I was raped repeatedly at the age of 8 by a neighbor teenager right after my mother had left our family, and I was sexually molested by a man who was 22 years older than me, a trusted father figure within a small religious community, when I was 16.
I left my father and brother at age 11 to live with my mother to get away from my rapist, and I left my home country at 17 to protect the woman who was like a mother to me and who was my abuser’s wife.
Years later I got counseling for myself regarding the child sexual abuse, but did not tell anyone about the older man until his wife called me long distance from Europe, to ask me if I had slept with her husband. She believed me at first that it was abuse, but then turned it around to blame me. I reported it to the national offices of my religion at that point and they confronted him with what he had done.
All of my life I have felt disjointed, damaged, sad and not myself, as if someone had stolen my inner light and I would never get it back again, as if I am only a fragment of what I could have been, and that I can never feel really happy again. There is a sadness that will not leave me, even though my life is stable and I have raised a wonderful daughter.
I think we all deserve to be innocent, and rape and abuse steals that innocence from us. We have seen a seriousness to life that only others with similar experiences can understand. The only good thing about it all is, I feel, that it has increased my humanity and my understanding of others. I do have the capacity to feel happiness, but I seldom attribute it to myself and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
I have been unhappy for many years, but have found in my fifth decade of life that it is important to believe strongly in what matters most and to keep learning and growing.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our stories here.