I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV. It was a warm summer night in 1974 and I had just turned five. I still remember the sun streaming across my legs. If I close my eyes I can hear the laughter coming from the TV. My dad had been drinking, as usual. My mom was not home. My dad said he was going to run up to the Seven 11 and grab some more beer. He was not gone long, and returned with not only the beer but also with a gift for me. This memory is burned in my mind for many reasons, one of them is because he rarely gave me gifts. It was a soft yellow t-shirt with a picture of Fonzie on the front, with thumbs up, saying “AAAAAAYY”.
That night was the first time I remember being sexually abused by my dad. My heart was broken. In that moment I realized that gifts from him always had strings attached and I was no longer safe in my own home.
That was the first of hundreds of times my dad sexually abused me. Some memories I only recall a tiny piece of, like a snapshot in time, some memories are like a broken segment of a video clip.
The only way I can explain it is by using the analogy of a glass that hits a tile floor and shatters into a hundred pieces. Even though you work hard to pick up all the glass, you still find pieces a year later behind the fridge.
My dad had a temper that drinking only escalated. Nothing was worse than the sound of his belt unbuckling as it whipped through the loops. He would grab my arm and begin to release his pent up rage as he swung his belt. It landed anywhere from my neck, down my back, on my bottom, and on my legs. The worst part was when the leather curled around and caught the tender skin on my sides. I learned at a young age how to cover the welts by wearing long sleeves and pants, even in the summer. I was a prisoner in a living hell. Fear choked me daily. Thick paralyzing fear that seeps into the deepest fiber of your being.
I learned to become a master at reading body language. I joke around that one of my mutant powers is the ability to sense others energy and their proximity to my personal space even when my eyes are closed. At the age of five I had to develop and sharpen survival skills. I had to learn when to quickly exit the room and when to hide and become invisible. My closet became my safe place. I spent many hours alone in the dark. I would think, “If I could be good enough, and quiet enough, I could change my circumstances. Maybe I could even earn my parent’s love.” But… I never succeeded. Perfection eluded me.
As I grew into a preteen the abuse continued. The beatings escalated as my father realized I was growing up and one day he would lose control over me. One beating was so severe I thought it might be the end. As my father picked me up and threw me around the room over and over, I mentally disconnected. During the beating I was having a very rational conversation in my head. I told myself, “This might be the end.” It’s strange to be pushed so far that you are able to disconnect from your pain and remain calm. I think that was the day I gained my second mutant power, the ability to detach and function under extremely violent circumstances. Just so you know, I have been trained to survive a zombie apocalypse.
The teen became a woman left emotionally wrecked by years of abuse. After six months of marriage I began suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as I maneuvered through a minefield of repressed memories. They desperately clawed their way out. I had no control. I would be fine then a simple daily task would trigger a horrific memory that would replay in my mind like I was watching a horror movie with myself as the main character. Fear, anxiety, rage, bitterness, shame, panic attacks, and night terrors all became giants that taunted me. I was sick of living in a hopeless state. It was time I took control and come to terms with my past.
After years of therapy, acknowledging my pain, dealing with my anger, working through bitterness, forgiving, support from my family, and through my relationship with Christ I looked eye to eye with the giant of violence and sexual perversion and declared, “You will not destroy me, you cannot break me, you do not define me!” Today I am not a victim. I am not just an overcomer; I am an agent of hope, a freedom fighter.
While living life to the fullest with an open heart, I found myself in Cambodia in the fall of 2014 working with hundreds of children living in extreme poverty. While there I heard about families so desperate they were willing to sell their children to a stranger. I saw the first hand effects of a community destroyed by the sex industry and I couldn’t turn my head. I had to do something. Not just about the issue abroad but in our own community. During that trip Christy’s Cause was conceived and a year later thanks to an amazing team of people it became a reality.
Today Christy’s Cause is positioned to make a difference – to be freedom fighters for those who aren’t able to fight for themselves. Together we can make a difference in the lives of those who desperately need our help. Together let’s bring freedom, restoration, and a new life to these victimized children.