My name is Matthew Vanderford. I am a public adjuster. If you don’t know what that is, you can call me to find out or read more of my columns. Because this article isn’t about public adjusting.
My name is Matthew Vanderford. I am a father of four children. But this article isn’t about me being a dad either. Nor is it about being anything that anyone might think they know me as.
If you’ve read my columns here in Destin Life, you’d know that I work in the insurance industry. I write articles about insurance; stories of people affected by property damage and the ups and downs of filing insurance claims. You’d know the reason I pursued my insurance adjusting license was because I saw too many being taken advantage of; people with licenses saying things weren’t covered when they really were. But that’s not what this article is about.
My name is Matthew Vanderford. I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse. That’s what this article is about.
I don’t even know where to begin. I’m not even sure why this has to come out. But, it does.
I used to work in the cemetery business, dealing with the dead…although I was living, I felt so dead. Maybe that’s why I worked there. Perhaps I wanted to see if there was life beyond the grave, because inside, I was dead. Dead to myself; dead to the world around me; dead to those who I knew – or thought I knew … and empty. Dead because life was sucked out of me at such an early age. Dead because those I trusted turned their backs on me. Dead because I became a victim of those who were able to take advantage of a small child, who were able to use fear and aggression to make the quiet voice of this small boy even smaller…even quieter…even smaller and quieter still. Silenced.
My name is Matthew Vanderford. I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse. But that’s not what this article is about.
I was sexually abused as a child. I attempted suicide three times by age 13. I checked myself into rehab at age 16. I held a gun to my head at age 21, but was too afraid of ending up as a vegetable, sitting in a wheelchair, drool hanging from my chin—left in the care of those who already abused me and tossed me to the streets. I’m married. I have four children. I adjust insurance claims for policyholders. I’ve been hospitalized in my 40’s for suicide, because life got way too big. Way too big, way too fast for a small boy of three years old.
“Daddy, can you come and measure me?” my daughter playfully laughs as she hops across the dining room chairs. She stops me writing. It’s the second time this week she’s wanted to check.
“Three feet, four inches – you’re getting soo big!”
She dances in a circle. Hair and arms spinning in the air.
That’s what this article is about.
*Author’s Note: Trauma in life comes to all. Sometimes as children, sometimes as adults, and takes many different forms. But we all experience our own pain in life. My mom used to talk about Jonah of the Bible – how it was such a good story. When I asked her why, she replied, “Because he made it to the end – he got to write the story.” Well, in this way, I, too, like Jonah, get to tell my story – that I didn’t come this far only to come this far. That there is healing and that there is joy in this world. Joy that makes life worth living. Like the joy of watching my three-year old who is full of laughter and dance.
Editor’s note: More than 1 million children are victims of child abuse and neglect each year, according to state child protective service agencies. Many victims don’t receive help because they are not reported to the system. These abused and neglected children span all ages, races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. Child maltreatment includes actions that result in imminent risk of serious harm, death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child under age 18 by a parent or caretaker. Reporter information is confidential.
The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center is the best way to get abused kids all the services they need. If you know or suspect child abuse, please call the Florida Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.962.2873.