I was in the third grade when I was given my first labels.
I hear it now, as I did six years ago.
Still I hear it ringing through my ears, wondering if it is the truth.
Years later I think to myself, do they know how hurtful those words are? Do they know I still think of it? Do they know that every time I look in the mirror, those names, those labels comes to mind, along with many others.
If they do, if they did, would they still have chosen to say that, or would they go back and erase it?
Fast forward three years.
Just starting middle school, a new school, a new beginning, a new life. Right?
With a new school, comes a new bully, new names.
“Bitch.” “Slut.” “Ugly.” “Poodle head.”
The names go on.
And the first time in my life, I feel helpless.
I feel trapped.
Because now, not only were they attacking verbally, but now they attacked through social media.
Helplessly, I admit defeat, and call for help.
Therapy for one year.
I stop going.
No more bullies …for now.
One year later.
Half-way through the terrible mix.
Not an adult, but not a kid.
You’re changing in different ways.
Discovering new things about yourself.
Life is great …until they come again.
A new army of bullies ready to take down their first victim.
Before I take you for a ride down memory lane, I think it would be wise to take a moment to explain my family tree. (Cue “The Brady Bunch” theme song.)
My dad and his first wife had a son, my older half-brother.
My mother was his second wife. Together, they had four daughters. I am the youngest.
My dad and his third wife have a son, my younger half-brother.
My mother married for a second time. My step-father has five children, three boys and two girls. They are all older than I am.
I’m going to try to make this as painless as possible and not too confusing, so bear with me!
My parents can’t stand each other, I don’t think they ever could. Why they stayed married as long as they did, beats the hell out of me. They lived together, at least physically, until I was six months old. That was when my mother moved her four girls into the home of the man who would later become my stepfather. I’m surprised the three bedroom, one bathroom house didn’t explode from all of the hostility and tension caused by the eleven people living there. Being so young, I was automatically excluded from the fights between my sisters and my stepfather’s kids.
My mother conveniently decided to quit her motherly duties around the time I was conceived. Granted, she was never in the running for Mother of the Year or anything before that, but she was decent, I guess. I was pretty much raised by my oldest sister, who was only 9 or 10 years old at the time. Mother was always gone, even when she was home. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if my sister wasn’t there to care for me.
When I hit puberty at 11, my oldest sister no longer lived at home. No one was there to tell me what was happening to me or my body. I was already in a bad place in life because I also had just been sexually abused for the first time. This lead to many embarrassing situations at school, ruined clothes, being made fun of, etc.
I started cutting when I was 11 and kept all my cutting tools in an old CD case under my mattress. One day when I was 12, I went to grab them and they were gone. The blood-stained knives were washed and put back in the drawer, razors back in the box cutter, and scissors on the counter. Mother never said a word, never asked why I was wearing long sleeves through summer, or why I had a plethora of sharp, bloody instruments under my bed. Nothing.
Two years later, when the school nurse discovered my cuts and called my home, my mother suddenly put on her “distraught mother” hat. She swore to the school staff she would do anything and everything to help me. When we got home, she told me how I made her look bad because she does not want to be known as the mom with a fucked up daughter. At the school’s insistence, I started therapy. I don’t know how many therapists I went through because she would pull me out as soon as they said the words “depression” or “medication” or “she should really be tested for bipolar.”
During this time, I went to my dad’s house on the weekends. I hated it. I loved my brother, we have always been wicked close because we’re closest in age, but I hated my dad and stepmother. I hated them because my mother taught me to. My mother is the best manipulator I know, and constantly fed us and anyone else who would listen lies about how evil my father was.
When I got into high school, my mother introduced me to alcohol. She’d make me margaritas at family cookouts, look the other way when I grabbed a bottle from the shelf in the kitchen. Soon I was drinking at school, bringing vodka in a water bottle so no one would know. I started smoking in my room, stealing packs from her cartons of cigarettes and she never said a word. At that point, I thought, “Fuck yeah! My mom is awesome! She doesn’t have any rules.” My friends loved her, and she was always trying to be the “cool mom.” It was fun for a while, until she would go behind my back to invite my guy friends over. I can’t confirm or deny anything that happened when I wasn’t there, and I don’t want to know.
By 16, I was leaving the house every night to walk three miles to my drug dealer boyfriend’s house, drunk as fuck and taking railroad tracks as a shortcut. She knew, but never said a word. One summer day when I was drunk, I got into a fight with my stepdad and was arrested. I spent the night in jail, went to court, where I was charged with simple assault and sent to placement for six weeks. At the end of my time, I was told I wouldn’t be going home. I was going to be sent to a long term placement until I was 18.
After a lengthy battle, the judge finally decided to allow me to go live with my father. My mother’s selfish need to keep me from my father prompted her to fight tooth and nail to keep me in placement for those next two years.
I was in for a rude awakening at my dad’s. New school, new rules, new lifestyle to adjust to, with no friends or anything from my old life. It was not easy for them to deal with me. I would get into loud, screaming, in-your-face fights with my dad and stepmom. I wouldn’t trade it for the world because when I became an adult, I sat down with my dad and learned the truth.
The lies my mother told me about my father weren’t true. I was told the reason I never had winter jackets or new clothes or went to the doctor when I was sick was because my dad never paid his child support, He paid it, but mother used that money for herself.
My arrest was orchestrated by my dad. When he found out what I was doing, he fought Mother until she finally agreed to have my stepdad instigate a fight so the police could charge me. He convinced the court that my mother was unfit, and that living with him would be the best thing for me. He could give me a normal life with structure and discipline.
He saved my life, and I’ve spent most of my life hating him for no reason other than being a pawn in my mother’s sick game.
I’m 23, married with a beautiful 2 year old son. I wouldn’t have this life if my father hadn’t fought for me. It kills my father that two of my sister’s hate him because they’re still under my mother’s thumb.
I haven’t spoken to my mother in five years, and never plan to. My family tree may be split, but at least I know who my true family is now. My stepmom has become the mother I never had, and we are all really close.
The scars from childhood sexual abuse have far-reaching consequences.
This is her brave, brave story:
I’m a senior in high school – you’d think I’d be able to control my thoughts and emotions by now.
Nope. Totally incorrect.
I hate people, well, most of them anyway. For being judgmental. For being jerks and assholes when they have no idea what I’ve gone through. No idea what I’m going through.
I feel so alone because there’s no one to help me cope with my fucked-up brain. Now don’t get me wrong: on the outside I appear to be a normal, suburban, teenaged girl. On the inside…on the inside I’m dying; just waiting for death to overtake me.
This is my story.
I have two brothers who live with me at my Mom’s house. My brothers shared a room with bunk-beds until I was twelve. When I was six, we had a babysitter named Bradley, who happened to be some sort of cousin. When he’d come to babysit, we’d all hang out on the bunk beds – my older and younger brother on the bottom bunk while Bradley and I were on the top bunk.
One time, I was laying on top of him and he reached his hands into my pants asking me “can you feel that?” over and over. He’d do this again and again to me, only stopping when it was his turn on the video game my brothers were playing. Naturally he wouldn’t have a free hand to stick down my pants.
I thought what he was doing was sex, so I for one, wasn’t going to tell anyone – I was afraid I’d get in trouble. I’ve not seen him since. I kept this secret until seventh grade, when I told my best friend and cousin, Catherine, as well as my best friend at school, Kameron.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
We saw the counselor who called my mother. My mother initially thought I was lying, but finally believe me. She took me to my Dad’s, insisting that I tell him about the sexual abuse. I called Catherine over for support.
I’d already sobbed to the counselor and my mom, so by that point I was numb. My dad continued to question me; scrutinizing every detail. At one point he asked:
“Why aren’t you crying? If this actually happened to you why aren’t you crying? Why is your cousin the only one crying?”
That ended that.
Three years later was my sophomore year in high school, and everything was going really well. I had my first actual boyfriend, an amazing guy Daniel who he was all for God. On the outside, I looked like I was okay.
However, I’d begun cutting; self-injuring – constantly slicing my wrist open for relief of external pain. I was repulsed by anyone touching me – I couldn’t handle it. Not even my brothers. I even asked Daniel if we could stop kissing and he was okay with it; figuring we’d been moving too fast. Eventually, asked me if anything ever had happened to me.
I told him no.
I told my mom that I couldn’t kiss Daniel, and she knew that I needed to talk to someone. My Aunt Nina, Catherine’s mom, died the beginning of my sophomore year and I felt too guilty to bring my problems on her.
Three months into therapy, I finally understood that there was no possible way that I could’ve wanted what happened to me as a child. Despite the cliche from Good Will Hunting: “it’s not your fault,” but those words bring closure.
We were having a big family sleepover at my house with all the teenage cousins piled together on the couch. After I fell asleep that night, I felt something on my leg. I was so confused. I realized, it was my cousin Cole’s hand trying to pry open my legs. Baffled, I tried to close them; turned over and pretended I was asleep. That didn’t happen so I gave up.
My therapist asked me why I didn’t “wake up” and confront him. I was frozen, I explained, I was fifteen and my worst nightmare was reoccurring. He did finger me and when I “woke up,” he pretended he hadn’t done a thing. In the shower, I bawled my eyes out. When people say they never feel clean after rape or sexual assault, it’s true.
My therapist encouraged me to tell my mom, however, I knew our family would never be the same again – it would be my fault. Again.
For some reason or another I stopped going to therapy. I spent my junior year empty on the inside. Daniel and I had broken up before the Cole incident so I had no one but my friend Chance to talk to. The bullying began my junior year.
First and foremost, I’m not fat. I am five foot eight and 150 pounds, give or take a pound. I do have an unusual bra size, 32 FF. I’m “mooed” at for having “utters.” Eventually, jokes went around that I was on the cover page of a porn site. I’d never willingly done anything more than kiss my boyfriend on the lips and now people were making sex jokes about me for my fucking bra size? Absurd.
Then I met Chase. Weird dude, but mysterious. On our first date he forcefully unbuttoned my jeans and stuck his hands in my pants without my permission. I got up out of the movie theater, caused a scene, then left. Haven’t talked to that fuckface since.
I feel like I’m losing my mind.
I’ve become an insomniac, I’m always crying. I’ve prayed constantly, not receiving any answers. How can I be sure of myself? How can I be confident enough to trust not just others but myself? How can I tell myself over and over that I won’t let something like that happen to me again when it’s happened over and over?
I don’t know what to do.
He took my innocence. I dreamed that God would be kind. I dreamed my life would be so very different from this hell I’m living. Life has killed the dream I dreamed.
How have those of you who’ve been through childhood sexual abuse come to terms with the abuse? Can you give this brave girl some advice?