“She is coming with me.” I said mustering every bit of courage I could. I had been walking home from school, a path I took every day, when I heard her screams and ran toward them.
The young man on top of her rolled off, stood up and stared at me in disbelief.
I reached out to her and grabbed her hand, saying softly, “You must stand up.” I had no idea who this girl was and no idea what I would do if she couldn’t walk. In that moment I was terrified. I knew if I couldn’t get us out of this we would both be hurt or even killed.
She struggled to her feet, and I continued to lock eyes with her rapist. He stood there in his white work-out pants, football helmet next to him, penis still dripping. The smell slammed me back to my own abuse and I had to fight very hard to maintain my bravery but I knew she needed me. I pushed her toward the edge of the field, never breaking eye contact with the five men in front of me. When we reached the street I ordered, “Run. My aunt’s house is three up on the right. Tell her to call the police.”
Once I felt it was safe I followed at a dead run. The police arrested the boys quickly and they were convicted of rape and assault and held until they were 18 and 21. I realize now that that must have been a rare thing in a large Midwest city in the seventies.
I was 13 and a year before I had been sexually assaulted by my grandfather. It was the final event in a six year history. I had tried to tell my mom but she was mentally ill and accused me of lying so I knew no one was going to help me. No one ever had. The world revolved around my mom and, thus, gave my grandfather the cover he needed to do whatever he wanted with me. There was so much fear and shame and physical pain at first, and then acceptance that I couldn’t change it and I learned to separate myself when it was going on: I would just close my eyes and pretend I was elsewhere. (Oddly, I still have such a high tolerance to pain that it has become life threatening at times.) But by this time there was just anger and hate.
I remember the night like it was just yesterday. A hot, early summer Midwest night and I was on a chair when he reached up under my dress and pushed my panties aside and slid his hand in to begin touching me.
“Touch me again and I will kill you!” I whispered through gritted teeth as I stepped off the chair and away from him. I had started to volunteer in the VA hospital a few months before and some of the men I was working with were teaching me self defense. I was tiny and they worried about me taking the bus into the city. I was also very good at my job (I sat with terminal patients at the end and offered comfort) and had learned I was a real person capable of an identity outside of my abuser and this, I believe, became central to breaking away and, later in life, healing.
Three years in the future I would be defending my mom against a potential rapist. By this time we were living in a rural community in the Midwest. She suffered from “Borderline Personality Disorder” and had no emotional connection to me. I was simply her caregiver and protector not her daughter. I had left home after the incident with my grandfather and lived with relatives, a friend whose mom was a call girl (men came to her house) and, at the time of this incident, I was working as a hooker in a truck stop all while going to high school and keeping drug and alcohol use to a minimum. (I couldn’t protect myself or anyone else if I was stoned or drunk though in my room alone I did do both.)
I had come home to take care of my mom because my dad had to be out of town and we couldn’t leave her alone. She had been drinking and teasing the neighbor (a violent sexual predator who was abusing his daughters who were my friends) and when she said no he came after us with a large knife and I shot him. No charges were filed as it was self defense and I was a lousy shot and just grazed his shoulder. Only in the last few weeks have I realized how frightened I was but not for myself but her. I still can’t connect to the emotions of that moment for myself. I was the caregiver and protector. As long as my job was done what happened to me didn’t matter.
Now, 34 years later, I am beginning to understand the true impact of these experiences: caring for and protecting people are the only roles I have ever known. As an adult, I became a professional caregiver in a number of different fields, and this carried over to my partners: I have only dated and married men who require my care either financially, medically or emotionally. These were men I could control, thus minimizing the chance to be hurt.
I have had sex often in my adult life but it has always been cold, clinical without any intimacy. I was a survivor who found sex could be used as a way to control men and had issues with sexual addiction (one night stand sex was my high) up to the point where my mom passed away. Inside a relationship, touching another person has only been done to offer them care and comfort: not for my pleasure. I have always been in complete control and it leaves me with little satisfaction.
Masturbation has been my salvation since I was 39 (no orgasms before Betty’s book). There I can fantasize about the kink I’d like to experience: being restrained by someone I truly trust and being pleasured. Not being in control: coming as loudly as I would like (and I have learned I am very loud through masturbation at least), being kissed, letting go and experiencing what it must feel like to be with and cum with another person.
Today, I realize I need to be complete and healthy before I can move into a relationship. I am now a working artist and a writer: an important first step. Next, I need to put the rest of the memories in order and assign them meaning for what they are and then, finally, there can be a relationship. Then, and only then, can I trust a man enough to allow him some control (a male friend took me out to dinner a few weeks ago and it was the first time in my adult life, with a man, where I had not chosen the restaurant).
I can experience the things I rarely have: a caress, a kiss, a hand on the small of my back, an arm protectively wrapped around me. I would love to be able to share my life with another person who could protect and care for themselves at the least and, ideally, for me just a little bit