Elizabeth Johnson

I can hardly imagine how different my life would have been if I had been believed the first time I tried to tell. I was sexually abused by my biological father as a very small child and through the years, tried to tell in various ways. But I was dismissed and doubted for years. In my 20s, I directly told my mother what had happened, but she was not able to hear me then. She said, “I believe you believe something happened.”

Honestly, I don’t remember a time when this hadn’t happened to me.  Over the years, I was sexually assaulted several times – as a teenager, as a soldier in the US Army, as a young mom, a not-so-young mom. When I tried to tell, I was told “I’m sure it was an accident” and “He didn’t mean anything by it.”  That disbelief has affected me throughout my life. At some point, I stopped telling. I couldn’t see the point, clearly, I was not to be believed, and must be an awful person to have these things happen and happen and happen yet again.

 In a desperate attempt to save my marriage, I sat in a psychiatrist’s office for marriage counseling. Only, what came out of my mouth had nothing to do with my failing marriage. I told him I thought something had happened to me as a little girl, that my father had abused me. He said, “Well, so what if it did?”

 That shut me right down for years – I ended up suicidal and desperate to be heard, to be believed. Filled with self-doubt and self-loathing, I attempted suicide three times in my 30s, and after that final attempt woke up in the ICU furious and angry and I knew I needed help.  Through a lot of hard work in counseling, things started turning around for me.

I thought I was healed until years later I was triggered during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and then while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. I returned to therapy and began volunteering as a public speaker for a program for sexual assault survivors in the Kansas City area. I will tell you that every time I’ve given a talk about my experience, someone always discloses sexual abuse to me – theirs, a family member, someone. And because I know how critical it is to Start by Believing, that is the first thing I say in response: I believe you.