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My dad is a Sex Offender… Stephanie (Elizabeth’s) story – as featured on HUFFPOST live

“Did you know that he had that on his computer?” She asked. “Yes, I knew. Both my mom and I have told him he needs to stop watching it,” I shakily replied.

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It was the summer before my sophomore year of high school, and to me, life was great.

My great life changed drastically one day I’ll never forget, when I woke up to a  knock at my door. I almost didn’t get up to answer it, but something in me told me I needed to. Right then and there I knew something was wrong when I saw the three police officers that stood there.

They asked me where my older brother Dustin was. I told them he was probably in is room (which he wasn’t). They then escorted me into my own house, sat me down and asked me if I knew why they were there. I didn’t, and so they so kindly explained that they had a search warrant to look around the house.

I was speechless as I sat there. I felt paralyzed and so struck by everything going on. They started to ask me basic things about my family like my name, where I went to school, what grade was I in etc. Eventually, they asked where my parents were and if they ever checked up on me. I told them that my parents were at work and they always called the same time everyday.

I remember watching the police officers go in and out of different rooms of my house, collecting items, taking pictures and talking to each other. After a while, one of the cops who was a woman took me to my room and asked me questions about my brother and dad. She asked how I felt about them and how my life at home was.

She said this was just between us, and I told her the truth.

“I love my family! I have a great brother and dad; they would never do anything to hurt me.”

She told me then why they were there.

“Did you know you father has child pornography on his computer?” She asked.

My heart sank. And my face burned. I dropped my head.

I did know.

I shakily replied. “My Mom and I both have told him he needs to stop watching…”

After that, she took me back out into the living room, and my brother was there, too. I sat in silence, staring outside at the silhouettes of people walking by. Dazed and scared for my family.

We waited for my mother and father to come home. When my mom spoke with them, it was like a mother bear protecting her cubs. Her yells and shouts echoed through the house. In the midst of her hysteria, she tried to comfort me, but I shoved her away.

I didn’t want to deal with the situation at hand, and I didn’t want to deal with her.

We had to answer more questions from the police officers, and then they left, putting my dad in the back seat.

At that point, my mom and brother melted down- screaming, yelling, throwing things, even throwing up.

My heart hurt worse than I ever thought it could. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe; as if I were being crushed by a massive weight. I wanted to scream, to cry, to do anything – but all I could do was curl up into a ball on my bed. I wished I could disappear.

My mother eventually came in wanting to talk to me about this. I said nothing in reply, kept calm and told my brother to take me to my friend’s house. That’s where I finally let myself go. I cried until I gasped for air.

From then on, I didn’t cry in front of people. I always tried to stay ‘in control,’ and wanted to be strong for my family. I knew life would never be the same.

My dad went to prison, my mom was the only one working, and the school year was about to begin.

My great life was now devastated. I was ruined and ashamed.

Things changed for me that year though.

I started to hang out with a lovely group of girls. I was encouraged to open up, to let myself cry, and to share my feelings and thoughts. It took me awhile at first, but once I did, I felt that crushing weight begin to lift off of my shoulders.

I then realized how much I truly resented and was disgusted by my dad. I decided to forgive him and everyone else involved. This was difficult, but I needed to do this in order to move on.

What also helped me immensely was gaining a new family in that lovely group. They were always there for me to give me advice, to be a shoulder to cry on, and most importantly, they showed me that they would always, no matter what, love me. Their love gave me strength – strength to get through school and to continue to forgive my dad.

Life is definitely different than what I would have expected it to be like before my dad became a registered sex offender. I am not able to see my dad because he can’t live with us at our house. The memories of that day can still bring tears to my eyes, but I know that my life does not have to be defined by his mistakes and by his shortcomings.

I know that I have my own unique purpose in life, and I know now that I can rise above this horrific circumstance. I know there is healing. I know there is hope.

I used to live in shame.
Now, I am lovely.

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