Had I only mattered.

*trigger warning

Should I be looking for a predator around every tree, my mother asked her friend. But that really wasn’t the right question. That question has an easy answer. Yes, there are predators around every tree and every corner, and you should be looking for them.
Maybe the question she should have been asking herself was, “Should I have left my daughter alone with men when she was just a child?” Either way, none of the questions she was asking had anything to do with me or my feelings. None of my family’s actions over the years in response to the childhood abuse had anything to do with me. Had I truly mattered, none of what occured after the abuse would ever have happened.
My mother’s comment was one of many negative replies I got after I wrote a letter to my father a year ago. I could never have imagined the response my entire family would give..After a series of ugly emails and letters… I could not have imagined all of them never speaking to me again. My mother, brothers, aunts, uncle, cousins, never to be heard from again.
After a year of reflection I now understand that they behaved no differently than they had my whole life. Expecting a loving, compassionate, validating reply to the details of the abuse I suffered would have been unrealistic.

My husband and I just reread the letter that I wrote to my dad. I read some of the details I chose to share of the man, Billy, who molested me as a child. A few nights later I had a flashback. I remembered being at Billy’s house. He had made me look at his porn magazines. He told me how my breasts were growing nicely. He had just had me try on some of his daughter’s bathing suits and model them for him. I was 13. I had changed the sheets on his bed. I knew if I finished cleaning then he would take me skiing. That was the deal. I was just starting to vacuum, and his wife came home. She had never come home during the day. I only saw her on the weekends when the whole ski team was together. I never saw her alone in her house. I just stood there, in my bathing suit, with the vacuum cleaner. She stood there. He stayed sitting in his “child molester recliner” as I had deemed it. She asked me what I was doing. She asked why I was there. She KNEW. I could see it was written all over her face. Why in the world was this child in her house cleaning? Why was this girl from the ski club at her house in the middle of the week? I watched this flashback like someone watching a movie screen. I watched the three of us and I saw my face. I remember what I was feeling. I was embarrassed. I felt like I had been caught cheating on a test. I didn’t know why I felt this way. He had convinced me that what he was doing to me was fine. He had convinced me that I was beautiful and that this is just what we do. But seeing his wife standing there I felt…dirty. The flashback ended. I tried to reconnect to it and remember what happened next. I wanted to remember more. But it was gone. I wanted to understand how that woman could go on for all the years following and not question what I was doing in that house and do something. I was left with that picture. Of her looking at me, and me feeling dirty, and her looking at me like she thought I was dirty too.

One memory. So many emotions. So many violations. With just one memory of one moment of one day. There were so many days. Multiply that memory. Multiply those emotions and feelings.

Growing up on a lake and on a waterski team I was always in my bathing suit. It was not until I was allowed to be alone with Billy Banks did he then have the opportunity to molest me. Had I never been alone with him, I would not have been molested. I would have been one more little girl in a bathing suit that he just watched. When Billy asked if I could go to his house and clean it for him, and in return he would take me skiing, all my parents had to say was no. Had they said no the opportunity would have never been so perfectly presented to a child molester. As soon as Billy got me alone… it was already too late.

I don’t think one member of my family realizes the number of bad memories that I have. I don’t think one member of my family thought about how it made me feel every time they brought up Billy for the next years to come.

Billy Banks, touched me more times than I can ever remember. He touched me different places on different days and different times over a period of years. After I finally was able to tell my mom about Billy, my brother begged to keep skiing with the ski club (which included Billy). My brother was only around 15 years old. When my parents said yes they dug a knife so deep in my back it would take 30 years to heal from. Yes, he could go back and ski with the man who molested me. Yes, I would then have to watch my brother over there every weekend for years. My parents and brother continued to bring up the ski club to me. They brought up ski club members they saw in passing. They would mention seeing so and so learning a new trick on the lake that weekend. My brother, a few years back, decided that he wanted to get my ski back for his friends to use. Twenty years after I left the ski club he wanted my ski back. He had to tell me the story of how he looked for my ski, asked about my ski, etc.
My mother would tell me when she saw Billy and his wife in the store or in the restaurant.
EVERY SINGLE time my family brought up the ski club they twisted the knife. I would forget the knife was there but sure enough not even a week would go by, year after year, and one of them would bring up someone in the ski club and that knife would dig deeper. Because every time they brought up the ski club I remembered Billy Bank’s hands on my little body. The 50th time when he kissed my neck. The 80th time I felt his hard penis rubbing under my body. Every time they brought up the ski club it hurt the inside of my being.
My brother finally told me that he made a stand. He told his buddies that he wouldn’t get into the boat with Billy because of what he did to me as a child. My brother then called to tell me all about it. 30 years later my brother decided to finally not ride in the boat with the man who molested me hundreds of times. Was I supposed to rejoice? Slap him on the back and tell him good job? Commend his new found growth?
My mom would tell me that she would give Billy and his wife “the eye” when she saw them. Over a 30 year period I listened every single week by either my mother, father, or brother, something that had to do with that ski club. That ski club that was full of secrets and lies all having to do with me. My brother not riding in the boat with the man who molested me was just one more time I had to hear the name Billy Banks. They never let the memories fade. They never asked if it bothered me to hear about the ski club. They never asked how I felt about anything.
How I felt never mattered.

When I finally told my family everything that happened it should not be so surprising that they reacted the way they did. I think it was the little girl in me that still hoped. The little girl that wanted my father to go and confront the man that hurt me. The little girl who wanted her brother to say he would never go back and be around a man that molested me. That little girl who needed so badly to be saved, validated, comforted, and told everything would be OK. I saw that little girl in my flashback. She should have never been standing there in her bathing suit at 13 years old in some 50 year old man’s house.

My mother could ask herself what would have happened if she and my father had not left me alone with men. But that is not really the right question either.

The only real question any parent should ask themselves after they find out something has happened to their child is how can I make this better. How can I make this child safe? What words can I use that will be validating and comforting. What words would be hurtful and hinder the healing process? How do we move forward from this moment so that my child feels like she matters?

When I finally told them bits of the truth when I was little, and when I told them the entire story a year ago, I may not have gotten the same response, but I was left with the same feeling. That I did not matter.

If I had only mattered…

23 thoughts on “Had I only mattered.

  1. Bethany, you matter! This is a nightmare on so many levels. It is as if it would have been better for you had they not known at all. I don’t understand why when children already lose so much from being sexually abused, they must keep losing. I can feel in your writing the effects this has on you. When you lose your family, those scars dig deep! You matter Bethany, you matter!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know, until you said that, I never thought of what would have happened had I never said anything. Because saying something made it worse. Wow thank you for such amazing insight and understanding and kindness. The scans are truly deep.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had to take off my glasses to wipe the tears.
    Had you been my daughter, you would have seen my rage at Bastard Fucking B. And the troops would have been brought in…Social Services, the police, all of it. And no person in my family would ever be around that evil criminal again. And we would not bring it up to hurt you all over again and again for years to come. What were they thinking? Did they not fully realize what he had done?
    I hate to thing of what other little girls and adolescents he attacked because your family did nothing. If you had been run over in the road they would have taken action.
    They are as guilty now of cowardly behavior as they were then. Not one stands up now and says, “I am sorry?”
    This post needs to be in a book or a magazine or front page news. Families need to have the courage to protect their children, even children now grown. You are cared about. I care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I finally told all I could tell my mom was that he did bad things to me and he was perverted and I didn’t want to go back.my mother had a man from social services come. Because he was an old man I was too embarrassed and could not tell him.i requested a woman.my mom also called him. She had to tell me all about how he blamed me and how his wife said I was going to hell, which only made things worse. nothing else was done.they then blamed me for the rest of my life for not telling more.my husband has said many times, they didn’t need to know more to do the right thing.in my post The town that abandoned a child and In Details of the Abuse post I tell the rest of the story and details of my subsequent suicide attempts bc I had to live on that lake watching him…thank you immensely for your support and your anger at the unjust! I wish I’d had the response you gave just once in my childhood. Thank you for the tears you cried for me. It’s very…makes me feel like, you understand.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your husband is so right. You told enough. Children, or adolescents do not have the words other than bad. You did more than enough, more than most kids are able to to do. Often the bad touching feels so bad a child never tells.
        Your parents needed to go further. I am so sorry they didn’t. And so sorry your anguish was such that you wanted your life to end. Unfortunately I do understand very well.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Their response to him over the years showed him they did not believe me. He is still a free man. I can only shudder at the thought of the others he has hurt. I’ve done the best I could over the years to warn other ski club members who have children

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      • Well, good for you. It’s not your job, but that you have tried to do that, putting yourself at risk again for criticism, speaks volumes about your courage. Your writing is important. I hope you keep all of it. The way you told your story was powerful, riveting and heart rending.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish you didn’t understand because the fact that you do means you know the pain and lived it and I hate that for you. I hate it for anyone that has to heal from all of these wounds. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for supporting me during this journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You nailed it. The only thing that matters is how your family reacts after you’ve been molested. The sad thing is, when someone molests a child, they first assess the child and groom them to make sure they won’t tell. Or that if they do tell, the family will be ashamed and will keep the secret. The power of shame is incredible when it’s kept in the dark. I’ve actually just started a new blog where I can talk about more of my dark stuff (https://mypeacenow.wordpress.com/) and how I’m healing it all.

    As for my own family, because my molester was my own brother, the whole thing was kept very hush hush and the shame around it all was huge. I’ve healed a ton of it, but am still working on healing. My mother was pretty abusive too. Sending you big hugs.

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    • Absolutely right! The power of shame IS incredible when kept in the dark. I will go check out your other blog. Thank you for sharing your feelings. I think we just keep pushing forward towards healing by sharing our stories it helps others not feel alone. Sending you hugs too!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so sorry for your family’s behavior. Unfortunately, I think it is the norm too often. Although I was never sexually abused, I experienced what you did on another level. Everyone in the family pretended the physical and emotional abuse and neglect my mother heaped on me was mostly ignored…especially by my coward of a father. He hid at work to avoid my mother’s wrath. All these years later, I am estranged from my sisters and have a distant relationship with my father. My older sister actually told me that I would have “been the way I am” no matter what and that the abuse was not that bad. Easy for her to say given she was the “golden child”. I’ve learned that the word “family” is meaningless. The people to whom I am related mean nothing to me. The family I’ve created for myself has nothing to do with relatedness with the exception of my sons.

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    • Your sister had absolutely no right to minimize what happened to you. You deserve to be validated. You are so right that family is what you create. Emotional and physical abuse and neglect have the same emotions associated as sexual abuse does I feel. In all circumstances we are not valued and treated as we should be and bear lasting scars that take years to face and overcome. My heart goes out to you.

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