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I Can Keep a Secret

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We make decisions everyday, what should I wear? What should I eat? Some are more important than others and there’s always that one decision that will change your life forever. It’s different for everyone, for some it will be a who question like who am I? For others maybe what will I do with the rest of my life? For me it was the question of keeping a secret I’ve kept for as long as I can remember. I was in my basement. We were alone. He walked towards me. I stood there. Statuesque. I clenched my jaw as he touched me. I knew the drill. I was not going to cry. Next thing I know I’m upstairs eating dinner with my family, he’s across the table, periodically winking at me. A child.

I always knew what he did wasn’t right. It was bad. Dirty. Wrong. I also knew it was a secret. He never told me not to tell anyone but I had a feeling that if I did it would only be worse. It couldn’t get better. He bought me extravagant presents, a motorized Barbie car when I was three a trampoline when I was six, a beautiful blue mountain bike when I was nine. He was my mom’s best friend, but he was my worst enemy. The Joker to my Batman.
All the signs were there I now know, regressed behavior like bedwetting, interest and knowledge of sexual acts at a very young age, poking myself with pins, urinary infections, refusal to go to school, running away from home, depression, eating problems. The thing that I’m mad about as I’m writing this is the fact that I’m such a cliché. I know that sounds ridiculous but its true. That’s just who I am. I hate average people and victims. But that’s exactly what I am. I’d like to think I’m not the average sexual abuse victim, because I kept quiet and no one suspected for so long. But that’s not true. I bet you are surprised right now too. I’m not what you would think an abuse victim would be like, I don’t get bad grades, I don’t use illegal substances, I’m not promiscuous (this is me being polite, because there is another word I should probably use).

I remember the moment I realized how bad what was happening to me was. Walking uptown one day in fifth grade I began to cry. My friend asked me what was wrong but I couldn’t tell her. I said my stomach hurt. But the truth was, my insides had been hurting for years. It was around this time I saw and episode of Law&Order Special Victims Unit. My mom told me that if anyone ever touched me I was to tell her right away. Too late. That’s why that little girl ended up dead in a dumpster. I was so upset, I didn’t eat dinner that night, and I even wet my bed. Up until sixth grade I was a very outgoing kid; I’ve done acting and modeling since I was three. I was quiet successful but suddenly I realized that I hated myself. This caused me to not want to even try at anything anymore, even the thing I loved the most. I was what I hated. I stayed home all summer, and my friends eventually stopped calling. In the fall when I went to middle school I was unrecognizable. I wouldn’t speak unless spoken to, unlike the old me who would crack jokes at the drop of a hat. My family probably thought I was growing up and becoming a more reserved, mature child.
Then one day we received a call. He had died. A heart attack. My mom cried. So did I. But for a different reason. He had stopped coming over as often a few years before but he was still there on Christmas and birthdays. They were supposed to be the best days for a kid, but I dreaded them. One time he came over when I was about nine and I hid in the bathroom for an hour. I pulled the drawer all the way out, covering the door so there was no way he could get me. But now there was no way he could get to me. I was finally safe.
I really like to think that I forgot about the whole thing for a while. Then the summer going into sophomore year something happened. I don’t know how to describe it except that I regressed. I thought about it constantly. When the school year started my mom suggested that I go to see the social worker. I did and I’ve seen her every week since. The day before Christmas break of my sophomore year I had to go to a physiatrist to get prescribed anti depressants. My mom had to fill out a questionnaire and one of the questions was about excessive sexuality at a young age. My mom remembered me as a child and selected the strongly agree box. We had a discussion about this with the doctor who diagnosed me as manic-depressant also known as bipolar. On the way home we stopped at a tailor to get my Christmas dress altered. He was the same nationality as my abuser. I could smell him as he leaned in and measured my bust. I know this was his job and it wasn’t inappropriate at all but I felt gross. I went to the social worker when I returned to school that day. After a little while I spilled my guts. I can’t even remember what I said, all I remember is her saying “Jaclyn, I’m right here”. I was in there for two whole periods. When I left it was Christmas break and I wouldn’t see either social worker for two weeks. When I needed them most. It was about this time when I started having night terrors; I would bolt up out of my bed and scream. Asking, “who’s in here?” I’d cry myself to sleep, I lost weight, any physical contact, even with my family or best friends would make me uncomfortable.
They say three can keep a secret when two are dead. While one out of the three people that knew was dead I always knew I’d have to eventually tell my parents. But I wasn’t ready. At all. I talked about it with the social worker at school and my counselor outside of school for five months. Then on May twelfth, 2008 we had my mom come in to “go over my progress”. That’s what we told her. I finally decided that I couldn’t keep this secret any more. It was literally killing me because it made me not want to live. I have never been more scared in my life. Even when I was being abused it was not as scary as when I had to tell my mom. I knew that it needed to be done but I still literally shook as I sat in the waiting room, the room span and I even lost my footing as I walked into the counselor’s office. When I finally said the words out loud my mom went silent. She didn’t even cry. I was hysterical. She barely spoke on the way home. I had pizza bread for dinner. We watched gossip girl. We acted like everything was ok. My parent’s barely spoke to me for a few weeks. I didn’t blame them. We finally got back to normal but we still don’t talk about it.
I chose to talk because I knew that if I kept this secret inside me any longer I would probably become a terrible evil person. I feel as if a weight has been lifted off me. I still don’t go a day without thinking about it and I’m still bad with physical contact but I’m proud of myself. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I decided to do it on my own. I like to think it was a non-victim move to make. Perhaps even heroic.
Every decision I make has to do what has happened to me. But I don’t think of it as such a negative thing now. It wasn’t positive thing either. I been pushed to my limits and I made it. I feel like this was supposed to happen to me, for some reason. I’m still not very comfortable to talk about it but I hope that one day when I can I can help others by hopefully stopping this or at least helping people deal with it after the fact. I know this sounds stupid but I don’t think I would be the caring person I am today if that didn’t happen to me. I would never wish what I went through on my worst enemy, but it made me the person I am today, and for that I am grateful.





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