Before my personal experience with abuse, I lived in a household in which my father abused my mother. I do not recall times when I witnessed him hitting her, but our home was filled with fear, anger and disappointment. When my parents finally separated, my mother took my siblings and I to live with my grandmother.
We had lots of family in the area, and shortly after the move two family members began abusing me. They tried to convince me what they were doing was ok. One day, as I stood outside the bathroom door, I remember thinking to myself that I do not want to do this to anyone when I grow up.
For years, I struggled with the voice within that urged me to speak up for myself. First, I felt confused. I did not want to get the nicer of the two in trouble. Second, I let my guilt interfere with telling the truth. I thought that the abuse went on far too long without saying a word. What would people think? Would I get into trouble anyway? Third, I feared the unknown. What would they do to my family and me? I already witnessed the anger of “the nicer one.” One day, he slapped my brother when he talked back to him. When I did gather the courage, I lost it when I did not receive the response I wanted.
The abuse ended right before 5th grade. Although I was glad that the experience was over, I felt disappointed in myself for not listening to my inner voice.
One day, I heard a knock at the door. To my surprise, it was who I considered “the mean one.” I thought ‘no, not again.’ As he walked towards me, I stood frozen in disbelief. Thoughts of potential escape routes entered my mind. I could run out the back door to the empty house behind ours. If I ran, would he catch me and still take advantage of me? Would anyone rescue me?
When I returned to the present situation, our eyes met briefly. Then I looked down and uttered the word, “please.” My eyes veered over to his shoulders to notice him shrugging. He did not appear domineering and tall anymore. I could not believe that this was the same man who ignored my cries and pleas for stopping. Before I knew it, I mustered the courage to yell, “no,” and ran past him, out the front door. The sun greeted me with such brightness.
The day seemed so clear; an aunt who just pulled up asked me if I was okay. I nodded my head with a verbal unsure, “yes.” I still didn’t want to cause a scene, thinking that I could handle it. I stood in the grass and a weight lifted off me. I realized that I received another chance to speak up for myself. When I made it back into the house, my brothers informed me that he left out the back door. This day, I realized the power of no.
For years, I carried the anger, guilt, resentment, and shame, yet I did not want the emotions to ruin my life. I knew that I needed to continue to work on myself. Although I realized that the abuse was not my fault, I took responsibility for my part in not telling.
Despite my circumstances, I continued to learn and excel in school because I wanted to be the best that I could be. In grade school and high school, I was on the Honor Roll list, a member of the National Honor Society, Valedictorian. I went on the earn my Bachelor’s, multiple times on the Dean’s list, a Master’s degree, membership to Honor Societies, and other accomplishments.
I have had a few bumps along the way and veered off the path. However, the flame to carry out my purpose in life remains lit. After the experience of sexual abuse, I committed to replacing “mistakes” with “life lessons.” The word “mistakes” can have such a negative meaning. I worked on my inner self using life experiences as the laboratory for character formation.
In my 20’s, I began to search for resources for children who experienced child abuse, to find out more about the incidence of child abuse, signs and symptoms, and prevention techniques. I came across Darkness to Light’s 5 Steps to Protecting Children™ and their work in educating and preventing child abuse. The education I received helped me create a home environment that protected my children. It equipped me to empower them in many ways:
- Before our children could walk, I informed them that no one has the right to touch their private parts. I spent quality time with them playing with their games and toys, homeschooling, and attending social events. I have our children saying positive affirmations to themselves daily to help build their self-esteem.
- As their primary caregiver for several years, I limited their outside experiences with other people and often attended outside events. Every chance that I get, I speak up for them and encourage them to speak up for themselves.
- I acknowledge our children’s feelings as soon as I can and encourage dialogue. I have shared with them that there are no secrets when it comes to someone touching you inappropriately.
- I realize that I may not stop every experience our children have, so I help them to develop the inner core needed to weather the storms of life. I teach evergreen principles; many of what I teach come from the Bible, my mother, and my life experiences.
I know how it feels to be alone, to question right from wrong, and to deny myself. No child should ever experience any acts or words that violate their mind, body, and spirit, by any means. I want to help in any way that I can to give every child their birthright: respect.
I believe in and support Darkness to Light’s 5 Steps to Protecting Children™ because I believe in the power of education, prevention, and protection of our right to live a life free of abuse.