After 3 Decades, My Secret Told: Surviving a Different Kind of Abuse and Rescue
I’m a woman in my late 40s with a secret. I’ve never before told this secret. Lately, and because of a rescue I heard about on HereWomenTalk.com last year, I’ve felt the need to purge myself of this truth, but I’m bound by confidentiality laws and a court order not to reveal the names or details of those involved because some of the parties at that time were in high political office. Then it dawned on me, I can still tell my story, but with fictitious names. So after careful consideration, and many sleepless nights wondering if I should — if I could — do this, I’ve decided to reveal my secret.
When I was 12, I was rescued from my biological parents who were divorcing. My parents didn’t know how to be parents. I was told I would be placed in a home. I shared this information with someone I worked with at school (elective assistant). I was befriended by Joan, a 30-year-old married woman who took pity on me. At 13, I moved in with Joan and her husband Brad. At the age of 14, Joan and Brad, then a State official, legally adopted me.
Right from the beginning, Brad began abusing me sexually; Joan knew nothing about it. I was young, naïve, and scared. When I was 16, I reported the abuse to a licensed state health-care professional. Shortly thereafter, Brad asked Joan for a divorce, and guess who got legal custody of me. That’s right — Brad. I didn’t want to live with him, but Joan was too distraught to provide adequate care for me upon learning of Brad’s wish for a divorce and abuse of me. Joan moved out and to another state, and she left me with Brad, even though she knew he was abusing me.
I was left at their house to show it to prospective buyers until the house sold. Though I was scared to be there alone, I didn’t mind as it meant I would not have to fear him coming to my room at night. When the house sold, I was moved to a lake property for the summer. I was alone, had no phone and I had no income. Again, I was in survival mode and didn’t mind as I knew he would not be coming to my room at night. My every move was monitored. By this time, Brad was a federal employee in DC, traveling to and from where I was and where I had just left. He was seeing a woman who was a staff intern whom he met when he asked Joan for a divorce, which was not known at the time. I was moved to DC at the end of the year.
For a period of eight years, I was sexually abused by Brad. Also, when I was 15, I was raped by Brad’s best friend. I was isolated and controlled. I was forced to engage in fondling, intercourse, oral sex, etc. These events occurred both inside and outside the home and took place in at least five different states. Through coercion, threats, lies, terror and intimidation, Brad prevented me from disclosing this abuse.
The abuse became less frequent at this point because the intern Brad was seeing moved nearby in DC. The assaults only occurred when she was out of town. The last assault occurred one night in October 1983. I was raped for the last time. I had just turned 22, and afterward, I told a coworker, who in turn reported it to my employer.
While Brad, then my adopted father, was on an overnight business trip, I was quickly removed by my coworker, a congressional staffer, and relocated to a safe area in the city. The rape was reported to Brad’s employer by a press secretary and leaked to various high-level government employees. I was challenged about the allegations reported by others. This led to the assembly of a team of lawyers and experts who helped me pro bono, meaning free of charge.
A legal case ensued in two states and evidence was gathered. Discovery and depositions began and during the next three years, my course in life was forever changed. Brad was served a complaint on six counts with a motion for a protective order. During my deposition, Brad and his legal counsel used intimidation, hoping I would drop the case. Thankfully, I didn’t waver. I stood strong. I stood up for myself; something Brad wasn’t used to.
Eventually, the case was settled out of court to protect those who had helped me. I received a small financial settlement to cover the cost of counseling during the legal proceedings. The case remains sealed to this day, and the evidence gathered is locked away in a prestigious law firm in Washington, D.C. I am not allowed to discuss what happened with anyone except for medical professionals or a significant other. Today I often wish I could talk about my life and communicate openly about the hidden truth. But I’m bound by a gag order.
What’s become of Brad? He lives comfortably in the state of Florida with his second wife.
I’m doing well but I’ve never married or engaged in an intimate relationship with a man to this day. I don’t think I’m missing anything. It may seem like I dislike men, but that’s not true. Many good men helped me in my struggles and rescue, and I wish all good men the best in life.
I’ve relocated, legally changed my name, I’m gainfully employed, and I reconnected with my divorced biological parents in 1990. I enjoy volunteer work and look forward to learning and continued growth in my life. In fact, learning about anything and everything has been the key to my survival once I was freed.
This is the first time I’ve told my story. Beth Henley is a pseudonym. I’ve needed to tell this story for a long time. I invite you to share your thoughts. If you have experienced similar abuse, and you want to talk about it, I’m here to listen. And if you happen to be a young person going through a similar situation, tell as many people as you can until someone really hears you. You deserve help, and someone out there will help you.