“I washed the sheets,” was the line I remember hearing when I first started to suspect that my ex-husband was sexually abusing my daughter. “I am going to kill you,” he said when he ran after me with a machete.
“Who is going to believe you?” he asked when he found out I went to the police station.
My name is Abigail. I started dating my ex-husband, Jason, twelve years ago. I had met Jason through mutual friends and he always seemed like a quiet, nice guy. In the first years of our relationship he was great, and I felt so lucky. I have four children from a previous marriage and was taking care of them by myself. Jason helped me with all kinds of things and even bought me a car.
If I think back on it, there were a few signs things weren’t fully right. As soon as he moved in he imposed certain rules on my children and me. Initially I thought: “It’s good, he is looking out for us” and some of the things he was saying made sense.
When Jason asked me to marry him, I had a feeling that I should’ve said no – but our life was already so intertwined and he convincingly told me: “If you love me, you should marry me.”
“If you love me, you should marry me.”
I did not realize that piece by piece I was losing my independence and confidence. Jason didn’t want me to hurt myself, so he told me to stop playing sports. He didn’t think my friends were a good influence, so told me to stop spending time with them. He didn’t like that I had a night-job at a casino, so he told me I could quit, and he would take care of me.
Jason was very jealous, so he wanted to know where I was at all times. He would tape record phone conversations and eventually even conversations in our home.
When Maria, my eldest daughter was 13 years old, I had to fly to my country to do some paperwork. At that time, only she and her sister Amalia were living with us. In the two weeks I was gone he called me every day, asking many questions and complaining about the family responsibilities I was putting in his hands.
During one of the phone calls he was acting strangely, and he announced: “I washed the sheets.” I did not understand why he announced this trivial fact, a bad feeling started growing in my stomach. “I knew then that he did something to my daughter.”
“I knew then that he did something to my daughter.”
He denied it, and Maria did the same. However, I started noticing the changes. Jason, who has been extremely strict with my children, became very friendly and generous towards Maria. He put latches on our doors, so that I would have to knock before coming into the house. Maria’s behaviour became increasingly angry and rebellious.
Years passed. In those years my suspicions grew, and Jason, who was already an alcoholic, started drinking more. Amalia, who has always been timid, was easy to keep away from him, but I found Maria alone with him on multiple occasions.
I was never allowed near Jason’s phone. One night when he was passed out from drinking, I checked his messages. I found multiple messages sent to Maria complimenting her on her appearance. With the messages in hand, I confronted her; finally, she broke down in tears and admitted that he had molested her. “He only did it once or twice, and I showered a lot after,” she cried.
“He only did it once or twice, and I showered a lot after,” she cried.
I still suspect it has happened more often. She was ashamed and did not want to tell anyone, but I could not keep quiet any longer. I took her to the police station to make a report. However, instead of helping us, I felt as if they attacked me and my daughter asking her “why didn’t you come forward sooner,” as she was 18 now.
I sent my daughter to a friend in Europe after I noticed she fell into a depression and started cutting herself. I thought about leaving so many times – but where was I supposed to go? We had a house together, and Jason controlled our finances.
Jason heard about the report, however the police never followed up.
Jason heard about the report, however the police never followed up. This is when the physical abuse started. I called the police four times. The first time Jason choked me, the second time he beat me with a drill, the third he tried to stab me with a knife and the fourth he ran after me with a machete and threatened my life.
Finally, I called Safe Haven, and took Amalia and left him. Jason blames Maria “for leading him on” though she was a 13-year-old child. He blames me for being a troublesome wife, and when he realized I would not go back, he started telling everyone else that I was making up stories. So many in our community still think he is a good man. Luckily, I have a few friends that have stood by me.
“I feel like I’m a bad mother and that I did not do enough to stop the abuse.”
I feel like I’m a bad mother and that I did not do enough to stop the abuse. Maria says she still has many nightmares and she cries a lot. Amalia’s grades are dropping, and I can feel her anger towards me. I don’t know what my next steps are, but I do know that I need to figure out how to help my children.
My mother was an alcoholic and my father was never in the picture. When I was five years old my mother dropped my sister and I off at my grandmother’s because she could not take care of us any longer.
Four of my grandmother’s sons lived with her as well. I remember them touching me, lying on top of me, ejaculating on me, and so on. I pretended it was a nightmare. My sister, who ended up living with them for a longer period, told me years later: “It was not a nightmare. It was real.”
My sister was so beautiful and she always had a smile on her face, despite the nightmare she lived in. She started living carelessly. She was a smart girl but did not seem able to make smart decisions. She didn’t help herself because she did not think she was worth it. I have always felt worthless too. It is a cycle, you know.
“I have always felt worthless too. It is a cycle, you know.”
You expect the law to protect you, but in my experience, it seems that many sympathize more with the criminal than the victim. The police told me that I should bring back my oldest daughter to file a report again herself. She still cries every night and doesn’t sleep. How can I ask her to come back? How can I protect her while he is still a free man?
I want there to be justice, but also know this does not happen often. Many other women who sought help at Safe Haven have been waiting for years – their perpetrators are walking free without being arrested. When I am not sad, I am angry. There is a part of me that still can’t believe everything that has happened is true. If only it was all just a nightmare. But I will survive. I’ve always been a survivor.”
But I will survive. I’ve always been a survivor.”
*names changed for privacy reasons. The woman in the picture is not related to the story.