When I was about 5 or 6 years old I started being molested by a family member. It’s usually a subject I can talk about, but I’ve never really been able to write openly about it. So I’ll give it a shot. My first memory is of being at a relative’s with all of my cousins; we would laugh and play all day. But at night when it was time to lay down, things became very uncomfortable. I realize now how powerful the mind is because there are things that my mind will not allow me to remember. And then there are things that no matter how hard I try to forget I can’t.
“You are so beautiful” he said and asked me to follow him into a separate room. I can’t forget the way he smelled or the pain that followed. I also remember how I would close my eyes and dream of beautiful things. How I was a princess, a pirate, a warrior. All things that made me strong and powerful. And when he was done, he pushed me away and told me to go lay down. In the morning when it was my turn to take a shower, I just stood in the hot water trying to scrub his smell away. I’m not sure how often it would happen after that but I know there were several incidents between the first and the last time. I remember saying that my mom was going to be mad because I my panties were dirty one night and how he told me I would be fine, how my mom knew all about our special times and she said it was ok. So when I went home and my mom said nothing about my filthy panties, I believed him. After a while it became routine. I knew by the way he looked at me and what he would whisper to me at the table what would happen when the lights went out. I tried so hard to fight sleep and stay awake, even talk to my older cousins thinking that eventually he would get tired and just fall asleep first. That very rarely happened.
As time went on I remember saying to him what they told us in school, that he is not suppose to touch me like that. He said that it was “only for people who didn’t have permission” and if I told, my parents would be mad at me because I was going to make everybody else jealous of how special I was. He also said that my other cousins were going to start getting mad because I was prettier and how he was teaching me to be a woman early. That the others wanted to know but he chose me. And then I started to notice how different my other family members behaved towards me. I was singled out not just by him but by the others and labeled a “favorite”. He would buy me extra candies and let me choose shows on TV to watch which lead to me being ignored and isolated. I finally got enough courage to say no to him when I was about 9 or 10. I remember yelling “I’m going to tell my daddy on you!” and he laughed. Then he grabbed me by my hair and threw me down and I do not remember the rest. What I do remember is even after he stopped it seemed as though I was marked. I became a target that other family, male and female “used” in situations that I am still not fully comfortable discussing.
Around the age of twelve I met this boy who was my neighbor’s brother. I had a big crush on him and he seemed to like me to and so when he said to me “I think you are so beautiful” there was an immediate raise in my pulse. I was so infatuated with the notion that he thought that I was special. It took about 6 months before he started to get angry about everything. If I was talking to another boy, if my friends were visiting, if I had on shorts. Attitude became arguments and before long he slapped me. He said I disrespected him by saying hello to the maintenance man. From then on things became more complicated. He would follow me places and pop up around my friends. He would yell about my clothes and call me a “bitch” or a “hoe”. I never understood what an abusive relationship was. My mom had a boyfriend that would hit her, but he would buy her flowers and candies and she would smile and I thought to myself, “that must be love”. So when it happened to me at 12 I couldn’t believe that after all I had experienced I had found someone who really loved me. Our relationship changed when he decided it was time for us to take things to the next level. For me all I knew of intimacy was pain and that was not something that I was eager to repeat. So I said no and he went into a rage. He grabbed me and choked me and threw me on the bed and he said “I guess you like things the hard way” I remember thinking “you have to find your place, go to that place, where you’re a princess, be a princess!” just when it was almost too late for me his sister came home. I rolled to the corner of the bed and laid there until he told me to go home. Later that night he said I wasn’t ready to be with him because I wasn’t a woman yet and when I was ready to be a women then to come find him. He’s dead now, I didn’t kill him, but I would like to shake the hand of the woman who did.
By the time I was 16 years old I was so damaged by my experiences I didn’t know how to communicate. My parents now knew what happened when I was young and I started counseling. The problem was I wasn’t ready for counseling because I was still being abused. By this time I was a functioning borderline alcoholic. I would take bottles of Pepsi and pour peppermint schnapps in it, in order to go to school. I couldn’t function without a drink, which started when I was 12 and by then I started smoking weed A LOT. With an altered state of mind became the only way I could interact with people. Not soon after there was a guy that I went to school with who use to ask to walk me home. He hung out with some of the guys in my neighborhood, so I thought it would be ok. I asked about him and everyone said how cool and funny he was. There was no reason for me to think anything was wrong. On the way home he kept telling me how pretty I was. I told him he was full of shit and I didn’t believe him. He said “you’re not just pretty, your beautiful even though your brown skinned”. I became nauseated, light headed and I began to sweat. But I never ran. He proved to be a misrepresentation of himself after a water fight he trapped me in a basement and tried to force himself on me in the laundy room. I was saved by a man that heard my muffled screams. He’s now on the sex offender registry for raping a young girl. I sometimes wonder how many girls like me did he trap in the basement?
Don’t get me wrong I have had some wonderful young men who came into my life during these times. Unfortunately I was so far gone, I couldn’t see them. I had a high school boyfriend that I wouldn’t allow to hold my hand the first year we were together. I feel bad at times because I took him through so much of my emotional baggage I wonder if he would ever forgive me. I just didn’t understand what I was going through or how to deal with it. So I drank and smoked it away. It became the only thing that comforted me. Drinking made it ok to fall asleep without nightmares. I would just drink till I would pass out. There’s not one place that I went between the ages of 12-19 that I wasn’t drunk or high. And nobody noticed.
I was about 18 when I decided to try and function in a real relationship. I wanted to be intimate on my terms. I was with someone I thought that I could trust. We knew each other a very long time and he was patient with me about how I would respond to him and my hang ups with affection. And at first it was great; I thought I had found a man who would love me forever and never hurt me. I told him I was pregnant and then he called me beautiful.
I was six months pregnant the first time he grabbed me by my hair and slammed my head into a wall. When our first child was 3 weeks old, he beat me till I passed out. I fought back but it really made no difference, he just became more stealth in his approach. He would turn all the lights out in the house because he knew I was afraid of the dark. He would step out behind me and laugh as I would scream and cry. He would hold me down and force me to be intimate and then afterwards tell me that I liked him being rough with me. He would cover my face with pillows as I slept and as I would gasp for air he would quiz me about my day’s activities. As it continued I started to isolate myself from any and everyone that cared about me. I would only see my family on holidays, I wouldn’t answer the phone, which I wasn’t allowed to do if he was home, because I didn’t want to explain to people why I wasn’t coming around. He knew the names, numbers and addresses of all my friends. He made it perfectly clear that our relationship was “till death do us part” and I believed him. I suffered two miscarriages due to the stress and the violence, I started to gain weight and my hair was falling out. I didn’t recognize myself. I became angry and bitter towards people. Especially happy ones. I just couldn’t be happy for other people, even the ones I loved. I didn’t understand what it was that I had done in my life that put me in the situation I had been in.
The fighting became so normal that our son would just get up and leave the room when it started, I could hear him close the door and turn his TV up. He would say to his little brother “don’t cry, it will be over soon, mommy’s been bad and daddy had to teach her a lesson”. As hard as it was I finally was able to get out of that situation. Things that happened in that relationship, I am ashamed to write, I have never repeated and I don’t try to think about. And yes the breakup in some ways was worse than the relationship. He was more violent in the first 2 years of us breaking up then he had been in the time we were together. It took him 3 years to stop checking my phone and calling back numbers he didn’t know, almost 5 years to stop treating my house as if it was still his. He would drive by in the middle of the night and knock at my window, to make sure I didn’t have company. It was a very stressful time.
We have been doing better with boundaries in the last couple of years. I know sometimes my friends who now know the majority of the truth struggle sometimes about the choices I make when it comes to my relationship with him. There are things I don’t force on him. He pays an amount of support that is very beneficial for him. And it has only been fairly recent that our intimate relationship has ended. He doesn’t take our children over night, for his own selfish reasons and I choose not to challenge that because I want my kids to be where they are wanted.
The truth was for as angry as I was as a child I am NOT a fighter. I did lots of it in my youth but it was never who I was. I fought because I didn’t know how to control my emotions. I couldn’t tell people that I was dying on the inside. I honestly have no fight left.
Once I became a mother, I had to change my habits. The drinking decreased to almost none and the smoking is nonexistent. And now that my children are out of a chaotic home situation I try hard to avoid drama. But this process has been a very slow one for me. I still haven’t gained enough courage to be in a relationship. I’ve become very self conscious and trust is a major issue for me. I have a terrifying fear of repeating my past mistakes. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not ready or just the fear of hearing a man say “you are so beautiful”, because I HATE that word.