Sunday, July 3, 2011

Regaining Her Voice: Sonia’s Story

How old were you at the time of the assault (s)? 1-16

How old are you currently: 35

Where did the assault (s) happen: at home; Woodbridge/Lorton, VA

Did you know the person(s) who committed the assault (s): Yes, my father

Did you tell anyone about the assault (s) at the time: No

Did the assault (s) go to a court trial? No

Was there a sentencing?: No

Do you think they will commit sexual assault again? Yes

What would you like to say to people about sexual assault?

To the survivors: it is not your fault! To everyone: Teach your children self respect, self defense and LISTEN to them!

What would you like to say about this project?

I think it’s great that Eliina is getting the word out about the prevalence of Sexual Assault and its effects on both individuals and society as a whole.

My father started sexually assaulting me when I was very small, and continued until I left home at 16. When I was a toddler, he picked me up by the ankle and used my whole body to masturbate himself. When I was a little older he raped me with a variety of unpleasant objects, among them his long, narrow paper scissors, an unplugged electric drill, and my own umbrella. All this was done in secret, of course, although I suspect my mother was willfully ignorant of my misery.

Throughout my adolescence, my father would sneak into my room before it got light, sprawl his heavy body on top of me, and rape me. Pretending I was asleep didn’t stop him. Hiding under my desk didn’t stop him. Even cooperation didn’t stop him. After many years of processing and healing, I still awaken with a gasp of fear if my cat brushes against me early in the morning.

I blocked the abuse from my consciousness until I moved across the country from where I grew up. Soon after I started remembering, I cut off all contact with my father, and have never regretted it –he is not only a sexual predator, he’s also viciously critical and judgmental. I exchange email with my mother once or twice a year, but she continues to believe that the abuse is “inconceivable.”

Despite this legacy of fear and pain, I function well in the world. I studied Computer Science in school, and worked as a programmer for a long time, until I decided I didn’t like the corporate world and started training as a massage therapist. I now have a private massage practice and still do some computer contracting on the side. I’ve owned a condo for 10 years, and I’ve recently been fixing it up so my surroundings are beautiful. For fun, I ride my bicycle, write poetry, make ceramics, garden, cook, and read a lot.

In the area of intimate relationships, I haven’t fared so well. After a series of unhappy 2-year relationships with men, I fell madly in love with a woman and thought I had found my soulmate. She soon moved in with me and we had a commitment ceremony together. Unfortunately, she turned out to be extremely emotionally abusive and manipulative, and her behavior only got worse when I set boundaries around her treatment of me. Since we split up, I’ve done a lot of work to figure out how I can keep from getting involved with manipulative people again. I’ve read endless self-help books about trust and communication.

As a small child I learned lessons about worthlessness, disrespect, secrecy, and compliance. Finally, at age 35, I’m learning what my parents should have been teaching me back then. I’ve learned to respect myself, and to expect respectful treatment from everyone around me. I’ve learned to trust my feelings no matter what. I’ve learned to separate myself from uncomfortable situations simply because my comfort is important. I struggle daily to believe that I’m worthy of such tender self-care. Someday, I hope it will be second nature.

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