Trigger warningThe following testimony contains the account of a sexual abuse survivor and may contain potentially distressing material.
The first time I met the abuser was my first day of middle school as a 6th grader in P.E. class. He was a P.E. teacher and coached various sports at the school including girls’ basketball and soccer.
I grew up playing sports from age four, and was a head taller than my fellow 11 year olds. I loved team sports as they were my safe haven.
At the time, I was living in a dysfunctional home as the youngest of four children, and my father was a negligent alcoholic. Being with my teammates was one place I could thrive, that is until the perpetrator entered that space and eventually made it the most unsafe place I could have thought possible.
The grooming began the first day of school and lasted throughout my middle school years. Safe touch became unsafe touch, what seemed to be normal interest in an athlete became an obsession… praises, encouragement, and support were masking manipulation and control. I could not find a way out of the hell I was living in, literally.
This person was extremely well-known and liked in the community.
He was invited into my home for family meals. He effectively manipulated so many around him to believe he was passionate about the success of the athletes he coached. As a young girl, I felt incredibly special to receive so much direct attention. I was told I would be an Olympian athlete if I would follow his direct orders.
By the time the molestation and rape began, I was so brainwashed to believe that I needed this person to succeed–not only in sports, but in life. He told me he was the only person who knew how good I was, and he believed in me like no one else would. I was his captive to act out his perverse fantasies.
If there is one thing I hope the “innocent” bystanders know from my story, I would want them to know that abuse is happening all around you. The statistics prove that to be so. Don’t second guess your gut. The faces of those who walked right past me during or immediately following an abusive situation will forever be etched into my memories.
Abusers are bolder than you can ever imagine. I was abused in many instances where people were all around. Yes, this includes in the school classrooms and hallways.
In my mind I was screaming, “How do people not see this?” As a result, I felt hopeless.
The abuser in my story was eventually caught because someone finally saw something they couldn’t rationalize within their mind. He is my hero, and he is my brother that is four years older than me. At the time he was only 18 years old, but he had the courage to call my parents and insist I was being sexually abused. That is the moment healing began.
The next two years were a long, tumultuous battle in the court system, but justice was eventually served. I could finally live my life in freedom without the fear this person could find me.
Once the report was made, I had a family that immediately surrounded me and fought the hard battle with me. I was no longer alone in the nightmare. It took days, months, and years for the details and impact of the abuse to be uncovered. My mom didn’t have the first clue how to help me overcome such a devastating time, but she did know that there are trained counselors who could help. Her ability to recognize her limits and advocate for resources for me, are the reason I can write this story.
Today, I pursue my masters in counseling, ready to help others pick up the pieces of their fragmented lives and walk alongside them in their healing journey.
I am a survivor, not a victim. I will always use my voice to educate others on the topic, and my hope is that each time I do it changes the life of at least one child.
All children should be able to go to school, sporting events, daycare, their own homes, and families’ homes knowing they are safe from a sexual predator.
I will keep fighting for that to become reality for my future children and the children of our community.