My name is Patricia.
I am writing to you, because as a supporter of the Surrey Women's Centre, I want to share a story of how your generosity helped change my life.
Please accept my wholehearted gratitude for your support of the centre. Your act of kindness has enabled me to move forward with a new sense of empowerment, and has helped countless other women change their story to one of victory.
"Carefree" is not a word that springs to mind when I recollect my childhood. My earliest memories of sexual abuse began with my father at my crib side.
Incest is still a topic difficult for people to hear. My story is just one, on the tip of a enormous iceberg, but I am proof that kindness and donations truly help people heal...
I was the only girl in a family of nine. All of the children, and my mother, were physically and emotionally abused; as the only girl, I was my father's sexual prey.
When I was very small, I bit my mother in anger. My father began hitting me in a rage and wouldn't stop, so I learned never to get angry again. I was ever vigilant and kept quiet, no matter what.
Living in fear
There was not a moment I felt like I was in a safe zone in my home. My stomach was always in knots; I never knew what was coming next.
Perpetually threatening suicide, my father once shot off a gun in the attic; we didn't know if we'd find him dead, or if it was a just another ruse. On another occasion, he even attempted to strangle himself.
One night when I was 6 years old, my parents were fighting in the wee hours. My father woke me up and dragged me into the middle of the living room to demand an answer: which of them did I love?
From then on, I became a child-mediator in their dance of dysfunction, all the while, enduring my father's sexual advances.
I recall one small slice of relief that felt like heaven when I was around 8 years old. My dad went home to New Brunswick for a couple of months. Much to everyone's dismay, his family sent him back.
An unquenchable predator, he had started sexually abusing his sisters.
Isolated in a world of violence
They all knew full well who and what he was, and my young heart shattered with the betrayal. They had sent him back, knowing he would continue to molest me, his only daughter.
My older brother and I were close, born less than a year apart. Five years later, two boys were born. Five years after that, five more boys came back-to-back.
In grade nine at age 12, I was pulled out of school to care for my five youngest brothers, and with the last baby, I was expected to mother him entirely, as though he was my own.
At 17, I became pregnant with my father's child.
No one to turn to...
When I went to the leader of our church, I received no support. I told the doctor and he said nothing.
One day when I was out of the house, the doctor called to offer an abortion. My father marched me into his office and forced me to tell him that I had lied. The doctor's only response was to side with my father and accuse teenagers of constantly lying.
I felt utterly powerless.
Why didn't I didn't flee?
Because when I took the sexual abuse, my brothers—who were like my own children—received less physical beatings, which were otherwise frequent and severe.
Empowerment & the voice of change
For many years I never spoke about the incest. It is so important have a compassionate professional to help a woman deal with the scars of abuse.
The Surrey Women's Centre's amazing therapists helped me overcome my shame and self-blame, and to let go of everyone else's problems.
But I was forced to revisit my father's dark legacy as a perpetrator...
Even though he was an elderly man, some of us in the family saw signs that he was still an active pedophile. I had read that serious abusers rarely change, and when I learned that my father was still interacting with young females, I knew I had to take immediate action.
A few of us in the family made the choice to go to the police. In 2012, my father was arrested. He denied 13 of the 14 charges, but could not deny that my daughter was his. The DNA evidence was irrefutable. However, because of his denials, we had to go to court and face testimony and cross-examination.
The prosecution considered charging my mother, but then the plan was dismissed.
Finally, my father pleaded guilty to most of the charges. At the age of 81, he was sentenced. In his statement, he had no regret or remorse, and offered no apology to any of us.
He was in prison for 6 short years, and at 88, is still alive. My mother stood by him and still protects him.
Coming face-to-face with my fear
It ripped my family apart and I was alienated, but it was never an act of revenge, as some of them thought; I pursued the charges only to protect innocent and vulnerable children from being harmed by him.
The Surrey Women's Centre got me through the trial, dealing with guilt, the arrest, and their staff's love and support gave me the courage to go to trial in Ontario.
I still have flashbacks to my childhood.
I had a sickening epiphany not long ago: My father often talked of wanting more girls. I realized that I have eight brothers because my father kept my mother pregnant in the hope that he would have more girls under his roof to prey on.
In spite of the fallout from my father's sentence, I know it is critically important for victims to speak out. The struggles afterwards are nothing compared to the damage of a predator who is given full reign to do as he wants. The destruction is far reaching, and transfers onward to others.
My future is mine
I spent my life looking after other people. I don't begrudge it at all. But now is my time.
Surrey Women's Centre helped me find the courage to be my own person, and to go alone to visit my brother in Spain and take a European tour afterwards. I was bitten by the travel bug and hope to make another foreign journey again soon.
My challenge is with "empty nest syndrome" — in keeping active and doing things to be happy.
I'm very creative, and only now am I beginning to unravel that part of me that was repressed for so long. I am discovering aspects of myself that I'd forgotten, and look forward to a "rebirth" in this next phase of my life.
Abuse is generational. My biggest wish is to see my grandchildren, and their children, end the cycle, and have a much better life than I did. I have deep faith that they will.
I've learned no one needs to suffer alone in silence. There are wonderful people who are happy to support others who have carried the trauma of abuse. That's why I urge you to please support The Surrey Women's Centre with a donation today.
Your gift will have an invaluable impact; it will help sustain a haven of safety and support for someone like me.
I am not defined by my story; I am defined by my strength.
I thank you in advance for your kindness.