For abused, the healing comes from the telling
By Amy Blotcher Guerrero
Enterprise Staff Writer
BROCKTON – Sharon Simone’s father was an FBI agent and a nationally recognized authority on child abuse prevention and intervention. At home, however, he physically abused her three brothers and beat and sexually abused Simone and her three sisters over a period of 30 years. “You never knew what was going to happen,” Simone said. “I don’t ever remember being relaxed in the family.”
In 1990, Simone and one of her sisters sued their father, now 76, over he abuse and won a $2.3 million judgment against him in Denver District Court. Her father never appeared in court, but Simone was able to confront him when he was deposed.
Simone’s story was recently portrayed in the television movie “Ultimate Betrayal.” Marlo Thomas played the part of Simone.
Simone appeared at Christo’s II Thursday night to mark Victim Rights Week, admission to “And Evening with Sharon Simone,” was free and was attended by more that 100 people, most of whom either work with victims of abuse or are themselves recovering from abusive pasts. The audience was made up primarily of women, with about eight men present.
“Millions of people have seen my story,” she said. “I want to talk with the real people who are sharing the journey.”
During her talk, Simone responded to questions from members of the audience. “I am definitely wanting to tell my story,” Simone said at the conclusion of the event. “It helps other people and it helps me.” The message that she wants to bring to others is that “there is hope. It can be dealt with. It takes a long time but people can be healed and it’s worth it.”
Simone said that she has been in intensive psychotherapy to deal with the pain caused by the abuse since 1986. After eight years, “I feel whole. I don’t feel scared and traumatized. I don’t feel like it’s with me every minute anymore,” she said.
In her family, Simone, the eldest daughter, suffered physical and sexual abuse from the age of 2 until she was 5. She then somehow became her father’s “favorite,” and was spared the abuse that continued for her brothers and sisters.
A day after graduating from college, she married. Simone has six children and is a grandmother. In 1986, she began suffering nightmares and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as the deeply hidden memories of abuse slowly began to surface. Once therapy helped her become reacquainted with the past she had blotted out, Simone said she was motivated to undertake her lawsuit after reading about an 8-year-old girl named Susan from Beverly who had been digitally raped by her best friend’s father on two occasions.
The man received a suspended sentence but Simone was enraged when the judge in the case dismissed the gravity of the incidents. “I was volcanic, ranting, raving and screaming,” she said. The perpetrator, “doesn’t get to not know what he’s done to her soul,” she said she kept repeating.
After the trial, she said, many repressed memories surfaced. Winning the trial, was “very validating, very healing.” Yet, she said, bringing an abuser to court, an option not always available is not strictly necessary for healing. What is important is that the victim holds the abuser accountable for his or her actions.
Milestones along Simone’s path toward wholeness were reached when she was able to accept that she was indeed a victim, a label she had always resisted.
“It is an important step to admit that we were victimized,” she said. “We have to own the victim status.” Another big step was realizing the pain that she had caused her children, three of whom became suicidal. “Everyone who has been victimized ends up hurting other people,” she said. “I hurt my kids really badly. I had to wake up and see my denial and control as dangerous.”
Simone said that because there were no real boundaries in her home growing up, she was unable to set appropriate limits for her own children. At one point, she said, she even allowed her 16-year-old daughter to date a 26-year-old man. She said that her whole family has since benefited by her work to overcome her past.
Simone said that victims of abuse who undergo counseling should be aware of their level of pain during psychotherapy. It is most helpful if a person recovering has a sense that they are making progress. “I always did feel that I was moving, that I was getting somewhere, I just knew it,” she said.
Simone urged those present to call their congressmen and ask them to co-sponsor legislation HR 3964, the Child Abuse Accountability Act which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Pat Schroeder, D-Col., on Simone’s behalf. The bill would allow victims to attach the pensions of federal employees convicted of abuse in trials similar to the one Simone fought against her father.