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A journey from victim to survivor

November 16, 2018

(Editor’s note: Jess, a Somerset County resident, agreed to speak with the Daily American on the condition of anonymity.)

It was the morning after her 16th birthday party.

Jess was dozing on the couch with her mother when her sister called to tell them that her husband was cheating on her, and she had, had enough.

Jess couldn’t stop the words that she blurted out: “He likes to masturbate in front of little girls. He is a pig.”

When Jess was 8 years old, she was told by her brother-in-law that this is how things are and it was OK. But as she got older, she realized it was wrong. “I didn’t know how to approach it.”

Her brother-in-law knew how to manipulate, something that sex abusers do well, Jess said.

For instance, he knew that Jess and her sister were extremely close — so he told her that by telling anyone about the sexual abuse she would hurt her sister and she would never see her sister again.

“My sister and I were so very close,” she said. “That was in itself enough for me not to tell.”

She loved her nephew, and he told her she would not be able to see him, too. But the situation was tearing her apart. “You are trying to adjust your emotions in everyday life,” she said.

A year before Jess disclosed the abuse to her family, her nephew was having a birthday party, something she never missed. But she was so uncomfortable in that home with her brother-in-law there that she told her sister she was not coming. When her sister persisted in asking why she wasn’t coming and Jess couldn’t tell her the truth, she relented and went with her boyfriend at the time. She was 15. They were standing on a porch when her brother-in-law walked by and grabbed her private area in front of her then-boyfriend.

“When that happened I thought, There is no end to this,” she said.

She started to process those emotions. Should she tell her sister? Should she tell her mom, who was a struggling alcoholic? She decided to tell her mother and sister after her knee-jerk reaction to her sister’s news about separating from her husband and, thank God, they believed her and called the authorities, she said. A knock came at the door a few hours later.

It was the police. They had come to get her statement.

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