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Jan 18

Dawn’s Story: Knowing No Childhood

I was sexually abused as far back as I can remember. I have no real recollection of when it started exactly, all I know is it ended when I finally told my mother at the age of 18. The actual abuse probably stopped about the age of 15, because I was old enough to avoid the situation but not strong enough to actually stop it. I continued to live in fear of it reoccurring for the next three years as it was my uncle that sexually abused me. Someone I should have been able to trust; he was family after all.

I had the perfect opportunity, when I was about 10, to put a stop to it because by this time I knew that what was happening was wrong. My aunt, my mother’s sister, found out my uncle was cheating on her and she confronted both him and the woman he’d been with. She was so angry at him so it would have been the perfect time to tell what happened. I remember that moment vividly, like it was yesterday! For 32 years later I lived with the disappointment in myself for not speaking up and saying something, for not standing up for myself and worse yet for not standing up for my little sister, who was also being abused by him. My aunt stayed with him.

There’s more guilt from that time-worse guilt! My sister and I shared a bed when we visited my Aunt & Uncle’s house, where most of the abuse took place. Whoever slept on the side of the bed, not against the wall, would be the victim that night so you can imagine the horrendous things my sister and I did to one another to be the one to sleep against the wall. Pulled hair, scratched, bit one another, fought, kicked and screamed, in hopes of not being hurt yet again. Our cries of distress were not understood by the people that loved us and I was a horrible big sister. I hated myself!

At 18 I finally told my parents. I actually stood up for myself and my sister for the first time. My parents were shocked and horrified. Unfortunately, that was the late 80’s, we lived in a small town – I don’t think we even had a therapist in town. My parents had no idea how to handle a situation like this. My dad did confront my uncle and told him not to ever lay a hand on his daughters again. No one told my Aunt what had happened and talking about it wasn’t encouraged, in fact it was discouraged. Life went on as normal, everyone pretended that everything was fine and that nothing had happened. No one but a few close friends that I had finally confided in knew what had happened. But that kind of secret, festers and boils below the surface until one day the cracks start to appear.

Life was definitely not perfect. I married a man at 22 and after 2 years my marriage was crumbling. I tried therapy alone and with my husband, but she was the wrong therapist for us. Our sex life was a mess. I hated sex! We got divorced after 3 years of marriage.

Towards the end of my marriage one of my friends asked why our marriage was failing. For the first time, I openly admitted to my friends that it was failing because of the sexual abuse that I had endured as a child. A few days later, one of these friends took me aside at work, a guy friend, and told me his secret; that his female babysitter had sexually abused him as a child as well. I was the first person in his life that he’d ever told.

I’m hardly a religious person, I do have a belief in a higher power, and I strongly believe we’re only given things in life that we can handle and these things happen to us because we are meant to do something bigger with them. In that moment I knew why I had been abused! It happened to me because I was no longer afraid to share it, to talk about it openly, to discuss it in detail to anyone that cared to listen; with the exception of my Aunt. This revelation started me on a path of self-discovery and self-awareness but I was in no way healed. I was probably more of a mess but I talked and shared my story with people and more and more people opened up to me about their secrets too.

Ten years into my second marriage, I was watching it crumble too and unable to stop it. A close high-school friend, almost ‘family’ kind of friend, had come back into my life after we lost touch after college. He’d only found out from me a year earlier about my abuse and he really hated talking about it cause it had made him cry on occasion when we had. I was whining to him about my marital problems and my family problems when he flat out asked me when I was going to stop being a victim and take control of my life. It was the biggest slap in my face but the best possible kind of slap. In that moment everything became crystal clear. I knew what I needed to do! More importantly I knew what I needed to do first.

I have three beautiful daughters from my second marriage. Three daughters that had to live in my messed up world where everyone pretended everything was fine, where my family pretended to welcome my uncle with open arms, but no one left my Uncle alone in the same room as my kids, or my brothers kids or my sisters kids. He was watched like a hawk! In that moment I knew that my first step was to protect my kids and never allow him to be in my life or my girls lives again. My second step was therapy, with Janice, the most amazing psychologist, to obtain some coping mechanisms to deal with telling my family that I was no longer allowing my uncle in my life.

I raced through therapy! I loved therapy! I went from having a sit down breakfast with my family, over the Christmas holidays in a Denny’s, to discuss my abuse, while we all cried, three weeks after my first session with Janice, to telling my Aunt and confronting my Uncle approximately eight months later. It was one hell of a ride but the best ride of my life!

My marriage didn’t survive that roller coaster and it was a roller coaster. I learned so much about who I was, who I had allowed myself to become and why I was this person that the person I went into my marriage as and the person I came out of my marriage as, were completely different people. I love the person on this side of my therapy and I can now understand & love the person on the other side too.

About the author

WYR

When You're Ready.org is a community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

Permanent link to this article: http://whenyoureready.org/dawn/