"Now We Can Have Fun"

Survivor Stories

I was in third grade when my mother remarried. I remember dancing with my new stepfather at their wedding when he whispered, “Now we can have fun.” I had no idea what this meant, but it didn’t take long to find out. They weren’t married a week before he started sneaking to my room in the basement at night.
The next school year, I was old enough to walk home and be home alone for an hour while my mother finished working and picked up my younger siblings. Most of the time, they were home before my stepfather got off work, so I avoided being alone with him during the day … until his work schedule changed. 4th and 5th grade became the worst years of my life between 3:40 and 4:30 every afternoon.

"Who is going to believe you?"

When I was in 8th grade, I threatened to tell if he didn’t leave me alone, he always responded one of two ways.
“If I leave you alone, then I’ll go to [insert sibling name here] instead. If you cooperate, I promise to leave them alone.” So as the big sister, I wanted to save all my siblings; In our house, I was the oldest of 5, at the time (his son from his first marriage wasn’t with us often, and now I can guess why). I was willing to take on all the abuse if it protected the others.
“Who is going to believe you?” Believe it or not, but my step father was liked by many. He was quite popular at the church that he forced my family to go to once he started dating my mother. So when I did finally talk to someone at my church, her response was less than helpful. She gave every excuse under the Sun for this man: He isn’t well. We should pray for him. You need to forgive him. Your family needs him. Do your best to not make him angry so he leaves you alone. God will never give you more than you can handle. Everything happens for a reason.
I’m not kidding. A Christian woman tried to make me believe that I needed to forgive a man that wasn’t sorry because it was God’s will.

"It wasn’t easy, but we all came out the other side - we survived."

The summer before my Junior year of high school, someone saved my family. One of my sisters told a friend, who told a grown up, who called the right people … honestly it all happened so fast that it blurs together. When the police and child services came to ask me about the abuse, I originally lied. I remember feeling scared and not wanting to break my mom’s heart. I remember feeling confused because HE PROMISED he wouldn’t molest the others, so who reported what he was doing to me? My sister didn’t know about my experience, because he threatened her the same way. My brothers were promised the same. He lied to all of us, and it worked for over 7 years. For my youngest sister, she was so young that we may never know what he did to her. The weight of my failure to protect them came crashing down on me, and honestly almost broke me.
Our church deserted us. His family harassed us. Some of our friends ignored us. Being saved from our abuser cost us a lot of relationships and we all developed different ways to cope with our trauma. It wasn’t easy, but we all came out the other side - we survived.

"She told me that my trauma was not my fault."

At some point during the dozens of meetings with lawyers, child services, and detectives, I met a woman my Senior year of high school that had a very profound impact on how I viewed myself. She told me that my trauma was not my fault, but that I was responsible for how I reacted to it. She gave me (and my siblings) a bracelet that said Cherish the Innocent and told me that all too often, the abused become abusers, but that I didn’t have to. I have a choice to break that cycle, rise up, and do better. I have Cherish the Innocent tattooed on my wrist, and so does one of my sisters, as a promise to break the cycle.
That conversation happened over 15 years ago; I have a healthy marriage and 2 beautiful daughters. I still struggle to let go of the things I can’t control, but I’m trying. I’m still testing different coping strategies and learning how to talk about things that are uncomfortable. I know I’ll forever be a work in progress, and that’s okay. I survived almost 8 years of abuse and the cycle ends there.