“September 8th, 2016, started off like any other day. I crawled out of bed, still wearing my Cracker Barrel uniform from the night before and managed to make my way over to the coffee machine. As the coffee was brewing, I turned the television on to my guilty pleasure, Pretty Little Liars, and borrowed my father’s laptop from his bedroom. I grabbed my pumpkin spiced coffee, walked over to the couch, and opened his laptop. I remember hearing a character from Pretty Little Liars screaming, ‘RUN!’ I looked up, staring blankly at the television screen, and shifted my eyes back down to the laptop. It was like the television was somehow warning me. At that moment, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Run.
My whole body went numb. My thoughts began to race. ‘What did I just see? Who is this naked girl on the screen? She looks a lot like me. Wait, wait, wait…that is me.’ I was staring at a naked picture of myself on my father’s computer. I had never felt more betrayed, confused, and heartbroken in all my 25 years of living. ‘What the heck. What the heck. What the heck?,’ I said out loud, the last words I remember saying before the rage overtook my body.
As I began to cry hysterically, I also began to investigate. Inside my father’s closet, as I sat on the floor covered in his belongings, I took three deep breaths and reminded myself I was strong. I said those words at least a hundred times before I had the courage to sit back up and look around. It was there I found his collection of pornographic content hidden away within a red and blue suitcase. There were no traces of me there.
I walked back over to my father’s laptop, my fingers trembling. I cannot explain the anger I felt. I clicked on the naked picture of myself. Every single body part was exposed. My vagina, breasts, butt, and face. My head was turned to the right side, completely oblivious to my surroundings. My brown, medium-length hair was drenched wet. I was holding a brown towel in my right hand and my favorite yellow St. Louis Blues shirt in the other. I slapped myself in the face repeatedly. ‘How could I have not noticed this? How long has this been happening? When did he do this? Why did he do this?’ I was sure this was a nightmare. I wanted to wake up. Sadly, the nightmare was only just beginning.
My curious and horrified mind began going through all his files. I wanted to make sure what I had seen was the only picture he had of me. I didn’t know how or why this was happening. I found a video file from February 23, 2015, and clicked on it. In tears, I kept repeating to myself that I was strong. I was strong. I was strong. My shaking hand started the video. The camera was upside down, sitting on a brown bookcase hiding between books. I watched myself on the screen. I walked into my room, completely unaware, and locked my door. I began drying my hair with that same brown towel and studied myself in the mirror just like any other girl. I put the towel down and opened my drawer to get my favorite yellow St. Louis Blues t-shirt and pink shorts. Then the video ended.
My own father had saved a picture of me from a video he recorded without my consent. He saved it on both his laptop and desktop. I had so many questions. I wanted to know how many more videos he had taken. I wanted to know how often he videotapes me. Did he do it while I was asleep? In that moment, I didn’t know the answers. All I knew was I needed to get out of that house immediately. I no longer felt safe and I was afraid for my life.
This was also the moment I had realized all the distant childhood memories of my father were true. I wasn’t crazy.
The hardest memory continues to haunt my brain. It was the day I told him no. When I was in fifth grade, he became very curious about me and my body. He wanted to know everything about it. At that age, I trusted my father and never questioned when he hurt me. I had thought it was okay for him to show me things a girl my age had no business knowing. How was I supposed to know otherwise?
One traumatic day, he took his manipulative love even further. For some strange reason, I finally found the confidence to tell him ‘no.’ My intuition was screaming at me from the inside. But I let him continue because I didn’t want to upset him. From there, he performed his normal routine. It always came just when I thought the awfulness was over. I felt sick to my stomach. I remember jerking my hand away. I didn’t scream. I was panicked and scared. I didn’t know why my father was hurting me. I didn’t know why he was forcing himself on me. I didn’t know why he wouldn’t stop. I told him no. No. No.
When I found the videos, I finally knew I wasn’t crazy. I knew what I was remembering was the truth, and I needed to get far away from him. Before I move on, I want to give you a little background on my childhood.
My mother had me when she was 18 years old with another man. That man is my biological father. I know nothing about him besides the fact he signed his rights away when I was a child. He did that so the man I used to call my ‘father,’ could adopt me. My adoptive father is the pig that violated and molested me.
He has haunted my entire life. First, the physical abuse. Second, the masturbating in front of me. Third, the emotional abuse. Now he was videotaping me, invading my privacy. I was livid. I didn’t know what was wrong with him or why he did this to me. All I knew was I had had enough.
I instantly thought about my mother. I didn’t want to hurt her. I wanted to protect her from this monster. If he was hurting me, then I knew he had the potential to harm her as well. I wasn’t going to allow the pain to continue anymore.
The day I confronted him, it felt like my soul had been shattered to pieces. I had waited a week to say anything. Part of me hoped the situation would disappear on its own. But I couldn’t ignore my heart. Every inch of my body was boiling when I thought about him. I planned out exactly what I wanted to say to him, writing my words out obsessively. I studied my lines, word for word, because I wanted nothing more than to let this man know how I felt. I wanted justice.
Teary-eyed, I grabbed my belongings and walked into the living room where they both sat. ‘I love you. I don’t blame you. I am here to protect you,’ I said to my mother. My father looked me dead in the eyes. He was sitting on the couch with his computer screen opened before him. I instantly felt the rage overtake my body. He stared at me blankly and asked, ‘What do I need to show her?’ He was already hurrying to hide the evidence. I had the proof on my phone.
‘You need to show mom what is on your computer!’ By then, I was shouting. He looked away and ignored me. I looked at my mother calmly and helplessly and said, ‘I love you. I have something I need to show you that will cause you instant turmoil and pain, but I am here to protect you.’ I didn’t want to break my mother’s heart. She loved this man, and I was about to destroy her entire world. My shaking hand grabbed hers as I presented the videos to her. She began sobbing uncontrollably. He said nothing. He refused to look at the two women he destroyed. I asked him why he did it and he stared back, quiet, with an evil look in his eyes. He said nothing. He felt no remorse.
I looked back at my mother and asked her what she wanted to do, but she asked me to leave. She said she wanted to be with him. She chose him. I cried, powerless, and told her I needed her. She looked at me blankly and quietly and said, ‘Brittian you are just different. You are just different.’
She then manipulated me and advised me to stay silent. I wanted to go to the police and seek justice, but she convinced me I needed to protect her instead. She somehow made herself the victim, and I didn’t want to hurt her.
My heart was torn into a billion pieces, pieces that will never fit back together the same. She chose him, and I never stood a chance. My mother was my best friend, and I was now starting to believe she didn’t love me. I loved her more than life itself, and I still do. But I realized I deserved better than her, mother or not. I owed it to myself. No one deserves to be treated like they are nothing. A mother vows to protect her children from harm. However, she chose to turn her head.
I will only grieve my mother once. I forgive her and I will forever love her, but I will never allow her or anyone to have power over me. The last day I spoke to her was December 9th, 2016. In her absence, I have submitted my evidence to the police, which has turned out to be a long, trying, and intimidating process. I sometimes feel unprotected and unappreciated by the justice system. I’m scared my abuser will walk away with just a slap on the wrist, especially because it is the first time he has been reported. Above all, however, it has felt rewarding.
I do not regret this process. I finally feel like I have power again. I finally have a voice and I am speaking out to anyone that wants to listen. I will never let myself be silenced again. I feel compelled to always fight for myself and for those who can’t fight for themselves. I feel lucky to have corroborating evidence. I will never remain silent.”
Read more from assault survivors:
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‘My brother started paying extra attention to me. I didn’t think much of it until he began coming into my room at night. He took every chance he got to touch to me.’ Assault survivor shares heartbreaking journey to peace
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