***TW: childhood sexual abuse, violence, rape
T is away. I’ve been having a lot of nightmares about the abuse, but he is away and I don’t know what to do. I feel scared and alone. T always says that if we can just get what’s on the inside, to the outside, it won’t seem so scary anymore. But sometimes there are no words to describe the horrors that children suffer. Sometimes there are no feelings to express what you don’t understand. The darkness follows me. I cannot be alone for it is always there. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I am apart from any of this.
I made a decision that I would just start writing and it didn’t matter if it made sense or not, it didn’t matter if I was repeating myself, and it didn’t matter if the words made me feel things I didn’t want to feel; I would just write all of the things that are inside. I would write with the understanding that maybe it would change things. I decided that it was worth the risk and that I wouldn’t let the fear of what might happen prevent me from finding out what will happen. I don’t really know where to start. I feel like this will change everything that I know.
Most of the time, the thought of the things that happened either paralyze me or make me want to vomit and the words simply get stuck in my throat. I sometimes feel like my memories are similar to Swiss cheese, with holes all around it. The ages are the hardest part for me. Every time I see it happening, the only thing I can think is how incredibly small I am. They are always the same, the things that I remember, but I still worry that somehow, I’ve gotten it all wrong. Sometimes I start to feel as though I cannot escape it. I want to scream at myself to just say something. Like if I could just get the me here, to tell the me there to say something it could change it all. But I can’t.
When I was little I was told I shouldn’t talk to strangers. I was led to believe that strangers were bad people. I was told about the boogeyman who would come and get little children when they were bad and take them into the woods and never return them to their families. I wasn’t told that even if you were good and listened and followed the rules that the boogeyman would still find you and torture you. I wasn’t told that the boogeyman could be someone you knew.
My aunt watched me, basically from the time I was born, until I was finally able to stay home alone. Every day of the week during the school year and part of the summer it seemed like I was there; early mornings until just before supper and sometimes overnights. It would be one of the places my mother would leave me when I was being too much for her. Sometimes there would be 8 or more kids and other times it would just be me. I cannot remember my brother in any of the times I was at my aunt’s house. He must have been there, but I don’t remember him. For the most part, we were expected to entertain each other during the day, the older ones looking after the younger ones.
I lived in fear while I was in her care. At some point fear became more natural to me than breathing. There are just so many things I still can’t wrap my head around or explain.
W is the oldest of ten cousins. I remember he seemed so tall, like a giant to me. He didn’t yell or scream. He was calm, cool and very collected and he liked to be in control. He would give me things like dolls and candy but most of all, he gave me attention. He liked it when we could act out and pose like the girls in the magazines; stand like them and make faces like them. He would take Polaroid pictures again and again until it was just right. If something went wrong, he easily convinced me that I wasn’t doing it right and we would have to start again.
Games were his thing. I hated his games but there is one in particular he loved to play.
‘Let’s play a game’, he would say. It was hide and seek. I had to hide and he was going to find me. I hated the game. I didn’t want to play because he always found me. He would start counting, so I would run away. I would go down the stairs to the basement and hide in a spot under the stairs. I would go back towards the wall as far as I could and pull the snowsuits on top of me. I remember thinking that if I went back far enough, maybe he wouldn’t reach me. It was dark. Very, very dark. I would hear a crack. He would be on the stairs. Crack. Crack. Crack. ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are’ he would call to me. I would close my eyes and wait. I couldn’t breathe in the small space but I didn’t move; I didn’t make a sound. I don’t know how long it took, probably less time than it felt like, but he eventually found me. He would grab my legs and pull me out of the hiding space. I wasn’t allowed to scream when he found me, no matter how scared I might have been. Sometimes, it would just be a touch and then he’d let me go, other times it was more. I never knew which one it would be. He would laugh at me and tell me that I could never hide from him, he would always find me.
He liked it better when I wore dresses—easier access, I suppose—so I would fight constantly in the morning to just be allowed to wear overalls. I would cry and scream until my mother took the dresses off of me. My mother hated it, because she wanted me to dress like other little girls. She didn’t want me to be a tomboy. I only thought it would make it harder for him to touch me. It continued, sometimes daily, for a long time but one day things changed.
Everything is like brownish; the shaggy carpet, the curtains, the bedspreads. I can hear the clock chiming on the hour. It’s not dark, but it’s dim and the only light is what’s coming from the fish tank. I can hear it bubbling. It’s hot and hard to breathe. There is a heavy weight on top of my chest and I can’t breathe. I can’t scream because I can’t breathe. Something hurts. I can’t move—not my arms or my legs. I can hear her crying, my cousin. It’s my fault she’s there. It’s my fault it’s happening to her. She trusted me and I led her straight into the lion’s den. ‘Bring her to me, or I will hurt you.’ So, I did. And I was forced to listen, to watch, to do nothing.
You see, he made me bring them to him, the younger ones. I should have told someone what was happening and then it wouldn’t have happened to them. I will never forgive myself for doing that to them. Who does that to a younger child? What does that make me? It’s my fault that those things happened to them. And I wouldn’t blame them if they hated me for it because that isn’t something you can forgive, you know.
I would beg him not to touch them, but to let me take their place, like that would make up for anything that happened. I hate myself for that part of it all. Once that happened, I think he knew I’d never tell. I think he knew I was too afraid to say anything. I think he knew that it made me a part of it all and it made me just as bad as he was. It’s that memory that makes me wish they would have just killed me like they said they would.
He was the first. He marked me. Ever since he performed those violating acts, a mark danced on my forehead for all abusers and violators to see. It was a ticket for further predators. It was an invitation to let them know that I was available. It showed them that I was already broken, that I could not be fixed and that they could cause further damage. That mark told them that I would keep their secrets.
E is W’s brother. He is not that much older than me, maybe 4 or 5 years, but he is bigger and stronger and mean. I don’t remember any of the events before the first time it happened.
I am looking down, because we are on the top bunk and I can see legs because someone is on the bottom bunk. I am on my stomach and I can’t breathe because he is on top of me. I am trying not to cry. I can feel him breathing on my neck and ear and I can hear him whisper ‘we’re going to do this until you stop crying, and then you’re going to like it. And if you don’t like it, I don’t care, because you deserve it, because I know what you’ve done.’ It seemed to go on forever.
He liked it rough, he liked to be in charge and I couldn’t say no to him. The others threatened with words, but E was different. He threatened with weapons. He was the meanest and would stop at nothing. He forced himself on me almost every day, and usually after lunch before we had to go back to school. We would eat; ‘eat fast’ he would tell me and then he would drag me down to the basement to ‘play’. My aunt was right upstairs the entire time and I don’t know how she never came down to the basement. It was damp and smelled musty. The walls were covered in barn board and they had hung old farm tools on the walls. The windows were small and the light just filtered in a little bit, except in the winter when it was dark all the time. They had one of those roll-away beds and he would get it out and make me lie on it. Sometimes he would have a knife and sometimes he would point to the gun and say ‘You know what I can do with that right? You know what will happen to you if you tell anyone? I will kill you, and nobody will care and nobody will come looking for you.’ He would hit and kick and call me names like pork chop or four eyes and tell me that nobody would ever love me because I was not worth loving. He would tell stories about the boogeyman that lived in the woods down the street and that if I wasn’t good and I didn’t do what he wanted he would take me and leave me with him and nobody would ever find me again.
I still remember the moment when I realized there was no hope of being saved from this terrible life. I could not trust anyone. I think the worst thing about him, was that the things that he did would follow me to my grandparents cottage. When it would get dark, all the kids would get out the flashlights and play spotlight. I never wanted to play because I was afraid of the dark and because I knew what was hiding in the bushes.
He would be hiding and when I ran by he would grab me and drag me into the bushes. He would shut off my light and tell me to not make a sound. I would hear the peepers and I would hear the other kids running around. Our parents would be at the fire drinking and having a good time and I could see them while it was happening. I didn’t make a sound. He forced me to touch him and he touched me as well. Then he forced me onto the ground. It hurt because there were rocks and branches sticking into my back but he didn’t care. And then he was on top of me and he would rape me and I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move. All I could do was stare up through the trees at the stars and hope it would end quickly.
After E, I think I had given up. It sort of gets to the point where you tell yourself that if you just give in, it’ll be over quicker. I didn’t believe anyone could help me, just that it would get back to them that I’d told someone.