Jeannette sat at her desk at work, alternating between staring at the blinking cursor and trying not to close her eyes- for fear of another flashback. She had worked so hard to get to this point in her career where she could be counted on with responsibility. The project was due to her boss in two hours. She had not even started. Her two little boys kept calling her. They needed help with homework. All she could think about was how disgusting she still felt from events that happened more than 30 years ago. “Why can’t I just get over it”, she thought.
Jeannette haphazardly put together some material for her boss and went home. She couldn’t live like this anymore. She knew it was time to get some help. Even though Jeannette hadn’t been to Prevail in over ten years, she remembered that she was told services were always available whenever she was ready to take that step.
This past fall, Jeannette faithfully came to the sexual assault survivors support group. She did her journaling, self-care, and learned how to confront her abusers and the people who neglected to defend her as a child. Even though it was hard for Jeannette to get to the point where she was ready to acknowledge how her child sexual abuse has impacted her life, the services at Prevail are helping her heal every step of the way.
EMMA (11) & JENNA (8)
The giggles that are so profound in little girls couldn’t have been brighter in any other two girls. Emma (age 11) and Jenna (age 8) were bright, sweet, and self-proclaimed comedians. Everyone who met them said that they had that undeniable bound of sisters. Emma was a straight A student and a raising soccer star. On the other hand, Jenna was artistic and the social butterfly in the neighborhood. Emma said, “She has to have more friends than Taylor Swift on Facebook!” Anyone meeting them would have said that they were just normal girls…
Yet Emma kept a very deep dark secret. For the past three years, her father had been visiting her room at least once a week. At first, it was just to tuck her in and kiss her good night. Then it was to rub her back and tickle her. The, it became much more. Emma could not tell. At first, she did not quite understand what was happening, but she was very scared of what would happen if she told. Later, her dad told her if that if she told then he would have to do it to Jenna and that her mom would think she was a bad girl. Emma wanted to be anything besides a “bad girl.” She also remembered that her mom had always said, “Emma, Jenna needs you and you have to look out for her.” Emma decided it was her job to protect Jenna from this stuff. What Emma did not know was that no matter what she did, it had not stopped her father from sexually assaulting Jenna.
Both girls dutifully kept their secrets. It was not until Jenna heard a presentation at school about body safety that she realized that Daddy’s goodnight rituals were not normal. She spent the whole day thinking about it and finally decided to tell her teacher. She said, “I don’t think Daddies are supposed to love their daughters like that.”
Both Emma and Jenna had no idea what happened to each other. They first met Prevail at their interview at a local Child Advocacy Center. Their dad was arrested and bonded out. In attempts to keep them safe, their mother got a protective order. It was granted. Both girls started seeing a child advocate at Prevail. They asked some tough questions such as, “Why me?” and “I thought he loved me, but why would he do this?” Emma also felt that no one else understood what was happening to her. After lots of education and support, Emma and Jenna agreed to join the children’s sexual assault group. Their mom decided to join the parenting group at the same time. After ten weeks, everyone reported feeling better. There were very few bad dreams, an understanding that it was not their fault, and a feeling that they were SURVIVORS. For the first time, no one was keeping secrets about sexual hurts.
Today, Emma and Jenna are normal girls. No one would ever know that they had been terrorized for years. Their mother has commented that “Prevail saved their lives.” Both Emma and Jenna said that “Prevail helped me find myself again and that Prevail has made their life the way it is today.” We are all waiting for trial…two years later.
The sound of the school bus driving away was overshadowed by the sound of her dad screaming in the house. At age ten, Kate was in the fifth grade. She’ll always remember the day her parents told her they were getting a divorce. It was her last day of school and she had made a craft just for them, a homemade frame with their family picture.
The same frame hung in her mother’s house, with her dad cut out of the photo, for two years. The picture always made Kate smile when she cooked dinner for her siblings, paid the phone bill and made sure her mom went to work. The picture reminded Kate of the family she never really had, only pretended to have. The day the Department of Child Services removed Kate from her mother’s house on charges of neglect, Kate was not allowed to go back inside to take the picture with her.
Not much changed when Kate moved in with her dad. She noticed how her body was changing and she was beginning to look like her old babysitter. Kate was embarrassed that she was starting to look more mature. Was it her fault that her dad and his friends were sexually attracted to her? Kate didn’t know what to do to make the scary touching stop. One night, Kate woke up and found her dad on the living room couch with a friend… hitting a crack pipe! Kate’s Dad offered her a “smoke.” Stunned, not knowing what to do, Kate sat down on the couch and tried crack for the first time with her dad. Instantly, she was hooked. The drugs made her numb. She did not have to feel anymore. Kate did not go to school the next day, or the day after. Even though Kate had taken care of so many people, no one seemed interested in taking care of her.
Two years later, Kate still had not been to school. She was completely addicted to crack and was prostituting herself to her Dad’s friends for money and drugs. The police raided a hotel room where Kate was found; high, and in bed with a 57 year old man. Kate was taken into custody and entered into rehab. Once clean, she went into foster care and enrolled in school.
Blood was dripping down the tile of her bathroom floor into the grout she had worked so hard to clean. He always needed the house to be spotless. It took her a second before she realized the blood was hers. Still too scared to stand up, Suzie continued to lay there until she heard him leave through the garage. The mirror told her more than she could ever deny. He had broken her nose and knocked her unconscious. In the heat of her fear Suzie grabbed her purse, got in the car and drove to her mother’s house.
Once she arrived at her mother’s house and saw her mother working in the garden she immediately regretted driving there. Her mom saw the blood on Suzie’s face and quickly ran over to the car. “Get into the other seat, we’re going to the hospital,” said Suzie’s mom. The drive to the emergency room was silent. Suzie and her mom both knew how she got those injuries and conversation seemed fruitless.
The doctors dressed Suzie’s wounds and gave her stitches for her nose. They discussed safety and seemed to behave as if they saw women like this everyday, and this was just another one who “couldn’t just leave.” Once again, Suzie felt alone. Before she left the hospital Suzie was referred to Prevail by a nurse. With her mother standing there, Suzie begrudgingly told the nurse she would call.
Suzie’s journey began at Prevail when she initially attended the domestic violence support group for adults. Although it was hard to share and she didn’t want to admit how serious her injuries were, Suzie kept coming back. She liked the group setting, but also started to meet with an advocate one on one, and got her children into the children’s program.
Shortly after, Suzie met with Prevail’s employment coordinator and improved her resume and interviewing skills. Once Suzie got a job, she and her children were able to move out on their own. With help from Prevail, Suzie was able to reclaim her life and her self-esteem. Her and her children now live in an abuse free home.