With the weight of the world on my shoulders, I was frequently gasping for breath. For someone so young, I had far too much to worry about. I was living in a constant state of fear and paranoia, whether others knew it or not. I like to think I at least had a happy childhood. I had two loving parents, a little brother and sister who I wouldn’t trade for anything , and supportive family and friends. But, I had never felt a bigger betrayal in my entire life. I honestly didn’t know when it started. In fact, I didn’t even realize what had even been going on at first. But, I will try to go back to the first time I recall it happening.
My dad’s step-dad, Papa, had been my best pal. In 3rd or 4th grade we’d often ride our bikes together, sometimes down to the lake, or we’d grill, or play cards. But, one of the most recurring memories I had was him walking out to the garage and me following him out. It always ended with him sending me back in so he could “be alone for a minute”, but as a little kid of course I was suspicious, so I’d pretend to go inside, while actually hiding in the corner of the garage. Then, I’d proceed to watch him drink a strange liquid out of a plastic bottle of what I now know to be liquor. If only my family and I had known that he was never in his correct state of mind, I’d never stayed over in the first place, but that is not an excuse for what he did to me.
My grandfather tried to do things to me. He attempted to touch me in ways no little girl should ever be touched. I wasn’t aware what he had been doing was wrong at the beginning. He was my family. I trusted him and honestly didn’t know better, but apart of me always had a feeling of discomfort or unease. Like I stated before, we’d often ride down to the lake and he would ask me if i wanted to remove my clothes. He’d try to put his hand in inappropriate places. I remember going home, crying, and asking myself “why me?” Why did I deserve to be put through that, at such an innocent time in my life? But do you know what all of these situations had in common? “No, papa.” Those two little words are what kept me protected through those troubling times. Under no circumstances was I going to compromise the respect I had for myself, even as a 9 year old, for the sake of our relationship. I can’t even describe to you the amount of courage it took for me to stand up to him. Unfortunately, I never had the strength to tell anyone. I kept it to myself, anticipating the next time I would have to go over there. Well, at least up until this past summer.
I am not exactly sure what came over me, but I finally informed my mom of what took place. It was a night of endless tears and confession. She wasn’t mad like I had predicted her to be. In fact, she was so proud of me for my noble ability to say no. But at the same time, I had never seen my parents more furious than they were in that moment. “How could we let you be treated this way?” “It’s our faults. We should have protected you.” But, the truth is that is wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault except for that man I used to call Papa.
Fast forward many lawyers and therapy sessions later, and you arrive at where I am today. My mom insisted we press charges so I’ve been dealing with telling strangers my story. At first I was embarrassed and shy. I viewed this point in my life as humiliating. But then I discovered something amazing. Instead of hiding it and being ashamed, I could use this to motivate others. I could use this to let them know that it is possible to say no. That there is hope for people that are in the same situation that I was in. It was the greatest feeling in the world. The anxiety finally being released from me. And for once, I almost felt complete serenity. I was no longer afraid. I know that I no longer has to be a slave to all my worries if I can just speak up. I have the capability to determine what goes on in my life. I realized I had control that I never thought I ever had before. And while it was a rough journey that brought me to this conclusion, I am glad I finally got here.