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MARILYN VAN DERBUR (ATLER)
MISS AMERICA 1958
HER INCEST STORY
One in three adult women is a victims of child sex abuse. Among their ranks is Marilyn Van Der Bur Atler, Miss America 1958. As such, her life was/is defined by 13 years of incest.
Marilyn Van Der Bur Atler, Miss America 1958 and incest survivor, was guest speaker at the Fourth Annual Awards Dinner of the former Safe & Sound, Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse. I attended the event as director and representative of the Family Support Program of Jamestown, Pennsylvania. Board member Jennifer Johnson also attended.
The date was April 7, 1993. However, Marilyn’s story is as relevant today as it was 21 years ago.
..the greatest accomplishment of my life—surviving incest.”***
How does a person survive being sexually violated as a child?
- The feelings of abuse of this kind, or any kind, are “too intense for a child to absorb; that’s why children split their minds”, explains Van Derbur.*
Marilyn’s survival was enabled by her ability to “split into a day child and a night child…Until I was 24-years-old I had absolutely no conscious knowledge of the traumas or the terrors of the night child. The more the night child came, the more the day child needed to excel.”
- People ask me why I didn’t tell what was happening to me. It was because I perceived no way out. A young child tells on her father and what happens? She’s taken away from her family. Her father goes to jail. The family is destroyed, and the message is, “It’s all your fault.”***