#STORYOFSTRENGTH: Marian Bacol-Uba
It’s taken me a very long time to come to this point of openness, truth and authenticity in my life. 21 years to be exact. This story below and what you are about to read is a secret I’ve kept buried inside the deepest part of my soul for 21 years. There are many layers to my healing path. I first told my closest and dearest friends; my inner circle. Then I told other friends who knew me growing up. Then I got the courage to tell my family. Now I am sharing my story with the world. I believe that it’s a necessary party of my personal healing journey and I truly feel a divine calling to do so.
Ever since I moved to Miami from my hometown of Los Angeles, I finally feel like I have room to breath and made big strides in my journey to healing, to light, to love and my true authentic self. Through this process, my spirituality has deepened, I have begun this journey to conquer my greatest fears head on and to fully align with my soul’s purpose in this lifetime.
After reading this, you will have a better understanding of what I am talking about. Sharing this story with you, then more people, then with my family and then to the world, will allow me to be a voice for all those who have no voice. To be an advocate for awareness, change, compassion and love.
I know sexual abuse is definitely not limited to females only. There are boys and men who go through that trauma as well. It causes suffering and trauma just the same. Part of my healing journey is to talk about what happened to me. Spreading awareness is also another way we can help each other. We can help break the cycles of abuse.
I created #StoryofStrength because writing my experience has been so therapeutic for me and played a huge part in my healing process. My hope is that other people who have gone through their own stories of abuse, are empowered to also share their experiences and healing. For those who are reading this and going through abuse in your life right now, know that there is help and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I hope something you read here empowers you, encourages you, and envelopes you in light and love.
There is more to life than our past. We can take our suffering and turn it into our STORY OF STRENGTH.
*Disclaimer* This is a very intense, personal story of childhood sexual abuse and I recommend reading in its entirety to get the full picture. Please be aware that there are graphic details in the story below.
My Story of Strength
I’ve never shared this with anyone. I’ve never had the courage to even talk about this out loud except when I am alone and talking to myself. It’s my deepest darkest secret. I’ve been so ashamed about this for so long. Something that I have kept hidden in the depths of my soul and locked it up there for the past 21 years. I am currently 31 years old. It is something that I thought I could keep a secret until the day that I die. It’s been dormant for a long time and I’ve been living a somewhat happy life. But recently, it has a mind of its own and doesn’t seem to want to stay hidden. Maybe it’s because this past year, I’ve been going through some deep personal and spiritual growth. Call it a spiritual awakening of sorts. For the first time, I feel like I’m finally starting to really love myself wholeheartedly. Turns out, when you start feeling that way, you’re forced to really face your demons.
To get somewhat of full picture, I have to go back to the beginning. It played a huge part in developing who I am as a person. I’ve read studies that show the most crucial part of a child’s life is from birth to 5 years old. The environment they are in, how they are raised, what they experience, plays an integral part of their psyche. I was born in the Philippines and lived with my grandmother, several aunts, uncles and cousins on a beautiful island, until I was about 5 years old. I was extremely close to my aunt, my biological mother’s sister, who I thought was my mother. I remember being very happy there. I received a lot of love from my family. I still remember all the values, prayers, lessons that they taught me.
I remember this part very clearly. It happened right before my 5th birthday. I was told that I was going to the real Disneyland in America and hang out with Mickey Mouse, Minnie and all their friends. I hopped on a huge plane (my first time ever) and went with my grandmother to the United States of America. That was, in my memory, the first time I met my real mother and father. I later saw a couple photos of the both of them visiting me in the Philippines when I was a baby, but I had no recollection of it.
From age 5-10 years old, I remember bits and pieces of it, but to be honest, I don’t have many warm fuzzy memories. I remember feeling the happiest when I was with my grandmother, because she was who was familiar to me. When she left to go back to the Philippines, I felt very alone. My parents weren’t very loving. In fact, they taught me to respect them through fear. I remember being 6 years old, going to church with my parents and being a fiddgety little kid who couldn’t sit still. When we got home, my parents both scolded me for misbehaving and my dad whipped me with his belt several times and forced me to kneel on grains of uncooked rice with my arms held high. When my arms started getting tired and snot was running down my nose, he belted me some more. He said it was necessary for discipline. I vividly remember being so afraid and shocked, because I had never been hit like that in my life. My family in the Philippines would spank my butt here and there for being a rambunctious and active child, but I always knew they loved me. I never knew this kind of disciple before and I remember praying to God to bring me back to my aunts and family in the Philippines.
I didn’t feel the warmth and love from my parents that I did with my family in the Philippines. I know my mother tried, what she thought was her best, but she was working all the time. She was never nurturing and loving the way my aunt was to me. I learned a lot of survival skills though. My mother was good at teaching me to be independent and self-sufficient. By the time I was 8 years old, I was used to doing my chores, cleaning the house, doing laundry and I also knew how to cook and bake.
When my baby sister was born, I felt even more like an outsider. They doted and fawned over her. I was jealous of all the attention she received. I remember feeling very bitter and resenting her but that was quickly replaced by a deep love for her. I suddenly felt needed and purposeful. Since my parents both worked, I was left alone with her often and took care of her. I even learned how to change her diapers and in our alone time, I confided my thoughts and emotions. She didn’t know it because she was still a baby, but she became my best listener and my best friend. I felt a need to always love and protect her.
A lot of life-changing events happened when I was 10 years old. I remember a lot of things very vividly. I was in 5th grade and experienced my first heartbreak when my school crush ended up liking one of my girlfriends. I remember crying in the bathroom. I got my period when I was 10 while I was in class. I went to the bathroom and I saw blood in my panties. I was scared and so confused. I told my teacher and she gave me a quarter to buy my first feminine pad from the restroom. I told my mother when I got home and she said that’s what happens to all girls every month and gave me more pads. I didn’t get much of an explanation other than that. When I was 10 years old, I found out my father had a whole other family (previous marriage that I didn’t know about) with 2 older half brothers and 3 older half sisters. That year, they all moved from the Philippines to live with us in our small 3 bedroom house. They weren’t quite happy to leave their mother, move to a whole different country and live with their father that they haven’t seen in years, the women he left their mother for and his 2 new children. The environment in that house, to say the least, was explosive and toxic.
Before my newly found siblings moved into the house, another life changing thing happened that year. When I was 10 years old, my father started sexually abusing and touching me. I lost my childhood innocence. That was the start to 7 more years of being molested by my father. From 10 to 17 year of age, was the darkest, most desolate times of my life. I was severely depressed, started drinking and doing drugs, cutting myself and attempted suicide several times. It felt like the longest years of my life with no hope of ever getting better. My house was not a warm fuzzy “home”. It felt like a prison and I was so scared of the demon who lived there, my own father.
It’s been 21 years since it first happened, but I remember it vividly. They say some victims forget and repress their memories. I remember all the things he did to me. I tried really hard to forget. I’ve tried to erase these memories many times, mostly through excessive drinking and drugs, but they never go away. My mother worked 2 jobs and when she was home, she slept and rested. I barely saw her when I was growing up. The very first time it happened, my father called me into my parents’ room. My mother was at work. My baby sister was laying on their bed with him. He asked me to lay down with them. My baby sister, sound asleep, him and then me. He told me he heard that I just got my period and I was officially a woman now. A lot of changed happen when you become a woman, he said. So he had to inspect a few things to make sure everything was in order. That first time, he said he had to examine my breasts because they were growing and we had to make sure I didn’t have lumps that could lead to breast cancer. From that day on, when my mother was at work, he would call me into his room, fondle my breasts, suck on them and finger me in my private female parts. I would lay there stiff as a board and look away as he fingered me while he touched himself and rub his hard boner on me. I was so scared but he kept telling me that it was all to make sure I was developing properly and it was normal. He said to trust him and to keep this secret between us and don’t tell my mother. After every encounter, he would tell me I was being a “good girl”, wash my privates and go back to my room. In my room, I would just lay in my bed. Sometimes I went back to sleep, sometimes I would cry not knowing why, other times I was just so confused, I would stare at my ceiling for hours. I always felt disgusted and dirty and something deep down told me that it was wrong, but I was so conflicted because my father told me it was normal and that he was only doing it because he loved and cared for me. I remember finding my voice during those times and telling him I didn’t want it and would try to keep my legs crossed. He would then force me to open my legs and told me I liked and enjoyed it because I was getting wet. For the next few years, my own father would continue to violate and molest me with my sister sleeping on the other side of him, innocent and naïve of what was going on. I would often hold back any noises or tears bc I didn’t want her to wake up and see me. I would lay there frozen, holding back tears, feeling dirty and ashamed.
We lived with my half brothers and sisters for 3 years before my parents bought a new house and then it was the 4 of us again. Those 3 years were filled with a lot of yelling, fighting, hostility and violence. My father and eldest brother fought often and there was a lot of animosity in that house. I also tried warning my new half-sisters about my father but they never knew the extent of how much he was sexually abusing me. He would fondle their boobs and tried to grab them when he would “wake us up” during the weekends, but I know he didn’t do more than that. He probably knew they wouldn’t keep silent like I did. In front of the whole family, he would slobber kisses full of saliva on us and rub his hard boner when he would hug me and my older sisters. I always looked at my mom to see if she would notice how perverted, awkward and strange it was, but she turned a blind eye. She just put her head down or turned the other way. Despite the hostility in that house, I felt some sort of happiness because I lived in the same room as my sisters and I didn’t feel as alone. He also molested me less because it was hard to get me alone in his room with so many people living there. I thought there was hope he would stop.
We moved into a new house when I was 13, right before I graduated 8th grade, and my older siblings stayed in the old house. It was back to the 4 of us; my mother, father, younger sister and myself. I felt alone again. My father started molesting me more frequently again. This time, he would come into my room during the weekends, while my mother was in their room, under the guise that he was “waking me up”. Inside my head, I was cussing him out, screaming at him, yelling at him to stop, had enough courage to tell my mother what was going on… but on the outside I was frozen and silent while he stuck his disgusting fat fingers inside me and touching my breasts. Just minutes after violating me, he would tell me to wash up and go downstairs to cook breakfast for my family. That became a common weekend routine. I used to sit at our dining table wishing I could tell my mom everything, but something always held me back. I was filled with so much shame and consumed with so much guilt because I thought this was all my fault. There was something wrong with me right? Why would he do that to his own daughter? I always felt dirty and disgusted with myself. That feeling wouldn’t go away for a very long time.
While most teenagers loved the weekends, I hated and dreaded it because I knew my father was going to touch me. I loved school. It was where I felt safe. I hated being at the house. When I was there, I would lock myself in my room most of the time. Many times, I rehearsed telling my mom everything but I always held back because I wanted to protect her and my sister. They both loved my father so much. My father was a completely different person with my younger sister. That was his baby. He spoiled and did everything for her. Often times, I wish he would love me like he did my sister, not the twisted gross love he showed me.
To the outside world, I looked like the most perfect student. I did extremely well academically in school, was put in accelerated Math classes and was actively involved in extracurricular activities. I was in everything from JV and Varsity Volleyball, was my Freshman Class President, performed in High School musicals, was involved with my school and church choir, tutored students, and participated in tons of other school events and organizations. But I only did that to avoid home… which I thought was hell on earth.
On the outside, we looked like your typical middle class Asian household. Mother was a nurse. Father was an engineer. Middle class family with 2 cars, kids in private school, etc. On the inside, everyone else seemed normal and I acted as normal as possible. But I was dying inside. Despite being a great student that seemed innocent and naive, I lived a double life. I would sneak out and party with older kids. By the age of 14, I was smoking cigarettes, weed, drinking heavily and got really into dropping ecstacy and Special K (Ketamine). I loved those drugs. One pill a night turned into 2, 3, 4, 5 and even 2-3 quadruple stacks. I loved how getting high numbed me. It made me temporarily forget everything else that was happening in my life and just for that moment, I felt “happy”. In my “K holes”, I wouldn’t think about how fucked up my life and father was. So I chased those highs for years. I lived this double life all through high school.
When I was 14, I finally worked up the courage to meekly tell my mom what my father was doing to me. I told her that this was hard for me to tell her because I thought she loved my dad more than me. She reassured me that she loved me more. When my dad came home from work, she confronted him with me in the room. I was shaking, crying and ashamed. He vehemently denied it and twisted my words. He said he was only showing a father’s love and “kids these days are making love malicious”. He said I was misunderstanding, denied everything and basically made me look like I was lying and making up stories. My mother believed him. I tried to commit suicide that night. I swallowed a fist full of pain killers and tried to poison myself. All I remember was that my older half brother was there that night (I don’t remember why) and he tackled me down and forced me to throw up everything. He didn’t even ask me why I did it. I think he knew something was up but didn’t want to know the truth. I cried myself to sleep that… Same thing I did every night.
I already didn’t have a great relationship with my mother but after she turned her back on me, I knew I was on my own. My mom was never “motherly” or nurturing. She wasn’t very affectionate either. She was strict, practical and cold. She worked a lot when I was growing up. When she wasn’t working, she was sleeping and resting. That’s why my father had so much alone time with me. As a child, I yearned for her love and affection, but never got it. So I got used to it. I guess it was tough love. I learned at a very young age, after my innocence was taken away from me, that I couldn’t depend on anyone else but myself. I know my mom tried as much as she should, but growing up I resented her. I thought she would be the one to save me but for all those years, I felt like she turned a blind eye and turned her back on me when I needed her most.
As an adult, my independent mentality got me through a lot. It was the fuel to my fire and helped me over come so much. It was also detrimental to my relationships because I had severe trust issues and detachment. Now that I’m going through this healing part of my life, I know that I am not alone. God/the Source/the Universe… has always been with me. I also have an amazing support system of friends that I know I can trust.
During the years of my abuse, I spent a lot of time thinking of all the different ways I could die and kill myself. I also thought of ways I could kill my father. I had so much anger and hate towards him. A part of me also felt extreme sadness for him because he was sick. When I wasn’t with him, I thought I was strong. But the moment he was even remotely near me, I would cower. I was so ashamed at how weak and pathetic I was. I felt like I was in a prison that I couldn’t escape. I felt alone, guilty, ashamed and hopeless. I used to cut myself, attempt to OD on drugs and alcohol, starve myself… Somehow, I was never successful. There was always that tiny whisper in my head that told me to just hold on. For some reason, I hung on. A few times in high school I ended up in the Emergency Room for stomach pains and an ulcer. My mom attributed it to “being a girl that was trying too hard to get skinny.” Guess she didn’t see that I was so depressed, I just didn’t eat.
Growing up, my dad was always an angry and violent man. He got mad about everything. EVERYTHING! He even slapped my face so hard I bruised my cheek… all because I wasn’t doing the laundry fast enough and to his liking. My father thought everyone was against him. He’s probably the most negative person I know. He began hitting me when I talked back around 15 years old. He always yelled that I was ungrateful and disrespectful. No shit! How can I be thankful and respect someone who had no regard or respect for his own daughter. I would talk back to him a lot and provoke him to hit me. I wanted him to hit me. I thought that if he hit me, he would stop touching me. I’d rather get slapped, punched and kicked than violated.
Somehow I survived high school, graduated with honors and was accepted into a University an hour away from my house. I finally felt free. Away from my father and that hell house, I was happier. I made friends, got a boyfriend, worked, partied, and did things most college students do. My father also stopped molesting me. I guess he thought I would finally get brave and confront him. Maybe I just got too old for him. Whatever it was, the physical sexual abuse stopped, but I continued to suffer from the pain inside. The trauma I experienced for years would affect me for years to come, even until now.
In college, there was a support group for students who have been sexually assaulted and gone through trauma. I went in a few times but I was so ashamed. I tried to talk to a counselor but couldn’t bring myself to tell her the entire truth that it was my father who molested me, because my mother was still married to him and I still saw him every time I visited. I used to lie and say it was my uncle. I stopped going to counseling because I felt like a fraud for lying about that.
My father stopped physically molesting me by the time I went to college, but then he began to terrorize me in my dreams. All through college and up until I was about 25, I would have the worst nightmares and wake up sobbing, yelling violently, punching/kicking or all of the above. My boyfriend at that time would have to shake me awake or just hold me while I wept, never telling him the reason. I felt horrible for putting him through that. After a horrible drunken night in Las Vegas, I broke down and tried to tell him the whole truth. But I lied and said it was my uncle again. I was too ashamed to tell him it was my own father. My ex was patient and loving and as the years went by, those nightmares subsided. He may not know it, but I’m forever grateful for him. He was the first man in my life to ever make me feel safe and secure. He was the first man I ever felt truly vulnerable and intimate with on a deeper level.
From 25 to 27 years old, I was single and living life. I lived on my own, had a blossoming career and amazing friends. At 27, I left my corporate job to work for a startup company and driving from Orange County to Los Angeles every day. The drive was killing me, my expensive rent was killing me and I wasn’t making the same type of paycheck from my corporate days. I ended up having to move back to the house the haunted me when I was 27 just to survive financially. The good thing was that my dad didn’t touch me like before. The bad thing was that in those 2 years, I slowly started going into depression. I felt uneasy in that house. I was back in the same room that I had lived in all through high school. The same room that I was violated in for years. The room that I spent days and nights crying, contemplating ways to kill myself and wishing for death. My career was in a roller coaster as well and I felt myself going into a downward spiral of depression. I had to do something or else I would fall back into despair. If I didn’t leave, I probably would’ve killed myself. I actually started thinking about it a lot and that scared me. I didn’t want to go back to how I felt in high school.
A few months before my 29th birthday, my 8 month old nephew passed away suddenly from SIDS and my 6 month old niece passed away from complications she had from birth. It was a very sad and emotional time for my family. I was not at a good place. I was in a dark and desolate place at that time. One night I was partying and drinking with my friends, I started drinking very heavily, then smoked weed, popped mollies, did lines of cocaine, ate shrooms… whatever I could get my hands on to take to just numb me and make myself black out, I did. I wanted to hide, to run, to just not feel anything anymore. The last thing I remember was doing a hit of DMT and I went into the worst trip of my life and almost died from a drug over dose.
Miraculously, I survived and that was my wake-up call. I had to do something different, had to change something in my life, had to make a move, because the next time I wouldn’t be so lucky. I knew I had to do something drastic. A month after my 29th birthday, I took a one-way flight to the other coast and moved to Miami. I felt like I finally escaped. I felt like I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
For the first time in my life, I feel truly free to start a life that I want. I finally feel safe when I’m home. I feel like I have someplace to call “home” that I look forward coming back to. For the first time in my life, I have my own “home”. Something that I never thought I had. My last fond memory of “home” was when I lived in the Philippines with my relatives. Away from all my family, I have been able to focus on my career, my businesses and most importantly, myself. I’ve begun praying and meditating more. I’ve embarked on my spiritual journey and awakening. I feel that I’m revealing my inner light more and I’m finding peace. I’m slowly starting to heal.
Now I’m at a crossroads. I want to fully embrace myself and my purpose. I feel a calling to help others who have been in similar situations. To tell them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. That you can survive all that abuse and because a happy and full person. To tell them to never feel guilty or ashamed. To never be afraid to break away and do things differently. That there’s hope, love and peace waiting for them. That they can live a full and rich life. That their past doesn’t define them. I wish I had someone share their story with me when I was going through it. Maybe I wouldn’t have tried to kill myself so many times. Maybe I would’ve found better ways to cope and deal with my depression other than excessive drugs and drinking. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone. I want to spread my message, especially to minority women who are told to shut up and keep quiet all the time. To show them that they can overcome that, face their demons and use their past to fuel their fires. I want to help women heal and be a voice for those who can’t speak up. I’ve always felt that I was meant to do more and to help others. This is my calling. This is what I was truly put on this earth to do.
But I can’t do that unless I face my own demon. My mother is still married to my father. Although he has seemed to change and I act as normal as I can be around him when I go back to CA to visit, I feel like I’m living a lie. My dilemma is that my father has changed. I really don’t know when that happened but it did. Maybe it’s from getting older. I don’t know. It doesn’t excuse him from his past actions but it makes it difficult for me because he’s a loving father to my sister and a good husband to my mother. I still see him when I see my family. It’s always weird for me to pretend that all those years of sexual abuse never happened, but it seems like such a lifetime ago. Ignorance is bliss and I don’t want to take away my mom’s happiness. She’s sacrificed so much for me and my family. She’s finally at a comfortable place. She is about to retire in a few years and needs a companion. Her and my father are finally financially comfortable. They travel the world together and do everything together. I don’t want to rip that away from her. It feels selfish of me, especially because I don’t live nearby anymore. I also don’t want her to feel guilt or shame for something that happened years ago. I’ve actually forgiven my mom for choosing my dad over me when I tried telling her years ago. Sometimes I think my secret is a burden better left for me to bear.
I’m also so scared. I’m scared my mother will choose my dad over me again. I’m afraid to lose my family. I’m afraid to bring shame to my family. I’m afraid they will shun me. I’m finally starting to have a good relationship with my mother, something I’ve always wanted growing up… and this would just crush everything.
On the flip side… How can I empower other women when I can’t even confront my own monsters? I want to tell my mother and sister so badly but I feel like I’m being selfish. I don’t want to stir the pot and bring drama and shame to the family. I don’t want my mother to be alone as she retires and gets older. I don’t want to crush my sister who things the world of our dad. I’m so torn.
I’ve decided that it’s finally time I face my fears head on. It’s time that I put myself and my own well being first. I can’t keep thinking of other people before my own sanity. I’m going to tell my mom and my sister. I’m going to tell my half brothers and half sisters, my friends and the world. I have a story of healing to share. Childhood sexual abuse through incest is the least talked about and addressed issue because it is the most shameful. It breaks up the family unit and most people can’t accept that. This happens more than people admit or address. But we don’t have the exact numbers because no one likes to talk about. Add in my traditional Asian culture and family, where you don’t address problems and sweep it under the rug, and you are left with millions of victims that live their lives in silence and shadows. It’s a culture where women are not respected. Where abuse is rampant but the women are blamed. Where we are forced to just “take it”. But enough is enough! I will not be quiet. I am stronger now and can’t keep this burning secret inside me anymore. If I do, it’ll destroy me and drive me insane. It will affect my relationships and my well-being. I don’t want to be fake anymore. I want to live my true authentic life and be free from all of the burden I’ve kept internally for 21 years.
Another driving force to come out with this secret is that I have nieces. I’m scared for them. I don’t want anyone to ever go through the pain, shame, guilt and rejection that I did. No one should ever go through that kind of trauma. I would never be able to forgive myself if I stay quiet and something happens to them. I have the power to stop this vicious cycle now. I want to have children one day. I never want to expose them to my father. I don’t even want them to meet. I want to completely cut my father from my life. Seeing him and being around him just reminds me of all the pain, the horrible memories and fills me with such emptiness. I can’t keep living a lie anymore. I want to sever all ties and continue with this healing part of my life. I want to fill the darkness in my soul with light and love. I want to share my message of hope to other women and children. We are not alone. We can get through this. There is so much more to life. Once and for all, I’m finally going to exorcise my last demon.
It’s been over a month since I told my family and confronted by father. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions but I definitely feel much so lighter. A burden has been lifted off my shoulders and the heavy secret I have kept in my heart for so many years has been released. It’s an unbelievable feeling. Since then, I’ve been working on compassion, forgiveness and my relationship with my mom. I’ve cut my father from my life and I am moving forward with my life. I’m still in the healing process but I feel a calling to be an advocate for awareness for this issue and to help others.
It made me reflect on my life overall and I am unbelievably blessed. My past does not define me. I am not a VICTIM. I am not only a SURVIVOR but a THRIVER. From my trauma, I forged strength. From suffering, I grew to be the woman I am now. I became independent and goal oriented to prove to myself and others that whatever happened will never hold me back. Instead, I have used it as my FIRE FUEL. Whenever I felt sorry for myself, went through challenges and depression, I told myself, if a little girl can get through all those years of sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse… I can conquer ANYTHING! I have used my past to fuel the fire within and not feel sorry for myself. There is so much life to live and so much beauty in the world. The rest of my family is amazing and supportive. I have friends that I consider family. I travel the world. I experience happiness and love. My career continues to blossom. I would never wish what happened to me on anyone. It was disgusting, wrong and should not happen to anyone. However, I cannot change my past. Everything that has happened has made me who I am at this very moment. I can only control what happens in the present and create my own destiny. I choose to live a beautiful and fulfilling life, filled with love and helping other people who have endured that abuse to also live a beautiful life.
*If you would like to share your own story of strength, you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions will be anonymous unless otherwise specified.
I will be writing new content, giving updates and sharing other #StoryofStrength submissions from other SURVIVORS and THRIVERS regularly. Please subscribe to my mailing list to get updates and follow me on my journey: http://eepurl.com/cARpEr