From the time her stepfather began molesting her as a young child, all of Ashley Nicole Asher’s energy went toward avoiding the horrid facts of her life.
Six years after the abuse began, Ashley made an outcry—a report of the abuse—to her mother, but her mother took no action. The next day, a school friend noticed that Ashley was extremely distraught. After finding a note on a napkin in Ashley’s lunch that asked Ashley to apologize to Charlie for upsetting him, Ashley’s friend put 2-and-2 together and insisted that Ashley make an outcry to their trusted teacher.
This led to Child Protective Services removing 15-year-old Ashley from her mom and stepdad’s home and placing her with the biological father and his family, whom she had never known. However, just because she was taken from the home where the trauma occurred, she was not necessarily free of it.
Charlie, the molester, was in the Dallas area, at least a hundred miles away from Ashley’sdad’s home in Patience, Texas, but when she freaked out, Ashley hid in the pine wardrobe in her room. It was a large dresser with double doors that opened to drawers on the right side and a space for hanging clothes on the left.
To Ashley, this oversized piece of furniture represented a suitable substitute to her closet, which was her hiding place in family-of-origin’s home. In the dark, small space, she held her breath, just as she did when she watched for light around the door from inside her closet, where she’d pray with every cell in her body that Charlie would not open the door and discover her in the only place she felt safe.
Soon after Ashley arrived in Patience, she received a letter from her maternal grandmother in which the woman demanded that Ashley apologize to her parents for lying about being abused. Her grandmother was previously one of the most comforting people in Ashley’s life, and these harsh words sent Ashley spiraling into self-destruction. Inside the pine wardrobe, Ashley clawed her face and neck, created deep wounds, and dissociated.
When she popped back into awareness, her face was throbbing and her fingertips felt warm and wet. She was inside the wardrobe, staring at her hands, and she was surprised that her grandmother’s letter wasn’t still between her fingers.
Apparently she’d closed her door when she’d gone to her room. The wardrobe door opened slowly, and her stepmother, Bev, leaned in. She turned her face to the back wall of the dresser.
“Ashley? . . .Honey, I read the letter your grandmother sent you. Don’t pay attention to her. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She must not know the whole story. Can you hear me? Will you look at me, please?”
When Ashley faced her stepmother, the woman gasped at the self-inflicted injuries.
Ashley’s stepbrother, Ben, stood in the doorway. “What’s going on, Mom? Why’s she sitting in there like that? . . .Is that . . .blood on her face?”
“Ben, please go call your dad. Tell him we need him here.”
“Bev?” Ashley’s voice sounded to her like it was coming from someone else.
“Could you close the door, please?”
She did as Ashley asked, leaving the girl covered in darkness again.
Moments later, Ashley’s father, David, opened the wardrobe door all the way and spoke softly. “Hey, girl, looks like you did a job on your face. Come on out of there and we’ll get you cleaned up.”
Ashley didn’t move. She wanted to do as David asked, but she was so lost inside herself that she couldn’t even show him that she heard him. She questioned herself, knowing the truth about her mother and Charlie, but she experienced a collision between her ability to comprehend it and the horrifying reality of what she had been subjected to endure. She can’t stay around when the crashing happens; she has to get away, get inside herself so deeply that no one can touch her, even though they can.
David finally scooped Ashley out of the wardrobe, and when he picked her up, she thought he was Charlie. She kicked my legs, clawed at him, looked right through him, and screamed, “No! No, Charlie, no! Mama! Mama!”
David panicked. “Bev, we’ve got to get her some help. Ashley’s going to need a lot more than you and I can give her.”
The frightened parents chose an experienced psychologist from their list of insurance providers: Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews, Ph.D. Soon thereafter, Ashley began treatment with Dr. Matt, and she remained thus for the next four years. Now 19, Ashley is preparing to leave the safety of her parents’ home and the support of the Thursday Night Therapy Group. She will venture into the world on her own, as a freshman in college.