Text from the tablecloth:

I have a picture of me with a black eye that was taken when I was 18. He constantly told me I was stupid, ugly, and fat -- that no one else would want me. Everything was my fault. I walked on eggshells, never knowing what would set him off. He isolated me from everyone else. I had no self-esteem. He had me believing I deserved the punches and the bruises and the black eyes. It wasn't until he hit my son, until I saw my baby standing there in his little footed pajamas with a bloody nose, that I found the strength to get out. Last summer, after twelve years, I tracked him down and confronted him. I've learned to respect myself and to expect others to respect me. I was 17 when my son was born. This year my son will graduate from high school and I'll graduate from College. I'm working, going to school, raising a teenager and teaching art to kids.  People tell me that I am strong because I turned my life around. I want to make a difference.

– Kim

I was seven the first time he raped me. I didn’t know what he was doing – I didn’t know where babies came from – I thought the stork brought them. I never lost my virginity, it was stolen. –Susan

When he started hitting the kids instead of just me, I left my kids with my mother and came here to look for work. I’ve been sleeping in a park since the day I got here. It’s hard to find a job when you don’t have an address or phone. How will they find you if you do get the job? If I can get into a shelter then maybe someone will call with work and I can get my kids back. ­– Bea

To My Six Children,
I was 12 years old the first time I became pregnant. Since then, one or more of you have always been with me. I think of you before I do anything. It wasn’t until recently that I began to think of my own needs and wants. In my 28 years I have seen much and overcome many hardships. But I never gave up my Dreams. I hope that my life will be a lesson for you. Listen to yourself. I thought of divorce for years and when I finally left I knew it was the right decision for you and for me. I never looked back or felt guilty. No one should live with someone who is abusive or demeaning. Hold your head high and be proud of yourself. You can do anything you put your mind to.
Your Loving Mother

He told me if I didn’t tell, he would take me to ride the neighbor’s horse. I was eleven years old and loved horses. – Julie

Don’t Be a Victim
Stand Up and Shout
Because If You Don’t
You May Never Get Out
Be Strong Be Strong
To Stay with an Abuser
No Matter What
Is Always Wrong
Get Out Get Out
Be a Survivor
And Look Ahead
Because If You Don’t
You Could Be Dead!
– Barb

 You took the most important thing in my life away from me and I cannot forgive you that. I consider you just another person on the street, a stranger. I don’t consider you my father anymore.

Leave me alone to die
If I must, cannot cry
Do not trust when I try
Turns to rust
Love was a lie
Left in dust

You say I make you mad
That’s why you hit me…
Who gets to hit you,
When you make me mad?

Abusers need to walk in their victim’s footsteps.

If only you could feel what I feel.

The sexual abuse started when I was four. It didn’t stop until I was seventeen. But the hurt, hate, and pain will never fully go away. He scarred my heart and soul for life. And I’m finally trying to get on with my life. I’m not going to let him ruin my life forever. No more fear, no more secrets. I am a survivor.

I was four. He was thirty.

He crushed my 12-year-old body into the dirt, I froze in terror as he groped at my shorts and underwear. He thrust his maleness into my soft folds of virgin femaleness. My body went limp. I couldn’t breathe. I felt dirty all over. I washed away the dirt and the memory for 35 years. And now I am free.

Stolen my first kiss along with my trust. You said you loved me, Grandpa. But now I know it was just a lie.

You are a monster! I hate you, Rick! Silenced for 9 years. He told me it made me feel good. I thought I was bad and so I couldn’t tell anyone. But I was wrong, He was at fault. I was 9 years old. He sexually molested me.

Summer 1945, 2 years old
I’ll be quiet Grandpa, I promise
I’ll do anything you say
Don’t open the attic door
Please don’t let the monster out
His touches became more and more frightening
Mommy make it go away
I want my daddy
1995, 52 years old
I finally found Healing, freedom, and courage

I was 36 years old – Controlled – Forced to keep secrets for 8 years.
I hurt my children, my precious babies, my most wonderful gift from God.
I failed you, my precious children. It took me too long to see what was happening to you and to me. It was a slow brainwashing. He poisoned our lives and I am responsible for your poisoned lives. How could I let this happen?
I became enmeshed
I was battered
I was abused
I hid behind him
I was afraid to leave, to grow, to change.
My children, I beg your forgiveness. I owe you much more than that. Please find it in your hearts to forgive your mother who sorrowfully lost her way for a time. Now I’m away from his clutches and I am stronger. Give me credit for having the courage to leave and make a better life for us. My love for you gave me the courage. I promise from this day forward to honor my commitment to God and to you and to take care of you and to let no one shake my path again.
I couldn’t love you more.

In Elementary School I learned to write my name, my colors, to count, to add. Subtract,
kiss a man, divide, multiply, about sex, to sing, to have sex, that cotton balls make good bunnies, what a penis is, to close my eyes tight, to hold my breath, cursive, art, to open my mouth when told to, to close my mouth. I’ve opened my mouth. I’m finally free. Tell Somebody.

The scars last longer than the actual abuse. Take it from someone who knows. Violence isn’t just skin deep; it stretches to the soul and the wounds take longer to heal. Physical wounds may heal, but the emotional scars can last forever.

He’s an alcoholic. When he drinks, he hits. Just cause he’s my husband doesn’t mean I have to say yes.

 Every child has the right to be safe and to be loved. I survived a very abusive childhood. My parents are still dysfunctional. I thank God for always being on my side. A silent prayer: I will not weep today nor reflect on yesterday. I will not be afraid nor shy away. I will be strong today.

Jamie’s Uncle didn’t seem to realize when he raped her, she could get pregnant. Congrats to the new Dad.

At the precious age of 8 Vicky is suffering psychological trauma due to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse brought on by her stepfather. Stop abusing the children.

He touched me, he hurt me. He  said it was OK. He was 40, I was 12.
Make it stop, make it all go away.

For once in my life, I shared my whole self with someone. I loved you so much. For my love, you gave back pain. You took everything I had. Your form of love turned me into someone living in constant pain, but I can’t get help because I can’t trust anyone. Every morning I have to push myself to live. I can’t get away from you. I close my eyes and it is all there. I live in fear of being close to people. Why did your form of love need to include beating me up and raping me? I didn’t know love could hurt so much. But you showed me that your love could be the worst thing there is. I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. No one does, not even you.

My uncle sexually abused me when I was ten. I was supposed to be able to trust him, but he stole that trust from me. It took me years to realize that it wasn’t my fault. I finally got back on my feet and felt strong again.

I lived with him for 15 years and never told. Please break the silence that I never could.

He was very jealous and would have fits if I was late coming home after work. I didn’t dare stop at the grocery store or to talk to a friend in the parking lot. One day I had to work late. When I got home and walked in the front door, the place was trashed. Furniture was turned over, pictures were ripped from the wall with the glass broken, dishes were smashed and lying on the living room floor. As I stood there in shock, the back door slammed open and there he stood, screaming, “Where have you been?” I turned around and ran back out the front door, jumped in my car and drove to a friend’s house. I was shaking so bad I could hardly hold the clutch in. I don’t think he thought I would leave. He was so surprised that I had time to get away. The next day while he was at work friends helped me get my clothes and some of my belongings, things that had belonged to my mother and my grandmother, but he broke up most everything that I cared about.

At first, when he told me that he wanted to take care of me, I was flattered. I didn’t realize that he wanted to isolate me from my friends and my family so I would be totally dependent on him. He was so insecure that he got jealous when I talked to my sister on the phone. He wouldn’t tell me if she called when I was at work and he would hang up on her if she called and he got to the phone before I did. After I left him, he stalked me. I was afraid to go out and I was afraid to be home alone. I couldn’t walk to my car alone after work because he might be there. I couldn’t go to the store alone because he would be leaning against my car when I came out. I lived in constant fear until he finally moved to another town. It’s been years, but I still catch myself checking the rear view mirror to be sure he isn’t following me.

Taber Museum • Williamsport Pennsylvania • October 7 - November 19, 2005