Below, what readers of my book, “Learning to Love Myself” never knew: how I told my family that my father had sexually abused me for 14 years, and how they reacted to that disclosure.
Newly added to the last chapter of the revised version of “Learning to Love Myself“:
It took another seven years after my mother’s passing, to finally tell my husband and daughters the truth about my father. And quite honestly, if Victoria hadn’t asked me a question one night over dinner, I most likely would have taken my secret to the grave. Despite how much I’d grown, despite what I’d achieved, despite John’s love and that of my children, deep down where no-one but other victims of incest can understand, I was still ashamed, still afraid of rejection, of disbelief, and, most of all, the possible loss of my husband’s love and respect.
The evening TV news was on while John and I shared dinner with Victoria and Andrew, Victoria’s professional and personal partner. I tuned in, as I always have, to yet another report of sexual abuse and groaned.
“Another one,” I sighed. “Will it never stop?”
Victoria heard the anguish in my voice and with that uncanny sixth sense she’s always had, asked me outright:
“Mom, didn’t something happen in your past? I know it did. But you’ve never said anything.”
I nearly gagged on my food. No! Why did she have to ask that? I’d kept my past so tightly bottled all these years, and though many times I’d wanted to tell someone, anyone, I’d held back. It was somehow easier to say nothing than share that ugliness.
“Mom?” Victoria prompted. Through hazy eyes, I watched John cut off another piece of his steak. I knew the time to speak was now or never. John’s fork clattered to the floor as I said,
“Yes. Something did happen. I was sexually abused for years and the abuser was my father, your grandfather.”
I couldn’t take my eyes off John. He leaned down to pick up the fork, put it down beside his plate. His appetite gone, he looked straight at me and said,
“I had no idea. All these years … and I had no idea.”
John shook his head in disbelief. Eyes downcast, he put his head into the palms of his hands and said nothing more. Inside, I was trembling, thinking this is just what I thought would happen. How would he feel now? How would we go on? I was 65, too old to be alone. Would I be? Would he be able to live with me knowing what he now did about why my father hated him so? Worse yet, he now knew that my father had known me as intimately as he did.
“Mom?” Victoria spoke softly. “Can you tell us about it? Dad, are you okay with mom telling us?”
John looked up at her, then me, and smiled sadly. ”Of course I am. I just can’t believe my wife of forty or more years never told me about it, about her suffering. Why didn’t you, Viga?”
Relief flooded through me as I blurted: ”I was afraid of losing you. I was afraid of what you’d do if you knew…”
“Well you were right to worry about what I’d do…to him! I probably would have killed him!”
“That’s just one of the reasons I didn’t tell you,” I said, “but you wouldn’t have left me?” I asked, a choke rising in my throat.
John looked at me with the same love in his eyes that I saw there on our wedding day when he said, “Hi ya, Kiddo.”
“You are my wife, Viga, and I have always loved you. Nothing can change that. Nothing. Now, tell us about it.”
As I told my story, fifty-four years of secret tears and reined-in tension poured out of me. By the time I was finished, Victoria was insisting that I write a book about it all. I refused at first, saying I couldn’t. But she reminded me that I had always wanted to write a book and this one was important, not just for myself, but for all other victims of incest and childhood sexual abuse who may never have the courage to speak up, who needed to know they weren’t alone. I looked at John.
“How do you feel about me doing that? Are you okay with it?”
“Of course I am. Have I ever stood in your way of doing anything you wanted to do?”
I laughed at that. We all did. No, John had never stood in my way, never told me what I could or couldn’t do. He had loved me unconditionally all these years and given me complete freedom, exactly what my father had denied me.
So, in August, 2013, I released my true story of incest, ”No Tears for my Father”, and a year later, I was awarded a gold medal for it. Whether the award was for a good book or for having the courage to write it matters little. What mattered was I had finally spoken up and was no longer ashamed of my past.
Well, dear readers, what do you think now? Is that better? Let me know in your comments. Thanks for reading.