"The Survivors Project: Telling the Truth About Life After Sexual Abuse" sheds light on the painful—yet hopeful—recovery process.
And to this day, all I can think is, Why do you suppose that door was locked, Mom? Is there ever a reason for an adult man to be in a locked bedroom with a teenage girl?
I think that one thing that made it easy for my stepdad to groom me was that my dad was never able to give me a compliment. I know he loved me and he was a very stable father. But he kept his feelings to himself, and I suppose I have some resentment about that as well. Most of the “compliments” I received were from my stepfather.
I did not talk to my stepdad for nearly eight years after completely telling him off in a way that I am sure he never recovered from. His health has steadily gone downhill since then. He only recently met my children, and while I finally believe he is sorry, he will never be alone with them.
The hardest thing to come to terms with is that there is still a part of him that I love—and that I will always love. He was still—at least partially—my dad. I have happy memories, too—funny things that still make me smile. I have hated him, but there has always been love.
I think this is why it has been important for me to reconnect with him before he dies.
What is harder for me to grapple with is not the abuse, but my mother’s betrayal. To this day, she cannot talk about it. She cannot acknowledge it. And if I broach the subject, it’s like she has either completely forgotten about it or just really blocked it out to the point where she truly believes that it never happened.
And I know that that has not just affected me, it has affected her. Her weight has nearly doubled. Her thinking has become slurred and blurry due to years of smoking pot. There is never a moment when the TV is not on at full blast in her home, as if one second of quiet time would be unbearable. She even sleeps with the TV on.
It is a very sad thing to not be able to trust your own mother. For a long time, I didn’t think that we could ever have a normal relationship. It’s better than it was, but it will never be what I longed for as a little girl, as a young adult woman, or even now in my late 30s.
It took a long time for me to realize that my mom was not going to be able to acknowledge what happened to me. It took a long time to know that I did not need her to. It took longer for me to accept my mother, with her faults, and see who she is as a person.
You cannot heal yourself until you come to terms with your parents’ lives as well. When you have children you begin to understand, a bit more, what their lives likely entailed. You begin to ask the questions you were numb to as a child.
My mother also suffered abuse. This contributed to her inability to fully parent me as a young woman. She has never healed. She still justifies her own abuse. Listening to her made me realize I needed to do something different.
I knew almost instantly the first time I became pregnant that I had a boy coming. I almost willed it that way. I was terrified to have a daughter. There was still so much left unhealed in me, and I was horrified at the idea of having a girl.
After years of therapy, I felt ready for a girl three years later. This time, I knew I was having a girl and smiled at the fact that the promise I had made to myself at the age of 20 was finally coming to pass. It was then I picked her name, after the first woman I met in my life who was completely happy and at ease with herself.
I thought I was ready for her arrival but near the end of my pregnancy, the rage at my mother re-emerged. I wrote her a letter, telling her off. It was nearly six months before we came to some sort of terms, and I allowed her to be around my children again.
This was my half-sister’s first awareness of what had happened to me. She was seven years younger and shielded from the initial drama. She was shocked, and had a really hard time with it. Our relationship has never fully recovered. I felt as though everyone was much more comfortable keeping it hidden so it would not hurt them so much. I felt like screaming, How do you think this has been for me?
My sister has a completely different relationship with her dad. He is fully her father. She adores him. Half of her is made from him, and that makes it hard. If he is the monster I claim him to be, what does that make her?
I have also had guilt about the possibility of him molesting someone else. There is a large family available to him.
Somehow, I have felt that they would never believe me since I have always been an outsider. I would just be the wicked stepdaughter getting even. And then I wonder if I am only justifying myself.
Recently, an older mentor asked me how this has affected me sexually, and the floodgates opened. For a long time, I think it made me prude and embarrassed of my sexuality. I come from a family that is full of sexual energy on one side, and completely repressed on the other.
Over the years, I have had many partners. I do not have regrets about that. I know there is a theory that victims of sexual abuse often become promiscuous. For me, it was a way of reclaiming my sexuality on my own terms. What I have noticed is that I have often put up with more than I should in long-term relationships. This became dangerous for me. My children’s father was an alcoholic, and our relationship was tumultuous at best. My therapist reminded me I was used to chaos. I didn’t know what to do with “normal.”
"The Survivors Project" is a compendium of more than 50 personal essays about the challenges associated with healing from sexual abuse.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Nina Hoffmann, Senior Editor, Philadelphia Weekly firstname.lastname@example.org or 215.599.7678 Philadelphia Weekly Collects Personal Stories From Sexual-Abuse Survivors for Upcoming Book Philadelphia, PA (September 6, 2012) —Philadelphia Weekly is partnering with sexual-abuse survivors, their loved ones and counselors for an upcoming publishing project that will raise awareness about the effects of abuse and the challenges associated with healing. Sexual abuse comes in many forms, and can happen in the situations you'd least expect. And too often, survivors are paralyzed by a culture that silences, shames and blames them. Philadelphia Weekly is dedicated to combat this phenomenon through first-person storytelling, bringing to light the one thing that’s missing from the national conversation: the reality of what it’s like to heal from the devastating effects of abuse. PW has invited those whose lives have been impacted by sexual abuse to share their own stories, in their own words. And not just survivors themselves, but also their spouses, family members, friends and advocates—because healing from abuse does not occur in a vacuum. It requires the support of loved ones. Since announcing the project in June, Philadelphia Weekly has collected dozens of first-person essays from survivors, their loved ones and both local and non-local therapists. In some...
We need to hear from you—the survivor, the loved one, the advocate. We need you to tell your story, in your own words. To do so would help bring to light the one thing that’s missing from the national conversation: the reality of what it’s like to heal from the devastating effects of sexual abuse.
At 28, I’m learning to accept that my stepfather abused me—sexually, physically and emotionally. I may never remember everything that happened to me. But I know I did nothing to deserve it.