“Here I go.”
I am generally a firmly closed book and keep things close to the chest, with lots of neatly filed boxes containing all of the events of my life. Because sometimes that is just what you have to do to make it through…
Once, I was a five-year-old, sassy, loud, fiercely independent, and questioning little girl who wore cowboy boots with dresses and was growing up in the Northwest. I ran through mountains barefoot, had baby goats, built rope swings in trees, swam in freezing lakes, threw dirt clods at my brother, and constantly had filthy feet and scraped knees. My family went to a church in town (I shudder even typing ‘church’), and at this church, my family became friends with a particular family that we spent quite a lot of time with; they had two kids, both older than me. We skied with them most weekends in the winter and hung out in the summer, and many times, I spent the night at their house if my parents were out of town or something. When I was almost six, one of the older ‘kids’ in this family starting abusing me…sexually.
It became more frequent and more violent as time went on, and some form of this happened usually once a week or more until I was ten when they all moved out of state. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times this happened. It happened at their home, my home, in public places, and many times at church. It was violent and sadistic, and I had no idea if it was normal or not normal or what to do about it. I never talked about it with anyone, and I just boxed it up. At the start, it was touching and watching and “games.” By the end, I was being raped (another word I don’t think I have ever typed, much less said) over and over and over with different objects – markers, rulers, curling irons, hairbrushes, wooden spoons, whatever was within reach. There has been permanent physical damage. I remember laying on a cold concrete floor of a basement, being in a dark church bathroom, a musty church closet, an attic, a public swimming pool…it happened anywhere, and I was terrified. And I lost myself over the years, not to be found again.
Life continued to spin on after that point, and I did all I could to just forget about these years of my life. I didn’t know what to do with them or how to categorize them in my head. I remember, at the age of 11, standing in our pasture working, looking up to a blue sky with huge, white clouds, and begging God above to just wipe my memory. I promised him I would be so good and would do absolutely anything if he would just make me forget. Needless to say, God and I have gone kind of downhill since then. And my memories certainly were not cleared. They playback in my mind in the vivid clarity, with colors, smells, sounds, and feelings that I would give anything to never sense again. Waking in the night, heart pounding, head spinning – it is like it will never ever stop.
My family was dysfunctional, but I had all of the basic things I needed, so for that, I am grateful. My father was a workaholic who struggled with depression and alcoholism, and all I ever wanted to do was have his approval. He beat my mom – always behind closed doors though. My mother was a narcissist with no self-esteem who, in trying to do her best, just can’t function in a healthy, non-codependent relationship. I was her only friend growing up, and she would routinely wake me up in the middle of the night to look at homes in other states that she and I could “run away to.” My older brother is a drug addict and alcoholic, and I haven’t seen him in years and rarely talk to him. My father committed suicide 5 years ago. My mother has decompensated, and I have to take care of her when I can, making emergency trips when she gets too close to the edge…
And my mother. She knew. I have to tell myself that there is no way she could have known the extent of what was happening or how long it went on because I don’t want to hate her with every fiber of my being. But when I was 17, one week before I was moving out of the home and away for college, she sat me down and said, “That thing that happened with *abuser’s name* – does that ever bother you?” I looked at her. Paused. Said, “Nope, I’m fine.” And carried on because what else was I supposed to do. We’ve never talked about it again.
Life has been really hard, sure, but I’ve managed. I excelled in school, got my bachelor’s degree, moved for graduate school, and have since graduated with my master’s degree and have a great job. I’ve done well there, earning promotions and making friends with colleagues, and I’m known as the independent woman, always smiling, always making people laugh, never saying no, and always working with the child abuse and sexual assault cases because “you just handle them well”… I own a house and a car. I have some close friends, and I generally do okay. I’ve had very few close relationships with men. As in zero if you’re looking for any bit of closeness past having sex and going on dates. I’ve struggled with things, alcohol, depression, bitterness, food, cutting and burning, not sleeping at times, only sleeping at times… All the things that I think are ridiculous and leave me just screaming at myself ‘pull your shit together’ on the inside.
Hope and peace are long gone, and I don’t know that this life can be salvaged or redeemed. It’s survival. But I have decided to try one last time to speak. Silence has become untenable, and I’ve faced the reality that it is destroying me. One of my favorite songs says, “I wanna set fear on fire and give dreaming a fair shot.” So. Here I go.”