Story Details

Sexual abuse survivor finds peace in forgiveness

forgiveness on Family - Heck was 6 years old when she said she was sexually abused by her father and at 8 by her uncle. Although she told her mother immediately about the abuse by her uncle, she kept the secret of what her father was doing to her until she was 14.

Her parents had divorced when Heck turned 10 and were living in different homes. However, during visitations with her dad the abuse continued. It wasn't until she began acting out in school, physically fighting with other children, that Heck finally told her mom. Her mother, Sandra Tompkins, didn't want to believe her daughter, but eventually she did, and her ex-husband, Steven Clark, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexually abusing his daughter.

For a long time Heck lived with the memories of what happened. She stayed away from her family, was married twice, and had three children by the time she was 27. Heck said she drank most of that time. Her father got her started at the age of 6 when he gave her a sippy cup full of Jack Daniel's and Coke. That was the same night he got her to perform a sex act on him from under the table during a card game with family and friends.

Heck said she never drank while she was pregnant or while her kids were awake. At the time she didn't think she had a problem. Now she recognizes she did. She was using alcohol to numb the memories of what had happened to her.

Without work the memories came flooding back. She remembers crying, a lot. One day she and her husband, Bill Heck, were arguing about it.

“It's not what happens in your life, it's how you handle it,” she said her husband told her.

Heck recalls at the time that made her angry and she felt he had no understanding of how horrible her life had been. But she eventually realized he was right. She decided to change her life, starting with the baby blanket she had carried with her since she was 5.

The blanket represented her past; she took it everywhere. She tried to throw it out several times and eventually cut it up, buried it in the trash, and then took the trash out so she couldn't retrieve it. It was after doing that that her nightmares stopped.

She started reaching out to her estranged family: first her mother, then her uncle, and eventually her father. Sending letters first, then eventually contacting them in person. It has not been easy.

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