My heart was beating slightly faster than usual as I sat on the small couch and fumbled with my cell phone waiting for the next question…
“Why are you only pressing charges against your uncle?” Not the question I was expecting. I swallowed and said “Because everyone else is dead.” “Oh, okay” and she nodded her head. It’s been five years since my last counseling session and I know in this moment it’s been way too long. “What do you hope to accomplish in counseling?” My mind quickly flooded with answers – too many to share in one hour. The bottom line is I’m exhausted of being a slave to the pain of my childhood memories.
I knew it was time for me to seek outside help again. Counseling had helped me in the past and I slowly realized I’d hit another wall and needed help. Even knowing this – I dragged my feet for another year. I needed to find a therapist and schedule an appointment. The very thought of it just felt completely overwhelming, and so I just shelved it. I prayed and asked God to open a door for me and lead me in the right direction. Little did I know how he would do it.
Sixteen years ago I actively pursued overcoming my abuse. I think most abuse survivors wonder what their life could have been if the abuse never happened. I did. What dreams were squashed inside me while I was being violated? I needed to find out. In the beginning I read a lot of books on the subject. When I say I read books – I mean almost anything I could find on the subject. I read university studies – books from psychologists, doctors, pastors, and also autobiographies of other abuse survivors. I watched many videos, attended conferences and then sought help from others. I worked in a mega-church for 7 years and counseled with pastors and church leaders during that time. I was desperate and always looked for a way to “crack the code” on how to leave this all behind.
Each step forward helped me to unlock a door, but I then realized there was another door behind it. As I learned how to unlock that one I would find another door behind that one too. Door after door – on and on – it just seemed endless. Two years into my journey towards healing – I became very discouraged. How much longer would this take? Was I even getting anywhere? I wasn’t sure because in many ways I still felt the same. One night I was at a prayer meeting with a group of people – some I slightly knew and others I didn’t at all. One woman asked if she could pray for me and I nodded my head. This woman spoke the most beautiful prayer over me and encouraged me by saying: “I see you walking in the desert taking one step at a time. You’ve been walking on this path for a while and frustrated because you see you have a long way to go. God said stop and turn around and see how far you have actually come”. I couldn’t believe it! This woman did not know me well or know what was happening in my life. Her prayer helped encourage me not to quit.
So I continued on. Some years it felt like I was able to unlock dozens of doors and others it felt impossible to unlock even one. Up and down – round and round – is the roller coaster journey towards healing. Many times I grew weary and wanted to give up. Then I would be reminded of the glimpse I had of myself – the REAL me (see Behind the Walls) – and it kept me moving forward. I could easily write a book series on this crazy, scary, painful, and sometimes humorous pilgrimage for the last sixteen years alone. Who knows maybe someday. What stands out to me is that when I began this journey my boys were 5, 7 and 8. Now one is married, I now have a grandson, and my youngest can legally drink alcohol next month. Looking at it this way could feel depressing but I choose to see myself as relentless and perseverant.
A little over three months ago I stood before a new door. Behind it was the opportunity to show love by standing up for myself. The truth is I had stood in front of that door for two years and never dared to go through it. I had an idea what was behind it but was too afraid of what waited for me on the other side. Could I find the courage inside me to open it? If so, what would happen once I was through it? The feelings connected with it took me back to my childhood when fear of the unknown paralyzed me. I once made a feeble attempt to turn that knob but it was more like a tap than an actual turn.
So when I least expected it someone I trust and respect encouraged me to walk through that door. As soon as the words were spoken to me I knew it was time to do it. Two years prior to this conversation – I had a light bulb moment and thought – even though no one helped me or stood up for me as a child – I can do it now. I can stand up for me and say – it is not okay – I am not okay with how others sexually abused and used me. It was a crime and it was wrong – and I’m going to do something about it. There was still a part of me that was hesitant because maybe this could be a step in the wrong direction and I should just leave it alone.
So I took those thoughts and did I what I do best – overthink it! When I was presented with idea of pressing charges against my abusive uncle my mind would start to spin. I looked online to learn about the statute of limitations in reporting this crime, and I discovered since I was a child when this happened I could still report it. Then I began to do my research on the City of Tempe Police department – anything that would help shine the light on how I would be treated in this process. I know it sounds crazy – how can you figure this out online? I didn’t know but I was scared. So I took the next step and added the non-emergency police number in my phone so I could immediately call when I had finally mustered enough courage.
So one day while I was alone at work I thought “I’m going to call right now” and I picked up the phone to make the call. I picked up my cell phone, pulled up the number and just held it in my hand. All that was left to do was push the button that would connect me to the police. My hand began to shake and my insides began to quiver – I was terrified! I almost dropped my phone and I placed it down on my desk. I was caught completely by surprise when I realized my fear was actually terror.
I went home and shared this with Robbie – I now knew that my hesitation was misplaced and I needed to make the call. Although he was concerned about how this could affect me – supported my decision. The next two weeks were grueling – my stomach was in knots as I would give myself a pep talk everyday in attempt to make the phone call. During this time I learned a father of my childhood friend had passed away. My heart ached for her and her family. She lived across the street from my house during the time I was abused. Her parents were always very kind to me and I still have a deep fondness for them all. So I went the funeral that was held in the catholic church I attended for many years as a child.
It was so very surreal sitting in that church and it took me back over three decades. I remember attending catechism, my first holy communion, attending church festivals and picnics in this place. It almost looked exactly as it did when I was a child, and I tried to soak in every detail. I slowly looked around the church and saw neighbors that lived on my street. Many faces I remembered and others I knew but couldn’t remember their names. It was like I was in a TV episode of This is your life. As I sat there listening to the beautiful eulogy – I became grateful to have known him – to remember there were also good times. Sitting in the church helped me to confront my demons in way too. I remembered the prayer that had been spoken over me and I looked around for the second time in my life and saw how far I had actually come.
I can’t explain it but something happened inside me that day. It was like I had been given a shot of pure and mighty courage that seeped inside every inch of me. I left the funeral and went to work. After work I drove straight home walked through the door and took out my cell phone, pulled up the number and this time pressed the button.
“City of Tempe Police Department – how may I direct your call?”
“I would like to speak to someone regarding a crime that took place when I was a child.”
“Where did this crime take place?”
“Do you want cross streets or the exact address?”
“The address if you have it.”
I gave her the address of my childhood home.
“What type of crime took place?”
“I was sexually abused by my uncle for many years and I need to report it.”
“May I have your name and contact information and I will have an officer call you back.”
I gave her the requested information and hung up the phone and noticed I was shaking. Did this just actually happen? How long would it take for someone to call me back? Maybe the message would get lost? My mind was swirling and I tried to calm myself down.
I sat on my couch and thought even if this call doesn’t go anywhere – I am satisfied I had the courage to make the call. That I finally stood up for the little girl inside me that was left hurt and abandoned. I realized I can’t wait any longer for anyone else to protect me. I can now do this for myself and that thought made me smile.
My thoughts were suddenly interrupted when my phone lit up and started to ring…