We would watch sunsets in your car while listening to U2. You would speak to me of marriage and I would smile and nod as if it was what I wanted. We would cook for hours and hours; you were my teacher, and I trusted you with my heart. You would stand behind me, supervising, holding my hips as if we were a couple. We took cooking classes together and everyone there thought we were together. How though, I have no idea. You were in your thirties and I was about fourteen years old.
Perhaps age is just a number in their eyes.
Perhaps I thought the same.
Your wife and son considered me family. It was mutual. Your son was like a little brother to me. I felt cared about and loved by your family and that includes you. I thought you loved me and I thought I loved you. I guess that’s what made things so complicated, your gentleness and warmth seemed so genuine.
Unfortunately it was all just a front.
I’m not sure what made me tell my sister about you. I had been staring out my bedroom window, stuck in a daze. I was probably dissociating. Then I went downstairs and as soon as I interacted with people, I started crying. I ran up the stairs as fast as I could and paced around my bedroom. What was happening to me? What did I have to be upset about? My sister appeared moments later. We sat on my bed as I struggled to find my words. Finally I said it.
You have been sexually abusing me for 3 years. There, I said it.
What happened for the rest of the day, and for the following few months, was a giant blur. I remember the police officers being extremely insensitive, demanding my story as if it was so simple to tell. I remember having a child advocate who just sat there next to me, without saying a word. I remember my dad, accompanying me to all of my appointments in regards to the court case. Most of all, I remember hearing your defense.
You said I wanted it. You said it was mutual. You said I never said no. I was asked what my argument was against that claim. What was my argument?
I had no answer. My traumatized brain was overwhelmed with guilt and self-blame. I had no fight left, I just wanted to get this over with. As I told my story over and over again, writing it down with detail, all for strangers to judge, I felt paralyzed with fear and anxiety. What have I done? I am ruining his life. I am ruining his son’s life. What does his wife think? What will happen from here?
When I found out what I had to do in court, I panicked. There was no way I was facing you. There was no way I was facing a bunch of strangers, for the millionth time. All just to hear there isn’t enough evidence to throw you in jail. So I did what was best for me. We discussed a plea bargain. Basically you got away with those 3 years with minimal punishment, all because you admitted it was true.
To this day, I don’t understand anything that happened with this court case. I’m not sure I want to figure it out.
I still remember those late nights, watching old films in your office room on the pull-out couch. I still have some of those gifts you gave me, all cow-themed, because cows were my favorite animal. I still think of you and wonder how you’re doing and what you are up to.
I’m still haunted by your hands, whispers on my skin that left permanent marks, almost like shadow scars.
I hate to say I somewhat miss you. It feels like heartbreak, like I’ve loved and lost. I hate reminders of you because I don’t know whether to smile or cringe. The other day I Googled you. You are in China somewhere. That’s all I understood. I saw a picture of you. I threw my phone on the floor as if I saw a ghost. I’m not sure why it was such a shock. I guess since I haven’t seen your face in years, it was as if your picture brought back the past. I was immediately fourteen years old again, baby-faced and naive, scared and vulnerable.
You took advantage of that.
What is it like to feel loved by someone who is abusive? It’s a vibrant sting nagging at your insides, silently mistaken for a loving tug at your heartstrings. You wonder why you didn’t say no, but you remember how paralyzed you felt that first time he touched you. Then you remember how smiley you were when he claimed his love for you.
What’s it like years later? I have been in relationships, struggled through them, and am now single and content. I still desire relationships but more so the romantic aspect rather than the sexual aspect. I have mostly had relationships with women but am open, although hesitant, to romantic relationships with men.
Years later, I am still unsure how to love myself, especially when I feel so disgusting in my own body. But I’ve learned, years later, that your so called “love” was not genuine. You didn’t love me. That’s what hurts the most.
Every two minutes another American is sexually assaulted. Out of 1,000 rapes, 994 rapists will walk free. These statistics are terrifying to me, as I hope they are scary to you as well. Only 334 rape cases out of 1,000 are reported to the police.
Why is it that we feel shamed by society to speak up? Why must we suffer in silence due to rape culture telling us it is our fault for our own trauma?
I refuse to believe that it is my fault anymore. I am not to blame for the 3 years of abuse that I endured, even though I confused it with love. No, I did not ask for it, and even if I had, I was only fourteen years old and could not have consented. No, I am not at fault for being silent. No, I am not not at fault if he decides to hurt anyone else because I did not go through with the court case. HE is at fault because HE is the perpetrator.
What’s it like to be blamed for something you had no control over? It’s like being stuck in a chamber with no exits, spinning around and around until falling to your knees. It’s like having no voice, while everyone else’s screams eat away at your eardrums. It’s like having invisible scars, no one believes you, but you still hurt all the more.
What’s it like writing this? It’s like being freed from the hopelessness I once had. It’s like finding my voice and singing again after years of silence. It’s like standing back up again and walking forward. I still need to walk slowly to regain my balance, but I am definitely heading forward. I am regaining control, surely, but cautiously.
Healing takes time. Healing takes love, from others and yourself. Maybe one day, I can love myself. But for now, I will let myself be loved, truly loved, by my friends and family. I am not alone in this and neither are you. Whether you are a survivor or not, you are never alone in this world. Everyone knows someone. Don’t be afraid to use your voice, advocate for what you need AND want, and love. Truly love yourself and others, because that, my friend, will heal the world.