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who’s got your back?

June 7, 2016

TW: rape, assault

31 years ago yesterday, I was raped for the first time. I was living with my aunt and uncle; their son, my cousin, raped me. He had already molested me repeatedly, held his hunting knife against my neck, told me his fantasies about killing me — both in the present, and in a distant future.

He had told me he was mistreating me to the severe degree he was because he thought it would be fun to see if he could push me into going crazy.

Two days after being raped, I returned to my parents’ house in Illinois to live. I was a broken shell of the person who had left their house five months before. As far as I could tell, my parents did not notice any change in me.

I had PTSD for a while, but throwing myself into a new life of a job out in the world, and new friends, as well as liberally using sleeping pills (to circumvent my nightmares), began my healing process.

= = =

Brock Turner’s rape of that girl, and her letter to the court, have been all over my Twitter feed for days. It was really really hard yesterday.

I hadn’t been unconscious when I was raped, but I did dissociate, so — mercifully — I have no conscious recollection of anything he said. Or if I said anything.

My body remembers.

= = =

I became a writer as a child because my family would not listen to me when I talked, but sometimes they would listen when I wrote.

Generally they wouldn’t reply, though. We would not… discuss… what I said. But they might behave towards me differently, and I would have to feel that was enough, because that’s all there was.

= = =

Five years after I was raped, things with my parents were getting really bad again. My counselor at the time thought if I told them I’d been raped they might behave better.

For five years I’d had nightmares about telling them.

But he was a counselor, surely he knew something I didn’t know. And I was desperate.

So I told them.

= = =

It was hard to get myself into the right frame of mind: emotionally vulnerable enough to be… distraught enough to be convincing… but also mentally armored for when someone would say something terrible.

Unusually, my father said the first terrible thing — he said he would go to Albuquerque and kill my cousin.

I didn’t want that. I wanted my cousin to get help.

It didn’t matter what I wanted.

Then my mother started talking.

= = =

There is no friend Brock Turner has that has been more eloquent about rape culture than my mother that day in 1990.

She called me a liar and a slut. She said, if it had happened, I must have brought it on myself.

My mother said I deserved whatever might have happened.

My mother said if I forced her to choose between me — her eldest child — and my cousin the rapist, she would choose my cousin. My mother told me she loved my cousin more than me. She said my cousin was a Good Person, and would never do such a thing; my mother said I was a Bad Person.

My mother said that I had probably decided to seduce my 14-year-old cousin, for lulz, and when he — naturally — refused me, I must’ve decided to tell people this cockamamie story for revenge. To ruin his life. Well, my mother wasn’t going to fall for my tricks!

= = =

My father said nothing.

= = =

In 1990, I’d never heard of rape culture.

I had no idea where my mother had gotten such bizarre ideas about my character. I thought she was telling me what she’d always felt about me.

This exchange with my parents was 100x more traumatizing than being raped and threatened with a deadly weapon.

+++

+++

Within a year, I’d bought a new car in cash, and moved into my own apartment.

By the summer of 1993, I was married to someone I’d met only a few months before, and we were living in our second state together (IN, after some weeks in NY).

= = =

Because my parents’ behaviors (as my primary caregivers) were so damaging, it took 20 years of hard work for me to finish healing from my trauma-onset PTSD.

In 2005, I cut off ties with my parents.

= = =

My mother ignored that. For the first 5–7 years, she wrote to me. Sometimes she sent ‘gifts’. Occasionally I heard from family members who would never normally contact me, only to find out they were passing along a message from her, or a physical object.

One of my brothers told me he only stayed in nominal contact with me “as a favor to our parents”.

Everyone in my family of origin sees me as the problem. If only I wasn’t so ornery, so unforgiving!

Whatever happened all those years ago (if anything Really Happened at all), it couldn’t have been as bad as all that! You should be over it by now! Why are you such a baby?!?

= = =

I don’t ever ever ever want to talk to the person who calls herself my mother again. Not ever.

+++

+++

My cousin the rapist, like rapists everywhere, of course denies everything.

= = =

Some years later, my only sister (who had actually been a sometime ally), apparently decided I had had more than enough time to ‘get over it’; without talking to me first, she gave my cousin the rapist my contact information, and encouraged him to contact me. She told him I was more than ready to be friends again!

When he did contact me some months later, I had the mother of all meltdowns.

Spouse had to call my sister to demand an apology — I was hysterical.

My sister insisted that I had authorized this. She did not apologize.

I stopped speaking to my sister.

+++

+++

I read that girl’s letter. How terrible it was for her parents to read about what happened to her in the newspaper. How her sister kept apologizing for not coming to find her.

That girl was believed.

That girl has a family who loves her. Values her.

= = =

To me, family is just a word.

I don’t have a “family of choice”, and not just because I have few friends. The whole concept of ‘family’ is… kind of gross for me.

= = =

It’s nice that other people can have families. It seems like it would be a cool thing to have. Like a pet griffin. Like living in a kingdom under the sea.

But I can’t even imagine a version of my life where I have a family. Because I never have.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Siderea permalink
    June 7, 2016 23:05

    Christ. I knew your mother was bad, but I didn’t know how bad. Not that the rest of them are peaches, either. I am so, so sorry you were raised by people like that; you’re right, you never had a family. I’d call them a pack of jackals, but, honestly, unfair to jackals.

    • June 8, 2016 02:05

      Thanks for the support; it means more coming from someone with a hard background.

  2. June 9, 2016 22:03

    Witnessing. You are heard by a fellow survivor. ❤

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