Tara's Story : From Survivor to Social Worker.

Dear Dr.Patti

Thank you for writing your book "Invisible Girls". I am sure it will help many girls to disclose their abuse and get the help they deserve. I want to share my story of abuse in hopes that it will help others.

I am 45 years old. When I was 7 years old my mother re-married a man much older than herself. My step-father sexually abused me for approximately 7 years. My mother was an alcoholic and I used to dread when my mother would drink, because I knew that my step father would be visiting me later that night.

My mother had mental health problems and my step father told me that if I ever told anyone about "our little secret", the family would be broken up and he would see to it that my mother would be sent to live permanently in an "insane asylum". I used to leave many "clues" for my mother to figure out what was happening without my having to verbalize it to her. She never seemed to think that it was odd when I would beg to go with her to the store, the beauty parlor, her ceramics class, etc. I would plead with her, promising that I would be so quiet that she wouldn't even know that I was there. I bargained with my mother and would often cry when she refused to take me. I would try to find some way to avoid being alone with my step father by asking to spend the night at a girlfriend's house or my grandparent's home. When I was successful and avoided sexual contact with my step father, the tension in the house was palpable. It would often escalate until my step father and mother got into a fight where my mother was physically harmed by him or I ended up giving in.

Looking back and being the mother of 2 grown daughters, I think of that sometimes and wonder if my mother purposely "set me up" just so that the tension in the home could be restored to some type of harmony.

When I was 13 years old my mother and step father had an argument and my mother left him and we moved in with my grandparents. Feeling safe for the first time and not wanting my mother to go back to him, I told my mother about the sexual abuse that was happening. My mother was skeptical and told my grandparents. My grandmother was oddly silent and I don't remember her having any reaction, however, my grandfather questioned me thoroughly and kept telling me what a serious accusation that I was making and how I could destroy an innocent man by continuing with my allegations. I was told that I should be grateful that he married my mother, provided for us and took such good care of us. He advised me that he talked to the police and set up a lie detector test for me so that they could determine if I was telling the truth. Believing that was true, I maintained my story and even though I was extremely anxious I needed to be believed and actually looked forward to talking to the police.

The following evening was a Saturday night and my grandparents always went to dinner and sometimes dancing afterward. I was old enough to stay alone and felt safe at my grandparent's house. Later that night, my step father, having a key to the house, let himself in and sat and talked with me. He begged my forgiveness, stating that he thought he was just loving me and not realizing that I didn't want him to do these things to me. He broke down, crying, and told me that if I maintain my allegations that he would go to jail and be beat up and probably die in jail. He was 65 years old and sitting there, he looked so frail and harmless. He begged me to tell everyone that I lied and he promised that he would never again touch me. The following day, I told my mother and grandparents that I lied. This was one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life. I had to sit through lecture upon lecture from my grandfather about how I almost destroyed my step father's life. The worst thing was when my grandfather, the man that I loved dearly, told me that he was afraid of being alone with me for fear that I would make the same accusations against him. Even though I knew that I was telling the truth, I saw myself through their eyes and believed that I was a horrible person.

Shortly afterward, my mother and step father reunified and I was forced to move back with them. Of course, my step father picked up where he left off, knowing that he had carte blanche, because I would never be believed by anyone after I recanted. When his family would come to the house for a visit, I was scorned by them and made to feel like I was a pariah in the family. I could hear them talking about how awful it was for him and he would act like the victim, soliciting their sympathy.

Over the course of the next year, I grew to hate my step father and although the sexual abuse still occurred, I reached the limit of my endurance and we fought constantly which often turned physical. My mother could not tolerate the tension in the home and asked me if I wanted to move in with my biological father. I didn't have a strong relationship with him, seeing him only a couple of times a year, but I wanted to leave my home desperately and agreed.

My father and step mother were delighted to have me live with them and I was given a new chance at a "normal" life, which I am forever grateful. I never saw my step father again after that. About a year before my mother died, I learned that she was a victim of sexual abuse by my grandfather. Many things fell into place after that.

After a failed relationship where I carried a lot of baggage into my marriage, I engaged in counseling. I was able to disclose my past and worked with a counselor who helped me work through all of the bottled up emotions and unhealthy coping skills that I continued to use. Today I am a social worker, working in the child welfare system for the past 15 years. I try to help other children have the courage to tell their story, keep them safe and help them to realize that sexual abuse is never their fault.

Statistically, over 1/3 of all children who disclose will eventually recant. I urge these youth to find someone that they trust to talk to about their abuse; a guidance counselor, a teacher, a therapist, social worker, etc. It is through talking about it and breaking the silence that they will begin the healing process.

Thank you for your book. I bought it for a youth that I am working with and thought that I would look it over before giving it to her. I wish that I would have had the opportunity to read something like this when I was younger. Again, I'm sure that your book will empower many young girls / women to disclose their abuse and get the help that they need.


Dr. Patti responds:

Dear Tara ;

         Thanks so much for your story. I know it will help and encourage many girls who read it. You bring up a very vital point... taking back your truth. You are so right, so many girls are convinced to take back their truth and say they were lying. I can not tell you how many times I have heard this. Yes it is so important to tell your truth and find someone who will believe you. I am so glad to hear you are recovered and helping other young women recover. Thanks for all you do!

................................xoxo, Dr. Patti.

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