My daughter was raped. I'm not here to tell her story – I would never presume to be a spokesperson for her. I know I could never properly express her feelings as a survivor and I know that the struggle I went through does not compare to her difficult journey. This is my story: a story about the absolute worst days of my life and how my daughter’s sexual assault impacted me as a father who loves his daughter deeply.
I became aware of something being wrong a couple days after it happened. We were always close but she was shutting me out and locking herself in a room for hours at a time, more so than is expected of a seventeen year old. When I first heard the rumours I had no idea how to react. I wanted to stay calm.
At first I handled it poorly. When I confronted her about what I had heard, emotions boiled over and I became furious. How could my little girl not come to me about this? What an idiot I was. Here was my baby pouring out her pain and my first reaction was so selfish. We cried together and as we calmed down, we hugged and just sat together without speaking. That was the only time I ever raised my voice to my daughter and I am still disappointed in myself.
I was lost. I cried for the next three days while locked in my office at work. What should I do? I began calling around to find out about support programs, not just for her but for our family. We were able to get my daughter into a program within the first month or so, but there was nothing for our family. I searched the Internet looking for support programs for the family but I found nothing. We would have to self-heal. The wound is still there.
Unfortunately I knew a little about abuse as I saw my mother being abused while I was growing up. I turned my back on my mother but there was no way I was turning my back on my daughter. I needed to fix this — after all that is what parents do, they fix things for their children. What a fool I was!
I believed in my heart and soul that she was going to need to take back the control in order to heal. As with many survivors, she didn’t want to relive the experience for anyone. I felt I had to convince her to file a complaint. I was prepared to risk our relationship. I lovingly but firmly guided her into speaking to the police. She pushed back but eventually agreed. I kept asking myself, “Was I doing the right thing?”
As I sat at the police station with her and a friend she brought along for emotional support, I continued to think about how to react. I had to be strong for her but what about him. I wanted him dead. After she had told her story while in another room, the police officer pulled me into that room and suggested that I not do anything stupid. I remember saying, “My daughter needs me more than I need him dead.” That is the sole reason her attacker is still alive today.
I spent the next few weeks sleeping on the floor beside her bed. She was afraid to close her eyes. I would just lie there. We wouldn't talk. I needed her to know I'd be there when she needed to talk. In time, she started and sometimes we would chat late into the night and get no sleep. Then, after a few weeks, one night she said, “I can sleep tonight, dad. You can go to bed.” Those words made me feel like maybe I had done something right to help her.
For years afterwards, I didn't share her story with our family. I felt it was her story to share, when she was ready. She asked me once if I was ashamed of her and if that's why I hadn’t told anyone. Surprised, I explained that I felt it was up to her to tell those who she wanted to know. She understood afterwards but WOW, I missed that one.
I failed to protect my baby. We still talk about it from time to time. I am always looking for reassurance that she is able to live with what happened. I know she will never forget and will never be the same person that she was. I certainly know that I will never forget. After about a year, her attacker was convicted and registered as a sex offender but I got no real satisfaction out of that.
It has been six years since it happened. I still tear up when I talk about it. I often wonder how I could have handled the whole thing better. She has learned to live with the emotional scars and I think about what happened almost every day. I still think of killing him. I worry about running into him somewhere, but I hold onto the thought that my daughter still needs me more than I need him dead.