Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing effort to highlight the impactful stories of the survivor’s who are part of the CFJ family, we introduce you to Priscilla, a sexual abuse and incest survivor who believes that speaking out her experiences is critical to ending the stigma associated with incest.
There was a time when Priscilla S. kept her history repeated sexual abuse by her own father –and the other men he forced her to sleep with—a dark and lonely secret.
She was only 13, or as she puts it, “still a child,” when her abuse began during a summer vacation to visit her father in Wisconsin. In a cruel twist of irony, Priscilla was sent to visit her father after she had disclosed she was being sexually abused by her stepfather.
Instead of treating her with compassion and helping her seek justice, her father used the prior abuse as an excuse to violate his daughter. “He said, “Now that you’re not a virgin, let me teach you the ropes,’” Priscilla recalls. “When this situation happened to me I felt like it was my fault. I must have done something to cause this to happen to me, not realizing then it wasn’t anything I did wrong.”
Although she was always desperate for her abuse to end, she told no one what she had experienced for years. “I wondered, who would believe me?” she says.
When she finally walked through CFJ’s doors decades later, she came not to heal from her own abuse but in support of a friend who was experiencing domestic violence. It was upon working with CFJ’s staff to help that friend when Priscilla finally opened up about her abuse and began a path towards hope and healing.
“I don’t know if you can imagine what it’s like to walk into a place where you are accepted and supported unconditionally,” she says of her experience at CFJ.
Getting the support of a trained advocate and an opportunity to share her experiences in a safe, supportive environment through CFJ’s Sexual Assault Survivors Support Group eventually inspired Priscilla to speak openly about her trauma. She bravely told her story publicly for the first time from the podium at CFJ’s annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event in April 2016. She so moved the audience she was invited to be a featured speaker at this year’s 19th annual Speaking of Women luncheon.
“I was just a child,” Priscilla says of her abuse and what it took from her. “I never knew the pleasure of a first kiss or intimacy the way it should be experienced.”
Remarkably, Priscilla has found forgiveness for her abusers through her close relationship with God and her compassion for her late father, who she says had also been the victim of an incestuous relationship. “He did not understand what he was doing was wrong because it was done to him,” she says.
Working with CFJ helped inspire Priscilla to move forward in her life. At the age of 58, she earned her GED and by 63 she had her college degree in human services. She now dreams of opening her program for victims of sexual assault and is committed to sharing her story to help eradicate the stigma incest victims feel and raise awareness. Her message: “Don’t judge or blame us for what happened to us,” she says. “Did I encourage it? No, but it found me anyway.”