Over twenty years ago I was physically, psychologically and sexually abused by four young men; over and over again. And I just wrote that sentence because this is a story no one wants to hear, and one which I don’t want to tell.
The summer I was to turn thirteen I was “kept” in a rural cabin by four males aged 16-19 for a period lasting somewhere between two weeks to just over three. I was twelve when it started and I was thirteen when it ended.
I wish this could be a traditional narrative, but my memory during that period isn’t complete. Only fragments exist. I’m thankful for that.
They liked to take away my glasses, because I was legally blind without them and I couldn’t tell what they were going to do; they liked me terrified. I remember being tied to the end of a bed, and at least one touching me, telling me what they were going to do to me. One of them had a knife, he always used to tell me he’d slit my throat while I slept. This time, as he touched me, I sobbed in terror; I couldn’t really see them, just blurs, but I could hear them breathing. This was toward the end. The leader got excited when he could turn innocence to terror. If I didn’t know what was going to happen, it would make it more fun, I guess. I had been verbally leading him away from things that did terrify me and pretending more fear than I had to get him sexually excited. I thought I was in control. Until he figured it out.
At first I prayed a lot. I believed that if I didn’t beg them, or start telling them anything I thought they wanted to hear, that God would save me. And every night, I would fail. I knew inside that God wasn’t saving me because I wasn’t good enough. He was watching, waiting for me to redeem myself. But I guess I never did.
Then I mentally ran away, leaving my body limp and as lifeless as possible behind. I just kept trying to “go away.” They could do what they wanted with my body if they would just leave the “me” alone. It wasn’t good enough. And they brought me back; with cold water.
They left once; they would come back at dark. I ran around, searching, trying to find some way to kill myself. I didn’t have much time. I was hysterical. I couldn’t think of anything. So I lay down, crying, and waited for them to return. I couldn’t figure out how to kill myself so I lay down and waited for them. I was well trained.
I am almost certain I eluded them once, squeezing into a crawlspace too small for them to follow. And I am as certain that I eventually returned, crawling back out because I didn’t know what else to do. I was scared. I was thirteen and believed, deep down, that someone, SOMEONE, would save me.
No one came. No one saved me. Eventually, they left. I didn’t survive. I didn’t do anything. They just weren’t interested in me anymore. I could hardly breathe with the combination of dread and overpowering fear that they would return. I STILL wake up with a whimpering scream thinking they have returned.
Back home, I put everything that happened during that time in a mental box and I closed the lid. I didn’t talk about it, I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t drink, or do drugs, or sleep around or enter the sex trade. I went to school; I worked hard and every so often I would try to die.
Years later, when I kept trying to drive Linda away and I didn’t know why, I opened the box. Like Pandora’s Box, it seemed like all the evil of the world was stored in there and it flew out into my life. There was anger and fear, desperation, despair and hurt. And there was a piece of me, who had been in that box, trapped forever in time with those four young men. If there is a hell, that is my hell.
This is a story no one wants to hear. I tried once when I was thirteen; but I must have been either incoherent or unbelievable. As for everyone else, it is not something people want to know about someone, not someone people work with, not someone people associate with, not even someone in your family. Just talking about it in our society means that thirteen year old girl was unclean and thus, there is “something wrong” with me. Danger!
But this time, society and ex-friends and ex-associates and even I am wrong: That twelve turning thirteen year old was not to blame, is not to blame, and should not be blamed by the desires and actions of four individuals. It wasn’t her fault. Did you hear me say that Linda? It wasn’t her fault. My church never spoke about sexual abuse; except to imply if not state that no “real Christians” ever got raped. God would save them.
God did not save me. And I have issues with authority figures....and bullies. So, that’s it. If there is a feminist lesson in my story, I missed it. I hate what happened to me. I hate that I have nightmares EVERY night. I hate that I will never be able to prosecute or find these men; I don’t even have their names. And I hate that it will happen to over a HUNDRED THOUSAND children this year. But I am glad that I have stopped my attempts to drive Linda away because deep down I was afraid she would know what a filthy little thing I am. Because I intentionally tried to find what language, attitude and body posture would placate or quickly interest and excite these young men in hopes that they would like me. And if they liked me, they might hurt me less. I felt that creating something which they would find acceptable, and which might end their interest in me quickly was better than waiting, at their control, to find out what form their “needs” would take. No, I was not a “good victim”, randomly raped at knifepoint but at times an enticing, if desperate, participant. How do you forgive that? And yet, it was not her fault.
I know that no one has the same experience or even the same emotional effects of a similar experience. And I don’t know what story another person has or how they are or are not dealing with it. My experience will continue to reverberate in my waking and sleeping life, probably for many years to come. It will affect how I interact with people, and how I see and treat myself. Yet, I opened the box to find the same thing that was left behind in Pandora’s Box once all the evils had fled. Hope. Hope that somehow, I will reclaim what they stole from me, and rebuild what they broke. Their biggest mistake was in not killing me. Because though it took me over twenty years, I just told my story. And that puts me one inch further away from them and one inch closer to a world in which one human being cannot do things like that to another; a world in which they will have no place.
22 hours ago