relationships are hard to walk away from but once you are outside and able to look at the picture as a whole, you start loving and respecting yourself. You can see how toxic the situation is. You start opening yourself up to new conversations, new holiday traditions, new friends you can call family, and a new life. The abuse is not the end of your story.
I want other survivors to tell their truth to someone, or everyone. Expose the abuser, talk about it, and confront it. Tell your community who they are. Break the silence. You are stronger than you think you are.
I want people not directly affected by abuse to know that it is more common then they think. You know someone that has experienced sexually abuse. The most important thing they can say to a survivor is “I believe you”.
This blog post is copyrighted and cannot be republished without the expressed written consent of the author and The Mama Bear Effect.