“…I’m broken inside, broken inside…” -Sanctus Real
*The following story features sexual assault / rape situations. Please proceed with caution.
There are some stories that never get told. There are some that stay locked away, deep inside, never to see the light of day. But when they stay in the dark, they fester and grow and latch onto good things, turning them bad.
There are some stories, though, that need to be told, even when they can’t be told on stage, in the spotlight. Instead, they have to be told under the disguise of anonymity. Because I can’t let this live inside me anymore. I can’t keep that part of me broken and distrustful and suspicious.
When I was about nine years old, one of my family members tried to rape me.
There, I said it.
My family. Rape.
And it’s not like no young girl has never been raped by someone in her family and that it’s unheard of. But this isn’t a story on the news or on the talk show circuit. This is my story. It happened to me. And for too many years to count, it’s the one thing I’ve never been allowed to talk about.
Why haven’t I been allowed? Because…I don’t know. Because I love this person, I guess. Because I don’t want to hurt him. Because because because maybe it’s the one hurt that I’ve never really been able to understand.
We were home alone, as we often were, and we were playing. A bed was still up in our living room from where our neighbors had stayed the night after all their household goods were packed away in a U-haul, ready for them to move away. We were chasing each other, wrestling. I was always a scrappy little girl.
One minute we were laughing and jumping around the bed, and the next he was pushing a blanket or pillow or something over my face and trying to yank down my bathing suit bottoms. It probably took me a full half a second to realize what was going on. I was not, after all, a stranger to sexual abuse. But I was shocked that it was him. Except, not really. It wasn’t the first time he’d done something weird, like the night I found him breathing over me while I slept, but it was the first REAL something.
Laughter turned to screams, and I kicked and scratched and hit at him, the whole while with one hand holding onto my suit bottoms. I refused – REFUSED – to let him get them down. I fought with everything I had in me and tried with all my strength to get away. It could have been a minute or it could have been an hour.
I fought. I fought. I fought.
I was always a scrappy little girl.
My mom and her husband came home then and he ran. I was hysterical. My stepfather demanded to know what was wrong and as I told him, I watched his face turn a horrid shade of red, and I knew I was in trouble. But he balled his fists and he was on my side. I wasn’t his, but for just that one day, he made me feel like he cared enough that I could be.
My mom asked me, “Are you sure?”
Never in my life had I ever felt so small and unimportant.
Was I sure? Was I sure that he was trying to rape me? Was I sure that I just fought to save my virginity from someone who is supposed to love me and not hurt me? Was I sure this person who I loved more than anyone in the world had just tried and failed to rape me?
Yes, yes I was sure. Even I didn’t want to believe it, but I was sure.
The police came and took him away. He spent a year or years in jail and then a special camp, and I felt guilty the whole time. It was probably my fault. I was the one wearing my bathing suit. It wasn’t his fault that he was a young teen being teased by my little girl body, right?
But here’s the real story: When he finally came home, I wanted him home. I loved him and looked up to him and I wanted to believe something went wrong inside his head. I wanted to believe something demonic took over him. I wanted to believe because he’d been hurt when he was younger that he couldn’t help himself.
One day when we were home alone (because yes, my mother still left me alone with him), he tried again.
It took him about 30 seconds to realize what he was doing and he stopped as I screamed and kicked and punched again. And I thought, “I have lots of clothes on. How is this MY fault?”
“Punch me in the face,” he said. “Punch me. I deserve it. Stop me. Punch me.”
I shook my head, tears streaming down my face, my shoulders hitching up and down as I quivered with fear and disgust and denial. Even at that moment, I didn’t want to hurt him back.
So I did, and it hurt me, and all I could think is, “When do you stop causing me pain?”
I never told anyone that he tried again. Or that he had been weird before the first attempt. And for years, I felt like I owed him something, like absolution or to pretend none of it ever happened. But it did. It happened, and one day I grew up and had children and realized I didn’t trust him. Or hell, I didn’t trust any older male around my own daughter. I closed the door on him because it seemed like the only way to protect my children. And myself.
Yet, at times I get a real glimpse of how broken I am inside the wee little girl places of my heart and I cry for her, for me, because it’s not fair to not be all right. It’s not fair that on top of all the other people who hurt me, the one I looked up to, the one I knew I could turn to no matter what, he hurt me the most. In the end, he broke me the most.
But I’m not really allowed to talk about it.