Interview Emily: "I was groomed and raped by my stepfather"
Emily was molested and raped by her stepfather. In a livestream I interviewed Emily about her childhood in Canada, sexual abuse, grooming, and other activistic movements currently happening in the world. In this article I’ve featured bits of the interview related to Emily’s story of abuse. The full interview is available as audio Podcast download and also in the shape of a livestream video.
- TRIGGER WARNING -
This article discusses childhood sexual abuse, and may be triggering to read for survivors.
What do you do as an activist fighting sexual violence?
Emily: “I have written a fair bit on Twitter, just with the hashtag #MeToo. It is something that I find very close. I also was one of the many participants in project Unbreakable, which is a photography project where people who have been victims of abuse or assault hold up quotes of something their abusers said. My mother and I went to that together actually. So reclaiming the voice, after you’ve been assaulted - especially after being assaulted as a child - is something definitely near and dear to my heart. Being able to share stories and have support, and know that there’s more than one path and more than one destination after having that massive pothole in the road of being abused, is worth sharing.”
How did you meet your first abuser?
Emily: “You could say it starts with a 5-and-a-half, 6 year old girl, running around in the back of the yard in a bathing suit, because her friend had a sprinkler system. My friend’s neighbour, happened to become my stepdad. He sees two girls playing in the backyard, and parents milling around, and introduces himself, and asks my mother if she has any single friends. She says no, but that she’s single - although she does have a kid. He says how he doesn’t mind that, then starts inviting me over to play video games. And - I love video games still, I’ve reclaimed that. Eventually obviously it escalated, but initially it was very benign, and charming, and ‘isn’t he so good with this kid that isn’t even his’. Just to stick a pin in that - I do want to say that my mum chose to raise me to some degree, and my biological father bowed out with her permission when she was 4 months pregnant, and I had never met him until after I left the house she and my stepfather shared.”
You reclaimed your voice after you were abused into silence. Can you tell us more about the first time you felt like something was wrong at home, and how you responded?
Emily: “They’d (mother and stepfather) been fighting and he’d been frightening me because he had thrown something and broken a window. I remember feeling, you know, I should tell a teacher obviously stuff that’s not right. The school ended up contacting home, and when I came home, my mum was outside on the front-lawn in her bare feet. That’s one of the times when I realised, wow, things are wrong and I can tell people and all it’s going to do is make him mad, which then makes my mum feel unloved, and I should just be quiet. It seemed like relationships were supposed to be tumultuous and sometimes even potentially violent or destructive - because I was a kid, I didn’t know any better.”
What role has your mother played in your childhood that has influenced who you are now?
Emily: “I do think a lot of my resilience comes from having a strong, fierce feminist role-model out of my mother in her early years. She was in university when I was born, some of my earliest memories are me being able to be surrounded by some very intelligent, gentle, kind people. Respect was definitely something that I was taught was supposed to be given no matter who you were. So being disrespected and seeing the disrespect my stepfather gave my mother, was such a cognitive dissonance from what I knew she had taught me. He definitely wore her down. I won’t say beat her into submission, because that has a very specific image, and that wasn’t what it was like. It wasn’t daily beatings. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke. He was a very clean and refined person who’d find a rage and smash a bowl against the wall because there was no whipped cream for the jello. That’s not an exaggeration, that happened. By being in that unsafe environment, it definitely shut her down. By the time he was isolating us and I was approaching puberty, she was a shell. She couldn’t protect herself, let alone her daughters.”
Can you give some examples of your stepfather’s abusive behaviour that wasn’t related to sexual violence?
Emily: “He definitely believed in smacks upside the head - not exactly spankings, but physical correctives. I do know he choked my mum on one occasion and pushed her against the wall, if not more. He would put holes in the wall by punching at and missing.. I know the black-out of ‘early odds’. He would say things like ‘they’ll never find the pieces’, meaning he intended for us to get chopped up into little bits and buried in the backyard. He made a new nickname for me when I was 11, AOS. It was an acronym: Act Of Stupidity, referring to my mum’s choice to have me. It’s hard not to have internalised some of it, because this is what I was immersed in, for years. I really do think that an abusive home-life is not dissimilar from a cult. It’s one leader who must be obeyed, and vying for attention - whoever is the favourite is in good graces and whoever isn’t is less than dirt. It’s so toxic, and I’m so glad I got out when I did. I was finding my own living arrangements at 15. I was so lucky. If I was in the States, in a country that didn’t have social programs, to give me a living wage to finish high school, I would end up sleeping rough.”
Did your stepfather show abusive behaviour towards you when other people were around?
Emily: “He would ‘playfully’ tease me in front of other people, and if I got upset then it was because I was ‘overblowing it’ or ‘spastic’, as part of gaslighting. Behind closed doors and between 4 four walls he would call me things like ‘AOS’ and ‘cancer’, that I was a ‘drain on the resources’, that I wasn’t ‘worthy’ of love and food and shelter . When we had people over, he’d say ‘yeah, it’s great to have a stepkid because that’s the build-in babysitter’. Which is the same thing, but presented in a humour-way that other people can awkwardly laugh at.”
When and how did your stepfather start grooming you for sexual abuse?
Emily: “So initially he gives me this father-type figure I never had. Then he became more abusive, and I’m getting more confused by that, and then we get isolated. The molestation-type abuse only happened after we moved to the rural area. At this point things have become verbally abusive, to the point where moving to the country was a chance to escape the monsters that I, a 11-year-old-girl, am ‘bringing into the house’ - because everything felt my fault. I was the family-scape-goat. Then he offers to teach me self-defence and wrestling. It’s a super-hot day out. My mum says ‘maybe you should pop on a shirt, you’re like 11, you don’t have breasts yet, it’s not appropriate’ kinda thing. I’m like, ‘nah, it’s way too hot’. I really think that as soon as I said that my step-dad realised he could take advantage of that situation. Wrestling turned into groping. This went on for weeks, in these surreal couple of hours Sunday morning, while my mum and my siblings were at church.”
Emily: “There was nobody. I could scream all I wanted, it wasn’t going to matter. He’d rather if I didn’t, and since there was no point.. Initially it was ‘if someone’s going to grab you here you gotta be prepared to be able to do something’. Being 11, and him being 40-something, I couldn’t do anything, I could grab his wrist as hard as I could, I could try and kick and bite, it wasn’t doing anything. Eventually he says ‘maybe you should try and attack me there, that might help’. As soon as I touched him ‘there’, next thing I know his hand is guiding me to be doing things. At that age, I’m like.. This is definitely fucked up - but this is my dad, and I’ve been told I need to be doing what I’m told. In fact, we moved because I’m so awful that whatever I do is wrong and now we’re in a whole new place. Then, he tried to take it under an ‘education guise’. I was essentially tricked. He would do things like masturbate while I’m washing dishes. Then, he started having me help him in the garage. Under the supposed ‘teaching me of cars’ that’s where things got worse and that’s where oral and anal - I refer to them as sodomy - where those violations, occurred.”
What threats did he use to keep you silent and to refrain you from speaking out?
Emily: “If I had spoken out I would have to ‘go to foster-care’ because it was assumed outright my mum ‘wouldn’t be able to take care of us’. He said that in foster-care I would definitely get ‘actually raped’ as he would put it, ‘actually’, as if he was doing wasn’t ‘actually rape’ - which it was. He did also say, quote: ‘if you ever tell anyone, I will make you out to be the biggest lying whore’. I have that actually written on a big piece of card-paper. My mum wrote out how ‘he didn’t get married to learn how to masturbate’ which is what he said before he raped her one time, because it was ‘his birthday’ and even though she had a miscarriage, he wanted to have sex. She was still healing from that (the miscarriage), and wasn’t supposed to be having any kind of sex according to doctors, but he did anyway, and she got pregnant.”
What other tactics did he use when raping you?
Emily: “One of the phrases I think a lot of people should know is love-bombing. If you deprive someone of affection, if you smack them upside the head, and that’s the only time they’re touched all day, for days on end.. And then you’re willing to give them a hug, but yeah, you’re also almost giving them a hickey, they’re going to ignore how inappropriate it is, because they’re desperate for the affection. That’s definitely the situation I was in. I was told day-in and day-out that I was a ‘burden’ and a ‘cancer’ and a ‘waste of flesh’ and a ‘waste of space’. So when I was also suddenly told by that same person who’s admiration I wanted because that was my daddy and I wanted to be a ‘daddy’s girl’.. He says (back then) actually now that I’m pretty and that I’m desirable and that I give him ‘feelings that he can’t even control’. Wow, what’s not to like about that under the circumstances, it’s much better, to be forcibly, I guess - but in the circumstances malleably impliedly - be given an orgasm, than be smacked around.”
When was the first time your mother found out what your stepfather was doing?
Emily: “One day, my mother walked in when my stepfather was on his knees in the garage in front of me, ‘eating me out’. My stepfather essentially pretended he was ‘so sorry’ and ‘beyond himself’ and ‘what on earth was happening’, so my mother came to me. I minimised what happened when my mother questioned me and pretended that was the only time it happened.”
How did it all turn into a court case?
Emily: “Eventually I moved out, got in touch with my biological father, and moved in with him after high-school. When I went to go back to visit my mum and siblings, my stepfather told my mum to visit me when I left. When she visited, I had forgotten to pay my phone-bill and couldn’t receive any calls, due to which he didn’t believe she was at my house. He started e-mailing me and accusing her of infidelity. He took her keys and debit-card off her and filed an emergency custody complaint for my sisters, claiming that my mum - who could not drive - was hours away and was a ‘kidnapping risk’ to my sisters. That got rescinded the second it was analysed but it held long enough for my mum to be so confused and so screwed. She started taking parenting classes, to try and prove to herself and to the world that she could be a parent and that this was absurd. In the parenting class they mentioned how physical abuse is often part of the ramp-up to sexual abuse.. And my mum remembered what she’d seen - and how that doesn’t make any sense, to be a one-time incident. She confronted me and asked if anything happened.”
What did you tell your mum?
Emily: “I said it had happened and that it was awful and horrendous: I told her, ‘I didn’t think you cared and I thought if you did care you’d care in the way of being angry at me for being the ‘other women’’. We had big long cry and talk and she said she was going to talk about it with her parenting class instructional people. As soon as she did, the parenting class instructional person walked down the hall and grabbed a uniformed officer who made an appointment for me to make a statement and that is how we ended up pressing charges.”
What happened after you made a statement to the police?
Emily: “My stepfather was arrested but soon released on bail. He had something called ‘surety’, someone who’s essentially ‘signing up’ to be a shadow to make sure you don’t commit any more crimes. That was his new girlfriend, that he got after kicking my mum out. This new girlfriend had 3 kids. So, he gets out and he moves in around the corner, from where my mum is living - in the previous house that she shared, while there is a trial pending. There was something called a non-contact order so he couldn’t be within 100 meters, but because that was where my mum was living, because it wasn’t my physical address but hers, it was considered a ‘clerical error’ and the judge ‘tried to make things work’.”
What action was taken after your stepfather moved around the corner?
Emily: “So, my mum called for a shelter and they say they’re going to send a cab. The protocol is that when the cab shows up, it is escorted by police. I told my mum to not tell my siblings they would go into hiding. Against my advice, she told my sisters so they could pack their own things. I wasn’t there for this, but I was told my sisters came home from school and were told they were going somewhere safe and that they needed to pack, and that they panicked, and instead ran around the corner out the back door, to their father. When the cops showed up, my mum told them she wasn’t leaving without her daughters. From my understanding, the cops went to talk to him, came back, and asked my mum: ‘What’s really going on here?’ They were sceptical and unhelpful and told her to go. So they left 3 more children - there were already 3 children in the house - with a pedophile who is on trial for being a pedophile. Eventually during trial, court wasn’t able to convict him. Until this day, he has custody of my siblings, whom I haven’t seen for years.”
Follow Emily on Twitter.
Note from PhotoandGrime.com
The image chosen as header for this article is Emily smiling as a child, before she was molested for years. One might think this insensitive; the title of this article concerns a very serious crime, inflicted on the child in question - confirmed by this specific child, who is now an adult. In an article titled ‘I was groomed and raped by my stepfather’, you probably expected horrible images to ‘set the tone’. Photographs and visuals of a child crying. A stuffed animal in a corner. A toy car. Bruises on a child. Because that’s what many people expect, considering the title.
The problem however, is that the majority of rapists don’t record their abuse, and their victims even less so.
When rapists have to appear in court because a victim spoke out, it’s not unlikely they try to collect any evidence and present ‘evidence’ that the victim was ‘happy’ or ‘wanted it’, if they collect anything at all, in the majority of cases. When the rapist is someone the victim knows, it’s not unlikely the rapist already started this process before the rape took place - just in case.
Rape isn’t just a physical and sexual crime. It’s also a psychological crime. In most rape cases, we hear the victim was manipulated, threatened, blackmailed and/or shamed into silence. Few people take those secondary crimes into account, when talking about rape cases.
We want to put focus on the psychological crimes inflicted on rape victims, by showing both sides: the outside, and the inside. That’s why the header’s image was chosen. We want you to not judge a book not by its cover, but actually open in, to read the story.
By doing so, we hope PhotoandGrime will help in providing educational resources through experiences from others, that address the root of why many victims never report, or ‘too late’. If we can get to the root of the problem that prohibits many rape cases to lead to a guilty verdict, we can fight the crime.
You probably also noticed that in this article we refrained from using wording such as ‘alleged’, when referring to the crimes Emily spoke about. PhotoandGrime.com is here to amplify Emily’s truth - and we stand with her while she’s doing that, and believe her.
For now, some statistics:
Conviction Rate Sexual Assault Cases Canada
Sexual Violence in Canada
The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics investigated sexual violence and conviction statistics in Canada.
In the study outcomes of police-reported sexual assaults in Canada, from 2009 to 2014, were used. After removing incidents that could not be linked to court for methodological reasons, there were 93501 in-scope sexual assaults investigated. Statistics include rape cases, but also cases concerning sexual touching, so not all convictions concern rape cases alone. From the report:
93.501 ‘sexual assault’ cases total in Canada in 6 years
8742 (9.35%) of 93.501 ‘sexual assault’ cases resulted in a conviction
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