I haven’t known Dakota very long, she answered a shout out that I made in a support group online. We chatted and she told me her whole story and I never thought to ask her how old she was. The way in which she spoke and her emotional maturity said to me she was probably in her late 20s. Once she had finished telling me her story I found out she was 18 and I was blown away.
At 18, Dakota will be the youngest contributor to The Real Stories Project and due to this, I have blurred her image to protect her anonymity. I questioned whether or not it was right to print her story but after a lot of reflection, I came to realise that I would not only be depriving the world of such a strong and brave young woman but I would also be holding back her story.
A story that she wants to tell for young people just like her, of which there are so many. I know because I have met them on my path of recovery. A frightening amount of us have been betrayed, often by family members and parents and then left with the trauma and the challenge of trying to live a happy and full life with those dreadful memories of childhood.
Men and women who have carried the responsibility for everyone else’s feelings, forgetting their own.
I felt a profound connection to Dakota the more I heard about what she had been through. I could relate to so much of it but I have so much admiration for the bravery involved in her disclosure. Not only that but legally dealing with her abusers, going through gruelling court proceedings. Another trauma in itself. So here she is…
*Trigger Warning: Contains details of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, incest.
I grew up in a very unpredictable household. My Dad, he was a really unpredictable character and we didn’t know what would set him off. My mom, she was quite sick and this often became a lot worse if my dad lost his temper. She has a rare joint condition, suffers from vestibular migraines and severe depression. She was also abused by her brother growing up so she had her troubles.
I’m the oldest of three girls and I thought I needed to protect my sisters from my father. I tried my best but if I got involved things got worse and mom would have to get involved.
He started sexually abusing me when I was age 3 or 4. My mom would go out to get groceries for dinner and my father would take me into his room. It was only me. It was never my other sisters. I didn’t know it was bad or wrong at the time but he told me not to tell anyone because then he’d go away and never come back. That was a scary thing to be responsible for when I was little.
The abuse was on and off. He was very strategic about when he would do it. For instance, when we were moving he wouldn’t do it but if he had me alone for fishing or mom took the girls to a store or to my aunt’s house and I didn’t want to go (going out makes me very anxious), that would be his moment.
We never stayed in one place for long and I went to three elementary schools growing up. Fast forward a few years. I began to love horses and riding them. They were and still are therapeutic for me. I also loved my grandma who owned them.
The horses were my best friends. I could tell them anything and they wouldn’t tell a soul. They are the most gentle and big animals. Twister was my favourite. He was half-blind but he was completely trusting and I could go out into the pasture, bring him to the fence and hop on with nothing else to control him and he’d never take off or anything.
However, when I was about 12 years old my “papa”, my grandma’s second husband at the time, started to take advantage of me. Just like my mom, grandma would go get groceries or sometimes we would even be in the living room watching a show and he’d do things to me. The first time or two I tried to stop it. I would shout ‘No! It’s wrong!’. This went on for almost a year.
One summer there was a group camp and my father had come and so did Lyle (papa). I noticed that Lyle was winking and touching my friends a lot, but he would only do that to me previously. I felt that I had to tell my two friends about my father and Lyle as I didn’t want them in the same position as me. My father may not have touched them but his temper was still really out of control.
A few weeks later a friend came to talk to us. She was told by one of my friends what was going on after I had warned them. Everyone was appalled with Lyle. My mom was in a bit of shock. There was a lot of tears confusion and anger that day both my mom and grandma cried.
The week before it all came out my father’s temper had been really bad.
It was mostly verbal and stuff but when he got really mad he would get violent towards my mom or just threw stuff around. The worst part was when he got mad that I wouldn’t go to him for “lady stuff” if anything were to happen to Mom. We were driving on an unpopular highway and he drove into a ditch. Mom told us to get out and we did and he almost hit my youngest sister with the car. After a while, he got out and walked away.
We went home and waited for a bit and then Mom got us in the car in case he came home. She didn’t want us alone with him. We eventually found him and my Mom got out to talk to him. Within a few minutes she started to walk away and he ran and tried to jump on her back.
We later found out while he was being assessed for any mental illnesses he was having fantasized thoughts about killing my Mom. All I know about my father’s history was that he was neglected by his mother. No one really knows but they suspect that he was also sexually abused. We can’t know for sure.
Once it had all come out, we moved in with grandma. She kicked Lyle out. My mom and grandma decided to stay together through the next three years or until the court proceedings were over.
The last day mom went to gather our stuff from the house, she brought me to make sure she got everything and I saw the mess my father had made. There was a broken printer, dresser and dresser drawers. Everywhere there were plates and dishes broken and scattered. We had a glass coffee table and there was not on piece intact from it.
When it was time to go to court about my father. He was trying to say not guilty (even though he admitted everything) and changed it last second. He was sent to prison but he could already get out this year. If not this year then the next.
Lyle, on the other hand, pleads not guilty and it went to the supreme court. I tried to be convincing and tried to tell them my story as best I could but it was hard because I had started to block things out. In the end, he was found not guilty upon reasonable doubt.
Since then I have nightmares and I’m afraid to go anywhere past the city I’m scared I’ll run into him.
I’ve been through a lot of counselling and I’m comfortable telling it but when I do the only thing I make sure of is that I know the person really well and I trust them not to judge or start rumours that could end up with people accusing me of something.
It really affected my relationship with my sisters. I was more like a parent and protector to them than a sibling and my father would make me watch them at a mall and I usually had to make dinner for us because mom was so sick. We have a pretty good relationship now. One of them is ten and we get on great and the other is sixteen and she fights with me a lot.
Looking back it seems completely crazy and terrible. It’s a miracle that I didn’t kill myself…but I honestly don’t think I would change any of it. My mom and I are very close we don’t have any secrets now.
Honestly, I would encourage people to tell their story because it actually helped a lot for some reason and it’s almost as if it wasn’t me and I’m just telling a story out of a fictional book.
To anyone out there who is keeping this secret and is too afraid to speak out, I would say, no matter what the threat it is. it can’t be any worse than what’s already happened and is happening to you. Keep on pushing through, the best revenge is moving on and continuing to live! If a person wants to see you miserable, just do what you need to do to find your happiness and they might get a glimpse. Let them be angry and let them be the ones who feel the guilt for what they did to you.
If you are affected by any of the subjects in this story, please reach out to someone you trust or any of the following resources may be helpful to you.
Refuge – 0808 200 247 (A 24/7 domestic abuse helpline)