30 years ago, I was told to keep a secret. I was told to keep a secret from everybody by a person that was supposed to be a father to me. For 17 years of my life I was sexually abused and raped by my adopted father. From the first day, around the age of 6, fear was instilled in me. I was told that if I ever shared this secret with my mom that she would never believe me. I ALWAYS thought that to be true.
I have always lived a life of fear. I’ve lived a pretty secluded life from friends and family, never responding to texts or calls and never reached out to check on people. I was afraid that someone would say or do something that would trigger a memory and I was afraid that the secret would be found out. It’s a sad way of living but that’s how I thought I would spend the rest of my life. The secret consumed my life and I developed severe depression. That depression completely consumed me and negatively affected my relationships with other people. I had considered suicide multiple times but I’m still here. I’m here because MY story needed to be told and be told by ME.
On Sunday, July 9, 2017, there was a sermon at church about strongholds and how they affect your walk with God (at least, that’s what I got out of it). This stronghold completely affected my walk with Him, and everyone else in my life. That night I couldn’t sleep because of thoughts of this secret and how it affected me in every aspect of my life. I got about two hours of sleep and when I woke all I could hear was the Lord telling me “It’s time to start telling”. The problem was I didn’t know who I was going to tell first. I just knew I couldn’t tell my mom yet. So, I waited and prayed about it, and on Tuesday I decided to tell my aunt. I shared my story with her and then others I trusted. We were planning for how and when I could finally open up to my mom. My aunt and I decided that mom needed to be told right away. I was scared! I didn’t know if she would believe me or not.
Wednesday July 26, 2017, my sister and I drove to Jacksonville, FL to tell my mom. I took a letter that I had written so that I could read from it to make sure I didn’t leave anything out. She asked to read the letter herself. As she was reading it, I couldn’t gauge the look on her face. I was so scared. My letter ended with “I love you” and when she finished she said, “I love you too and we will get through this together.” I broke down in tears. It was at this point that every ounce of depression I had endured was lifted, every fear I lived with was gone. I was happy to be free of that burden but scared and unsure of what was to come all at the same time.
After a few minutes, my mom picked up her phone and said, “It’s time for him to face the music”. What some of you may not know is, they have a home in Florida but he worked in Norfolk, VA and lived in Chesapeake at this time. She called him at 8:50 pm, and said, “Anita told me everything. Talk to me.” He said, “No, no, nooo. God, please forgive me” and hung up the phone at 8:53 pm. At 9:01 pm, the Chesapeake police department received a phone call. My abuser committed suicide, by gunshot.
Just before 6 the next morning, there were two police officers at my mom’s door to deliver the news. I was shocked, I was hurt, I was angry, I called him every name in the book. We knew that this would be a possibility, but the reality of it was hard to take in. As the day progressed, we would share the story of what he did to me first before telling of the suicide so that everyone could understand why it happened. When we informed family and friends of the news, we discovered that I was not his only victim. As I shared the news I could see that sharing my story began to get easier. Sometimes when telling people, there were no tears and sometimes I couldn’t get two words out before the tears began to flow. Each time was and still is different.
There was no obituary. There was no funeral. We chose not to celebrate his life. Instead, he was cremated and sent off to the U.S. Navy to be buried at sea as he spent 32 years in the Navy.
I know that NONE of what he did to me, his suicide, or how this made my family and I feel has never been nor ever will be my fault. My healing process has begun and I look forward to the day when I can share my story consistently without crying. My hope is that someone will read or hear my story, and that it will give them the strength and courage to share their own. Sharing helps the healing process. Talking about it helps other victims share their story and move from being a victim to becoming a survivor.
I’ve learned that this was never MY secret to keep, this was HIS secret and sometimes secrets aren’t meant to be kept.
I am recovering. I am healing. I am a survivor.