But from the age of 5 to 18, she was repeatedly sexually abused and raped by her father.
To cope, she lived in two separate levels of consciousness, a happy child during the day - blocking out the abuse, and a terrified child at night anxious for the moment her father would open the door and enter her bedroom.
It wasn't until after college that she broke down and was able to reveal her painful secret, discovering that her older sister had also been molested by their father, unaware that her other sisters were possibly also enduring the same abuse.
For years afterward, she needed a sleeping aid at night, unable to fall asleep naturally - to her, night was a time to be afraid.
When her daughter was about 5 years old, Marilyn felt herself emotionally draw away from her child, not realizing that seeing her daughter at the age she was, when her abuse first began, brought her back to a traumatic state.
Such re-emergence of trauma is common for survivors during different stages of life - even smells, tastes, songs - being touched a certain way, reaching a new level of trust and/or intimacy in a romantic relationship, and seeing their own children or other children in a way that brings them back to their own childhood can trigger negative emotions and anxiety. Surviving sexual abuse is not a destination, it is a fight, to work through every hurdle and set back, with determination to regain control over one's life and happiness.
When she finally did confront her father about the abuse, he took out a gun and told her he would have killed himself (she believes he meant that if she told him she was going to go public with her story). He also said, "I I had known what this would do to you, I never would have done it."
While that statement alone is probably sending readers here into a state of rage - the truth is, most molesters work very hard to convince themselves that they are not harming the child they are abusing. But they also are not thinking of the child, at all - they are thinking only of themselves. And when society refuses to speak out against child sexual abuse and the effect on children - it's much easier for abusers to live in this made up reality in their heads. Silence enables abuse in many, many ways.
Marilyn has said that 'incest' is the most disgusting six-letter word in the English language, but if we can make it more speakable and destroy the taboo that surrounds child sexual abuse, we can make progress in reducing the number of children that suffer - often by the hands of a family member and almost always by someone known and trusted by the child and family.
People ask us, how they can help. Become educated. Speak to your friends and family. Raise awareness in your community so that others can learn and know what to do to protect their children.
Fore more, visit: The Statistics, Empowering Children,Understanding Abusers, Signs of Abuse in Children.
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