What happens next?
Two nights ago I sat and listened to several brave women tell their story. It has made me think about my own story. There was a common theme in these women’s stories. They struggled with the trauma of what happened to them. I want to share my story and give hope to those struggling with their trauma.
As a child about five years old, my mom, sister, and I lived with grandparents on their dairy farm. I have 2 aunts and an uncle that were much younger as still lived there as well. My mom worked all the time. She worked very early and always had to work weekends. She would take turns taking my sister or I to work with her in the morning so we could have a little more time with her. On the Saturday mornings when I was left behind, my uncle would come into our room and molest me. Everyone else was outside in the barn, so there was no one around to know what he was doing or stop him. I hated to go to the barn. I would hear him coming up the stairs. I would cover myself with my blankets and pretend to be sleeping so he would leave me alone. He pulled the blanket aside, rolled me onto my back, spread my legs and would put his fingers inside me. It stung a lot, his fingernails would scratch the delicate tissue inside me. I would continue to pretend to be asleep until he was finished, before he left the room he would finally speak “It’s time to get up. Get dressed to go to the barn.” As he would leave I would lay there for a few more minutes before I got dressed. When I finally went downstairs I would pretend like nothing ever happened.
I don’t know how I did it, but as time went by, I began to think that it was a bad dream. I would wake up feeling his fingers inside of me; I could still feel the stinging.
13 Years Later
When I was 18, I was fooling around with my boyfriend who would eventually become my husband. Previously I had only let my boyfriend inside my shirt. This time, he wanted to do more. He touched me and immediately all the memories I had suppressed for 13 years rushed into my mind, I knew I had felt that feeling before. I knew it wasn’t a bad dream anymore. I immediately started to freak out; I jumped out of bed and got dressed. Having to explain what happened to my boyfriend was incredibly difficult.
I wasn’t sure how to handle the reality that the man who I would have called my “favorite uncle” was the person that molested me as a child. How could I make myself forget about that?! So much time had passed since then; I felt it would be pointless to bring it up. I didn’t want it to define or affect my future relationship. I continued to suppress what happened and didn’t tell anyone else for a very long time.
3 Years Later
I was 22 and married with 1 child. I was so unhappy in my marriage. My husband was a very hard worker but he treated me so badly. He had no respect for me a person never mind his wife. He would tell me I was stupid and annoying and lazy. I never let myself believe the things he said, I knew I wasn’t those things but it still hurt to hear them. I let him control me in small but profound ways. If I visited my dad’s house or aunt’s house he would be so angry! I would have to listen to him yelling at me for hours so I wouldn’t go. Sometimes I went anyway and I had anxiety attacks the whole time I was there, afraid about him finding out. He never hit me. When I was pregnant I hated having sex, it was so uncomfortable and I had no sex drive so we came up with “sex night.” Once a week I would tolerate him for 5 minutes, I lay there staring at the clock. I continued to hate sex for the rest of our relationships so “sex night” continued.
As time went by, our relationship became more and more unhealthy. His verbal abuse became a regular occurrence. In the back of my mind, I wanted to leave but there were so many reasons I couldn’t or didn’t want to. None of those reasons was because I loved him. I didn’t have a job. I knew I could get one but it wouldn’t pay enough to support me.
One night he yelled at me about something and it also happened to be sex night. I had cleaned up after dinner, put the baby to bed. I was sitting in the living room watching TV when he walked up to me and said, “Let’s go. It’s sex night.” Usually I would just get up and walk to our bedroom but this night I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want him to touch me after everything he had said about me. “No” I said. At that point he laughed at me. He grabbed my wrists and started to pull me out of the chair. I am strong but he is so much stronger. I fought against him, I pulled back and my wrists hurt but he slowly pulled me towards the stairs and up the stairs. I continued to pull and fight back. I yelled and swore at him. The entire time he laughed at me. When he finally dragged me into our bedroom he let go and simply told me “get undressed.” “NO.” He laughed more and started to rip my clothes until they fell off. I kept trying to get away but he would grab my wrist and I couldn’t get away. He pushed me onto the bed and forced himself on me. He tried kissing me but I turned my head away, his mouth was disgusting because he never brushed his teeth. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop him; it was dry and painful, I stared at the wall until he was finished, the only blessing was that he was quick to finish.
Over the next couple of months this happened several more times. The most pathetic part of this is that the fact that my husband just raped me never crossed my mind and it wasn’t the reason why I eventually left. I was angrier that he would verbally belittle me and it was no longer just in the privacy of our home, he did in front of our friends, too. One day I was cleaning the house and set the garbage outside the door the way I had for 3 years. He would take it to the dumpster, but this time he put the garbage inside my car. I was so insulted and I finally realized how little he thought of me. I was garbage to him. That was it; I knew I had to leave.
He was gone for most of the day so I prepared to leave. I went to the grocery store and bought 2 weeks worth of groceries on his credit card to take with me. I packed our stuff and hid the rest that I couldn’t take because I knew he would break them, like so many times before, if I left them out.
When he came home that night, sex night, I was sitting on the floor in the living room cleaning up toys, he walked up to me and said “Let’s go, it’s sex night.” I looked up at him and said “No. I am going to move in with my parents for a few weeks.” He started to laugh. “You need to take some time to think about how you treat me and our relationship.” He snorted at me then turned and walked away. I knew I was safe as soon as he turned and walked away. I had rejected him in a way that he wouldn’t forgive. There was no talking about our relationship. 2 days later he called and asked when I could get the rest of my stuff out of the house.
Several months later I was at a new job, talking to some coworkers, a man and a woman. Somehow we got on the subject of holding out on sex to make your man do what you ask. We were all laughing and I said “what if he doesn’t take no for an answer?” The man’s face became very serious, he looked at me and said, “then that would be rape.” Immediately I stopped laughing because I realized that he was right. My husband had raped me, more times than I could remember. I was more humiliated that I had that revelation in that situation.
Like the trauma from my childhood, I was too stubborn to let it affect me. I also knew I was safe from him; he would never try that again. I knew would never stay with a man who disrespected me the way that he did. The verbal abuse started long before the sexual abuse. The red flags were there but I was so naïve, I didn’t see them. I thought he would get better as time went by.
Eventually I met someone who knew how to treat a woman right in bed, I learned how good sex could be.
I am 32 now; it has been almost 10 years since that happened. It has taken me almost 10 years and a lot of heartache to finally meet a man that I know without a doubt will love, cherish, and respect me in every way, I love him without reservation or fear. Eventually the trauma will fade if you let it, when you are ready.