1 in 3 Foundation presents Melissa’s story

Content Warning: If someone has been impacted by suicide, trauma, domestic violence, depression, sexual abuse or assault, alcoholism, addiction or a child's death and would prefer to abscond from reading, please feel comfortable to do so as mentions of such content are included in many of the survivor accounts.

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in partnership with the 1 in 3 Foundation, The Tyler Loop presents Melissa’s story as part of the Share Your Story program. The Share Your Story series seeks to help end the stigma around sexual assault and to give voice to survivors’ experiences.

“Many survivors suffer in silence for years,” Maya Golden Bethany, the 1 in 3 Foundation founder said. “Survivors have often experienced blame, judgment or disbelief during the times when they do open up. This program provides participants an opportunity to reclaim their voice and raise awareness. It is not just their experience but a call to action.”

The 1 in 3 Foundation exists to remove the barriers to healing from trauma in Smith County for women recovering from sexual abuse and assault. “We believe that the 1 in 3 women who will experience sexual abuse or assault during their lifetimes deserve meaningful understanding and crucial access to support,” Bethany said.

Melissa — last name withheld — submitted her story to the Share your Story program, read by actor Amanda Nail of Tyler. Melissa recalls growing up enduring sexual and physical abuse for years from two men in her life: her biological father and her stepfather.

“There are things in my life that I’ve chosen not to discuss and I’ve learned to hide deep inside. So, I’m sharing my story with you to bring awareness –  to let you know that you are not alone, to let you know there’s help. And it’s never too late to start your journey of healing. 

So, what happened to me that made me the person I am today at 45 years?

Unfortunately, I grew up suffering at the hands of two men who repeatedly abused me from first to about sixth grade. My biological father sexually abused me and my stepfather who mentally, verbally and physically abused me throughout my childhood until I was 17. 

I was my biological father’s only child, and I lived with him during second grade and again in ninth grade. Outside of those years, I spent every other weekend and summers with him. 

Meanwhile, my mother remarried. I had a stepfather, two older half sisters and a little brother. My stepdad is Hispanic, so he and my siblings had darker skin than me. And here I was, this pale, white child who had the appearance of an affair in the middle of their relationship. 

It may be hard to believe, but my biological father was very kind. He gave me every comfort he could afford.

I had an allowance. I got new school clothes that could not be afforded with so many children in my mother’s home. I got ice cream and balloons as a child and trips to the mall. When I was older, sadly, it was with the same man that I had my first sexual relationship and experiences that still haunt me to this day. 

The abuse was always eased into. He would knock on my door and ask me if I wanted him to put me to bed, which would include rubbing my back with baby powder or baby oil.

But after I was asleep, his hands would wander under my panties. I was six years old: big green eyes, tiny body, a child with a stuffed animal who lay asleep, sucking her thumb. While I slept, I could feel his hands still rubbing my back as they moved lower. There was a lot of rubbing and digital penetration during this time.

There would be more later. 

As I grew older and started to develop, I endured this type of abuse for a few years and eventually learned when the abuse was coming. During waking hours, it never happened. Most confusing of all was that this abuse, it didn’t hurt. In fact, it felt good, but I did not like it. I didn’t like to be touched that way.

At some point, I learned that if I locked my door, the abuse wouldn’t happen. He would ask me, “Do you want me to rub your back tonight?” and I would always answer, “No.” 

This did slow the abuse, but it didn’t stop it – it only changed it. After I began locking him out of my room, he would invite me to watch T.V. in his. 

There were no backrubs there.

He would wait until I was asleep. My panties were removed, and there was more touching than before. It was this abuse that I feared the most. This was different from what I had been enduring. This abuse included my hand being placed on his penis while I lay motionless and pretended to be asleep. 

Something had changed in me. You could see it in my eyes. I wasn’t a child anymore. I hadn’t even started my period, but I wasn’t a child. 

So here I was being abused by my dad, and I couldn’t escape it. I had no one to turn to, no one to tell. If I told, I wouldn’t be allowed to come to my dad’s anymore. 

And why did I need to come to my dad’s to escape the abuse?

I was suffering at the hands of my alcoholic stepdad. So my stepdad has had a drinking problem for as long as I can remember. 

My first memories with him, I remember feeling scared. I remember as a child getting up at night to go potty. I was about three or four. My stepdad would catch me in the hallway on my way to the bathroom and would put me on the toilet and watch me.

He told me I would get a spanking if I didn’t pee. There were times my mother wasn’t there to defend me. If that was the case, I would get hit hard with a leather belt up and down my butt and my back. 

If I moved, it was worse – much worse. I did not see my sisters get hit or my brother. As I got older, the beatings got harder and left more bruises.

One time when I was in middle school, my mom was out of town and I was cooking bacon for my stepdad’s breakfast when he came over to tell me I was doing it wrong. He stood right behind me with his arm around me showing how to pour the grease over the bacon as it cooked. And suddenly, the grease popped.

I remember being so afraid that he was going to take that spoonful of hot grease and throw it in my face, and I would be blind. I was trapped between him and the stove, praying a sibling would save me.

In high school, it was very hard to explain the bruises that showed during cross-country and track practice. I tried to cover them with tights or leggings the best I could. After one incident, the bruises were about four by six inches down my thighs and calves, impossible to hide. I said I had walked behind someone swinging a bat and had gotten hit, but the story I told wasn’t believed.

My older half sisters, grown and out of the house, found out. They wanted to confront their dad, so we had a family meeting. Even my biological dad came. Here we all were: my mom, my dad, my stepdad and two sisters. And here I was at the center of attention, beaten and broken.

My mom, still in disbelief about what happened, asked to see the bruises.

She took me to her room and he followed. So there I stood, 17 years old – a young lady. I took my clothes off, pants first. She saw the bruises down my legs and gasped. 

I could hear him explaining to her what I had done to deserve such a punishment. I took my shirt off and stood there, feeling so exposed in my bra and panties and the bruises that covered my legs and calves.

The abuse finally stopped very soon after I graduated top of my class and moved out. 

It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I found the courage to confront both my dad and my stepdad. The abuse I suffered changed me. To this day, there are triggers that take me a long time to recover from, but I survived by dissociating – pretending what had happened didn’t happen. 

My biggest fear in life is this will happen to my daughter or son. One in three: That’s the number of people who report sexual abuse.

I want to live in a world where we built each other up, we support each other and embrace each other; listen to other people tell their stories in their time. And be patiently waiting for them until they are. 

I want to live in a world where survivors of abuse have a platform, a place to speak and be heard – where I accept you, I’m here for you.”

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