Deciding to Report My Father For Sexual Abuse

This is first in a series about reporting sexual abuse. To read the next in the series, follow the link at the end of the post.

by Christina Enevoldsen

When my daughter was in her mid-twenties, she reported her dad for sexual abuse. I cheered that she had made that decision. I supported her throughout the nearly two year ordeal, heartily convinced that she was reporting a criminal who deserved to be behind bars.

When it came to my own dad, I didn’t feel that way. Even though both of our fathers had done the same things, I didn’t believe my dad deserved the same punishment.

Reporting my dad for the things he did to me seemed like reporting him for making me go to school or forcing me to eat my vegetables. I didn’t see a crime. I believed my dad was entitled to do whatever he wanted to me and that I deserved it. It wasn’t about who the abusers were; it was about who the victim was. It was horrifying to think of someone else being abused but it didn’t seem as wrong or as illegal to sexually abuse me.

Even if I had recognized that I was just as valuable as any other abuse survivor and deserving of protection, reporting my own dad felt disloyal. Hadn’t he given me life? Hadn’t he worked hard to provide shelter, clothing and food for me? But all of the good things he did didn’t erase his criminal acts toward me. Being my father didn’t entitle him to use my body for his sexual pleasure. My dad abused his own daughter. That’s the real betrayal.

My shift from such invalidating beliefs about myself and my abuse happened in stages. The first major one was when I received a certified letter from my mother in response to me talking about my abuse. She threatened to sue me and claimed that she reported me to the police for “lying” about my dad. Instead of inspiring the fear that she hoped for, her letter made me angry.

For the first time, it was clear to me that my dad was the real criminal; not me. The injustice infuriated me. The sexual abuse during my childhood was awful enough without heaping more accusations on top of it.

With my new sense of truth, I considered reporting my dad. Still unsure of my decision, I mentioned it to a friend. Her response wasn’t supportive at all. My friend asked, “Is he still hurting anyone?”

That’s a question I’d asked myself for years as though the only valid reason for reporting sexual abuse is to protect future victims. My friend’s response jarred the truth from somewhere deep inside of me: ONE victim was enough!

It’s ridiculous to think that any perpetrator should get a “freebie”—that as long as they only abuse one child, they should be left alone. According to statistics, sexual abusers commonly have hundreds of victims, but even one is too many. Even if my dad was “harmless” (and I had no idea if his age or life circumstances or choices really had meant he stopped being a sexual abuser), he still deserved to be reported.

Something changed in me when I decided to report my dad. It was a declaration, to myself and others, that I’m important and what happened to me matters. It was an affirming step in living my new life where I know my value.

This is first in a series about reporting sexual abuse. To read the next in the series, click here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how I took back my life after abuse, I invite you to read my new book, The Rescued Soul: A Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. In it, I spell out the details of exactly how I’ve healed, using excerpts from my journal, very candid stories and detailed examples. It’s definitely up close and personal! It’s a healing guide, workbook and journal all in one. I put a lot of love into all 518 pages.

I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification.  As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.

 

Related Posts:
What Happened When I Reported My Sexual Abuse
Exposing the Incest Family Secrets
Reclaiming My Self After Sexual Abuse

Have you reported your abuser? Have you thought about it? Please join in the conversation by leaving your thoughts and feelings about this topic and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments.

Deciding to Report My Father For Sexual Abuse

8 thoughts on “Deciding to Report My Father For Sexual Abuse

  • August 15, 2015 at 6:06 am
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    When I reported my father I was 48 years old and the abuse was 40 years in the past. But it was the truth, and I got a huge weight off my shoulders by speaking my story. I have not exactly been embraced by my birth family, but my “acquired” family has more than made up for that. Speaking up is a critical step in the healing path.

    Reply
    • August 22, 2015 at 7:38 am
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      Hi Mike,

      Welcome to OSA! I can relate to everything you wrote. It wasn’t about what would happen to my dad; it was about standing up for myself. The Statute of Limitation had expired but that didn’t make reporting him ineffective. It was another step in speaking my truth, which was very powerful.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Christina

  • August 20, 2015 at 9:18 pm
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    Thanks for sharing this, Christina. You’re right, I’ve heard countless statements implying that reporting should only focus on future victims. As if it’s wrong, as if it’s ‘revenge’ to do it for ourselves, as if we and our trauma matter less then that of hypothetical new victims. That’s definitely not true. The sexual abuse that happened to us in our childhood matters, it is still a crime, regardless of what the perpetrator is doing today. It isn’t supportive, it doesn’t help survivors build up our own value to say either that we have an urgent obligation to report now because of the possible danger of our abuser’s present actions, or that we are only being self-indulgent by considering reporting based just on what we went through. I look forward to reading the whole series!

    Reply
    • August 22, 2015 at 7:31 am
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      Caden,

      Very well put! There are SO many devaluing messages surrounding the reporting issue, which only compounds the difficulty of an already extremely challenging decision.

      When my daughter told a close friend that she’d reported her dad, the friend replied, “I thought you forgave him”. The discounting beliefs coming from others echo the ones we were taught from the original abuse. I’m amazed any of us can make it through all of that! But we DO!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Christina

  • August 23, 2015 at 7:56 pm
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    Christina, thank you so much for sharing your story. I completely agree with you that one victim is too many! Although it is good to help prevent future victims of sexual abuse, the criminal still needs to be punished even if he/she only has one victim. I can definitely understand why you would feel that reporting your father for sexual abuse was wrong but I am very glad that you did. Although you did not have your mother’s support, I am sure that many other victims of sexual abuse will find your act to be courageous and honorable. I support the decision that you made and I am glad that you set a great example for your daughter.

    Reply
  • August 24, 2015 at 8:37 am
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    Janeen,

    Welcome to OSA and thank you for your affirming comment! It was my daughter who was a great example for me, not the other way around. She reported her dad a few years before I did and went through some really tough stuff because of it. Though I supported her decision to report her dad (or not), other family members ostracized her because of it. Actually, the chain of events that occurred after she reported her dad led to us founding OSA. Her story is included in part of this series and I’m excited that we’re finally sharing this part of our story!

    Christina

    Reply
  • August 25, 2015 at 6:02 pm
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    Oh wow, I didn’t notice your daughter reported her father first. What a courageous young woman you raised. Keep sharing your story, you will inspire thousands!

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  • April 8, 2018 at 2:17 am
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    Thank you I have read all of your comments and a question mark hangs over my decision to report or not? I recall the sexually explicit emotional abuse that my father perpetrated against me. I was also molested by my grandfather who was a pedaphile and years later other women in the family came forward who he’d abused. I am wrestling with doing what is right for my inner child in order to gain closure. I am not certain if my father physically abused me like my GF did, but he said things like, “Are you cold or friendly Petrice?” This referring to my breasts and he said other provocative things like, “Clever little secretary!” It appears to me that he was mysognistic in his nature, an alcoholic/sexaholic who abused me, but this might not be enough and i could just be putting myself through hell only to have him deny everything or brush these types of emotional abuses off as nothing. I also need to know what the process is for reporting what happens and I am 50 years old now, and I was 9 onwards when he started to abuse me and he beat me often also. I would appreciate some F.B. thank you for sharing.

    Reply

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