My story begins on a summer day in 1986. I was 8 years old, he was 14. We shared a bedroom, he and I. And on that particular day, we were told by our parents to clean it up (we always let it get messy!). My parents were apartment managers, working on site, but away from home. They were there, but not close enough to protect me from what was to come.
We began to clean that day, stalling whenever we could by running to the restroom, reading everything before we threw it away, playing with toys that should have gone straight into the toybox. But we hated to clean. So we made it last forever, not realizing that by dragging it out, we were only prolonging the very thing we hated.
As I said, we looked for distraction wherever we could, so when he began to tell me about the birds and the bees, I didn't complain. It was only another way to get out of doing work. I was sitting on the bed, feeling the springs, and he sat on the floor, hardly having to look up at me, he was already so tall. And he began to talk about sex, natural sex, adult sex, and I had a lot of questions that I knew he could answer. So, timidly at first, and then less shy, I asked them. He talked of things I didn't understand, wouldn't have understood... had he not shown me.
He didn't even ease into our first encounter. He told me what to do, and he did it. He told me to get on my hands and knees, and pull down my shorts, and I did. And then he did something to me that I didn't understand at first. He entered me, but from behind, and I didn't know sex could happen like that. I always thought that the man had to be on top, and what he said next confirmed the profound sense of wrongness: "This is bad," he said, "don't ever let anyone do this to you." I thought in some way he was trying to show me what was wrong, what shouldn't happen.
I think I knew better than that, even then.
I don't remember all that happened that first time, other than what I've said. What I do remember is writing in my diary that night, "We did IT." I wasn't even exactly sure what "it" was, but I knew it was what was talked about in hushed whispers, the subject of jokes, and certainly not something that big brothers did to little sisters.
I also remember the suffocating sense of guilt, of having done something extremely wrong. I wanted to tell my mother, to abate the guilt, and I would have, had he not told me not to. He said there was nothing wrong with it, and besides, she wouldn't believe me. So I compromised. I picked up a red notebook, and wrote on it in silver crayon, "This afternoon Ba-Ba (my name for him) told me about sex." What an understatement!! I had to write it, was too embarrassed to tell her, and when I gave it to her, she said it was alright. What he had done was alright! I felt such immense relief, I went back to bed and went to sleep. Little did I know that this was only the beginning.
I remember the first incident with absolute clarity. The times after that are unintelligable. I remember a position, a time of day, an act of sex, but the events leading up to and after it are not there. I know it happened many more times, over the course of 4 years, and always, always, during the summers. Summer was the only time he and I were alone, so he could do these things to me during the day while my parents were gone. With this concrete piece of fact, I can place all events during the day, and begin to understand why no one caught him.
He was insatiable, unwilling to take no for an answer, yet never actually physically forcing me. He would coerce me into doing whatever he wished, somehow making each time feel like something I wanted. Making me feel guilty if I refused to play along. I saw through it all. I knew what he was doing. And on a very real level, I pretended it was nothing. I did what he wanted, knowing that my parents came home for lunch, came home at five, it couldn't last all day. And it didn't, but that failed to make it seem any less interminable.
He made me do things to him in our room, on his bed, in my bed, in the kitchen, in the living room. And always, always, there was penetration. There was never a time when there wasn't. He made me role-play, which only made it easier to pretend it wasn't happening. But always, under it all, there was a profound sense of shame for me. I was ashamed and embarrassed about what he was doing to me, what I was letting him do, of giving in one more time, of not saying no loud enough.
Three times, he was almost caught. Once, we were in the kitchen, which was right off the living room where the front door was. My father came in, but the door was locked, so hearing him unlock it gave my brother sufficient time to put himself away and me to pull my shorts up, and for us to both act as if nothing had happened.
Another time, we were in his bed, and apparently we hadn't heard my dad come in. He walked into the bedroom, and I was laying on top of him, and we laughed it off, told him we were only playing. Anyone could have seen my uneasiness, my discomfort, my embarrassment, and anyone who saw their daughter laying on top of their son shouldn't have accepted "We were playing" as an answer.
The next time he caught us was the last, and once again an explanation was issued and accepted. My parents had gone out for the evening, but my father forgot something and came back. My brother was making me strip for him, and my dad walked in while I was nude except for my underwear. I made it to a corner, and clutched my nightshirt to me, and when he asked what was going on, I said I was just changing into it. He looked incredulous, asked if I'd been stripping for him, and I said no, not at all. I was just changing. And he believed it and left. And it continued.
When I look back at what occured, I can't help but believe that my parents had to have seen something, suspected something. But they ignored it. And I was sacrificially offered to my brother to keep peace in the family.
Do I honestly believe they knew about it? Sometimes. But more than that, I believe that they were simply too blind, too ignorant to the fact that it happens, to look for the signs that were so obviously there. I withdrew. I became co-dependant on my brother. I stopped having friends over. I became depressed. Why didn't they see it?
The abuse went on for 4 summers, as I said. I was 12 when it stopped, and the only reason I finally said no was because I was afraid I'd start my period and get pregnant. It also stopped because my brother started having sex with others; I quit being so special to him. That summer, too, he tried to rape my best friend. And I knew it, and I couldn't stop it.
I'm 20 years old now. The abuse has been a part of the past for 8 years, but it is still very much a part of me. I disclosed to my parents in December of 1996. We had all lived with my brother and his wife for a couple of weeks. He took us in off the streets, which I suppose gave him a ticket to treat us like so much garbage. It was the abuse all over again. He was fucking me, but in a different way. And it hurt. It brought back the suicidal thoughts, the depression, the wanting to get away. Knowing that we had to be there and I had nowhere else to go didn't help either. And so finally, after a particularly dirty argument with him, I told my father. He kept it quiet for as long as he could, but one night it all blew up.
My dad confronted my brother, told him plainly, "I know what you did." No other words were said, had to be said. Immediately, we began to pack our things to go. I felt incredibly guilty for causing the rift, but yet, relieved, because someone was on my side, even if it was someone who should've protected me then, not now. So we left, found a motel to go to, and we told my mother. She suspected at that point, and she began to cry when she found out. I didn't then and I don't now feel sorry for her. I was abused, I wanted to hollar. It was me who had to put up with it, and keep it quiet for 7 long years! Don't cry; this is my abuse!
I don't know if that makes sense, but all of a sudden, in the split second in which my parents each found out, I felt a loss so huge I didn't know if I could survive. At the time, I didn't know what I'd lost. My identity, maybe. My sense of, this is my secret and I don't have to tell if I don't want to. My control. It was taken away by well-meaning people, but those things have never been restored.
Where am I now in my healing? I have no idea. I've come to stop relying on people to give me back my control, and I've started to take it back myself. I don't need my brother in my life, but I don't have any closure. I hope to attain that soon by burning all of his pictures. Will this do it? I have no clue. But I don't think it can hurt any. I'm in therapy right now. I have been for over a year. And I find myself able to reach out to others in my pain and still offer support.
Some things are harder. Flashbacks are more prevelant, as are unusual physical sensations that I can only guess are some kind of physical imprint of the past. As I find myself getting better, I also find myself spinning more out of control.
And now for the million dollar question: will I ever get over it? I wish I knew. I have to hope so, because hope is all that makes it bearable. What I went through was awful, and I'll never completely recover, but I can learn to live with it. We all will, all of us. We have to. There has to be someone on the other side to ensure everyone else it's possible.
That is all there is to my story. I'm sure there'll be more. Survivorship is never done. The day we stop surviving is the day we die; until then, surviving is our only option. And we'll all make it. I only hope we can help each other while we do, and I hope that by writing this, I've helped one person come to terms with what happened to them.
Thank you for reading all of this. Please take the time to visit the rest of the Sanctuary.
To return to the lobby of the Sanctuary click here.