My story begins 35 years ago at home at the hands of my brother. The feeling in the pit of your stomach as you begin to think of these things is creeping up as I type. I can feel the tears behind my eyes fighting for their liberty. My brother is my mother’s favorite child, my sister and I rate a distant, very distant other number. It is not second.
My brother started by telling me things like “Mom wanted me to be sure you got clean.’ as I exited the shower. You see my father worked, mostly. My mother worked. We were unsupervised a good deal of every day. I remember the first time my brother shoved a q-tip into my urethra. The blinding pain, his realization he had done something I might tell about, the blood. His fear, his threats he had not done it on purpose and I could not tell my mother. The weeks of pain every time I had to use the toilet. I remember the taste of my fear, the tears, the bile, the shame. I remember the first time my brother put my hand on him and held my hand closed while he used it to rub himself.
When I finally told my parents, it was because my brother was ‘staying with friends’ and my sister was at ‘camp.’ In reality my brother was being kept with a church counselor at the recommendation of authorities, and my sister was being treated after her abortion of my brother’s child. My mother looked me straight in the face and said ‘Don’t you dare jump on the band wagon.’ I was 12. I was crushed, horrified that they would not protect me. I had begun running away a year earlier, not long after my mother came home to find me chained up naked in my closet, which was also chained with a bicycle lock. Her first question to me was “What did YOU DO?’
There was no reaching her when it came to my brother. To this day, she would still force us to have Christmas or Thanksgiving or any other number of unpleasant interactions with my brother if we would still let her. All the while saying ‘I can’t even have my children under the same roof, thanks to you and your sister!’ I did put up with being forced to see him socially until in a hospital parking lot while my Aunt was dying, my brother came up behind me while I was saying good night to a cousin and I turned to see him touching the face of my daughter, caressing it tenderly and he said she looks so much like my sister.
That was my break moment, I punched him. My mother screamed at me, ‘How can you do this to your own brother!!’
As a mother, my heart cannot forgive her. I would never allow anyone to harm my children, knowingly. Worse I would never defend some one who did such unspeakable things to my child. I am sure you have heard stories of others who once abused so badly, so young, were victims of abuse, rape and worse later in life. I have just come to realize and I am well educated and very well read and experienced, yet never knew the things that happened to me when I was touched or worse inappropriately, were the symptoms of PTSD. I felt so ashamed of seizing up, of becoming that frightened and intimidated little girl inside. I became obsessed with the ability to defend myself later in life. I know can stare down an attacker appearing fearless, and know I can hold my own. But at 43 age does come with wisdom, for most.
I was raped at age 15, 17 and 20. I was physically attacked in a robbery. Beaten nearly to death and almost lost my daughter when I was three months pregnant to her biological father’s vicious attack. I was sexually assaulted by a stranger at 12 in a mall. He also assaulted another girl three stores down, who I coincidentally attended summer camp with, but did not know it was her until we saw each other in court. He was the son of a judge, he got 6 months probation and a restraining order to stay 500 feet away from both of us. Again I was failed by those in power to protect me. 10 years later I was leaving my apartment and walked out to go down my stairs and looked eye to eye with the man who sexually abused me in a pet store in a mall. He was working for the electronic store delivering a TV to my neighbors with three young daughters! I was instantly terrified, I ran back inside and collapsed. My fiance at the time knowing the story, I said his name and he ran out our door, he yelled ‘Hey you!’ He turned and looked incredulously at this stranger who knew his name. My fiance yelled again ‘I know who you are! I know what kind of man you are and I’m calling your boss!’ He then turned to our neighbors and yelled ‘Do not let that man in your house near your girls! He sexually assaulted my fiance 10 years ago. He likes little girls and he doesn’t care who is around!’ My neighbors were horrified, and did not accept the delivery. That was the first time some one defended me. At 22 I felt the first pang of acceptance. I say pang, because it did not feel good, so much as odd and a little relieving.
I went through life threatening illness as a child and through bone marrow biopsy and so much more I could not say everything here, it would take too long. I was always to blame. My Mother blamed me for child protective services coming, after the bruises sent me to the hospital from school. That’s how we found out I was sick.
I have never been married, my relationships have been hard. Some have been wonderful, but they had so much to deal with that was not their doing. My grand parents were married 64 1/2 years when my grand father died. I respect marriage, I believe in marriage tremendously, so I have abstained until I could find that kind of love. I am 43, life has been hard. i learned to walk again after a devastating back injury and many subsequent injuries as a result. The last was a 14” metal spike through my thigh from a fall. I have found courage and strength from my friends, the family I chose. The few family members who were wonderful, like my paternal grandfather who lived with us. He was disabled with Parkinson’s and other physical ailments, but in caring for him I found strength.
You have given me a similarly significant gift, you said ‘The worst part already happened, not talking about it just makes it worse.’ I’m paraphrasing. I never realized the symptoms were PTSD. I never had one councilor, therapist or even psychiatrist suggest that the long term effects had a name, or ways to cope with them. Of course I gave up on them about 25 years ago, but have had some conversations with a few people over the years in trying to help others cope.
Your documentary, I think because you journeyed back over the locations, the train ride, the woman who met you at the train and reclaimed those locations, reclaimed your control over the terror, has shook loose the brick that has been the cornerstone to the wall. It will be a process – but for whatever reason you are the woman who has touched my soul with your story, your courage, and your willingness to share such a tremendous burden with the women you have helped. I was amazed by Fran Drescher and Elizabeth Taylor sharing their stories, I never knew either was a survivor. I am overwhelmed by the women, all the women, who shared their pain, fear, shame and courage so openly with you. It is a sign, a neon sign, lit so brightly screaming to the world your soul could not be taken from you! They would not be so able to speak to you if this were not so. Your husband and his candid honestly through his journey is something I want my fiance to watch. I think he is an amazing man a nd I believe that you are both very fortunate.
I have been fortunate too, to have found a man who can love a broken women for the whole person, flaws and fears together. Who understands and does not pull away when my fear makes me flinch or I have a terrible nightmare.