I am a survivor of incest.
It began when I was 14 years old and did not end until I left home at the age of 16. The man who abused me was at least 30 years older than me and he was a called a “man of God” because he was a pastor. To this day, he still pastors a church...
I lived with feelings of shame for several years. I never enjoyed the sexual experience with the pastor. Every sexual encounter that occurred was physically painful.
I was groomed by the pastor, however. I used to feel like I was at fault. He drew me by quickly defending me whenever I was in trouble at home, making me feel as if he was on “my side”. He lured me with gifts, which I gladly accepted from him: shoes, clothes, jewelry and food. The actual molestation began shortly after I began accepting the gifts.
I felt guilty for pretending to be asleep while the 250+ pound, 40+ year old man hovered over me and molested my body. Laying there, knowing that what was happening was wrong, I felt that there was nothing I could do. Who was I supposed to cry out to? I felt alone.
During the abuse, he would tell me that when I turned 18 he would marry me. He used the technique of “divide and conquer” by turning those that I was close to and I against each other. It almost became a competition of who could get the most attention out of the pedophile.
My father had a bad temper—of course, I was not going to tell him (or anyone else for that matter) the true reason I wanted to leave home. While the reasons I gave were honest, it obviously was not the biggest reason. I did not confess to my dad until two years later, while watching a Lifetime movie. At some point in the movie, there was a rape scene. I began to cry uncontrollably. When I calmed down, my dad, while staring at me intently, asked what was wrong. I tried to downplay my feelings and simply respond with how sad the movie was and how I could not believe a man could do that to a woman. When I realized it was too late to hide behind my tears, I finally told the truth.
After my dad contacted the authorities and after interviews were conducted about my “allegations”, the authorities returned to my dad’s home and told us that all allegations were denied. I was shocked! Possibly because of my youth and being naïve, I believed in my heart that the “man of God” would tell the truth, just because he was a pastor. Not so...
After I finally released such a heavy burden of hiding behind this life-changing secret, my dad and grandmother, the late Louise Tisdal, believed and supported me. I am now receiving support from my mother and my sisters. Victims and survivors of this inexcusable crime can understand the deep gratitude that is felt towards those who BELIEVE. For this, I feel forever grateful to my family and strongly feel this is one of the reasons why I have successfully survived the abuse.
My self-esteem was awfully low as a teen and transitioning into my adult years. I felt that I was ugly and worthless, the very reason why an older man would find me attractive and not the young men who were my age. I would sit in my bedroom as a teen and listen to music and write poetry and letters to friends because I liked being secluded. However, while doing so, I never sat on the bed, but rather on the floor or at my desk. The bed just was not a location that I viewed as safe.
I tried to pick up the pieces of my life and leave the “past” behind me. I thought it was that simple. I started college right after graduating from high school and felt this would be a new found freedom and beginning for me. However, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts ruled my life. I was always nervous about not completing my course work, suspicious of the male students and teachers on campus, etc. I continued to struggle with the fact that I was only believed by my dad and grandmother.
I became so overwhelmed with doing well in college that my relationships with men, friends and those that I should have been close to became poor. Being overwhelmed turned into a suicide attempt during the spring semester of my freshman year. I put on my favorite dress and closed and locked my dorm door. I was ready to die.
I came to in a hospital where my roommate and another college friend were sitting with me. They made me laugh and tried to encourage me that everything would be fine. My stomach was pumped after I consumed over 100 pain relievers. I shared a few laughs with my worried friends and I still had doubts; I continued to think I did not deserve or no longer wanted to be on earth. A doctor came in hours later with paperwork and explained to me and my friends that I would not be permitted to leave unless I agreed to not attempt suicide again. Listening to the pleas of my friends to tell the doctor what he wanted to hear, I agreed, but still kept the dark thought in the back of mind that I would, indeed, try again.
I want to share that while this catastrophe detrimentally affected my life, I have successfully survived and overcome the sexual abuse. I began to heal after forming a closer relationship with God, after joining an outstanding church in North Carolina. After pleading with the college housing department, I spent several holidays and school breaks on the campus—sometimes completely alone. I stayed two summers consecutively in a large dorm building by myself. I later gained friends who would allow me spend holidays and weekends with them.
Currently, I am still disheartened by the fact that the man who abused me is still a pastor of a church, is around children and is still misleading many families. I feel badly for all of the parents and children who are being deceived by this man.
I believe that the world needs to stop ignoring this issue and considering it “taboo”. As a result, I now avidly advocate for this important cause, which has also helped me to continue to heal. I share my story of abuse, prevention strategies and warnings, and how others can help. I have supported, volunteered for and joined other organizations, even created and began my own program called Queendom T.E.A (The Etiquette Academy) to increase the self-esteem and awareness of this issue to teen girls. I believe that by mentoring and increasing the self-esteem of our youth, they will gain the strength to speak out if they are ever harmed.
I strongly believe it is our duty to protect all children from sexual predators. I do not want any child to experience what I did. Children should feel safe and secure in their homes. When a pedophile is revealed, they should go to prison so they are no longer free to harm other children. The vicious cycle of children being abused must stop NOW.
I want to see the laws pertaining to child sexual abuse changed to better protect our children. I want to see stiffer sentences for offenders with longer incarceration time. We should have zero tolerance for those abusing our children. A victim of sexual abuse suffers with the effects for a lifetime, and the abuser should be held accountable for a lifetime as well. It is a known fact that pedophiles molest children over and over again. I trust that my voice will prevent this from happening to many children...