Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Resolve

New Year's resolutions set many of us up for failure.   We make our list:  loose weight, exercise weekly, work less, play more.  My list almost always includes loosing weight and exercising.  But this year I am not setting myself up for failure.  This year as I look at the blank pages of my 2012 calendar, I ask myself, what will make this year the best year possible?    I am starting my year off with one word: RESOLVE.  Resolve to me means living in a state of determination to stay the course no matter the setbacks, no matter the disappointments, no matter the challenges.   RESOLVE leaves no room for failure because no matter my circumstances I will persevere. It is not a list but an attitude that I seek this year.

We are all on mission and are put on this earth for a special purpose.  I don’t know that I have ever met anyone on mission that said it was easy.  We have a dark force working in this world, Satan who comes to kill, steal and destroy.   But we have a Savior whose birth we just celebrated.  Jesus came to give us power, strength and yes, resolve to accomplish our mission.  Some of us know our calling crystal clear, others don’t, or don’t wish to submit.  I am blessed to know exactly what God has called me to do.  I heard something so life changing years ago, when I lived in a state of confusion.  We don’t seek a God that hides from us.  He tells us over and over in scripture that we knock and the door is opened, that we ask and receive, that He gives good gifts to His children, that He sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, our guide, our peace. 

I spent my early adulthood asking God what I was put on this earth to do.  I wondered if I was pleasing God.  I spent many sleepless nights asking God to give me a sign.  Sadly, when I heard His voice and I had the knowing in my heart, I was afraid of the task.    I wrestled with God, just like Jacob.  Fortunately God had great patience with me and gave me physical confirmations that I could never deny.   In my state of fear, disobedience and rebellion I begged for bigger signs.  Looking back that was so disrespectful to the God of the universe.  I heard His voice.  I knew what He had called me to do many years before I said yes Lord.  Yet I tested, yet I wanted to be 1000% sure that I heard correctly, I felt inadequate and unprepared for the task ahead.  

So today, after being on the path to fulfill my mission for several years, I want to share helpful hints that I believe will help you find your RESOLVE in 2012:

  1.  Ask God what is your purpose and take action
  2. Focus on listening to God’s voice, pray and obey
  3. Reject the spirit of fear:  F.E.A.R.  FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL
  4. Make a plan and write it down
  5. Expect supernatural miracles to accomplish your mission
  6. Stay the course no matter the obstacles
  7. Know that you are chosen for such a time as this
  8. Shake off disappointments quickly and stay positive
  9. Surround yourself with positive people
  10. Celebrate victories, both large and small

God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.  I believe God is truly looking for a willing and surrendered heart.  In 2003 God spoke to me to write a book.  In 2007 I published my life story of 14 years of horrific abuse at the hands of my stepfather trembling at how my family would receive my disclosure to the world.  None of my fears came to pass and I have received hundreds of responses from readers who say my book helped them.  In 2008 I founded VOICE Today, trembling with fear, with more questions than answers of how, and who and what?  Today we have reached millions with a message of child sexual abuse awareness, prevention and healing.    

I gaze at my blank 2012 calendar with great anticipation and expectation of lives that will be impacted for good because of my resolve and the resolve of the VOICE Today staff to never give up on being a voice for the voiceless.  Those who are hurting in the aftermath of sexual abuse need our determination and resolve to help them find their voice.    We are committed to tell the world about the child sexual abuse epidemic, how we can not only predict but prevent child sexual abuse to protect children and how survivors need compassion and nurturing to heal.    We will never waiver in our commitment to this critical cause.  If you have a committed heart to make the world a safe place for children and a healing place for survivors please join The VOICE MOVEMENT at  We need your resolve!

Friday, December 23, 2011

All I Want For Christmas...

At five years old, toothless, I sang, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth,” but deep down I wanted so much more.  I wanted a day without fear of abuse.  I wanted that childlike wonder that I saw all around me at Christmas time.  Abuse came in all flavors in my home.  One wrong move and it was all out war, with screaming of obscenities, swinging of fists, open hand slaps across the face, pulling of hair, shaking until  fireworks burst in my head.  Then in moments of calm I tried to catch my breath, but I was lured behind closed doors.  Shockingly, my stepfather was even so brazen to conduct his evil out in the open.  He forced me, with his iron hand, to perform perverted acts and tell me how much he loved me and this special time was our secret.  He said he needed to teach me so much about life.   If ever I rebelled the violence would escalate and then he would turn on my mother and blame me.  As I grew older he threatened killing my mother if I ever told.  My abuse started at age 3 and did not end until age 17. 

As a grown woman I know too much about life.  I know about the most evil acts perpetrated on a child.  Though for years I felt to blame, I know now I did nothing to deserve such inhumane violence.   

Days before Christmas my heart breaks for to the millions upon millions of children that are suffering in their own personal hell, bearing the burden of abuse alone with the world turning a blind eye.   There are millions of children whose childlike wonder has been robbed by child sexual abuse and I know that pain.

I may be idealistic but all I want for Christmas is a world that is safe for children and healing for survivors.  My Christmas wish is for adults to face the silent epidemic of child sexual abuse with a courage and compassion to make a difference.   We can not continue to look the other way while millions of children are slaughtered by sexual abuse, and while millions of adults live in the shadows, hiding the pain of abuse with most of them suffering in self destructive behaviors.    Courage means that you become vigilant and a protector of the most vulnerable among us, and compassionate to those who have suffered.  My Christmas wish is to save the innocence that is stolen and to protect the childlike wonder and joy that is destroyed through these vile acts. 

I wish more people would (that you would) get involved with our Movement, THE VOICE MOVEMENT, to battle for social change in terms of addressing the root issues behind abuse, legal change with removing the statute of limitations for prosecuting, and educating adults who work with and around children about prevention and protection.  As I plow through all the daily  issues and challenges associated with VOICE Today, I wish for the resources and the people to do the work needed, and for strategic relationships to be established that will allow us to get our prevention and protections training materials recognized, accepted, widely distributed, and everyone is trained to predict and prevent.   I pray for a day when my phone doesn’t ring with another story of a child whose been brutally assaulted and left confused and injured to navigate life, which already holds mountains of challenges.  My wish is for THE VOICE MOVEMENT to become viral to promote awareness, prevention and healing programs worldwide.

You can help make my Christmas wish come true.  Please take five minutes to watch the VOICE Today POP Points.  VOICE Up, have courage to protect the children in your sphere of contact.  Join the VOICE MOVEMENT – donate, volunteer, host a prevention and healing workshop in 2012! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Breakdown... Breakthrough... Break Free

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 
(Psalm 34:18 NIV)

A glass slips out of my hand, I immediately grab a broom and sweep up the broken pieces and throw it in the trash.  I make certain all the pieces are discarded so weeks later we aren’t performing surgery with a sewing needle to dig a piece of glass out of a foot.  I make sure to prevent future pain from my mistake.  Broken items immediately loose their worth in the world.  Even a crack deems them damaged and no longer valued.  If I dispose the glass in the trash, it goes to a landfill and looses value forever.  But if I take the shattered pieces and place them in my recycle bin then within months this broken glass will be re-purposed to possibly become a test tube that holds the cure for cancer.

I viewed my own emotional brokenness the same way.   I spent years hiding severe emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of my stepfather.  I believed the lies of the enemy that I was damaged goods and had lost my value because my scars of pain, shame and guilt.  These, I thought, represented sin in my life.  As a result, I wanted complete control over this pain and spent an enormous amount of energy trying to keep “it” together, fighting the insanity and hiding my brokenness in the deepest crevices of my soul.  I suffered in a silent prison of pain.  As I swept up my broken glass and took it to the garbage, I kept my pain well hidden and even feared that, as the residue of glass on the floor could injure someone, my pain could hurt others.    I embraced silence as a way to protect others, even though I believed they in some ways contributed to my vulnerability and abuse.   I was convinced by my abuser that I deserved the brutality and he reinforced this message by constant berating me.   I thought the masks I used to hide my reality gave me complete control and protect from being discarded, if my secrets of violation and perversion were revealed.  I spent a time hiding each piece of my broken life, believing the lie that I was worthless.

It took years for me to discover the truth.  17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:17 KJV). The truth is that Gods values our brokenness and our brokenness is a most valuable treasure in God’s hands.  The truth is God puts a value on broken things, especially broken people.  The truth is that God wants to re-purpose our brokenness for great things.  It took my second suicide attempt to allow my complete and total breakdown and it was through that breakdown that I received my breakthrough to truth.  But praise God I did not stop there.  I am on a journey to truly break free, overcoming the pain and destruction caused by my childhood abuse.  Breaking free meant to be completely open and honest, even vulnerable about my past; releasing all the power it held over me.

Just like the broken glass, I delivered my pain to God’s recycle bin to be re-purposed for Kingdom use and for Him to change lives through me.  Just like the recycled glass can save a life, my vulnerability in sharing the pain and progress of healing through my faith in Jesus Christ can change lives.  The re-purposing of my pain has birthed an organization, VOICE Today, Inc., to be a speak for the voiceless through child sexual abuse awareness, prevention and healing programs.   I challenge you to welcome your breakdown, receive your breakthrough and break free to be used mightily by God.  I will never know where the broken glass of my life will end up, but I work to do my part by placing it in the recycle bin to be molded for a new and wonderful plan that only God knows.  Now all that pain, totally surrendered to the hands of our Father God, will be Molded by the Potter for a new and powerful use to help others break free.

Visit VOICE Today at and learn how God is birthing a grassroots movement to protect children and help survivors heal!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Silenced – The Taboo of Sexual Abuse of Children

There is a culture of silence surrounding the issue of child sexual abuse. I founded VOICE Today to be an organization that promotes courage to speak up and speak out about the issue.  We will never protect children nor will we ever heal from the wounds of sexual abuse in the darkness and silence.  So today we look at the power behind the silence. 

I believe we are living in a time when the world is more and more desensitized to sexual issues.  We are bombarded by pornography and sexual perversion in media, the entertainment industry and in our society.  This perversion has so influenced our minds that words like sex means nothing.  Sex is no longer a precious gift between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage.  Instead our media is fostering a value system that says sex is acceptable anywhere, anytime with anybody, but watch out for HIV/AIDS and STDs.  It is no wonder that it is more and more difficult to protect a child from sexual predators.  Descriptions of the atrocities at Penn State University and at Syracuse University are heart-breaking.  By labeling it a “Sex Scandal” implies that these children were co-conspirators in the evil behavior. 
Generations have been taught to keep the ghost in the closet.  There is a gag order on the vast number of adults who have suffered some form of sexual abuse as a child, reinforced with shame, guilt and isolation when an individual steps out and speaks about the unspeakable..  Generations have handed down this evil heirloom of child sexual abuse to protect the perpetrator and the family name.  It is not only a blemish on a family name, a family reputation but also on  a school, a youth serving organization, a faith center that otherwise rational adults will go to any length to conceal the crime.   These adults who sense and see evil behavior become accomplices in the crime, but keep silent are just as accountable as the perpetrator. 

The issue of the risk and response to sexual abuse is drowned in an ocean of ignorance and awkwardness.  Most parents are so uncomfortable with the topic of sex that they fail to become educate and then teach their children about the risk and response to sexual abuse.  They fail to empower their children and properly prepare them, even though 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abuse before age 18.  Child sexual abuse is a silent EPIDEMIC.  Most adults, they fail to educate children on the definition of sexual abuse, they fail to give a child the permission to scream, run and tell a safe person, when someone crosses their personal boundaries.   They believe their child is NOT at risk, but in most cases have no understanding of the devious behaviors of a predator.  Unfortunately, many adults are not comfortable with their own sexuality and, frequently, talking about sex and personal boundaries with children, forces them to face their own traumatizing childhood experiences.

The excruciating pain and lifelong damage of the violation of sexual abuse is so overwhelming that many block out all memories.  As the victim these memories surface as self destructive behaviors, leaving the victim hiding in the shadow of fear, guilt and shame.  Many isolate and lose the ability to ever trust, and, as a result, live alive without the true caring and closeness of real friendship. 

The message we send to victims when we do not intervene and stand up for justice is that “YOU don’t matter and I am not willing to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced to protect you”.  Many survivors believe because the perpetrator is protected and shielded that they did something wrong.  I hate to think it is intentional but let’s face it, a survivor bears an enormous amount of stigma related to sexual abuse.  As a survivor I’ve received the looks of disgust, I’ve heard the words, “Why didn’t you tell?”  or the famous, “You just need to get over that and put it behind you.”  Either intentionally or inadvertently these messages heap guilt and shame on the victim.

What is the answer!  The answer is breaking down first the barrier of ignorance and learning all you can about child sexual abuse and then taking steps to break your silence and/or support others to do so.  Learn the risks, learn the signs, learn the behavior of a predator, and learn how to take a disclosure that fosters truth, honesty and healing.  Voice Today is striving to the education adults through the POWER OF PROTECTION POINTS.  Please care enough about the safety of a child to give 7 minutes to watch this VIDEO. Then you will see why it is important to then sponsor and attend more detailed workshops.

If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse, then today can be your day to step into truth and light of healing and break your silence.  You don’t deserve to suffer another moment.  You can release the shame and guilt.  You were a child and had no power to protect yourself and the adults in your life failed in their responsibility to protect you.  Your VOICE will give others the courage to break their silence.  One VOICE at a time we can break the silence and cycle of child sexual abuse.

I have written my story of 14 years of sexual abuse at the hands of my stepfather and my long journey to healing, From Sorrows To Sapphires, and Tom Scales has written his survival through the abuse from many abusers in Terrible Things Happened To Me.  Please order these books for a donation of any amount at VOICE TODAY ESHOP. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Horror at Home for the Holidays!

There is anticipation in the air as planned the pilgrimage home takes shape to spend the holidays with family and close friends.  For many it is a joyful and exciting time of comfort and relief to be home to recharge and refresh.  To millions, however, it is a time of great stress and angst.  Few realize that 90% of all sexual abuse is from someone the child knows, loves and trusts and 60% of these attacks come from within the family.  Even more tragic is that only 1 in 10 children, even adults will ever tell.  The vast majority of survivors child sexual abuse that I meet through VOICE Today are either suffering in silence or their disclosure was met with disbelief and covered up by family and friends.  Many families treat child sexual abuse as the deep dark ghost in the closet that we never speak of.  The secret becomes the elephant in the room that sits on the chest of the survivor.  To survive our holiday time of celebration with those that were charged to protect us as children, turned a blind eye, discredited and devalued us as a human being, and maybe even violated our most basic human right to be safe, we must put on many masks to hide the excruciating pain.  Some survivors are even forced to face their abuser and pretend nothing ever happened.  At holiday time a survivor may be forced to return to the place where the abuse occurred, just to spend time and celebrate with safe friends and family.

How does this impact the survivor?  Weeks are spent dreading the visit.  Many start way in advance, suppressing the rage, the pain, the sensations of the sexual abuse, fighting the tapes of the abuse that play over and over in our minds.  These feelings may manifest in outward rage and rebellion, or internally with self destructive behavior and physical illness. Many survivors suffer with headaches, depression, isolation, eating disorders, substance abuse and the list goes on.  Then when they arrive to face the town, the home, the smells or even their abuser, triggers of past trauma begin.  Flashbacks of physical and emotional pain are real and debilitating.

What can we do?  Here is some advice for you to survive your “HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY” experience.

Take care of yourself.

Self-Care Suggestions

There are times when the emotions and pain associated with a rape or sexual assault can be overwhelming. These feelings can come immediately after the assault or many years later. The following are things that you can do to help take care of yourself as you recover from the assault that you experienced.

  • Make yourself a cup of tea, or a soothing warm drink.
  • If it is safe to do so, go for a walk.
  • Spend time talking with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Workout; exercise helps to increase your body’s production of endorphins which help you feel better.
  • Read a favorite book. 
  • Write in your journal.
  • Find a creative outlet – music, painting, writing poems, etc.
  • Sign up for a self-defense course – it may help you to feel more in control. Eat healthy food.
  • Most importantly, remind yourself that it is alright for you to feel these emotions – they are normal reactions to an abnormal event.

There are also some things that victims of rape or sexual assault do to cope that are better to avoid:
  • Relaying on alcohol or drug use.
  • Disclosing personal information in chat rooms or blogs.
  • Seeking out situations in which you feel unsafe.
  • Taking actions that undermine your self-worth.
  • Using food and unhealthy eating as a way to control your body and emotional state.
  • Inflicting harm on your body.
  • Blaming yourself for what happened.

Flashbacks:  What are Flashbacks?

Flashbacks are when memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment. These memories can take many forms: dreams, sounds, smells, images, body sensations, or overwhelming emotions. This re-experience of the trauma often seems to come from nowhere and, therefore, blurs the lines between past and present, leaving the individual feeling anxious, scared, powerless, or another emotion that they felt at the time of the trauma.

Some flashbacks are mild and brief, a passing moment, while others may be powerful and last a long time. Many times the individual does not even realize that he or she is having a flashback and may feel faint or dissociate.

What helps during a flashback?

If you realize that you are in the middle of a flashback:
  • Tell yourself that you are having a flashback and remind yourself that it is not the actual event and that your survived.
  • Breathe. Take slow, deep breaths by putting your hand on your stomach and taking deep enough breaths that your hands move out with the inhalations and in with exhalations. This is important because when we panic our body begins to take short, shallow breaths and the decrease in oxygen that accompanies this change increases our panicked state. By increasing the oxygen in your system, you can help to get out of the anxious state you are in.
  • Return to the present. Take time to use your five senses to establish where you are in the present. Look around you and take note of the colors in the room. Listen to the sounds that are happening around you. Smell the smells that are in the room with you. Feel the clothes on your skin and take note of how different parts of your body feel (hands, feet. Etc.).
  • Recognize what would make you feel more safe. Wrap yourself in a blanket, shut yourself in a room – whatever it takes to feel as if you are secure.
  • Get the support of people you can trust. If you can, ask someone for help and support in this time of vulnerability.
  • Take time to recover. Let yourself have the time to get back to feeling comfortable and in the present. This may take a while and that is ok. If you like, take a nap, some time for yourself, or whatever it is that would help you feel safe and more comfortable.
  • Be good to yourself. Know that you are not crazy and are not doing anything wrong – it takes time to heal.
                                     * Information provided by the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault

A note to my brothers and sisters who are survived child sexual abuse:  you have survived and you know the truth.  I pray courage and peace over you on your journey to healing.  Have compassion to those surrounding you that don’t understand your trauma and can be insensitive to your pain.  A note to families and friends of a survivor:  compassion, compassion, compassion!  Our prayers are with you this holiday season from all of us at VOICE Today.  As a survivor of 14 years of sexual abuse at the hands of my stepfather and denial by my mother I understand you pain and anguish!  Visit to learn more about child sexual abuse awareness, prevention and healing and to JOIN THE VOICE MOVEMENT! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

TERMINAL MOMENTS - Ashley Billasano Died but I lived to be her VOICE!

Ashley Billasano didn’t have to die.  The silence and disbelief murdered her.  Her abuser murdered her innocence, crushed her will to even live.  Her life could have been saved if her VOICE had been heard, if she were protected.  If law enforcement won't protect our children, who was the safe person in Ashley’s life to protect her?  If there is an accusation, if there is any question, even a hint of abuse, Ashley should NEVER have been sent back into that home.  Where is the justice?  How sick is it to tell the child it is under investigation, you must return to suffering until we can investigate, an investigation that may take months, even years.  Her life is on every hand that knew about the abuse and touched this case.  Her abuse probably worsened in intensity, intimidation and threats and as we hear in so very many cases.  When are we going to give innocent children protection?  When are we going to wake up to this epidemic?  I know her pain all too well.  I suffered for 14 years as everyone in my life looked the other way.  I too was the perfect child, all A’s, overachiever.  I had layers of masks that hid my torment.  I too had my terminal moment but I was one of the lucky ones.  I survived my very determined suicide attempt washing 64 sleeping pills down with a bottle of vodka straight.  I hope this helps someone understand the pain of a survivor of child sexual abuse.

View the CNN Report of Ashley's Suicide and Reported Sexual Abuse

From Sorrows To Sapphires by Angela Williams

Excerpt from my book:  “FROM SORROWS TO SAPPHIRES”

Chapter 10

Terminal Moment

It was a Sunday, January 16, 1983, the beginning of the end--a day that changed my life forever, a day I will never forget as long as I live. I had no idea where he found the envelope, or where I found the valor.  He pulled it from behind his back and began to wave it in my face screaming at the top of his lungs, “What the hell is this g-d envelope about?  You little sorry bitch!  You think they give a s--t about you?”  His screams splattered me with his spit.  I knew exactly the contents of the blue envelope he waved in my face.
My Grandmother Wells had sent me a Christmas card thanking me for my letter and the pictures I sent to her after our visit.  I had included a wallet-sized school picture from every year so they could see what I looked like growing up.  Somehow I thought that would make them a part of my childhood.  My Mother was yelling along with Carl, and I snapped.  I had no words to defend myself, I couldn’t take the he was screaming.  I didn’t know how to respond or what to do.
But I knew a few things:   I knew my biological father left me.  I knew he wouldn’t even hold me after I was born.   His attempts to see me were futile, and he surely didn’t try hard enough.  He didn’t care enough.  Had he made any significant effort, my fate could have been different.  I’ll never understand how he could walk away from his baby girl and never look back.  He gave me up for adoption.  He and his family turned their backs on me.  This reality is emblazoned on my heart forever.   The enjoyment Carl taking joy in bashing this situation into my soul was the last straw.  He didn’t have that right.  His sins against me were greater than theirs.  He had no right, and I snapped.  I didn’t care if he killed me the next second.  It didn’t matter.  Nothing mattered anymore.  I didn’t matter anymore.  I didn’t matter to anyone.
At that moment, his tirade and flailing did not scare me. I had no urge to run, no urge to hide.  Instead I was fed up, and a rage boiled over in me that made me blow.
“Hit me!  Hit me, hard!” I screamed in his face.  “Just f-----g kill me, you sick bastard!  Just f-----g get it over with!  Go ahead, kill me, please!”  I ran out of the house, and he didn’t follow.  I was outside and still alive.  I made it to the swing in the backyard, and I began to sway back and forth and kept repeating, “It’s over.  It’s all over.” 
My Mother fried chicken, made rice and gravy and our standard can of LeSeur garden peas.  She yelled for me to come to the table. I didn’t even look up. I kept swinging and chanting, “It’s over.”  I couldn’t get my breath, I couldn’t look up, and I couldn’t go on.  My head hung low as I swayed frozen inside. 
Hours rolled by, and at about 2:30 p.m. Carl headed out the door to work.  “Get your little ass in here and clean this garage.  I’ll deal with you when I get home,” he screamed from the driveway.   I heard the car engine turn over, and off to work he went. As the engine revved, as I heard the car screech out of the driveway, I felt a relief I never felt before.  I truly began to believe it was over.  I began to think thoughts I had never dared to think.  I thought to myself that I would never have to see him again.  I would take my life tonight and would never have to face his fury again, never have to hear the words that humiliated and degraded me.  My Mother kept begging me to come inside and eat something.  It was cold but I couldn’t feel the chill.  I didn’t move.  I kept swinging and chanting, “It’s all over.”  Sundown faded to twilight, and I still swayed in numbness. 
It was nearly 9 p.m. when, like a robot, I got up and went inside.  I was wearing a pair of old blue jeans and a tee shirt, and my bare feet felt the cold earth below.  Inside the house, everything was still and dim. My Mother loved to sleep, so most nights she was snoring by 9 p.m.  I gathered what I needed: the half empty vodka bottle from under the kitchen sink, my Mother’s check book from inside the kitchen drawer, my diary to record my last thoughts, and the keys to the 1972 Grand Prix with white vinyl top.  
I had to keep moving, determined to execute my plan.  While I still had the courage, I had to keep the plan in motion. I didn’t dare wake my Mother. I could hear her snoring and blew her a kiss from the doorway.  I hurried out the back door and put the car in gear and rolled it down the driveway.  At the end of the drive, I turned the ignition and drove as fast as I could down
Fontaine Drive
, looking at the little white-brick house in the rear-view mirror. It got smaller and smaller as I shifted my eyes straight into the darkest of nights. I got to the stop sign at Highway 217 and made a right. I drove slowly and deliberately now, not wanting to draw attention to my flight.  I proceeded with my plan, the perfect plan that unfolded in my head while on the swing.  I wished I had remembered my shoes. My feet were cold. The gas tank registered empty, and I needed to buy the sleeping pills. 
I pulled into a Quick Mart for gas and the pills.  I filled up the tank, not knowing how far I would go, and went inside to purchase the pills.  I quickly found two boxes of Sominex and made my way to the counter.  I filled out the check and just needed to fill in the amount.  “Ma’am we can’t take that check.  I don’t think you’re the person whose name is on this check.”  She obviously knew my Mother and thought my purchase strange.
From behind me, a man’s voice said, “Make the check out to me, and I’ll pay for you.”  To this day, I don’t know who the man was or even what he looked like.  Who in his right mind would let an obviously distraught teenager, barefoot in January, purchase two bottles of Sominex?   Possibly one of satan’s demons.
I crawled back into the car, scared out of my wits, but deliberate.  I set out for the quarter mile, a make-out spot, remotely located in the woods on the outskirts of town.  It was Sunday, and they wouldn’t find my body until Friday night, date night.  Neither my Mother nor Carl had any clue where this place was, so I could leave this world feeling safe.   I turned down the narrow dirt road, hearing the crackle of the rocks under the tires and all the scary sounds of the night. When I turned off the ignition, I heard the loudest sound: silence.  I was determined to end my life and relieved that I found the courage to make it this far. I was broken. I was ready to end the abuse once and for all.
For years, I had fantasized about dying.  My self-hatred had so saturated me that I now felt I didn’t deserve to live. I dreamed day after day of my demise.  My mind drifted to the future.  I was sure I would be in heaven in a few short hours.  I was saved, and God knew the pain I was in and the hopelessness of my situation.  This was probably His plan, so I could go to be with Him for eternity.  This was the deliverance I prayed for, and now I prayed for strength to execute it.  “God, please hear my groaning, and make this as peaceful as possible.  God, please let me die and be with You in heaven.  Please don’t send me to hell, and please understand I that have no other choice.  I know all about heaven from church, and I want to float on a cloud.  I want to live in the mansion You’ve prepared for me, and I want to experience Your glory,” I prayed.  I prayed for peace and not pain, I prayed for deliverance, and I prayed for those I would leave behind.
I took a sip of vodka from the bottle, and at first taste, it burned like fire, then turned to a warm, soothing feeling as it rolled down my throat and into my stomach.  The taste of the liquor warmed my whole body.  It eased my hunger pains, as I had not put a bite in my mouth all day.  I tore open the box of sleeping pills and gnawed the plastic off of the bottle with my teeth, biting fiercely. Out came the cotton, and I placed the first pill on my tongue with a swig of vodka to wash it down. I pulled out my diary and remembered that I still had the pen that I had used to sign the check.  I began to write what I thought would be my last thoughts, my last words, something that might be read at my funeral.

            Journal Entry January 13, 1983
Another dream is dead.  It’s really over.  Jay’s got someone else, and I’m glad.  Nobody needs to be messed up with me. I’m such an awful person.  God, how I hate myself! I wish I were dead, then that’d solve all my problems. My parents hate me because I looked the Wells up. They wouldn’t even give me a chance to explain.  That man took joy in telling me how they left me when I was a baby.  How they didn’t care or love me or want me.  He really rubbed it in.  I hate him for ruining my life.  He’s destroyed every part of me and now he’s destroyed my last dream.  The dream that I had a daddy somewhere who loved me.  I don’t have one.  I don’t have anyone but me, and I hate me.  If you ever read this, Mother, I want you to know that I love you more than life itself.  You’re the best mother a girl could have, so don’t blame yourself!  It’s my fault – I could never talk to you.  We were so close, yet we were so far away.  You don’t understand me, and you’ll never be able to.  I spent a lifetime trying to keep you from getting hurt, but I’m not strong enough to go on.  I know you loved me, but I really never belonged.  I was a problem from birth.  You four will do just fine without me.  Please never let my sisters forget how much I loved them.  Please Mama, don’t be sad and please don’t cry 'cuz I’m in heaven now, and I don’t have any more problems.  I’m happy, and I want you to be happy, too.  If you ever want to know the real reason why I did this, call Nicole.
Well, Angie, looks like you’re really gonna' do it.  Let’s hope you have guts enough to do it right this time. I’m really messed up inside, and I’ll never be able to be okay.  I’ve held on for so long, but I think it’s time now to let go. I’ve run out of dreams. They’re all dead.  They’re all dead.  They’re all dead.  Nobody cares. Nobody cares. Nobody cares, I’m gonna' do it tonight.  I’m gonna' do it tonight.  I’m gonna' do it tonight.  I’m gonna’ do it tonight.  I’m gonna’ do it tonight.

     I imagined the police finding me dead in the car with my diary on my lap. If anyone would read between the lines, the diary held the story, and he would be punished, punished by the guilt of killing me, and I took joy in knowing that I would haunt him for the rest of his life.  I filled my hand with the pills and took them as fast as I could swallow, washing each handful down with the vodka. The deadly combination relaxed me into slow motion.  I turned on the radio, and “I Love to Love You, Baby” was playing.    I dug in the seat beside me for the second box of pills, my hands patting the seat in the dark to find the second box that would seal my fate.  I felt so light-headed, my arms became so heavy, and the dashboard began to wave.  Everything became blurry.  I knew I had to work fast and stay focused, because I had to get the second bottle down to make sure I would die.   It was a struggle to get it open. In desperation, I got it open and ingested the pills in handfuls.  As I did, I fought to find the lever to lay the white vinyl bucket seat back.  I tried to breathe deeply, but the air was leaden as it entered my body, as if it were smog.
My arms were so heavy they felt as if they were coated with cement; my movement was slow and deliberate.  I had to focus so hard on every move.  I began to sink into the seat. The seat felt like marshmallows.  I felt a celestial pull.  I was falling very slowly, though.  I was at peace and the seat was wrapping its arms around me.   I closed my eyes and the light was bright, so bright it hurt, and I struggled to open my eyes.  They were so heavy, so very heavy. 
Was I dreaming, or was I dying?  I didn’t know.  I knew no pain, only peace.  I felt my breath slipping away.  I focused on my breathing, and it was getting harder and harder to inhale.  I focused --breathe in, breathe out.  I was calm; I was at peace.  I pulled in as deep a breath as I could, and then I felt my body rise up, and I slouched against the door.   The door fell open, and I hit the cold dirt.  I don’t ever remember reaching for the door handle.  I didn’t feel the cold chrome handle in my hand.  To this day, I don’t know how the door opened.  I don’t remember touching the door handle.  I believe it to be a miracle.  I hit the dirt hard, and the cold air of the January night hit me.  
The cold air breathed life into me, shocked me, and I began to vomit violently. I couldn’t move. I could feel cold air on my arms, but I couldn’t feel my legs.  I couldn’t get up or move at all.  I laid there paralyzed, vomiting and choking.  I barely had the strength to turn my head to the side.  My body pressed against the cold dirt. I began to shake violently.  I had no control over any part of my body.  I vomited and convulsed for what seemed like hours.  I was conscious, but I couldn’t move my body.  I believed I was dying.  This was not the peaceful death I had prayed for, but if this was what I had to endure to die, then so be it.  I thought I would go to sleep and wake up in heaven looking down on the mess I had left behind.  I stopped puking and just lay there, waiting to die.  I passed out thinking, “Okay, this is it.”  Saying goodbye to this world, I slept on the ice-cold January earth beneath me.

Desperation and Despair
“Oh my God!”  I woke up some time later in the night.  “Oh my God!”  I panicked.  I was covered in vomit that had the most pungent smell.  I began to scream in agony.  “God, please, no!  No!  I had to die!  Please God, I had to die!  I don’t know what I’m going to do now!   God I can’t live!”
How could I not be dead?  “Oh God, please, I had to die!”  I wept.  I beat the cold ground with my fists.  My screams echoed back in my ear through the tall pine trees.  I was at the end of my rope.  In my distress, all I could think of was that I could never go back.  All I could think of was Carl killing me, and I wouldn’t give him that satisfaction. “I can never go back,” I softly whispered. “Please God, please don’t make me go back.”
I crawled back into the car out of the freezing night air.  I began to emerge from the haze, but I was still in despair. I had to kill myself before morning, and the clock was ticking.  Feeling such a failure, I had to figure out a sure-fire end.  How could someone take two bottles of sleeping pills and drink a half a bottle of vodka and live?  How could that be?  Why can’t I kill myself?  I had the guts.  I was sinking into the seat, I saw the light, but what happened?  How did the car door open?  All I remember is leaning forward.  Why did I open my eyes when I saw the light?  I would not give up.  I can do this.  I will die.
I was still a bit intoxicated, my vision blurred and my head pounding, but I managed to turn the keys in the ignition and drive to the Turner Bridge.  I coached myself: “I can climb to the top of the bridge and jump into the Mobile River. I can’t swim, so I won’t survive.”
It was the dead of the night, and the roads were deserted.  Panicked, I sped to the crest of the bridge and turned off the car.  The chilled pavement burned my bare feet, and the steel beams of the bridge were bitter ice.  I began to climb the steel beams of the bridge.  I climbed in frenzy and fear, as far up as my strength would carry me, and looked down into the black abyss.   I got very dizzy.  This would have been so much easier had I not been terrified of heights and even more terrified of deep water.   The black waters of the river swirled beneath me, and terror filled my body.  It was so cold, and I was so scared that my body shook and shuddered.  I took hold of one of the bridge beams.  I couldn’t let go.  I lacked the courage to let go of that frozen steel beam, and I also lacked the courage to let go of a life I couldn’t hold on to.  I slithered down the steel beams and sat on the freezing pavement.  I couldn’t cry anymore; I hadn't the strength.  I could only pant.  The night was slipping away from me, and I had nowhere to turn.  I sat there in the cold night, broken to smithereens.
A semi-truck ripped by, blowing a strong wind, and I got an idea.  I could get back into the car and drive over the Turner Bridge on the wrong side of the road.  I could run head-on into one of these semis and would be killed instantly.  I could floor the gas pedal when I got to the top of the bridge.  If I didn’t succeed at first, it wouldn’t take me many times to hit.  There were many trucks on the road going to the Port Authority, and the Turner Bridge connected Alabama to Florida. It would be gruesome, maybe even painful, but it was my last chance.  I had no time to devise another plan.  There was no time to tarry, as I had to be dead before the sun came up.   I was so very tired.  My body felt like it had already been run over by a semi truck.   Feeling like a total failure, I crawled back into the car, ready to succeed, ready to get this night over with, a night that was turning out to be the worst night of my life. 
I started over the bridge in slow gear and then began accelerating as I crossed over to the opposite lane. I was looking for a head-on collision. It would be a quick end of me. Suddenly, a gruesome thought flashed through my mind: “Oh God, I may kill someone else. I can’t kill an innocent person for my own satisfaction.” As I reached the top of the bridge, I jerked the steering wheel back into my lane.   I was heading into Florida and now had officially crossed the state line. I could keep driving, but horror overwhelmed me. I had only a checkbook that, I assure you, had a single-digit balance, and less than a half -tank of gas. I was wearing a tee shirt and blue jeans and was barefoot in the dead of winter.   I reeked of vomit from my hair to my toes. It would be most difficult to get a job looking like this. Maybe I could find a convenience store open and buy a razor blade.  Then I could slit my wrists. 
I pulled over and sat there in the dark.  I didn’t know what time it was, so I turned on the radio.  The disc jockey finally announced it was half past 4 a.m.  I had left home around 9:30 p.m., and I felt as though I had lived through a week.  “My God in heaven, what do I do?  I am at the end of my rope and you won’t let me let go.  I am so scared and too terrified to run, yet too terrified to turn back.  How do I go on?  How do I make it through this day? I am desperate--so desperate-- and I am sad, and I don’t know where to turn or what to do.” 
I could barely breathe in and out.  I wanted to stop breathing. My chest was so heavy, and my head pounded.  I thought about driving to a hospital.  I thought about just driving -- driving off the face of the earth. I still had the checkbook, but I knew there wasn’t much money in the account. I remember a feeling coming over me that was beyond me, beyond anything I can explain in human terms.  It was as if a warm blanket was wrapped around my shoulders, and I heard the words in my head, “We’ll figure it out‘   Who was we?’ “Is that you, God?”
I had to go to the bathroom so badly, that I squatted outside the car in the dark, petrified. Suddenly, the address of my friend, Nicole, came to me.  How I remembered her exact address is a miracle.  Nicole was the only friend I ever confided in about my sexual abuse.  She had also been sexually abused by a family friend.  She shared my pain, and I swore her to secrecy, as she did me. 
I zipped up my pants and jumped in the car with a glimmer of hope that I could find her house. I knew the general vicinity but had never been there.  I didn’t know what else to do, but I thought maybe her parents would let me stay with them until I could figure it out.  Maybe they wouldn’t ask too many questions.  I didn’t have any options, so I headed back over the bridge in search of her house. Luckily, Mobile streets are laid in a grid, and I found the house with ease. It was almost 5 a.m. and dark as I pulled into the drive.  I waited in the drive for the lights in the house to come on. I was able to close my eyes for a few minutes and ease the throbbing in my head.  I glanced at the awful mess in the car. There was vomit all over the seat from my clothes and the empty packages of the sleeping pills.  I took a deep breath and saw the lights of the house turn on.  Here I go.  I hurried out of the car before I lost my nerve.  A huge, burly man I had never seen before answered the door with a look of anger. 
I said, “My name is Angie, and I need to see Nicole.” 
He said, “Nicole is still sleeping, but come on in and talk to me.” 
“Please,” I begged, “I just need to talk to Nicole,” as I began to weep uncontrollably. 
“I’ll wake her.”  And he disappeared into the back of the house. He came back and led me to Nicole’s bedroom. I asked if he would please let us talk privately.  He reluctantly agreed and left us alone.  I could barely speak for crying. 
She understood about every third word, but quickly saw my despair and said, “It’s okay.  My Dad will figure it out.”  A calm wrapped around me as I heard those words again in my head.  Nicole left and came back with her mother and father, who unbeknownst to me, was one of the most powerful attorney’s in Mobile. 
“Tell him everything, Angie.” 
I began to spill my guts, and by the end of my story, he had compartmentalized all my issues and had a plan of action. 
“First, I’ll call your parents.  They’re certain to have contacted the police.  Next, I’ll transport you to my Mother’s house where you can’t be traced.  Third, I’ll petition the judge for your independent guardianship.  Fourth, we’ll confront your stepfather, and he’ll be punished for what he has done to you.” 
Nicole’s mother was a soft-spoken woman and offered to help me clean up. Things become extremely blurry during the next few hours. I think my mind shut down, as I now had help.  I remember only bits and pieces, but I am sure Nicole’s Dad can fill in the blanks for me one day.  
I gave him my home phone number to call, and he left the room to call to my home and his mother.  I don’t remember driving to her house, but it was a condo, and I was given some clothes and took a long, hot shower. She gave me the most comfortable bed with a down comforter.  I sank into it and gave up.  I wasn’t in control anymore.  I had survived the worst night of my life, and now I needed some sleep to get through the worst day of my life that was ahead.
Early afternoon, I was awakened with a tray of food. Above me stood Nicole’s grandmother, an attractive elderly lady, with soft, long gray waves of hair surrounding her face, and sporting a gentle smile.  She touched my face tenderly and said, “It’s all going to be okay.  We’re going to figure it all out.”  No one had ever touched my cheek that way.  I could feel the love travel through her fingertips.  I had no choice but to trust.  She explained to me that the police had picked up the car I stole, and returned it to my family.  I started to cry.  The tender old grandmother said, “Please don’t cry.  It’s going to be fine, I promise.” 
I explained to her that the car was left in a mess from last night and that my diary was still in the car. I needed my diary.
“My Mother can’t read my diary.”
She broke the news, “Your Mother has been told.”  
The SECRET!  I could barely breathe and certainly couldn’t keep eating.  I pushed the tray away, as I hyperventilated.  She ran and got me a paper bag and instructed me to breathe slowly.  She begged me to eat, but I couldn’t.  She said that Nicole’s Mom was coming for me soon and that my parents were going to meet me at Nicole’s dad’s law office.  I didn’t want to see them; I didn’t want to go.  I wanted to stay here for the rest of my life.  I had no choice in the matter. 
She got Nicole’s dad on the phone, and he explained to me very slowly that my parents had hired a prominent attorney in Mobile.   He explained that I needed to trust him, and I had to make a decision on prosecuting Carl.  Prosecuting Carl?  That had never crossed my mind.  Last night I wanted to die.  Now with the sun shining through the window, I so wanted my freedom.  I wanted him to leave me alone.  I wanted him to leave my Mother alone.  He proceeded to tell me that I would need to take a lie detector test immediately, because my Mother was denying that this could have possibly happened.  He told me that Carl had denied everything and had declined to take the test.  Nicole’s dad told me not to be afraid, and that I didn’t have to see Carl.  He said he would put me in a room and let my Mother come in and talk to me, and then I could decide how I wanted him to represent me.   I didn’t want to go.  I wanted another bottle of sleeping pills …

I beg of you to JOIN THE VOICE MOVEMENT and help us save the next generation of children.  If not for me, if not for you for 18 year old Ashley Billasano who took her life because justice failed her and all those responsible to keep her safe.  Join with me to pray for ALL SURVIVORS of child sexual abuse today!  We must break the silence and cycle of child sexual abuse!