My brother’s first memory was the adventure of crawling underneath the fence in our backyard to play with the neighbor’s dogs. I envy him. My first memory was of getting raped. I remember laying on the kitchen table with my open diaper covered in blood — an image that constantly repeats itself in my head. I was about nine months old at the time and my dad was scurrying around in panic trying to fix what he had done to me. After that horrendous experience my memories completely stopped.
My recollection picked up again at the age of four when I remember my dad pushing his penis against my genitals. He would ask if he could go inside as to imply that I had some sort of choice in the matter. The pain of him entering my vagina was too painful that I would cry until he stopped. This was an almost daily occurrence.
Then, life consisted of ample “Father-Daughter time.” Whether by taking me to an empty parking lot or the open desert he went to great lengths to ensure no one would find out what he was doing to me. Most nights I would hear the jiggling of the doorknob into my room. Quietly, he made his way around to my bed and uncovered my body as I lay there with my heart nearly beating out of my chest. He took every opportunity he had as a time to indulge in his sick addiction.
Oftentimes, my father would suddenly pack my brother and me in the car and drive us to the nearest park in an effort to get a quick fix. My brother was let out of the car and told to go play while I was forced to straddle daddy’s lap. He constantly neglected my brother to focus inappropriate attention on me. Knowing my mom wasn’t too fond of the great outdoors, my dad planned frequent camping trips for just him and the kids. When my brother went off to play in the woods, I got molested. What seemed like the innocent fun of a camping trip was really just an excuse to get mom out of the picture. These were common occurrences until I was about twelve, when the abuse suddenly stopped.
When I was sixteen he used my parent’s temporary separation as another opportunity to get me alone. We were both sitting on his bed having a conversation about the troubled marriage. That’s when he just went at me, grabbing my breast. I was so shocked it was happening again that I froze up. Meanwhile he began the fondling. While paralyzed with fear he started kissing me. I’ll never forget the way his breath smelt of coffee and rotten teeth. All I could think was, “Make it stop! Make it stop!” But just like in any bad dream my cries for help were never heard.
Telling someone about the abuse was not an option. My life was unstable enough without being the cause of my parents’ divorce. When I was nineteen and my parent finally separated for good I wasn’t afraid to tell my secret anymore. I pulled my mom aside and told her what my dad had done to me all those years. My voice was finally heard. By this time it was too late to change the past, but not too late to change my future. When I decided to report my dad to the authorities I then made my voice known publicly.
A few weeks ago, I met with a friend I’ve had since second grade. After I told her what my dad did to me, she was shocked that she knew me while that was going on and had no idea. When I think about the much better her childhood was, I’m tempted to think it’s not fair. She didn’t have to suffer the way I did then or have to deal with the affects of abuse now. But I don’t have any control over what happened to me in the past. I was my father’s victim for long enough. I’m taking control of my future and I refuse to be defined by the past I did not choose.
I’m choosing a new path and while that path is filled with obstacles and residue, I’m finding that they are no match for the woman I’ve become. The very thing that tried to kill and silence me made me see that I can endure and thrive in spite of them. I’ve survived the worst. The journey has just started, but I’m determined to follow the healing path to the end.
Bethany is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Besides helping abuse survivors see the beauty within themselves, she enhances the beauty of others as a professional make-up artist and has worked in television, film and print.
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