Dear Baby…

Dear Baby,

I am terrified. You’re already changing everything in my life and I’ve only known you were coming for 24 hours. Part of me can’t believe you’re real, the other part is preparing and planning. 

I think it’s going to be just you and me, Baby, but we’ll have so many adventures together,  just the two of us. You’re the size of a poppyseed right now and through the fear, I already love you more than I thought I was capable of loving anyone. 

Love,

Mom

Why Me?

I can’t stay in that town very long without feeling nauseous from the oily, pervasive knowledge that he had walked those streets, stayed in those places, eaten at those restaurants. The last funeral wasn’t his, it was his wife’s, he died over sixteen years ago. I have avoided coming here when I am able, for casual way they talk about him, even the ones who knew what he did to me. This time, it raised questions along with the painful struggle to suppress the memories.

Why me?

In the months following my revelation to my parents (nearly a year after the time he spent with us), my parents spoke with every female member of my dad’s family, children and adults alike, looking for other that my dad’s father had abused in the same way. We never found another; it was only me.

So, why me? Why was I singled out at seven years old to be the victim of his perversion?

I am grateful that I do not remember the majority of his stay with us well. The first two and a half days are crystal clear, but everything following come only in nightmares and during post-traumatic episodes that fade quickly once they are over, leaving only a shadow of panic in the back of my mind that lasts for weeks or months. The abuse began the day after they arrived, late morning or early afternoon, durning our “nap time.”
Had it happened before that?

I only remember seeing them together once before that on a family vacation to New York. Usually it was only my grandmother who came to visit us. I don’t remember him during that visit, but I barely remember that visit. I gathered that we went to see them at least twice before they came together to see us, so did it start then? Is that why the abuse started so quickly after they arrived?

But again, why me? Don’t people like that usually have several victims? In the year that it took me to tell my parents, shouldn’t he have taken a new victim? I am grateful that was not the case, even though I question why it was not.

I know that I will never find the answers to these questions; even if I could, they would do me no good. Being the only one in a place where everyone tells their stories of him so casually makes me wonder, was there something wrong with me before he ever touched me?

Defrosting 

Among the laundry list of (obvious) reasons that pulling myself through another sexual assault absolutely sucks is the one I have stumbled upon most recently: defrosting.

Defrosting is what I have started calling the rediscovery, or turning back on, of the capacity to really FEEL. Over the last months, most of what I have felt is intense anger or wild, out of control, euphoria (the dark kind, not the good kind). The anger was mostly at God for failing to protect me and allowing this to happen again. About a week ago, the anger finally broke into a quiet prayer: “God, I need you and I know my anger is misplaced. I don’t want it anymore, any of it. I miss how close we were and I hate who I am without you.”

And so began the process of defrosting.

I have been through this process more than once now, so I’m beginning to see the pattern of emotional and psychological responses in myself. While it does make processing easier, it is incredibly frustrating. Feeling again after not is a little like turning on a faucet after the main water line has been off for a while, all you get at first is the nasty crap that’s been stirred up from the work on the pipe and the return of water. In that way, most of what I’m getting is pain, utterly ridiculous insecurities, frustration, and mood swings that make the worst PMS look like a day in the park.

I wanted to turn it off as soon as it started to hurt, but the trickle has turned into a tidal wave, and it’s not all bad. As much as it hurts, it’s wonderful to be able to empathize again and to really appreciate the important people in my life.

Trust

I’m beginning to realize just how little I trust people.

There are so many people in my life who bring out those parts of me that I hate. They have this thing for the crazy that I get when I have completely lost hope. I don’t hold it against them, I’m sure that they don’t understand. I think that maybe I’ve just gotten very good at surrounding myself with people who are in so much pain, they miss everyone else’s.
I am terrified that I’ll eventually be exactly that.

Into

There was a time when I envied the women who had it happen later in life, who understood what happened, how it may affect them, and could accept that it didn’t define them. It wasn’t until fifteen years later that I realized how much I wasted trying not to allow what he did to me to define me as a person. 

The truth is that it happened too early in life for me to even begin to understand how many threads in my life can be traced back to those two weeks. 

So, I decided that I can waste more time and energy fighting his ghost, or I can forgive and accept that it DOES define me and it’s not all bad. God carved a person out of that experience who has struggled, but is also bold, fearless, passionate, and who’s heart breaks for the people who have been through the same. From a child with a sad story, he built me: a woman who is strong enough to fight back. 
I don’t expect my story or my struggles to change the world, but if it gives one person hope and strength to make it through their own battle, every moment of pain is worth it.

Asking For It

I love it when people give me an excuse to flip out. The sentence, “What did you expect to happen? You were asking for it.”

No, actually, I wasn’t. That is exactly the reason we are having this conversation, because I wasn’t and I didn’t and it happened anyway. If I had been, I would be talking about consensual sex, not rape.

Fuck you very much, sir. Feel free to exit my life permanently.

Anthony’s Parents

To the parents of the little boy who found out what happened to me-

I wish I could remember your last name, I would find you and thank you. 

You believed justice for a child was stronger than the shame that kept my parents quiet. 

You recognized the damage that was done and advocated for me when my own parents would have pretended it had never happened.

You are the reason there was a legal case for me. The one and only reason. 

You saved my life. If I had known before now that it was you and not my parents who forced the case, I would not have survived the first flashbacks when I was 16. I never would have found the strength to forgive him and move on with me life. I would not be who I have become.

Thank you.

The Survivor

Statistic

I was sixteen the second time. At that age, it’s less of a horror and more of a cold statistic. He was eighteen. We were good friends, I thought. I even helped him chose the engagement ring for his girlfriend.

The story is a familiar one. There was suppose to be a party and then it was just the two of us. We were friends, so I thought it would be safe. I said “no” a dozen times before I shut down. I never said yes, but I did stop resisting.

In the two months following that night, I heard the same story six more times from his other female friends. Eight years later, I have heard it at least two more times from people we know mutually.

I could have turned him in, knowing what I did. But I didn’t, and neither did the others. He had gotten all of us drunk, so all of us believed that it wasn’t entirely his fault, though it became obvious that it had been premeditated. Even when I finally accepted that it wasn’t my fault, I refused to turn him in because I remember how messy the case had been the with the first.

I regret that decision every day.

The statistic is closer to 1 in 3. They don’t account for the ones who never report it–the ones who were blackmailed into it, the ones who barely remember, the ones who were too young to remember (and no one ever found out), and the ones who thought it was their fault. I can count on one hand, the number of women I’ve known in my life who haven’t been through a sexual trauma of some sort.

I have developed a theory that every man who is charged with rape has done it at least five times before they find a woman who has the balls to report it and face the humiliation and agony of reliving the experience over again for months or years before finally being told that the charges are being dropped because there isn’t enough evidence or there are other high profile cases and they simply don’t have the time or resources. Imagine, then, the number of women for a man who actually goes to prison for the charges.

Background 

Here’s to the women in the background.

The ones who hear the phrases

“I’m in love with you, but…”

“I think I’ll leave her for you.”

“You are the one that got away.”

“I missed out on you.”

But never gave in, never gave up on real love, and never used his confessions as an excuse to be the other woman.

Here’s to the women who push those men to be better than they were by being brave enough to call them cowards for running from love, responsibility, and honor.

Here’s to the women that the others may despise because they see what could have been, not what she chose. 

Here’s to the women that wear the crown because they’ve humbled themselves to be in the background.

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Patricia J Grace

Author of SHATTERED, a memoir of childhood sexual abuse

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