Rising from the ashes

Part I: Two tortured childhoods

By Julie . . . I’ve learned that our stories affect many. And we are affected by the stories of many others. The registry did not exist when I was sexually abused by my father for the first 12 years of my life. When my mother married my father, he had already been in prison for committing his first rape, and he went on to reoffend again and again. I pray for the many that he hurt even though I don’t know most of their names. He never paid for the sins he committed in our home.

I grew up terrified of him. Memories of police coming in more than once to take him away in handcuffs in the middle of the night haunt me still today. I was relieved when he was gone for these short, unexplained periods of time, only to return to living in fear and the guarantee of more abuse when he would return.

My childhood was stolen from me, along with my voice and any feelings of worth. There was not a day that I was not ashamed of who I was. People in our family loved him dearly. I couldn’t. I struggled with a God who called me to honor my father. He didn’t deserve my honor, and I struggled to love him while feeling guilty that I couldn’t.

I sought therapy later in life but was always shamed and hushed if I ever wanted to talk about it in my family. That only added to my original abuse. Why couldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I have a voice? Why shouldn’t I have the right to speak the truth?  Here is what I know for sure. If we don’t work through the effects of the type of childhood trauma I experienced, it will come out in our relationships for many years to come. And we won’t even recognize that is what is happening.

Later in life, I made peace with God for not protecting me from someone I saw as a monster. I forgave him by saying, “Sure, I forgive him, but I am glad he is dead.” I knew that was not the level of forgiveness that God calls us to, but at that point, that was all I had to give.

I joined a group called Celebrate Recovery who work with people for any number of hurts. Once I made peace and understood that it was okay to be angry with my father, and even with God, I worked diligently to find serenity in my heart and help other victims of abuse by sharing my story.

A recent turn in my life caused a major shift in how I feel about abusers. I have a dearly loved niece who was successful in life after a very traumatic childhood.  The things she suffered were many: childhood cancer, a mom who was an addict, a father who abandoned her at birth, abuse at the hands of her mother’s dealer, and being put out of her home at age thirteen because her mother was sick of her. I had her spend as much time with my daughter and me as possible. She would call in the middle of the night, terrified, begging me to come and get her so she could escape the abuse all around her.

Her life turned in a different direction than mine. She successfully got herself through a Master’s degree in psychology and was successful in her profession. She reached the point where she believed that her powers were greater than they were; she began to think she could save lives, that if she could just give enough, she could be her patients’ savior.  Boundaries got blurred. Professional lines got crossed, and she was charged with a sexual offense.

Read Part II Wed. June 30

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