Debra’s Story

“I’m glad to know there’s somebody who understands what it means to have your everything stripped from you.”

Debra was just 15 years old when the abuse began. “My father consoled me after the rape. He started brainwashing me with scripture from the Bible—Genesis Chapter 19. It was sick, and it continued off and on for 21 years.”

“There was so much brainwashing to the point where I didn’t even love myself.”

Survivor Debra poses, talks about recovering from sexual abuse.

It can be difficult for an individual to disclose sexual assault or abuse when they know the perpetrator. It can be especially difficult if the perpetrator is a family member. Victims of incest may be told by the perpetrator that what is happening is normal or happens in every family. The person being harmed may not even realize that it is a form of abuse. “[He told me] this is what kings and queens do. I believed this was just something that happened to children.”


A perpetrator who engages with a child in this way is committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. For Debra, one of these effects was dealing with substance use. “It made me feel like drugs were the only way out. I was looking for love in all the wrong places.” She has also dealt with feelings of guilt and shame and thoughts of suicide.

It took many years for Debra to come to terms with the abuse. “He made me believe that it was normal and we were meant to be together.” Once she was on her own, the hard work of healing began. As a way to recover from the experience, Debra wrote down her story. Her book, My Daddy, The Devil, and Me, describes her experience and the many challenges she faced. She hopes that sharing her story will help others who may feel alone. “My desire to help others is because I never heard anything on the radio or saw anything on T.V. That would have helped my situation at that time. There's uncountable victims in the grave at the hands of their abusers and can't speak out.”

Debra is one of seven survivors featured in the RAINN Survivor Series. Learn more about the campaign.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE and, y en español:

Eight out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim.

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