A note from the author to Eric:
It continues to astonish me the number of sexual abuse problems within the Mormon church. The Beckley case is to go to court unless a settlement is reached this May. Here we go again! I guess someone or you knew about the big settlement in TX a few months ago [late 1998]. The church allowed it to get to court. The family asked 3 million and the jury awarded them 4 million. I know this did not do much damage money wise to the church, but if enough people come forward, and when this case is won there will be civil suits, I will be glad to see it come into the media finally also.
I am writing you now because Exponent has edited my seduction and rape by my father and it is better written now. I am sending you a copy to see if you can use it more effectively. This has been along time coming, I know you needed some work done on it, and I trust this will work for you. You have done so much for so many, and I want to add my gratitude along with all of them.
The Seduction and Rape That Changed My Life Forever
Looking back to my early pre- teen years (now over fifty years ago (it began with tickling and fun chase-me games, done "innocently" in the presence of my stepmother or other relatives. All fun and games, wrestling, rolling on the floor, touching (sometimes inappropriately) but all in the "game." My half sister, eight years younger, was always jumping on top, trying to find her place in the laughter and fun. I felt the competition between us strongly because I believed her to be my enemy in the battle for my fathers attention.
After all, she was so little, blonde, and cute, and had lived her whole life with my father and my stepmother. I had been raised by my grandparents in Canada and had no memory of my father before I was ten. I was at an all- arms-and-legs stage and, even though we both had very curly hair like our fathers, mine was dark brown. Her long lashes made her eyes more like his; mine were more like those of my mother (hazel-blue with crinkles at the corners) who had died shortly after my birth.
However, it became clear very soon that the real enemy in the battle for the affections of my new-found father was my stepmother. My father only exacerbated these feelings by making the competition between us more overt.
After I was too old for childhood games, my father stepped up his seduction by "wooing" me. He would take me out like a "date" to dinner, or (when my stepmother was absent at church meetings, social occasions, or working) he would put my half sister to bed early so we could spend time alone together. I treasured this alone time because I longed for his undivided attention.
The first real physical contact with my father happened when I was about fourteen years old. I was quite mature for my age, and my breasts were well developed, so I appeared to be even older than I was. I was coming from a bath, wearing just my robe, when I "ran into" my father on the upstairs landing. He grabbed me in his arms and said, "This is how I kissed my girlfriends," whereupon he forced his tongue into my mouth. I was surprised and shocked but managed to say "Stop it!" and pushed him away. He reached out again, forcing me against the banister and pressing his very erect penis into my resisting pelvic area. Repulsed, I again said, "Stop it!" and ran to my bedroom, slamming the door shut.
It was shortly after this experience that my father became a counselor in our wards bishopric. Quite some time elapsed before he attempted to touch me again. About this time, my stepmother took a full-time night job, and I was left in the role of "mate" most evenings of the week. I prepared dinner almost every night. My half sister went to bed early, leaving the "playing field"wide open. My farther sometimes went out on missionary home visits or to church meetings, but he always returned early in the evening before I went to bed.
The seduction started again, but this time more carefully, by means of flattery and with no force. Although I didn't realize what was happening at the time, my father began to use praise to further pull me into his web. He and I became "allies" against my stepmother. He would compare me to my stepmother, denigrating her abilities and appearance and praising mine. He made me feel like a "winner" over her, something I desperately wanted from this man I still did not know very well
I was expected to do numerous household chores (dishes, laundry, ironing, and cooking). My father used every opportunity to tell me privately that my cooking, my ironing (or whatever) was better than my stepmothers. To have "one up" on my stepmother became my goal. Soon he began extending his praises by telling me that my breasts were more attractive than my step-mother's Even though I felt embarrassed at this, I did not speak out, happy to have even this victory over her. She became jealous, and it showed, much to my delight. She probably began to regret the decision that she herself enforced to bring me from Canada to live with them.
I was vulnerable and lonely and loved the one-on-one attention and generous praise. My father would grant me privileges without discussing them with my stepmother, which made her angry. I played on the constant battles they had over me. Some I lost, many I won, especially with the support of my father against her.
My father started telling me about my step mothers flirtatious behavior, saying she had a way of attracting the most eligible man in a room. I began noticing her flirting with men wherever we went (at church, in social situations, even at family gatherings). Her flirtation, of course, added fuel to my fire of resentment towards her. To me, my father became the martyr in the relationship, which made me want all the more to please this "betrayed" father who was so "wronged" by my "wicked fairy tale stepmother."
All this "stalking" of me and manipulation of my emotions were just pieces of a grand puzzle working itself out in my fathers mind. I had no way of deciphering his warped vision of our relationship or knowing what my part would become in this vicious game or imagining what trauma it would create in my life.
One night, after my father had praised me for the dinner I had made, had helped me do the dishes, and had put my half sister to bed, he called me to his bedroom. He had bought a black dress for me as a reward for helping so much while my stepmother was at work. He urged me to try it on right there, saying that the full- length mirror was better than the small one in my room. I later saw how well he had orchestrated this plan, but at the time I was too thrilled with the dress to even think about it. And he was, after all, my father.
While watching me change, he expressed pleasure at my maturing young body. All of his seductive praise about my sexy body and long, curly hair sounded very good to me. I still saw my stepmother as the one I wanted to "win" over, so I was a perfect candidate for his careful steps of seduction. He also told me that my stepmother was better at sex than my very young natural mother had been, again implicitly challenging me to be "better than my stepmother." In this sexually charged atmosphere, he quickly pushed me down on the bed and, without force, had sexual intercourse with me two times. I was shocked. I felt no physical pain, but afterwards I was in an agony of mental and emotional upset that haunted me for years.
I had a lot of guilt, shame, and confused thinking because I felt as if I had somehow let it happen (and I hadn't really stopped him). After all, I was in his room, changing my clothes. Maybe it was my fault. From my religious training, I knew something was terribly wrong about what had happened, but I had never known anything like this could or would happen.
I spent time in the city library looking for information about sex between fathers and daughters. Even fiction never seemed to describe what had happened to me. All medical books and anything pertaining to sexual intercourse were locked up in those days, off limits except with parental permission. Magazines contained no information bout sex, and this was way before the days of television. I did read about Oedipus but never could identify with that story because the mother and son were not aware they were related and because it was complicated by murder. I ended up being sure that this had never happened to anyone I knew, if to anyone at all.
There was no one I could talk to about my experience. It was the 1940's (long before the fights for sex education in the schools or before students could talk to school counselors about sex.) I certainly couldn't talk about what had happened to my stepmother, and even if I could have, our previous conversations about sex had only dealt with menstruation. I could not talk about it with any religious leaders my father was now bishop of our ward.
I wanted to be sent back to Canada to live with my grandparents but knew they were too frail and unable to have me by this time. I had visited them every year for two or three weeks when our family drove from California to Canada. However, I ended up never telling my grandparents about my fathers behavior because I did not think even they would believe me. My father had warned me: "never tell about us. Your stepmother and sister would leave and be out on the street, and there would be no more family. It is our secret." I learned years later that this kind of threat and swearing to secrecy are common in abusive situations and that the secret itself becomes just another burden that the child has to carry, along with the shame and guilt and anger. My anger towards both my father and stepmother was barely repressed, although most of the frustration I felt, unfortunately, landed on my half sister (the only one I had some power over.)
With no information available and no one to talk to, there was nothing for me to do except put what had happened to me as far out of my mind as possible. My step mothers night job ended shortly after this experience and before my father had another opportunity to have sex with me. I avoided him as much as possible after that, always carefully locking the bathroom door and always taking my clothes with me so that I would never come out less than fully clothed. He made no more advances toward me for several years.
Then, when I had understandably been lulled into a false sense of security by the length of time that had gone by, my father again made a "pass" at me. I was seventeen at the time, a senior in high school. By this time a lot of boyfriends and many church and social activities had helped me bury my negative thoughts about myself. I was, ironically, allowed to date only "good Mormon boys" whose families my family knew well. On this particular night, however, I was getting ready t o meet a girlfriend to go to an early movie. Thinking I was alone in the house ( and because I was in a hurry) I was careless and left the bathroom with just a robe on. My father was coming up the stairs just as I entered my room. I shut the door, which had no locks, and hurried to my closet to dress. He came in and very forcefully grabbed me, pushing me onto my bed, holding me down, and lying on top of me. I fought him with all my strength, yelling, "No! Stop!" and pushed him away, saying, "I will tell! Don't you touch me!" He tore away my robe and very quickly ejaculated on my stomach. I was so repulsed that he got up and left me alone, crying into my pillow. He never tried to overpower me physically again.
After this incident, I avoided my family as much as possible and made sure there were no opportunities for my father and me to be alone. After graduating from high school, I got a job and soon became engaged to be married. My father wanted us to have one last trip to Canada together before I was married. I just wanted to get married and get out of that house. However, because I wanted to see my grandparents, I acquiesced.
While we were on a boat in the river in Victoria, he came up to me while I was looking out over the rail and said, "See those people over there watching us? They see your ring, they think were engaged." I was stunned at the nerve of him to say such a thing and answered, "They and you are wrong! He continued, "I am only twenty-one years older than you are. It is possible you know." I angrily walked away in disgust.
My father didn't try to "come on" to me again even verbally until after my first daughter was a toddler. He began coming to "visit" me during the daytime when my husband was at work. He told me he wanted to have a sexual relationship with me. For the first time I mentioned about what had happened so many years ago. " I am your daughter!" I yelled at him, telling him not to even speak to me about such an idea.
"You have always been a woman to me. You always have been and you always will." I just sat there and cried.
He was a bishop in the church and yet seemed to have no remorse or guilt about what had happened and was still eager to have sex with me, a married woman and a "mother." How he could behave that way I shall never know.
My father never approached me after that. Perhaps I was wrong about his lack of remorse and guilt. He developed cancer when my oldest daughter was eleven and the younger one eight. I was not aware that guilt could have a part in illness, but I believe he wanted to die (even though he was only fifty-two years old at the time and still enjoyed being bishop). He died within a year of his illness being diagnosed.
The funeral was huge; many people from the church and from his place of employment came. When I saw him in his casket, he looked very sad, dressed in the temple clothes of a "worthy Mormon priesthood holder." I wondered if I would be able to even to cry. The tears finally flowed, but they were ones of relief rather than of grief and loss, and I finally, after all those years had some relief from all that had gone before. I knew that at last he could never approach me in a sexual way, and it felt good to be free.
However, I w as not totally free. I began having severe migraine headaches. No medical reason could be found for them, and no medication could control the frequency of the extreme pain. I was referred to a psychologist, which gave me the courage to at last tell my bishop about my father. His shock showed in his silence. Finally he said, "It is over and best not spoken of again.
After some time, I told my therapist about my father, and my psychological tests proved that my resentment, guilt, remorse, and shame were at least part of the cause of the migraines. I had turned so much inward that I had become full of both repression and depression. My love-hate relationship with my father had taken more from me than I had ever imagined.
Group therapy helped somewhat, but little was known about how to help victims of sexual abuse in the fifties. With time, my headaches became less frequent and intense and the pain was manageable. As therapists learned more about abuse and were taught how to conduct more appropriate therapy to deal with it, I finally began to heal.
However, working out my anger and other emotions took years and affected my first marriage in every way. With my husbands continual alcohol problem and his own guilt over it as member of the church, coupled with my own problems, my marriage became very fragile until, after twenty-two years, I divorced him. In my second marriage, I have learned to "re program" my mind and body over the years. I will not allow myself to pull away from my second husband, wonderful man that he is to me, when certain touches bring back the force my father used and revulsion I felt. I have learned to tell my mind "stop!" and it is now all right for me to enjoy my sexual relations with him to the fullest. However, certain smells, like even a whiff of Old Spice men's cologne, bring the abuse back to me in a flash.
My sexual abuse was minor compared to that of many victims in support groups I later led. Many of my clients have suffered far more intensely and for longer periods of time. I never suffered physical pain or long-term abuse as have so many who were abused even as infants by parents or other care givers. Working with the abuse victims and dysfunctional families has helped me heal my own wounds.
As a postscript: years later my stepmother, whom I had little contact with after my fathers death, surprised me by visiting our home. With all of my education about what had happened to me and my work with victims over the years, I was a different person that she had remembered. Because I had counseled countless victims to confront care givers as a step toward healing but had not done so myself, I felt determined to tell her about my father. It meant opening old wounds for both of us, but once more she surprised me. Her response was, "Oh, that makes me feel less guilty about things I did!" Apparently my fathers suspicions about her "extracurricular" behavior had been correct. Then she said, "Why didn't you tell me; I would have stopped it." She then both ordered and begged me not to reveal this information to my half sister. I reluctantly agreed. Even though there was little likelihood that I would see her, I didn't like to be a party to perpetuating the secret keeping. I did begin to wonder if anything had happened between my father and my half sister.
The guilt associated with why I did not prevent the abuse was a difficult and long-term problem until therapists explained that sexual abuse is never the fault of the child. I was also told than the parental abandonment of a child creates an intense need for acceptance and approval from that parent once they are reunited, creating an atmosphere ready-made for incest. Only after understanding that I was not responsible did my deep guilt begin to evaporate. However, I am seventy years old, and the residue still has the ability to haunt me. The haunting is minor for me, though, and I agonize for those who have not reached this point in their lives (or who may never reach it).
It has been hard enough for me to deal with this guilt, but the attitudes of our society towards abuse certainly have not helped. It is long past time that our society, our culture, and our religious communities stop blaming the victims of abuse, no matter what their age, and begin supporting them. They can do this by educating children about recognizing and reporting abuse; listening to (and believing) victims, refusing to cover up the acts of perpetrators, which only encourages them to abuse again; punishing abusers to the full extent of the law; and removing abused children from unsafe homes. And, most important of all, our society can support abused children by allowing them to heal and "unlearn" what they have observed in their own care givers homes that they will never become statistics of abuse (a perpetrator) when they themselves become adults.