*This post is very personal and discusses details of my childhood rape. It may trigger PTSD symptoms and I recommend caution for that reason.
I have been wanting to write this post for some time after watching #ididnotreport trend on Twitter. I got caught up in dealing with a Twitter scumbag and put this one on the back burner. I am going to talk about it now.
Not in a tweet. My own #ididnotreport can not be condensed to that few of characters. Instead it will be in a long exhale of cathartic words on a blog that my family will never read.
I was raped as a child. I took me a whole 25+years before I ever was able to call it rape. Instead I used the term “molested.” I am not sure exactly why. It didn’t take me that many years before I considered oral sex to be sex. I can only attribute it to cognitive dissonance that I considered the forced oral sex on me as a child to be something less than the rape that it was. “Molestation isn’t as bad.” “At least I wasn’t raped.” You get the idea.
I am sure there are people out there wondering exactly what happened so they can define for themselves whether what happened to me was “rape.” Some purely for intellectual purposes and others for the purpose of demeaning my experience so that they can continue to think of rape in a narrowly defined sense. For the first group I will oblige the second, but I will address the second first:
Fuck you. You don’t get to define my experience. I do.
I will also say that my memory of the events are cloudy and so this won’t be a smooth story. I will try to include only events that I know actually happened.
I was around eight or nine, living in a rural cabin with my family. That family included a sibling, a mother, and a stepfather. My stepfather had been, at the time, the closest thing I ever had to a real father. That is what I considered him despite the fact he had only been a part of the family for a couple of years. Both my mother and father-in-law were pretty heavy drinkers but other than neglect due to their addiction, I had never been abused by either of them. Until one night. I was awake, my sibling was away at a friend’s house, my mother was passed out in her room, and my father-in-law was probably inebriated and definitely awake.
This is where my memory fails me.
I can’t remember what he said. I can kind of remember the context. Something about fathers showing daughters things. I can’t remember how the bottom half of my clothes came off, whether he took them off or if I did. I can remember exactly how his tongue felt inside my vagina. I can remember that at that time and in that place I knew what was happening to me was wrong. The reason I can say that with certainty is because the very next day I told my mother what happened. I knew I shouldn’t keep it a secret. I new that is not what fathers and daughters did.
My mother’s initial reaction was not one of disbelief as cases like this often are. No, she believed me, and in her subsequent anger she tried to walk us to the hospital which was several miles away. We did not have a car at the time and she has never been the beacon of rational decisions. When we got a couple of miles she realized she couldn’t make it the whole way and we walked back to the house. I think she then used the phone to call an aunt or my grandmother. The next solid memory I have is us moving everything important to us into my grandfather’s truck and moving in with them.
We stayed for two days. Then we moved back. I remember my mother promising me that it would never happen again. I remember people blaming alcohol. I don’t remember why everyone let her take me back. I can’t actually fathom what could have gone on in their heads. These were people who loved me. Maybe they really believed it wouldn’t happen again.
I was a child. I believed it wouldn’t happen again. I believed that people made mistakes and could fix them. I believed it for months. Until it happened again. It wasn’t the same scenario. I don’t have any clue if he was drunk. I don’t know if this time it was him sticking his tongue in me or having me put my mouth on his penis. I don’t remember exact words ever spoken. I remember concepts. I remember him giving me the impression that one day he would put his penis inside where he put his fingers and tongue. I remember that he thought my body was too small yet to handle a full size penis inside me. I remember being thankful that we weren’t to that point yet. I remember being scared that we might be one day.
I remember not trusting anyone after it started again.
I mean, all the people who loved me lied to me and made me believe that I wouldn’t have to be subjected to abuse anymore. Not a damn one of the people who had the power to stop what was happening chose to stop it. Not only did they not report my abuse, they delivered me into the hands of my rapist again. My ability to trust ceased to exist.
You don’t get to call that experience “not rape” because I experienced it and it was rape by any sensible definition.
My desire for the now regularly occurring rape to end eventually overwhelmed my inability to trust people. I told my friend at the school what was happening to me, and she encouraged me to see the principal. Finally, a stranger knew and a whirlwind of changes came. Still no one reported it to authorities.
Never once has my step-father been formally charged with any form of sexual abuse. It was decided that the best course of action for me was to remove me from the situation. I don’t know how to properly weigh the positives with the negatives that came as a result from being forced to leave my town, my friends, my mother, my sibling and move into a home where I would meet another person who would also victimize me. Where I would meet a person who would not take things near as far as my step-father, who I considered still to have only ever molested me, and who I would never tell my family about. I cannot weigh those horrors against the positives because I am truly lucky to have the life I lead now. There is nothing I wouldn’t endure again, just to be sure I end up with the people I have in my life now.
The problem is I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have been made to endure the abuse of two people to simply be grateful for the life I have now. I shouldn’t have had to learn not to report the second abuser because the people who loved me taught me that it was ok not to report the first one.
My family, as much as I love them, taught me to be a victim. They taught me to run rather than fight. So no matter what tragic serendipity led me to become what exists today, I don’t think I can ever fully forgive those who could have stopped my abuse but didn’t.