Defusing ShameMy name is Chiquitta. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. My parents came from Guyana, South America to Canada for a better life; acid attacks were occurring in their homeland.

My father is 13 years older than my mother. My mother was a housewife and later worked at a bank. My father was a high school teacher. I have two brothers and one sister; I am the eldest daughter in the family. This was a curse for me. My parents were extremely strict with me and rules had to be followed. My brothers and my little sister were given the rights and freedom to do whatever they pleased.

The teachers would call me “a pleasure to teach,” for I was a quiet student. In reality, I was shy and scared to speak up due to an abusive home life. My father was an alcoholic. He put liqueurs in his morning coffee and drank a case of beer during the week and a bottle of rum on the weekend. It got to be a routine, with my father’s binge drinking on Fridays. My mother packed her bags to leave us kids behind, so she could go to my grandmother’s house to seek refuge. She would return to my father’s false promises and the same scenario would play out every weekend.

The police regularly visited our house, and there was talk of divorce. My father would take the boys and my mother would take the girls. When my father drank alcohol, he became a monster; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Hence, I grew up with fear and insecurity.

All family members mentally, emotionally, and physically abused me. My father would take off his leather belt to threaten to beat me, or my mother would take a wooden-handled paddle in her handbag when we went out of the house just in case she needed to use it on me. Why me? Not the other siblings?

My mother had no choice but to put up with my father’s abuse, so she had told me later. Where was she to go, with no job, no money of her own, and four children to look after? In retrospect, she had my grandmother, but people would talk. My father demanded perfection everywhere.

Outside looking in, we looked like a perfect family. Little did the public world know what really went on. School was the only stability in my life. I had no friends and was petrified to make any; I never knew what was waiting home for me.

I then ventured outside of my house in search of a peaceful, happy, normal life. Instead, I was further abused. I was molested by my family doctor, my cousin on my father’s side of the family, and my cousin on my mother’s side of the family.

The cousin on my mother’s side of the family molested me when I was 11 and 12 years of age. When I was 12 years old, he had raped me and vaginally penetrated me. I still remember the sight of blood running down my thighs. I fought so hard, but it wasn’t enough. What was an innocent game of hide and seek was his opportunity to touch and hurt me.

After he had his turn with me, his friends would have their turn. I had nowhere to go for help. I wanted to call the police and put my cousin in jail, but with the abuse going on inside my own house, my father would be the one behind bars. No matter how bad my situation was, it would have been worse for my mother, my siblings, and me. All the abuse took place in the dark, which still scares me.

By the time I became a teenager, I developed eating disorders. First I would starve myself, then pig out, then relieve myself with extreme exercise or laxatives. I never threw up. This vicious cycle started at the same time that I was being molested by my cousin on my mother’s side.

During my senior year of high school, I was bullied and physically threatened by a girl who did not like me on sight because I was not white skinned. She was mixed race, of African and English descent. She was being bullied herself by others, so she took out her anger and hatred on me. It so happened that her mother was an associate of my uncle’s in the real estate business. My uncle intervened, the girl apologized to me, and later she was transferred to another school.

In my adult years, I started associating with the “wrong crowds” of people. I became promiscuous and started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in order to escape reality and cope with all the abuse. I also had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The depression led to several suicide attempts.

When I was in my 20s, I was still dealing with the abuse at home. I got pregnant, had an abortion and later ran away from home. I was hoping never to return. I was gone from home for about a week, when I realized that I had an orthodontic appointment. That is when I saw my parents. They started chasing after me. I went home with them, only to hear false promises, just like my mom heard from my dad every time he drank alcohol and raised hell. The “we are sorry” and “we will change” was just talk. Nothing did change.

Later that week, I came home from a party to find my parents waiting up for me. My father choked me and nearly strangled me to death. If not for my brothers rescuing me like they used to rescue my mother, I would be dead.

I then moved out of my house to my own apartment in Edmonton, where I felt free. I started binge drinking and I would invite men over to have sex with me and get drunk. On occasion, I would drink so much that I blacked out. The next morning I realized that something sexual had occurred, with used condoms around my bed and ropes tied to the bed posts and to my wrists. I had been gang-raped vaginally and anally. The condoms, excruciating pain, blood and soreness was the proof.

I then moved from Edmonton to Toronto, for there was little work for me in Alberta, and jobs aplenty in Toronto for secretaries. My parents went to British Columbia to be near my older brother. I had no choice but to leave Alberta and my past there. I was not going to British Columbia with my parents; I had endured enough abuse as it was. My sister moved with my parents. My remaining younger brother stayed in Alberta.

Not only did I find a job and a place of my own, I found my future spouse. I got married, and a couple of years later, unfortunately I had a miscarriage. I never wanted to have children when I got married, but never knew why. Three years after the miscarriage I had a daughter, then two years later, I had a son. My children are the lights of my life that give me the will to live when at times it feels like there is none.

I then cheated on my husband and had several affairs, both in person and on the Internet. Enough was enough. My husband and kids were on the verge of leaving me and my abusive behaviors behind for good.

Thanks to therapy, over the years, I have managed to almost completely heal from all the abuse that I had suffered. The best decision that I made was to move away from Edmonton and start life over again in Toronto. As far as my male cousin is concerned, he got married, became abusive to his family, and is currently in a drug/rehab center in a wheelchair in Alberta. Karma says “what goes around comes around”; for all that has happened to him he truly deserves.

My father never apologized for his abusive behavior to any of us. He is an old man now. Chances are that he never sought help and he never will.

I will never have the precious gift of virginity to give my spouse, for it was taken from me. Thanks to therapy and support of other incest survivors, there is hope, joy and life. The only good lesson that I have learned about my past is what not to do what was wrong to me and do right with family and friends. Yes, I have had my ups and downs, but for the most part, it is positive.

I thank God for giving me such a normal life now, that I do pinch myself from time to time and wonder is this real? Just know that if I can go from being a victim to a survivor, anyone can.