Article of the week: Tori Dante – Finding love, respect and freedom
3 July 2021
FEATURE I Stories of transformation
Major Rosemary Dawson continues a series in which she remembers some of the inspirational people she met while working on the War Cry
WATCHING her two daughters play happily with their father was a bittersweet experience for Tori Dante. She never had that normal father-daughter relationship. Tori’s father started to sexually abuse her when she was six years old. When she was 16, he raped her.
When I met Tori in July 2002 in Manchester, her father was serving an eight-year prison sentence for shameless indecency, assault, rape, unlawful sex and incest. She later discovered that the abuse also extended to her sister and other family members.
Tori became a Christian in 1996. Her faith, her family and her training as a counsellor helped her accept that her father no longer had any power over her.
From the age of nine, she realised that their relationship was different from those of other children. She was terrified of going to bed and dreaded hearing television theme tunes that started at 9pm, because that often signalled when her father might come to her room. After the rape, the abuse finally stopped.
Like other silent victims, Tori still bore emotional scars.
‘The wounds of physical abuse fade and heal,’ she said. ‘Sexual abuse leaves deep hidden wounds that are difficult to share. That’s why it’s good to encourage people to talk about it; it’s still very much a taboo subject.
‘Victims react differently. Some block it out altogether and don’t remember until their own children are born. Others go into denial, become promiscuous or can’t handle relationships.’
Rebellion was Tori’s way of reacting. She worked as a long-distance lorry driver and a club podium dancer and was heavily into punk and gothic rock. Casual relationships resulted in four abortions. She got into drugs because she didn’t like alcohol.
When a family member’s allegations against her father led to a police investigation, Tori finally began to feel liberated from what her father called ‘our little secret’.
Around that time she met her husband, Cameron, a musician and DJ. When she eventually told him her story, his angry reaction on her behalf was a new experience. No man had ever been concerned for her before.
In 1994 Cameron’s music group were recording in the same studios as a Christian band, the World Wide Message Tribe. When Cameron himself became a Christian his life changed so much that Tori began to think about God herself. But she found it hard to trust in God because to her he was another male figure – and she’d been betrayed by the dominant male role figure in her life.
Not wanting to lose Cameron, she went along to an introductory course about Christianity. To her amazement she heard a woman speaker who had been abused by her own father, yet had found peace and healing.
At another conference she heard about hurts and betrayals by fathers in past generations, and how Jesus came to Earth to take that hurt away. It was up to the individual to choose whether to accept God’s help. ‘It just clicked,’ she said.
This turning point didn’t come without its struggles. Her father had violated her body, mind and spirit, and destroyed her childhood. How could she forgive him – and herself?
Two harrowing years waiting for his trial to come to court also took its toll on her emotional wellbeing. Then, to her amazement and joy, Tori discovered that she was pregnant, which she hadn’t thought possible. She thanked God for this new life and asked forgiveness for the four abortions she had undergone.
What did she feel about her father when I met her?
‘Before, I hated him. Full stop. Now I just want him to say sorry for what he did to me, but he never has.’
Tori’s experience inevitably affected her thinking about God. ‘If I’m having a bad day, my mind blanks out “Father God”.
I never once went to my own father for help, so that concept is difficult for me. There are three persons in the Godhead, so I feel that God understands when I talk to Jesus instead.’
Tori’s own family relationships became the most important thing in her life: ‘My children know they are loved. I don’t want them to carry my emotional baggage around.
‘I want to help other victims of abuse come to terms with their past, and raise awareness in churches and the community. I look forward more than I look back. Love, respect and freedom – that’s what I want my children to remember me for.’
MAJOR DAWSON LIVES IN RETIREMENT IN ST AUSTELL
- Tori’s book Our Little Secret is available from amazon.co.uk priced £7.99 (plus postage and packing)
- Based on an article published in the War Cry, 27 July 2002
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood provides support for adult survivors in the UK. Call 0808 801 0331 or visit napac.org.uk