Sexual abuse was part of my life starting in third grade, living in Fairbanks. My parents were friends with another couple who had two teen boys, aged 13 and 16. The families often entrusted my overnight care to these two boys who, together, created numerous and repeated ways to initiate sex acts with me and coerce me to cooperate. Often, my younger brother was in the room. After the first time it happened, I told my mother. She didn’t believe me and continued to put me in situations where it happened over and over until this family eventually moved away.
During my adolescent years, I watched my father treat his wife, my mother, without any respect. While there was never physical violence, there was constant verbal abuse, degradation and subjugation of her as a person and as a woman. My father thought mean spirited, hateful pranks and statements, particularly about our appearances were funny and often directed them at my mom and I.
I grew up in a small town and, as a teen, was forced into several situations that I never reported. Perhaps because I didn’t know or value my own self worth. I can recount times being forced to french kiss boys who decided they were going to get me to kiss them, being forced, with my friends at 13, to all disrobe by a friends older brother and a host of other situations I hated but didn’t know how to get out of.
In my mid-teens I begged my parents and was permitted to go on a year-long exchange program and it was the best thing that could ever have happened to me in my young life. I learned firsthand about healthy family relationships, boundaries, and that my world view had, so far, been seriously limited. It was the most difficult year of my life, but I learned (mostly the hard way) great life lessons on how people should care for others and that the world I’d grown up in, thus far, perhaps wasn’t the one everyone grew up in.
Sexual abuse was again part of my life as a young mother, still in Fairbanks, my two young boys and a cousin (all under 5) were sexually assaulted by a close family member. It tore my marriage apart and caused decades of anger and pain for everyone involved.
I spent a lot of time in my adult life learning, mostly through error, and through some counseling, about myself. About who I am and who I want to be. About helping my kids and worrying I did something to place them in this horrible cycle of abuse and worrying about the kids they may someday have. About finding (and deserving) a friend, a partner who shares my values, is my equal and understands when I fall apart. Neither of us deserves the baggage I carry with me from my past, my suspicion of men, my constant assumption that I’m being verbally attacked and self-doubt about my own value and worth.