April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. It’s a difficult topic to discuss, but one that is so much better to talk about than to keep silent.
One of our dear contributors, Jayne, experienced sexual abuse as a young teenager. In honor of her and the millions of people worldwide who are suffering from the scars of their past, we share her story.
***TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ABUSE CONTENT***
When I was 14, a man I worked with who was 10 years my senior befriended me – his name was Rob. I was standing at the counter when he told me he was schizophrenic and began describing his symptoms. At first I wasn’t really interested in talking to him, but I also didn’t want to be rude and didn’t want him to feel bad for something he seemingly couldn’t control.
I don’t exactly remember how or why but we started talking on MSN (an older form of instant messaging) and Facebook. He introduced me to a lesbian couple he was friends with over the internet – their names were Yomiko and Emily.
He started asking me for nude photos because he “wanted to make me feel pretty”. Yomiko and Emily confirmed that he would indeed do so. At first I said no. Heck. No. But he groomed me. In this context grooming means that he tactfully prepared me to eventually say yes. I was naive and trusting as most children are. Unfortunately, after a while I did indeed said yes.
Topics of conversation and the things he convinced me to do became more and more inappropriate as time wore on. Yomiko and Emily were integral in this as they were an outside voice reinforcing what Rob was saying and doing, assuring me I’d “feel so good about myself.”
Rob lived a short walk away from where I lived so going to his house was easy and I was at the age where my mom wasn’t too worried about meeting every single friend I had. I would often go there after school if he wasn’t working. He lead me to believe that we had a valuable friendship. I confided in him about problems at home and my life at school. Due to other circumstances in my life I was accepting male attention in any way it came, and it was never good male attention.
We started talking in the fall and by Christmas I had given him nude pictures and he’d detailed a number of fantasies he had about myself and other coworkers. He had also begun molesting me. When he molested me I had a total freeze reaction. I didn’t necessarily feel I was in immediate danger. Don’t get me wrong, part of me knew it wasn’t okay but I knew he wasn’t going to hit me or hurt me physically. The harm I received from Rob was more emotional and mental than anything. Yes, he touched me and that was horrifying and awful. But nothing he did made me say “ow”. That is the reason I tell myself I didn’t try to run or fight. That’s not to say “Good job, Rob. You weren’t a physically abusive piece of shit on top of being a child molester.” Let me make this clear. NO VICTIM EVER NEEDS TO JUSTIFY THEIR REACTION OR ‘LACK OF ACTION’ TO ABUSE OR ASSAULT.
By February things had escalated further and he had begun grooming me for sex. Yomiko and Emily also encouraged this and it was like every other thing he asked me to do. At first I said no but I was starting to wear down. Thank God I made a “mistake” and left our conversation open on the family computer where my mom found it.
My mom took immediate action. My uncle was and is a police officer and so she asked him for advice right away. I’m unsure of all of the details but I had to give an initial statement which I have absolutely no memory of. I resisted the police being involved at first. Rob was my friend, after all, but part of me must have known that this whole thing wasn’t right because I don’t think it took much convincing to tell them everything. In my initial statement I had forgotten that he had molested me. After some time of processing and recounting my time with Rob it all came flooding back to me and I had to give another statement. This second statement I do remember and because it was absolute agony. I had to sit there and tell a total stranger details about how he touched me. Shame and disgust overwhelmed me. I was disgusted in myself for letting him do these things to me.
This is important. It didn’t matter how many times people told me that it wasn’t my fault, there was still this horrible little voice in the back of my mind telling me that it was.
The police raided his house and found child pornography which included children as young as 10 and maybe younger, I’m not totally sure. They searched his computer and found that Yomiko and Emily were personas whom he created to manipulate and encourage young girls that he was a safe space and that everything he wanted of them was to their own benefit. This was one of the most devastating aspects for me. I felt so betrayed. So dirty. So stupid.
It took one year for the final court sentencing. Victims are encouraged to write about how they’ve been affected and read it aloud in court, in front of their perpetrator. I was one of three girls who he’d done this too. One girl didn’t live close by and therefore didn’t come and the other came but didn’t give a statement. If I could go back I wouldn’t have either. It didn’t change anything. None of the words I could have conjured up would ever have made him truly sorry for what he’d done and I felt more insignificant, if anything.
My boyfriend at that time came with me for support and I knew immediately that he was disgusted by me. Shortly after the court date he told me that I was “just another stupid girl”. Just. Another. Stupid. Girl. He affirmed all of the horrible things I was already feeling and thinking about myself. He affirmed the lies. I stayed with him for a while after that but eventually ended it – definitely not soon enough though.
Rob was sentenced to 5 years in prison. The doctors who evaluated him found that he did not have schizophrenia. It was yet another tool he used to worm his way into my sympathies and to get me to let down my guard. He served a grand total of 2.5 years and that might be a little generous. Thank you, justice system. I’m so glad that the measly 5 years you gave him to pay for his numerous crimes was reduced even further. I have not known peace for 10 years. That’s almost half my life. So why does he only have to serve 2.5? Why does he get hardly a slap on the wrist when I have suffered relentlessly from what he did to me.
It has been ten years since this incident. I’ve been in therapy on and off since it happened and have rarely found a therapist who knows how to actually tackle this humongous mess. I kept telling myself: “I’m better. I’m through it. It’s over.”
It. Is. Not.
I’m actually not convinced it will ever be over. I carry this with me every day. I grieve the girl I was. I miss her. I miss her trusting, forgiving, and hopeful. I miss her optimistic. I miss her ability to wear her heart on her sleeve.
For years I have pushed my pain aside. Pretending it isn’t there so that I don’t have to deal with it and now my avoidance has caught up with me. Realizing that I can no longer contain it and no longer do this on my own, I reached out to my church. My church is a cozy little group that has a more personalized environment. I opened up and let them in. I resisted doing this though. It is scary making yourself vulnerable, but I was met with overwhelming love and support. I was apprehensive to be hopeful of their acceptance because often when I express that I am hurting and in need of help it isn’t met with more than an “I’m so sorry”. But this group knew what to do. They knew what I needed more than I did.
Now that I have a family it is not only me that suffers. My husband suffers when he kisses or touches me in a way that sends me hurtling back to the time I spent alone with Rob and I can’t help but cringe away from him. I can’t even bring myself to consider putting my kids in daycare for fear of the same thing happening to them. Even without the triggers and the fears, the pain of being tricked and taken advantage of is something I carry with me each day. I don’t trust people, especially men. I’m constantly bracing myself for pain and dishonesty. Imagine carrying that into a marriage.
Opening up to my church family has been such a blessing. For a long time I could see God’s hand in my life, but I couldn’t feel him. Following had become the thing I did whether I felt it or not. I guess it’s what you’re supposed to do but I felt no joy in hanging on by a thread to my faith, overcome by fear and loneliness. Between a kick-ass counsellor and an amazing church I’ve been given a gift I haven’t had for a long time.
Hope that one day I won’t live with crippling paranoia. Or that maybe my husband can touch me without fearing my rejection. Hope that one day I may be whole.
I’d like to mention that my story is not done. Maybe in the months after writing this I’ll make tons of progress. But maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll be healed and there will no trace of this horrendous pain left, or maybe I won’t. I don’t know what healed looks like for me. I’m hoping to find out.
If you or anyone you know has experienced or is suffering from sexual abuse of any kind please seek help immediately.