My father raped me. And it has taken me half my life to find the courage write those four words.
At the age of 16 I had to endure something that I hope no other person, especially a child, has to experience. And most definitely not at the hands of a parent. When something like this happens to you, it changes you in ways that I find hard to fully articulate. For starters, I carry around feelings of guilt. I didn’t want to tear up my family. Feelings of confusion. Feelings of shame. And none of these feelings ever quite go away – they are always with you in some form or another. When I see a small child and want to acknowledge them with an innocent “what a cute kiddo!” to their parents, I cringe inside wondering if they think I might be like my father, and want to cause harm to their child. I find it hard to truly trust people. I find it hard to form bonds with older men.
My family is great at sweeping problems under the rug, and this was no different. My mother knew two years after the incident, but not much action was taken. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when my father commited another offense involving someone else, that I decided I had enough. This was a lesser offense, but still an act of sexual harassment. This happened not long after the time that my niece came into the world, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her having to endure something like this. It was time to speak out to ensure that my niece was protected, and it was time to deal with this head on. I did speak the truth to my sister, my family, a couple close friends and a therapist, and things are drastically different now. Dealing with this did tear apart my family, and for this I am sorry. Neither my sister or I have spoken to our father in over two years, and this likey won’t change anytime in the near future. And our relationship with our mother is drastically strained and different. But I needed to know that my niece was safe from him. I needed to be able to speak the truth. I needed to be able to begin the healing process. I am now closer than ever to my sister, who I adore. She is a strong, independent woman who has suffered more than her share of shit from the universe, and perservered through it all. And I cannot be more proud to see her raising my niece to become the same strong, independent woman. I am also very fortunate that I have a new family makeup, a logical family if you will. Something I’ll dive into a little deeper in the future.
Why am I telling my story now? Seeing the #MeToo movement this week on Facebook was powerful and inspiring. Seeing these strong women (and men) publicly acknowledge that something happened made me realize it was time. Any woman having to endure such a tragedy is awful, and while I was abhored to see that so many women that I know have suffered sexual harassment or assault, I was proud that I know so many that were able to stand up. To not let their experience with harassment and assault silence them. I hope others are taking notice that sexual assualt is experienced by so many, including people you may not expect. And so many victims don’t speak up until days, months, or more than likely years later, if at all. Sexual harassment and assault are serious. And should be taken seriously. It shouldn’t be laughed off. And it shouldn’t be shamed. And I refuse to have to hide it anymore. I know that hearing from other sexual assault survivors helped me begin the healing process, and my hope is that by sharing my story, I can provide the same. Even the slightest bit of comfort or inspiration to someone else that may have experienced something similar.
If you have experienced assault or harassment, you are not alone! Need to talk? Reach out to me, to a friend, or RAINN – the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. And if you see an assault or harassment taking place, you, as a human being, are obligated to speak up.
Don’t be shamed! And don’t be silenced!