Sat | Sep 22, 2018

My Family Shame: Abused by Dad

Published:Sunday | September 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

Jacqueline Jackson* met her biological father when she was 13 years old. She remembers him being "very touchy-feely and affectionate, while introducing me to porn".

They had their first sexual encounter two years later when she turned 15. This continued for years until she got her first job away from the family business at age 19.

"I had just recently met and moved in with my paternal family. I was not close or comfortable speaking to anyone other than my father. He was so nice to me and I adored him. I was a very naive country girl. I was afraid of everybody except him," she tells Outlook, 30 years after experiencing sexual abuse.

Her visits to her mother were always supervised by her father. " I always asked to sleep over with my mom, but he always said "next time". Back then, I didn't think what we were doing was bad or so wrong, just private."

She said she was never aware of the negative effects it had on her until she got married at the age of 29, to the man she felt was her soul mate - Paul Mitchell.

She had spent years with a demanding father, who treated her special when he was in a sexual relationship with her, but got angry when she started showing interest in boys.

"He forbade me from having sex with them. And after our last sexual encounter, I was no longer treated special, everything changed - he resented me. For years, I thought I could fix that by maintaining an amicable relationship with him, but I couldn't."

Jackson said she became very shy - afraid to speak up, intimidated by everyone.

"My relationships with men before I got married were very casual. As soon as it got challenging, I would move on. My marriage unravelled a lot of anguish that I didn't realise I had. I had flashbacks that made me cold and emotionally disconnected. I was often depressed, which greatly affected how I related to my husband. I would lock away in my own little world for long periods. Sometimes I hated my husband for loving me, it's so hard to explain."

The marriage lasted for 14 years, and they never had any children. "I have never wanted to make a baby. The thought of it scares the daylights out of me to this day," she admits.

Her first pregnancy occurred during her sexual relationship with her father. "I tried to talk to my father about it, but he just dismissed me."

According to Jackson, who is now in her 50s, a family friend helped her get an abortion and she pretended it never happened until she got married and got pregnant again.

"I was a wreck, suicidal, my husband gave in and supported my decision not to have the child. He was so distraught. It hurts my heart that I never had the courage."

Today, she says she doesn't feel guilty about her abortions. "Only because I honestly believe that I was too emotionally unstable to be a good mother. I could never forgive myself for causing any kind of pain on a child."

Jackson eventually had five abortions. Speaking openly with the Outlook Magazine, Jackson, who reported her father to the police four years ago, said the abuse has substantially damaged her life and taken away a huge part that can never be replaced. "But I refuse to accept that the rest of my life will be. I live one precious moment at a time"

Marrying a man who is almost a saint

Three years her junior, she describes her husband as a good and supportive partner. He describes her as a fighter, but not someone who was contentious.

"She is a very peaceful and patient soul. Except for cooking, she was a great homemaker, smart and resourceful. Other than the trauma that her abuse caused, I believe she was pretty good when we were married," said Mitchell.

Jackson said her husband initiated professional therapy through several psychologists, but she kept finding fault with them.

Other than the psychologists who have counselled her over the years, she says self-help has been her treatment. "My husband got me some books years ago that the therapist recommended and they became like my Bible when I lose my courage or get lost."

One of the doctors who treated Jackson for more than five years said the impact of the abuse was causing Jackson ongoing emotional symptoms and causing difficulties in her relationship.

"I diagnosed Jacqueline as having post traumatic stress disorder. This develops when a threat to one's physical integrity occurs during a traumatic event such as child sexual abuse. Symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder are known to impact victims into adulthood, as it did with Jacqueline," said the doctor.

Jackson said, after years of living in a state of unhappiness, she decided to tell her story to a member of the police high command.

However, the first person she shared

everything with was the man who later became her husband.

"I didn't do it intentionally, we were just having one of our marathon conversations. I was venting to him about my father giving me a hard time living in his home and I mentioned it (the abuse) and he just kept quiet and let me speak, it lasted for hours."

She said she had gotten to a point in her life where she had accepted her circumstances and was trying to move on the best she could, until she learnt her little sister was now in the hot seat.

"That stuck a cord in my gut, like an infection, it haunted me night and day. I blamed myself. All I could think about was if I had reported him some 30 plus years ago, I would have saved her."

In a conversation with her father he made a disturbing reference to his relationship with her little sisters that finally pushed her over the edge, she says.

"He looked like a monster while talking and suggested that I of all persons should understand his needs. My knees buckled, I jumped in my jeep and drove away. Soon after, I was bawling inconsolably. That drove me to submit my report."

She said she later met an acting commissioner of police through a friend and his demeanour made her feel comfortable to seek his advice on what to do about her father abusing her sister.

" I did for her what I wish someone did for me. I know I've done the right thing. She may understandably resent me now, but I promise that it will help her manage the struggles she will have in the future."

Today, Jackson has been excommunicated from most of her paternal family."Some are angry with me for exposing the family shame. Others know I did the right thing but just probably have too much at stake by supporting me. I hold no grudges, we all have to survive."

Jackson's case is now in the courts.

Her father has been charged with sexual abuse, among other charges.

Names changed upon request.