Disclaimer: This article contains references to disturbing childhood experiences. Reader discretion is advised.
Fear is a powerful emotion that shapes our behavior and can dictate the way that we live our lives. For those of us trapped in a cycle of fear, the pain can be relentless. I have lived with fear since early childhood, dodging its grasp and seeking a safer place. I am afraid to sleep, to be alone in my house, or to drive my car at night. My fear is deep-rooted in the memory I have of a night when I was young and robbed of my safety, security, and innocence.
When I was 5 years old, I went to bed innocently one night and woke up outside of my house in a stranger’s arms. It was the middle of the night and the street was dark. The silence overcame me, but I was too afraid to scream. I was disoriented and didn’t know where I was.
The man brought me into a more shaded area and forced me into his car. As the light in the car turned on, waves of panic shot through me. I realized for the first time in my life that I was truly alone.
That night, my innocence was lost to a pedophile who had found an unwilling victim. Police cars began closing in on us. My abductor threatened my life before leaving me alone in the street to be found by a family. I was taken to the hospital where I received care before being returned to my parents.
For several nights after the abduction, the man attempted to return to my home, presumably to take me again. Our family was forced to move to keep me safe. We ran away to protect me, and I spent most of my life running away from the memories of that night. Our family moved every year or two until I became an adult. After leaving home, I went to several colleges before leaving the country. I didn’t tell anyone about the abduction, and I kept myself as busy as possible to avoid thoughts and feelings that inevitably came to me when it was dark or when I was sleeping.
The brain is protective, and many memories and details escaped me within the early years of my childhood. I could not remember what my abductor looked like, and there were large gaps in my memory of things that had happened. Some of these gaps were filled in by family members, but many memories were lost.
I agonized over what I had forgotten. I cried over what I could remember. I was often triggered by a smell or a feeling without having the memory to associate with it. There are things that I did remember, like the car the man was driving. When I saw this particular model on the road as a child, I wondered if it was him and I had a sense of impending doom. During my adolescence, I collected pictures of missing children in folders in the hopes that I would recognize one of the children and be able to bring them home.
I am 51 years old now and have five children. Each of my children slept in my bed with me until they were 10 years old. I was too afraid to let them stay in their own rooms. The legacy of my abduction lives on in my children’s lives through the fears that I have passed down to them. My children all know what happened to me that night. They are sensitive to my fears and anxiety and it has made them more understanding towards others. My youngest daughter locks the door each night before we go to bed. She says that she does not want to be kidnapped like I was.
The memories and fears still haunt me to this day, but I am learning to live a fuller life by surrounding myself with friends and family that I can trust. I focus my life on my husband and children, and on being the best mom that I can be. Each summer when my children were little, I took us on a great adventure. We drove throughout Canada and the United States making memories and spending time together. My family gave me what I could not give myself: Healing. I still live with the fears that grew out of this experience, but I no longer let the memories haunt my life.