A note from Jackie…

Below you will find the story of a journey filled with hurt and pain.  I am always moved beyond words when a person is willing and ready to share their story with the world.  I sit here today filled with respect and admiration for this brave, young woman.  She has shared a piece of her life with us.  I am honored and humbled to be able to share it with you. ~Jackie

Survivor #2

Here is my story as best I can tell it at this time. It has changed over the years, expanded to include the real issues and the real pain. Some day I hope to be able to sign my name to my story, but for now I will remain anonymous because that is what is safe at this moment.  Each day I wonder how much closer or further I am to healing from sexual abuse and all the consequences of someone else’s actions to my body.  Each day I choose to heal or I choose to be the victim.  I do not tell many people I was sexually abused, but I will tell them I have an eating disorder. I want people to know there is pain, but I don’t want to or don’t know how to tell them why. I do blame the people who hurt me for some of my pain, while others say that is not right. I know they don’t make me hurt myself, but their actions are a part of my story.

The eating disorder is my escape. 

 Food has been my escape, my comfort, my friend from the earliest memories. When others were hurting me, food was the reward. I have turned to candy, sweets, and potato chips my whole life to feel better for the short term. When I was little it didn’t matter, my body could handle the amount of food I was eating. As I entered adolescence which was early and quick, my body changed. My breasts grew larger and I gained weight because I was still eating to feel better. I remember hearing things like “You are going to get fat like me if you keep eating” from my mom and she was constantly on diets, always hating her body. She fought depression most of my early years which is not a surprise considering that was how she coped with a husband who was sexually abusing at least one of his daughters and probably both.  I learned that if I was fat, I would not be liked or loved or cared for.  But food was the only way I knew to feel good and to escape from the reality of my life.

My father began abusing me when I was very young.

The age is unclear as it is just part of my earliest memories. They are scattered and center around bath time. I was always so dirty and he needed to help clean me, inside and out. I hated baths which he sometimes referred to as “spit baths”.  I would stand at the kitchen sink while he cleaned me with a wash cloth because I was dirty. My dad had a temper and it was confusing because I never knew what would set it off. So I was always trying to be good so I didn’t set him off.  I could never be good enough though; there would always be something I did wrong.  He did not drink, so I can’t blame alcohol which kind of sucks. Sometimes I wish I could blame alcohol and then at least it would not be something wrong with me. I mean I was his daughter, if there was not something wrong with me, then why would he do it?  I have so many questions and sometimes I feel there are answers, but other times they lead to one big cycle of not understanding.

The abuse ends or is it just a new chapter?

My father quit abusing me around age 7 or 8. Ages are not clear and I always felt him watching me and there were excuses for him to watch me dress. Privacy was not a big deal even though I felt very self-conscious at an early age. I wish I could say that my father was it, the only one who betrayed my trust, but that is not true. When I was 5 or 6, I was invited (after begging to be part of the group) to come into the tent that my neighbors and sister were playing in. The tent sat between our houses in broad day light. The neighbor boy was 7 years older than me, early adolescence.  I don’t remember what all was said, but I know there was lots of touching and then telling me what to do with my hands and my mouth. There was lots of laughing too because I was not “doing it right” and I was asking questions. I was with my sister so I should have been okay. I was forced to perform oral sex as well as other sexual acts until he had “finished”.  When that happened I had stuff all over me and was all sticky, again they laughed and kicked me out of the tent.  The worst part of that day is that my sister betrayed me and it was not the last time. She began to be more curious about sex and would ask me to perform sexual acts on her.  How disgusting you must all be thinking, because I think it all the time.

Up to this point, my sister was the only person I felt I could trust. She was my protector, more like a mom than my own mom. My mom worked all the time and when she wasn’t working she was at church or in her room depressed.  So my sister took care of me when I was little. I could make my own mac and cheese at age 5 and was getting myself to the school bus and home alone in kindergarten.  I hated being alone in my house so often went to the creek near our house. As long as other kids were not around to tease me, I would explore the water looking for frogs and other critters. The kids in my neighborhood were not very nice. One of my friends’ brothers used to tease me endlessly and used to pick me up and lock me in their laundry room which was in the basement and was not finished at all. This was the time of Nightmare on Elm Street and Freddie so I was sure Freddie was coming after me in the “boiler room”.  He would hold the door and make screeching noises down it with his fingernails.  It was not fun, but she was “cool” and I wanted to be her friend even though she only wanted me there if there was not another friend to play with.

Who can I trust?

Back to my sister, I only have a few memories of sexual acting out with her.  The actual sex acts were bad, but her betrayal was what hurt the most.  I began to think that sexual acts were the only way to be loved or accepted by anyone.  We had a family friend who also requested that I perform sexual acts on her which of course I did. Again it was all about her liking me and me wanting to please.  There are other vague memories of inappropriate touch and sexual behavior I participated in while growing up.  My dad, the neighbor, my sister and the family friend had turned sex and my body into something terrible, bad, and shameful. I had many secrets to keep and so to this day I still have “secrets”.  I have not been able to put into words all the sex acts done to me or that I did because of the shame even though I have been assured that my therapist has heard it all. I still think she would be horrified to know the details, but Satan wants to keep me feeling that way and I know that so I am fighting to have the courage to deal with all the secrets.  I need to be able to get them out so that I can have a normal (if there is a normal) sexual relationship with my husband and so I can stop hating my body.

As a teenager

The abuse led to adolescence full of acting out sexually. I was adamant about not having sex until I was married because I was the good Baptist girl. Well, I did everything but sex starting in 7th grade with boys who I thought “liked” me. I later found out they met lots of girls at the school yard and did the exact same thing. It was just a game to them, but for me, it was the attention and the acceptance. In 8th grade, the boys from the college began to come to the high school football games. They would comment on how we looked as we walked by and that led to conversation and an invitation to the college dorm to party with them. 

There is a lot about that time that I don’t remember. I remember waking up completely naked on several occasions after drinking something that was handed to me.  I was really into one guy named Thomas and he told me over and over that he loved me and respected my decision to wait until I was married to have sex.  He would then begin to kiss me and we would “make out” and every time he kept taking it further and further and we were really close to having sex when I told him to stop. He called me a slut and a tease and told me to get out.  He apologized, but I was angry so I kept going to the dorm to “make out” with other guys trying to make him jealous. It worked and eventually we were going out again. I woke up one night in the middle of the night naked and in his arms.  He told me I would give in and that he was done with me. I don’t remember having sex with him, but I am sure it happened.  The drinks they gave us probably had the date rape drug in it. We were young enough that they didn’t want us to remember what was happening.  Thomas quit taking my calls and would ignore me when I was there. A week later, he had sex with my best friend at the time and I quit going to the dorms all together.  This began the isolation and the eating disorder.  I hated my body.

I had developed large breasts and my brothers friends were quick to point them out and try to grab me at every chance they got. They were all two years older. They were heavily into pornography and their language pertaining to my body was very vulgar.  They would tell me how hot I was and that I was going to make a guy so happy someday.  They were very detailed in their description of how that would happen and their verbal taunting became physical over time.  They would hold me down and pull up my shirt and grab my breasts, and not in a gentle way saying “what’s wrong, don’t you like it rough?”  It progressed to the point of them almost raping me on several occasions. I had no way out, they were in my house.  My brother was usually asleep or playing video games and had no idea it was going on. It didn’t matter, by this time I was completely shut off. I began to diet and exercise thinking if I didn’t have breasts, boys would not like me.  I began purging everything I ate after watching an after school special about a girl with bulimia. She got so skinny and I guess I tuned out the part where she almost died from rupturing her esophagus.

I went up and down in weight in junior high and high school. Sometimes not eating for days and other times binging and purging everything I did eat. I had some friends, but help everyone at arms length most of the time.  I thought I had best friends but no one knew anything about the beginning part of my life or the abuse I had lived with. I became known as a slut for hanging out at the dorms, yet maintained my good girl status as long as I was at church each weekend and youth group.

My junior year of high school I began dating a boy who had pretty bad reputation but was really cute and popular.  He went to a different school so that made me cool to be dating him. I wasn’t pretty or popular enough for the cute boys in my school, but he liked me.  I thought I could fix him. He drank, smoked and used drugs occasionally and cheated on my regularly.  However I would always believe him and not my best friend when she would tell me about him cheating.  I told him one night that he needed to quit drinking or we were breaking up and he actually did quit for a period of time. 

During this time I thought we were in love and he was “the one”.  I would marry him and we would have kids and go to church.  Up to this point I had been unwilling to have sex and he had respected that desire to wait until I was married. (I was still in denial that I had already had sex.)  I told him one night I was ready to lose my virginity.  Somehow we made it to his room and we had sex for the first time. I drove home berating myself and calling myself a slut and every other bad name you can imagine. I barely made it home as I was driving so fast on the gravel road. I was suicidal, wanting to run my car off the road. I was sure my mom was going to look at me and know what I had done. I dated him for a long time and thought I had to marry him since I had chosen to have sex with him.  So I put up with the cheating, drinking and drugs. He always had an excuse and reasons everyone else was lying. I didn’t think I could get any better than him. I went away to college and he stayed home after graduating from high school. It went down hill from there. My eating disorder went out of control and I sought treatment during my junior year when I couldn’t go to class anymore because all I did was binge and purge and exercise.

The path of healing begins

It was during art therapy that I began to draw the little girl who had been abused and my real story began to unfold.  The smile I put on for the world could go away for a brief period of time.  I still can’t tell details of what happened to me and some of the memories are literally stuck.  I feel them in my mind and body, but have no words to describe them. 

I have found my way back to God although I struggle with some very basic questions. I struggle to believe God’s promises are true for me and always come back to if your promises are for me then why did all that junk happen? If your plans are for good and to prosper me, then why was I abused? How do you work “all things” for good?  I can see glimpses of good from my life.  God gave me an incredible husband who has had to deal with a lot of junk as we learn every day new ways that I am affected by the abuse. The eating disorder has reared its ugly head throughout our marriage and in between children.

God has blessed me with three wonderful children and given me a new family of friends who love me. I struggle every day with the eating disorder right now. It mirrors the abuse. It is my big secret. The secret binges are protecting me from dealing with the real secrets that I struggle to share with my husband for fear he will suddenly realize after 10 years of marriage how disgusting and damaged and gross I really am.  That is my biggest fear—the one that keeps me stuck, is the fear that if everyone knew the truth about my ugly past they would run the other way out of disgust. I would be rejected and alone.

I still view each day as a new day. I try to claim God’s truth and promises for me.  Some days I am able and other days I fail miserably. Some days I want to give up and believe that the eating disorder and abuse will continue to control my daily life so it would be easier to be gone and not deal with it. Some days I want to physically hurt myself.  Some days all I can do it cry out to God “Why, why, why?”  Sometimes I get an answer, sometimes I don’t, but knowing that God is a God who will listen to that question over and over again and still love me gets me through to the next day.  So that’s my story for now and someday maybe more details will free me from the shame that keeps me stuck. I do have faith that God will continue to bring me through this process of healing the hurt and pain that I try escape from. He will show me His promises are true, even for a little girl who was betrayed by those who were suppose to love her.