re-learning who I am after sexual abuse

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Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash

I was sitting on the edge of office chair waiting for AOL’s “You’ve Got Mail” to ping.

Before my dad walked in I was jamming out to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit eager to chat with my internet/phone boyfriend, Jerry.

This was our after-school ritual.

We’d both rush home and get on AOL just so we could chat.

Jerry’s mom died of cancer and his dad was an alcoholic.

My mom was swallowed by waves of depression and obsessive paranoia.

And my dad, well, there he was — standing in the doorway silently observing me in my joy as I channeled my teen angst to the lyrics of Nirvana.

I looked up from my AOL dial-up trance.

“Hey Dad, what’s up?”, I said.

He chuckled and asked what I was doing.

I turned the music up and rocked my head back and forth as if I was raging at a live concert.

“With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
” — Nirvana

I looked back at the computer giggling at my own silliness while the AOL screen loaded.

And then I felt it, a strange poking behind me.

My stomach turned into knots. Before my brain could articulate what I felt, I shot up out of my chair like a firecracker on 4th of July.

I turned around and my dad was standing behind me with a half-smirk on his face.

“Get away from me!”, I shouted as my body shook in fear.

He stepped out from behind me, his eyes turned black and he tightly clenched his fist. He looked at me as if I lured him into a trap, as if my innocence tricked him, as if I’d asked him to rub his dick on me.

“This is your fault. You started it. I’m so glad I never had sex with you.”

The sexual abuse with my father went on for a couple of years.

I slept on the second floor of our house next to the house.

Because my room used to be an attic, it had no windows.

The office was next to my bedroom. The office had unfinished walls that created a passageway to the closet of my bedroom.

Despite having a lock on my door, my dad used the passageway from the office to sneak into my room at night.

Many nights he came into my room and touched me when I was asleep.

I woke up terrified to say a word. I screamed for him to get out of my room.

He never listened. And no one was around to protect me.

I felt hopeless. I felt powerless.
I felt trapped.

I was terrified to talk about it.

I believed that somehow I provoked his sexual feelings.

I changed how I dressed. I tried to leave for school earlier to avoid giving him a hug. He would hug me so tightly to feel my adolescent breasts against his chest.

I didn’t want to wear jeans because he would comment on how tight my ass looked in them.

He would take me out on expensive shopping sprees, buy me alcohol and take me on “dates”. He never wanted anyone close to me, not even male family members could sit next to me in the car.

In his head, I was his girlfriend.

Some days I imagined what it would be like to kill him or have someone kill him.

So I drugged him instead.

One night I slipped sleeping pills in his beer before he fell asleep.

He woke up the next morning oddly surprised at how well he slept and looked at his empty beer bottle. He noticed a white powdery residue on the bottom and realized I slipped pills in his beer.

Drugging my dad was the closest thing I could do to protect myself at least for that night.

I desperately wanted to get away from him.

Luckily for him getting drugged was the only harm he got for trying to fuck his daughter.

One day, karma got both of my parents.

Neighbors called the cops on them after hearing my screams during a violent attack from my mom and dad.

They were arrested for child abuse and mandated to go to anger management with house visits from social services.

A year later I was emancipated and lived with a guardian family until I turned eighteen.

I joined the Navy at eighteen and left Virginia never to move back again.

I thought at the time that if I just left I could start over — Out of sight, out of mind or so I thought.

It is dormant and activated anytime something in your environment triggers it.

My sexual abuse trauma manifested in nightmares, drinking too much, gambling and many abusive love relationships.

The only thing that kept me afloat was diving into meditation and spirituality.

After a break-up I hit my own emotional rock bottom.

I was tired of the way I was living.

I wasn’t living. I was avoiding.

I was a runaway train to nowhere and it was exhausting.

Fast forward to the present.

I am here.

I did some work on myself.

I got to therapy and talked extensively about the sexual abuse with my dad.

It was and still is — hard.

I am still grieving.

I am not happy all the time.

In fact — some days I feel really unhappy.

My brain still gets triggered and my nightmares occasionally come back.

I ended my relationship with my mom and dad permanently.

I am figuring out how to be sexy and love my body enough to show it off.

I can go out and not get super triggered if an older man looks at me.

I am not where I want to be. I still have a long way to go.

I am re-discovering how to enjoy the present, make friends and have healthy relationships.

It’s not easy. But step-by-step I have more faith in my process.

I can remember being trapped in the room without a window and know I don’t have to live there any more.

My healing journey has many windows I’ve built of hope, love and trust.

I don’t know exactly who I am in the world yet.

But I do know I am not broken anymore.

Written by

Self-help & mental health writer. Can't do small talk. Mama. Yogi. Coffee lover. Nature explorer. Get my free meditation mini-course here: www.emilystroia.com

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