This column was published in the Tri-Valley Herald in March 2007.
Thirty scars cover her forearm. All through her childhood, while girls her age were playing with friends, she was alone.
“I used to daydream about what my first sleep-over would be like,” she said, “all of us girls sitting around on warm couches swapping stories and giggling about our secret crushes.”
A good student growing up in the Tri-Valley, this young woman enjoyed her studies, but longed to play after school with friends. But her father wouldn’t let her.
“My dad didn't allow me to leave the house under any circumstances,” she said. When he came home every day around four o'clock, he would always interrupt her homework so they could “play.”
At first, she enjoyed the attention that had started when she was very little. “My dad and I would play until my mom pulled into the driveway,” she said.
Her father even insisted they have playtime before she went to sleep, so her mother left the two of them alone. Before he left the room each night, her father would thank her for being such a good girl and say the reason he played with her is because he loved her.
As she grew older, she knew something was wrong. And by 8th grade she worked up the courage to challenge her father and one day told him, “I don’t want to play with you anymore. I want to have friends and my own life. I am sick of school and I am sick of you."
Amazingly, he was kind and said he supported her decision.
She reveled in her new-found freedom, but almost before she knew it, her father led her into the garage and hit her hand and arm 36 times with a hammer.
As a doctor put a cast on her arm, she realized she would need to keep silent if she hoped to live.
“After that day, if I so much as flinched while my father played with me, he would scar my arm with the end of his cigarette.”
As she entered high school, the young girl started acting out. She began to swear and do drugs and one day in defiance lit a cigarette and stubbed it out on a school administrator’s desk.
In spite of her unacceptable behavior, her teachers truly cared about her, she said, and reached out to do everything they could.
Finally, thirty scars, nine casts, and countless tears later, she realized she needed out, and shared her story with a trusted adult. She learned that the special attention she’d received from her father was called incest, and only then—contrary to her understanding—she learned this molestation was illegal.
“I lived in four different foster homes before I was permanently placed into a group home with 29 other girls,” she said.
Soon she began working with a lawyer to prepare for trial against her father. She remembers it was a Monday when, at 14, she walked into the courtroom.
“My eyes connected with his,” she said. She quickly looked away and caught a glimpse of her mother who sat beside her father, gripping his hand, still in love with him, angry and frustrated with her daughter.
Tugging on her attorney’s case file, she told him she couldn’t go through with it. “The fire that haunted me in my nightmares burned deeper and brighter that day,” she said.
Over time, as her mother realized the truth and filed for divorce, the young woman wrestled with her father’s actions through years of therapy.
Now at 21, she still struggles to pull her life together, and sometimes wonders if it would have been easier to keep silent and wait for the end of high school when she could have quietly escaped the nightmare that was her home.
Against her sea of troubles, she has taken steps, and because she’s certain she wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the teachers who reached out to help, she has a dream of one day becoming a teacher herself.
“Half of the blood I carry inside of me belongs to a monster,” said the young woman, who works part-time and attends college. “But I don’t care about him and I don’t care to know what he’s doing.”
What she does know is that he has never been punished for stealing her childhood and nearly destroying her life.