In early spring of 1997, Watertown, South Dakota, my hometown, was facing one of the biggest floods known to the community. It engulfed homes. The flood waters forced countless families out of their homes. In the tragedy of it all, the community came together. They began filling and placing sandbags to prevent the rising waters from reaching more homes and businesses. Countless times people wanted to give up, let the waters in, because simply, it was easier.
I envision my childhood much like a home surrounded by the water. There is nothing able to be saved by the way it looks. Help can be standing 20 feet on the solid ground outside, but unable to reach me. It appears as though whoever was in the home at the time the flood waters rose, was able to get to safety. They never thought to investigate further, if they had, they would have found and helped me. The waters just kept coming in. There is no stopping them. My emotions locked inside and no way to reach them. The water rises higher and faster. Before I know it, my emotions and childhood are trapped. I worked tirelessly filling sandbags, reaching my hand out for someone to come help me. It was too late. The havoc-destruction-devastation caused by this flood is the same feelings I experienced growing up being sexually abused as a child. And I know many other survivors have went through trials similar to mine.
I am an incest survivor. I continue to heal each and every day with the help of God, my family, friends, and the amazing advocates I have come to know.
I don’t recall all of the details, but I do remember before I was in grade school another older female cousin of mine would have me perform oral penetration on her. I remember I did not like the smell, or the taste. It felt as though I had to go through with it though, or she may tell on me and I did not want to get into trouble. This occurred at least a dozen times. It was always at her house, never mine.
I was next abused by my brother. I was in the third grade. It may have started before this, but this is the earliest memory I have. I was so unsure of what was happening. All I knew is I did not want him to not love me, or to beat on me. As the sexual and physical abuse was something normal for him to do almost daily. He blamed me for the abuse. I remember telling my “big sister” from the Big Brother Big Sisters program I was involved in through the Boys and girls Club. She then turned it in to authorities. They came to my school and talked to me….pulled my mom out of work and talked to her. At home later that night…I sat atop the steps while my parents questioned my brother and frequently I heard him saying “She made me do it.” I felt ashamed….I felt dirty….I felt sick…I felt as though I had been thrown down into a hole dug six feet down under, dirt and rocks hurled at me as I lay there crying out tears, but no one could see or hear me….I was too far away. He touched my privates…he groped me in the middle of the night…I prayed this was the end….boy was I wrong. I felt as though God didn’t love me, that he failed and left me. I was all alone.
For a very long time, I blamed my parents for allowing the abuse to continue, even after it was brought to authorities attention. It felt as though they chose a side in all of it, and I wasn’t worthy of being fought for or believed. I felt like the dirty torn apart shop rag thrown into the corner, waiting for someone to sweep it up into the trash. How was I not better than the rag in the trash?
My cousin/best friend was also abused by my brother. Her and I are the same age. Thankfully, she was practically one of the only people who believed me the abuse happened and continued to happen. When I would try to express concern to others about leaving their daughters alone with him, I would get told, “Oh, Stop, you are just holding a grudge. He is a big teddy bear.” This made me so angry. I prayed he did not ever steal any other persons innocence, as he stole mine. My heart hurts deeply to admit, but this also led to her and I engaging in oral penetration on each other. I believe there were sometimes we also physically penetrated each other. I always excused this away as we were comforting each other. I know it doesn’t excuse or make any of it right, but it is how I rationalized things in my mind.
She was afraid to spend the night with me because my brother would abuse her. I wanted her to stay over so I could avoid being victimized for once. I carried around so much guilt and shame for this. It progressed from there….eventually to him performing oral sex…and penetration. I dreaded sleeping. His abuse didn’t just progress for me, but my cousin as well. Even though we both were going through Hell, neither of us spoke of what had happened. We were both the youngest of our families, and did not want to cause trouble for anyone. So we kept this heavy-boulder-mountain of a secret to ourselves. I came to despise my brother, from whom I should have felt love and protection by. I couldn’t call out for help…no one would believe me…or hear me anyway.
I remember a time there were many of us gathered at my grandparents house. It must have been some sort of holiday. The adults were in the kitchen and dining room. The kids were supposed to be asleep in the living room. An older male cousin of mine climbed on top of me and began kissing the back of my neck. It sent shivers down my spine. I did not call out for help. I guess by this time, I assumed no one would believe or help me. Then he began moving in an upward and downward motion on top of my body. He whispered to me, “Do you like this?” I cringed and shook my head in agreement.
It has recently been brought to my attention that my brother and another male cousin of mine would take their turns with me. They both penetrated me. I did not recall this whatsoever. Until a month or two after learning about the experience, the images began playing in my mind. I did my best to shut them out. How does one do that? I could see them both standing there, one would finish and motion for the other to come have his way with me. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. Then when they were finished, they would talk and brag about it. I would get up and get dressed as quickly as I could.
What I found to be the hardest to deal with to date are two things. One, is admitting it was incest. How could any member of my own family do this to me. It would be so much easier to tell people if it was just regular sexual abuse. I can not be the one to tear my family apart. The second thing, is coming to terms with the fact that yes, the body naturally responds to sexual conduct. Because of this, there were times I would initiate the sexual contact. It is completely normal for a body to respond to sexual stimulation. The other reason I would initiate the contact was to just get it over and done with. These two things have had my brain so messed up. What is wrong with me? Why on earth would I want my brother or my cousin to have sex with me? Maybe you have had these thoughts flooding through your mind. They are lies, lies straight from the Devil. He wants you to believe that you are dirty, you are worthless. None of these things are true. It took me a long time to accept that I am not in the wrong.
I moved out when I was 14 into another cousins house to help her with her kids….just to feel safe. I did not escape abuse there either. The male cousin who would take his turn with me would come to visit often and spend the night quite a bit. We had this weird relationship where sometimes it felt as though we were dating. The sexual encounters happened more and more frequently. Again I find myself questioning how or why could I be doing these things. The answer I have found, is the abuse I have endured my life has skewed my view on how relationships and love are supposed to be.
The sexual torture as I recall it, continued on until he went to college out of state when I was 15 or 16. I sensed relief!With him gone, I was home much more. The time came, he finished college and got divorced. He ended up moving home. The fear and dread of being home washed over me all over again. One night, I had my door locked…I woke up to hearing my door opening…sudden terror streamed over my body…I was frozen in fear. He came in a few minutes later. I kicked him away and he left. He would try grabbing my butt as I was passing by. It felt as though I was being pushed down by the waves of the ocean, unable to come up for breath. I was sinking further and further into the deep dark pit of the ocean. I am unsure how I would free myself. I ended up letting my emotions and part of my identity go, just to be able to come up for air. I was in a long distance relationship at the time….I made the choice to move away….to get away….I just couldn’t allow it to happen anymore. My freedom came at a high cost though.
I went through my college years lost, and confused about who I am. I thought I loved others with my whole heart, but I didn’t. I robbed them of knowing who I truly am. God was not a part of my life. After I prayed faithfully for Him to save me from the abuse, and it continued happening, I ran far away from God without looking back. I threw myself into college. I finished a semester early. Moved back to my hometown, found myself an apartment. This is when I really began self sabotaging. I went to the local bars regularly. I slept with men who I knew had no interest in me. I threw myself at almost anybody that would have me. I used drugs, sex, and alcohol to numb the feelings even more. I didn’t want to remember my past. There were times people would question me whether it happened, and I denied it. I got so tired of trying to prove myself to be right.
I started working a good job, living in a new town with my grandmother. I went back home for the weekend, knowing my parents were out of town for the weekend. I tell myself I didn’t plan to go to the bar one particular night. I think I really wanted to go. It was this night God began moving in my life. He brought this man into my life. I still not looking for Him, attempted to use this man as a one night stand. But he saw and wanted more than that. We began dating shortly after that weekend. We moved in together, and got pregnant, and married all in less than a year of knowing each other. Yes many people can claim I was just throwing myself into this to avoid the feelings more. That is partly true.
With now married being married, I find myself having difficulty with sex and pleasure. I do not know how to allow myself to see myself how God sees me. I don’t know how to allow myself how to feel pleasure. God has granted us with four beautiful children. My brother is no longer a part of our lives as he chooses to deny any responsibility and not deal with it. I also do not trust him around my children, not only my daughters but my sons as well. I am unsure the extent in which his abuse reaches for certain.
My abuse has played a profound role in my adult and married life. I fear I am able to be there and give my husband the things he needs sexually and for that I doubt whether or not to stay because of the kids…there have been times I have started regretting my life… my marriage… my kids… everything. I came to a very dark dark place in my life in October of 2014. I started to make a plan to end my own life. It is still hard for me to grasp the idea I was so far down, and felt unreachable. God really made himself known to me through the KLOVE app. There were several people who reached out to me. Somehow, through these people, they prayed faithfully for me, and with me. As I sat in the bathtub one evening, crying, I poured my heart out to my husband. I confessed the fact I counted some of my medication and searched how many it would take to end my life. He looked me straight in the eyes and asked if he needed to get me help. I sat for a few minutes, thinking, and then calmly responded, no God has this, he has me. I will be okay. And, I was. He brought me up out of the dark pit I was trapped in.
I truly believe that I went through my abuse for a reason….one of which I have not yet been shown. I have survived thus far and that God wants to create a new me, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” from 2 Corinthians 5:17. I never thought this applied to me. I am not worth this kind of love. But, allowing myself to give over control to God and allow Him to work in my life has begun to open my eyes to new outlets of healing. As I continue sharing my story and reaching to others, my healing changes day by day. I am renewed always. It is not just a one time thing for me. He is constantly changing and renewing my soul.
When we feel so deep in despair-destruction-devastation, we feel as though we are crushed. We are unlovable. We feel broken and shattered. When David wrote this, he wrote it directly to me it seems. I felt all of this. Psalms 34:18 states, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” A devotion I read on this verse stated that, “the word ‘broken’ in Hebrew is the word ‘shabar’ and means ‘to rend violently or crush; to maim, cripple or break.’ ‘Shabar’ was used to describe ships that had been splintered and torn due to ferocious and wild winds. It was also used to describe the tearing and ripping that wild, ravenous beasts performed upon their prey. When the psalmist declares (this), he is reminding us that the Lord is lovingly attentive to those who are enduring unimaginable pain. If you are emotionally torn apart and wonder how you will make it through one more today, be comforted with the surety that He is with you. If you have a broken heart, you can count on His presence to bind up your wounds and to begin the healing process. Do not push Him away at these moments but welcome Him and receive His comfort. Many Christians squeeze God out of their lives at the very time they need Him most desperately. I know I definitely did! No one will comfort you like the Lord. Jesus has taken all of the things that have broken your heart to the cross of Calvary. He wanted you to live an abundant life on earth! The pain has already been carried and has been laid at the foot of the cross. (Declare) ‘God is close to me. When my life is falling apart I will draw near to the One Who is able to comfort me.”
In October of 2016, I made a choice to truly start my healing. Yes, God had been doing small things here and there. But I felt called to take this to the next level. I searched and searched to find a facility for treatment. I have PTSD, Bipolar type 2, and some insomnia. I found a facility located outside of Seattle, WA. That is 1700 miles from my husband, children, and family. My husband supported me 100% of the way. He wanted this for me more than I did sometimes. Thankfully he never let me quit and pushed me onward. I went to The Center-A Place of Hope in Edmonds, Washington. It was there, ,i started to find God in my ruins. He showed himself in the staff, in the community, and in my housemates. I finally was able to identify and feel some of my emotions. I even found out I lumped my emotions into what I call “my blob.” Someday, I will write a story about that. I choose not to allow my diagnosis define who I am. Do I still struggle with them? You bet I do! I keep looking for God and giving Him the glory in all of my triumphs and trials as well. He is not only there for me in the good times, but he is hurting with me in the bad as well. I now know He was there with me as I was being abused. He felt every single thing I did. His heart broke each time.
Someone once said to me, “Seek God! Seek God recklessly! Seek God with no regard for anything but Him and His will for you! Life won’t always be easy, but after the things that you have survived, as true emotions begin to flood your heart and mind, you are going to be so joyful you won’t know how to express it! And I will be celebrating with you! I claim it now, in Jesus’ name!” And I claim this for you as well! My abuse does not define me. I now choose to let it strengthen me. I choose to let my story be heard to help others know they are not alone, to know they have a voice to, and hopefully to help them seek healing through Christ, as he is our ultimate healer. I would not be able to tell my story if it weren’t for Him and the people he has placed in my life.