I know I’m late but I would like to start this post by thanking Ana (momlifewithchiari) for nominating me for this challenge. These are somewhat difficult for me to complete for reasons still unknown but I will put forth a concerted effort.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” -Maya Angelou
I have carried a weight for a better part of 24 years. For almost a quarter of a century I never told anyone I had been sexually abused as a child. This may not be the kind of story Maya Angelou was talking about but this quote speaks to me in that there is hidden pain associated in the secrets we keep.
It was an evening in early spring when I finally said it out loud to my husband. The release wasn’t immediate, it came gradually. In Psychology I learned victims of abuse will sometimes subconsciously block out trauma from their memory as a way of self-preservation.
When I was seven I would walk to and from school by myself. A mile and a half, most of which was lined with abandoned manufacturing buildings. I was too young to understand the eerie presence of silence. My mother worried enough to seek out a “sitter” — roughly translated: someone who would make sure I stayed alive after school until she was able to pick me up after work. She found a woman who was willing to walk me to her home everyday.
At first, I didn’t mind it. I welcomed the conversations between the woman and her daughter who was a year younger than I was. The woman fed her daughter and told me I could do my homework at the table while her daughter ate or in the living room. I grabbed my backpack and went into the next room. The rust-colored carpet had seen a few families migrate through that apartment.
Eventually, her daughter would join me on the carpet and began tracing letters in her workbook. She would talk to me in Spanish but I didn’t always understand what she was saying. Soon after she would turn on the TV as loud as it would go to drown out the news echoing in from the kitchen. He walked in soon after that and went straight into his room.
A couple of weeks went by and I was set in a routine: listen to the woman and her daughter talk, make my way to the old carpet and start my homework. One day her son walked in and said I needed to be comfortable to do my work, he invited me into his room. I looked back into the kitchen. The woman was in the middle of cooking dinner, her daughter had stopped noticing me. I lowered my eyes into my book and didn’t say anything. A few minutes later he repeated his invite, walked over to me, grabbed my backpack and set it in his room. I was safer walking through a graveyard of deserted buildings than what my parents were paying for.
The woman didn’t care that a seven year old girl had disappeared from her sight, nor was she alarmed when she tried to open her son’s door and it was locked. When he opened the door to let me out his older sister confronted me and asked why I had been in her brother’s room. She never asked him anything. At seven I was somehow responsible for what her high school age brother did to me in their apartment. My eyes welled up and she pushed me into the living room and told me to sit down and wait for my mother.
The next day he tried to get me alone again and I told him I would tell my mother. He laughed at me and told me I was stupid, that no one would believe me. That day I tried to tell my mother what was happening, what he was doing to me but instead I blurted out that he had called me stupid. She was livid. She walked back up the stairs, knocked on their apartment and confronted the woman. I stayed in the car, paralyzed.
I was so nervous before the final bell rang the following school day that I was sweating and my stomach hurt. The woman acknowledged me with a smile and a wave, her youngest daughter was emotionless. When we got to their apartment her oldest daughter glared at me like I was the scum of the earth. I sat on the orange carpet and began to take my workbook out when she came in. How dare I lie about her brother?! Did I know what this could do to their family?! If their father found out it could affect his health because he has heart problems! How could I be such a horrible person?! I needed to apologize for lying! My chest heaved violently, I sobbed. Not only did I not understand what the physical abuse he imposed on me meant, now I was being berated by an eighteen year old. She told me crying was proof of my guilt.
He continued to violate me until the end of the school year.
His mother and sisters never tried to help me, only themselves. My personal hell was a product of their selective blindness. The innocence of my childhood was gone. I was never able to tell anyone about this until a couple of months ago when I told my husband. In a way, I still felt overwhelming shame that this happened to me. I still recoil whenever news of this nature comes across the TV. My body physically reacts because it feels for these children, and my heart breaks for them.
It’s painful to live with something you simply cannot say.