I Was Sexually Abused as a Child for Years—Here’s How I Reclaimed My Power
When you put your secrets into the world, there's nothing people can hold over you.
This story is part of Health’s #RealLifeStrong series, where we are celebrating women who represent strength, resilience, and grace.
I am Satine Phoenix. I am a storyteller, a community leader, and a champion of positivity and inclusivity. This is my story. This is about the power of a woman telling the truth.
Every year on my dad’s birthday, I publicly call him out for molesting me when I was a child. It went on for nine years.
This is a truth I no longer keep secret, and one I talk about in LA Woman Rising, Nana Ghana's new documentary, which profiles 50 women as they wake up in the morning. What Nana has done is remarkable.
Here's why: I love the honesty of what women really are. Many times, we have to hide who we are as women to be accepted in the world. I talk openly about how my dad sexually abused me as a child because I believe we are more powerful when our secrets are not hidden. Part of my father’s power over me and my family was because of secrets. If you put your secrets out into the world, there’s nothing people can hold over you.
People have tried to shame me since I was little. I once told a friend about what my dad was doing to me. My friend told a teacher, who called the authorities. But that wasn’t the end of my story. My mother told me that if I pressed charges, I would be the one responsible for destroying the family. So I didn’t.
In my 20s, I did a lot of fun, crazy things. I became a stripper, and then I got into porn. And people would try to shame me for that. But now that I say these things out loud, I’ve found my own personal power.
I have my voice, and I shouldn’t be ashamed about what I've done, and especially what has been done to me. When you’re a kid and learning about your sexuality, and that normal experience is taken away from you, you keep looking to find it. I had to figure out who men were, and what men meant to me, where they were in my universe.
It wasn’t until I was 28 that I discovered what real platonic love was. He was my roommate at the time. He was so kind, and never took advantage of me. When I got to see that, I found out how good and trusting people can be.
As I discovered that platonic love, I no longer thought I was just an object to be used sexually. I had experienced all of my fantasies, and I was done. My 20s were for experimenting and exploring. Once I hit 30, I said that my life had to be different. I couldn’t stay in porn forever. I did it, and I have no regrets.
That’s when I decided to make the transition back into my art. The idea of this was easier than the application. I’m a classically trained artist but I had dropped out of art school. I had to learn how to draw again. It was starting from zero—no one knew I was an artist.
It wasn’t just art that I was into. It’s story. I’m now the co-author of a non-fiction book, The Action Heroine’s Journey, the co-author of three graphic novels, and I make my living telling and teaching stories as owner of my production company, Gilding Light. I’m teaching people how powerful it is to be the person who overcomes the darkness, and moves forward in their life.
After a lot of soul-searching, I’m now writing a book about how Dungeons and Dragons helped me through my trauma when I started playing in 1988. Nine years of trauma is hardcore. I think it makes sense that I created a character who was so strong, all she wanted to do was fight the monsters.
This year, I won’t be calling my father out on his birthday. Instead I'll be doing one of the most incredible charities of my life, Lost Odyssey: The Book of Knowledge. It’s a live Dungeons and Dragons experience that benefits The Autism Society of America, and I am so honored to be involved. I don’t want to taint this event at all—not even a little bit.
But I will call him out at some point. It’s like a balloon, it needs to be released.
It’s really scary to verbalize what you’ve gone through. But sometimes you have to practice. You have to say it over and over with no one listening. Then you say it to one person. You make a decision to say it to another. And another. Soon the shame you feel talking about it goes away.
It’s not going to be easy. But a good story usually isn't easy.
LA Woman Rising is available on iTunes. You can catch a screening in Los Angeles at Leammle Music Hall from 10/18 through 10/24; at Rita House on 10/18; at the West Hollywood Library on 10/19; at Little Prince LA on 10/20; and at The AllBright West Hollywood or Xelas Boyle Heights on 10/22.
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