“Bean” was abused by a family member from the time she was 4 until she was 7.But she didn’t let that hold her back from what she wanted to do. The first in her family to graduate from high school, she earned two advanced degrees and had a successful 40-year career in the male-dominated aerospace world. She was a key part of many important projects, including the Apollo missions and the Hubble Space Telescope. She shared her story with RAACE.
I don’t share the story of my abuse. My only living sister and my partner were the only people I’ve told about it until I met another woman who had been abused and who shared her story and a book she’s written about the experience with me.
In my 20s, I realized that memories of the abuse had become a barrier in my life. I felt like I had to constantly weave and dodge to get around it. I couldn’t get my feet on the ground. So I made a conscious decision to not let what happened to me be a crutch or a barrier that holds me back. I wanted to make my mother and stepfather proud of me, but I couldn’t with this wall I had built around myself where things just built up into an extreme anger.
So I pushed the experience aside and moved forward. That’s just the type of person I am. I learned that strength from my mother. My father left my Mother when I was a baby, leaving my mother with 8 children to raise. She sacrificed everything for us and I am extremely grateful for what she did. Her example helped me become the independent woman I am.
I don’t think about my abuse often, except when I hear about a child being abused. I know what they’re going through and how they must feel. When I do think about what happened to me, it’s like it was today. I have asked God to help me forgive the unworthy person who abused me, but I’m still not able to forgive him. But as I move forward, I know the pain will diminish. I see my anger diminishing.
There are a few things that are helping me move forward that may help others. I found the woman I mentioned earlier and finding someone special you can talk to about your experience is very important. If you can, find someone you can open up to, who you can express how you felt when you were abused and how you feel now to. It helped not only to talk about my feelings, but to hear what happened to her and how she felt and has dealt with it.
As a young woman, I wanted to give back. I was a privileged child even though we were very poor, I wanted to be a nun, but because of my temperament, that didn’t work out. But I’ve always heard God’s calling and I felt a hole because I wasn’t able to answer it in the way I wanted to. Six years ago, I became an ordained minister and it has filled that void and help me fulfill the deep-seated religious connection I’ve always felt and that’s part of my moving forward as well.
Four of my siblings died during the last year, including my brother who was my best friend. It wasn’t an easy year, but you can make it as hard on yourself as you choose to make it. I think about what my mother would say when things were hard: “Reach down, grab your bootstraps, give them a mighty pull, and stand up straight and move on.” And that’s who I am. An independent woman who keeps pushing forward.
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