Lisa’s Story

Lisa's Story

  • Passionate
  • Caring
  • Tenacious
  • Determined
  • Intelligent

Without our faith, there is no story to tell. It was the only thing that carried us through.

Her ex-husband sexually abused their daughter. “No more shame. No more secrecy. No more silence.”

“No more shame. No more secrecy. No more silence.”

Two months after Lisa Gray divorced her ex-husband, she discovered that he had been sexually abusing her daughter Nikki throughout their seven-year marriage. The abuse started when Nikki was in third grade and continued until she was 15-years-old. With her best friend’s encouragement, Nikki told her mother about her step-father’s abuse after he moved out of their house. Lisa was shocked and ashamed to learn of the abuse.

“As it started to settle in, I replayed it in my mind. How could this happen? I had so much shame, so much guilt that I had brought this man into my house to molest my child. What kind of mother am I? The guilt and the shame were deafening—but at the same time I knew I had to do what was necessary for my daughter.”

Nikki felt ashamed because she believed she should have stopped the abuse earlier, but Lisa told her that it was not her fault. “I had talked to my children about stranger danger, but never had conversations about what happens if you have to have dinner every night with the person abusing you.”

Lisa and Nikki had a close relationship, so after learning of the abuse, Lisa was confused about why Nikki hadn’t disclosed earlier. When the abuse started, Nikki was too young to understand what was happening. As Nikki got older, the shame and humiliation she felt prevented her from disclosing. She was also trying to protect her mother.

They chose to report the abuse and found the local police helpful throughout the process. The case went to court, which became a year-long process that was extremely difficult for Nikki. Lisa notes the lengthy criminal trial process and how frustrating it can be for survivors at a time when they’re already vulnerable. “Once they’ve reached that spot where they’re willing to go public, they want something to be done. It seems to take an eternity.” Another issue with the length of many sexual abuse criminal trials is that the perpetrator may have the opportunity to continue to abuse other victims.

Lisa was not allowed to sit with Nikki to provide emotional support during the trial. She was surprised by the questions Nikki was asked, many of which she said were designed to find fault in Nikki’s story, which was hard to recall because it started in early childhood. “During the whole thing they were trying to intimidate her. My daughter suffered psychologically because we were in a small town and it became the talk of the town.” Throughout the year of the trial, Nikki became suicidal. Despite the difficulty of that time, Nikki is glad she sought justice. Her step-father was convicted and sentenced to 15-40 years in prison.

Because of the sexual abuse, Nikki has experienced PTSD and depression. Many survivors of sexual abuse experience these reactions to trauma, but what many don’t realize is that loved ones of survivors often face their own set of challenges, too. After learning of the abuse, Lisa experienced PTSD, depression, and an eating disorder. Lisa and Nikki have both found counseling helpful, and Lisa notes how important it is to find the right counselor for you, even if you need to meet a few to find a good fit.

Lisa’s healing process has been gradual, and she has found it helpful to talk through what she is feeling. “For me, I had to talk about it over and over again. Some people have to talk about it and some people don’t want to talk about it at all.” Lisa and Nikki’s connection to their faith and spirituality have also been crucial in both of their healing.

Lisa has channeled her pain into educating others on how to support survivors. “I want to prepare people for how to respond to someone who decides to share these personal and intimate details. Some people find it very hard to handle your hurt. They don’t want to hear about it because they don’t know how to cope with it.” She’s also passionate about teaching children correct names for their body parts early on and making sure they know they can always say “no.”

Lisa has dedicated her life to supporting and educating survivors and their loved ones. She recently published a book about her perspective and experience as the mother of a survivor, entitled They Don’t Tell: Child Abuse: A Mother’s Perspective, and is in the process of writing three more books.

Lisa works as a minister and runs seminars in churches and schools on healing from sexual abuse. She also has a radio program and founded the nonprofit Every Step Counts Ministries, which helps to raise awareness and educate about topics such as sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

Nikki is living a full and abundant life; she was married last year and will soon earn her nursing degree.

“More than anything else, we have to let the victim know that the guilt is not theirs. But we also have to forgive ourselves.”

Es difícil saber qué hacer, qué sentir y cuáles son sus opciones después de un abuso sexual.

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