Monday, January 19, 2009

A family secret dies

There has been a secret kept in our family for many years. Its a secret that is prominent in families around the world. The secret is sexual abuse/molestation. This secret ran for generations within our own family, my Mother was molested, I was molested, and two other family members (who I won't name for their privacy) have been molested as well.

I was taught from a very young age to watch out for a certain family member..the same one who molested my Mother. In my young mind, I thought that he was the only person I had to be careful of, that was the only person in my life that would betray that trust. I was wrong, I was misinformed.

When I was around 11 yrs old I was molested by a cousin. He was my Mothers favorite nephew, he could do no wrong in her eyes, the sun rose and set around him. Because of this, when he molested me, I never felt that I could tell anyone, especially my Mother. It all happened so innocently, he and I were playing upstairs, our respective parents were just downstairs in the living room. My brothers bedroom was next to mine, we had a joint closet that you could walk into in my room and walk out into their room. My cousin P trapped me in the closet, pushed me up against the side wall and pulled down my pants. In a blink of an eye he proceeded to stick his fingers where they didn't belong and try to french kiss me. I pushed him away and started to cry. He held on to me, put his hand over my mouth and told me to shut up and keep my mouth shut forever or people would be hurt. I obeyed, even though I wasn't sure what he meant by "people would be hurt".

Within minutes of this happening, we were called to go down stairs to join in a family photo. I still have that photo, me sitting with my arms crossed and an angry scowl on my face...its a constant reminder of the day I was violated by someone I loved and trusted.

I avoided him the rest of the time he was visiting, making sure I stayed in the same room as an adult, never putting myself in the position of being alone with him again. No one noticed that things had changed between us. But they had. I no longer trusted this person, and I was glad to see him go home. My life changed that day. I never told anyone, I tried to put it out of my mind. But its something that never goes away, a memory that can never be erased.

As a child I was confused on why someone would do that, why it kept happening to me. It really changed how I felt about myself, then and also in the years that followed. Sexual abuse changes a girls sense of self. I know it did mine. I felt that the only thing I had that any guy wanted was what laid between my legs. Over the years every time he visited he forced himself upon me, there were times that he didn't get his chance because I refused to go near him. I stayed close by my Mother or Father and yet he would take every opportunity he could to try to get me alone. I came to dread his visits. But even worse was having to put on a front for everyone. Do you know how hard it is to pretend to like someone because the rest of the family likes him..because they don't know the truth. Keeping a secret as a child is difficult. Keeping it as an adult is even harder. Its harder because you know that what has been happening to you is wrong, that its no fault of your own, that you should tell..but you don't know how.

From the age of 11-14 cousin P would tell me how much he loved me and what he was doing wasn't wrong because he "loved me so much". He was only trying to drill into me that he was right, and I had to keep the secret. He used the fact that I was a very shy young girl to make sure I was not going to tell anyone.

One thing could always be said about P, and that was that he was very charming. Some people use charm for good things, he used charm to get what he wanted from people.

About 5 yrs ago my mother told me she had gotten very upsetting news about cousin P , that his step daughter had accused him of sexually abusing her. Mom was distraught to say the least as she explained what she had heard he had done. I felt sick to my stomach, this meant everything would come to the surface. This meant I would have to tell my mother what he had done to me.

I wanted to test the waters, so to speak,,I looked at her and asked "Mom do you think P could do something like that?"

She simply replied "I would hope not". I should of taken the opportunity right there to tell her what he had done to me. My voice would not come out. The look of despair on her face told me I would harm her more by telling her. I kept my mouth shut again. I let him get away with his crimes again.

I felt guilty all over again. I was struggling again that I should of told her back when he had first done it to me. Maybe he would of gotten some help then and his step daughter would not of been on his list of victims.

I say 'list of victims", because abusers don't just do it once, they do it many times, to many people, over a span of many, many years. He used his charm to do it, to get away with it all these years. I know I wasn't the only one who's life he changed. Who was before me, I don't know. But he should of been stopped. He was never made to be accountable for what he did. His step daughter never got the justice she needed. I so wish I had known at the time instead of months after the fact, she had reported what he had done. I would of come forward in her defense and told what he had done to me as well. I would of validated that he was 'very much" capable of doing this to females. She was brave enough to tell and he still never got charged for his crime, no one believed her. He used his influence in the community , his political pull and a very convenient house get away with this crime.

Her mother never protected her, in fact she stayed with this man, living under the same roof with him after he sexually abused her daughter. All this I'm sure just made it worse for her knowing her own mother betrayed her as well. It was bad enough for me to see him over the years at holiday time and anniversaries etc.. but for his step daughter to have to see him on a regular basis after she had reported what he had done... I can't imagine what she must of felt like.

I told a couple close friends about what had happened with P when I was in my thirties. I told my daughters why they had to keep clear of cousin P and when they were younger they never left my sight when he was around. I told my niece a couple of years ago, but I only told my brother D last summer. He was angry which I understand.

Its taken me many years to understand why I was promiscuous in my twenties and thirties not valuing who I was or what I had to offer a man. This behaviour is so common among females that have been sexually abused. It takes a lot of reflecting, a lot of growing up and maturing to know why I was acting that way. It took a lot of reinforcing my own self worth to come out of this in one piece.
Will the pain ever go away, no. Will the pain of being violated ever go away, no. It gets easier, it will get even easier now that I no longer have to see this person. It will get better knowing that he is no longer able to roam this earth inflecting pain on people. Now I am free, now there is no such thing as "the secret".

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