‘He always liked to snuggle so closely to you,’ she muttered, keeping her gaze on the photo. Her voice began to shake. ‘I’m so sorry we didn’t leave sooner.’  

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“My mom died without knowing what happened to me.  She’s the best mom. She did everything right. But I never told her what happened to me. And here’s why.

I was 13 years old. I sat with my mom at the base of her bed, my childhood photo albums spread out on the floor around us. I picked up an old family picture- all four of us sitting on our worn-out blue couch, smiling, laughing. I promptly picked up my scissors and cut him out of the photo. My mother stared at the picture of us. Where his image used to be. How close his body had been to mine. I felt her expression, even though I didn’t look. Remorse, disappointment. Anger.

‘He always liked to snuggle so closely to you.’ She muttered, keeping her gaze on the photo. Her voice began to shake. ‘I’m so sorry we didn’t leave sooner.’ She felt guilty. She had seen the flirting, the flattery, the showering of gifts. She had seen the way I acted and dressed in response, never wanting to be alone with him, careful to always wear baggy clothes around him. But I didn’t blame her for not leaving sooner. I didn’t blame her one bit. I took her hand in my own. ‘I’m so glad we left when we did. You did a really good job protecting us.’  Tears welled in her eyes. She disagreed.

Courtesy of Tanya Treseler

I moved on to another photo. Just me and him at an arcade. He was always trying to get me to go places alone with him, always bribing me with presents. Funny, he never did that for my brother. I crumpled the photo up and tossed it in the trash. Without looking, I knew the tears were streaming down my mom’s face, black from her mascara. I turned and scooped her into a hug. ‘I should have never married him.’ She said amidst sobs. ‘I should have known.’

Her nose started to bleed, as it always did when she cried. I grabbed a roll of toilet paper from her bed and folded the squares into triangles to stop the bleeding. Just as she always did for me. The tears kept coming, I kept replacing the bloodied tissues with clean triangles. ‘I should have known who he was.’ She cried. ‘I never should have married him. That was so stupid. I was so stupid.’ That was when the protective fire lit in me. ‘Hey. No one’s allowed to call my mom stupid. There’s no way you could have known he would be such a Jack-donkey. Definitely not in the place you were in at at the time.’

At the time she chose him, she had just gotten out of an abusive relationship. At the time she chose him others were calling her stupid and incapable of living on her own. At the time she chose him, no one else would help her. With two small children, no college degree, no information, no support, what other choice did she have?

I put my arm around her. ‘No. He’s a jerk and that’s not on you. I’m so grateful you got us out when you did’ my own eyes tear up. ‘You protected me, and I will always be incredibly grateful for that.’ And I meant that with every fiber of my being.

I saw the nights she put herself between me and him. I saw the challenges she faced when I asked her not to leave me alone with him. I watched as she packed up garbage bags late into the night so we could escape the next morning. My mom worked so hard to protect me.

Courtesy of Tanya Treseler

Her tears slowed, she sighed deeply. She piled up the bloodied, mascaraed mess of tissues between us. I was so lucky, because as a mom, she always did everything right. She drove for hours so I could dance. She gave me freedom but was there to catch me if I made the wrong choice. She cut my tuna fish sandwiches into hearts every day, with notes that said, I love you. My mom was and will always be amazing.

As she organized her now folded mess of mascara and tissues, I held up the garbage can so she could toss the pile in. Her eyes were back on the picture I crumpled. Another heart shattering blank stare. ‘I’m so grateful he never acted on his feelings towards you.’ I paused. I looked back at her, I saw her swollen, puffy face. On instinct, a smile appeared on my own and I pulled her into another hug. ‘Me too, Mommy. Me too.’

But the truth is, he did. I was molested by my step-dad from the age of 6 to 11 years old. It’s now been over a decade and in all that time, I never told my mom. She died 3 years ago. Why didn’t I tell my mom? Well, the above story is a puzzle piece part of it. She felt so much blame and guilt for what happened, I couldn’t add to that.

But there’s oh so much more to it. There are so many emotions and factors that come into play when talking about abuse. If your child didn’t tell you about their abuse right away, it doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. If you had a hard time opening up to someone you love about your abuse story, it doesn’t mean that you are weak or a bad person. It means that abuse is messy. Victims need to get away from abusers and hearts need to heal. That’s the goal. However you and your family get there, is up to you.”

Courtesy of Tanya Treseler

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tanya Treseler. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and on her website hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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Read more inspiring stories of surviving abuse here: 

‘She tried to warn me years before. ‘You’re crazy and a liar,’ I told her. We had nothing in common but our abuser. Desperate and alone, I told her my story. I’ll never forget what she did.’

‘I was 10 years old when my ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of a male relative finally ended. My abuse ended not because I spoke up, but because my abuser was caught abusing another little girl.’

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