My father began sexually abusing me before I started school. I remember him telling me to touch his penis as he was lying on the bed and I was sitting beside him. He told me it was ‘sex education.’ I have only that one flashback from the early years. Years later, I remember waking up in the middle of the night with his head between my legs. The next morning before I left to catch the school bus, he said ‘Now, you know not to tell anyone about what happened last night, right?’ I said ‘Yes sir.’ Then, one day when I was 12, my mother asked me if I believed my dad would do something sexual to my sister. I just broke down and started crying and I said ‘I know he would, because he did it to me.’ Nothing more was said, but I didn’t have to go back to him for two years after that. Shortly after I ‘confessed’ what my dad was doing to me, I was at a girlfriend’s house (still the year I turned 12) when her 25-year-old uncle gave me marijuana, which I had recently started smoking. Very quickly after smoking it, the room began to spin. He took me into the bathroom and raped me. It was the first time I had been penetrated, and I kept trying to stand up because it hurt, but he just kept pushing me back down. Of course, I had spent my entire childhood to that point in sexual trauma, so I thought I was the one who did something wrong.
When I was 14, my mother sent me back to my father, and he came to my room again in the middle of the night. But this time, I called my Aunt Ginger the next morning and told her immediately. That was the last time he did that, although he frequently engaged in sexual behavior such as pinching my nipples and telling me sexual jokes or watching sexual movies with me. During my adolescence, nearly a dozen different men raped me. I don’t even count the ones after I turned 16, because back then the legal age of consent was 16 in Arkansas. So, technically it wasn’t rape after I turned 16. I lived most of my life hating myself for these things, because I didn’t even know I had been raped. I always thought if I did what they wanted, they would love me. Then afterwards, I felt ashamed, so I never told any adults.
Back then, even the police probably would have blamed me, because I was sexually developed by the age of 10. And I grew up in the south where men say things like ‘if they’re old enough to bleed, they’re old enough to breed’ and ‘if she can crawl, she’s in the right position.’ I carried this shame and guilt for so many years, and it nearly destroyed me. It makes me so happy to see women like you speak out about what was done to you. I no longer blame myself for what all these men did, and I’m not ashamed to tell these stories anymore. What you are doing is so important, and I would love to see some activity in the south. My sister was also abused by my father (her stepfather), but she is ashamed for people to know. In addition, she was impregnated by a grown man when she was 14. Like me, she lived an entire childhood filled with sexual trauma. Southern American women are especially in need of support and education when it comes to rape. They are indoctrinated from a very young age to believe that most rape cases are women who change their mind afterward. Women perpetuate these myths as much as men do. One day while I was at work, some customers were talking with employees about a woman who reported being raped in a nearby alley. A female customer said ‘Oh, you mean the one in the alley at 2 in the morning? She gave it up.’ And everyone laughed. I just think that southern women are especially in need of the kind of help you offer.