I’m 25 years old, looking back to being 5. My single mom was taking college classes, I was in kindergarten and getting ready for my first dance recital. Life was good. Then, mom met Joe.

Joe was nice. He would play with me. He and mom included me in most of their dates. They married. Mom got pregnant, and our lives changed. Joe became not so nice. He yelled a lot, punched things. And he became sexually inappropriate with me. 

His sexual abuse escalated after the birth of my brother. It came with admonitions that his behavior was our secret. Then the admonitions became threats that he would do awful things to me and my mom if I told. Joe’s episodes of rage became more frequent and frightful.

When I was 15 my mom took my brother and me and left Joe. It wasn’t until he was out of our life that I finally told my mom what had happened. She pursued legal action against Joe and he was sentenced to two years of prison. Within a few months of his prison release, Joe had a heart attack and died. Justice served.

Maybe justice was served. But my brother and I still live with the long-lasting effects of Joe’s abuse. Living in fear on a daily basis creates something indescribable within you. There is an unexplained anger. Anger at my mom for not protecting me, anger at my step-dad for the violation. There is a roller-coaster of emotions that I deal with on an almost daily basis.

Abuse is real. Abusers rob their victims of the right to be a child. The right to enjoy an uncomplicated life. They destroy our ability to trust. They take our innocence...and self esteem. It takes years of counseling and work to recover from the experience of abuse. 

My recovery is a work in progress. There are days when I feel like I’m making progress. Then something will happen that triggers the memories. And I realize all over again...my struggle is a work in progress. Joe is dead. My struggle continues. Justice? 

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