It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Stephanie L. Jones, LLC; 1st edition (November 16, 2007)
Stephanie L. Jones, author of ESSENCE Magazine and Amazon.com best-selling book, The Enemy Between My Legs, is a highly sought after speaker for schools, churches, and organizations. After spending several years working for Fortune 500 companies and as a successful book publicist, she opted out of the corporate world to become a sexual abuse advocate. Having experienced sexual abuse for over seven years beginning at age five, she understands how it affects victims long-term and is committed to helping others heal from the pain of their past. Stephanie is known for her honest approach in dealing with sexual abuse, a subject that few people will openly discuss. She’s been featured in several newspapers and magazines around the world and has been a guest on many top shows, including The Michael Baisden Show, Keeping it Real with Rev. Al Sharpton and the Open Line on KISS FM.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: Stephanie L. Jones, LLC; 1st edition (November 16, 2007)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“The beauty of the past is that it is the past. The beauty of the now is to know it. The beauty of the future is to see where one is going.” ~Unknown
HOW DID I GET HERE?
After all of these years, it’s as clear in my mind as if it happened just last week. I was about five years old, and it was a beautiful summer night. Because the weather was so nice that evening, all of us children were allowed to sleep outdoors in our sleeping bags and make-shift beds. It was a simpler time, and adult supervision wasn’t necessary for such an outing. The memory of his touching me between my legs is so vivid because it was coupled with another embarrassing event; I had peed the bed. I remember lying there wrapped in those wet sheets until the next morning. I don’t know if I was more ashamed of wetting myself or of the abuse that had taken place.
As you can see, sexual abuse didn’t begin in my life like it’s typically portrayed in the media, which is usually the image of an adult male hovering over an innocent little girl. My first two abusers were, in fact, quite young themselves. They were both only between 12 to 14 years old. On the outside they appeared to be normal young men. They attended school, played sports, chased girls, and hung out with their friends. They were very nice to me, too. I was around them often, and I thought of them as my big brothers. In fact, I loved them.
Since I was only five years old when the sexual abuse with these young men began, I can’t say that I remember all of the intimate details about it, such as whether there was intercourse or oral sex. Having spent so much time lately digging into my past, I find it interesting how much the mind will suppress in order to avoid pain. However, I know without a doubt that I was molested by these young men, especially the older one. I remember spending a lot of time with him in his bedroom kissing him, fondling, rubbing, and grinding on his legs and penis. Usually, I was on top of him following directions as a kid is taught to do. I remember very little about the abuse with the second young man, except for the bed-wetting experience mentioned above and that it was ongoing over a period of time.
I was between 7 and 12 years old when the molestation began with other people, and for a long time, I assumed that this was the beginning of the abuse. I had no idea that it went back as far as age five. I had buried the events with the two young men deep in my subconscious. At some point I even questioned whether or not it happened, but I know it did. The memories of it have always haunted me. There was a two-year period in my life that I had recurring images of a man on top of me. I knew that it was someone different, not one of my offenders whom I already knew about. Here is a letter that I wrote several years ago about these images.
I have images in my head. There are images of me lying in bed next to a man. There are also images of me on top of him. The images are real and powerful, but this man’s touch is unfamiliar. It’s not like the others. It’s not one that I’m used to. So many times over the years I’ve tried to see his face, but I can’t. Was there sexual penetration? How about oral sex? I don’t know. I just don’t know.
I knew that it was someone I least expected. His presence was very strong. It was as if I could literally still feel his touch, but I couldn’t see his face. I tried to guess who it was, but I kept drawing a blank. Then one day out of nowhere, a very familiar face, one that I hadn’t seen in years, appeared in my mind. It was like someone was holding a photograph or a police mugshot in front of my eyes and saying, “This is him.” I knew immediately who it was. I knew that it was the young man who was the first person to sexually abuse me, the one I looked up to like a brother. Being able to finally see his face answered so many questions for me about the past and how the abuse began in the first place.
I can’t really say why I didn’t tell back then. Obviously these were people I cared about, and I didn’t want to get them in trouble. Maybe that’s what kept me quiet for so long. It could’ve been that my own curiosity just got the best of me, and I didn’t want to tell. Perhaps it felt good to me, and I didn’t want it to stop. It could’ve been one or a combination of reasons. Although I didn’t know the seriousness of the situation at the time, I knew that it was wrong, not because someone had told me that it was; I just knew. Even as a young child I knew how to act, what not to say and do, and how to pretend that all things were normal between me and these young men. I knew to jump up and pull up my little pants or pull down my little dress when a door would suddenly open or when footsteps were approaching. I knew never to tell anyone, and until now, I never did. I never told a soul.
To think that I had my first sexual experience at only five years old is unimaginable. I often wonder what I knew at five. Could I recite my ABCs without singing them? How far was I able to count? What was my favorite doll’s name? Did I know how to ride my bike without training wheels? Undoubtedly, my concerns were much greater than these. I had more serious matters to contend with.
Even after having experienced sexual abuse for many years, writing about it and speaking about it around the world, it’s still hard for me to fathom the idea of a five-year-old child engaged in a sexual act with a teenager or an adult man or woman.
THE HOUSE THAT SHARON BUILT
One of the many questions I’m often asked is where my parents were when the sexual abuse was going on, so I want to address this subject early on. I must be honest and admit that if the tables were turned and I was reading this story instead of sharing it, it would probably be the number one question on my mind, too. “Where in the world were this girl’s mother and father, and did they know about it?”
I have great parents. They are wonderful people who love me, and I love them. They are two of my best friends. The bond that I share with them is very special and has been throughout my life. As a matter of fact, the bond keeps getting stronger over the years. My parents have always encouraged me to reach for my dreams and accomplish my goals.
However, I would be less than truthful if I told you that things were always good in our household. Obviously, there was some negligence on their part. My father did the father stuff, such as teaching me how to cook and coming to school events, but he definitely didn’t do the daddy stuff. He didn’t get involved with my personal development. I don’t recall our having conversations about the clothes I wore, the friends I hung out with, where I was spending my free time, or the young men that were calling or stopping by to visit me. We never had a single conversation about sex. These are very critical areas in which a daughter needs her father to be involved, and my father wasn’t.
Coming from a broken home herself, my mother did the best she could at that time. She was very much on her own and taking care of herself and her siblings from the time she was 14 years old. She never had the opportunity to learn parenting skills before becoming a parent herself, but she definitely was more involved in my personal life than my father was. My mother had a lot of faith in me. I think she just accepted what I told her because I was the “good girl.” I didn’t fit society’s profile of a troubled teen. I was a straight “A” student whom everyone considered perfect. I rarely got into trouble, and that kept my mother content. But as the saying goes: Never judge a book by its cover!
Though I can explain, I can’t paint a true picture of what growing up in our house was really like. Having been homeless herself, my mother didn’t like to see people without a place to live. Therefore, we sometimes had 10 to 15 different people living with us at one time. The House that Sharon Built, as we affectionately called it, included relatives, friends, neighbors and homeless people. Our home had a revolving door; people came, people went, and then came back again. Although her intentions were good and her heart was right, these living arrangements left me exposed to all kinds of things that a child should never see, hear, or be around, including drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex. These things became the norm to me; they were a part of my life and played a major role in the choices that I would eventually make.
I used to be really angry with my parents for bringing me up in such a horrid environment. But, now that I’m old enough to understand, I realize that most of what was going on around me simply trickled down from generational problems that have existed in my family for years. I recently learned that both my grandmother and great-grandmother suffered many years of severe physical abuse from my great-grandfather. Eventually, this led to my grandmother living on the streets at a very young age. By the age of 32, she had 12 children and had become an alcoholic. She died when she was just 40 years old, leaving her children without a stable place to call home. This is one of the reasons why we always had so many people living with us.
I don’t know much about my father’s parents’ marriage, except that it ended in a bitter divorce when he was a young man. I’ve heard some frightening stories about what happened, but my father doesn’t talk about it, so I no longer ask.
I’m sure you’re wondering if my parents knew about the abuse. The answer is no. I know for sure that neither one of them knew about it. That may seem impossible, but like so many other parents, they didn’t recognize the signs of child sexual abuse or simply dismissed them as something benign. Besides, they never expected something like this to happen to their child. They would have never imagined that the very people they call brother and friend could do such horrible things to their little girl. Despite the fact that the abuse usually happened in our home and sometimes when they were just a few feet away — in the kitchen cooking a meal, in their bedroom, or outside talking with a neighbor — I know they had no idea what was happening to me. Most of it is being revealed to them within the pages of this book.
WHAT DID MY PARENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT ALL OF THIS?
Not long after my 29th birthday, I dropped what seemed like a deadly bomb on my mother. With a few carefully selected words, my nightmare became her reality. I had already settled in my spirit that I was going to tell her about the abuse, but I didn’t expect it to be so difficult. Thankfully, the night before I’d heard Bible teacher and best-selling author Joyce Meyer talk about the importance of getting the hard stuff over with in order to move on in life. She described it as rocking back and forth like preparing to jump between two ropes for a round of Double Dutch. “At some point, you just have to jump in there,” she said. That night I sat on my mother’s couch rocking back and forth for hours.
Since my mother and I have always spent a lot of time together, she didn’t find it strange that I was taking up so much of her time with idle conversation. More than three hours went by before the words flew out of my mouth, and when they did, it was as if the ton of bricks that had been resting on my chest for years was finally lifted. My mother broke down crying. She said that she had let me down and hadn’t protected me. That still hurts me today because I know that she loves me very much. I knew that she would be totally devastated, so I was prepared to combat her anger with some scriptures on healing and forgiveness. Most importantly, I could honestly look her in the eyes and say, “Mom, it’s okay. Look at the woman I am today. It is well.”
There’s not much to say about my father and his finding out. As I expected, things went much easier with him. He asked two questions: “What are you talking about?,” and “Why didn’t I know about this before now?” Still today, he doesn’t talk about it. He was caught totally off guard with all of this, and I believe he’s still in a state of shock and denial. To him, I’m still his little girl, so I could only imagine how difficult this must be for him to handle. I think not talking about it is his way of dealing with his own pain and feelings of guilt.
As of today, neither one of my parents has confronted any of the people who were abusing me. Since my parents are no longer in a relationship together, my father’s relationship with certain family members and the people that I was close to as a child is drastically different. He rarely sees them and chances are, some of them he will never see again. My mother is not ready to confront anyone. This has been really hard for her to deal with. I haven’t even told her who all of my perpetrators were. I will tell her when she’s ready.
Although neither of my parents knew about the sexual abuse, a lack of responsibility played a major role in what happened to me as a child. However, I’ve forgiven them both and moved on. Being able to forgive my parents and strengthen my relationship with them has been one of the greatest benefits of opening up about the abuse. Many abuse victims never come forward. They quietly seethe in anger and blame their parents for it. However, I refused to become a victim twice.
My Review: I felt very sorry for the author when I read this book. She was placed in a bad situation and suffered because of it. Her parents had a parade of male relatives (and not necessarily close ones) living in their house throughout her childhood and some molested her. She reacted in what I understand it a pretty typical manner--she became sexually promiscuous. Later, she found God and got her life back together, except that she still carries scars.
Maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm too trusting. Maybe I need to wake up and join the real world rather than my little safe self-made cocoon. That being said, I found that this book, and others about abuse, make it seem like half the world is abusive and the other half, abused. The author mentions the inadvisability of a single mom bringing boyfriends home, especially for overnight visits, and talks about how it can lead to the abuse of kids. Of course it can, and any woman who brings any man she barely knows into her home is an idiot, but the author sounded way too overprotective of her kids. What is being protective enough, and what is overprotecting--making our kids stand out from peers, not allowing them to spread their wings or be independent. It is something with which I'm sure all good parents struggle, and I'm sure that trust is a real issue for someone who has been abused, but I'm not so sure that too much vigilance isn't almost abusive.