Tracy Ross Story: Mother, Daughter and Stepfather Confront Sexual Molestation for First Time

PHOTO: Tracy Ross stepfather Donnie
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A mother, a daughter and the stepfather who molested her as a child made a remarkable decision to discuss their family's three-decade-old secret fully for the first time on camera.

In a recent interview with "Nightline," Tracy Ross, her mother Doris and her stepfather Donnie sat down in Nederton, Colo., for their first interview together to address finally the betrayal that nearly destroyed their family. Ross's parents' last names were requested to be withheld to protect their privacy.

Tracy Ross, the senior editor of Backpacker Magazine, wrote a book about her harrowing childhood called, "The Source of All Things: A Memoir," released last month.

"The whole thing has been a revelation for me," she said.

Now 40, Ross was just 8 years old when the man she calls Dad, now 68, first molested her during a family camping trip in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. The molestation continued off and on throughout her adolescence.

"I asked myself, you know, how could I do this and cause all that pain," he said. "It's a terrible thing to have to own up to, to recognize and to go forward and try to solve it and try to get over and get through it."

Donnie and his daughter have been working hard to find a way forward. Donnie said he would do just about anything for Ross's forgiveness.

"I don't know another perpetrator who is doing what he was doing, I really don't," she said. "Who's engaged in this dialogue and saying, 'look, here I am. I am every guy possibly. Not the ogre, scary guy, and look what I was capable of doing?'"

Ross said she spent years angry and depressed, acting out sexually and experimenting with hard drugs. It was only after she became a wife and mother of two that she was overwhelmed with a need for answers from her father. She was ready to confront him. In 2007, she asked him to accompany her on a hike back into the Sawtooth Mountains to the campsite where the first incident happened.

While on that hike, Donnie confessed to Ross that he had molested her between "25 and 50 times" -- many more times than she had remembered.

"I told her that I'd be as truthful on things that she wanted to know about that I didn't, that she didn't know about," he said.

He told her that he sometimes "drugged" her while she slept. Ross believes this might explain her inability to recall each instance clearly.

"He would use my mom's sleeping pills to take me out of the equation, in a way," Ross said. "To knock me out so I, that he could, or so that he felt not traumatize me more."

"The Source of All Things," by Tracy Ross

Courtesy Free Press

Although Ross told her mother, Doris, what her father did immediately, she said her mother has struggled to face it for all these years.

"I just was oblivious," Doris said.

While Ross has been outspoken about forgiving her father, and even applauds his bravery for joining her in talking about the molestation, she said she is still "working on" forgiving her mother, who remains married to Donnie to this day.

"I'm very angry with myself and thinking 'where were you?'" Ross's mother said through tears. "Unbelievable shame at what, I didn't take care of my daughter."

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