I am the type of person that remembers the most mundane and random details from my life. But I can not for the life of me remember a specific date. I know it was summer because I was wearing shorts. And I know I was 13 because my little sister was almost 3. But I do not remember the exact date that I was sexually assaulted. Maybe because for nearly 20 years, I've tried everything in my power to forget.
I have struggled with this post. Do I post? Is it too personal? Will I offend people? What will people say or think of me? Am I ready to tell this story so publicly? Will it be a positive message?
When it comes down to it, this is MY blog and MY life. If my story helps just one single woman realize that they can be ok after a sexual assault, then my post was not in vain. And besides, I need to get this OUT. If nobody reads it, then so be it. This is my way of coming to terms with what has happened and this post is for me. I will remain as anonymous as possible and only refer to 'him' as H. Some that have known me for years might figure out who H was as they knew him as my foster brother that lived with us for about a year.
A few weeks ago I got a text from my sister that said "hey, thought you'd want to know H hung himself". At first I squealed with delight because the person I've hated for 20 years was finally dead. It's morbid to think or even say, but I have wished him dead. For years I've had vivid dreams of being back in that moment and how I'd kill him instead of having what happened, happen. I think my subconscious was trying to tell me that I didn't have to be the victim if I didn't let myself. He didn't have to win. Anyway, within a few hours of finding out he was actually gone, my feelings about the situation started to change. I went from ecstatic to extremely confused.
I got online and tried to find his obituary, to no avail. I searched his name all over the internet and came up with nothing but a couple petty crimes...which surprised me given what he had done to me. I had assumed for 20 years he was a predator and was probably rotting in a prison cell.
A few days after the initial news was brought to my attention, I found the obituary. He was in fact gone, and he left behind 5 children, something I never even considered to be an option. In my mind he was still the slimy 15 year old, not a grown man with children. I began to cry. I began to think of him in a different light. I began to wonder what type of man he had become. I began to feel sorry for his children being left without a father. But what if he wasn't even a good dad? What if he was exactly the sleaze ball I'd always pegged him to be? What if they were better off without him? Oh my the thoughts I were having were too grown up, too mature. Why couldn't I just stay happy that my perpetrator was finally gone? I realized I didn't hate him anymore if I was actually having sympathy. But I was still angry with him. I was angry I never got a chance to see him as an adult. I wanted so desperately to stand face to face with him and have him (and me) know that I was all right. I had turned out just fine. I was not a victim. He did not win.
When it happened I didn't go into a deep depression right away. I didn't cower from him or hide from him in our home. Instead I gave myself a job. I gave myself the most important responsibility I could think of. I wasn't able to protect myself, but I had to protect my little sister. She wasn't quite 3 and I promised myself that I would have killed him with my bare hands if he got near her. That I would lay down my life before I let anything happen to her. I hadn't been protected, but I would die trying to protect her had a situation arisen. It was now my self-appointed obligation.
I was 13 years old and I kept a knife under my mattress, you know, 'in case'. I kept a hawk eye on his every move if he came out of his room. I made his life miserable making sure he stayed away from my sister. I did everything in my power to alienate him from my family; they were my family, not his. To the best of my knowledge, he never hurt my sister in any way. I'd like to think it was because I protected her, but my now adult mind knows it's probably because he really wasn't a pedophile. He was a horny teenage boy with impulse control, among other issues, but he was not a pedophile.
Fast forward a year. My mom and step dad divorced. H no longer lived with us. I was a freshman at a new school trying to make friends. I had yet to tell a soul about what had happened to me. Once it was official that H wouldn't be around, I knew my sister was safe and out came my emotions. I cried uncontrollably for hours on end and days on end. I attempted suicide several times but each time couldn't bring myself to go through with it. Being 14 is rough as it is, but being an emotional basket case and dealing with all of those emotions alone, is even more rough. Somehow I always found an inner strength to go 'just one more day'. Somehow I knew I couldn't let him win. I was better than that. And I still had a little sister to protect.
Then one day it was too much of a secret to keep bottled up inside. I turned a corner at school and there stood H. He was standing in my hallway, smiling from ear to ear with a grin I could only describe as evil. And I couldn't breathe. I ran to the nearest bathroom with a couple of my friends following behind me, confused. I spilled my guts to them. M and G were the first to know what had happened to me and they didn't judge me. Instead, they walked out before me and became my look out for the rest of the school year. Before a corner was turned or a stair well was climbed, one of them was ahead of me making sure the coast was clear. Slowly I regained my confidence that I really was ok and he did not win. That became my mantra, 'he can't win' and it's still a term I use today when struggling with something. I can't let 'it' win. I can not give up.
I hadn't seen H since that school year. But I realized when I found out he was gone, that I had searched for his face whenever I went to his town. I realized that I had hoped to run into him one day. I wanted to see the man that I considered a monster. I needed to see if he was as evil as I remembered. Most of all I needed to stand in front of him and not panic. But he hung himself and I'm angry that he took the coward way out. I'm angry that he let 'it' win. And I'm furious that I didn't get the chance to look him in the eye and tell myself that I WON! I am not a victim and he did not hold any power over me. I am all right!
I don't know how many women would say something like this, but what he did to me made me who I am today. At 13 years old I gave myself the job of the protector. I have always felt an immense responsibility to protect those that I love. What happened to me years ago is also a part of why I coach cheerleading. Of course I love the sport, but more importantly, I love the girls. I was alone and scared at their age and I never want any of them to feel that way. It is a horrible way to live. So I have given myself the responsibility of being their safe place should they ever need one. And they know it. I make sure they know it.
I could go on and on about how OK I am, but the truth is, I'm not sure who I'm trying to convince...you or me. I know I'm not a victim and I know I'm a strong individual, but sometimes I wish I'd have never given myself the job of being a protector. It is a hard reputation to live up to and at times it's simply exhausting. For example, with my sister. I still feel the need to protect her despite her pleas for me to let her be an adult and figure things out on her own. I hope she knows I only do it because I love her and it's always been my job and I just don't know how to be anyone else.
I am the protector.