When I was 22-years old, I came out of hiding.
I stepped out of the darkness of the sexual abuse victim’s closet, and into the light.
I can’t say I haven’t looked back, because with something like childhood sexual abuse it’s impossible not to, but I can say my future has been a lot brighter because of my willingness, to tell the truth.
With people like Josh Duggar and Jared from Subway in the news recently, the newest string of celebrity sexual predators, I’ve decided there’s no better time than the present to keep telling my story. And with a 16-month old daughter, and possibly another baby on the way, the time really is NOW. There are other people like me who need my strength. There are other people like me, and, frankly, I need their strength too.
I remember the night I first told someone.
It was my best friend of 15 years.
We were hung over college students, standing on the balcony of our second story apartment in Honolulu, the trade winds tossing their way through the giant Monkey Pod tree in front of us, like a herd of dancing ghosts. It was hot and magical and almost eerie, like most Hawaii evenings are.
Exhausted from the wild night that came before, one of closing the club down and Jack In The Box runs, we weren’t going anywhere.We wore our pajamas, smoked cigarettes (I gag at the thought of smoking now), and talked.
We drank cheap wine out of red plastic cups and had just finished off a pizza when after over 15 years of silence I just couldn’t take it anymore. Whether is was the hangover or being a thousand miles away from my childhood home or finally having the maturity to speak out, I couldn’t keep it in for another moment.
So I took a gigantic gulp of wine, and I told her.
I told her that between ages 2 and 5 years old, my father raped me, repeatedly. The memories were vivid then, and sadly they’re just as vivid now. There’s something about a childhood trauma like this one that you just can’t forget.
That same night I told my mother, who separated from my father for entirely different reasons around the time the abuse stopped when I entered kindergarten.
I’d woken her up because it was midnight in California, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Are you sure?”
I’d say to add that to the list of things never to say to an abuse victim, but I don’t blame her for asking. Even considering that your ex-husband would rape your toddler aged daughter is beyond comprehension for most.
And then, a few days later, I confronted the monster. Via email.
Email was new-ish back then in 2002, and I remember thinking how thankful I was for it. There was something about email that gave me the courage to push “send,” something that hand writing a letter, slipping it into an envelope, and popping it into the nearest mailbox, just couldn’t inspire in me. I think I still have that email somewhere, in the archives of an old yahoo email account, but I can’t bring myself to reread it, to go back to that moment when I trembled with fear, when the knot in my stomach was so big it felt like a tumor that would most definitely kill me.
Because there’s just too much I wish I had said. There’s just too much I want to keep saying.
After that, something I didn’t expect happened. He admitted it. Not to me, oh no, I made it clear I never, ever, wanted to see his face or hear his voice again.
Instead, he told my step mom. And my brother. And my mom. Probably hoping that by stepping into the light himself, I’d somehow be able to absolve him, that he’d be unburdened of this sin of all sins as if the act of confessing would cleanse him.
But it wasn’t enough.
So I sued him.
But we settled before a lawsuit was even filed.
My attorney and family convinced me that a criminal suit would have been too painful, with forays into my sexual history, drug use, and moral character. The money I got then is long gone, but the pain remains, more real than ever.
Every time my daughter smiles. Every time she laughs. And even when she cries. I just can’t imagine how anyone could destroy her, in the way he destroyed me. How anyone could be so selfish? So wrong? So disgusting?
In hindsight, I wish I had made sure he was placed on the National Sex Offender registry. The lengthy court battle would have been totally worth it. I wish I had been strong enough to write about this then, to tell the world, to make sure he’d never hurt anyone else ever again. For the last 30-years, he’s remained free to do what he wishes, without anyone looking over his shoulder. And you know what they say about child rapists…
Because that’s why I told in the first place. I wanted to try to protect my then 4-year old half-sister.
My father had remarried and had two other children, children I have no contact with except for a few pictures I see on Facebook, a few glossy glimpses into their lives via my step mom’s Facebook profile. (My dad is never pictured, because if he was, I’d have looked away a loooong time ago).
In many ways, SHE is the most shocking thing of all.
Even after learning that my father raped me, his own daughter, she stayed with him. My stepmom stayed married to a man I view as the scariest and worst kind of monster.
To this day, I have questions, concerns, and regrets. To this day, I wonder HOW? Why? How could she live with a man like this?
I composed an email to her recently that I didn’t send. As my brother and sister come of age, him almost 18 and her 16, I wonder if she plans to tell them why my other brother and I don’t come around, why we don’t send presents, why we never call to say hello.
Do they plan to let them find out on their own after a google marathon? Afterall, they’re only a few clicks away from reading this blog.
Someday when they’re sitting in a coffee shop, waiting for a friend, wondering what happened to that older half-sister of theirs?
Do they plan to sit them down? To have a talk?
Or do they hope my story will die under a pile of denial somewhere? A family secret festering like an infected boil.
Also in the email I haven’t sent, I tell my stepmom about my truth movement, my healing quest, the one I’m calling Mommy Wolf.
My goal with Mommy Wolf is to become a resource for other moms, who like me, have survived child abuse and now have children of their own. I want to create a website/blog community and a private Facebook group. My name and my story will be all over it, the truth will be easy to find. Support, resources, and inspiration. Breaking the cycle. THAT’S WHAT IT’S ABOUT. This can’t continue. It has to stop. Child abuse HAS TO STOP.
Having a baby girl of my own has brought up so many emotions and fears and anxieties, that I buried myself, with varying degrees of success over the past twenty something years. I know there must be others who crave the resources to “protect their children and heal themselves.” There must be others who desperately want to heal, to learn, to connect, and to share fears and ideas with other women who understand.
With that said, I ask you to share this story with any moms you know who may have experienced child abuse, sexual or otherwise. We survivors need to stick together. We survivors need to strengthen our voice. Right now I don’t even know how to go about connecting with other survivors who are also moms. This is a start, though, right?
In the meantime, I think my stepmom has a right to know about my plans so she can prepare her children for what they may find on the internet.
And then there’s my biggest fear of all.
What if coming forward so many years ago wasn’t enough to spare them? What if they were hurt too? While I hope that my stepmom protected them, I can’t be sure. And that thought breaks my heart.
What would YOU do? Would you send the email? How would you go about healing the pain of the past?