If someone were to look at my life now, they’d say I’m lucky. I have a loving husband, two daughters and a stepson. I’ve had the opportunity to pursue three college degrees and have started my own business. It may seem like I had it easy, but I climbed a mountain of obstacles to get here. I did not have an easy beginning. The terror of sexual abuse haunted my adolescence, but I didn’t let that stop me from rising above it all to make a better life for myself.
I was born in the US. My mother was Korean and my father American. My parents divorced when I was two. I lived with my mother at first, but before long I was stolen from her. My father kidnapped me. Once he had possession of me, he went to the court to gain custody of me. My mother was at disadvantage because she could not speak much English and was unable to fight back, so she lost. I lived in the Philippines for the next seven years with my father, his Filipino girlfriend and my adopted sister. Later, we moved to Georgia where I spent most of my teenage and young adult years.
My life, though not easy, would have been fine if there had been no sexual abuse. But sometimes things just go contrary to your wishes. My earliest memory of abuse is waking up at age three, and my father was touching me to pleasure himself. I was feeling uncomfortable, but I was too little to fight and too young to understand what was really going on. When I tried to get up, he ordered me to stay still, and I did what I was told. This torture went on for 17 years. Not only did my father use my body, but he allowed his friends and other male family members to use me as well.
I tried to get help a few times. The first time, I told my father’s girlfriend. But when she questioned him, he completely denied it. Then, he beat me up in the back of a car. The second time, I was 14 and I told his then wife. To make sure I got the message to never say anything to anyone again, my father put a gun to my head. I felt hopeless. I never thought he’d really kill me until that moment. I knew now where I stood with him. I got the message and stayed silent. I stayed silent until I turned 20.
I learned that my adopted Filipino sister, who was six years older than me, was going through the same hell. We confided in each other and planned an escape. We ran away from home one day when our father wasn’t home to stop us. My sister went on to live with her boyfriend in New Jersey, and I stayed with a friend in the same city.
It was scary. I knew that my father would try to find me, so I kept my whereabouts a secret from most of my friends to protect them. He threatened them and asked them to reveal where I was hiding. One friend ended up telling him out of fear. He came to the house I was hiding in. I didn’t want the friend who was sheltering me to get involved, so I went to the door to face him. I told him that I was leaving. I said, “I’m your daughter. I’m not your wife!” He left. Perhaps he finally realized what it meant to be a father; or perhaps he realized I had grown up to be able to defend myself. So, I thought it was over, until it turned out to be wishful thinking.
My father did leave me alone for a while. He moved to New Jersey to get in touch with my adopted sister who lived there. After some time, he tried to reach out to me again. I agreed to meet with him over dinner. At the end of the day, he was my father. I was raised by this man. Although I hated him, I loved him just as a daughter would love his father. I wanted to give him a chance to mend our relationship. I longed for a healthy father-daughter bond despite what he had done. Everything went well until he was dropping me off. It was like a switch in his brain flipped, and he didn’t want me to get out of the car. He grabbed me by my arm as I tried to escape. I was putting up a fight. If neighbors weren’t outside that night, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get away from his clutches and run inside.
I had to see my father one last time in 2002. My Filipino sister was getting married, and she invited me to the wedding. She was still in contact with our father, and he would be at the wedding, too. I think because she ran away so late in her life, she was still very dependent on him. She said to be in the wedding, I had to connect with my father. For her sake, I did. The wedding was beautiful, but I had to stay at my father’s place after it. While there, he tried to make sexual advances towards me again. That was the last time I’ve seen or spoken to him.
After running away, I tried to make a life for myself. I had nothing. At 20 years old, I became a blank piece of paper again. Yet I was ready to start afresh for whatever it would take. I could have wallowed in the victim label that life had handed me, but I refused to do that. Even though I had been abused most of my life and held prisoner by my father, I decided I was not going to let that break my spirit.
It was hard. I didn’t know what I wanted for myself. I had no idea what I could do or wanted to do for a living, so I tried everything. I worked as a server, a massage therapist, a maid, a telemarketer, and even as a funnel cake maker at festivals.
Finally, I decided to get an education to find my calling. I took a few college classes in Georgia, and then moved to Ohio to reconnect with my mother and meanwhile, further my studies at the University of Cincinnati. I graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, and marched on to pursue a Master’s degree in Human Resource Administration. My past has helped me become a more empathetic person. I found my interest in HR and started a profession in this area upon graduation.
Reuniting with my mother was a blessing. I didn’t have any contact with her for most of my childhood. I met with her at dinner once when I was 14, but it was only because my father was trying to get into contact with her about child support. After that, we didn’t speak until I moved to Ohio. The life I was forced to live was an ordeal, but I did not blame my mother for what I went through. We rebuilt our relationship. She financially supported me for my education.
A few years later, I went back to school for an MBA to better myself. After that, I continued my career in HR, and alongside it launched my own business in 2017 that focuses on helping improve the employee experience within companies. I discovered my passion.
And I found love, too. Along the way, I got married and had two children. My husband had a son that I have adopted. Though I have risen above my troubled past, I still have scars that come out from time to time. The early childhood memories still haunt me. But every time that happens, it strengthens my determination to be a good person and a strong mother. I didn’t have a hero to look up to, but I want to make sure my children do. I will be their hero. I will urge them to be strong, be courageous, and be good.
I believe that you should not hold onto your past. If you do, you’ll never move forward. If there’s a bad moment in my life, I let it pass and then try to move on from it. I refuse to dwell in negativity. I have a drive to make a difference, and I’m working every day to do so.
November 17, 2017
-This is the story of Tasha Turner-
Tasha works in Human Resources. She is also an entrepreneur, working to help companies improve their employee experience. She is survivor of sexual abuse by her father for the first 20 years of her life. She did not let her difficult childhood stop her from striving for success. She has two daughters, a stepson, and a husband she lives a happy life with in Ohio. In her spare time, Tasha likes to write poems. Here is one of her recent works: