A Father's Betrayal

Jana wanted to believe it wasn't true, that she'd never been sexually abused. But she could no longer escape the truth.
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Jana* isn't someone who acts like a victim. She's confident, full of energy, and just about the happiest person you'll ever meet. And she's always been that way, at least on the outside. But Jana is a victim. From the time she was just a toddler until she was 9 years old, Jana was sexually abused by her father.

Jana's first memories of abuse go back to when she was about 3 years old. She remembers her father in her room, touching her sexually while she pretended to be asleep. She also remembers finding her dad in her older sister's room, doing the same things to her. She suspects her older brother was also abused. She remembers wanting to wear diapers to bed until she was 7 years old, because her dad wouldn't fondle her if she was wearing diapers.

Even though Jana's father stopped sexually touching her when she was about 9, the atmosphere in her home was still sexually charged.

"I don't remember learning about sex; I just always had a knowledge of it. There was always a sexual environment around me. My dad kept pornographic magazines lying around the house. He talked about sex a lot, and both my parents walked around naked all the time. I don't know how much my mom knew about what was going on with my dad. She was an alcoholic and in her own world most of the time. I don't think she had a real clear idea of what children should and shouldn't be exposed to.

"Mom left us when I was 11," says Jana, "and my dad had all kinds of women around after that. Some of them would live with us for a while. One of those women had a teenage son who was about the same age as me. He was totally inappropriate with me, talking about sex and coming on to me in a sexual way. My dad didn't seem to care that I was scared of this boy. All of this stuff really messed up my concept of what was normal."

By the time she reached high school, Jana started to feel a sense of worthlessness.

"I had this idea that sex was something I could use to feel valuable," says Jana. "So I started having sex with guys in about the 10th grade. I didn't know what was appropriate, so I'd do things I shouldn't do without knowing it was wrong."

Jana never told anyone about the abuse. Not her mother, not her sister, not her friends. It was a secret she buried so deep she could almost pretend it never happened. But somewhere in her heart, she knew she was different from her friends.

"I had a lot of friends all through junior high and high school," she says. "But I knew there was so much they didn't know about me, so much they could never understand, things I didn't even understand. Those friendships just felt kind of superficial to me. So despite having what looked like a lot of friends, I felt really lonely and depressed.

"The one person I felt close to was a girl named Samantha. Her parents were divorced too, so that helped us connect. The first time I met her, she invited me to her house and showed me every photo album she had. It was like she wanted me to know her and wanted to know me, too. I didn't tell her what had happened to me, because I felt so ashamed. But Samantha was the first person who made me feel safe and cared for."

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