"BREAKING THE SILENCE"

This is the true story of how, as a child, I was able to survive the sexual, social, and emotional abuse of my father on a daily basiswhile living in complete silence. And yet, I have been able to rise above the odds and live a normal, productive life as an adult. I must give thanks to the Lord for helping me through it all and helping me now as I begin and finish this journey of  “Breaking the Silence.” 

I want to start by telling you a little about my family. I was born on December 15,1967; I was a beautiful little baby girl - at least I want to think so. I am sure that my parents were the proudest people in the world that day. Why would they not be? Although I do not remember anything about that day or the next two to three years, I know that it was God’s plan for me to be born. He knew everything about me and He knew before I was born that I would experience some horrible circumstances in the next few years of my life.

Did God make a mistake by bringing me into this world? I may have often thought that, but after many, many years of questioning the circumstances that I had to face, I realized that God did not make a mistake. We are all faced with different obstacles in our lives, and the way we handle them is what truly matters. The mountains and valleys we all experience are meant to make us grow stronger. Although I have experienced more valleys than mountains, you would think I would be as strong as nails; but that is not the case. Yet, I am living proof that you can overcome any valley that is in front of you. You must put your faith in God and know that it is not you that wins the battle; it is God through you! There were many times in my life when I felt all alone, but I now am assured that God was walking right beside me holding my hand. I am not saying that I aced all the trials that were put in front of me nor am I saying I always put God first in them. What I am saying is that I failed quite a few of them, but God was right there with me and helped me as I tried, and he picked me up when I failed.

I was one of three kids and the only daughter in our family. My mother had three brothers, a sister and four stepbrothers. She lived in a divorced family growing up, so she knew very well the strains of a broken marriage on a family. My father had three brothers and a sister. He had the normal family life – or better, that is what it looked like. His parents were never divorced, but my father did endure abuse from his father as a child. Although he never went into detail, he told me about it later in life. My father was never able to break the abuse cycle in his life; he brought it on into our lives.

Let me go back to when I was about four years old. We lived in a three-bedroom trailer; I was the only girl, so I had my own bedroom. My mother worked second shift at the time, so my father was responsible for making sure we kids had dinner, did our homework, took our baths, and were in the bed to be fresh for school the next day. We only saw Mom in the mornings before school; we got more time with her on the weekends.

My Dad was responsible for giving us our baths at night. I never thought anything of this until one evening I had gone into my room to get dressed from my bath and he was in my room sitting on the side of the bed. I can remember this as if it were yesterday. He began to brush my hair and I remember him rubbing my body. 

I’m not sure how I felt because this was my Dad, and he was the adult. I knew deep down that it was wrong, but I was the child - HOW could I tell him he was wrong? This scenario began to play itself out quite often. I began to think something was wrong; here I am a small child, age three or four, and I was being forced to fulfill my father’s needs. I am not sure why I didn’t say anything to my mother at the time, except I feared she might not believe me, OR, maybe it wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t sure! Another reason may have been that I had seen my father hit my mother many times when he was drinking, and, maybe, I was afraid he might start hitting me in addition to what he was already doing. I am not sure why I never told Mom, except for the fact that I was threatened that he would kill me if I told anyone our “little secret”.

As the years went on, I began to live with the effects of this horrible, tragic abuse that my father had put me through. I had never shared this with anyone, not even my mother. I hated him with every thing I had. He had ruined my life and tried to act as if nothing ever happened. He had ruined our family as well. We had never known anything but drinking, fighting, and abuse.  Was there anything else to life? I wasn’t sure. I was so afraid of male figures all my life and would just cringe when men would try to get near me. There were many unanswered questions for me and I didn’t know if I would ever have them answered. 

As an adult, I went for counseling and my husband stayed by my side through it all. I was told the worst thing I thought I would ever have to hear. I had to confront my father about what he had done to me. Why did I have to go to him first, when he was the one who had ruined my life? But I quickly realized that if I wanted to put this mess behind me then I had to do as the counselor had instructed.

I confronted my Dad in the counselor’s office and told him what he already knew. He had raped me for so many years and had taken my childhood away, as well as the hope of ever having a father/daughter relationship. He asked for forgiveness, and I granted it to him. The next day he called me on my job and said he had a gun to his head and that he was going to end it forever, and that I wouldn’t have to see him again. He went on to say that he was hurting because he has had to live with this all his life as well.

Because I had granted him forgiveness, it was time to put this all behind me and move on. No, I will never be able to forget it, but I will move forward with God’s help. I now had a beautiful family whom I loved dearly!!! My husband and two beautiful children! My youngest child was born a few years later and my family was complete! Through all the abuse I dealt with, I never thought I could have a normal, loving family. Boy was I wrong! God has blessed me with a wonderful family.

As hard as it has been for me over the years, I know that God has been with me every step of the way. I have been in church since third grade. I should be able to answer all the questions I was having at this time, but I couldn’t. Bitterness, anger and hatred had taken away so many years of my life, and it took me many years to realize it.  Although I was in church for so many years it wasn’t until February 1988, that I was saved. Although I questioned God so many times through out my life, He has always been there with me. I know that those things happened to me for a reason and I know that not everyone could have gone through those same things and been strong enough to write about it. Although there are MANY things left out, and I realize the things you read may   have   been   very disturbing, they are all true.

So, I’m sure most of you are wondering how I have been able to talk about the events of my life in such detail. First of all, I have a God who is bigger than any problem or issue that I have been through; for me to give up on life is to call Him a liar. He knows everything about me and knew before I was born that I would endure such things. He gives me the strength every day to get through this. Secondly, I have a great family who has stood by me through it all.

The healing process has been ongoing since I confronted my father nineteen years ago and will continue for the rest of my life. It is a choice that I have made to work through this no matter what it takes and to put the crutch down and face life head on. There are many people whom I know have been through similar things and have just given up on life. I am reminded every day of my life verse, “I can do ALL things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). There have been many other verses that I have hidden in my heart that have given me the hope to keep going. God’s Word is full of promises for us, but I want to share some of the ones that have helped me the most.

Psalm 4:8 – “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” - There were many nights I quoted this verse as I laid my head down to sleep and God gave me that peace.

John 16:20 – “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” - I was reminded that we all have trials and tribulations but that God was there to help me overcome anything I was facing.

Romans 8:28-31 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we say then to these things? - If God be for us, who can be against us?” - God already knew everything about me and the things I would endure; He was right there with me through it all.

Matthew 10:30 – “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” - If God knew about every hair on my head, then he surely knew about me and had not forgotten me.

John 15:5 – “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” - I am nothing and I can do nothing without my Lord and Savior.

I could go on and on, but I just wanted to make sure that you understand that God has been with me from the beginning and has never left my side.

Tonia Pennington

Email:  BreakingTheSilenceBBC@gmail.com 

 

Sexual abuse of a minor child is a crime and should be reported immediately to the authorities.  In North Carolina ALL adults are mandatory reporters of sexual crimes against children.  Call your local Police, Sheriff, or 911.  While Christians desire to spiritually help victims and abusers, we are obligated to obey the law in reporting these types of crimes.  If you feel you need help in making a report, you may feel free to contact us for assistance.