His name is Michael. He still exists in the same world as me. I have seen him in passing cars, in the store, and he is often suggested to me as a ‘person I might know’ on Facebook. He has (or had) a wife and a few children, three or four, I’m not really sure, I know of at least two for certain. He’s had many jobs, none a career, just a paycheck. He still asks for handouts, and he still uses and manipulates people.
My name is Danielle. I am a wife and a mother. I am a student and an aspiring health care clinician. I am a secretary and a supervisor. I have been in my relationship with my husband for 16 years, married for nine. I have two beautiful girls whose presence in my life makes me whole and fills my heart with joy. I am a role model.
His name is Michael. He is my stepbrother. And when I was twelve years old, he sexually assaulted me. When I was twelve years old, he turned everything I knew about life and trust inside-out. When I was twelve he brought out emotions that would consume me whole for the rest of my life. He is the reason I double check locks on bathroom doors. He is the reason I have a hard time trusting anyone. He is the reason I am an expert on bottling up my emotions and swallowing them down in the the pit of my stomach until they dissolve and fade away. Unfortunately, the only memories I can’t make fade are those of what happened that night; what I was wearing, where I was, and how each agonizing second played out. All these years later the moments playback in my mind like slides on a projector screen. Each moment vivid and unforgettable.
My name is Danielle, and I am long overdue for therapy. I am here wondering 23 years later why he gets to forget, move on and live his life and I am stuck in a perpetual spin cycle stuck somewhere between fear and anger.
His name is Michael and he gets to enjoy each day being a dad and apart of big family and I am wondering why I had to give up mine because of him. Asking myself over and over why my father and my stepmother chose to protect him and swear me into silence. Wondering why many of my whispered behind my back about how I lied and was attention seeking, while they went out of their way to get him help. Questioning again and again why no one helped me. Being made to feel as though I did something wrong because I was in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’. Sitting at my kitchen table with those who were supposed to be watching over me listing all the reasons why I shouldn’t say anything to anyone and how negatively it would effect our family if I did.
My name is Danielle, and my heart breaks every time I see or hear a story about another victim who is blamed or faulted. I spend a lot of time worrying about the safety of my children and try to listen carefully to their fears without dismissing them as irrational or silly. And while I will never see any kind of justice for me, I will do my best to make sure my girls are never in a position where they would ask for the same.
My name is one of many on a list I am positive none of us want to be on.
His name is Michael, and he almost got away with it.
— Survivor, age 35