Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse: It’s Time To Speak Up

Horizonhawaii

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?

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96 comments

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  1. cassiedash

    You are so brave and strong, Steph! The honesty in this post made my heart ache for you and for every child who has ever had to go through that, my childhood self included. I have a 4-year-old and I have a nearly 2-year-old and I look at them and can’t imagine a child, any child but especially one so small, going through that. I’m so sorry.

    I still have trouble telling my story. I have written about it briefly on my blog, but have only ever told four people IRL and have never spoken to my abuser (see! I can’t even bring myself to say who it is!) about it — partly because I’m too scared to return to that part of my past, but mostly because he is still a very real presence in my life. I commend you for speaking up and for seeking out ways that you can help others.

    As for what to do about your half-siblings…I have no idea. That’s such a hard one. Myself, I think I would be tempted to run the other way and hope they were never victimized and let their mom deal with it if they come across this blog or anything else. BUT I wonder if the “right” thing to do is the exact opposite, to speak with their mother and warn her of what’s out there and let her handle it from there? It’s also possible that there really is no right answer, and the thing to do is whatever gives you the most peace. I don’t know, but I hope whatever you decide, it lets you breathe easy and know just how incredible you are. xo

    Liked by 4 people

    • Steph Mignon

      Aw, this comment brought tears to my eyes. Because it really is hard. In starting this journey of opening up, I realize that there is so much I will have to relive with each story I hear, with each broken heart I encounter. It’s hard. Really truly hard. And I don’t blame you AT ALL for not wanting to bring this up with your abuser, let alone others in your life or family. For many of us, it’s just about survival, and sometimes that means keeping it private and quiet. Hopefully, through this journey I can find a happy medium and connect with other sisters like you who, through their shoulder and their stories, even if just shared semi-privately, can help give me the strength to carry on. XO right back at you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hopingonhope

    I am so sorry, I cannot believe someone can stoop so low to rape a toddler. My blood is boiling.
    I cannot imagine how it feels because in any childs mind daddy’s lap is the safest spot on earth.
    I wish this never happened, but since it did, I just hope and pray you were his only victim.
    So sorry. hugs.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Steph Mignon

      Thanks, friend. It really sucks. But if anything, it will help me to be very aware of strange signs I notice in my children and others so that I can speak up when necessary. It’s still breaks my heart to this day, but at least I can try to help others! Thank you for weighing in and for the support.

      Like

  3. amommasview

    I’m always shocked to hear that people like him can go on with their lives while the victims are scared for life. I’m shocked that women stick to them although they did the unthinkable and are clearly sick. And they might do it again. I can just not understand it. Go for it! Do what you think is the right thing to do.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. blondieaka

    As a mum who has been there and vigorously defended her daughter I think if you need to do what you do as part of a healing process then do what you need to..your mum( I have no words) But very many thoughts which I will not air here..you can message me privately if you want, up to you . You are a brave lady 🙂

    Like

  5. George

    I think it’s impossible to know what any of us would do today after living life with the memories you have and the people who were responsible for this atrocity or who condoned it by staying with this sick individual. I wouldn’t second guess or question for a moment anything you decided to do because I didn’t live and have no way of comprehending the pain you’ve had in your life. I’d support anything that makes you feel better, protects the next person or brings his past actions to light. I’m sorry you’ve had to live with this pain but I’m glad you’ve spoken out and exposed him for what he is and has been. You’re a very brave person.

    Like

  6. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

    Hi Steph, thank you so much for coming out so strong with this. I’m heart-sick for what you went through, especially since I’ve seen the results far too many times. Before I became disabled, I was an expert in medical forensics in child sexual abuse. I saw babies as young as four months, raped by their fathers or their mothers’ boyfriends. “Look for the male factor,” we used to say.

    I’m amazed that you are able to bring these things into consciousness. It’s common for kids that young to dissociate and not be able to recall the rapes, which ends up coming out as PTSD and stuff like that, later in life. It’s really good that you remember, and have taken, and continue to take action. I think Mommy Wolf is wonderful!

    I have a stake in this too, personally as well as professionally. My son was sexually abused by his father. The abuse was discovered by his first grade teacher, and there was no telling how long it had been going on. He has stuffed those memories, and has had a very hard time of it. When I found out, I wanted to kill the bastard. So much!!! But I didn’t want my son to be an orphan, so I took a job in a different part of the country.

    Today, a blogging friend of mine came out about her own childhood rape, and I think she would really appreciate reading your story, and being strengthened by your strength. So I am going to reblog. Thank you, and I wish you great success in your incredibly important work. If I can ever be of help in any way, please call on me. Blessings–Laura

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steph Mignon

      Laura! I felt that same “kill the bastard” anger when you spoke of your son. HORRIBLE! And so difficult for you as his mother. I can only imagine how that must have felt learning that someone you were supposed to trust MORE THAN ANYONE abused your precious child. Interestingly, a first grade teacher had concerns about my family situation as well and even visited our home to discuss them with my mother. At the time, they chalked up the emotional and learning issues I was having as symptoms of my parent’s pending “divorce.” I wish I could find her to thank her for taking notice and to tell her that she was right to trust her gut that something was amiss.
      Your comment has made me realize that Mommy Wolf should also provide solace for parents like you, whose children have been victims. People like you have so much knowledge and hope to share. I’d love to have your help with a few guest posts if you’d be so willing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

        Wow, your teacher went to your house? That’s amazing. And yet you still did not get the help you needed…Nowadays teachers are mandated to report suspected abuse…But the child either has to disclose, or there has to be physical evidence, for Child Protective to be able to intervene. My child refused to disclose, and had no physical evidence, but he had had serious behavioral problems starting at age two, easily chalked up to my being unavailable due to working 120 hours a week and being physically laid up with spinal injuries. We had him with a child psychologist from 2 1/2 on, so luckily the psychologist was convinced he was being abused, and recommended the “geographic solution.” That too had its problems, but at least I knew he was safe.

        I’m honored that you’ve asked me to guest post. What topics are you thinking about?

        Like

      • secretangel

        Your stories just break my heart! So many children are abused by the very parents that should be protecting and nurturing them. Even professionals miss signs in their own families because of trusting the other parent to never hurt their own child. But so many of these abusers get away with their actions, only to repeat these offenses to other innocent children. Please continue to speak up. It is only by bringing attention to the huge problem of child abuse that laws can be changed and more children can be protected. I was sickened by the recent stories that have surfaced for these stories are only an indication of the huge problem that goes unreported and hidden behind closed doors as more children become wounded by the perverse actions of others. May God bless you and orchestrate your steps as you become a voice for the voiceless.

        Like

  7. mother wintermoon

    From one childhood sexual abuse survivor to another….may we go from strength to strength. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story. I do not have words big enough to encompass the depth and breadth of your courage. Much love…yours in healing, MW

    Like

  8. theunexpectedtrip

    I am absolutely enraged and agog and amazed by you and just stammering …what the hell. Monster. It is unfathomable. So powerless against a monster you lived with—that’s a nightmare. I experienced abuse from my sixth grade teacher when I was 12 that shaped the rest of my life in ways I only began to realize in my 30s. I’m sure there is a connection to my IF history. It led to reenactments until I was 36…..and finally broke the cycle. Thank you for coming out(. My story is on my blog somewhere….)

    Like

    • Steph Mignon

      Somehow I think I missed that story of yours, but am going to go look for it. And I can so related to being caught in a destructive cycle with relationships because of what we’ve been through. I also agree, and even think there’s research on, how sexual abuse can impact a victim’s reproductive health. If you’re at all interested in helping with Mommy Wolf, let me know. I can’t do it alone. But, regardless, just having your support here and knowing that others have made it to the other side (over all healthy and happy, with some bumps in the road) gives me so much hope for those still suffering in silence.

      Like

  9. D. Wallace Peach

    People never used to talk about the sexual abuse of children. Children suffered in silence and the perpetrators continued to abuse. The horrible abuse of children clearly continues. This topic needs airing; it needs to come out of the closet, and it does so partly when victims speak up. You are so brave to reach out and educate, to think about others who are at risk. You will inspire others to speak up, find their voices, and heal. Hopefully those who pretend it isn’t happening will also find their voices. Zero tolerance. Bless you.

    Like

  10. sonofabeach96

    I will never understand why spouses stay in relationships with a users, to themselves or their children. There’s plenty of info out there about co-dependency and such. But it still makes no sense.

    Like

      • sonofabeach96

        My dad wasn’t a monster, just absent. He moved away, 8 hours, after they divorced. Mom and I bounced around for years til she moved us in with G. That’s when the abuse began. Not to me necessarily, but to her. It was so dysfunctional, culminating in the car window being punched out in an explosion of shattered glass as we were driving away. I was 17 and got my first apartment shortly after that. Mom never went back there, but continued to bounce around for years after that. It sucked for sure, and I never understood why she kept herself in that kind of situation.

        Like

  11. Amb

    I admire your courage. I think Wolf Mom would be a great place for those of us who do/will struggle with being an abuse survivor and a parent. Thanks for your bravery!

    Like

  12. Unconfirmed Bachelorette

    You are so brave to speak out. To not hide the truth. My sister’s husband molested their daughter. Repeatedly over many years, until she was 15, when she spoke up to a school counselor. CPS investigated. He wasn’t prosecuted. No one outside my sister’s immediate family knew. Until my niece told me about it, eight years after the last time it happened. She was living with me at the time. She was sketchy about the details. Understandably. She started therapy when she was living with me. But then her family got angry with me. For not keeping things swept under the rug. The most infuriating and perplexing thing, my sister stayed with him. She’s with him to this day. I asked her why, and she said, “Because I love him.” She implied that he had been molested by a family member himself. And I suppose she thinks this excuses what he did to their daughter. I didn’t speak to my sister for years when I found out. But then both my brothers and father died in quick succession (within eleven months), and I had no choice but to interact with her and my brother-in-law at funerals and all the other family gatherings that have happened since. My mother, who is in poor health, has just me and my sister now, and so I’ve set aside my disgust with my sister and her husband. For now, anyway. But it eats away at me. It’s so surreal. My sister and both her daughters (and their husbands) pretend like it never happened. I just can’t go through life pretending along with them. When my mom’s gone, I’m back to the estrangement.

    Like

  13. Risty

    Thank you for sharing. You are wonderful, brave and very strong.. I am a victim for sexual abuse too. I wrote on my blog, share to twitter and facebook. But I didn’t report him yet. I am still angry and sad when i tell about this.. I got signed confession from him but I didn’t do anything yet.. big hug for you ❤

    Like

    • Steph Mignon

      Risty, you are strong too! It is great that you are finding the courage to speak out in your own way. Confronting the abuser is truly the most difficult task of all though. Good luck to you and please let me know if I can support you in any way!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Risty

        not strong as I want right now, I am still crying when i am talking about this, and feel much anger inside. But I am sure I will be fine soon, that’s my first priority now

        Like

      • Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

        Risty, I am so glad to see you here, and so glad that you are speaking up and not just letting this creep run over you. It’s great that you got a confession out of him! Tell me, in your country, how is it for women who go to the police about being sexually abused? I know that in some countries the woman herself can be punished. Is this a problem in your country?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Risty

        It’s little bit difficult here when we report directly to police, regarding corruption etc. But we have Non-governmental organization (we call it LSM). They can help very well.
        The problem about my case is I am not ready to face many questions and remembering this guy again. It’s like playing with my own emotions. Last night my friend called me and asked about this again, i was crying again and feel so angry. I am not ready to leave my work for police interrogation, because it will need more time.
        My first priority is making myself move on and Trauma recovery. Wish me luck, Laura.
        I was talking with people, and some told me that sexual abuse happened to them also. They didn’t tell anybody. They told me when i told them. Maybe I will write about that n my blog.
        Thanks a lot for your support<3

        Like

      • Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

        Risty, I know that going over the whole thing with strangers is very traumatic, but I must share with you that I know from my own (very many) experiences with rape, that the longer you wait, the less likely you are to report it. Also the authorities will want to know why the delay. The trauma of reporting will actually help you also, because it will empower you, and it will actually reduce the amount of time it takes to get over it, the nightmares and all. If you do have a supportive agency that would help a lot, and if you can bring a friend to help you, that will help too. I wish I was there to go with you and hold your hand! But you will of course have to do what feels right for you.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. ashualec

    Child abuse is horrible but what makes it worst is that it comes from the parent itself. I saw a movie ‘Bliss’ which was based on the same.

    Someone has to be so sick in mind to do it with a child and sickest to do it with his own child.

    Uff

    Healing and blessings to you

    Liked by 1 person

  15. idioglossiablog

    You are an amazing person! I applaud the fact that you are so committed to helping others. I personally believe that as sick as the abusers are, the fact that the women in their lives are willing to look the other way is even more sickening. Perhaps a new legislation that would place anyone who knowingly stands by while a child is being abused should receive an equally harsh sentencing or an even greater one. G-uno

    Like

  16. jesselyn6585

    I think this is a phenomenal idea. I’d love to be involved. I was raped by 4 college aged men when I was 13. It haunts my nightmares. I am determined to do whatever I can to reduce Amelia’s risk of going through something like that. Please let me know when the group is up and running.

    Like

    • Steph Mignon

      Oh girl, I cringed when I read this. My heart breaks that you had to experience this. But together we CAN protect our daughters, I just know it! I’ll be posting soon about the group and site, but for now add me as a friend on Facebook – Steph Mignon – so that I can add you to the private group once it launches. I’m going to do it soon, and then Mommy Wolf the blog/resource site will launch at some point later.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Lori J

    Hi -I am Steph’s mom. Yes… Stephanie’s teacher did come to see me at our house, she was very concerned about Stephanie crying everyday at school. She asked what was going on at home. Her Dad and I were in the process of a divorce and California is big on joint custody, so Steph and her brother were going back and forth each week. I had no idea that something like this was going on. I frequently had talks with both children that no one should touch them privately. Here is the real sickness of it all. He convinced his beautiful daughter that this is what Daddy’s and daughters did. He made her believe this was normal, so nothing was said to me, I had no idea this was ocuring. Her teacher and I could only think that the divorce was what was upsetting Steph. Honestly, I was shocked to find out when Steph was 22…my heart breaks that I could not protect her from this horrible crime committed against her. I did ask if she was sure, because I could not fathom a father doing something so heinous to a child. Stephanie has become a beautiful, caring, and loving woman. She has a wonderful husband, lovely little daughter and another one on the way. She is a survivor a very brave soul to share her story.
    My regret as a mother is that I could not protect her from this monster and keep her safe. I certainly love her more than anything, and am so proud of her.

    Like

  18. spartacus2030

    It was your blog brought me out of the closet… Now I wear my Sunday best! Child abuse is such a delicate topic for the abused. You’re so ashamed, but just want this kind of behavior to stop. It’s so wide spread, I fear this will take some time. It begins with you though. If you’ve been abused as a child, let it stop with you. Nothing to be proud of here. It’s just the way we all should be. The pain it leaves you in is unimaginable! And it ruins your self esteem… Great blog, and an excellent topic, more pressing than anything else I can think of, aside from global warming.

    Like

    • Steph Mignon

      Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing. It’s a VERY delicate topic, and often hard to write and talk about, but for me, it sucks no matter what I do: stay silent and suffer or open up and suffer. So I might has well speak up to try to save other people from the same fate! Thanks again for saying hello!

      Like

      • spartacus2030

        Not at all… Happy to make with your aquaintance! I think you are absolutely right of corpse, or I wouldn’t have told my story. I believe there are millions of us; enough so we could star our own minority group and get perks. But most are far too ashamed to ever say anything. It does make you feel like you’re helping in some small way, espesially the children afraid to mention it to anyone. Why? Who’d believe them? And often they’re threatened… Thanks again for you being you! See ya soon :O)

        Like

  19. mexanmommy

    There are no words to describe what I feel when I read. your story. No amount of “I wish this hasn’t happened to you” is enough. No words to tell you how proud I am of courageous people like you. The ones who have the strength to speak out. The ones who don’t do it just do it to free themselves, but they expose their story to help others as well. To prevent. To educate. My “father” was/is a rapist. Do you ever stop being one? He never did anything to me, but did to loved ones and my blood just boils thinking about the harm he has done to these people! Thank you for your strength.

    Like

    • Steph Mignon

      Thank you reading and sharing your story as well! Sexual abuse and rape effect soooo many people beyond the victim. You are a prime example of where the pain spreads. Hopefully, by asking the question you posed in your comment, by sharing our stories, by talking about it, we can change the world!

      Liked by 1 person

      • mexanmommy

        Absolutely, the effects it has on the surrounding people remains forever. My mother remarried, and my step-DAD and I had the hardest time because my mom was never the same, she is forever paranoid and has every right to be. She is/was protecting me, but its still hard not being able to hug or hang out with my step-dad because the fear was ever present. Now that I’m a Mom I understand her hesitance, I understand her fear. Danger is amongst us and we don’t know it. We CAN be knowledgeable of the signs of abuse/ signs of an abuser.

        Like

  20. Belle

    Oh Steph, I am so so sorry for this but in awe of your speaking out so boldly. It must have been terrifying to send that email. This statement, “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.” really struck a chord with me. In addition to finding that letter last summer, I think having a daughter of my own has brought so much bubbling up. I fear for her safety as she grows up. I fear for the choices she makes and for the people she unknowingly will trust. I want so desperately to keep her safe all while letting her become a unique individual. It’s an impossible balance. Thank you for speaking out. Although our stories differ, our struggle is very similar. Your openness gives me hope. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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