Your wedding day should be one of the most wonderful of your life -- and having your father walk you down the aisle should be a moment filled with love and respect. But it wasn't that way for Sharisse Smith, who describes how the man who walked her down the aisle, her father, was also the man who raped her at 13 years old.
Sharisse relates how her father offered to take "modeling" photos for her at 13 and then talked her into taking off her clothes. She says he then raped her.
She told her mother and at first her father denied it, but later confessed. The three of them went to a counselor, and they decided that the family unit -- one of the few intact ones in their neighborhood -- should stay together. Sharisse says her mother concluded that her dad was "sorry" and would never do it again.
I can't say this was the decision I would have made -- actually, hell no, it's the complete opposite. But I've never been in this position, thank the gods.
At 16, Sharisse says that she was about to take a shower when her father asked her to keep the door open so he could watch her "lather up," and when she angrily charged at him, her towel dropped. She then ran to her bedroom, crying hysterically. When her mother returned from work, she informed her she was leaving the house with a friend.
She never came back.
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But at 19, she was engaged. And then she asked her father -- the one who had raped her -- to walk her down the aisle. She explains the decision this way:
All I could think about was how incomplete my wedding pictures would look without my father in them. I had no brother, no uncle who could stand in. It had to be him.
Well, actually, no. It did not. No one "had" to walk her down the aisle. But Sharisse was only 19 and had horrific childhood trauma, so I imagine she wasn't thinking with the maturity and clarity that she would later on.
At the ceremony, she says she waited for someone to stop it -- to stop HIM from walking her down the aisle. But no one did. Because that was Sharisse's decision, and she was too confused and immature and traumatized to make it.
Within months of her marriage, Sharisse cheated on her husband and divorced him within a couple of years. She can't stand to look at the photos of her wedding -- with her rapist in them. Her father has died, and though she gave him her forgiveness on his deathbed, she says she did not mean it. She still hasn't forgiven him.
But hopefully Sharisse can forgive herself. She wanted a father. She wanted the wedding. She wanted a dad she could love and trust.
She just didn't have it at the time, and instead she tried for the image of it -- the fairytale, not the reality. That's not her fault.
Sometimes we all get reality and fantasy confused. But now she knows what truth is, and the first step to becoming comfortable with it is talking about it. Sharisse is very brave.
Have you ever invited a relative that you had a bad past with to an important event?
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