TRIGGER WARNING: rape mention, assault mention
I’ve been thinking about making a post like this for awhile, and I feel it’s important that I do. Too many of us are living as victims, sworn to secrecy by our own personal oaths. I can’t talk about that. That makes people uncomfortable. No one will love me, no one will see me the same. I know those thoughts. Too many of us hide this very substantial part of ourselves. The fact is, it happened. And it’s changed you. And you should not be ashamed of that.
This is my story. I really hope it makes you feel less alone.
I was molested by a close family friend when I was 9 years old. I think I was 9 – to be honest, I blacked out at the end and don’t remember the day very clearly. He was my childhood best-friends’ father, and he’d known me since I was an infant. This man, whom my parents trusted with the lives of their children, gruesomely violated both me and his own daughter one summer, and I had no idea what had happened to me. It took years for me to understand. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade when it finally hit me, once I’d taken a sex-ed class – that man assaulted me. It left me with lucid, cryptic dreams. Loud, muffled sounds, darkness, a feeling of disgust and invasion. I never understood it or made the connection. Not until recently.
I never told my parents. Not until my senior year of high school when my mother accidentally glimpsed at my open diary. “I didn’t want to read it it, but I saw the word assault and I had to.” They asked me why I never told them, how come I didn’t run away, wasn’t I ever taught what to do – and that was the thing. I wasn’t taught what to do. They say “good touch, bad touch, don’t let strangers touch there,” but no one ever tells a child what to do if someone makes you touch them. I remember a washed look coming over my therapist’s face when I told her that. “You’re right. They don’t teach you that.”
Two months after coming clean to my parents, that man died in a car accident.
I lost it after that. It all came crashing down – I had to address the reality and morbidity of my situation. Did I want him dead? No. I was torn. (Younger me was clearly more forgiving.) I felt sick for his daughter and the things she must have endured. I felt relief for her. And myself. I saw a counselor, was prescribed ridiculously strong meds for an 18 year-old, and plummeted into severe depression.
Rewind a couple years to when I was 14 – I had my first relationship. Given my backstory with sex, I wasn’t interested in anything remotely sexually intimate. The subject bored me and I was perfectly content saving myself for marriage. (Haaaa nice one, teenage Steph.) This boy, however, ended up being one of the worst things to ever happen to me – if not the worst.
Our relationship quickly became abusive. He cheated on me, told me I was ugly and that no one else could ever love me, and controlled everything I did. Upon telling me “all my friends think you’re ugly,” I began to cry – he then yelled at me for crying because it shouldn’t matter what they think, only what he thinks. We went to separate schools, so I suppose his insecurity drove his controlling behavior. I was not allowed to wear leggings. And at the end of the day, he’d call me and make me tell him each boy I talked to. If he didn’t like said boy or didn’t feel he was “safe,” he’d yell at me some more. His favorite words were “fucking stupid” and “cunt.”
Granted, I clearly entered the relationship with a bad backstory with sex and love and relationships. I was completely clueless. All I knew was that I was a girl and I was to do as my partner told. And so I did. This went on for nearly two years, with brief split-ups in between. I could never get away without him breaking down and threatening to commit suicide if I left him. He battered me into having sex and said it was sexy when I cried.
I could go on for hours about instances in which he was abusive, but I think I’ve made my point. By the age of 16, I was a shell of myself. I lost my friends because he’d never let me see them. My worth was whatever he said it was. I, a child, wholeheartedly wanted to die. I wanted to escape this hell. I developed self-harm tendencies (cutting, burning) and bulimia. I was falling apart at the seams.
Our final summer together, he came to my job and yelled at me in front of everyone, claiming that I’d cheated on him (because I friended a male coworker on Facebook). He demanded to see my phone. I demanded he stop, we’d talk later, and to please trust me. He hunted me down until I got on my break, shoved me as I tried to get away, and pushed me against a wall to scare me. He wanted my phone. I let him see it. When he found nothing of interest, he claimed I must’ve deleted the evidence.
I was calm the whole time. I don’t know how. That was my breaking point. I knew it had to end before it got any worse. In reality, I’d begun confiding in old concerned friends who caught glimpses of his actions. They told me someone else could love me. They told me he was wrong, that’s not what love is. I remember seeing my friends in healthy relationships and couples on TV and thinking, “wait – is that how it’s supposed to be?” Rumors began to spread of his abusive behavior. It wasn’t a secret anymore. I began feeling free.
The happiness I felt when it was all over – it was incomparable to anything I’ve ever experienced. I felt human again. There was sadness for the good times, those sweet moments that kept me holding on, but overall I was more myself than I’d been in years. Ignoring his sadness and incessant phone-calls was hard – I really had to dehumanize him to shut-off my internal empathy. I felt sorry for him and I really hoped he would change.
Now? I hate his fucking guts and hope he dies alone.
Kesha’s song “Praying” got me thinking about this. Of the two instances in which I was hurt, I’m not sure which person I loathe more. How do you find the strength to say “I hope you find your peace” to someone so vile? Is that good-heartedness or foolishness? Regardless, that song breaks me to pieces every time I hear it.
I don’t know if this helped you, but I think it helped me. I still get flash-backs. In fact, I get them now more than ever. It skewed my view on love, life, and sex. All my relationships have suffered from it. If you’ve ever broken down in hysterics during intimacy, I’m sorry. If you’ve ever touched something or felt something or even heard something that brought you back to those moments, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Having PTSD is like living with a land-mine for a heart. I understand, and I truly hope you find your happiness. This changed you, and that’s okay. Because you will use these wrongdoings to make you stronger, kinder, and wiser. And someone who truly loves you will never, ever look down on you for it.
The key to happiness is accepting the things in which you cannot control. Please, take care of yourselves. And, if it helps, feel free to share your stories with me too. You do not have to be silent.