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To the Editor:
Starting when I was four years old, my father subjected me to intensely inappropriate sexual jokes, magazines, comments and much more. He also sexually abused me. The first time that he asked me to perform oral sex on him, I was playing with my dolls. I couldn’t say no to him until I was a teenager.
My father was a well-respected clergyman; I was a victim of incest.
I didn’t acknowledge or disclose that childhood abuse until I was 28 years old, and I did so only after several years of therapy for the mental health problems brought on by the abuse. When I told her, my mother didn’t believe me.
My experience is similar to that of a famous Coloradan, Marilyn Van Derbur Atler. From the outside, it looked like she had the perfect childhood with her well-known businessman father. Though he abused her for years, Marilyn didn’t tell her story until she was 53 years old.
Like most of the 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys who endured sexual abuse as children, we were unable to speak out for many decades. We must find ways to support the victims before and when they disclose, at any age. We need:
• Healthcare providers to ask the right questions and respond appropriately
• Support programs including mental healthcare
• The legislature to extend the statute of limitations so that adults can pursue justice, not just with the first few years of the abuse
At 6 pm on Monday, December 16 at the Penrose Library, the WINGS Foundation and other child sex abuse survivor organizations will show a new documentary about Marilyn with a panel discussion and support services available. The public is invited. You can get more details at wingsfound.org/miss-america-by-day.