*This series for #SAAM is stories of tremendous courage as Survivors have written them. There may be graphic and/or triggering information or language. Please make sure to take care of yourself as you read through and practice grounding exercises as needed.
Hello. My Name is Becky. I am 66 years old. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was repeatedly sexually molested/abused/assaulted by my dad from the ages of 8-12, during my pre-teen years.
As an 8 year old, the first few times I cried and screamed and tried to get away, but I quickly learned that a small child cannot overpower a strong 34 year old man.
1) He would take me on frequent weekend fishing trips in the Rocky Mountains, leaving my mom and 2 brothers and sister at home, and molest me in the woods.
2) He would drive around town and have me jerk him off or suck on him as he drove.
3) He would take me at night to the church building where he worked as the “Director of Christian Education” (youth groups) weekly to “help set up folding chairs for such and such a committee meeting the next day, and then abuse me in the basement toilet stalls, having me sit on his lap with a tight grip around my thighs.
4) He would have sex with me in the basement of our home while mom was at work. He’d send my brothers and sister to the school playground that was one block away, to play for half an hour, and tell them don’t come home before then!
I was told by my dad that this is how all fathers teach their children about sex (and as a child, I believed the things my parents told me) but that it was very secret, and that I would be very, very bad if I told anyone about the secret because if I did, he would go away/leave and our family would have no money, no house, no food, and we would all die. So, it was UP TO ME, an 8 year old, to keep my family safe by not telling anyone. The responsibility of keeping my family alive was all on MY shoulders!
I was told that I was his ‘Geisha girl’ and had to do all the things that my mom did not want to do sexually…which I totally understood! I did not want to do them either! He kept telling me what a good (sex) ‘student’ I was, and what a good wife I would make some day.
I cannot describe the pain. After the first time or two, after the crying, screaming, trying to get away, I finally broke, and realized that I no longer existed or mattered, my body was not my own, and what I wanted and felt and thought did not matter AT ALL. I belonged to him and his penis. My body was his. My purpose in life was to provide pleasure to a penis. He kept telling me that God told children to obey their parents, and would show me the verse in the Bible (Ephesians 6:1), “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” I was raised/brainsashed in the church, going to church every Sunday, and sometimes Wednesday nights too. So, because my self-identity was “I am a Christian”, a good little girl and a child of God…and HE was a leader in the church (the Parochial School Principal of the school I attended, and the Director of Christian Education of the church), I was…brainwashed…to OBEY and do what he said because it was right to do so, according to the Bible.
I would cope with the pain by numbing and dissociating during his sexual deeds…going to a different place in my mind until he was done and it was over and then he’d leave his 8-12 year old daughter to go clean herself up while he did the same. I would feel such shame that my body would lubricate when he stroked between my legs with his penis and fingers, and he would tell me what a special, special love this was, and how very glad he was that I was “enjoying it” (thus making me implicit and that I was ‘participating and enjoying’)…but I was NOT enjoying it AT ALL!. “Look how wet your lips are!” he would say, and he’d bring his fingers from my labia to my face to see how wet his fingers were and how much I was enjoying this, and he’d have me lick his fingers. I would feel shame that my body would lubricate when he stroked me. I couldn’t even trust my own body! It too betrayed me…so I began to HATE my body! And have continued to hate my body for the past 6 decades.
Dad was telling me one story (LIES): I was being a good (sex) student and Geisha. This is a very special love. This is normal. This is a secret you can never tell.
My body, and my gut instincts were telling me another story (TRUTH): This is not good, This is bad. I am bad. This is painful. This is wrong. If it’s normal, why does it have to be done in secret and isolation? So which story did I believe? His story. He’s the grown up and knows what he’s talking about. I’m just a kid and know nothing about this!
After the sexual abuse occurred repeatedly over my preteen years, I no longer trusted my own intuition, my thoughts, my inner voice, my knowing, my emotions, my body. The world was no longer a safe place. I was no longer an ‘innocent child.’ I prayed to God to rescue me during the abuse. God never did. So, I would put it all in the “BOX” in my mind to survive the pain and shame, and then try to live my ‘other life’ outside the ‘secret box’ as if nothing had happened...graduating from the university with high distinction. Even if I had wanted to tell someone, as an 8 year old, before the days of social media, cell phones, internet, and even tv, I did not have the vocabulary to describe what was happening to me…except “Daddy’s hurting me.” We got a sex education class is 8th grade health which was still 5 years in my future. During that class, I finally realized what it was my dad had done to me, that it was NOT normal, and I was SOOOOOO ashamed! I’m never telling anyone about this!!! I’d rather die!!! Another reason I never told…he was a pillar in the church, and who in their right mind would believe me over him?
Fast forward 24 years. My daughter is now the age I was when I was first sexually molested. I looked at that sweet, innocent little 8 year old girl…no way could this little 8 year old daughter of mine fight off a strong 34 year old man! And I finally, FINALLY realized for the first time that MY 8 year old self was NOT to blame. I was NOT at fault. I was NOT guilty of being bad. It was not MY shame to carry. It was the strong 34 year old man’s fault. My dad. It was HIS fault, HIS guilt, HIS shame, HIS sin alone. Not mine. The abuse was never about me. It was all about him…him pleasuring himself and having power and control and being able to get away with it. Sick. He CHOSE to hurt me, his precious little 8 year old daughter, and ruin the rest of her life. Now I had to start dealing with that fact.
I decided to tell. I told my husband (so supportive!). Then my siblings, fearing that perhaps maybe they too had been sexually molested by him. Older brother replied, “Shit floats.” Younger brother replied, “I always felt there was something ‘off’ in our house, I just never knew what it was.” Sister replied, “I’m so glad you didn’t tell me this before now, I would have had a harder time studying for exams at med school!” Then a few close friends…who wanted nothing more to do with me after that. I have no ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ of what happened to me almost 60 years ago…just my knowing and thinking of it every day of my life and reliving it with flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation and numbing every time I engage is sex with my wonderful and supportive husband.
All I have is my memories and my word…my story. Survivors can usually tell when other survivors are telling the truth, because we’ve been there, we’ve experienced it too. We know how extremely difficult it is to be vulnerable and come forward and tell.
As I have gotten older, the impact, my PTSD from the sexual trauma has gotten worse and worse and worse…nightmares, dissociation, fear, shame, minimizing, and other coping mechanisms that my 8 year old self had to come up with on her own, in isolation, and used to survive and stay alive...to the point where I was ready to reach out for help. In 2018, at the age of 65, almost 6 decades later, with my courage mustered up by the #Me Too movement, I reached out for professional help from Peggy Oliveira, because a friend had shared some links to Peggy’s YouTube videos online. I needed someone to help me learn about the impact that the abuse has had on my life and my belief about the world, about others, about myself every single day for the past 6 decades. After watching each and every one of her online videos, I trusted her enough to join her online group and take an online class with her. Then I did a life-changing retreat with her and several other survivors in Arizona in September 2018…where I found my voice again. I will not be silent any longer. My voice matters. My story matters. My healing matters. My life matters. I will no longer carry this secret. It’s time to set it down. How will things ever change unless we talk about them and bring them into the light? My hope is that the #Me Too movement will help and encourage other victims of sexual abuse and assault to come forward…and TELL…and get help…and bring the magnitude of this problem to light. Thank you Peggy, for helping me find my voice, my courage, my vulnerability!