The Walking Wounded

I was sixteen years old and a fifth former preparing for CXC. He was a teacher at my school but more than that he was a long time family friend. As early as January, the pressure of the upcoming exams was taking a toll on me. This meant That I spent many days in the school’s sickroom and saw countless doctors. One afternoon, after another doctor’s visit while my aunt and I were waiting on public transport the teacher passed by and offered to take me home. My Aunt, needing to get back to work was grateful for his intervention.

On the way home he said he needed to make an urgent phone call and would need to stop briefly at his home. He invited me in and I promptly made myself comfortable on the couch. I must have dozed off while he was making his call because the next thing I knew he was over me demanding sexual favours.

For a moment I froze as the horror of what was unfolding hit home. With mounting panic I pushed him away demanding that he leave me alone. Instead, he pinned me to the couch while his hands began their insistent roaming of my body. As I struggled against his advances he kept saying “you’re such a lucky girl,your classmates would give anything to be alone with me”. I often think the sound of my blouse being ripped apart coupled with my hysterical tears brought sanity to the situation. He told me to wash my face, fix my blouse and then he took me home.

At home I hid the torn blouse having already decided not to breathe a word to anyone. It was not hard to do because by age 16 I had already suffered abuse at the hands of my stepfather and 2 other males. That night I shed bitter, angry, confused tears. Tears because the betrayal hurt deeply, tears for the loss of a relationship that until then was good and pure, tears for all the hurt I had suffered in my young life. I was so very tired of it all. What had I done to make me a target for so many sickos? And how were they all so confident that my silence could be so easily bought?

My stepfather who sexually terrorised me from age 9 to 11 effectively ended my childhood. His touching began innocently enough, a stroke of my hair, a light touch on my cheek.Then one day while I was using the bathroom he came in and began stroking my leg upwards to my vagina.I clamped my legs tightly grateful for the extra protection offered by the toilet seat. I knew then that life as I knew it had changed. What I did not know was the extent of the sexual games he had in mind. His favorite was masturbating in front of me until he decided it would be more fun if I participated. Sometimes he would place a sweet in his mouth and force me to remove it with mine. To refuse was to be beaten until I bled or complied. Life became one big hide and seek as I tried my best to avoid being alone with him. 

He carefully bided his time,knowing that: a)I had to sleep b)Try as I might there were moments when I would be at his mercy. I would be awoken from my restless sleep by a hand or lips on my most private parts. I learnt to disassociate until I almost believed it wasn’t happening to me. The beatings hurt, the threats terrified but more than ever the feelings of worthlessness were valleys that would take years to scale. Some well meaning friends have theorised that it couldn’t have been all that bad seeing I was not penetrated by him. To that I simply say it was a living hell. My days and nights were consumed by terror, fearful of what deviance he had mapped out for me. It was so bad that by age 11 I had regressed to bed wetting, was functioning at 2 grades below my level and prayed nightly for death. I withdrew from my classmates ashamed that they somehow knew my dark secret. How could I be anything besides dirty in their eyes and why would they even want my company? My other worry was that I was now unlovable.

At age 11 the God to whom I prayed made a way for me to be removed from that household. While I slept comfortably at nights, safe from unwelcomed visitors, the trauma was never far from my consciousness. I decided the only way to cope was to block it all out and pretend it never happened. And for a while it worked until a song, a smell, or something that was somehow associated with the abuse would bring back all the memories.

At age 21, burdened by the pain and faced with a series of events that reinforced my feelings of worthlessness I overdosed. That was my blessing, the catalyst for pouring out ALL the sordid details of my abuse. A period of counselling helped me to put my life in perspective.

From time to time the nightmares come. I still find myself breaking into tears, unable to even understand or explain why I am crying. I have an inherent mistrust of people and a deep anger towards those who stole my innocence. At times I cannot bear to be touched by the opposite sex which causes untold stress in my adult relationships. To this day I cannot eat a particular sweet and I cannot sleep in total darkness. I often thought the abuse was connected to my looks and at times I felt like cutting my face if it meant the men would leave me alone. Over time I have learnt that abuse is not concerned with appearances. It just goes wherever it will.

My mother has refused to believe my stepfather abused me. It took me a long time to come to terms with the betrayal but I suspect her denial was really a coping method. I wish she would have told me how sorry she was that I had to go through so much. I wish she would have held me and cried with me. Most of all I just wish she would have believed me. 

So here I am, living life the best way I can. To all the walking wounded I say we are strong, much stronger than we even know. We’ve taken all that life has thrown at us and though bruised we are still standing.

Walking wounded

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