I have kept my secret, his secret, their secret, for 36 years, my brother, later my husband. I was 4 years old the first time I remember, but it wasn’t the first time. When I began menstruation I was immediately sent away to boarding school. At the time I didn’t know what I had done wrong, in retrospect it was an extreme form of birth-control, they knew, they always knew. I only wish I was sent away earlier.
I had limited conscious memories of the sexual assaults most of the time. It was during a visit to my grandmothers that I remembered with horror. He climbed into my bed, my adopted brother, he raped me – for the last time. I was 12, he was 16. I can still feel him, smell him, hear him on top of my lifeless frozen body. I did nothing. The next day I ran, I’m only now realizing I’ve not yet stopped running.
I was adopted at a year old, but not wanted, I was supposed to be the completion to the perfect middle class nuclear family – it was most certainly nuclear! I was blamed for “ruining the family, we should have sent you back!”. My father plunged into late onset mental illness and the family lost everything. It was my fault.
I ran to the streets, I ran from one nightmare straight into another, and another. At 17 I had completely given up on life, I was trapped in a violent relationship, I was pregnant. My babies saved my life. I couldn’t stand up for myself. I was dirty, disgusting, useless except for body parts – but not my babies. They were perfect, innocent, precious and my responsibility. I knew love for the first time. I had never expected that.
A year later I ran again, now with my 14 month old daughter held in my arm, bloody with miscarriage and what turned out to be a broken back from the beating. I ran, no, I literally crawled with my girl gripped tight. I crawled into the streets sobbing and to frighted to make a sound. Silent screams feel like death, only without relief. I can’t believe he didn’t chase me! I was taken to a shelter for women. I only wish I knew about shelters earlier. I began to build a life for myself and my child. I was born a human for the first time that day.
Fast forward 21 years. I’m 40 and my daughter is a healthy, happy, loving, strong, and motivated young woman earning her business degree. I never got the chance to go to high school, but I’m about to graduate university. I work in non-profit helping disadvantaged people get back on their feet. I didn’t survive, I’ve thrived, albeit in silence, until now.
Thank you for your project. Watching you claim your voice, your right to safety, your right to be innocent of wrong, it has given me strength. I’ve just today begun trauma counseling and it’s terrifying! Watching your film gave me resolve to be brave. Your project has given me knowledge that I’m not alone in the battle to reclaim myself, many others have bravely walked the path which lies ahead. I choose to walk among my humble sisters, true warriors of spirit.
Thank you for giving the safe place to practice courage, to use my voice, and for showing that there is life after, well, that there is ‘after’.
From my heart – thank you, for being you.