My name is Faith and I’m 16. I used to live with my mom, my dad and my little brother. We were pretty close. My parents were our coaches, and we went on vacations all the time. We had a lot of money, and my dad used to buy anything for me. He spoiled me.
When I was 12, things started to change. My dad would have me wear really revealing clothes, and I didn’t know why. He encouraged me to do things, like go to the under-21 dance clubs, dressed like that, even though I didn’t want to. It just didn’t feel right to me, but he was my dad and I did what he wanted.
When we got the Internet, he always encouraged me to go into chat rooms and talk to people and flirt with them, even though I didn’t even know who they were. I didn’t want to do it, but then, he was my dad, and if I didn’t do it, he’d get really mean.
After a few times in the chat rooms, I just didn’t feel comfortable, so I stopped e-mailing and responding to their e-mails. But they kept sending me e-mails and saying things like “thanks for the reply,” or “thanks for the pictures.” But I didn’t send any pictures and I didn’t know what was going on.
One day this guy started pursuing and threatening me. He told me I had to send him specific pictures – like a picture of me with a man putting his finger inside me, or a picture with a man ejaculating on my stomach. He said if I didn’t send him those pictures, he was going to post the naked pictures he had of me all over the Internet and send them to all my friends at school.
I really didn’t know how to approach it because you can’t find out who anybody is on the Net. Anytime I’d try to search for him, he’d send me a nasty e-mail saying “don’t try to find me.”
So, I went to my dad and asked him to block this guy’s e-mail address. He said he called the Internet place and had it blocked, but the guy must have signed up for a new name. Well, I called the Internet place myself, and the person there said it was never blocked. So I blocked it, but this guy just got a new name. I called the company again, and they said they really couldn’t do anything about it. So, I went to my dad again, but he said he thought it would be best if I just posed for the pictures. That’s when I got really suspicious.
My dad was always walking around the house with a digital camera in his hand. He’d take pictures of everything. He took pictures of my mom in the kitchen and my brother. I think he did that so he wouldn’t seem suspicious. But mostly he took pictures of me. He’d walk in on me, in my bedroom and in the bathroom, like I’d be stepping out of the shower, and he’d take my picture. If I said something to him, he’d say, “oh, don’t worry, I’m going to erase it,” and stuff like that.
After my dad left for work one day, I started looking around on the desk and in the computer, trying to figure out what was going on. I found naked pictures of me in the shower, getting out of the shower and stuff. My dad wasn’t erasing those pictures. He was sending them to people I didn’t know. He betrayed me the whole time. He lied to me.
When I approached him on it and threatened to tell my mom, he got really angry. He said if I told her, she’d hate me. He said it would ruin their marriage. He said she loved him and she’d forgive him, but she’d never forgive me. Then he said I had to take the pictures the e-mail guy demanded. He said I had to take them with him. He told me if I didn’t do what he wanted, I wouldn’t be allowed to do anything. He grabbed my face and squeezed it. I knew if I didn’t do what he wanted, he’d hurt me. He was really angry and really strong. He scared me, so I did it because I didn’t have a choice, but it made me sick.
For over a year, my dad took pictures of me. He photographed the two of us doing sexual things. Then he’d send them all over the Internet. He even built a website and posted my pictures there. I saw his website once, but when I went back to look for it again, when I tried to find the pictures on our computer, everything was gone. I knew what he was doing, but the proof was gone and I didn’t know how to stop him.
I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I had lost most of my friends because my dad wouldn’t let me hang out with them. He’d only let me hang out with the guys. I wasn’t allowed to have any girlfriends at all. If I started getting too close to somebody, I wouldn’t be allowed to hang out with them. I used to be close to my grandma, but my dad wouldn’t let me stay at her house anymore, either. I was just really far away from everybody. I was so isolated and scared. It was awful.
Most of all, I wanted to talk to my mom, but I felt mixed up. I didn’t have any proof, and I didn’t think she’d believe me without it. Besides, he was her husband and I wasn’t close to her anymore. He wouldn’t let me spend any time alone with her. It was always him and me. And I was always fighting with her, and treating her and my little brother really mean. And there was also my little brother. He idolized my dad, he was his baseball coach – everything. It just didn’t seem fair of me to tell. I felt like, if I protected myself, I’d just hurt everyone else. So I stayed quiet.
I felt like my life was just turned upside down, like it was totally wrong. When I was younger, my dad was my life. My parents didn’t get married until I was five, and all I ever wanted was for them to get married so I could be with him. And then, for him to betray me and do something like that – it just hurt me so bad. I guess that’s why it was so hard for me.
I had all this hatred inside me, and the longer things went on, the worse it got. I was really mean to my mom, and I beat up on my younger brother all the time. I don’t know why. I guess I just wanted my mom to know that something was wrong. I don’t know, I think maybe I was hoping, since I couldn’t tell her, that maybe she’d ask.
I really wanted to be close to her, I mean, she was my mom, and we had this awesome relationship before everything started. Then it all fell apart. I couldn’t talk to her and she thought I was shutting her out of my life. Then he’d tell her I was the one who wanted to wear these revealing clothes. I know she was disappointed, especially since I was only 12 years old. She didn’t understand why I only hung out with guys, either – she didn’t think it was right, and I know she didn’t like it.
Sometimes I’d just sit there, look at her and be like “please, please understand.” But I didn’t say anything to her because I was so afraid of him, because I was afraid of hurting her, and because I was afraid she wouldn’t believe me. It was so hard. I felt trapped and isolated, like it would be better if I just killed myself. I cut my wrists and, sometimes, I’d burn myself with a lighter. Sometimes, I even thought about killing him.
One morning, I got up early and my dad was typing an e-mail. I happened to glance at it and recognized a few words that were in the e-mail – the threatening e-mail from that guy. That’s when I realized it was my dad sending those threatening e-mails to me. He was doing it so he could keep taking my picture. I felt horrible, sick. I checked the computer, looking for proof, but everything was gone. He had erased it all. I felt trapped. He was supposed to be my dad. He was supposed to be protecting me from stuff like that, but he was pushing me into it.
The next day, I was putting away my dad’s clean t-shirts in his dresser drawer, when I found all these floppy disks with my name on it. I put them in the computer and opened them up to see what was on them. They said things like “Faith Nude” or “Faith getting out of the shower.” And when I opened them up, it was me, nude, getting out of the shower, stuff like that.
After I found the disks, I knew. I mean before. it was just going to be my word against his, and I was afraid my mom wasn’t going to believe me. But now that I had the proof to show her, I wasn’t so afraid.
As soon as she came home from work that day, I showed them to her. She was really upset with my dad, and really supportive of me. She told me how sorry she was for what I had been going through. She said she was sorry she didn’t realize, and didn’t help me. All those things I worried about didn’t happen. She did believe me, and she did stick by me, not him.
My mom didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to just take the disks and have him come home from work and know something was up, because he could get pretty mean, and then he might just get rid of them. So, right away, she called her friend, Shelly, who is a police officer. She asked Shelly what to do.
Shelly came over the next day, while he was at work. But he came home on his lunch hour and saw Shelly there. I think he suspected something. My mom left the disks in his drawer, so he wouldn’t think we were doing anything. But that night, while they were at my brother’s football practice, my parents got into a fight. When they got home, my dad hid the disks.
I was really scared after that, because I had already contacted the police and I had already talked to Child Protective Services, and now the proof was gone. Without the disks, I didn’t think anyone was going to believe me.
But my mom was determined to protect me, and while my dad was at work, she and I searched the house. We found the disks in the attic. We called Shelly right away, and when he came home that day on his lunch break, he was arrested.
I wasn’t home when the police came. I was with my mom and Shelly at her house. They took me there so he couldn’t hurt me. That night I didn’t go home. I didn’t want to. I stayed with my grandma because I was still scared, even though I knew he had been arrested.
I guess everyone gets through difficult times in different ways. For me, I didn’t have many friends, and I didn’t have anything else to do, so I put my entire time into softball and my school work. I never missed softball practice and usually stayed later than I had to. Softball gave me a way to release some of my anger in a good way. And because I never wanted to be home, I was always at school. When classes were over, I’d stay in the library and study. I kept up a 4.0-grade-point-average and still keep a 3.8 to 4.0 today.
I think even though this has been really hard, it’s made me stronger, and it has made my relationship with my mom better. It’s also made me a better big sister. I’m really protective of my little brother. Now, I watch out for him, instead of beating him up. I also think it’s given me some direction, too. Before, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study in college, but now I know I want to go into psychology. I want to help people going through what I’ve been through.
I think one of the reasons I’m doing so well now, is because of counseling. When I first went, I didn’t open up. I kept the stress of everything deep inside me. One day, my blood pressure started to drop, and I passed out. One day I woke up in the hospital. That’s when I realized I couldn’t just go to counseling and sit there. I had to open up and let this stuff out.
Since then, things have really gone well. My counselor is terrific, and she has helped me to know it wasn’t my fault. She helped me realize I didn’t do anything to deserve what he did. And even though it was my dad, he didn’t single me out or anything. What happened to me could have happened to anybody, and maybe he was doing it to other kids, too. I don’t know. I don’t want to know.
After two years of counseling sessions, the counselor said I’m doing really well, and I’m done. I had to promise her I’d call if I needed her. I think she already knew I would.
Now, things with my mom are just great. Even though we lost our house, had to move, and my mom had to go back to work, she’s been there for me every step of the way. I know I can tell her anything. I know I can count on her. I also know she feels guilty because she didn’t see it, but I keep telling her it wasn’t her fault. I keep telling her that counseling helped me, and she should go, too, so she doesn’t have to feel that way anymore.
If I could give advice to kids, I’d say, “If you’re going on the Internet, be smart about it. If you want to talk to your friends, use instant messaging, only e-mail people you know, and never go into chat rooms.” I’d also tell them, “The Internet isn’t a safe way to meet people. You have no way of knowing if the person you’re talking to is who they say they are. I mean, you might think you’re talking to a 12 year old boy, when you’re really talking to a 65 year old man. It’s just not safe. Definitely, never give out any information about yourself, not even your cell phone number. Strangers can connect any little bit of information to you, and if they want to, they’ll find you.”
I’d like to tell adults, “Pay attention to the little things. Look deep. Read between the lines. Just because your kid is out there doing something or dressing some way, doesn’t mean she wants to. But, if you find out something has happened, be supportive and help your kid, but don’t feel guilty. It’s not your fault.”