Trigger Warnings: Rape, Child Abuse, Violence, Narcissism.
The first time it happened I was six years old and I told my mother.
I told her that he had touched me, and I didn’t like it, and that I cried, and I told him NO, I told him to Stop. I told her I was scared of him. I told her he hurt me. I told her that I didn’t want to go to school tomorrow because he would keep hurting me. I sat in the backseat of that dusty old sedan feeling the most complex emotions my tiny self had ever experienced, scared-used-shamed-guilty-dirty-sad, with teary eyes and a stomach ache and listened to the leaves on the trees overhead brushing the roof as she just stared at me in the rear-view mirror, it was the coldest look, she told me to buckle my seat-belt.
Maybe she doesn’t believe me. Maybe she thinks that I’m trying to make the teacher sound bad so that I won’t have to go to school. Maybe she thinks I’m a liar. This is so unfair. I’m not a liar.
I was sent to my room when we got home. We ate dinner in near-silence that night, I kept looking at my mother, pleading with my eyes What will happen? What will you do? Will you help me? She sat with pursed lips throughout the meal, she refused to eat. I ate a little, but I felt sick and asked to be excused early because I didn’t feel well.
It was the middle of the night and I was laying in bed not quite sleeping but drifting, I was trying to think of a way to I could show my mom the truth, so that my mom could believe me. I heard her slipper-ed feet padding down the hallway to my room, I may have sighed softly at the sound of my door creaking open, but I know my eyes remained closed. Then she was tearing the bedding off me, switching on the light, and taking my hairbrush to my exposed legs – smack, smack, smack, and I was writhing away in pain and crying out “Why? What’re you doing?” “Slut!” she pushed up my nightie and hit me across the thighs “Why?” I don’t know that word “Slut! You’re a slut!” I shouted “Help!” as loud as I could, and then shouted it again for good measure, she shoved a pillow into my face “Shut up! Shut up! You little slut!” she continued to hit me “You lying little whore!” I clawed at the pillow in a panic I’m going to suffocate, she’s finally actually going to kill me. My face is hot. I’m crying. I can’t breath. I feel myself go limp. She keeps hitting me. I feel myself wet the bed.
“What in gods name is going on?” my father bellows from my doorway. She stops instantly, the force behind the pillow goes away but I can’t move, I hear my fathers voice distressed “Oh Jesus Christ” I hear his footfalls heavy and fast as he runs over, he pulls the pillow from my face. The cool night air hits my face and I suck in huge lung fulls of it. I still can’t move, the tears are rolling silently down my cheeks and I can’t blink my vision is blurry with them. My father gives another, more relieved, “oh Jesus.” And then he’s leading her away. They go back to their room. I lie still for a long time.
I get out of bed and haul off the sheets, I clean myself up in the bathroom, I check for blood on my legs but only find scratches and welts, my wrists hurt, and when I look I can see bruises rising up. I feel nothing. I awkwardly wrap myself in my comforter and curl up on my bed. Nobody can hit me through this, it’s too thick, if she tries it won’t hurt me. She can’t hurt me now, I’ll be safe. Dad won’t let her get back up tonight anyway. And he doesn’t know where I live. I’ll be safe. I can sleep here. I can sleep here.
I remember this sequence often the nightmare is vivid and it wakes me up drenched in sweat and struggling to breath, crying. I find it strange that my brain manages to repress the worst of it while I’m awake – every time I get brave enough to try to focus in on the sexual abuse itself it’s like my brain swerves, flashing red lights go off “do not look behind the curtain” I remember just enough to know it happened, I remember bits of it. In therapy once or twice apparently I talked about in depth, I don’t remember doing so, but I believe my psychiatrist. But I remember all of the aftermath, the physical abuse, the denials and the name-calling. I remember that my father wouldn’t hug me anymore after that day. He was never big on hugging to start with, but after that, never again – I have no idea what my mother told him. I have no idea what she told herself, how she rationalized blaming a little girl for being molested.
I screamed and cried and bit her hands when she hauled me back into that school.
My period started a few months later, I woke up to blood and I had no idea what was happening to me. I went to my mother, and she told me that it shouldn’t be happening yet, but she gave me pads and vague directions on how to use them. She told me not to tell anybody, that nobody would understand. She told me it was probably because I was a slut, that it happened early for little girls who were dirty. My physical development from that point on was rapid, I had to start wearing a bra, my height increased rapidly and growing pains came with it, I towered over the other kids. I felt like a freak, but the other girls were jealous. I know now that this is called precocious puberty, and that it can be caused by childhood sexual abuse. It seemed so cruel that the moment I escaped his classroom my own body betrayed me and began to attract more attention that I didn’t know how to handle and did not want. But not his, I guess I wasn’t his type any more.
(Note: he wasn’t jailed on my account, I never found anybody who would listen. But he was a substitute teacher and he was caught at the next school he taught in, and he eventually went to prison. For the sake of my own mental health I haven’t sought any information recently.)