The Signs Were There, But No One Was Watching
Trigger Warning: This article contains information about sexual abuse which may be triggering to survivors.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of being raped, in my house, in my bedroom, in my family home. The walls and the people who are supposed to keep you safe as a child, didn’t always. I can still remember playing in my room and never knowing when my bedroom door, the shower door or the bathroom door would open and the abuse would happen again. Closed doors never stopped him.
Let’s start at the beginning. I am a child of divorce. My parents separated when I was two. My father lived out of state so we only saw him about twice a year. My mom was young with three kids and wanted to remarry. She had known my step-dad for years before they married. The first time I was raped was when they were dating. I can still picture my mom in my step-dad’s room laying on his bed watching tv. My step-brother brought me into his room and locked the door. I was 5. My mother didn’t notice I was gone but my step-dad did. He came banging on the door. The abuse progressed after they married and soon after my step-brother moved in with us. He was a troubled teenager and was kicked out of his mother’s house. My mom worked, my step-dad worked nights so he slept during the day. My step-dad sleeping in the room right across from mine didn’t stop my step-brother. It didn’t stop him from vaginal rape, or sodomy or from turning on pornography. I remember how bad it hurt. I remember how yucky I felt. I remember being confused and sad. I remember never feeling safe.
What most people who haven’t been abused don’t realize is how brazen pedophiles are. They not only will abuse their victim with others around, but they get more aggressive in their abuse when they feel they won’t get caught. I still have a vivid memory of going to my step-brother’s friend’s house and having to perform oral sex on both of them. A little girl trapped in a room with two teenage boys, treating her like she is a sex object.
I would get female infections that little girls shouldn’t get. I was almost failing elementary school. I was acting out my abuse. I was so attached to my mom when she wasn’t working. I used to wake up crying from horrible nightmares that she was going to die and leave me alone. All alone in the house, with him. All the signs were there, but no one was watching.
Like all abused children, I never told out of fear. Fear that I did something wrong. Fear that my mom wouldn’t believe me. Fear that she wouldn’t keep me safe from him and he would hurt me worse. Even in my little mind, I knew that it was her husband’s son and I didn’t know who she would believe.
My saving grace was moving to a new neighborhood. Once we did that, my step-brother didn’t live with us anymore. I had to repeat the fourth grade because my grades were so bad. I was tested, nothing. I remember feeling so different than all my classmates. Like I had to hide something. My thoughts were constantly consumed in class and I was distracted. When I was ten, I finally told my mom. When you don’t check in on your kids, you don’t give them an opportunity to talk. But this day she did. I had sex education at school and she asked if I had any questions. I didn’t but what I did say was, “that’s what Ronnie would do to me.” I will never forget that sentence and I will never forget her sobbing on her bed.
The days that followed consisted of a gynecologist exam, an interview with a detective and talking with a child psychologist. My parents asked if I wanted to press charges and I did. It didn’t take too long for them to tell me they didn’t want to put me through the court trauma. My step-brother was a minor when the abuse started and it would be hard to try him as an adult. So I never saw justice. He never had to register as a sex offender and no one ever knew what he did. The woman he married and the son he has, will never know. All the kids that came into contact with him when he was a dad, would never know. The justice that I did have was my step-dad choosing me over his son. My step-dad was a retired police officer and was sickened by what his son had done to me. Sometimes when I think about how unfair our justice system can be, I remind myself that his justice was living with the choice my dad made. Me.
A lot has happened between then and now. I’m forty-two, married and have four children. My step-dad has died and the impact of the abuse has forever changed all areas of my life, in every life stage. I actually don’t know a life without abuse because I was so young.
The biggest impact it’s had on me is when I became a mother. That’s why I’m writing this – for you, for me, for the safety of children. To empower moms and educate them on how they can protect their kids and how common childhood sexual abuse is.
I once had a friend tell me she hardly knew anyone that had been sexually abused as a child. I said, that’s because you weren’t abused. When you are abused and start to share your story it does some things. It heals you, it connects you with other survivors and it gives you a voice to educate people. I pray my story has given you that voice, be the brave. Not only for yourself but for the children.
If you have been affected by sexual violence and need help, we urge you to reach out to RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE or hotline.rainn.org/online.