MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- It is not what happens in life that makes me who I am, but it's how I am able to overcome obstacles that I face. Going through abuse shaped the way I thought, made me question who I trust and even changed my perspective on life.
As a child, I was molested for years by my ex-step-father — someone I thought I could trust. One thing I wish someone had told me when I was hiding this secret was that there are people in the world who have gone through almost identical situations as mine.
It took me years to find my voice, my ability to speak up about the abuse. With the help of a strong support group and my own tough mental resilience, I overcame this traumatic experience. On January 10, 2020, nearly three years after telling my family about the abuse, I went to court and faced my abuser.
I read a victim impact statement during my abuser’s sentencing. My victim statement allowed me to tell the judge the emotional and physical trauma that I went through for so many years. This was the first time I was able to confront him about what he did to me as a young child.
My abuser was distinguished in his career, a volunteer firefighter and, by the time I said something about my abuse, he had become a prominent employee in a hospital.
I didn’t think anyone would believe a little girl over someone that appeared to be a model citizen.
I was filled with fear that I would be judged and no one would believe my word over his. There were countless nights that I would lay in bed and cry myself to sleep. I felt like I had no escape.
Before reading my victim impact statement, I was terrified of going to court and having to confront my abuser. I had no idea if taking a plea deal or going to trial was the right choice. In the end, I decided the best decision for me and my mental health was to take the plea deal.
At first I felt shame that I wasn’t strong enough to stand trial. But eventually I was proud of myself for going to court and getting to say my piece.
I felt more powerful than I ever had against my abuser during the sentencing. The judge turned to me and said that I was very well-spoken and I was going to go far in life, which gave me hope.
After court was over, my attorney pulled me into a side room and we realized all of those years of waiting for justice were over and all we could do was hug each other and cry tears of joy. Confronting the man that I had always felt had power over me made me realize just how strong and resilient I am.
I would not let abuse define me, but rather let it empower me. The trauma in my life made me become the strong-minded and resilient person I am today.
Before I found my strength to tell my family about the abuse, a friend of mine shared a similar experience they encountered as a child. From that moment, I knew that I needed to say something about what I’ve been through. I couldn’t bear the weight of the secret any longer.
As a 17-year-old girl, I should never have been in the position to have to crush my mother’s world by telling her about the abuse her husband at the time had been inflicting on me. I outlined every grim detail about the circumstances surrounding my situation in a letter. That letter took 10 years for me to write.
Through those 10 years, my emotions became an anchor weighing me down. Therapy became my reprieve and my root for resilience after reliving my experience with multiple law enforcement agencies. I was able to discuss my feelings, not just the facts.
I built coping strategies and was able to talk freely about the sexual abuse. It was no longer my secret, it was my story. If I hadn’t heard my friend talk about his abuse, then I don’t know if I would have ever said anything. I want whoever is reading this to know that they are not alone, even though times seem hard.
Although I was not in the military at the time I came out about the abuse, I was still able to use the resources the Air Force provides to get updates on my court case throughout basic training and technical school. Without these programs, I would have been in the dark for months about my case and I was anxious to move past that time in my life.
My story is something that needs to be shared because someone could be struggling and going through what I once did. Sexual assault is traumatizing and can affect an Airman’s well-being. I hope that my story can help others through similar situations.
Some of the resources I accessed were from the Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program office, which is staffed by professionals to address the needs of victims. If you or someone you know needs to reach the SAPR office, they are located in Bldg 850, Suite 147 and can be reached on the 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline at 759-HELP.