Introduction

It is truly amazing how only one day, one event, can affect a life. One day could completely destroy a future. It is fascinating how just one moment can turn a person’s view of the world upside down. A one-time occurrence can remain with someone for a lifetime.

Nearly everyone meets a person at some point whom has lived through one of these life-changing events. Think back to the boy whose best friend committed suicide or to the girl who got raped on her walk home from school. The rumor mill worked overtime in those instances, depression ran rampant, and, probably for quite some time, that boy and that girl just weren’t themselves. Hopefully, they learn to live with their experiences and move on, but the memories always remain, even for a single occurrence.

Those among us who survive these awful moments know moving on can feel like an uphill battle at times. With any luck, though, eventually, the pain fades and makes way for a new life.

Then, there are those who endure multiple, even countless, instances that linger in the depths of the mind. For them, the road to recovery is even longer and, sometimes, it never happens at all.

My story is a long and painful one to recall, let alone write. I do so now to let others whom have lived it know they are not alone. There are people who understand the pain, but also understand there is an end to that pain. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and no matter how bleak the future may seem, there is always hope.

Before I begin, I warn my readers that I will not refrain from including detail. While names have been changed, all of the accounts I write are true in every way, from the abuse I endured to where I am today, standing in the light of the tunnel as a survivor, not a victim.

Let me guide you there.

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The Birthday Present

May 23rd 1995. I think that date is forever burned into my mind. It has been put away in the file cabinet of memories, but every now and then, the drawer slides open and out it falls to blink at me like a neon sign. On May 23rd of 1995, my father turned fifty and, at four years old, I was his birthday present.

I can’t picture his face anymore, only his hands. They were strong and full of confidence, but somehow gentle. I was a daddy’s girl, but even my love for him didn’t interfere with the gut feeling I had that something wasn’t right. I wasn’t instructed to stay silent that day, but I knew I needed to. At four years old, I knew I now had a secret I needed to keep.

My mother was at work as usual. She was a server at a restaurant forty-five minutes from home and pulled double shifts five days a week. My father stayed at home to care for me and my younger brother.

It’s interesting to me that when I think about those years, my memories of my brother are few and far between. He and I were never close and it wouldn’t be until much later that I’d realize my father intentionally drove that silent wedge between us.

A bath was drawn for me on my father’s fiftieth birthday. It wasn’t unusual for him to bathe me, as my mother was rarely home to do so. While it began normally, an odd look came into his eye while he washed my body.

I remember that look well. I would grow very familiar with it over the years to come. That day, though, it was new. I wondered if I’d done something wrong and felt a hint of fear. His hands were moving across my body slowly and I wasn’t sure what to do, so I stayed very still. I can feel the touch of his fingers between my legs as if it had occurred yesterday.

It sent shivers up my spine, though I never moved. I don’t think I even breathed. Then, as quickly as it began, it stopped. He drained the tub and wrapped a towel around me. It felt surreal. As he dried me, he smiled.

“I love you,” he said. I can’t remember if I said it back.

That night, it was difficult to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about that moment, the look in his eye. I don’t know how long I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, listening to his movements downstairs. I do know it was the first of many similar occurrences, though at the time, I could only hope it was just a weird day.

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