When a nightmare awoke 12-year-old Melissa Knight, she went to her father for comfort. Instead of consoling his daughter, he raped her - then threw her a dirty T-shirt to clean up with.
That first assault echoed through the next seven years of Knight's life, as the person who was supposed to protect her instead repeatedly ravished her body and her trust.
When Randy Stewart Akins leaves prison next month, Knight, now 27, will have to confront her worst fears.
"He put me through the worst hell of my life," she said. "I'm terrified."
With about 400 sex offenders living in Coos County, victims such as Knight often must live near their attackers, with little more than a court order to protect them. Fear, however, is no longer enough to silence Knight.
She approached The World to share her story with readers. She has a message for fellow victims:
"It's what happened to me. It's not a defining detail of who I am. It's a defining moment of my life.
"You can't let this one thing, this person, take away your life."
The first time Akins raped his daughter in their home outside Myrtle Point, his wife, Susan Knight, was in the hospital.
Susan Knight suffers from chronic pancreatitis, which swept her away from much of her daughter's childhood. She sometimes spent up to 21 days a month in the hospital receiving treatment.
Akins convinced his daughter that if she didn't have sex with him, he would go somewhere else for it, and the family would fall apart.
"In my mind I didn't have much of a choice," Knight said. "He had me convinced I was holding the family together."
After a while, Akins didn't wait until his wife was away. He would creep into his daughter's room in the attic.
"He just needed sex," Knight said.
"I just got through it. Closed my eyes and prayed it was done."
Akins' assaults weren't just sexual. When he found out Knight had a boyfriend, he thrashed her with a belt until her vision went blurry.
Knight often would distract her dad so he didn't take out his rage on her younger brother.
At 14, after her second abortion with Akins' child, Knight turned to drugs to get her through. Although she still has needle track marks between her toes, today Knight's two children and her desire to help others fill that role.
Knight's protective instinct is what ultimately put Akins in prison.
When she was 19, Akins, a long-haul truck driver, forced Knight to drive with him to West Virginia to pick up his new girlfriend.
After bringing the woman back to Coos Bay, Knight learned the couple was trying to gain custody of the girlfriend's two daughters.
"I wasn't going to let anyone go through the hell I went through," Knight said.
So Knight did what she had been afraid to do for so long: She told her mom and grandmother.
Knight recorded her dad talking nonchalantly about the sexual encounters. Her mom took the recording to police. Within a week, Akins was behind bars.
Knight was left reeling with emotions. She had to protect those girls, but she didn't want to put her dad in prison for life.
"I wasn't ready for it," she said. "He was still my dad."
The district attorney originally charged Akins with eight counts of first-degree rape and 11 counts of incest. But a plea deal sent him to prison for eight years, with 20 years of post-prison supervision, on one count of first-degree rape.
Akins will be released on Aug. 30. He has continued to deny his guilt. "You put an innocent man in prison," he wrote to Knight's mother.
After Akins went to prison, Knight continued to spiral down a black hole of self-destruction.
"I believed I was not worth anything."
Knight even turned to prostitution.
"I used to think sex was the only one thing I was good at because I had training at it," she said.
But with the birth of her first child, Knight changed direction. Akins had stolen her childhood, but she was not going to let the nightmares of her past steal her future.
Today, Knight lives with her boyfriend of two years and helps with the Coos County business he runs. She talks of returning to school to pursue a nursing degree, once her children are older.
She is clean and sober, and she has decided to use her experiences as a way to reach out.
"I've fought my way back to sanity," Knight said. "My kids and helping others are the best medicine."
Sitting in her gray country house, protected by a picket fence, Knight talks about a new dream: To give her two children a safe home.
"I've made it this far. I can make it through."
Reporter Meghan Walsh can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235; or at email@example.com.