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A Letter From a Victim of Sexual Assault

Speaking up after 30 years of silence (Candace)

I’m not sure if our blog is the right place to share this. I mean, it’s our wedding blog, after all. This is the place where you have all been coming to read about our love, our travels, our amazing dream honeymoon. But this is the second day that I have woken up in tears, shaking, and I can’t think of another place to go.

So this blog is where I’ll start.

First, this is not a political post, even though it has been sparked by politics. And I am purposely writing this on my blog because I am afraid of the comments I’ll receive, so comments are turned off. I sincerely don’t care who you choose to vote for this election, as long as you vote. But my heart keeps beating faster and I can’t stop thinking about it, so I have to get this off my chest.

As I continue to read about Donald Trump’s sexual assault statements and the victims who have since come forward, I am personally hurt each time. Not like the kind of hurt where your heart goes out to the victims. But rather the kind of hurt where I am taken back to being a five-year-old girl and pain is physically inflicted upon me. The pain is palpable and real. So real that I’m shaking as I write this.

I feel this pain because I have been sexually assaulted. And I have never come forward. Not for 30 years. I keep saying that I’m going to write my book some day, and that this will be a chapter, but every time I try to begin, I stop myself.

I stay silent because I am embarrassed. Because I tried telling someone once. Because I was told it didn’t happen. That I made it up. Because I don’t want to hurt the people involved. Because I love them very much. Because you will tell me that this should stay private, that making it public is inappropriate. Because I’ve been called a liar before and nearly took my life as a result. Because its too painful to talk about. Because this could affect my professional career. Because it’s been so long that I’m not even sure that it even happened at this point (even though my therapists have told me otherwise). There are so many reasons that I have kept this to myself for so long.

But not today.

When I was five, my parents divorced. They had a rocky marriage, and it was very good for everyone that they split up. And after the divorce, I spent the week with my mom and the weekend with my dad. He moved into an apartment a couple of streets away from my grandma’s house (where mom and I lived) so he could still be close to me. And at first, things were fine.

But then, one day, he started asking me to clean the apartment for him. He said I’d have to learn how to clean for when I became a wife one day. And then he bought me a step stool and taught me how to turn on the oven burner, and told me to make him hot dogs. He explained that my mom never cooked for him and that was why they got divorced. So I cooked him hot dogs. And then one day, as we woke up (he only had one bed and I had to share it with him), he had a tooth brush, and told me he was going to put it inside me. I know this sounds awful, but at the time, I didn’t’ know that it was wrong. And he told me it wasn’t wrong.

I was five. I didn’t know better.

Then one day, he took me to his neighbor’s apartment. This neighbor played the guitar and I liked to listen to his songs. He was always nice to me. But on this day, my dad and this guy both used the tooth brush. And this whole time, it was a “fun secret.” Not the kind of secret I was afraid to share. But the kind that it “would be fun to keep.”

And then I forgot all about it. Literally and completely forgot.

My dad moved to San Diego to go into the Navy about a year later (thank God), and I only saw him one time after that, when I was thirteen. By that point, I had no memory of what had happened when I was five. I only remember him taking me to Mexico that time, buying me a margarita, and telling me that, “I’ve seen a lot, you know. You can tell me anything. Even if its embarrassing. You won’t get in trouble with me. Even if it’s about sex.”

I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, and laughed it off. I had never even kissed a boy at this point, so I happily had nothing to report.

But then, in 2000, 15 years later, my fiance’s mother worked for the Women’s Crisis Center, and came home from work one day in tears. She had been working on the 800 hotline that day, and got a call from a young girl who was being molested by her father.

With a tooth brush.

The memories flooded back that day. I was so shocked by them that I couldn’t move. I kept crying, and ultimately had to stay the night because I was too shaken to drive. I just couldn’t make sense of these memories.

As soon as I was able to speak again, I called someone that I trusted. I had to share, right? This was so wrong, and I had to tell someone.

But when I told this mentor, they said, “Your father has done many things wrong, but he has always loved you very much. He is not a great man, but he would never have done this to you.”

And just like that, the conversation ended.

I must have made it up.

So I tried to pack the memories away again. To move on with my life. But I couldn’t, and things began to unravel for me.

I began cheating on my fiancé, and we ultimately broke up a few months later. Then I started sleeping around. A lot. I started drinking (I never drank until this point) and smoking weed. And I dropped out of sorority. I made sure that everyone at school thought that I was a slut.

I was a slut.

And I was a liar. I began to lie about everything. Little things. Stupid, mundane things. Big things. I lied about everything. I made up tall tales about myself. I turned small truths into big lies. I didn’t know why I did it, but I always felt like the real truth wasn’t good enough. That in order to get love and attention, I had to be bigger than I was.

I had to lie.

But then the lies led to the demise of my company. I was sued for fraud. And while I wasn’t guilty of the exact lies I was being accused of, I was guilty of so many other lies in my life. I called the people I cared about to tell them about the lies, and some of them said, “You have always had a problem with lying.”

And they were right.

And then I cheated on every boyfriend I ever had after this point. For years. Wonderful men. Men who didn’t deserve it. And I didn’t feel like I had any control over it.

Then, when I was 28, I sought out a therapist. I was in a long-term relationship and he knew I had cheated. We went to counseling together at first, because he wanted to marry me but I kept pushing him away. And the therapist said that I was in a cycle of self sabotage. I didn’t believe that I deserved love from a good man, so I found my ways to push them away. To make myself unworthy.

And this cycle has continued for my entire adult life. I’ve either cheated or left or pushed away every man away who mattered to me. Sex became “cardio” for me. Not an intimate act shared with another with whom you have a deep and meaningful connection. But rather a sweaty scene I’ve watched so many times in porns.

I became really good at those scenes.

And then I built in a 6-week and 90-day cut off for dating. I would build connections with men and then end them. It was a safe way to avoid intimacy without hurting anyone else, and to keep the friendships. All because I was so very afraid to become vulnerable.

But then, one day, I went to a weekend retreat where all of this came back up for me again. The memories of my dad. The memories of the conversation with my mentor. The memories of the lies. And I was a mess. I was convinced I was doomed to a life of lying. But at this retreat, amidst my tears at what I felt was rock bottom, I met Andrew.

And in spite of my past, my lies, my cheating, my sexual recklessness, he saw me. The true me. And he loved me. And he convinced me that I was worth loving.

And marrying.

So, on New Year’s day this year, after realizing how blessed I was to meet this man who could cut through 30 years of pain and 15 years of sabotage, I decided to let it go.

I called my dad.

I hadn’t spoken to him since that time I saw him when I was 13. He had since been in jail for dealing drugs and gotten back out. He had remarried. From Facebook, it looked like he had a decent life. And I was happy for him. But on this day, I was ready to forgive him for what he did to me as a child.

When I called him, we spoke for 15 minutes, tops. I told him that I forgave him for everything he did to me and everything he didn’t do for me, and he responded, “Well, I forgive you too.”

And that was it.

But this week, all the memories have come back again. Not just the memories of my childhood or of when I was 20. Not just the memories of the lawsuit. But vivid memories of the times when I cheated. Each and every one of them. I am feeling such guilt and shame right now. It’s overwhelming. I feel like trash.

Like a slut.

And now I know why. With Donald Trump’s sexual assault statements and the news that has followed, I have begun to feel the need to self sabotage again. To knock myself down a few rungs. Who am I to deserve this amazing man? This dream honeymoon? This wonderful life?

But at least, this time, I can identify what is happening. And I can do something about it.

I cannot stand by and be silent any longer. Because I see a man who has assaulted women as the potential next leader of my country. As the role model for so many people who I love. Young men and women everywhere. And I see what’s being said about these women who are courageous enough to come forward this week.

They are being drug through the mud. Even though the man who assaulted them is the one running for president, we choose to apply more scrutiny to the women.

“Why didn’t they come forward earlier? This would have been a good story 10 years ago.”

Well, friends, I didn’t come forward. For 30 years. And I know how they feel.

I have been physically groped, without permission, and more than once in my adult life. I have been inappropriately propositioned at work on at least two occasions (that I can remember). I have reported inappropriate conduct at work to a (male) boss and was told to look the other way (“You are going to deal with this for the rest of your life. You just need to stay professional.”) I have been sexually demeaned by a female boss in front of my male peers (“We all know why she was invited to this party…”) I’ve been called horrible names by both men and women tied to my body and my sexuality.

And I’ve stayed silent.

Because I’m not a victim. Because I don’t want to play the “woman card.” Because I can go high when they go low.

But if I don’t speak up, who will?