In the process of writing this book, an extremely difficult journey that has taken years, I was taken to unfamiliar destinations and exposed to unfathomable pain. Part of that pain was learning that I was created through the atrocities of incest by a brutally manipulative monster and, while only moments old, denied by a heartless grandmother who never bothered to look at me. Another difficult truth is
First, the family matriarch, a prolific mother of ten, sets the tone for the women who would place their feet in the footprints of her journey, transforming her ancestry for generations to come. Her story sheds light on the transgressions she not only allowed but participated in.
Next, there is the girl who endured the death of her childhood at the hands of incest, abuse, betrayal, humiliation, rape, and the inevitable birth of a child. Well before puberty she was sexually exploited in her own home, her childhood, mind and body all repeatedly violated.
Then, there is me Catherine, I Am the Product of Rape—A Memoir. I am an adoptee, I am a daughter, and I am a mother of three. In search of my future, I found the weighted baggage of the past. Catholic Social Services documents helped to chronicle my life, as did the many conversations I have had over the years with sometimes very reluctant people―relatives, social workers, and paper pushers, all of whom seemed to guard my past as it floundered aimlessly, leaving lingering, unanswered questions. I found and met my mother well into my adulthood, listening intently as she exposed the atrocities which resulted in my birth. She transmitted the pain of a denied childhood to me like the nutrients fed to a fetus through an umbilical cord. My heritage lay bare; I was speechless as my mother's portrait of her sexual violation crushed me. I was faced with her reality, my subsequent reality, and with what was yet to come.
Finally, along this sexual-abuse sojourn, I unfortunately discovered my daughter's devastating experience. Crushing my very core, this revelation sent my life careening in another unexpected direction, straight through my children's lives into a fourth-generation nightmare. The ripple effects of demoralizing incest, the sexual slavery of serial rape, and the brutality of molestation go beyond their impact on the direct victims, transmitting a trauma that oozes generationally. I Am the Product of Rape- A Memoir is a story that intertwines the DNA of my family's bloodline.
I recognized that my family was not alone in its experiences. In coffee shop discussions, at restaurants, through emails, and during airplane conversations, I found incest, rape, and molestation to be shrouded in secrecy and buried in the psyches of many women. They however, were often interested in discussions, though almost always those discussions would be on behalf of a friend. Instinctively, in many cases, I believe some of these vulnerable victims were uncomfortable or unwilling to reveal their stories firsthand, owing to the shame, stigma, heaviness or guilt that make them reluctant to bring such ugliness to light. Often overlooked, excused, and even denied, abuse takes on infinite forms ― this is especially true of psychological abuse. Thus my daughter and I birthed I Am the Product of Rape—A Memoir to become the platform for victims.
Unlike those who came before us, my daughter and I believe victims deserve compassion, a chance to tell their own story, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing ― whether or not they can accept this truth at the present time ― that they're worthy, unique individuals with dignity and a purpose on this planet. After a while of partaking in these discussions I quickly discovered that 98% of respondents knew someone friend or relative who had been raped; 96% had been raped; 50% had unreported exposure of incest during childhood by a family member; 80% had not received mental health services but were willing to receive mental health services if their confidentiality would be maintained; 100% never reported incest, molestation or sexual assault to authorities; 40% were raped in marriage by their spouses; 100% had or have feelings of guilt and self-blame; 85% struggle in personal relationships; 20% were mothers of a child who raped his own sister and never sought help for the children nor themselves.
I can personally testify that I know there is a purpose in all that I've been through. The events described in I Am the Product of Rape—A Memoir led me to the great privilege of reaching out to others with a story in which, somehow, horror becomes hope. Lastly, as this book comes to its conclusion, and with the realization of my daughter’s unwarranted pain, I took comfort in realizing that together our life’s narrative includes advocating on behalf of victims of incest. We are dedicated to raising awareness regarding this and its related subjects, which are most often overlooked, or from which most people easily disconnect themselves. As my daughter and I take you through our journey, remember that we are committed to stopping the intergenerational trauma within our family and we are hopeful that this book and our message help to free others in some small way.
About the Authors
Catherine Wyatt-Morley is the founder, chief executive officer and heartbeat of Women On Maintaining Education and Nutrition, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit social service organization for the at-risk and HIV-positive community. In 1994, Wyatt-Morley founded Women On Reasons To Heal (W.O.R.T.H.), the first and what has become the oldest HIV-positive women’s support group in Middle Tennessee.
Wyatt-Morley has appeared in countless media outlets nationwide, including SELF Magazine, the Today Show, A&U Magazine, POZ Magazine, CNN, Voices of America, MSNBC, Talk America Radio, FX Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, the Palm Beach Post, the Indianapolis Indiana Recorder, the Los Angeles Times, the Canadian Sun, Nashville Scene, and the Tennessean.
Jalyon Welsh-Cole has been director of Women On Maintaining Education and Nutrition, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit social service organization, since 2010. Welsh-Cole began writing when she was very young, starting with short stories and poems. As a teen, she was inspired to draw, finding comfort and creativity in her art. She joined forces with Wyatt-Morley to share her story in I AM THE PRODUCT OF RAPE – A MEMOIR. Together, they also have created #HealingSecretHurts workshops, which bring the spectrum of traumatizing sexual assault into the light.