It Has Not Been Easy, But It Is Worth It

I was the youngest child from my father’s first marriage. My mother was mentally ill and physically abusive. Eventually my parents divorced. My father was always working and gone. When he remarried my stepmother, my two older sisters and I went to live with them. Babies began to arrive almost immediately. Somehow, I got lost in the shuffle. Being raised with benign neglect left me open to people with bad intent. I would gravitate to anyone who would give me attention and before I was in grade school I had been molested by someone in the neighborhood. Back then, not much was done about it. My stepmother focused on her children and my father was working.

From the time I was 7, I spent my summers down at the YMCA. My father dropped me off at 7:30 am on his way to his office and I stayed there till he picked me off on his way home from work at the end of the day. That kept me out of my stepmother’s hair. I wasn’t a bad kid, I was just in the way. I had very little supervision and care. At lunch when the Y closed down I would walk the 3 miles to the public library to read and get books. Often I would find an extra sandwich from one of the librarians who had noticed I was there every day (on Saturdays I was dropped off at the library at opening time and picked up at closing time). Eventually I was hired to work as a swim teacher and lifeguard. At the YMCA pool I was subjected to constant touching, grabbing, rubbing up against, and continuously more aggressive physical harassment. It became normal to me. I just tried to avoid the worst offenders.

At the age of 16 I began working at the local hospital as a nurse’s aide. One night I was assaulted in the parking lot and was taken back for treatment in my own hospital’s ER. I begged my coworkers not to tell my parents I had been sexually assaulted as well. It wasn’t till later I finally had to tell the whole story. That was 40 years ago. I thought I had worked through it all, but my father’s death 3 years ago brought it all back up. I have worked hard these past three years to find a new peace, with myself and with my entire family. It has not been easy, but it is worth it.

-Mary Elizabeth, Survivor