Today I am writing about a topic close to my heart. A secret. Well, not after today’s post.
Listening to many current events, I am finding the courage to come forward about a subject, once closed. Another of those topics considered “a family matter.” Maybe I am finally finding the courage to share these experiences now since the issue is in the news. If you follow current events, I’m certain you’ve heard the accusations regarding Harvey Weinstein. Allegations of molestation…Rape…Sexual assault. And on…and on.
Many of these stories I haven’t read thoroughly. I get angry, and then, I have dreams, actually nightmares. Nightmares I want to toss into the trash, or delete from a keyboard. It is a bit difficult to delete these tragic events from one’s mind, so for many, many years I kept quiet. Never mentioning my sexual assaults.
Last night, I awoke, talking in my sleep. While I do not recall the entire “nightmare” I heard my voice saying “Stop it! Don’t touch me. Let me go! Stop it. STOP IT!”
When I was fifteen-years-old, I was sexually molested. I remember it just like it was yesterday. My parents were in the middle of a bitter, volatile divorce. My mother would tell me to “Never trust a man. They only want you for one reason, and when they’re through with you, they’ll toss you away like yesterday’s trash. That’s just what your daddy is doing to me. Throwing me away. I hate him, and I hate you. See what you’ve done. Your daddy wouldn’t divorce me now if you left us alone. I hate you and Him!”
Yes. It’s true. I caused my parents to divorce, after separating both of them while in a tumultuous fight. Arriving home from school, I heard shouting. My bedroom was across from their room. Leaving my bedroom door open, I listened to them shouting words of hatred to each other. The fight continued for a while, then – silence. I knocked on their door. No one responded, so I opened the door.
My mother was gasping for breath. Her face was blue. My father had his back turned, then he threw a pile of mail at my mother.
“What’s going on?” I said. “I heard the fighting.”
It wasn’t the first time my parents fought. I had served as their referee since I was five-years-old. My mother stumbled to a chair.
I picked up the mail, noticing “Past Due and Final Request” stamped on some of the bills.
“She’s gone and spent money again. Money I don’t have. There’s a letter from an attorney. If I don’t pay these bills, my wages will be garnished.”
I wasn’t surprised. My mother could not handle finances and when she wanted something, she purchased rings, and other items on credit cards.
Suddenly my mother rose from the chair, heading in his direction. She balled her fist, shaking it while cursing him. Dad rushed to her, hitting her. She fell. I rushed to her aid, shouting at my father, telling him he needed to stop hitting her. If he wanted to hit someone, he could hit me. I’ve seen my father’s anger many times, but today was the worst.
I stood between them, hands extended like a referee. “Don’t touch my mother again. If you keep doing this, one of you will kill the other one. Then, you’ll be in jail. One of you needs to leave.”
The next afternoon, I came home from school excited to share I had the lead in a musical. When I walked inside the house, my mother was scantily dressed in a torn, thin gown. Her hair was messy and her eyes were filled with hatred and rage.
She jumped towards me.
“I hope you’re happy now,” she shouted. “You stupid girl. Your daddy’s left and it’s all your fault. He’s divorcing me. You can consider him dead now!”
Three days later, we moved in with our grandparents in Bibb City, the mill village of Columbus, Georgia.
One of my great uncles took a liking to me, always telling me I was pretty and sweet. He invited me to ride with him on his dry cleaning deliveries. He said we’d have a ‘good time.’
Little did I know what his definition of ‘a good time’ really meant.
It was early springtime when I rode with him. He packed a variety of Tom’s snacks and Nehi orange soda for us to enjoy on this warm Saturday. Driving along, he talked about Papa and fishing and music. He knew I loved music. He played musical instruments so he invited me to sing with him at his house.
“You’ll love the music we play,” he said. “Good ole gospel music.”
“I like jazz,” I said, sipping my drink.
Carefully, I watched the directions of his driving. I’ve always been one to look for landmarks on the road. Little did I know how smart this little game of landmarks would become. We rode around to Smith’s Station, Alabama. According to roadmaps, Smith’s Station was exactly ten miles from Columbus, Georgia.
My uncle made a right turn on a dirt road. I glanced around, looking for homes, or maybe a farm. All I saw were dusty, red clay fields and another dirt road. He made another right onto another dirt road. I glanced behind me, noticing the dust from the roads created a thick, red fog.
“There aren’t any homes around here. Where are we going?”
My uncle smiled a devious smile. He reached his right arm over to me. “Come here,” He said. “You need to sit closer to me.”
I did not move. He thrust his arm my way, pulling me to him. My body tightened.
The interior of his truck was dusty. Freshly cleaned clothing hung on one side of the truck, covered with plastic and delivery orders attached. Still, I could see the red fog, now so thick I wasn’t certain anyone could see us.
“Where are we going?”
My uncle grinned. “Just relax. We’re going to pick blackberries.”
All I could see was a dirt road. The fields were freshly planted. I doubted blackberries were ready to pick. Something frightened me.
My uncle turned right again, pulling into a thick pile of brush and leaves. Tall pine trees grew in a line, so tall I felt I could reach the clouds if I climbed them. I wasn’t a tree climber. My uncle parked the truck, turning the motor off.
He laughed a horrifying, wicked laughter I did not like to hear. He pulled me closer to him.
“Stop it,” I said. I don’t want to get close to you.”
“Don’t you miss your daddy?” He asked. “Your mama said you cry for him. Come closer to me. I can be your daddy.”
“No,” I shouted, knowing no one would ever hear me. We were in the middle of a deserted field of red clay and pine trees.
“I want to get to know you better.”
“There are no blackberries around here. You lied to me.”
I remember crying. I was so horrified. Just what was my great uncle planning to do with me?
“I wanna go home,” I said, wiping my tears.
“And I want to know you better. You’re such a pretty girl. Your mama knows how pretty you are. She said I should be closer to you since your daddy left.”
His hands gripped my legs hard, moving up my thigh. He moved his right hand to my chest. I pushed away, but he was strong. Now, he was moving his entire body towards me, getting on top of me.
I screamed again, only I knew no one would hear. If I had any chance to get away from this monster great uncle, I had to fight for myself.
Since I was only 15-years-old and did not have any brothers, I had no idea how to fight, but I did all I could. My mother had never discussed sex with me, or what a girl could do to fight back. My arms were hard to move since he was on top of me. I heard the sound of a zipper, realizing my shorts were loser now. His hands rushed all over my body, moving into my genitals. I bit his arm. He pulled away for only a moment. My right arm was free now, so I moved my hands in the direction of his crotch. I had no idea what I should do, but I remember grabbing his crotch and I squeezed as hard as I could.
He screamed in pain. His body went limp. I pushed him away and I grabbed the door. Rushing outside, I ran as hard as I could. I knew the way home. I could walk. Smith Station and Columbus were only ten miles away. I was suddenly thankful I had strong legs and could walk the distance. The dirt road was almost an open field, so I could not find a place to hide. In the distance, I heard his truck. He was coming after me.
Raised in the Assembly of God Church, my grandmother had taught me to pray. Tears streaming down my face, I ran. When I saw his truck, I darted into a dry field with trees. Just maybe he could not drive his truck into the trees.
“Please, God. Help me. I don’t know what he wants to do with me, but I don’t like it. Please, God. HELP ME!”
My uncle saw me. He stopped the truck, opened the driver’s door and got out.
“You need to come back. We’ve got to pick blackberries.”
“You’re a liar,” I shouted. “I’m not getting back in the truck.”
He laughed. “Just how do you plan to get back home?”
“Walking,” I shouted as loud as I could scream. “I know the way.”
He rushed towards me. I noticed he was moving slower. Just maybe I had hurt him a little bit. Good. He deserves to hurt.
He moved closer to me, and when he did, I kicked him as hard as I could, right between his legs. He fell to the ground. I ran.
“Please God, guide me home. And please don’t let him catch me.”
A bit later, I heard the truck. My uncle gunned the engine, catching me. I looked behind me. The truck was getting so close I panicked, remembering when I was hit by a car at nine-years-old. I stepped to the side of the road. My uncle stopped the truck.
He was holding one of his hands by his crotch, and he moaned as if he was in pain.
“You get in this truck. I’ll take you home.”
“I’m walking,” I said.
My uncle jumped out of the car, picked me up and opened the passenger door. Kicking and screaming, I remember fighting as hard as I could to get free. He threw me in the seat.
“Don’t you move!” He said. “I’m taking you home.”
“I don’t want to be with you. I don’t like you anymore.”
“You just sit still. We’ll be back to your house before you know it.” He drove off, driving as fast as he could.
“If you tell one person I touched you, you’ll be sorry.” He said. “I’m a deacon in the church. No one will believe you.”
Tears were pouring down my face, and I tried to speak but my words were only garbled. Inhaling, exhaling, and slowly breathing, I calmed myself down, managing to speak.
“If you move one finger over here towards me, you’ll be sorry,” I said. “I know what to do now, and I’ll do it again if I have to. After today, don’t you even speak to me again. I hate you!”
Arriving home, I rushed to my bedroom. My mother asked why I was home so early. I ignored her.
I gathered some clothes and I rushed to the bathroom. I wanted to get the red dust off of myself. Scrubbing my body hard with Ivory soap, I cried and cried until there were no more tears left.
My great uncle came to the house a few days later. When I saw his truck, I rushed away.
Still, to this day, I can still hear his words, “I’m a deacon in the church. No one will believe you.”
Maybe now, someone will. I was victim at fifteen-years-old. Never did I report his sexual molestations of me. Why? Simple. Back in those days, who would believe a fifteen-year-old? They would say, You were asking for it. You wore shorts and T-shirt and you have a nice chest. You were just asking for it.
No, I wasn’t. In the dark of night while sleeping I still hear his words echoing to me.
“I’m a deacon in the church. No one will believe you.”
When he died, my mother phoned me, encouraging me to come to his funeral. I remember saying to her, “He can rot in Hell for all I care. He molested me.” That was the first time I shared his attack with anyone.
Regardless who or what a man is, there is no excuse for anyone to molest, rape or sexually assault any child or woman. Even if he is – a deacon in the church.
Now, people are under the impression a woman should always come forward; however, unless you are a victim, you cannot understand why it is so difficult and painful to “come forward.” It takes courage.
Victims are made to feel dirty, cheap, with a lack of self-esteem. I’ll not share how many years it was before I came forward and shared my story about my great uncle. When I did, I was told he had a history of ‘liking young girls.’
Looks like he got away with what he did, at least with me, after all – He was a deacon in the church.