|My years as a College Student 1974-1978|
Why it took me years to write my memoir - why I didn’t want to write about me at all - is because I was sexually abused by my adoptive father. I broke my silence at age 22 when I went to my first therapist for counseling (right after college). I wasn't telling everyone what had happened - I kept silent. Writing about my childhood took me nearly 5 years. I published my memoir in early 2010. At age 53, shame could still do that - it tried to silence me.
Did I want to remember those years? No. Remembering what he did to me paralyzed me: to go back in time to think about those years seemed like a bad idea, like I’d be reliving it. I had therapy twice and it had helped. Writing helped more. The more you tell what happened, the old terror loosens its grip on you. I had therapy to release it and writing about it was hard but not horrible. Our minds do bury what is hard to comprehend. When we feel safe, as adults, after time has passed, we can go back and look at what happened. Talking about it and writing about it releases the shame.
Did I want the world to know? No. I checked with a few of my female cousins to make sure that my dad made me his only victim. Of course this was years after it happened. After my memoir, my cousins then knew what happened to me and yes, they did back me up and support me emotionally. They knew my dad was a bad alcoholic. Now they knew the truth and everything else.
Did I have to write what happened? Absolutely. WARNING: This kind of thing can define the rest of your life. If you don’t face it head-on, it can control you and destroy you and your confidence.
For years and years I didn’t want anyone to know - because of my shame. I never confronted my dad as a teenager. To me, my father was sick. He was the monster who I had to live with. I endured more than five years of inappropriate touching and non-stop talk about sex - what he wanted to do to me in graphic detail.
Why didn’t I go to police or to a trusted teacher or a relative? First I was afraid no one would believe me. Second, I was afraid I’d be blamed - my mother had called me a whore. I was 12 when my dad first molested me - I was not a whore. Our family was sick and damaging in many ways.
I want each and every sexual abuse victim, at PENN STATE or anywhere else to know: your silence keeps you the victim. Silence is not an answer. To heal this, you have to speak your truth.
First, find a really good therapist; then hire a really good lawyer.
Now I am a survivor of sexual abuse, not a victim.