I was working with a local newspaper who said they would publish my story, but on a small island where friendship and a little money go a long way – little did it surprise me that the story never made it into the newspaper.
Rape and sexual abuse affect us in ways that are not always evident to others on the surface.
This is my story.
I was about fifteen years old when the dreams and flashbacks started. It was not long before the memories started surfacing little by little, and in a flash of blinding clarity I knew without a doubt where these dreams stemmed from. I had been sexually abused. I do not know for sure, but I must have been five or six when the abuse began. The perpetrator – the husband of a trusted blood relative! I had a very active childhood, and spent quite a few holidays and weekends going to Church, The Yacht Club and even Grenada with this person and his wife. However, what everyone else did not know was that I was one along with at least two others in our family who fell prey to this sexual predator once we were in his presence. Indeed, it would not surprise me to learn that there were more whose voices may never be heard.
For years I have struggled with feelings of guilt, shame and anger – to mention only a few – and now I have turned those feelings into resourcefulness. I have examined and re-examined my life and I have come to the conclusion that I am no longer powerless. I have mobilized my negative energy to make necessary changes in my life. But before I close this chapter, I have something to say to my abuser who still roams free in St. Lucia. For obvious reasons, I will not mention any names, but I know you will read this story and more importantly, you know who you are. And guilt has a way of creeping to the surface and highlighting one’s being. I have lived with this "secret" for at least 15 years.
Now YOU will live with what I have to say……………………
For a long time, I re-lived those ugly memories. No matter how hard I tried to eliminate them from my life, they would creep in at the most inconvenient and uncomfortable times. I have spent many hours of my life crying over what I have lost because of you. You stole my innocence and the innocence of others, something we only get one shot at in life. Do you know that one of your victims slept with a chair pushed under her bedroom door handle for years, afraid to fall asleep because of you? Do you know that we have all struggled with trust issues throughout the years, wondering why we found ourselves drawn to people who use us? Do you know that we have battled anxiety attacks, painful memories and severed relationships for years and invested great amounts of time, energy and money into seeking help for these issues? Let’s step back in time for a minute………………Did you feel a sense of accomplishment when you were done with us? Did it boost your ego to know that you were the first person we shared our bodies with, instead of letting us share them with someone we truly loved later on in life? Did it thrill you to know while you were sexually assaulting us, your wife lay sleeping in the room next door? I wonder if she knew and if she did, why is she ignoring it? Tell me something else – when I worked at your bookstore, was I making money for the work I was doing there, or was it really for my unwilling services to you? I struggled for years thinking that I was a dirty person for not fighting back or telling anyone, wondering does he start all of his sessions with little girls with a backrub, or was that just how he would start with me? I was scared that people could see what "I had done" as a little girl, and thinking that this is what people, who love you, do to you. For years your scent and taste have lingered unpleasantly in my thoughts. No person should be forced to live like that. My only regret at this point is that had I understood what was truly happening at the tender age that I was, I could have reported the offenses and you would have faced the consequences that a sexual offender should, and maybe that would have spared others from having to undergo the abuse as well.
I LOVE that after so long I am courageous enough to talk about this. The mere action of putting my feelings and thoughts on paper and finally out of my head has provided me tremendous relief from feelings that were once overwhelming. I understand now that what YOU did was wrong. You were NEVER given any power to make those decisions for me, or any of us for that matter. I am grateful that I now understand why I loved your attention – little girls want attention – just not the type of attention you were giving. I realize now that I was never to blame. I am no longer your victim. None of us are!! We are survivors of YOUR sickness, and any memories we have are battle wounds from a War that we have conquered. I am now a Counselor for victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. I love that I can utilize my own negative experience in a positive fashion. As for the other two that I know of………I am not at liberty to say, but I will tell you this. They both have wonderful lives and successful careers. We have come a long way. "Family" or not, I am now strong enough to risk any repercussions from this exposure. I am only sorry for the innocent bystanders in the family, such as my parents, who thought that I was safe with you, and had no clue as to what was really happening. Like the insidious snake that a pedophile is, your "secret" was buried beneath a false veneer of caring and hypocritical "family ties".
So, I guess there are things to be learned from all of this. I have shared my story in an effort to heal and empower myself. I also want other victims of sexual assault to know that they are not alone in their feelings and experiences Parents – listen to your children –spend enough time with them so that you can fill in any missing pieces of the puzzle. Don’t think that it cannot happen within the family and please don’t ignore it. We have a responsibility as adults and parents to teach our children healthy ways to express love. They expect us to know things that they cannot tell us. Impossible as this may seem, we must at least try.
You may have a friend, relative or neighbor who has been abused. You may have witnessed it, heard it, or merely suspected it for various reasons.
IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS BEING ABUSED………………………………………………………………….
- Ask direct questions. Give the victim ample opportunity to talk. Don’t rush into providing solutions.
- Listen – without judging Victims often believe that they are somehow responsible for what has happened to them. They feel ashamed, inadequate and are afraid that they will not be believed or will be judged.
- Let them know that you support them and care about them and that they are not responsible in any way for the abuse.
- Make sure he or she knows that they are not alone. There are millions of men and women from every ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic group who suffer from sexual abuse.
- NEVER justify the abuser’s actions, i.e.: "It must have happened to him/her when they were little." As adults, we must be held accountable for our feelings and actions. There is no excuse for sexual abuse!
Michaela L. Otway