This is Jacqueline’s story.
I am the youngest of 3 girls. I come from a family of freckled gingers. We grew up in an impressive 5 bed detached house in the Essex countryside. Dad always had big ambitions and dreams and he worked hard to achieve them. We were lucky enough to be taken on foreign holidays, we had two cars and kept horses. Mum was a housewife, Dad a ceramic wall and floor tiler.
The sexual abuse started around the time I was 7 years old, by my paternal grandfather. This was soon followed by sexual abuse from my father. It went on definitely into my late teens by my grandfather, and the abuse from my father stopped somewhere around the time that I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. When I reached puberty.
I was always a quiet kid, happy and content to mostly play by myself. Abusers tend to always pick on the quiet ones, don’t they? The ones that would never tell…and I didn’t tell. Anyone. Not until my big sister had a daughter, and I had to let her know of the potential dangers my niece was exposed to. At this time I was around 28 years old.
I sat both my sisters down one night, and I told them what had happened to me when I was younger. Without question or hesitation, they believed me. I never once considered what would happen if they didn’t? They wanted to confront our Dad that very night. He was called to my house, with my Mum in tow and the metaphorical cat was well and truly let out the bag!
He of course denied, denied, denied and made a ridiculous scene of pretending to be distraught, collapsing in the hallway from the apparent shock of my accusations. He and Mum left the house with nothing further to say.
Us three girls banded together and with their unending support and devotion to me, we parted ways from both parents for some 10/12 years. My Mum and Dad remained married, my Mum always certain that “your father would NEVER do such a thing” and that I was confused, somehow. Mum never once made any attempts to take what I said in any seriousness, or try to even make sure that I was okay mentally or emotionally. I think she was waiting it out, to see if I would “get over it”.
At the time of the abuse and in some childish way trying to protect myself, I came up with easy and simple coping strategies. These strategies had so many rules attached to them, which seemed to become more intricate the older I got. Living by these rules was exhausting. One of the coping strategies was to immediately shut down all feelings, emotions and opinions. I had lived this way for so long that I didn’t know how to “feel” or what I thought about anything. I was a massive people pleaser, going along with everything and everyone, getting treated like a doormat. It never occurred to me to mind.
It’s been a crushing and torturous 20 year struggle to heal myself and “feel” emotions again, to learn to love myself and get to know myself. I am discovering new strengths every day, and every day I am so very, very grateful that I pursued my battle to rebuild my self-esteem, with sheer dogged determination.
I would do it all again in a heartbeat to be able to say that I am truly content in life. I love my life. I love my past. My struggle gave me so much power and strength.
I guess what I am saying is, to anyone who feels utterly alone, broken and hopeless. Never give up hope. Keep fighting. You deserve to live an amazing life, the one you were always destined for. It will be worth the struggle.