Trigger Warning: This blog post contains specific information regarding an individual's trauma and survivor story. As such, it has the potential to cause significant distress, intrusive thoughts, or recurrent thoughts. Please proceed carefully. If triggers occur and you need support, please refer to the hotlines provided on our page of Resources for Survivors.
At SHIELD, one of our most important goals is to empower survivors and help them find their voice. As such, we allow survivors to tell their stories in their own words, uncensored, with as much or as little detail as they choose. We believe it is important for us, as a community, to listen. We must never lose sight of the horrific realities of child abuse, domestic violence, and child sexual assault — and their effect on survivors.
Michelle’s story is also a poignant reminder of the difference you can make in someone’s life by reporting abuse. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you should call 1-800-352-6513 to make a report. In an emergency situation, please call 911.
Seven years old. That’s how old I was when I first became of victim of sexual abuse.
From what I can remember, it started with what seemed to be innocent petting at the time. I can remember it feeling odd, but I am not sure I knew or felt that it was wrong at that time.
My stepfather… He was supposed to be my dad, my protector – but he was not that man anymore.
The initial incident became a regular occurrence that happened multiple times per week. Each evening, he would have me in his bed acting as though it was a normal innocent thing between a child and their parent. At first, he would keep it to a minimal touching of me in places that I hadn’t been touched before while telling me he was making me feel loved.
Over the next two to three years, it would increase to him fondling me harder and “teaching” me how to kiss. He began making me touch him in places that I didn’t know about and continued to tell me that he was showing me things a girl needed to know.
The abuse continued for years, multiple times per week, with him continually reminding me that it was “our little secret” and that I would be a good girl for not telling anyone. He continued to mold and groom me — words I know all too well now, although I certainly had no clue as to their meaning back then.
Eventually, he became brazen in his abuse of me. He would do it while my mother and stepsister were in the house in other rooms. He would do it in the car or in the bathroom while we were on vacation. Wherever he could find a place to secretly molest me, he would do so. He would take advantage of every opportunity to abuse me, all while reminding me that it was a beautiful secret that only we shared.
Over these years, he also began drinking. This brought out the mean side of him most of the time. Up until I was ten years old, all of the abuse — from my naive perspective — seemed like it came from a place of love. But everything changed when I turned ten. Everything.
I was ten years old when my stepfather first raped me. He came home from work in the middle of the day, drunk and looking for me. I can remember feeling that something was not right, but I answered him when he called across the house for me. He began with the usual touching and kissing and had me reciprocate those things, which had become normal over the past three years.
But then something different was happening. He was forcefully placing my mouth on his penis and moving my head back and forth. A ten-year-old has no idea what a blow job is — or at least, I didn’t at that age. I began to cough, and he became angry, telling me I needed to learn how to do these things.
He proceeded to pick up me and throw me on the bed. I could feel the bruises already starting to form where he grabbed my arms so tightly. He began kissing me so hard that I could barely breathe, and I began to cry. My displeasure made him angrier, and he told me he would give me something to cry about. Then he raped me.
I didn’t know it was rape at the time, but I knew it wasn’t normal. He tore through my little shaking body like I was a woman of his age and size, and all I could do was lie there and take it.
Once he was done with me, he picked me up, hit my bottom, and told me to go clean myself up. After I returned from the bathroom, he held me against the wall and told me that if I told anyone, he would kill my mother and then kill me.
Over the next several years, he continued drinking, and the painful abuse became an unrelenting pattern. He would make my mom work later shifts and made my stepsister get a job so they would not be home, yet he would forbid me from any activities that kept me away from the house in the evening. I spent seven long years being abused by this man in my own home multiple times per week.
When I was seventeen, I decided to enter an online chat room for survivors of abuse. I began chatting with an unknown man named “Mike” and ended up telling him that my stepfather had just finished raping me and I was afraid. The condom had broken, and my stepfather panicked and said he’d kill me if I ended up pregnant. He had left me alone at the house to return to work — he had raped me on his lunch break.
I shared all of this with a complete stranger online thinking that nothing would come of it except for me to be able to release some pain through the keyboard. This was the time of dial-up internet. However, as soon as my phone disconnected from the world wide web, my phone rang. It was Mike — who, as it turned out, was a paramedic and a mandated sexual abuse reporter.
Things go mostly black for the next few days as the police get involved and my school guidance counselor keeps me in his office for what seemed days on end.
That would be the last time my stepfather would abuse me, the last time he would rape me. Ten long years of abuse came to an end because of a conversation in an online chat room with a complete stranger.
That stranger saved my life that day. His name was Mike, but to me, he was a hero. Thanks to him, I’m a survivor.
You can find other Survivor Stories here.
If you are a survivor in need of support, please refer to the hotlines provided on our page of Resources for Survivors.
If you are a survivor and would like to tell your story, you can email us at email@example.com. You can also private message us on Facebook or Twitter. You can share as much or as little of your story as you like, and you can stay as anonymous as you want.
About the Author: Michelle Johnson is a Senior Client Case Manager working for a nationwide disability law firm. She has been helping people obtain their disability benefits for almost ten years. She previously worked in the medical and family advocacy fields prior to her current work. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, reading and advocating for child abuse prevention and awareness. Michelle lives in St. Albans, WV, with her husband of 22 years, John.