This is her real life story. One that has never been told. It is mostly about the power of the human spirit. It is not in detail, nor in its entirety. But a framework, an outline, a series of events to showcase the reality of childhood sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse is not an event in a child’s life, but rather the taking of a life. This story is about the life long ramifications it has. And about the breadth and depth of its effects on the spirit and life of victims.
The only way I can tell this story is in the third person. She protected me then, and I will protect her today.
I have never told her story of sexual abuse before. While the specifics of the story will be told, the intimate details will be withheld. I still have a tremendous need to protect her as you will see. I don’t think the missing details will take away from your ability to understand the impact of what really happened.
Since childhood sexual abuse is an epidemic in our society and actually around the world, I wanted to talk about the effects it has on a child at that moment, as well as throughout their life. I want to talk about what it does to the human spirit (whether a boy or a girl).
She needs you to read this with your own humanity, as a human being with a heart and soul that can hear and feel the depth and gravity of this reality. Please bear with her and most of all please bring your courage and compassion.
Please, she really has been hurt enough. So I ask that no more pain be thrown her way. If after this, you do not get it or understand, please just remain silent. She deserves at least that.
While it will be about her, it really is the voice of victimized children everywhere. I will tell her story, the story of a little girl, the place where it all began, and where it took her. I don’t think I could tell this any other way.
Let me start out by saying that today, in society, this issue is talked about. Children today can know what it is, what it is called, and that it is wrong.
When she was young, there was no name for what happened to her, she didn’t know what it was, she didn’t know what was happening to her. She didn’t know who the enemy was. Even men who fight a war know who the enemy is, they know what is happening, they have a name for it. But she didn’t have any context for what was happening.
She is the youngest of five children, with three sisters and a brother. Her oldest sister was already married at this time.
The sexual abuse started when she was about five years old and it lasted until she was around twelve on a continuous ongoing basis. It was by her brother-in-law. Her sister worked in the evenings and she was alone with him and their children until late at night. She was, at such a very young age, supposed to help care for their children. She also had to be around him at other times, as if it did not happen at all. He was a part of her family.
She couldn’t tell anyone. She couldn’t destroy her sister’s life or their children’s. She, as a child, had to protect everyone else around her.
This is not like someone stealing a product off the shelf in a store where it can be paid for and replaced with the next shipment. It forever changes her life. It never really stops, and as you will see, the ramifications are endless.
It was a paralyzing experience, and in the most literal sense. This is not an analogy. It has the same feeling as laying on a stretcher with a gas mask coming down over your face and you disappear, only you don’t fall asleep. She knows it was happening, she knows she was trapped, she knows she was paralyzed, she knows she couldn’t even speak, much less scream. There is no way to process it.
She has fragments of frames of the experience in her conscious memories, and a few whole frames, but she was lost in it and by it. She doesn’t have any memory of even crying about it then. That was to come much, much later. What she does know is that she disappeared from the rest of her life too. She was numb, she watched life happening around her, but she was not a part of it.
The memories of her childhood are also only fragments of frames and a few fuller frames of certain instances. There is no fluidity to her memories. She is amazed when she hears others write or tell stories of their childhood and their families, of camping, vacationing, being together, eating meals together. They don’t exist for her. This is something she still doesn’t fully grasp: the loss of her life, her history. They are gone forever. There is no getting them back.
She was a good little girl; polite, kind, and tender with everyone. She was a “perfect” child. She did not complain or do anything that would draw attention to herself. She was invisible in her own life. The consequences of this were that she was the one who everyone asked to do things for them, because she didn’t complain. She always did what she was told.
Three years into this, her father died suddenly from a stroke. She was eight years old and alone with him at the time. The abuse went on before, during , and after this event. There was no mourning this loss. Life went on as if it never happened with every trace of his existence removed from her home, not even a picture remained. No one noticed she was hurting from that either. It was as if she were invisible.
The deepest loss, the one so raw even to this day, is the loss of her father, for several reasons. He loved her, it felt as though he was the only person who loved her, and she lost him! That is equivalent to losing everything at eight. And because not only was she alone with him when he fell, but while he was falling she reached her arms out to catch him and drew them back in, and then watched his head hit the table, the chair, and then the floor. She didn’t catch him! The guilt is enormous, bigger than life itself. She knows logically in her head that she was very small and he was very big and that she would have ended up underneath him. But her heart cannot process the fact that she did NOT try!
This is hard to even say right now. No one knows this in its entirety or in its context, no one knew then. Not her mother, sisters, brother, no one. But now she has just told you. An eight year old cannot process this. There is no place to put the guilt.
She did love her father, she did, she adored him! Please believe her when she says she loved her father desperately! She would wait at the front door for him to come home from work. She would sit beside him and hold the spool of material as he crocheted oval rugs. She would fall asleep in his arms and he would carry her to bed.
She just realized as this is being written that the only real memories she has are of him. But she didn’t save him!!! And there is no going back and there is no getting him back. She hopes God can forgive her, she hopes he can forgive her, and she hopes you can forgive her, because she cannot forgive herself!
Please keep this in the forefront of your mind as she shares more of her story, it is crucial to the understanding of the power behind what happened to her later and why it happened. This one event may have had more of a crippling effect than the abuse itself.
To an eight year old this is equivalent to killing him, to letting him die! She cannot describe to you the weight she carries for this, the raw emotions that surface at the very thought of her father. Please believe her, she loved him, she did. How much can be expected of an eight year old? She is crippled by this inside. It keeps the pain raw beyond belief. If she could go back and do it all over again, she would try, she would never draw her arms back. She would save him.
This, coupled with the abuse that was going on at the same time, was a game changer in her sense of self and self worth. If she was gone before, she is completely gone now. She no longer believed she deserved to be treated well. She became even more powerless in her life. These two experiences play a crucial role in her inability to protect herself at all in life from anyone, to even know that she deserved to be protected. On some level she believed, knew, that she deserved whatever difficulties life brought her way. And it did, in spades.
Immediately after his death, her mother went to California alone for a month. Her mother then started going out to bars during weeknights. Shortly after this her mother found a boyfriend who picked her up every Friday evening and brought her back on Sunday evening. This went on for the rest of her life at home and beyond. She was abandoned by her mother too, but no one notices that either. She really lost her father and mother at the same time.
After her father died, when her mother was gone a lot, her older brother often watched her and her two sisters. As soon as her mother left, he would send them to their room and they couldn’t come out. There were times when he would line them up in the living room while he sat on the couch in front of them with his friends and every time they blinked their eyes, he would hit them, while he and his friends laughed. She disappeared inside. She was trained to take it, to be silent. She was no different than the room, the bed, the chair. She knew that since she was five.
There is always anxiety in social gatherings. School was torture. There are memories of walking down the hallways, her eyes watery with people just passing her by. She was there, but not a part of what was going on. Life itself becomes an out of body experience. She became detached from everything.
How the sexual abuse ended from her brother-in-law was actually as traumatic, if not even more so, than the abuse itself in what it did to her self worth.
She did not have normal teenage years. She never made her own mistakes, never fought for her own individualism. There was no voice inside of her, no desires. One of the most difficult questions to answer has always been, what do you want: for your birthday, Christmas, to eat… Terror, how would she know? It doesn’t matter what she wants. He made that very clear at the age of five.
She never dated as a teenager. She knew what men were capable of and she was afraid. The cost was way too high. She knows this part of her story is a different experience for each victim. Some become promiscuous as we were taught our use to this world from a very young age. For many there is no such thing as consent. We learned that we were no different than the room, the bed, the chair. In this area she feels blessed that her fear protected her for at least this part of her life. She believes the love of her father for eight years helped save her during her early teenage years.
When she was seventeen she met a twenty one year old man, just out of the Marine Corps, at her church. He was a friend of the pastor’s son-in-law. She doesn’t know why, but for the first time ever, she felt safe. She married, had children, lost children.
Her husband became a minister and their life looked good from the outside. However, as the children grew, he became physically abusive to each of them, including almost taking her life on several occasions. He beat them all. Again, there was nowhere inside of her to process any of this. She was like the room, the bed, the chair.
She was paralyzed and disappeared. She worked hard at maintaining the appearance of normal to the outside world. And she did an amazing job. No one knew, and she was alone. She did not have what it took to save herself much less her children. Everyone loved her husband, they never would have guessed what was going on in their home, behind closed doors. They didn’t know who he was.
In her early thirties, she lost her mother. She couldn’t reconcile the love with the abandonment or the lack of protecting her. Because when she was five or six she remembers crying and pleading with her mother not to make her go to her sister’s house. But she had to go anyway, over and over again. And she remembers begging her mother not to leave her after her father died, but she left anyway, over and over again. She couldn’t process these mixed emotions of her dying or her death.
It was caring for her children, their need for her, that helped her stay busy, hold it together, she lived for them. By the time her children were grown up and in high school, it all came flooding in all at once. She never knew that the most dangerous thing she could do was to ask for help.
If what had happened before this was a nightmare, what was to come was unthinkable. How could anyone possibly hurt her after all this?
By this time her husband was out of the ministry. They attended a church that became like an extended family. Their friends were there. She actually felt as though she belonged. So she sought help from the minister of their church. She knew him well and there was already a trust established. Who wouldn’t trust their minister, what safer place could she go?
In seeking help from her minister, he got to see her pain, the struggle. But he somehow cleverly attached himself to the loss of her father and then instead of helping her, revealed his desire for her. She was powerless. She could not fight back, she could not even hurt someone who hurts her.
Somehow leaving would have been like missing an opportunity to save her father, in a psychological way that she cannot explain. She can only speak of this now with hindsight, she had no sight then.
Here she was, a grown woman, who was sexually abused as a child, physically, mentally and emotionally abused by her husband, and experienced all those losses. She was every bit as powerless now as she was when she was five.
Eventually she did, against all odds, break free. However, she made the mistake of telling someone what happened, even though she was trained that the one thing you never do is tell.
Before she knew what happened, she lost the church, her friends, she lost everything. They were concerned about saving the church and helping to heal the pastor. She was who they were angry with. All for asking for help. There is no way she could have seen any of this coming. They didn’t know the power her father’s loss had in her life or how he used that to manipulate her. She became the scapegoat for everyone, she was the dispensable one.
One person who did reach out to her briefly was a woman minister who also suffered childhood sexual abuse and had received help from a trained therapist. She assured her that he was trained and safe and pleaded with her to see him for help. This woman assured her that this therapist could help her. The woman called him and set up the arrangement for her to start getting the professional help she needed.
He had years of experience helping women who were victimized, his wife even worked for the Rape Crisis Center. He taught psychology at a college. They both had devoted their lives to helping women victims. She was finally in safe hands.
While seeing him, she gained the courage to leave her abusive husband and go to college. This was all great, except now she was even more vulnerable than she was before. He was very trained, unlike her pastor, he was a professional. He said all the right things. He gained her trust, but she never really got anywhere with the help part.
He was spending much more time building trust, which meant an attachment. This dragged on for about two years. One day, when they walked into his office, she walked across the room and turned around to sit down. He was closing the door behind him and she saw his hand still on the door knob and heard the click of the lock on the door being turned.
This was a private office and no one else was in the building at the time. She was trapped like a caged animal. Paralyzed! There was no difference now than there was when she was five.
There is no way this could be happening again. That woman had assured her. He was supposed to help her. This was beyond humiliating. There was no way out for her. She was not only trapped physically, but mentally and emotionally. She had already lost so much and I cannot begin to explain to you what it felt like to lose yet another deep connection she had made in her life and to lose it in this way.
Over and over again they looked into her losses, the abuse, and without regard for her, she was wounded again.
He was an even bigger predator than the pastor. He was skilled, only not in the way that was to ever help her. She was paralyzed. She was no different than the room, the table, the chair. She knew that quite well by now.
This is all so hard for her to understand, she can only hope that each of you can have some sense of why, that each one of these experiences weren’t just the abuse, the violation of her body, her soul, but they were in some insane way, like losing a connection to her father all over again.
She learned at age five she had no power, no voice, no control over her own body, much less her life.
What happened to her as an adult has been harder to process than what happened as a child. In her head she can understand what happened to the child, but what happened to the adult is confusing, humiliating, embarrassing, heart wrenching. The harm from this did not end here. People can understand a child being abused, but many don’t understand the life long effects it has, the power it takes away. Especially when left alone with it all.
Others who were around at the time, family, friends, maybe even you, do not get it. They can’t see it. They didn’t have the context or the story in the way you have it. They didn’t care to. But she couldn’t deal with all that was happening to her and at the same time fight for people to get it, to understand. She feels reviled by all, with no way to defend herself.
After this she was treated for PTSD. She has spent years struggling with panic attacks and anxiety. After it was all over she felt as though she was recovering from a cult, trying to regain her own thoughts and feelings again. It has been a long journey.
The whole point of telling any of this is to drive home the point that child sexual abuse never ends, not when it all goes down like this. She weeps to the core of her being just trying to write this. It is one of the biggest risks she has ever taken. One she never thought she could. She can only hope that she gave you enough insight to get it. To really get it.
This story, her story, she believed was one that could not be told. There is way too much to misunderstand. She doesn’t fully understand either. She can only hope that you will.
These experiences have driven her into a very silent life. She moved away, to the other side of the country, fifteen years ago. It is incredible the loss, the sorrow, the weight the human spirit can contain. Probably the hardest part is the misunderstandings, the deep loneliness, the utter loss of self. It really is way too much for one soul to experience, much less carry.
This is the first time she is seeing her life with the pieces knit together in this way. This is all very difficult, but it happened and it is her life.
Children who go through this are taught to protect those who hurt them at all costs. It is crazy, but it is their reality.
She has never had an attachment to things. They simply do not matter. She is fascinated with other people’s desires and needs. The thought that they cannot live without getting what they want out of life. That is what she has been forced to do. She is just now discovering what it is that she likes, wants, needs. These are foreign concepts.
She never can fight back, if she does, she gets slammed back into her place, of existing for someone else. She existed for everyone else, never for herself. That was ingrained into the very fiber of her being.
Throughout her life, there has been a lot of anxiety and fear. Life itself is terrifying. Anything could happen. Someone, anyone could make her disappear at any given moment. Her brother-in-law never really went away. He just changed names and faces.
She doesn’t have the feeling of safety with a police officer or a doctor. She doesn’t believe they will help her or protect her. She hasn’t had enough experiences to know she can be protected. If people she knows and loves could harm her, she does not want to find out what a stranger is capable of.
It is not like a broken leg that mends. It steals a life, it steals memories, it sets the stage for a potential lifetime of abuse, because with her innocence goes every sense of herself: her voice, her ability to fight back, to defend herself, to save herself. With every heartache and act of cruelty she becomes paralyzed, she disappears from her own life.
It doesn’t end as a child, it carries through to the rest of their life. And she couldn’t save herself as an adult anymore than she could as a child. It was the child inside her that was being harmed again. She didn’t have any resources to stop what was happening. She never received help.
She wrote this for all the children out there that need to be saved. She did it for anyone you may know who has gone through something like this. It does not end. If you can save a child, you really are saving their life, and potentially saving them from a lifetime of abuse. Child sexual abuse doesn’t end with the one violation, it sets children up for a lifetime of abuse that they are often too paralyzed to free themselves from. Especially in a world that doesn’t get it.
She wants to state that this does not have to be a life sentence for your child if it does happen to them. Her story would have been very different if someone would have saved her, listened to her, believed her, let her feel and tell. And if they had felt her pain and told her it was NOT her fault.
She hopes she was able to convey this in a way that brings a deeper understanding of why we must save our children. We teach our children to be cautious of strangers, when more often than not it is those you know and trust that harm them. I am not saying that everyone you trust will harm your child, only that if they are harmed it is more likely going to be from someone you do know and trust.
If someone would have saved her, they wouldn’t have just saved her from childhood abuse, they would have saved her from a lifetime of abuse.
What is really amazing is that she has fought through all of this, and has fought very hard to not lose the best parts of herself while trying to learn to protect herself. All of these experiences take away your ability to trust yourself. She has learned that her gut instincts never lie. She is learning that when someone shows you who they are, to believe them the first time.
This is her story of the human spirit’s ability to endure immeasurable pain, loss, and sorrow, of a life that was raped from her. And it is her story of the human spirit’s ability to fight, and against all odds, to survive!
Not only did she never receive help,
but all of this took away
her ability to ever get help,
and so she writes!