My mother, who had me at 17, was abandoned by my biological father before I was six months old. When I was 2, my mother met my stepfather. She married him right away and she used to tell me that I couldn’t wait to be adopted by this man so that my last name would be the same as everyone else. My brother was born when I was four and my sister was born three years later. I always remember that there was a lot of alcohol induced yelling and fighting between my mom and stepdad as we were growing up. I also remember being deathly afraid of him. Not being his biological child set me up to take that brunt of his abuse. The slightest misstep would set him off and I’d be hit or spanked with a belt and cut to the core with harsh, angry words. I remember being punched so hard in the stomach many times and having the breath knocked out of me for setting him off.
When I was in 3rd grade, I told my teacher what was happening. My mom swept everything under the rug, letting me know that what was happening in our home was ok by protecting him. Later that year, I ended up in the hospital with a concussion. He was mad about something and pushed me, causing me to fall backward in the bath tub hitting my head. He told everyone my clumsiness caused my fall. Another time, he squeezed my jaws together so hard that my tooth chipped. I still have that chipped tooth. I’ve had to lie to many dentists about that tooth. No one ever questioned my stepfather, to the outside world, he was a nice, likeable guy.
As I got older, his attention toward me started changing. I was still on the receiving end of the verbal and physical abuse, but I was also subjected to blatant fondling and comments about my changing body. My mother brushed it off saying that he appreciated women and I should be flattered. How was I to know any different? I later came to understand that I was being groomed. I always felt like he was watching me… through my bedroom windows, when I was in the bathroom, when I was sleeping… I could almost always feel his eyes on me. When I was 15, my grandmother, who I adored, passed away after battling cancer. My mother withdrew and went into alcoholic depression for many months. In her absence, he turned to me. I would wake up to him touching me. I pretended to sleep through it several times. I was so afraid of what he’d do if I confronted him.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I told him to stop. He promised he’d never do it again. I hated him so much and I was so angry at my mother because she wasn’t there to protect me. I was looking for someone to help me escape the hell I was living in. I told one of my friends what had happened. She must have told her parents. It just so happened that my friend’s parents both worked with my mother at the school I attended. Later that year, when my friend and I were having typical girl drama, the girl’s mother confronted me. She told me that I had better figure out a way to get along with her daughter because she “knew personal things and could be very vindictive if necessary.”
To this day, I know without any doubt that my mother knew something happened. I was confrontational and angry. I yelled at him many times and set myself up to be hit and punished, something I’d never done before. I hated to be near him and I made that very obvious. I couldn’t understand how my mother failed to protect me. It was bad enough that she allowed the verbal and physical abuse, but I was convinced she also knew about the sexual abuse.
When I finally left for college, I never came home to stay for more than a weekend. When I’d visit and get ready to leave, my mother would whisper in my ear “give your dad a hug”. I hated her, it killed me to even think about being anywhere near him. Throughout college, I had many one night stands, looking for love and affection in the worst places. I never let anyone get close enough to have any kind of relationship.
When I was 23, somehow I finally told my mom in a roundabout way about the sexual abuse. She immediately divorced him and promised to get me the help I needed. That lasted about 6 months and then the money stopped coming and I stopped getting help. During this time, my brother struggled with the end of their relationship, drinking and threatening suicide. I guess he thought it was better for them to stay together and be miserable. Who knows?
I never reported what happened to me and I wish I had. Once, when my stepfather was involved with a woman who had children, I told my sister that I wanted to file a police report. She told me if I did, she’d never speak to me again. So I didn’t. I still struggle to understand why I’m the one continually punished for what happened and why I have to be the one to make concessions and endure his presence when I was the one targeted and abused. I harbor a lot of anger and resentment, but as usual, I suck it up so that my children can have a relationship with my family and I can be a part of my nephews’ lives.
My own married life is another level of dysfunction. I struggle to know how to be sexually confident and find myself thinking that I’m not good enough or sexual enough for my husband. His understanding and patience toward this part of my life is long gone. He can’t understand why I haven’t “gotten over it”.
My life is far from perfect, but I’m working on that. I’m trying to build a relationship with God, but having issues with a father figure doesn’t make that easy. I struggle with forgiveness. I’m not ready to forgive my mother for her failure to protect me, my brother or sister for choosing to have him in their lives, but most of all, I’m not ready to forgive him. Again, I’m working on that. I know as my relationship with God progresses, I’ll figure out the forgiveness.
One thing I do know is that if a child ever trusts me enough to tell me about any kind of abuse, I will NEVER let that secret fall on deaf ears. Twice, I was denied that chance for help and I swear that nothing will ever keep me from helping any child who confesses any abuse to me. This you can count on.