Sexual abuse of children is not inevitable, it is preventable…
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I am 14 and this is my story –
My name is Tivona. I’m not a famous author, model, or actor.
I’m not Super Girl trying to save the world or a Super Villain trying to
destroy it. I’m not anyone special except to my family. I’m just an ordinary,
fun loving, moody teenager. I’m just trying to grow up and live an average life
like everyone else. I’m 14 and looking forward to high school.
Yet, there are days that I wake up and feel like I can’t relate
to anyone else in the world. I want to be a ghost and disappear…There are days
I wish I weren’t here. During the day, I maintain A’s in school, I sing, draw
in my journal, hang out online with my friends, play the saxophone, am an avid
hunter and am a half back on my soccer team. Yet at night, when I crawl into my
warm bed – surrounded by my soft blankets, my cats and more stuffed animals
than you can count, I feel so alone. So isolated. Like no one else in the world
knows how I’m feeling. It’s at this time, that I have to deal with my own
private monsters and demons.
In the dark, I feel like no one could understand me. I’m not
worried about the typical teenage stuff because my life over the last 4 years
hasn’t been really ordinary. It’s been conventional on the outside while pain
and guilt raged on the inside. Quietly, I’ve suffered. How could I tell anyone
that I was a victim of sexual assault? Who could I tell and who would believe
As the daughter of someone in law enforcement and the niece
of an attorney, I have always been told, and led to believe, that if you do
something wrong – you are punished. There are consequences for your behavior.
Today, as I write you my story of sexual abuse at the hands of a loved one, my
abuser is free to roam the streets of our town because the Prosecuting Attorney
refuses to follow up on my claims of abuse
I know it is hard to listen to these accusations. I know it
is hard to comprehend that “this” person can do “these” things but there is a
“silent epidemic” occurring in this country and it is harming those of us you
have “sworn” to protect! Please take a minute to listen to our “cries for
help”. They are not false or “made up”. They are very real. In some of our
lives, there are truly monsters who hide “under our beds” and “in our closets”
at night just waiting for the darkness so they can “attack”. We rely on you to
help and we need you NOW more than ever!
I truly believe that society has the resources to put an end
to this epidemic. At the very least, we can drastically reduce it. Why don’t
we? Are we too afraid it can happen in our own homes and that’s scarier to
acknowledge than believing it is the “horrible monster we see on Law and Order”
that is causing this destruction? Perhaps you misread the statistics?
Talking about sexual abuse of children is crossing into
frightening, unfamiliar territory for many people. We live in a very confusing
society with hypocritical views on sex and sexuality. We are uncomfortable
talking about sex, but we are willing to have it sold to us through songs,
magazines, TV and advertisements.
I know that healing is a process, a journey. I know I will
never forget the assaults and abuse but I hope to grow from this experience and
I want to help others “escape” and grow too. PLEASE JOIN ME AND USE YOUR VOICE
TO HELP STOP THIS CYCLE OF VIOLENCE IN OUR COUNTRY.
Child sexual assault is the world’s deepest, darkest, best
kept secret. How many are out there, I guess we will truly never know. I
am asking, pleading with you to take a stand. Remind all those who
choose to seek out the children, that their behavior will not be tolerated no
matter who they are. I believe I did the right thing by finally “telling”. I
truly hope that my openness can save other children. I told the police. I was
open and honest, even though it was extremely embarrassing to retell my story
to one stranger after another. I believed in the process of the justice system.
All I am asking is that the justice system “believes in me too!”
Here’s my story,
it began in 1994:
People talk about “Princesses”. Royalty really isn’t my
thing – I enjoy the “supernatural” – vampires really. Nevertheless, for years,
I was truly a “Princess” in my family. The “first born” for both sides of
extended family, I entered this world in grand fashion (an emergency C-section
because I had stopped breathing). For my loved ones, I truly was a miracle and
blessing. I grew and thrived from the attention and you can truly say “I was
rotten”. So many camera flashes have gone off in my face over the years it’s
amazing I am not blind. As an avid hunter, my grandfather had me appreciating
nature as soon as I could walk and follow in his footsteps. Even my name,
Tivona, means a “love for the outdoors. This man was my “hero”.
My perfect, innocent “happily-ever-after-fairytale-princess”
life and childhood began to crumble and ended when I was 10. That was the year
my grandfather died. That was the year that my whole world began to shatter
into small pieces and fall apart around me. It was at that time, my uncle would
also begin to “groom” me for his own sexual pleasures and means of “control”.
It began with slow rubs and touches and progressed from there.
During this time, my uncle gradually eroded our appropriate
adult / child boundaries, built a wall of secrecy around us and finally
established compliance through my fear. Over the next 3 years, I was repeatedly
reminded that this was “our little secret” and I mustn’t say a thing. He told
me that I would be to blame if anyone discovered our secret little game. He
repeatedly told me that: “This would really hurt my mom if she knew” and that
he would go to jail if I told. Each time he said that, a part of me died. I
betrayed what I knew was the “right thing to do” because I was afraid “no one
would believe me” and because I didn’t want my close knit family to fall apart.
It just seemed easier to close my eyes,
retreat to the darkness in my head and “go along” than upset anyone. My life
became a fraud and a fiction. Do you know how much energy is consumed to keep a
secret hidden from ourselves and our families?
As a family member, he had seduced us all. He had our
devotion and love. He was trustworthy and “above reproach”. His popularity
within our family covered behaviors that should never have been tolerated. He
was a trusted friend and relative; a pillar of the community. He would never do
anything “shady” or inappropriate. That is what he hoped everyone would believe
if I ever told our “secret”.
By creating an untarnished image, he has convinced my
beloved aunt and his children that he is innocent and that I am lying and
trying to destroy his pristine image in our lives and our community. He has
‘explained away’ most of his actions with excuses. When approached with his
inappropriate behaviors, he responded by being insulted and became extremely
defensive. Although never acknowledging the abuse, he never once denied it
either. His response to the police, and I quote, “if that’s what she said
happened, then it must have happened…I just don’t remember”.
During my short time in therapy, I have learned that pedophiles
are like any other predator. They stalk and hunt children as their prey. Many
predators, like mine, will spend weeks, months, and even years grooming their
victims. They are calculating, manipulative, and very, very patient when it
comes to achieving their goal. Molesters are charming. They get along with
everyone and are usually popular. They can be upstanding members of the
community and tend to present a perfect image. Like my uncle, they are “great
guys” and “everybody’s friend”. They are charming and intimidate other adults
into believing they are above reproach. Their behavior is a controlled public
image – for I know all too well about their private behaviors. My counselor
says she has never met a “child molester she didn’t like”.
Today, I wonder if he is capable of feeling, let alone
harbors a conscience. And did he, in all those years of wonderful memories,
ever really love me? Is he sorry for the destruction he has caused in all of
our lives, even though he refuses to admit it? I'd like to know WHY? Why did he
chose to cross that line of trust? And HOW? How could he show up year and
year, event after event? Just pretending, never showing how he was hurting me
and how he had hurt my aunt and his granddaughter before me (those who chose to
harbor that pain internally for years until I told)? How could he torcher us
all like that with his "games"? Yes, I know I will never get
the answers that I want or deserve but I continue to silently wonder....
Like any other addict, when asked, he creates excuses for
all around him to explain his behavior and he has placed the blame for his
behavior solely on me (just like he said he would). He has made me lose faith
in myself, all in an attempt to control me. There are mornings when I wake up
that I don’t recognize the “girl in the mirror”. I feel as if my spirit has
been surgically extracted.
There are days I act like a wounded animal: crying,
attacking, and retreating. I am working to understand this is not my fault. I
ask for reassurance that my perpetrator was a liar when he said that I had
control and could stop it anytime. I agonize over the line of appropriate touch
at the same time my hormones are throwing me into that “time of my life”. I am
filled with confusion, anger and premature sexualization at a time when I’m
already battling those issues. Talk about the “straw that could break the
camel’s back”. I struggle with the fact that my uncle made me feel as an
accomplice in this whole lie.
The pain is similar to jumping out of an airplane without a
parachute. I mourn the loss of my relationship with my Aunt. I have bad dreams;
break into tears for no reason and battle anger – at my perpetrator and my
extended family for letting this happen to me. I can say: I take it day by day.
Sometimes minute by minute. Sometimes I have to remember to breathe.
I want consequences for my uncle’s behavior.
Today, the reports have been filed, the secrets are out. So
how can he be free to just roam about? Don’t I have the right to be Safe,
Strong and Free? (Don’t so many other victims have that same right?) The
prosecuting attorney refuses to file charges because there were no witnesses
and they can’t see my broken heart and sole. It’s his word against mine.
Without formal charges, his name will NEVER be on a sexual predator list, many
others aren't either because only 1 in 16 perps are actually prosecuted if you
can believe that or not!! And only 6% of those people will ever spend time in
jail! Are your kids safe?
There has been no justice. Even after justice is served,
this case will be over for those of you reading and those who have worked on my
case, but for me and my family, this is still just the beginning – a new
beginning I hope but a part of our lives we will never forget.
My advice to you? Educate your children. Set “rules”. We
like rules and it’s easier to tell when a rule has been broken. Teach your
children age appropriate information about their bodies. Tell them it is okay
to say “NO”. And, that it’s okay to break a promise they might make about
sexual abuse. Teach your children that a person who sexually abuses a child can
be anyone and that they need to tell even when the offender is someone they
like, love or even live with. Finally, let your child know that if sexual abuse
happens to them, they are still a good person, they are still lovable and they
you believe them and will love them no matter what!
Instead of just responding to the aftermath of abuse, why
not focus on prevention? This is a widespread illness that requires new
attitudes and change – I know that first hand from my own experiences. Child
sexual abuse is an adult problem – the responsibility shouldn’t all be placed
on us as children. Sometimes, even if we know it’s “okay and right” to tell, it
is still hard for us to do. Please watch out for us…look for the signs and
Education is a powerful tool – let’s use it! I am hoping
that the America
I grow up in will be better for my children.
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