By Carissa Magras
As any little girl, I loved my daddy very much. He was a high school athletic coach. He was funny. Everyone admired him and I was proud to call him dad. We even had our own little secret that no one else knew: From the time I was in Kindergarten up until my senior year, this man who Creation gave to protect and care for me, sexually and emotionally abused me.
Turning 18 brought about a previously unknown confidence and independence. Suddenly, I was determined to protect myself from my dad. I no longer wanted to be a victim, but I still wanted my dad in my life. So for the next 7 years I limited our interactions so that my dad and I were never alone together. I built massive internal walls, and worked hard to keep the abuse at bay. With a level of alertness liken to that of an air traffic controller, I was constantly watching and listening, painfully cautious and on-edge.
One day my husband was talking to a friend on the phone about a recent situation in which my dad lashed out at us for moving away due to a job change. “I’ve never seen him act this way”, Brandon said to his friend. Without a thought I immediately exclaimed, “You have never seen him this way because I haven’t let you.”
At that moment I realized the truth of what had been happening over the last seven years. On the outside it appeared as if the abuse had stopped. It appeared as if my dad and I had a great relationship for the first time. In reality, I was carefully manipulating the situation in a way to prevent the “real him” from surfacing. We did not have a healthy, happy relationship. It was a show, and we were the actors.
Shortly after this epiphany, while in therapy, I caught a glimpse from the audience’s view and realized that I was trying to accomplish the impossible. No matter how hard I worked to have a healthy relationship with my dad, it would be futile as long as he refused to change.
I was a work-in-progress, but my dad had no intention of changing. He was unwilling to think of anyone else other than himself. He had zero interest in putting himself in someone else’s shoes, or in considering what is good for them as opposed to his own interests. My dad had no empathy. And without empathy, he could not admit that what he did was wrong, much less work toward change.
I loved my dad, and I wanted him in my life. I wanted us to have a healthy relationship together. I wanted to get together for holidays and birthdays without worrying about every single second. I wanted a dad who would love me with a pure love; someone who would protect me instead of using me for his own purposes. I wanted a dad who was safe instead of dangerous. Was any of this too much to ask as his only child and daughter?
No matter how much I tried to change myself, or the outward appearance of our relationship, as long as he remained the same then our relationship would never be truly healthy nor happy. There was no compromise or middle-ground. I wanted a dad, but I did not want the man who shared my genetics and last name.
I didn’t want to be abused, and I certainly didn’t want to abuse. His presence in my life was the equivalent of drinking poison that slowly and discretely sucked the life from my soul. So I had to make a choice: Do I become a doormat enduring the abuse, or do I cease the relationship? Do I continue drinking the poison, or begin to detox?
A few months later I decided to confront him for the first time about the sexual abuse. It was my desperate attempt to keep him in my life. One last shot to see if a relationship would be possible. If only he would confess to it and say he was sorry, then we could begin to work through this together. We could come out on the other side and have the relationship I always wanted. All he had to do was admit and apologize, refusing to continue in the abuse, and committing to getting help.
Immediately he denied it was him. Within a matter of minutes he began yelling. I fell into a puddle on the floor sobbing after he threatened to beat up my husband. My dad’s wife pulled him toward the door while the shouting continued. They left, and that was the last time I saw him. That was the day my dad died to me.
As is typical with losing a loved one, the following year was the hardest. Most of my conversations in therapy were about whether or not I did the right thing, ceasing contact with my dad. I felt guilty, wrong, and like it was my fault—just like I felt every time he abused me as a child.
Even though my mind was conflicted and confused, full of doubt and question, one thing was abundantly clear: My soul felt peace for the first time in my 25 years of existence. Going no contact with my abuser dad, I finally put down the large boulder that I had been forever carrying around on my back. I felt relief, peace, and freedom. And as a result, I was able to better care for myself, my husband, and my children. I was able to finally live the life I had always dreamed of, but could not as long as I continued to poison myself with his presence.
It’s been six years since that last interaction with my dad, and each year gets easier and easier. I might have lost my dad, but I gained myself. I might have lost someone I loved, but as a result I had more love to give those who needed that love the most: my husband and children.
I learned to finally believe the truth about my abuser father and what he did to me rather than what he conditioned me to believe. My self-worth transformed from a dirty piece of trash to a beautiful, blossoming flower. My guilt melted away with the realization that I did not do anything wrong.
He might be dead to me, but because of his death, I am alive. And there might not be a grave I can visit to tell him how I feel, but he knows. Every day he lives without me and my precious family in his life, is reality to him of the choices he made, and continues to make. There’s no more guilt, fear, or doubt here; just love, peace, and freedom in its place.
Have you gone no contact with your abuser? Or are you considering going no contact? Please share your experience with us below and remember to subscribe to the comments so you don’t miss any of the discussion. You can post anonymously and emails are never shared publicly.
Carissa Magras is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and resides in Lancaster, PA with her husband, kids, and Maltipoo. Carissa is a book marketing coach, helping authors maximize their impact and fulfill their life’s mission. She also writes entertaining books for children spreading hope, freedom, and empowerment to young kids everywhere. Visit Readers by Design for a free book marketing training, and CarissaMagras.com for the first three chapters of her latest book, “Into the Forbidden Forest”.