What happened to you? To me, the most important question you can ask someone.
Talking about childhood sexual abuse is never easy. Talking about incest is just plain disheartening. But it is healing to a survivor when they are heard and believed.
One of my earliest memories of sexual abuse at the hands of my father were in grade school. I remember feeling uncomfortable with his ways of joking and showing affection. At that time, I had little understanding of boundaries.
The details are horrid, uncomfortable and raw.
When I was 15 years old, I knew I needed to get help. I had to get my younger sister out of that house as the abuse was stopping with me. My fear was that he’d begin with her.
I gave my diary to my boyfriend and brother. They read days of graphic and detailed abuse I experienced. Of course, they were shocked and saddened. But they believed me. That’s what mattered.
Doesn’t it seem like we all have one rich or well-off aunt? Well at that time it was Claire. My siblings, boyfriend and I drove to her home. I wrote her a note… something along the lines of “My dad is abusing me. Can I come live with you?”
It’s interesting looking back and knowing I’d need a backup plan.
Claire believed me. She told me she was sorry, but we had to confront my parents.
They both arrived and Claire took us into a room. I didn’t quite have the language to articulate what sexual abuse I had endured but I did the best I could. It wasn’t enough.
To this day I ask myself if I could have been more detailed in my explanation. More gruesome. More believable.
My father never looked up. My mother asked him if it was true. He nodded no. She asked him to tell me I’m lying or perhaps I misunderstood a gesture. He simply nodded no and walked out.
My mother burst into tears. Practically screaming. I felt sorry for her.
She asked me why I didn’t come to her first. I explained how I was afraid she’d fall apart, and I was right.
I was forced to go home with her. She promised he would move out. But that wasn’t enough for me.
I wanted her to be angry. I wanted her to hit him. I wanted her to call the police. I wanted her to hear me. Hold me. Cry with me. LOVE ME. Or at least feel sorry for me.
The only thing I ever wanted answered was why me. Why not a random woman? My mother never cared to sit and discuss further. In her words if I wanted those answers, I’d have to ask him myself.
Weeks went by. I was made to feel ashamed and guilty because my father was living in his car. He wrote me a paragraph expressing he was sorry and requesting we be a family again.
Looking back, I realize he never admitted any wrongdoing in his note.
I’m embarrassed to say I caved. I loved my mother so much and I wanted nothing more than to see her happy. My father and I didn’t speak for two years living in the same household.
I’m embarrassed to say I caved again after that.
I missed my dad. My “daytime dad”. The one who made time to encourage us. Joke with us. Watched movies and sang karaoke with us.
I allowed him back into my life for roughly eight years. Birthdays. College graduation. Marriage proposal. Wedding.
But everything changed when I moved in with my fiancé who is now my husband. As a firefighter, he works 24-48-hour shifts.
I began having intense breakdowns on shift nights. Any sudden noise caused my thoughts to derail into scenarios where I ended up in harm’s way. I later learned that noises were a trigger for me. I tried sleeping on the couch. Sleeping with lights on. Sleeping with the tv on.
After months of desperation, I began to see a counselor.
I was diagnosed with C-PTSD.
Having my mother choose my abusive father over me again and again was painful. Sometimes I think it’s as traumatic as the abuse itself. It changed the way I see the world. My self-esteem. My self-worth.
I broke ties with them eight months after my wedding. I could no longer force myself to see my father as only my “daytime dad”. He was my abuser. Only that.
I am now on a long healing journey. I’m learning how to forgive someone who has never asked to forgive their actions. To believe I am capable of being loved.
Some days I still breakdown and mourn them. I mourn the biological parents I’ll never have. The grandpa my children will never meet. The fun grandma my children will never have.
But most days I’m happy, truly happy.
That’s what happened to me.
What happened to you?