‘Yes darling, what is it?,’ she said. ‘If I told you something, will you promise me nothing would to happen to my mom, sister or dad?’: Woman overcomes PTSD to find her ‘happy ending’

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of sexual abuse that may be upsetting to some.

“In a small house, in a small town, where kids were playing, doors wide open, and everyone got along, was a child who had a story to tell. This child grew up with a mom, dad, and baby sister, a regular average childhood. Loved by the whole family, everything was great until one night, something so clear, it will never and can never be erased from memory.

My name is Beth, I am 30 years old, living in a small town, in a small state, where everybody knows everyone no matter where you go, and here is my story.

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I went to the carnival with my father. It was pretty late and we had just got done riding the strawberry twirly ride. I was quite nauseous, so my father decided it was time to go home. The first thing I remember was him taking me to our little car and I was sitting in the front seat; even to this day I think to myself, ‘Why was I upfront, it is so unsafe.’ He buckled me in and then it happened; I became violently sick everywhere, all over my lap, the dashboard, and on the floor. My father just looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘It’s OK, this happens. We will get it cleaned.’ Then he took me home.

Man kneels on beach holding up his baby who he will later in life sexually abuse
Courtesy of Beth Papili

Standing in the washroom, I was completely naked. My father had my clothes and put them in the washer. Then, he took me upstairs into his and my mother’s room, where instead of getting a bath like I thought, he laid me on the bed. That is when it started…

I can remember the pain as he said, ‘Just lay there, be still, your Daddy‘s good little girl.’ I just stared at the ceiling, remembering his breath on me.

While I do not think he fully inserted himself inside of me,  I do believe it was enough that it hurt me badly. I did not understand this pain or why he was doing this to me. Why the man that is supposed to protect me was hurting me.

Finally, my father left the room to start my bath. There was a window behind the bed and as I gazed outside of it, trying to ignore the situation in the room and what had just happened, there was a woman coming out of the building behind our house. It was a food company building, and as she was walking out, she stared up at me and I waved violently, like ‘HELP!’ I did not scream, I did not bang on the window, because I did not want him to  hurt me more or come after me. The woman stood there, looked at me, and walked away, going to her car to leave. My safety, my possibility of help, was gone.

When my father came back into the room, he started to pleasure himself.

He then placed me in the bathtub as I was still bleeding. The pain in my lower area was not awful, but still stung and was hurting. Kneeling down next to me, he told me if we spoke about this to my mother or anyone else, something awful could happen to him, my little sister, and my mom. He said, ‘You wouldn’t want us to go away, would you?’

I shook my head ‘NO’ because I did not want anything to happen to my daddy, mommy, or my baby sister, so I stayed quiet.

Fast forward a few years later and I was about 7 or 8 years old, in second grade at this point. I had an appointment, so my grandmother came and picked me up. I was laying in the front seat, sitting there, when all of a sudden I said to my grandmother, ‘If I told you something, will you promise me nothing would to happen to my mom or my sister or my dad?’

She said, ‘Yes darling, what is it?’

I told my grandmother everything and anything I could remember of that night, every detail of what he told me. I wound up at the psychiatrist office for my appointment, the cops came to take my story, and my mom was called. I sat on my mom’s lap and looked at her as I told her and the police everything that happened. The police wrote everything down and asked me a couple of questions as well. The next thing I knew, nothing else was done, not an exam – nothing.

A few years later, my mother told me my father was not charged with statutory rape or anything severe.  He never served years in prison and was given a slap on the wrist with a sexual predator label. He will be registered as a sex offender for life and just get a few years’ probation.

I am now 30 and  found out not too long ago that my father sits in Florida state federal prison, never to get out. I have never spoken to or written him since that original incident. It was such a relief because I always felt like he was going to come searching for me and/or possibly harm me. I lived with the fear and guilt as if I had done something wrong.

Woman who was sexually abused by father smiles as she takes selfie in car
Courtesy of Beth Papili

My whole life changed in an instant; one day I had a family, then my family became smaller. I blamed myself for what had happened. I always thought I was dirty and an awful person because of what had happened. Needing to stop the mental pain I was living with, I tried to fix it by killing myself.

At some point, I realized it was time to take back my fears and that for me to live my life for me. I decided I needed to relearn my brain, relearn my life, and relearn the truth. Because he is gone, my father has no control over me and I can now truly live. I sought help for myself and continue to seek help for others. Some see seeking help as a sign of weakness, but to me it is a sign of true strength to know when something is truly wrong and you are okay with asking for help. There is nothing wrong with allowing some of that burden to be on someone else for a bit, leaning on them for support.

After many years of seeing my therapist and psychologist, and many years of just understanding what has happened with my role in this, I am not, and I repeat, I am NOT the victim, I am the survivor.

I have allowed this man to try to destroy my life, and due to that, I have been raped twice in my life. I have allowed men to harm me and will do so no more.

I did grow from this life-altering experience and will do everything in my power to not allow it to define who I am as a woman, nor allow myself to blame him for my actions, both past and present. Mentally, I still have night terrors and cannot trust men easily. Reassurance from my husband that he loves me and that he is always there for me is something I need. I also live with PTSD, depression, bipolar, and anxiety.

Woman who was sexually abused by her father smiles in selfie beside her husband
Courtesy of Beth Papili

I am protective of my kids, one of whom is my 9-year-old daughter. We talk as much as we can about ‘no-no’ areas and that it is okay to tell me, or anyone at all, if someone harms her. I told her ‘I will protect you, I will believe you, even if nothing has ever happened to you.’ Please talk to your children and let them know it is not okay for anyone to hurt them or make them feel you, as the parent, will be hurt because of what has happened to them.

Woman who was sexually abused by her father when she was a child sits on couch with three kids and husband
Courtesy of Beth Papili

Whoever reads this, I hope you have the strength to say something if someone has harmed you. Do not worry just because they may be a family member, do not worry you are going to hurt their feelings, or if they are going to be in trouble. It is NOT okay, and you are NOT to blame! What someone does to you, whether it is a family member, a friend, or even a stranger, does not define who you are. It does not make you weak, it does not make you vulnerable, and the fact that you survived rape or being sexually molested makes you brave and a survivor.

I’m now 30 with three kids, and a husband who dares not to ever harm me, let alone raise his tone.

I never thought I’d find my happily ever after or allow myself to find happiness.

I thought all men would hurt me.

Why wouldn’t they? They have since childhood.

I’m blessed to be married to my soul mate, my best friend, and to be able to live a great life with my amazing family.

Bride and groom stand smiling as they look into each others eyes
Sean Shannon/Let’s be Candid

I hope my story helps a teen, a mom, a dad, or anyone that can relate to my experience and is scared.  You are NOT alone and you are NOT the victim. We are survivors of disgusting people who do not deserve to be here in this world or to be able to enjoy life for what it really is.

I hope my story can reach someone who just needs to hear a happy ending.”

Woman who was sexually abused by her father as a child smiles as she takes selfie in car
Courtesy of Beth Papili

This is an exclusive story to Love What Matters. For permission to use, email Exclusive@LoveWhatMatters.com.

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Beth Papili of Wilmington, Delaware. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more empowering stories of young women overcoming abuse:

‘I was staring at a naked picture of myself on my father’s computer. ‘What the heck?,’ I said out loud, the last words before rage overtook my body.’

‘Don’t tell nobody. I’ll give you some money when I get paid,’ he said as he was getting off me. I was scared out of my mind. My uncle, my favorite uncle, had hurt me.’

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