(Photo by Selma Komisky)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
Hello. My name is Bonnie, and I am a very grateful believer and follower of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I am also a victorious survivor of childhood sexual abuse and abandonment.
My story begins with my dad. He was an angry alcoholic when he came home from combat during the Korean War.
My parents were introduced by friends and were married less than a month later. Mom had been physically and sexually by her own father. As were her sisters. I believe one of the reasons she married my dad was to escape her parents’ home. My parents fought often. Usually over my dad’s drinking and his difficulty holding a job. My mother became obsessed with jealousy and believed he was cheating on her. She began to have multiple affairs in an attempt to get even with him.
I was born two years into their marriage; after a stillborn baby boy. My father never believed I was actually his child but played the part of a good and loving daddy when other people were around.
Whenever Dad lost a job, discovered one of my mother’s affairs, or had flashbacks of the war, he drank. He said terrible things to me when he was drunk. He called me someone else’s garbage. That it wasn’t fair he was having to work so hard to support another man’s brat. I was sexually abused by my father, off and on from the time I was a baby until I was about fourteen years old. He was always angry and very drunk at the time – He even forced me to drink also to make me quiet and compliant. He said I deserved it because I was born, and his real son wasn’t. The only way I survived was to learn to be still and to escape mentally. I would wake up later and go about my day as if nothing had happened. I used to have terrible stomachaches and nightmares throughout my childhood and into adulthood.
When I was almost five, we moved to Florida with my grandparents and a few of my mom’s siblings. Hoping for a new start. We lived there for two terrible years. Just before Christmas, that first year, I was sexually abused by an uncle. He was in his late teens but was like a young child mentally. While my mom was Christmas shopping, my little brother and I were left at our grandparents’ home to watch TV– along with my uncle. Grandma heard my little brother screaming and ran out of the kitchen with a rolling pin still in her hands. She saw what was happening to me and hit my uncle with that rolling pin until he let me go. Then, she took care of me and comforted me. When mom came back, I was told not to tell anyone. Especially my dad. Mom was afraid of what he would do to her brother. My mother was always her little brother’s protector. It hurt to know he mattered more to her than I ever could.
Those memories have stayed with me my entire life. I suppose it’s because it’s the only time there was a witness to the abuse – other than my mother. She even excused my father’s abuses as being something little girls have to get used to. The way she did.
We left Florida and moved back “home” a few months after a major hurricane. Dad was helping rebuild houses destroyed by the storm. He was happy to be learning a new trade. Woodworking. It all ended when he came home early from work and found my mother with another man. My mother started screaming rape, and my dad attacked the man, beating him severely. But it wasn’t rape at all. And the police came back to arrest my dad. I don’t know how he managed to get out of jail, but we left Florida soon after.
Back home, Dad worked in a coal mine until he lost that job, too. He hitchhiked to California and found factory work. When he saved up enough money, he sent for us. Mom, my brother, a new baby sister, and I came to California by train. We lived in a trailer park for several years.
Things there got worse. My mother’s affairs continued. She even took me along to babysit my siblings. It was just the way things were. I never told anyone. I was too afraid of what would happen. In the 8th grade, I came home from school to find a note on the door. Mom left for Arizona with her new boyfriend and my two little sisters. My brother was with the next-door neighbor. I was stunned. And very scared. I had to show the note to my dad when he came home from work. He was furious and took off in his truck, looking for her. Hours later, he came home. Drunk. And yelling about how awful his life was. My little brother and I tried to hide, but he found us anyway. That night, he brutally, sexually abused me and beat up my brother for trying to stop dad from hurting me. I don’t remember the rest of that weekend, but I went to school on Monday as if nothing was wrong. I never told anyone.
Two weeks later, Mom returned with my two little sisters. The girls were covered with infected bug bites. She tearfully begged by dad for forgiveness, and he let her stay. Even though he had already filed for divorce. Another two weeks later and another note on the door. This time, she left alone. My younger siblings were all with the neighbor. Once again, I had to tell dad that mom was gone. I was terrified, but I knew I was responsible for my brother and my little sisters. I couldn’t just run away, even though I desperately wanted to. His reaction was the same as before. I went to school as usual, but I now had the added responsibility of caring for my younger siblings and all the housework and meals. Dad went ahead with the divorce.
Dad had a friend across the street from us, who’d also served in Korea. He and his wife led him to Buddhism, and he came home one day with a Buddhist altar and beads. Dad enrolled us in a class to learn about it. I went a few times and learned the chants, but I also remembered the things I’d learned in Sunday School years earlier. I now know it was God’s Holy Spirit reminding me to not worship anyone but God. I also heard the questions in my mind, “But what about Jesus?” and “What about the Bible?” Somehow, when I told my dad I didn’t want to go to that class anymore and why, amazingly, he agreed that I didn’t have to anymore. He eventually quit too.
The woman who lived next door moved away, but after a while, Dad found her, and they began dating. They married just before I started the tenth grade. We moved into her duplex. Then to a house they bought the next year. I went to new schools with each move.
My new stepmother and I clashed often. I was on restriction for months at a time – some deserved. Some not. I hated my life and became depressed. I often thought of suicide as a way out. When I was a junior in high school, a neighbor girl invited me to what she called a youth rally. I thought it was a party! I was allowed to go because I was not on restriction at that time. It turned out to be a church event for teens. The speaker told of how Jesus Christ changed his life. Forgave him for his many sins. I finally heard the answer to the question in my head. “But what about Jesus?” I heard that Jesus, God’s own Son, died on the cross for me. For my sins too. I went to the altar that night and asked Jesus to forgive me and come into my heart too. That night, I also met Paul, who would eventually be my husband. He was 2 years older, and said he’d been a Christian all his life. I thought he was perfect for me! And safe. We were engaged by my senior year of high school and had plans to marry and have a happy ever after, fairy tale life. I had no idea just how delusional I was. Or how desperate I was inside to escape from my father and stepmother.
Verbal and physical abuse began very early in our marriage. I never knew when it would come. There was often no real reason other than he was in a bad mood. If I said or did something that upset him, I may or may not, be hit or kicked. Just once, but it was always enough to leave a dark bruise. I tried so hard to make sure I didn’t make him angry. I now understand that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t deserve to be hit or kicked. It was his own out of control anger inside that came out. Just like my dad. It was his choice how he showed that anger. I was just a close target. But it slowly destroyed my already poor self-esteem.
I felt trapped. I discovered that abuse was common in his family. His own father was even worse. Paul believed he was doing nothing wrong. He believed it was his right as a husband, and I was to be submissive to his every word. No matter what. He used the Bible to threaten me, too. He just forgot the part where the Bible also says that a husband is to love his wife as much as Jesus Christ loves the church (believers, He died for us on the cross). Believers are called the “Bride of Christ.” Jesus loves and cares for us tenderly. He would never hurt us. He is not a bully.
I gave birth to our baby girl, after we were married almost 7 years. He loves her now, but he was angry at me during the whole pregnancy because I didn’t have his permission to get pregnant yet. He was so angry, he wouldn’t even touch my pregnant belly to feel her kick. After she was born, things changed a bit for a while. His anger about the pregnancy dimmed.
I was a stay-at-home mom after Sherry was born, until she went to school. I learned new ways to stretch a dollar but had to ask permission for each item I bought. No matter what it was. The physical abuse lessened, but his verbal and emotional abuse became worse over the next few years. He refused to even consider any marital counseling. Even from our pastor.
Sherry and I were stranded at the airport in Chicago after visiting my family. We’d had standby tickets for the flight home, but the plane was full; and there were no more flights on that airline. The airport was going to close for the night. Paul refused to pay for us to fly home on another airline. He said we should sleep in the airport and fly home the next morning. Fortunately, his boss overheard the conversation and insisted on loaning us the money to get Sherry and me home. She was only 5 years old. After we got home, I gave up all hope of things ever getting better in our marriage. I had just started working as a secretary, and I was making lots of new friends. Friends who cared about me.
Life at home was miserable. Paul and I seldom spoke except in anger, and I eventually started sleeping in our extra bedroom. He didn’t even seem to notice. Finally, we had another huge fight. Over money, as usual. I angrily said that maybe it would be better if I took care of Sherry by myself, since I was working now. He said “fine,” and stormed upstairs to pack.
He went to stay with a friend and never moved back in. Just came to pick up things when no one else was home. We divorced a few months later.
I realize now, that I was rebellious and angry at God for the way my marriage turned out. I blamed Him for not showing me who Paul really was until after we married. I had stars in my eyes though, and I just couldn’t believe he was anything but my dream come true.
In my mind, filing for divorce ended the marriage and I felt free to do whatever I wanted. And I did. I was dating a younger man I worked with – John, one of the engineers who tried to teach me how to use a computer. Personal computers were just beginning to be used in offices at that time.
After some legal delays, and a new lawyer, my divorce was final about 2 weeks before my wedding to John. Not a good way to start a new life. At our reception, Sherry started crying and no one was able to console her. She believed that John was taking me away forever. Her daddy had moved out and she only saw him twice a month, if that. Her young heart was terrified she’d lost me too. Eventually, we convinced her we’d be back in a few days and then live together. John, Mommy, and Sherry. My heart broke when I realized she didn’t understand that we were coming back for her. She was only 7 years old and still traumatized by the divorce.
John and I began our new life together with lots of baggage from my childhood and first marriage. He brought his own issues too. He was also grieving the recent death of his father. John didn’t understand me. I didn’t understand him. I began to worry it would always be like that but, fortunately, God had good plans for us. He led us to a little church nearby, with a Christian school for Sherry. Later, we had 2 sons together. We have been married for over 30 years now.
About 10 years ago, God led me to finally seek help for the traumas of my childhood. I began seeing a Christian therapist who helped me to finally be able to talk about the sexual abuses I endured, as well as the abandonment by my mother and her attitude towards the abuse. We worked on many other issues as well. My husband joined some of our sessions and even went to some of his own. Those years of therapy made a huge difference in my life and drew me closer than ever to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I no longer blame God for the trauma I experienced. I know my abusers did what they did because of their own choices, born out of their own evil desires and anger. I also know that I was not responsible for their choices. It was not my fault in any way. I am, however, responsible for my own choices and behaviors. I know that I have been forgiven by God because of what His Son, Jesus, did for me!
One of the ways I have been able to “give back to God” for what He has done for me is to share my story with others who have also been abused. As I was. Speaking to groups and to individual women. I’ve also been in several group Bible studies with other women who are working on their recovery from various traumas and addictions. We learned that there is indeed hope in this life; as well as in eternity.
There is recovery from sexual trauma. There is recovery from all types of abuse. It doesn’t come easy though. We need to be willing to face the truth of what was done to us and allow God to do His work within us. We need to be willing to admit the things we have done, too. For healing. For positive changes in our lives. And eventually, even find His Grace and His Power within us to forgive our abusers. Yes, it is indeed possible! That doesn’t mean we allow relationships with our abusers; especially, if they would still be dangerous and abusive. It means the abuses of the past no longer have control over us. We are no longer trapped in the shame and self-hatred and fear and other painful effects of abuse. We become free! Free to live a life without the burden of that awful shame of what was done to us. Praise God!!
Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.”
I was being held captive by the memories of the abuses of my childhood. Even the ones I buried deep inside my psyche because they were just too painful to live with every day. God set me free! I am no longer the woman I was the majority of my life. I am a new creation in Jesus Christ!