We met when I was 14 I was alone and shy, he was kind and soon I was in love. He spent the first few weeks testing, then he slowly started doing mean things to make me sad, once I was so sad I didn’t see what was happening he stared explaining because of my weight other people would not find me attractive, and how I could never live on my own because I wasn’t smart enough to handle money. By the time I was 21 I would wake up with him on me. I told him I did not like that. He keep doing it. I started staying up all night so I could wrap myself up in the blankets to protect myself. He still tells me it was not rape. If I missed up anything he would yell at me and ask me how could I be so stupid. One day I made friends who started to ask what I thought and I realized I had thoughts. I got away and I could feel the pain lift of from me. Almost 10 years later I am still doing well without him and I am loved.
Thank you, Kim, for sharing your story. Kim is my sister, and was on The Dr. Phil show with me last year. As with many survivors, this is just a small piece of the domestic violence that has touched Kim’s life. Often, we repeat what was see at home, and do not know there is another way. Sometimes it takes years to notice that there is something a little different in our homes than in other homes. Sometimes the people we have in our lives also have the same kind of home we live in, and no one notices.
I heard from one survivor that it was reading books, and later watching television that helped her understand what a safe, loving home should look like. It was then that she noticed the differences, and then that she understood she did not deserve to live the life she had been living.
Sharing our stories helps us expose the secrets that happen behind our closed doors. It helps other people see that the life they are living might not be the life that they have to live anymore. It helps them understand they are not alone, and there is hope for brighter, safer days.
We don’t share our secrets to get pity, or sympathy, or to make the abuser look like a monster (they can do that all on their own). We share to spread awareness. We share to bring solidarity. We share to bring hope. We share to light up the darkness.
Keep on sharing. You are not alone. I hear you. We hear you.
When 2017 slid into the finish line, I was nervous that 2018 would have a hard time living up to all the greatness from the year before. On January 1st, my apprehension was confirmed when I received a call that an important man in my life had passed away. The knowledge of this loss took the wind out of my sales. There was no way 2018 was going to be a good year.
There is no doubt in my mind that this mindset helped pave the way to disappointment throughout the year. How could positive thoughts come, when grief was so close? One more loss, added to the sea of those gone before. After so much loss, you would think that it would take the sting away a little…but it didn’t.
Depression shadowed a lot of the previous twelve months. A lot took place the last 365 days, things I had never imagined possible. Here is a condensed recap:
January: I reached out to The Dr. Phil show, hoping to share my book with more people. A week after the first contact, my sister and I were in the air to Los Angeles. In the few days leading up to the trip, it was a whirlwind of emotion, and false hope. We had to dig through photographs, and documents that had been put to rest for some time. It opened wounds that had been hidden for years. In the midst of the pain, there was hope. Hope that my goal of getting my book into the hands of people who needed it most would come from this. Hope that needed healing would take place for my sister, myself, and even my sister’s father.
By the end of the trip to California, the familiar feelings of rejection had taken up space in every ounce of my being. The broken promise of talking about my book helped the inadequate feelings to creep back in. Depression lingered, as the internal voice mocked me with the reminder that I was not good enough. The memories, and truth of my childhood swarmed around me, beating me lower and lower, until the thought of getting back up became too overwhelming. To read more about this adventure: A Peek Into The Monster That Ate My Mommy and #TeamKimandJessica
February: The show aired in February, and our secrets were exposed to the whole world. Yes, they were in my book, but so far, the audience was not very large. There was no turning back. There was no hiding. Shame. Fear. Guilt. All the emotions circled me as I sat to watch the trauma from January take over the screen.
Through the trauma came healing. After seeing my step-father on TV, I was able to see the real him. For so long, even after all the hurt he had caused me, and my family, I was able to understand the depths of the damage he caused. I no longer looked at him and felt sorry for him, for what he had become. For the first time, I was able to see him for who he was, and look past the why. He hurt me. He hurt my sister. He hurt my mom. He did not deserve my pity. He had my forgiveness, but I did not owe him anything else. February brought freedom.
April: The Dr. Phil show had said they were going to offer my sister and I the treatment we needed to heal. This is where Onsite comes in. The offer of healing was only as deep as Onsite could provide. A week long, intensive therapeutic retreat, to work on a year’s worth of healing in seven days. Looking into this, I was skeptical of what could really be done in seven days, but I was willing to give it a try. What could it hurt?
Onsite is still an experience I am trying to process. I physically detoxed trauma while I was there. Deep healing, and even deeper connections came from the week there. I let go of some deep seeded thoughts and beliefs. I went in to the week, ready to give it all I had. A chance of a lifetime would not be wasted.
June: Only weeks until my 37th birthday, and depression circled around me like vultures on a carcass. I could not shake it, no matter how hard I tried. The 26th anniversary of my dad’s death took center stage. He was 37 when he died. How could it be possible that I was going to be the age he was when I lost him? Time was a funny thing, and I was not ready to laugh.
July: Depression continued to hold tight as my birthday came and went. Through the fog, I was offered a job, where for the first time in many years, matched my heart. This was the job that I had held out for. Director of the local Senior Center. Without Onsite, I do not believe I would have felt worthy of such a position. I had just enough confidence to say yes to the job offer.
September: On the first day of September, I found out that my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy, received honorable mention in the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. This was also the month when my new job began to feel like home. There were so many great things happening, and for the first time in a while, the depression lifted.
November: Leading up to November, I was unsure if should attend the award ceremony for Readers’ Favorite. I was hung up on the idea that it was a pity award…negative self-talk had a tight grip on me. When I was able to shake it off, I knew I had to go. This was not just any book…this was my story. These words went deep. It was a lifelong dream, that I had accomplished. I had to go. To Go Or Not To Go? goes into much more detail about that adventure!
December: The last month of the year brought much reflection with it. A buried secret became unearthed, and threatened to take away the progress that has been made in the lives of my children and myself. For a split second, anger took over my thoughts, revenge was all I could taste. I wanted to hurt them like they had hurt us. I went to bed full of rage, and guilt, and woke up full of peace. I am not sure why the change happened, but it reminded me that I hold the power. It is up to me to react, or not. It is up to me how I allow others to affect me. It is up to me.
I take this lesson, and all the others from the past 365 days, into 2019. I have big plans to better myself in many areas of my life, but the most important, the most productive thing I can do is to allow success, allow good things to come. Think positive, and dream big. I am ready for what the next year has to offer.
In January, I reached out to a producer at The Dr. Phil show. Within hours she emailed me back, and in seven days my sister and I were flying to Hollywood. We had a story to tell, and hoped that what we went through would help others. Similar motivation is what led me to write my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy.
Bad things happened to us. One of the worst aspects was having to keep quiet about it all. We couldn’t talk. We were the perpetrators’ prisoners in more ways than one. They hurt us, changed us, and then stole our voice. We did not want to keep the secrets any longer, so we shouted them for the world to hear.
(My sister’s story stops here. We are on our own separate healing journeys, and she is the narrator of her story. )
I did not think past that. I did not know what preparing to go on the show, and being on the show would do for me. In preparation for the show we went through old family pictures and old court documents. Dust was brushed off of the things I had packed away. During our search, my sister found a college paper my mom had written about me. (I wrote an earlier blog about it, The Devil Inside). After reading my mom’s words things began to shift inside me, at that point, only to a small degree.
When we arrived in Hollywood it all became real. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. We kept ourselves busy between the demands of the show and touring the city, and sitting by Tom Petty’s star on the Walk of Fame. Anxiety pulsed through my body as I thought about what was ahead of me. Excitement that my book would be talked about on the show filled the spaces that fear left empty. When I wrote my memoir, I hoped my story would get to the people who needed it most, and this was going to possibly make that happen. Our story that was being discussed would also help others who have been sexually abused.
The mix of emotions filled my body with adrenaline. Excited and terrified. But this was our chance to change things. It wasn’t until the morning of the show that we were told that there was going to be a twist. My sister and her dad would be on stage first, while I sat back stage and watched. I was relived that I had some more time before I would have to be on stage with my stepfather. As I watched my sister talk with Dr. Phil, and then her dad my body began to tremble. I was not sure if it was from being cold or nervous –most likely a combination of both.
As my stepfather talked about the abuse he had done to my sister I became enraged…and felt the guilt creep in. As I tried to push the guilt out of my mind a photograph of our mom flashed on screen. The mom I remembered, the mom I longed to love me, the mom I desperately wanted to protect me. I was no longer able to hold back the tears.
The emotions switched back and forth inside me. It was time for me to join them. As I waited to enter the stage I heard my stepfather say the words I had read in my mom’s college paper. Jessica is severely mentally ill. She has no grasp of reality. She is a paranoid schizophrenic. I never touched her. She is a liar. His words bounced off me as my body trembled with rage and fear.
Even after thirty years, he still denied he ever sexually abused me. When asked how I could have accused him before he began the abuse on my sister, he said it was “convenient.” My accusations came, were denied, and then he admittedly sexually abused his own daughter, although he stated it wasn’t abuse. There was no way to make him understand how ludicrous it all sounded. There was no point in fighting. He didn’t get it. He never would. My rage switched to pity.
I felt sorry for him. For him not seeing the truth. For being so sick that he doesn’t understand what he did. For being old and lonely. For not having a family. For so many reasons.
When he left stage, he fell into my lap. I could either catch him, or let him fall. As the old man fell, I had to catch him. How could I hurt him? His head brushed against my breasts and he looked up at me and his pathetic eyes were thankful. I saved my abuser, while he continues to harm me. Thankfully they edited this part out of the show, so only the audience saw.
After he left the stage, Dr. Phil offered my sister and I the opportunity to travel to Onsite –the worldwide leader in therapeutic and personal growth workshops, where he said we could work on healing our past trauma. Onsite is located in Tennessee. It would mean more travel, more time away from the kids, and George, and work. Before he was even finished talking, I had already came up with a hundred reasons why it wouldn’t work for me, why I couldn’t go, and how it wouldn’t help. I am healed. I had already worked on so much of my healing, and writing my book did tremendous amounts of healing my past trauma. How could it help?
The show ended –no mention of my book. The familiar taste of rejection filled my mouth. As I left the stage, I could feel tears running down my cheeks. Maybe my book wasn’t good enough to be mentioned. What if he hated it? What if it was trash, rubbish, pure junk? What if everything I believed was false. What if I wasn’t an author after all? My book and I were no good. There was the proof.
So, what was the I said earlier? I am healed…yeah…think again.
Self-hating thoughts would not leave my head for the first few days back home. As with many other events in my life, what I expected and what happened were totally different. Disappointment lingered. I researched Onsite. I wanted to know more. I reached out to the admissions department and was interviewed. The program that would best help me was believed to be Healing Trauma. I completed an application and sent it to be looked over. I was told they would let me know if I was accepted into the program.
Suddenly, this place I had no interest in going to was now some place I had to go. They had to let me in, right? I checked my email every few seconds…still nothing…what if I was too messed up to go? What if the stuff that happened to me really wasn’t that bad and I was just overreacting my whole entire life? The thoughts returned…your book is no good…who wants to read about boring stuff anyway? Maybe you are crazy. Maybe you need more help than they can give you. Maybe…fill in the blank…you get the idea.
The email from Onsite arrived in my inbox…now I was too nervous to open it. As I clicked it open I read that I had been approved for the program in April. All the desire I had before to go turned in to uncertainty. For six days I would not be able to talk to my kids or George. I would not be able to be online, use email, watch the news, look at the weather, listen to Tom Petty. I would be gone from home for seven days. A prisoner of sorts, forced to work on all the past trauma. What was I thinking? Why did this sound like a good idea before?
It was too late, the plane tickets were purchased, the date was set. I was going to Onsite to heal decades of past trauma.
One in ten children will be sexually abused before age eighteen.
One in ten.
Children who are sexually abused often feel alone. They feel shame and guilt for the abuse that is happening to them. Many are too afraid to tell, in fear that the perpetrator may hurt them or someone they love, and some who do tell are not believed or dismissed.
In most cases, the child is sexually abused by someone they know, and often trust. This can make it even harder for them to tell. By trusting the abuser, they might not know what is happening is wrong, or they may feel obligated to keep the secret.
The abuse starts before a child’s eighth birthday for 20% of children who are sexually abused. When the abuse starts at a young age, the abuser has the time to “groom” the child, and make them believe what is happening is normal, or is their special secret. Abusers know the tricks that work to keep themselves out of trouble, and in control of the child.
Abusers are conniving people, who are looking to get their needs met. Many times, they have been abused themselves as children, but that does not justify their actions. They know what it is like to be on the other side of the abuse, and yet, they allow the cycle to continue. Instead of being a voice for the children, they place their hand tightly over the child’s mouth and steal their innocence. They know what it is like, and yet, they chose to harm a child.
My sister, my daughter, and I are in these statistics. The level of abuse varies for each of us, but the trauma caused at the hands of our perpetrators lingers inside of us. We have good days, and bad. We have days that we love ourselves, and others where we loath ourselves. There is anger and rage, guilt and shame. We question our worth. And wonder, “was it really that bad?”
Anytime a child is victimized, it is that bad.
It does not matter if it happened once, or a thousand time. The scars are there. Trust is broken. And the world becomes a different place. Three girls were touched before their eighth birthday, by men we knew. We carried secrets inside of us until we were able to release them. And we fought back.We made our voices heard. We were brave. We were strong. We put one foot in front of the other everyday to carry us a little further from our past. The few moments of the abusers’ gratification left us with a lifetime of imbedded trauma. It is our choice to ignore it or to own it and work through it.
I believe there are more than one in ten children that are sexually abused. I believe the number is much larger, but they are not ready to share their secret just yet. I believe the problem is much bigger than we know. This is a problem that we need to help with, and telling our stories is the first thing we can do.
When we share our stories, the isolation a child feels is lifted a little. The more they hear of others facing what they are facing helps take away some of the shame. A camaraderie is felt, and the world doesn’t feel so alone. These are the reasons I share my story. I know what it feels like to wonder if I was the only one. The isolation alone was enough to crush me, and the fear of what other people would think of me caused me undue stress. I didn’t know there were others.
Our voices will echo throughout the land.
“You are not alone.”
“It is not your fault.”
“You did nothing wrong.”
“You are strong.”
“You are loved.”
Tell your story. Share with others how far you have come, or how far you want to go. Together, we have the power to change the stigma attached to childhood sexual abuse.