One in five girls is a victim of child sexual abuse, leaving scars that will last a lifetime.
This is her story.
One winter when I was ten, under the guise of a group father-daughter weekend camp out, my Dad took me to a secluded cabin in the woods. It was beautiful there. Snow, pine trees and a frozen lake were right there outside the windows of the cabin. But inside there was nothing but hell.
By this time my Father had been abusing me for about seven years so I knew what was in store, even though I wished I could be such a good girl he wouldn't assault me this time. In the past though, it was single encounters; one rape, one act of sodomy or one forced act of oral sex committed in the middle of the night in my bed or in the tent on a camping trip. Then I would have sweet peace until the next time.
This time it was an entire weekend.
Repeated violations for hours and hours. And I didn't have my primary coping tool with me. At home I had drawn crayon pictures above my bed so when my Father came into my room I would fly up into them and escape.
Here, there were no crayon pictures, no means of escape as I didn't yet have the tools to dissociate without the help of those pictures. I was fully present for all he did, something I hadn't been for years. That is, I think, the primary reason why this weekend was so damaging, and why the memories of it visit me so often.
I don't remember sleeping. The pain and fear were too significant. But I do remember lying on a sleeping bag in the dark night staring at the fire in the fireplace while my Father slept next to me. I recall begging the fire to envelop me and take me away. But it did not.
That weekend was the most frightening time in all the years my Father assaulted me. And it was also the most confusing. I wanted him to love me so badly. I craved the love of a Father who would accept and care for me.
He said all the right words. He told me he loved me. He told me I was his special little girl and that I was such a good, good girl. That made me very happy. But at the same time he hurt me, excruciatingly so.
My mind couldn't make sense of it except to determine I was a bad girl who wasn't appreciative of her Father's affections. It was a weekend of profoundly felt pain—both physical and emotional. The emotional was the worst because I felt like a failure. I came home an even more broken little girl than I left, hard to imagine given what I had endured the seven years before, but incredibly true.
Why am I sharing this memory? For two reasons. The first reason I share my story, in the details that I did, is to educate all of those people who tell sexual assault survivors to “Just get over it.” I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time someone told me that. “It happened so long ago, why can't you just put it behind you?” Read my story, people who think I am faulty in my processing of the sexual assault.
Put yourself in my shoes—just for that one weekend, knowing it was only one weekend in eight years of assault for me. I challenge you.
Imagine the rape, the sodomy, the forced oral sex as if you were a ten year old little girl who wanted nothing more than to please her father and earn his love. Feel the pain, the confusion, the shame, the helplessness and the hopelessness. Focus on it for 24 hours, the amount of time I had to endure it.
Now, just get over it—in a finger snap, just like that.
Second, I want those who have suffered sexual assault to know they are not alone. One of the most horrible aftereffects of being sexually assaulted is that as victims we feel so isolated and alone. Some of that is because of the shame of what happened, some of it is because we look around and no one else seems to be suffering like we are.
But read my story and know YOU ARE NOT ALONE in what you've suffered.
I have been there—to the depths of hell riding on the back of the devil himself. On the dark nights when all you can do is relive the memories, know you are not alone. On the days when flashbacks and emotional pain seem to invade every aspect of your life, know you are not alone. Others have endured what you have and we are there in the darkness with you.
Our energy is there with you.
Our love and our strength are there with you.
Several times during the day you pass another one of us who have endured what you did. My worldly eyes may not see you but my spirit sees you. And as we pass I send out love, strength and acceptance. “You are known”, my spirit tells yours. “You are loved. You are worthy. You are not alone.”
Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It's time to Ask The Band!
I sincerely hope you will take time to read my story. I hope you can give me some help or advice. I am completely heartbroken. I'm feeling worthless and lonely.
When my boyfriend (let's call him Steve) and I met for the first time I was not ready for a relationship. I was at a point in my life where I was completely happy alone and I wanted to stay that way. I also thought he was doing drugs on weekends and was a dealer.
Still, I thought he was beautiful and that I could get to know him. We would be friends with benefits but nothing more. I would not let myself be emotionally attached to him.
We met twice and he was wonderful, not what I had expected. He was so much fun and cute. The third time, we slept together. Soon afterward, I got drunk while out with a friend and had a one-night stand that I didn't tell him about.
We were sleeping together for a couple of months. I was in denial that I wasn't in love with him, but I really was and I knew he loved me too. We kept "just sleeping together," but we also did many things that couples do. We officially started our relationship seven months after we met for the first time.
A few months afterward, he asked me if I had had a one-night stand and I told him yes, it had happened a few months before we met. A couple of months later, I could not bear to hold the truth in any longer. I felt like if he would forgive me and accept me for what I did, we were meant to be together and would be able to conquer all. If not then maybe we should not be together.
So I decided to tell him what had been on my mind for so long. I told him the truth that it had happened after we (Steve and I) had met three times and slept together once. He flipped. He said at first that he could not be with me anymore but he would think about it. When we talked together the next day we decided to make it work.
Four months after I told him he went on a weekend away with his friend to another country where he got really drunk and kissed a girl. He told me she kissed him and that he went away as soon as he figured out what had just happened. I was devastated, completely crushed. I felt betrayed by the love of my life.
I decided to be with him anyway because he was so sorry that he cried and told me it was a mistake. I never screamed at him once for this and never called him any names, I was just sad and cried. We stayed together and made it work.
For eight months after I told him when my incident had happened he called me a whore almost every day. Every time we fought it was because he was thinking about that incident. He told me he hated me, that I deserved nothing good, that I didn't deserve him, that he was a much better person than me, that he should be with a girl that didn't do such a thing, that I was disgusting, that I was a whore, that I should fuck off.
Whenever we fought about this I was scared to death. Three times he grabbed me by the neck, one time he lifted me up on the neck from the floor. Sometimes he grabbed me by the arms and shook me. Many times he held his fist up against me like he was going to hit me but he didn't. He told me "I'm so close to fucking hitting you right now you disgusting whore." About four times he pushed me so hard I fell.
Whenever I mentioned I was sad about the incident that happened on his trip, he always managed to turn it against me. What had started with me being sad about what he did ended with him screaming and me being scared to death, holding my arms around my head in fear of him hitting me.
Every time after we fought I comforted him. I said everything was going to be okay and that I forgave him.
I was never allowed to be sad. He would scream "Why are you crying, you whore? You don't deserve to cry." I was crying because I was scared, because I was sad and felt like I was going crazy. I was also crying because I did not like remembering the one-night stand and he kept on reminding me.
Two days ago we split up.
He told me he could never be with a girl that did such a thing when we had already met. He didn't care when I tried to tell him that it was the biggest mistake I ever made and that I was never going to be emotionally involved with the other man.
When we split, he did not scream at me. We were just sad to be splitting. I asked him whether he thought a therapist would help or if he could ever forgive me. He said that he thinks that a therapist wouldn't help with this, that I disgust him and he will never forgive me.
I was okay with ending things with him because I had been telling myself that I deserved better, that he may have been abusing me emotionally and physically during our relationship. So now come my questions.
Do you think a therapist would have been able to fix this anger and his thoughts about this incident and that it could have worked out for us?
Do you think I'm crazy for asking this question because I am not supposed to want to be with a guy that breaks me down, has destroyed my self-esteem and has complete power over me?
Was I abused?
How can I fix my self-esteem?
Right now I only remember the good things and can't seem to remember the bad things. It is only when I describe this to someone that I realize that this was kind of sick. I never said anything to him when he screamed at me. I was desperate - and still kind of am - to make it work.
The people I have told say that he is not good for me and that I should be happy to be out. But why do I not feel it? Why do I only want to be with him and make it work? I am still so in love with him, even though I am not as crazy about him after all this.
Can you help me in any way?
Three out of four victims of sexual assault are attacked by people they know and trust.
This is her story.
I was so young at 22.
I had never had a boyfriend, had never been kissed, had never had anything truly bad happen to me.
I met him on the first day of law school orientation. He was sweet. He was leaning into my conversations, going out of his way to talk to me. Within a month we were dating. He was wonderful in every way; always taking care of me, listening to my worries, making me laugh. I knew that all the years of holding out for a good one had paid off.
From the beginning he said he wanted to take it slow physically, knowing about my lack of experience. He knew I wanted to save sex for marriage. He didn't agree, but he went along with it. At first, at least.
Slowly he started pushing me to do things I didn't want to do. When I told him no or pushed his hand away, he would persist. These were little things though, in the "gray area," so eventually I would give in. If I didn't, I had to deal with his anger and pouting.
I was becoming more and more depressed, but I didn't know it.
Sure, I cried when I was alone. But I just hated school so much. I was stressed all the time. Not sleeping. Not eating. I just needed to toughen up. He was right there the whole time, making sure I ate, walking my dog, letting me cry. He was a godsend.
It was around this time that he began the emotional abuse.
I never appreciated him enough. I was selfish. There was no end to the ways that his ex-girlfriend was better than me. I spent my days tiptoeing around, never sure what would set him off. He was wonderful, though. We were just going through a rough patch. I needed to be the bigger person, forgive, and move on. He was so good at apologizing after a blow-up. He didn't mean any of it.
Slowly he started pushing harder and harder and wanting to go farther and farther physically. Four, five, six times I would pull away, but he wouldn't relent. What was I supposed to do, scream? He was my boyfriend, he loved me. He just got carried away. I talked to him about it on several occasions, explaining that what he was doing wasn't right. I tried to explain that "no means no."
"Do you know what you're accusing me of?" he exploded.
"I'm not accusing you of anything, I'm just trying to tell you how I feel."
It didn't matter. I learned not to bring it up. I blamed myself for it. After all, a guy will go as far as a girl lets him, right? Each time he pushed, I eventually gave in. It was my fault. I had trained him not to take my protests seriously. If only I were stronger, it wouldn't be a problem. But it was too late now.
I began not to protest at all. I couldn't understand what force was keeping me silent, but I was paralyzed when he touched me. I tried to accept that these were things I did now. I tried to put it from my mind.
One night, he took my clothes off. When it was all over, he said that he had entered me. I was confused. I hadn't felt anything. The next day I talked to him about it. I told him how upset I was. I reminded him, for the thousandth time, that this was not what I wanted our relationship to look like. I told him again, as I had in the beginning and so many times in between, that this was the final, absolute line.
This was not a gray area, this was wrong.
In response, he berated me for "ruining his first time." He brushed aside my distress, telling me how special he wanted his first time to be and how I had ruined it by not being there emotionally. How could I be so selfish?
I begged him that day not try it again. I told him it would destroy me. I told him I would never be able to forgive him or myself. That very same night he pushed me into going all the way. This time I felt it; the pain. I felt so helpless. Silent, paralyzed, horrified at my weakness, I let it happen. As usual, it was my fault.
With the support of my mom and a therapist, I finally left him, but the damage remains. The worst part is not having a name for what happened. Rape isn't quite right. But I felt so forced, so helpless. It would almost have been better if he had held me down screaming. At least then I would know.
I tell myself it wasn't my fault, but when my guard is down that little voice still whispers, "You let it happen. Slut. Easy. Weak." I just want to feel wholesome again.
I'm not sure I ever will.
Nine out of ten victims of child sexual abuse know their abusers. Many times, the abuser is a member of their family.
This is her story.
Today my mother told me my dad told her that it may be true that I wasn't lying about my grandfather.
My mother is, as they say, an unreliable narrator. She said it like this, "Well, your dad said to me once, 'I'm only going to tell you this one time. The girls may have been telling the truth about what happened to them.'"
The sharp hope that welled within me surprised me. I have a memory of my father, very drunk, asking me to accompany him as he took the baby sitter home. I was little. I had been asleep, I think. We dropped her off then my dad looks at me and begs, "Is it true?"
I was uncomfortable, scared.
When I told him yes, his anguish was unbearable for me. His tears. I only ever saw him cry that day. Not when his mother or his brother died. Not even when his father, the grandfather in question, died.
Instead my father was always drunk.
Through the years he would volley this, "You girls and your lies ruined my family, ruined my father's life." The message was always: it was my fault. I was a liar. I hurt everyone and ruined everything.
The hope that came with my mother's ridiculously casual announcement today isn't as freeing as it needs to be from the chains of all those other statements. I don't know that I trust her. I don't know if he ever really said it.
In my heart, I don't believe he believes it, believes me.
If he did believe me, why did nothing happen to my grandfather? Why did he get to move in with us, years after I accused him? Why was I forced to spend time with him, day after day, living in fear of his eyes, his hands?
If my father believed me, why didn't he protect me?
So, I guess he didn't believe me, right? If he did, and he didn't protect me, what is so wrong with me that I didn't deserve protection?
Years of healthy acceptance under my belt, and her one casual sentence today brings me to my knees.
I am a young woman who just left my abuser.
It happened today.
As a bit of background, I am American and my fiance is Mexican. We had our cultural differences but I am studying a good bit of Latino studies and Spanish at college, so the culture isn't foreign to me; I am mostly bilingual. I have been living with my fiance and future relatives for about a month and a half.
It was the typical machista stuff. He told me what to wear, how to cut my hair, how to wash dishes, mop floors, do laundry, and any other household chore you can think of. He told me how frequently I should bathe, when I could descansar ('rest' in Spanish), and when I should be working. He didn't ask me to help with dinner, but would instead tell me.
If I confronted him on how he spoke to me he would say, "This is how I am and if you don't like it I'll find another woman who doesn't mind." If I were smart I would've told him to go find her, but instead I endured.
I kept thinking I would convince him that I was good - good enough to merit being spoken to with respect. I thought if I did enough chores, or was good enough in bed, or made his life easier (including getting up at 4:00am to pack his lunch and help him get ready for work), that he would grow to appreciate me. I should've known better.
I now have no friends - my fiance and I got in a fight after I got coffee with my best girlfriend.
By some miracle my family found it within themselves to forgive me for ignoring them for months. I am now back at my mother's house. If I hadn't had a place to go, I wouldn't have left.
I am 21 years old and a full-time college student. For the past month and a half I have been pulling double duty on four hours of sleep or less a night doing house chores and schoolwork. I could only do schoolwork in the morning after he left for work because if I sat for any length of time in front of him he would call me lazy and tell me to go get some chores done. I would get my week's worth of schoolwork done in the morning after he left between the hours of 4:00 and 8:00.
I am not sure how I pulled off the grades I'm getting this semester. He would always ask me what my degree is for if I am going to be in the house all day. If I was ever even ten minutes late getting in from classes he would freak out and scream at me and tell me I didn't really love him, that he was going to get tired of me and leave me and then no one would want me because I am used goods.
Today I had a family emergency. My mother called to tell me my cousin two states away had a stroke and was in the hospital with partial paralysis. I wanted to be with my mother but I knew I couldn't talk to him about it and I needed his permission to leave the house.
When my mother called I sat down on the bed. Tears fell silently from my cheeks as he entered the room. He took one look at me and gruffly asked, "Tu que tienes? No te dije que te apures?" (What's wrong with you? Didn't I tell you to hurry up?)
I couldn't tell him that I was upset or why I was upset because I knew as painful as the situation was for me, he couldn't feel sympathy for anything I might have to say. So I simply answered "nada." There is nothing wrong.
He said, "Then hurry up. We are leaving."
We were leaving to do the week's grocery shopping with the rest of the family, eight of us total. It was my least favorite activity while living with my fiance and future in-laws because I was frequently shamed and yelled at for being culturally incorrect (in my own country).
I knew I just couldn't go on that day. I couldn't pretend nothing was wrong.
My dad, who has been basically absent my entire life except for around birthdays, Christmas, and the odd little league game, had just sent me a series of texts telling me that even though he hadn't really been there, he is proud of who I am and that no man will ever deserve me. I couldn't believe it - still don't - but his messages gave me the nudge I needed to make the decision I'd spent a month agonizing about.
"Hurry up, we're leaving," my fiance called.
I said, "Babe, I don't want to."
He replied, "you don't want to? I didn't ask. We're going; get your coat."
I replied, "I just said I don't want to. I don't want to."
This exchange went on a few times, then he jerked around violently and came closer. I was afraid he was going to hit me. He has never hit me but there have been several times when I thought he might.
Instead of hitting me, he said a lot of ugly things, including several swear words in Spanish - cursing my friends and my family, saying that they were always coming between us and between me and my duties as a wife. I reminded him that he promised when I moved in that I could see my family whenever I wanted. He said, "Yes, whenever you want. Just not now because we're going grocery shopping."
I said, "You go. I'm staying."
And he said, "If you don't come with me, I don't ever want to see you in this house again when I come home." I asked him if he was sure and he said yes - he didn't want a wife that cared more about other people than him.
I reminded him that he shouldn't talk that way to me, that if he was serious I would leave. I wouldn't stay where I wasn't wanted, and I told him he might regret it later when his anger passed. He said he might and left with his family. Then he sent me a message telling me he wanted me to get my things and leave. I asked him again if he was sure. He said yes.
I packed quickly and was out in 30 minutes. I left my ring and the jewelry he bought me. My sister and mother say I should've kept them, but something about that felt icky.
He came home from his shopping trip and texted me - told me he couldn't believe I had moved out. That it hurt him that I left my ring, that it was a gift given in love and that he would flush it down the toilet. He said he would never let another woman make him cry; he never wanted another wife. He said so many things. He is still texting me.
When I write it all out like this I wonder why I was even still there. But when you are actually living it and you love the person and you are accustomed to a certain level of abuse in your home environment, the lines get very fuzzy.
I can't go back, though.
I won't go back.
Page 1 of 67