Former Miss America, Marilyn Van Derbur, Paralyzed by Incest: Part Two in a Series

Part two in my discussion continues in my ongoing effort to educate people about how truly devastating child sexual abuse -especially incest- can be on the victim and the adult survivor.

Former Miss America, Marilyn Van derbur, was sexually abused by her father, including rape for almost thirteen years. Marilyn has written the wonderful book, Miss America by Day. In her book and in her public speeches, Marilyn has talked about being physically paralyzed from head to toe because of the incest. Marilyn’s paralysis was the unresolved incest issues using her body to say, “You are not over this yet. Deal with me.” This is only one aspect of the many physical problems that Marilyn had suffered because of her father raping her for so many years. How do you think Marilyn would react to being told while lying in bed completely paralyzed that she ought to just get up and “quit being a victim?’

Frank Fitzpatrick was sexually abused by Father James Porter as a child. Frank has publicly revealed how being sexually abused by a man created sexual confusion, causing Frank to feel that he might be gay or bisexual. 1  A person cannot just forget about the fact that they are dealing with sexual identity issues because an adult of the same sex forced their sexual degeneracy on them when they were a child.

Incest survivor,  Rachel Downing, was terribly sexually abused by her father, an Episcopal minister, and she says he killed Rachel’s animals in order to silence and punish her. As an adult, Rachel suffered from physical problems that were unable to be diagnosed, and she endured depression from the time she was a child. She went to the emergency hospital seventeen different times within three months for pain in her abdomen. Doctors eventually surgically opened her up in order to find the cause of her pain; they found nothing.  Should Rachel have just ignored the excruciating pain –a pain that sent her to the emergency room so many times? A pain that was caused by incest and torture? 2

How do you think this advice of “let it go” “move on with your life” “don’t allow it to affect you” would help the millions of survivors of child sexual abuse who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome? Maybe someone could help them to ‘simply stop’ having horrific nightmares, hours of insomnia every night, panic attacks, neurological problems, pain in their ears, flashbacks, feelings of having a short life span, and their memory problems? I’m sure they would appreciate being shown how they can just snap their fingers and make all of their daily hell go away.

Former Miss America, Marilyn Van derbur, seated with her family, Sept. 7, 1957, in Atlantic City, N.J.  (AP Photo)

Former Miss America, Marilyn Van derbur, seated with her family, Sept. 7, 1957, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo)

Miss America, Marilyn Van Derbur (center of photo), pushed her father’s rapes out of her mind until she was in her twenties.

“I wrote the book, not because I want someone to learn more about me but so readers can learn more about themselves. And so that loved ones can better understand the brutal recovery process and never again say, “just get over it.” ~Marilyn Van derbur  3



1. How Deep the Scars of Abuse? Some Victims Crippled; Others Stay Resilient, Sandra G. Boodman Washington Post, Monday, July 29, 2002; Page A01

2. A Flight of Mind, Pamela Oldham, The Washington Post, February 18, 2003, Page HE01)


To read part Three, click here

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