Here at PhoenixFeatures.com we’ve had the honour of working with Siobhan over the last few years. We share a love of the image of the Phoenix – Siobhan named her charity the Phoenix Project and over at www.siobhanpyburn.com Siobhan is helping fellow victims of childhood abuse come to terms with their past and let go of any feelings of blame.
Siobhan’s father knew how to twist his abuse into a mind game, tricking his young daughter into thinking she was complicit in his abuse. It took years for Siobhan to understand his tricks.
Siobhan, 23, explains:
I was six when Dad first abused me – too young to know how wrong it was.
I lived with Mum. Dad visited at weekends. The abuse gradually increased in both frequency and severity.
For years I thought all dads did it to their little girls.
Dad made me believe I was complicit in the abuse and that everyone I loved would reject me if I spoke out.
After he’d abused me, he would buy me a treat – fish and chips, a book or a CD. As time went on I learnt the only way to get what I wanted was to let him ‘itch’ me – that’s what he called the abuse.
‘Everybody would hate you if you tell anyone,’ he’d say. I believed him. ‘Your mother would disown you and I’d commit suicide,’ he threatened.
The trade system he set up – rewarding me for not resisting or reporting his abuse – contributed to me feeling guilty for what he was doing.
Then Dad got cancer. He told me the things he did to me would help him recover.
I didn’t want my dad to die. I didn’t understand.
But around age ten, I realised it was wrong and I didn’t want to do it anymore.
A few years later, I got a boyfriend. Dad said I could only see him if I let him do his thing first.
It was a vicious circle: the more I was abused the more I needed my boyfriend and the more I saw him the more I got abused.
When I was 15, Mum was talking about a case of child abuse and I just couldn’t let the conversation move away from it.
Eventually Mum asked why I was asking so many questions.
‘Your dad isn’t doing anything to you, is he?’ she said. I nodded and that was it. The police were called and Dad was arrested.
In May 2007, my dad, then 74, was convicted of 11 charges of indecent assault, having sexual activity with a child and causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
He was given a three-year jail sentence.
It was good to see him quivering in fear awaiting the sentence. He looked like a weak, dirty old man as opposed to the big scary monster that I’d seen him as up until that point.
Despite the short sentence, I tried to get on with my life.
In 2011, I decided to write to him. I told him everything I’d ever wanted to say to him.
He replied, but I didn’t care what he said. I wasn’t interested in engaging with him. I had my closure in being able to say my piece at last.
It took me years to realise the importance of not letting myself have an all-consuming hatred of him. I also had to learn that what happened was 100% his fault, not mine.
Dad’s tricks and mind games are exactly why I want to tell my story – I want others to know they are not at fault and they can make it stop too.