Handling the Holidays

So often those who have been abused have a hard time during the holidays especially those who were abused by a family member during the holidays. A once happy time in your life was shattered when evil came into your life. Christmas can bring the reminder of the innocence of being young, families gathering, unwrapping presents, excitement over new toys, feeling love, joy, and happiness. Oh and of course eating too many christmas cookies including the ones you left with your letter to Santa.


Christmas can also be a painful reminder of how that excitement during Christmas eve or day was shattered when evil exposed itself to you. I had a lot of terrible things happen to me during the holidays. I was sexually abused on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas day. I can clearly remember where I was from my grandparents house, my aunt & uncle’s home, to in a car.

Tradition in our home since I was born was to open presents on Christmas Eve. So after we would ever returned from a big family gathering we came home to see what Santa brought us. One of those trips home to see what Santa brought us was spent in a car with my cousin molesting me. That entire trip home fear, anger, and confusion consumed me. I remember getting angry every time we approached a red light because it just gave him more time with me. I jumped out of that car so fast when my aunt & uncle dropped my sisters and I off. Usually it was jumping out to beat my sisters to the door because it was always a race to who could get inside first. This time in December 1997 it was getting out as fast as I could to get his hands off me. To this day I still get creeped out being alone with men in cars because there feels like there is no escape.

So when people ask me what is my favorite Christmas memory I tell them the Christmas of 1997. How could that be? That was the Christmas my cousin trapped me in an upstairs relatives house after chasing me through two bedrooms and eventually terrorized me just leaning against the door as I stood by the window looking up at the moon and stars in the sky praying to God please save me, please don’t let him hurt me. He just continued to grin at me against the door. You could tell he was loving every minute of knowing the fear he consumed me with. His smile across his face said it. I tried talking to him to distract him from the sick thoughts filling his head of what he was going to do to me. He said things I won’t repeat. He then started to step towards me and I feared he would take me into this attic off the room and abuse me…but by the Grace of God there was a knock at the door my uncle John said, “What are you guys doing in there and then my cousin unlocked the door?” My uncle John didn’t realize it but he was saving me from the horror I was about to experience. Suddenly that sick grin was replaced with frustration. You could tell my cousin’s plan was interrupted. After all he had worked hard to get me behind that door to begin with. I had already escaped one bedroom upstairs from him he just wouldn’t let me downstairs and kept moving in front of me from escaping downstairs until he got me back in a bedroom. We have family photos from this Christmas and there are so many pictures of everyone in the living room together the only people missing are myself and my cousin. In these pictures is the staircase that leads to the upstairs room where my cousin was terrorizing me. After my uncle interrupted he called all my other cousins upstairs to listen to this scary tape that was in the room my cousin trapped me in. You would of thought it was Halloween and not Christmas. So we sat in the dark with all my other cousins. I kept trying to sit in front of my older sister to keep my cousin from me but it didn’t work. He wanted what he was after and that was me. Soon I felt his hands going down my pants from behind me. I wanted to cry right there and kept inching my way up so he would leave me alone. Eventually after over ten minutes of this my uncle was back to check and see what we thought of the tape and I used the excuse it scared me to leave the room. What really scared me was my cousin I couldn’t even tell you what the tape was about my mind was too focused on the hands down my pants. He wasn’t done though. After I escaped I would find myself a little before midnight in a car with him, my sisters, his parents, and his siblings and not enough room for all of us in the car so my cousin encouraged me to just sit on his lap. Once again that smile on his face. I had no other choice of anywhere to sit and found myself in his lap once again his hands down the front of my pants. So you are probably wondering why is this my favorite Christmas? Because it was what happened after I ran out of that car racing for the front door that makes it so special.

After opening up one present after another with my sisters we ran downstairs to our stockings and there in a huge box with the words Trampoline. The one present we were always told we would never get because someone would get hurt. Kind of like the movie A Christmas Story “your going to shoot your eye out”. My dad felt someone would get hurt but mom had her way and always went above and beyond to make our Christmas every year special. Suddenly all the pain, fear, confusion, and anger I had felt was replaced with excitement, joy, and happiness. My sisters and I were screaming at the top of our lungs we were so excited. That Christmas started with a lot of pain and ended with a lot of joy.

I choose to treasure the positive outcome of that Christmas then the horror I endured that night. I don’t allow the holidays to be a sad reminder of the terror, tragedy, and pain I faced. I choose to be thankful on Thanksgiving each year not dreading it because it was a day I was abused. I choose to be filled with joy each Christmas Eve for the new memories I will create with my family and not dread it because I was abused repeatedly on that night  by someone I once loved.

I encourage people not to reflect on the bad that was done to you during the holidays but instead how you can spend this holiday to create new memories to one day reflect back on. I much rather remember the joy of seeing the words “Trampoline” on a box at 12 years old then remind myself of that sick grin smiling at me as I prayed looking up to a full moon asking God to save me or think of a cousin with his hands down my pants.

No we cannot erase painful things that happened during the holidays but don’t let it be a constant reminder to dread the holidays. You continue to let your abuser have control over you. In a sense it is like allowing them to steal another Christmas from you. Don’t give them that kind of power.

Celebrate, be grateful, surround yourself with the people that do support and love you, and create a new way of remembering the holidays. Create new family traditions this year. Do something that will stick out that you will remember 10 or 20 years from now that you will look back and laugh on.

Last Saturday I spent my family Christmas with my mom’s side of the family and I was asked to say my favorite Christmas memory and I shared the night I got the trampoline the same night I was molested. I choose to reflect on the positive and not the negative that came out of that night. Tonight I will create more memories as family and friends gather at our house for an ugly Christmas sweatshirt party, and then a peaceful and happy Christmas with my immediate family where I know we will share many laughs.



Christmas 1988 sisters with Santa.


Santa must of got my letter. My sister is handing me a doll.


Playing in the snow in 1992 I remember this day my sister lost her boot in the snow.


Christmas Eve my new barbie tent 1993


Sisters playing on the pond behind our house.


December 1997 6th grade class making gingerbread houses.


My parents always made Christmas so memorable!  Running through the door on Christmas Eve the year we got the big red canoe.

How are you going to make the holidays memorable and not a painful reminder?

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!


Featured Videos

Erin Merryn Founder of Erin's Law

November 29, 2017

Erin Talks with Oprah

October 2010