(I’ve told this story in bits and pieces over the years but I feel right now is a good time just to get it out there in one glob. Fair warning this essay includes nongraphic child molestation/rape. Also, this is not intended to overshadow or step on the stories of my female friends who have felt empowered to share their experiences, if anything I am writing this to honor them. Their strength and bravery is inspiring and needs to be recognized.)
During the summer of 1983, the summer I turned 7, I was molested and raped by my neighbor.
I remember the lighting more than anything else. His living room had a dark oily yellow tinge to it the first time it happened. It was sometime before eleven because the movie of the week, some cheesy Vietnam war piece of shit, was playing in the background. My mother had asked the neighbor to watch my brother and me while his wife took her to the emergency room for a migraine headache. My little brother was fast asleep on the couch, and it was just me and… let's call him Joe.
The details of what happened next are muddy and come back to me in spurts and fits. I remember the smell of beer on his breath; I clearly remember the cans of PBR in the room. I remember him convincing me to take my clothes off by telling me a “Real Man” would do it and then he took off his shirt to prove his point. I remember the rough surface of his hands; I remember the way it felt to be violated, and I remember the fear… fuck me I remember the fear so clearly, it still hurts. When it was over, he acted like nothing of import had happened. I remember sitting in silence watching the TV until my mom came back and took me home.
Why didn’t I tell my mother the first time it happened?
I honestly have no idea. If I had told her, she would've either kicked his ass herself or found someone else to do it. Even at her least stable, my mother has always been a protective mamma bear, and I’ve never hesitated to tell her something, except this. I think it was a combination of shame and confusion coupled with my already burgeoning knowledge that I wasn’t “normal” sexually. I’d kissed my first boy several weeks before the assault, and I was still more than a little confused about my feelings on the action. But that doesn’t matter because the next time it happened, the first time I was full on raped, the threats came.
“You’ve been bad, and no one will believe you didn’t want it.”
“They’ll take you away from your home and send you to live in a foster home.”
“I’ll hurt your little brother if you tell.”
For almost three months I lived in a whirlwind of fear, shame, and dread… then it was over. I have no idea why he stopped. Maybe because we went back to school, maybe my mother or another neighbor was suspicious, fuck maybe he just got tired of me I’ll never know. All I know is that I’ve never been so relieved as I was when I realized it was over.
So here I am thirty-four years later, a husband, father, and sometimes I feel like it just happened yesterday. Sometimes the low dim lights of a room hit me, and it’s all I can do to fight off the panic.
How do I deal with it?
Tell the truth and shame the devil a lot of times I don’t. There are many days where I’m barely functioning, but the first step was talking about it. Until 2012 I’d only told a handful of people but after a complete nervous breakdown I opened up to my Doctor, and she said I had to talk. So that’s what I did, I spoke, I blogged, and refused to be quiet about. Not because I wanted the attention, for fuck's sake why would I want attention for this, but because I needed to vent the pressure before I ruptured.
I’m forty-one years old, I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m queer, I’m mostly happy, and I’m a survivor who will be talking about this for the rest of my days.
That’s nothing to be ashamed of.