As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I'm often haunted by the remnants of atrocities I suffered between the ages of two to five. Although I’m happily married, feelings of isolation and embarrassment emanate from my soul. The defiled little girl inside of me hasn’t fully recovered and she never will. Her silent pleas for help can easily spiral me into darkness. When that shame surfaces in my mind, I use learned therapeutic skills and exercise to reach a plateau of peace. My healing journey has been an arduous one, but with every achievement, I’m reminded that I alone control my destiny.
The story of my abuse began before I was born. My parents married young, just one week after my mother graduated high school. Because of inexperience and the lack of opportunities in Huntington, West Virginia, their relationship became argumentative, then volatile, and eventually violent. I entered the world on a wave of hatred that propelled me into a consistent state of fear. I was only a toddler when dad finally left our rural town and, therefore, I have no memory of his presence in my life.
Alone and in poverty, mom had to work, so she placed my older brother and I in the hands of a sinister married couple employed by a state-operated babysitting service. The wife used me as a sacrificial lamb in her sadistic relationship with her husband. When that man and his filthy hands came home from his job, I was escorted into the bathroom of their disheveled house. That’s where he regularly delivered his violence upon me.
Eventually, mom caught on to the barbarism. The husband went to prison while the wife escaped the ordeal unscathed. For all I know, she may have spent the next decades abusing more children.
The following years of my childhood were filled with haunting nightmares, irrational fears of monsters behind every door, and constant shame. Mom insisted we never speak of the atrocities in the ignorant belief that silence can erase evil. Just as many children around the world suffer from abuse, I too struggled quietly in constant fear.
As a teenager, I used anger and isolation to escape intimacy with boys. When I finally broke down and had sex at the age of 17, the experience hollowed me out. My Christian faith taught me purity, which I had needlessly destroyed. Damaged and insecure, I turned to promiscuity, beer, and self-harm during my college years to escape my self-imposed isolation. After a drunken night of beating myself with my own fists and cutting myself with shards of glass from a broken wine jug, I awoke in a pool of blood.
Hospitalized from my wounds, I finally came to the understanding that I needed real help. Since that awful night, I’ve sought therapy as a tonic from the pain. I also use exercise, strength training, and my deep spiritual faith as positive lifestyle choices to aid the healing throughout my adult life.
Discovering the Truth
One of the most common misconceptions about child sexual abuse is that the tortuous memories and suffering will disappear with your childhood. That’s simply not true. The psychological aftermath of my abuse has stayed with me. The best metaphor I can use to illustrate those repercussions is a family home that catches fire. Perhaps a faulty wire ignites the attic. The house then burns at no fault of its own. After the fire is extinguished and the home is rebuilt, you will always remember the horror of the flames consuming its roof.
For survivors of child sexual abuse, the fire happened inside each of us, and the singes to our spirits can never be forgotten.
As a child advocate and faith counselor, I’ve come to understand the importance of helping others on the long and treacherous path of healing. We need our loved ones and our colleagues to understand the depravity of the damage inflicted upon us and how those internal scars can color our view of the world. The healing process can be achieved through strength of spirit and dedication to our health.
Armed with this vital knowledge and experience, I use public speaking as a method to raise awareness of sexual abuse and human trafficking. By infusing my personal stories with well-researched information, survivors and their families are then equipped with knowledge so they too can find peace.
As part of my healing journey, I’ve authored several journal-style essays of my struggle. They’re available below for free in the hopes that others may be able to begin to understand the torture survivors must live with on a daily basis. I encourage you to download each of them. Please contact me if you have any questions.