I was 7 years old when we moved into my step-father’s house. Around that time he pulled me into his dark bedroom and whispered that there was something very important he wanted to show me. My mom had just left the room to go downstairs and make dinner for us.
“Shhh,” his deep-but anxious-voice. “I’m going to show you something that feels really good. Something that most parents are too afraid to show their kids. But don’t worry, I’m here to show you now. You can’t tell your mom though. She thinks that only adults should know this stuff, but I know you’re ready. Just don’t tell her…” As he spoke, his big, muscly body wrapped around mine. Holding me still with a massive blanket over the top of us in case my mom were to walk in, she’d be led to think we were “just cuddling.” While he was actually rubbing my privates.
I didn’t think that there was anything I could do. I learned from my mom that the grown-ups were always smarter than the kids. I know now that the reality is actually often reversed. Kids haven’t been desensitized to the world’s problems as much as many adults are, but that’s not the world I was taught to live in. I was always supposed to listen to the adults and do what I was told. This was the first time that I was told by an adult to keep a secret. On one side I felt like I was at their level now to be trusted with a secret, on the other hand, keeping the secret would only hurt me.
As time went on he would continue to try to make advances saying things like “You’re so sexy.” “Will you give me a french kiss?” “Just call me Dad.” “Let’s have some ‘family time’ so we can cuddle some more.” I said no to everything all the time and time after time my mom took his side. She would always ask why I had to be so mean to him and why I didn’t like cuddling or wouldn’t just give him a kiss goodnight.
Said very early on that he had chosen me because he thought I was strange for not doing girly things and was concerned. He thought that by “treating my like a woman” that might be able to fix whatever damage hanging out with my father had done. He had a constant obsession with sabotaging every female relationship I was in (my best friend, my sister) while simultaneously encouraging me to get a boyfriend from a ridiculously young age. None of it made any sense to me, but he definitely was acting as though he was noble in trying to fix something wrong about me. Something so wrong that it couldn’t be mentioned. I knew that the only way to stay safe from him was not to be around him, but about once a week I would be coerced by my mom to apologize for avoiding him, or for ruining the mood by not wanting to watch movies with the family. It worked until he decided to throw away the old computer I used for homework.
From then on I had to use the only computer in the house. The computer in his room. It was on his side of the room and by this time he had lost his job, gotten overweight, and had fallen into a deep depression. On top of this he took pills everyday to force himself to fall asleep. He was also an alcoholic which my mom hid very well from us because I never once saw a bottle, but somehow I always smelled it in his breath and was brought to believe it was just mouthwash. While I had to do my homework for school, he would be jerking off naked in bed behind me. This went on from when I was 11 to 15 years old.
Many nights on his pills he would sleepwalk around the house in a particular pattern. First he’d go to the room next to mine where he kept all of his office supplies and power tools. He’d move stuff around a little bit and then go downstairs to the kitchen to eat a whole box of Oreos. Next his zombie steps would come up the stairs and walk to the end of the hall. They’d stop just outside of my room for a moment before sneaking in. I had a queen size bed so he would jump in and fall asleep there instead of by mom. The first few times I was a sleep still so I didn’t realize that he was there until I woke up the next morning, or until I woke up from feeling his body wrapping around mine or the heavy breath and whiskers scratching the back of my neck. For years after that I started to stay up all night staring at the ceiling. I would expect him, and he always came. I told my mom many times but she never believed me. She said that he told her that he was just checking on me. Still I said I couldn’t handle it. I knew that I was fast enough to get away from him when I was awake, but I was terrified of the idea that I might get pregnant if he were to pin me down in my sleep because I wouldn’t be capable of pushing his weight off of my tiny body. Still my mom didn’t know anything sexual had ever went on because I was afraid that if I told her she would blame me since that’s what she had done to everything else. And because my emotions were never listened to to the point that I would feel safe enough to tell anyone.
He would also tell me about how horrible of a man my father was. That my dad had an affair and because he cared so little for our family, he decided to get a divorce and go live with the whore. In reality my mom was horribly abusive to my dad, yelling at him over the littlest things and that’s why he asked for a spit. I knew because I was there. My dad never left. He just asked for a divorce. My mom was the one that left, and she took her kids with her far away from home to go live with her new knight in shining armor. And while my stepfather was jerking off to me doing homework, my dad was still spending every penny he had trying to win me back through the courts.
Toward the end he was so afraid of the world that he begged my mom to have me stay home from school so that I could keep him company. That was the longest day of my life. He tried to make it sound exciting and I wasn’t having it. He tried to turn me on with his usual words of you’re so beautiful, and asking me about how horses have sex and other super provocative questions. I had built up a lot of resistance of the years so when he said these things, I knew to just let it go and not respond. But the pressure built more and more as the day went on. At one point I started to glare at him and what I got in return was the look of someone who appeared to be in love with me. In his eyes I saw that I was the only person in the world he looked up to and wanted more than anything to help in any way he could. That look was so painful for me. How could someone who caused so much pain have that look and honestly think that he never did anything wrong? I took it as a c hallenge to stare him down. He didn’t waver. But he said “I wish I knew what I could possibly have done to make you hate me so much.”
Later that day his tactics shifted. He started bargaining and threatening me. He said “I heard that you’re thinking of supporting your father in court. I care about you so I want to make sure that you know what you’re doing. If your mom looses you and your sister, then she’ll dump me too. I don’t have my body anymore or my job anymore. You three are all that I have left. If I lose you too, that will be the end of me.” Then his face turned really stern. “If you do anything to help your dad, then whatever happens to me will be on your conscience. I need make sure you know that now so that you can make the right decisions.”
That night he was really drunk and my mom, sister and I were barricaded in my room with all our valuables. It wasn’t the first time, but this time something had switched within me. I wasn’t willing to be quiet anymore. I started telling my mom everything that would make a difference. I went from the bottom of my list up saying everything that he had done that I was afraid I’d get in trouble for. I got up to the second to last bullet point on my list (that my sister and I had planned on running away but stopped when we realized there was no where we could go) when she broke down and said that we were going to get a hotel. The last thing on the list was sexual abuse. At the time I was so relieved not to tell her because I still didn’t have the words to describe what really happened.
A few weeks later he still hadn’t been staying in the same house as us when we got the news that he had died. Autopsy revealed an overdose on his prescription drugs paired with excessive alcohol. The combination set off an allergic reaction to the drug that stopped his heart within minutes. He was dead before he hit the floor.
The next two years I was plagued by depression, self-harm and PTSD. I saw him everywhere. I still heard him coming to my room every night. And could hardly sleep at all.
The first time I began to tell anyone what happened was when I was 17 years old (two years after he died). I had just transferred into a new class and the assignment was to tell the class what people see on the outside, versus what’s going on behind your mask. I had my whole superficial speech planned, but something about the energy in the room and the anonymity of being around complete strangers changed the path of my words. Consciously I was trying to follow the words, but before I knew it the words sexual abuse came out of my mouth. I didn’t remember hearing them before, but it was out there. Then I watched as people all over the room were gasping or sobbing and I was fascinated by the display of emotion. How could they cry for something that I didn’t even feel anything for anymore. I hadn’t felt anything besides depression and suppression for years.
Looking back now (currently 18 years old) and making connections to other things he said, I’m realizing that there’s a good chance he was trying to “fix my gayness.” A lot of pieces fit together now, because of that. I remember him specifically telling me how wrong it was to be gay and I remember my mom supporting him with bashing any LGBT identifier on TV whenever they got the chance.
Since then, telling my story has brought more and more emotional reintegration to my life as time goes on. I still haven’t been to a counselor because I feel like when someone says that it makes me feel like they don’t feel comfortable hearing the things that I lived through. I need to tell my story and reconnect with myself first. Maybe one day a psychologist or counselor will help, but for right now this is what I need.