When I was 7 or 8, I was molested by my neighbour, a near quadriplegic, and his helper. This went on, as I remember it, for the duration of a summer, maybe longer, until I finally refused to go over there ever again.
The details of the abuse are unimportant-they are listed in various other places on this site, and are not much different from the stories many women carry.
What’s important to me today is explaining what the life left looked like. It’s National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, and I want to tell this part of my story. It always feels like a dream, like a story I made up. But the consequences of that summer have lingered.
For a very long time, I wouldn’t admit to myself what had happened. I knew what did. The images would replay in my head at night, or at other times when I should have been innocently discovering my body on my own. I’d have dreams about being abused by factory lines of robots, my body privy to anything, tied down and unable to move. Dreams that my body did not belong to me.
My body became a foreign organism, something I didn’t understand, something that didn’t work.
I told no one. He never told me not to, or rather, I don’t remember hearing those very words, but the implication was there. I had done something bad. No one would believe me. My parents had enough going on.
He lived right next door, his helped across the street. In truth, I think I was frightened of what could happen if I did tell.
So I told no one, and grew into a woman’s body too fast, and was lost within it.
In a way, I’m happy that I was unattractive, strange looking and just fucked up at 13 or 14. I didn’t have a chance to make those mistakes that girls usually make. The opportunity just wasn’t there. Unless you count the 19 year old I dated at 14, who was (obviously) after only one thing.
I finally admitted, out loud to someone that I had been abused when I was 16. A relative stranger. We were walking to the liquor store or some one’s house from a party, and she started talking about her own abuse. At first I whispered. She stopped and waited for me to finish speaking, asked me to speak louder.
I said I had never told a soul, except her now. She told me it would get better.
In a way, she was right. Once I was able to get the words out, the admit to someone my harsh dirty secret, it didn’t feel so bad. It didn’t feel like a rotten dream I was trying to put to bed. It felt real. It still felt fucking horrible, but it existed in someone else’s life now. My hatred for cherries, my discomfort around the disabled, it was real, and not just something frivolous on my part. She made it real. Breaking my silence made it real.
It didn’t make being touched any easier. I still dislike having anyone touch me, some days even my own husband. The right sequence of events can trigger a massive panic attack, except I can’t run away because my body never learned how, instead willing to lie there and accept what’s coming. When threatened, my body lays down to die instead of fighting. I wonder how much of my proclivities in terms of submission are truly mine, and how much is a product of being abused by two much older men.
This isn’t an easy post to write. I’m sitting here, my chest tightening, wanting to stop. But I won’t. I have never truly dealt with being abused. I have tried to, and have had nearly ever therapist or shrink blow me off since “it doesn’t seem that bad”. Becoming nauseous sometimes when touched-isn’t that “that bad”? Being unable many days to even kiss my husband, isn’t that “that bad”? Feeling like I should just suck it up, it wasn’t that bad, is that “that bad?”
It was a long time ago. The one bastard who did this to me, the cripple, he is long dead, and I sang a fervent joyous song in my heart when my father invited me to the funeral. The other still lives across from my father, helps him occasionally. The thought of that man seeing my small naked body as he talks to my father sickens me, and I hope that he sees those images as regret. I rather doubt it.
It’s one of the reasons I’ve been “home” once in 7 years. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear to see that man, I can’t bear to see that house, that yard, that place. That place where a chunk of my innocence was lost, was buried. The place that stole my love for cockleshells and cherries and birds.
I am still mad as hell, and would love to burn that place to the ground. I’m madder now knowing, looking at my daughters and understanding exactly what I lost. But I am freed somewhat from the shackles of that sick old man by using my voice, and refusing the silence he smothered me with.