A resident of Vancouver, Wash., Jeanette Finn was born in Germany in 1963 while her father was stationed there courtesy of the U.S. Army.
After her 17-year-old mother discovered she was pregnant, Jeanette’s dad insisted the young woman get an abortion. When she refused because of her Catholic upbringing, the man decided she had to be the most trainable woman on earth that he had ever met, so he returned to America with his German girlfriend and their new daughter.
Her father remained in the picture until Jeanette was in her mid-20s. That’s when she finally told her mother about the horrible things her father had been doing to Jeanette for many years. The abuse started when she was 10 years old and continued for five years.
“My father was a charismatic narcissist and people liked him. Because he was accomplished at work, he was able to live a good life by making an above-average income,” Jeanette explained. “Since he was smart, my father helped me learn how to think and to use my brain.”
In her 50s, Jeanette wrote a book about her experience as a young sexual abuse victim. “Girl Distorted, Joy Returned: Journey to Innocent Again,” is a 120-page book to help women recover from the trauma of similar abuse.
“I want women to feel comfortable talking about what happened to them. It does not need to be a secret and they do not have to live with shame and guilt,” she explained.
The timing is right for a national discussion on sexual abuse of children, Jeanette explained. Thanks to societal attention on gender identity, youngsters are exposed to sexual topics much younger than they have been in the past. They are more frequently targeted for abuse, as well. In fact, some studies show as many as one out of every 20 boys and one out of every five girls are sexually abused before their 13th birthdays.
“I want people to be as comfortable talking about being abused as a child as some people are in having conversations about their gender,” she added.
Writing the book was a challenge simply because Jeanette originally wrote a 120,000-word memoir while she poured out her wounded soul on paper. Then, she pulled out the most-important messages and turned those into a book.
“I couldn’t have written a 20,000-word book without first writing the 120,000 words,” she explained. “There was a lot of healing involved in writing out my story.”
Writing the book was even more challenging because, at that time, her granddaughter was the same age Jeanette was when her abuse started.
“I didn’t even recognize some of the heart issues and confusion the trauma caused for me until I was able to compare my life at 10 years of age to my granddaughter’s,” she explained. “The experience also helped me better understand the direction I took my life as a young adult by embracing drinking, drugs and sex.
“When you’re being abused, your thinking gets distorted, but you don’t even realize it,” she added. “If someone had pulled me aside and explained that my behavior years ago was related to abuse I had experienced as a child, I would have denied it.”
Jeanette wrote the book to help women better understand they have a choice in how they respond to abuse they experienced. Hopefully, when they see how the experience influences present behavior, they’ll understand they have different options and can better process the world around them.
Jeanette had tried to dull her pain with alcohol for so long that she eventually became an alcoholic. Then, in the early 1990s, she made a decision to get sober. That process helped her realize how much the sexual abuse had influenced her behavior.
“I saw how drinking had been masking any pain I felt from being abused. That’s when I realized I needed to address the root problem,” she explained.
It’s also when Jeanette was told she had to write a book about her childhood experiences.
“I remember exactly where I was driving along Interstate 84 passing Lloyd Center Mall when I felt the presence of God. I could sense him telling me I was going to write a book that would help women who also had to go through a similar experience,” said Jeanette. “It took 20 years, but I got the book done.”
The problem of childhood sexual abuse is widely prevalent in America today. In fact, Jeanette said 50 percent of the women she encounters on speaking engagements tell her they, too, were abused sexually as children or teenagers.
Before getting sober, Jeanette’s drinking was taking its toll on her marriage. Even worse, she married someone who was a sexually-abusive narcissist like her father.
“It became so disruptive. My husband and I would drink and end up in fights. I told him why I had to stop drinking and he supported me until I became pregnant with our second child,” she explained. “Not only did he start drinking again, but he started sexually abusing me by watching porn and getting me to mimic what he saw.”
Eventually, her husband had an affair with a woman at work. Five years into Jeanette’s second round of sobriety, he came home with alcohol on his breath. Both Jeanette and her husband had described their battle with sobriety to their children and had pledged to them that they would never drink again. When he repeatedly showed up inebriated, it was time for a tough-love conversation.
“I asked him if he even loved me anymore and whether he wanted to continue the relationship,” she explained. “He suggested I would never be able to give him the type of relationship he needed, so he moved out and started living with his new girlfriend.”
Devastated by the rejection, Jeanette once again turned to alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine in what she describes as a three-year, non-stop pity party.
A new husband
During that period, Jeanette met her current husband online and had their first date at a bar. They were both drinking. However, he was a casual drinker who never used alcohol as a means of escape. She really liked the man, but had a hard time moving on with her life while still continuing to drink. She knew she had to regain her sobriety once again.
“Alcohol numbs you to living life in the fullest way you can,” she explained. “My sweetheart of a husband agreed to stop drinking with me because he knew if I kept drinking, I wouldn’t ever be able to stop.”
Jeanette celebrated her 10th year of sobriety in 2021. Today, neither of she or her husband wants anything to do with alcohol.
“I never would have finished my book if I had continued to drink,” she explained. “I would have continued to go down that slippery slope until I wound up in the gutter. I was over 50 when I finally got sober, so I know others can get sober at that age, too.”
A second book
Once Jeanette was able to clear her mind and purge her body from the devastating effects of alcoholism, she was able to think clearly once again. That’s when she decided to start writing a second book, “Innocent Again: Three Keys to Joy Restored After Childhood Sexual Abuse.”
In it, she describes steps she took to restore joy to her life by renewing her mind and reclaiming her true identity. Jeanette created a non-profit organization to support her efforts to bring healing to women who had experienced sexual abuse at any stage of their lives. She’s developing an online course to guide people along the steps to their recovery.
“By accepting donations, I am able to offer women free information to use in starting their own journeys to recovery,” she explained. “Women who go through my program are paying it forward to help others.”
Jeanette’s husband has been tremendously open and willing to help her work through some issues related to her abuse. She credited him for his demeanor on a recent trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, during spring break. Surrounded by scads of bikini-clad college students, he didn’t allow his eyes to wander, which also helped Jeanette process some flashbacks.
“It was hard watching all these sexualized college kids drinking to excess,” she explained. “I just wanted to go out and tell them, ‘Stop! This is how you’re going to end up in 10 years if you continue down this path.’”
Jeanette was 24 when she first started talking about the abuse she endured. In doing so, she didn’t want to hurt her mother; however, what she really wanted was an apology from her father. It would never come. In fact, he would blame her for the abuse that occurred.
“I wanted to sit down to tell him what he did was wrong. For years, he told me that’s what fathers do with their daughters,” Jeanette explained. “He told me that, in some countries, fathers teach their daughters about sex and mothers teach their sons because sex is the most important thing for a child to learn. It was an outright lie and I wanted him to know that, too.”
One day after her mother returned home following a business trip, Jeanette invited her to go out for lunch. Shortly after getting a booth at a nearby IHop restaurant, Jeanette’s father walked in the door and joined them.
“During the previous few months, I had already changed my demeanor and outlook on life. I suspect he was getting nervous about what was happening and what I might say. In earlier conversations, I hinted that I was in a phase of my recovery where I may need to discuss some things that happened in my past,” she explained. “After that, he never wanted my mother and I to be alone. In fact, after lunch, he confronted my mother in the parking lot and said he didn’t want my mom to see me anymore because I was dangerous.
“Shortly after I got home, my mother called me crying and asked if she could come over to see me,” said Jeanette. “When I open the door, she was sobbing and blurted out, ‘Just tell me. Did he abuse you?’
“That’s the most important aspect of childhood sexual abuse: the mother can never know what’s going on,” she explained. “But, deep down, mom probably suspects something is happening, yet she doesn’t want to address the ugliness of it all.”
Jeanette just hugged her mother close and admitted what happened. That initiated a healing process for both women that would take years to complete. However, after talking about the situation at length that day, and unbeknownst to Jeanette, her mother secretly made a decision that she would kill Jeanette’s father when he came home that night.
She concocted an elaborate plan to do so, but the man uncharacteristically arrived home four hours later than expected. That gave Jeanette’s mother enough time to rationally process the situation and come to the conclusion that if she went ahead with her plan, then Jeanette would be left with nobody to support her.
So, her mother went to a friend’s house instead and called her husband the next morning to tell him she knew what happened and she ordered him to leave the house. That’s when her father called Jeanette to say he wanted to meet with her in person.
They agreed to meet in a public place and when he got into Jeanette’s car, it was obvious he had been crying. Then he asked, “How could you hate us so much?”
Jeanette didn’t know what to say, but she didn’t back down either. She and her mother started seeing a counselor because a weird dynamic began impacting their own relationship to the point they were no longer communicating to each other in a healthy way.
The counselor instructed Jeanette to write out a detailed description of everything her father had done to her and how it made her feel. Then, Jeanette would have to read it to her mother.
At the next session, mom was already angry when she entered the office and explained she was jealous because she saw Jeanette as an adult woman had been intimate with her husband. However, the moment she saw Jeanette clinging to a therapy doll, her mother suddenly saw Jeanette as a scared 10-year-old girl. That changed everything as their relationship began to heal.
“It would be so good for mothers and daughters to go through an experience like that,” said Jeanette. “It’s raw, but it’s real and the healing that comes from it is indescribable.”
She envisions an #InnocentAgain movement where women felt free to share their own stories. Not only would it work to cleanse them of the shame and guilt they have likely been holding inside for years, it would tell other women and girls they are not alone in feeling the way they do.
“After that experience, I went on a real learning spree to discover as much as I could about the subject of childhood sexual abuse,” said Jeanette. “While knowledge is power, I realized I wasn’t getting anything done. I understood applied knowledge is even more powerful.”
She developed a website at www.innocentagain.com to help women renew, reclaim and restore themselves following the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. The site provides a variety of free resources to help women restore their joy so they can become innocent again.
Although her website isn’t financially self-sufficient, yet, and Jeanette has to work another job to help cover her living expenses, she absolutely loves the sense of purpose she feels in sharing her story and helping other women recover from the same type of trauma she experienced.
“The saddest aspect about their recovery process is that people think they have to dredge up an ugly, hurtful past and dig through a lot of painful memories, but I don’t think it has to be that way,” said Jeanette.
“You can learn to be healed, have joy and start living your life right now,” she added. “Then if something comes up while you’re living life that makes you really angry or that causes you to question your reaction to a situation, then you can see it through the eyes of trauma you experienced.
“But I want women to know they can have joy – right now – and truly enjoy life,” she added. “Then, they can undo any kinks in their thinking as they move through life.
“Jesus died so that you can be set free from your past, so let’s start living in that freedom,” said Jeanette. “When joy isn’t present in your life, then you can start asking what you’re still holding on to that is blocking you from experiencing joy in the moment.
“You can finally give voice to something so you can know what to forgive. That’s how you find true freedom and true joy,” she added. “It’s a process, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable one. There is joy on the other side, just like when having a baby.”
For more information, visit www.innocentagain.com. To connect with Jeanette, visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/renewreclaimrestore.
A Kindle version of her book “Innocent Again: 3 Keys to Joy Restored After Childhood Sexual Abuse” is available on Amazon.com.
Both books are available as eBooks for free on her website and as signed paperbacks for a donation.
If anyone orders Jeanette’s book by clicking on one of the links above, Forward From 50 may receive a small commission.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.