Outwardly, my life really did look perfect. Maybe the truth would be easier to swallow now if outwardly my life didn’t look so perfect then. I would be able to say, “Yeah, that makes sense.” Had I been living on the streets then maybe all of this would seem more…common? I mean if I were a little homeless girl out on the streets then this story would be equally as tragic but you could say, “Well I just wish she would have had a nice home and a family and maybe that would not have happened.” It happens! It happened! And I had what it seemed like the perfect life for a little girl. We had money. We lived on 5 acres of wood on a lake. I had every toy and doll I could hope for. I was dancing at a dance studio. I was performing with my family in the music theater. I was waterskiing with my brother on the Gatorland ski team. Everything LOOKED perfect. Our house, it was perfect. My ruffled hand made comforter, it was perfect. My ribbon hair clips and my white keds, were perfect. None of those things lessened the trauma that happened to me. Perfect appearances didn’t protect me.
Every weekend we had waterski practice. Every weekend for as long as I can remember. I learned how to ski when I was 4. I think we did our first ski show when I way around 8. Those ski team members were as much a part of my life as my own family. The ski team and the theater group and church members, they all overlapped. Everyone was intertwined. We had ski costumes and theater costumes and dress rehearsals. My parents sang in the choir and I went to Sunday school. None of that changed my circumstance. I was SURROUNDED by perfect people and a perfect life and none of that saved me from abuse because none of those people chose to.
The ski team would perform at different locations around the state, some out of state, and even once out of the country in Costa Rica. My brother and I were the youngest on the team. Most of the team members were couples, or the parents of one of the couples. They watched me grow up. As I wrote Gatorland Ski Team in the subject line it was like seeing my childhood flash before me. I was proud to be on the team. I was proud to be in the parade in our small town every year representing MY ski team.
I sat on the edge of the dock with my feet in the water waiting every Saturday. I would call the same number. I still remember it. It was the man who molested me. I would call his house and tell him I was ready for practice. I loved all of the ski club members. They were like older brothers and sisters and cousins. The man who abused me, I cared about him, before the abuse. I would call excitedly and tell him I was ready for a boat to get me. Those feelings are the one things that bothers me the most right now. I cared about Gatorland ski team. But they did not care about me. We were a team. We competed at the WORLD FAMOUS CYPRESS GARDENS. So, it was pretty shocking when the man I genuinely trusted and cared about started molesting me. I wish I could forget his phone number but 30 years later, I still remember it. When I told my parents I didn’t want to go back, that I didn’t want to be around him anymore, that he was, I think I said “Weird and perverted,” my mother made a call. She called that phone number that I can’t forget. She was promptly told that I was going to hell for my accusation and that he had no part in it.
My world stopped.
But no one else’s did. The Gatorland ski team kept on going. As a child, I remember looking out my bedroom window, and watching the ski practice go on like nothing had happened. But wait, I thought, we were a team, why was no one coming over? Why was no one coming to check on me? These people had been a part of my life for my entire childhood. I was very alone. Did they not know? So I painted it, as I have written about before, on the ski jump, right in the middle of the lake that he, the main man in the ski team, had molested me. Everyone needed to know what he had done to me. I had to protect the other girls. Now someone will come and tell me how sorry they are that he did this to me, I thought. But no one ever came. They knew because the ski club members painted over my words. These were the thoughts of a child.
I suppose now I was still that hopeful child when 2 years ago I told my family of the abuse in detail and I waited. I waited for them to come, for someone to come, and no one did. No one has ever come. Not back then. Not now.
As an adult I can go over scenario after scenario. I can put together conversations and comments. As an adult, I know, they all knew, and did nothing. I had waited for something that never would have happened. It isn’t JUST that they continued being the Gatorland ski team. That was bad enough to have to watch out my window. But no one came to me. And they all knew what he did to me. Many of the ski club members verified that they knew when I confronted them during a time when I thought I would take the abuser to court. That fact is just really sinking in just now. So many people knew. As an adult, thinking about them now, knowing they did nothing, floors me. I reached out to some of them recently. Those still on that Gatorland ski team. I asked them why they did nothing. No one replied. All this time I thought, “I don’t matter. I didn’t matter.” And to those people, I didn’t. I don’t. They went on with their lives in the Gatorland ski team and to this day not ONE of them has had the courage or integrity to tell me they are sorry for 1. Knowing and doing nothing and 2. Not being there for me after the fact.
My parents let my brother keep skiing with the ski club under this pathetic excuse that it was all my brother knew. And I watched. Even after I attempted suicide, I came home and watched him skiing with the team. As a child, I was confused. As an adult, as a mother, I am outraged. Outwardly, our perfect family could NOT be interrupted. And it wasn’t. My family had secrets of their own. Apparently, EVERYONE decided that the secrets were more important than I was. The absolute undeniable fact of the matter is I DID NOT MATTER.
My therapist told me a very valuable tidbit last week. I told her, “Since my family left me 2 years ago after receiving the letter to my father about the abuse….” and she said, ” The didn’t leave you 2 years ago, the left you 30 years ago” (bit of paraphrase for the quote). And she is right. How do I wrap my mind around the realization that my perfect family, was rotten. How do I reframe it, compartmentalize it, deal with it, process it. Garbage. Liars. And every person that was on that ski team that KNEW and did nothing. Garbage. Trash. Liars. How do I take that trash, those rotten liars, put them in the garbage can and put the lid on it. I don’t know yet.
Do you ever hear a story and think to yourself, “That is way to far fetched. That is way too out there. There is no way that can be true.” If someone told me the story of me, that is what I would say. It is an unbeleivable story that so many people had an integral part in. But there is ONLY one truth and I am telling it.
I have recently learned of one man. One man that knew what happened to me and was prevented from helping me. Someone actually tried to help me. Someone wanted to counsel me and comfort me and he was prevented from doing so. So I wasn’t really alone after all. It rocked my foundation to hear this. I had always known of the people who knew and did nothing. But this man knew and tried to do something but was stopped. I’m glad I know. It gives me comfort to know. I am sure there are others who knew about the secrets and lies that prevented me from mattering who just haven’t come forward yet. I hope there are more. I hope my childhood wasn’t just the members of the Gatorland ski team and the likes of them who let an innocent child feel worthless.
The truth has prevailed. I knew it would. Now I just need to take out the garbage.