Experience, Strength and Hope
By Mary Paige Stroud
My experience in this forum I like to call Earth School commenced July 17, 1989. My parents divorced when I was not even 2 years old. The summer of 1994, by a court ordered visitation, I was sent to Mississippi to visit my bio-dad. During this visitation, an event happened that would change my life and set a course for the career I have chosen.
During this visit, I was sexually abused by my father. I disclosed this information to my mom, who immediately took me to our family doctor. An investigation by the South Carolina Department of Social Services confirmed my disclosure. The results of this finding and the divorce decree in the State of Tennessee placed my mother in the proverbial situation of a “rock and hard place” when Christmas visitation was scheduled. She could disobey the South Carolina Department of Social Services and allow me to visit or the State of Tennessee Divorce Decree which would land her a 10 day jail sentence for contempt of court.
The decision my mother faced, was one not unlike Solomon. She chose to disobey the Divorce Decree and face the 10 day jail sentence in order to protect me, her 5 year old daughter. She served the 10 days in the Davidson County Jail at CCA. Greater love hath no parent than one who goes to jail in order to protect her child.
Upon the finding of sexual abuse by the South Carolina Department of Social Services I was referred to counseling. My counselor was Sheryl Keating. As a 5 year old, I considered her an adult friend and our time together as playing. There was more to it than I realize. “Ms Sheryl” taught me a great deal in how to cope with and express my feelings with regard to my experience. These coping life skills are ones that I still apply in my everyday life as life skills. Ms. Sheryl taught me how to breathe, journal and express myself in a healthy manner.
I firmly believe it is because of my “play time” with Ms. Sheryl that I am able to deal in a healthy manner the events of the past, present and hope for the future. I am grateful for her and the skills taught to me at such a young age. I am able to live life on life’s terms in a healthy manner.
This lesson in Earth School has taught me that I want to give back that which has been given to me. My career of choice is to become a child psychologist specializing in abuse. I feel because of my own experience, there would be a connection and empathy towards the child that would enable them to trust me. The trust of an adult after being abused is paramount in healing and recovery from trauma.
Because of my experience, and the gift Ms. Sheryl gave to me, it is the desire of my heart to share my strength and hope with others. I believe to my core that becoming a child psychologist would be the next logical step in this Earth school; the student becomes the teacher.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.