Part 1: Three Times Is A Charm
My life has very literally been a roller coaster ride. I’ve had some of the most amazing highs and some of the most utterly depressing and destructive lows. I want to take you through my worst lows so that you can fully experience with joy, the depth of my best highs.
My early childhood was normal enough…we were poor, lived in a bad neighborhood and my parents struggled. But they loved each other and they loved my brother and I and that’s all that really mattered. When I was 9, I had my first encounter with a sexual predator. He was a neighbor and he was around the age of 19. I played with his little sister and spent time over at their house quite a bit. My first memory of any violence from him centered around grasshoppers. My mom used to pay us to get rid of the grasshoppers in the yard. Little ones earned us a dime and the giant ones got us a quarter. My mom wanted us to catch the grasshoppers and kill them. But, I didn’t have the heart to do that. I love all living things! So, I would catch the grasshoppers, put them in a mason jar and carry them down the street to my best friend’s house where I’d release them in her yard. I’m sure her mom loved me for that!! 🙂 One of the times I carried a jar of grasshoppers down to my friend’s house, he was there in the yard. He was tall and lanky and had brown hair, brown eyes and crooked teeth. He knew that I was trying to save the grasshoppers. He waited until I dumped the grasshoppers into the grass, then he jumped up and stomped on them all. I yelled and tried to push him off the grasshoppers, which only seemed to enrage him. The next thing I know, he’s got his hands wrapped around my neck and he’s choking me. My friend’s mom came running out of the house and started screaming at him. It wasn’t until she threatened to call the police that he dropped me and walked away. I was terrified to walk home. My house was at the end of the street, my friend’s house was at the other end and his house was right in between. I’d have to go right by his house to get home. I don’t recall how I got home that night, but I do remember my mom coming down the street to get me.
I don’t remember the very first time it happened. Perhaps that’s because it happened so many times. I’ve actually lost count. I’d say it occurred over the period of about a year or two. I remember specific times- several times in his house when no one was home, once outside in the high weeds, and the last time. The last time, I was so proud of myself. This time, I decided I should act like I would play along with him. I told him I would…I tried bargaining. I said that we could play hide and seek and when he found me, I’d do what he wanted. It was what he was going to do to me anyway. I remember hiding in a tiny cabinet just above the floor in his kitchen. I picked the kitchen because there was a back door there. In the dark of the cabinet, I heard him come through the kitchen looking for me. I also heard him go into the next room. I made my run for it! I flung open that cabinet door and darted out of the back door so fast that I thought I’d trip over my own feet. I don’t even remember jumping on my bike, but I did. I have a very clear memory of pedaling down the street as fast as my little feet could pedal…away from my home…panting and out of breath, as I kept frantically looking back over my shoulder to see if he was chasing me. I got away. Shortly after that, he moved. Thank God.
Obviously, I felt ashamed of what happened. I did not at all feel like I could go to my family. I was terrified I would get in trouble. I don’t know why I ever thought I did anything wrong. I remember looking up the word ‘rape’ in the dictionary. I mean, I thought I knew what it was and I thought that’s what had been happening, but I had to make sure. I never told anyone except a priest. I was in the 4th grade at a Catholic School and we had to do mandatory confessions to the priest every now and then. Even though I knew I was forced, I still thought I had somehow sinned. So, I confessed. I didn’t quite know how to say it to the priest, so I said “I almost had a baby.” Little did I know, that at 9 years old, a girl’s body isn’t ready nor is capable of conception. But, I didn’t know that yet. I just knew that’s how people had babies so that was my way of telling the priest. I remember thinking he didn’t believe me…or that he thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. Usually, for minor sins, the priest would tell you to say a prayer or two. For major sins, the priest would tell you to say 10 or 20 prayers. This priest told me to say 2 prayers. He must have thought I didn’t know what I was talking about.
I also remember avoiding my mom. It was shortly after that time that she tried to teach me about the birds and the bees. But, I thought she knew about what happened with my nighbor and I thought she was trying to bring it up. So I ran away. Literally, every time she tried to talk to me about the birds and the bees, I took off running outside. I remember climbing trees and hiding up in the trees. I was so scared…I thought if we had that conversation, that’s she would somehow know and I’d be in BIG trouble.
But, deep down I knew I wasn’t at fault. I knew my neighbor was a bad man. I knew what he had done was illegal and immoral. I knew all that…until my own father did it too.