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!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


VOICE Up is about courage to break your silence and embrace healing from child sexual abuse.  One goal is for us to understand why these experiences in childhood are so tremendously difficult to talk about. Why don’t more people VOICE UP?  Why is it that child sexual abuse so traumatizes a child, that they protect the secret at all cost into adulthood?  My thoughts go quickly to fear and shame. 

The fear a victim faces takes many forms.  The most obvious is repercussions from the perpetrator.  Fear that all the threats leveraged to force silence and compliance will become a reality.  Even as an adult, those tapes of, “I’ll hurt…, I’ll kill…, I’ll beat … if you tell,” play loud and clear in your mind.  The threats become so ingrained into your belief system that you don’t doubt for a second that your loved one or even you yourself will be harmed.    If they are evil enough to abuse you in the most perverse way, surely they are evil enough to abuse, even kill, those closest to you.  It is a real and serious threat and the whole world needs to better understand this issue.  Then maybe more victims of child sexual abuse would feel safe to disclose their traumatic story.  I was threatened from age 3 to 17, by my abuser, my stepfather, that if I ever told he would kill my mother.  When I would rebel or even cry during the sexual and physical assaults, he would tell me, “I’ll really give you something to cry about.”  Then he would physically and emotionally abuse my mother and turn to me and say, “See what you have done.”

The fear of disbelief can be overwhelming because of the lies and brainwashing from the perpetrator.  You hear repeatedly that no one will believe you, it will be your word against mine, you asked for it, you like it and it is for your own good.”  I heard this from my stepfather constantly and most if not all victims have heard these statements from their perpetrator.

Fear of what will people think of me ushers in embarrassment and shame.  We feel so damaged by the sexual violation, as a child, that we guard the secret so tight for fear of how people will react and respond to us.  In many cases a young child simply does not have the words to explain what is happening. Also, they many not understand the gravity of the events.  I acted out with strange behaviors as a child, but I could never put into words what my stepfather was doing to me, and I trembled in fear of him. 

Shame is an overwhelming emotion for a victim of child sexual abuse.  Sadly our society stigmatizes the victim and often protects the perpetrator.   The shame of being raped, sometimes by same sex, being fondled, being forced to perform oral sex, being forced to see pornography, all heaps an enormous amount of shame on the victim. The fact that many of these actions actually “feel” good, creates more confusion and shame for the victim.  Then there are the brutal attacks that are excruciatingly painful.  These acts murder the innocence of a child and leave them feeling damaged and dirty, robbing them of their VOICE and their ability to heal.  I felt so dirty and damaged I would look in the mirror and claw my face.

I praise God that I have found the path to healing, and have been on a journey to healing for many years.  Today I live without fear and shame.  VOICE Up is about releasing fear and shame of the evil of childhood sexual abuse and finding a path to healing that will offer self value, self worth, self love, peace and joy. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


What does VOICE UP mean?  It means to have the courage to face the evil of child sexual abuse.  It means having the courage to speak up and speak out to break the silence.  It means to have the courage to protect a child when you have ANY suspicion of sexual abuse, or abuse of any kind.  Children are vulnerable, they are easily manipulated, especially those children starved for love.   How disgraceful and barbaric for an adult to stand by with knowledge of abuse and keep quiet.  Oh how we are failing our children, robbing them of the ability to trust any adult.  One adult abuses them and another looks the other way.

I am so saddened and horrified by the allegations that administrators and others on staff at Penn State University knew of the sexual abuse of little boys and did nothing.  I believe everyone involved should be charged.  Pedophiles often find opportunities to have open access and groom children.  Even more heartbreaking is that these children where troubled and even more vulnerable to a sexual attack because they were seeking love and acceptance.  I applaud these young men to have the courage to VOICE UP and seek justice for themselves and others.  It is time for all survivors to VOICE UP, not only for their own healing, but to break the silence and cycle of child sexual abuse.  When survivors get their VOICE then children can be protected.  The cycle can end when perpetrators are brought to justice. 

 VOICE Today, ( has Child Sexual Abuse Prevention programs that range from 7 minutes to 2 hours to help you learn how to predict and prevent child sexual abuse and have the courage to VOICE UP!  Please take the first step by going to and join THE VOICE MOVEMENT to learn how to VOICE UP!