In a bid to help fellow victims overcome child sexual abuse, a young Bermudian courageously details her ordeal at the hands of her wretched step-grandfather
Introduction by Debi Ray-Rivers
SCARS (Saving Children And Revealing Secrets)
Nine years ago, my family was affected by the crime of child sexual abuse. A trusted family member stole the innocence of two children right from under our noses. Particularly the children, but also our family as a whole, suffered from shock, sadness, guilt and mostly lots of shame.
Also nine years ago, we learned through Oprah Winfrey’s own story and many of her shows that by acknowledging and sharing our story (as difficult as it was) with our family and friends, we were all able to begin the healing process from the unnecessary shame we carried around with us.
What we also discovered was that it was so prevalent, but the sad reality was that nobody felt comfortable sharing their story. It was like a taboo subject, a dirty secret that would benefit everyone, but the victims, if it were ‘swept under a rug’.
Sweeping it under a rug would’ve allowed the perpetrator to continue to offend. Sweeping it under a rug leaves victims to feel ashamed and responsible. Sweeping it under a rug prevents the healing process.
Statistics will show that the greatest risk to our children is not from strangers but rather from people in a position of trust.
It is important that the community get first hand the impact that child sexual abuse can have on an innocent child and the article here, written by a young Bermudian, is the reason SCARS was born.
We thank the Bermuda Sun for allowing victims to reveal their secrets and possibly provide hope to those who can’t.
The scars of a childhood wound may gradually heal over time, but they never entirely disappear.
My childhood wound was inflicted upon me in the unlawful form of sexual abuse.
From the age of nine to thirteen, my step-grandfather sexually abused me. As a devout churchgoer, he married my grandmother when I was eight years old and he quickly became a trusted member within my family.
His initial access to my body began in the playful form of tickling. He would tickle me so bad that I would fall off his couch in hysterics. Except, it wasn’t funny.
That’s the irony of being tickled; you can’t help but laugh even though you’re desperate for the sensation to cease. The most harmless strokes can lead to the most injurious consequences.
Tickling then lead to the fondling of my budding breasts, with both his hands and mouth. I never had a ‘first kiss’ with a boy because he stole that chance from me the moment he first stuck his tongue down my throat.
Not knowing whether to feel pleasure or repulsion at the age of nine, I believed all of the abuse was my fault. In fact, at the time I was utterly unaware that there was even a label for his acts upon my body: Child Sexual Abuse.
As a little girl with grounded faith, I prayed every night that God would forgive me for ‘my’ sin. I was never educated on the subject of sexual abuse and since my abuser was a respected man, I could never speak up and divulge this secret to anyone.
I became pretty skilled at acting the part of an innocent girl with a normal life. Nothing is normal about a 70-year-old man gaining sexual pleasure from stealing the innocence of a child.
As I grew older and closer to the age of thirteen, I tried my best to avoid being alone with him.
However, he was mean and manipulative towards my grandmother and so she continually forced me to spend ‘quality’ time with him: he took me snorkelling only to touch my body underwater, he taught me to play solitaire on the computer only so that he could sit behind me with his mouth on my breasts and his hands down my pants, he forced my grandmother to grocery shop alone so that he could have open access to my body in the parking lot, and ironically, he molested me whilst painting beautiful artworks, including a portrait of my grandmother, in their dark basement.
I must give credit to my courageous sister for speaking up and telling my mother the first, and only, time he inappropriately touched her.
Once my mother knew, she came to me and asked if he, or anybody else, had ever touched me. Immediately, I denied the truth. She kept telling me that if anything like that had happened, it wouldn’t have been my fault, and so eventually I broke down and told her everything.
I was very fortunate to have both a supportive and driven mother who made sure that I saw accountability for the crime that was committed against me.
I gave my testimony to the police and my perpetrator spent just under a year and a half in Westgate jail.
Therapy comes in all forms; I saw a Kineseologist for over a year who helped me to release muscular tensions in my body that were built up overtime from the trauma.
Oprah Winfrey was another instrumental influence in my life, as she is also a survivor of sexual abuse. Coincidental to the timing of my healing period, Oprah began a series of discussions of child sexual abuse on her talk shows in order to create awareness and educate her audiences on this taboo epidemic.
My most therapeutic process was sharing my story with all of my friends and talking openly about what had happened with my family, even around the dinner table.
By revealing my abuse, I became empowered again because I had nothing to be guilty or ashamed of any more. I began to understand and accept that it was not my fault.
To this day, my grandmother still lives with my abuser and for many years I was very hurt and angry with her because I could not understand her loyalty to him. I’ve learned the freeing power of forgiveness even without having to engage in a relationship with those people who have hurt me.
I am now 22 years old and free of my past. I have not allowed the sexual abuse to hold me back from enjoying wonderful moments of life, including intimate relationships with boyfriends. We live in a broken world but we have the choice not to live a broken life. Memories of abuse, just like the scars left behind, fade over time.
My past does not define me but it has made me into the young adult that I am today; I am far stronger than I was before the truth was revealed.
Although I have many insecurities about my body, I do not let them dictate my life because my abuser no longer has the power over me to do so. I hope that my story can help a child or even an adult who is still keeping their abuse a secret today for any number of reasons, including shame, guilt and/or fear for the consequential disruption of relationships within a family or wider community.
Reveal this ugly secret to a mandated reporter, entrusted friend or family member and I can promise that you will be set free!
Contact SCARS at 537-7949 and/or editor Tony McWilliam firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel. 278-1860
By Bermuda Sun