At different periods in Patricia's life, there have been life-saving moments she can pinpoint that lifted her through seemingly impossible situations. In her teens, for example, it was her faith and her daughter that rescued her from the depths. Before becoming pregnant, she'd been suicidal, the result of a lifetime of sexual abuse at the hands of her own father. And now she was carrying his child. Instead of breaking her, it motivated her. "When I had her, it gave me something to look after, something to love," Patricia says. Her child represented a hope she'd never known and she set out on her own to provide a safe, abuse-free upbringing for her daughter.
For years, she didn't speak about her life of rape and incest. While the Bible provided a moral compass, it also gave her shame. In her late 30s, however, that all changed. It was liberating to finally talk and elevated her another step above her abuse. "I had grown up with so much pain. It shifted the shame to him and not me." In her 40s, she flourished further, following a trip to Europe. She spent three weeks with her brother in Spain before taking an eight-day tour through six other countries by herself. It was life-altering. "My dad always took away my power, so it gave me a sense of 'I'm able to do anything I want. There's no need to be scared'." Up she ascended.
She even took in her three grandchildren, who came to her damaged and neglected. The grandmother didn't falter, mustering the strength to care for them while she continued to heal herself. As the children began to do better, so did she. A happy life out of the shadows of her upbringing seemed possible. But in her 50s, she was prompted to re-visit her father's abuse. Concerned he would hurt others, she went to police. In 2012, he was criminally charged. He pleaded guilty, DNA evidence linking him irrefutably to Patricia's daughter. It did not, however, provide any sense of victory or satisfaction. In fact, it knocked her back down to the basement she'd worked so hard to climb out of.
"It was a turning point for the worse. I didn't want to do it, but they say pedophiles don't change and I saw warning signs. Revenge was the last thing I wanted." A heavy burden of guilt and loneliness lingers, knowing her actions tore her family apart, alienated her siblings and put her dad – and old man – in jail. "As a victim, I lost every which way," she says.
Today, she perseveres, boosted by her religion and the fact her adult grandchildren are growing closer. A great-grandchild is also on the way, she shares with a smile. And after living in survival mode for so long, Patricia is finally taking the time to re-discover herself. She's started accessing her creative side again to unearth the artistic skills of her youth. It's a difficult and scary process, but one that, like all the other obstacles she’s faced, she knows she'll overcome. "I'm used to taking care of others, I'm not used to taking care of myself," Patricia says. "I'm trying to get back to who I am."