I am one of the millions that stand today and are counted for. I am one that can stand and say, “I am an incest survivor. I was a victim of physical, sexual and verbal abuse.” But that’s not what I choose to do. I don’t put my story out there that often because my story is history. It’s something in my past but that I do deal with on a regular basis.
I developed anorexia nervosa as a way of dealing with the abuse. My goal wasn’t to become thin because everyone knew I was already a small person. My goal was to disappear into oblivion so that my abusers couldn’t hurt me anymore. Would they really find sexual gratification in a body that looked like a child? Would they want to hurt someone who was as innocent as a newborn baby? The answer was yes to both of those questions but it didn’t keep me from trying to protect myself.
Once I disclosed the incest I began receiving help. I went through eight years of intense therapy. I was hospitalized for the anorexia on four different occasions and each time I survived my visit to death’s door I kept realizing there was a greater purpose for me. So, was it good that I was a victim of incest or abuse? No, but it gave me a greater awareness about the issue at hand. I now have a greater compassion for people who have been abused. I am sensitive to the needs of others who are victims and I pray for them and yes, I pray that perpetrators might get help and stop the abuse.
Why am I writing today? I saw an article about Seal and he was talking about his scars and why he is glad to have them. Scars are a reminder of a battle you may have been in but they also serve to remind people that you survived. They say physical wounds can heal in time but the emotional ones linger. I don’t have any physical scars from the abuse that I endured for 18 years. They are all mental scars that remain in my memory. But when you see my lack of faith in people you see the repercussions of a girl who was abused by people who professed to love me.
I have been a friend with Marilyn VanDerbur Atler. She was crowned Miss America in 1958 and went public in the 90s about having been a victim of incest by a father who was a millionaire; possibly the wealthiest man in Colorado at that time. She is now a child abuse advocate and has opened many child advocacy centers across the U.S. as well as published her story Miss America By Day. Mrs. Atler says not to keep abuse a secret. By keeping it a secret you only serve to protect the abuser. Your cloak of silence only harms you daily as you struggle with something greater than you. You can read about her and her work at http://www.missamericabyday.com/
Take the time to reach out to someone who has been hurting. You may not know what to say but sometimes they just need a safe haven and someone who will listen to them. You might be the shoulder someone needs to cry on. You might be the one who wipes away their tears, gets them professional help or gets them out of an abusive home or relationship if they are still in it. Pay attention and don’t ignore the signs. Many abused people; especially children die at the hands of their abusers because everyone believes that if you ignore it it will go away. You just may be that person’s beacon of hope in a dark world. You may be the one that makes a difference in their life. I am here today because my youth directors believed me when I disclosed the abuse and they did everything they could to get me help and keep me safe.
In 1988 a little 9-year-old girl went public with a song about child abuse after she heard that a little girl had been killed. Sharon Batts decided to write a letter to the president to ask him to help her stop child abuse but she then realized that this problem was greater than anything the president would be able to handle so she penned her letter to the greatest authority known to man. She wrote her song to God. You can visit the following site to listen to the song, Dear Mr. Jesus, and see a video http://tinyurl.com/c4m6sc . This song transcended all genres. It was being played on the pop and country stations as well as the gospel ones. Sharon Batts released some CDs with a group called PowerSource. I have those cassettes and my family knew the significance of that song in my life.
Martina McBride also did a song called Concrete Angel and Jason Michael Carroll also did a song called Alissa Lies. All are heartwrenching songs about children who lost their lives at the hand of an abuser. It is my prayer that we can put a stop to this unspeakable crime against our children. Don’t allow another grave marker to be a reminder of a life we could have saved.
I am an advocate for child abuse awareness, prevention and intervention. I stay abreast of the issue thru professional books, periodicals and websites. My favorite site is http://www.childhelpusa.org/ and the following is a blurb from their site:
Four children die every day in the United States from child abuse; the equivalent of a Boeing 727 filled with kids, crashing each month; or a school bus full of children crashing every 18 days. Fortunately, for almost fifty years, Childhelp®, a leading national nonprofit, has been leading the charge against child abuse. Childhelp® is dedicated to meeting the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs of abused and neglected children and was instrumental in designating April as National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month.
The founders of this organization are also the subjects of a Lifetime movie For the Love Of A Child. To get more information on ChildHelp you can go to their site or call 1-800-4-A-Child.
“A little speck of hope never goes down to zero no matter how many times it is divided in half.” ~Author Unknown