#DomesticViolenceAwareness, #WhyIDidntReport, Domestic Violence, Grief and Loss, Rape, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Nancy’s Story

I’ll have to just focus on one traumatic incident of domestic abuse, because there have been many situations in my life. This one incident involves my cousin and his family. It happened when we were all young, in our 20’s. I had grown up close to this cousin and was Matron of Honor at his wedding. The day of this incident, my then husband, Peter, and I showed up at their apartment to help them with a move, as planned. When the door opened to let us in I saw my cousin’s wife holding a bunch of tissues to her nose. Their little boy, age 3, stood with his arms wrapped tightly across his chest, as if to hug himself. His mouth was turned down at the corners and his eyes averted mine……..I had to use the bathroom and in that room I saw a bathtub half-filled with bloody red water and soaking clothes….the move didn’t happen that day.

I once had a dream that my cousin was a silver airplane that slowly slipped out of the sky and crashed silently to the earth. That’s about the way it went.

Having written a brief account of a day in the distant past when my husband and I showed up to help my cousin and his wife with a move to a new apartment, only to have the moving plans cancelled after finding the wife incapacitated due to the broken bloody nose my cousin had caused earlier in the morning, I decided to write a little more about the violence that enveloped the life of this family member and the lives of many of the other family members whose lives intersected with his.

I’ve been wondering how it all started but analyzing the family, with its history of both wonderful and horrible stories of failures and sadness, joy and accomplishment, is too large a task, so for this project I will focus on telling a little of the story of my cousin.

I grew up with him and shared amazing childhood memories of fun, adventure, competition, love and brutality with this cousin, two years older than I. I can’t begin to encompass our lives in a write-up but his life impacted mine deeply and does to this day. He passed away a few months ago and when I got to the church, before the service, and saw the urn containing his ashes I choked up, in tears. Unlike a lot of others in the family I loved him and didn’t suffer violence at his hands, other than a few ice-balls to the head thrown between our snow forts and a few wicked “Indian sunburns” he gave me, twisting his strong hands around my arms. He did put me in some precariously dangerous situations, climbing trees, crashing into woodpiles on our sled, piled up, one on the other, and daring me to walk across the beams high above the concrete barn floor. We also rolled down a sandpit but avoided suffocating and we capsized while out fishing in a little boat on a pond, but didn’t drown. We went hunting but he was the one who fell into a hole out there in the woods and screamed for me to help because, he said, he’d spotted a bobcat. I left him and ran for my own hide.

When he stayed overnight in our house my mother had to put plastic on the bed to cover the mattress because he wet the bed ‘til he was 11 or 12. He had troublesome signs, including his propensity for torturing the family cat. One day, at his family home, he stuck his jackknife into the snout of the pig in the pen. The last time I saw him, within a year before his death, I recounted that memory but with the expectation of his laughing ruefully, remorsefully, at that outrageous act of cruelty. However, he just said, “I always hated that pig.” He was in his late 70”s when last we met up, he and his wife, and I, at McD’s for breakfast. His treat. I said next time would be on me. There was no next time. I took a picture of the two of them in their beat-up truck that day. I thought, when seeing the photo, that he looked like a hurt little boy in an old man’s body.

That day, he’d told me something I have had a very hard time believing. That he’d been molested growing up, by a family member. Now I wonder. His sister had told me that their father hated him and often beat him with a belt. Far worse, and something she later tried to rescind as maybe not true, was an account that the father’s friend had raped her brother when he was five years old. She had been told that. We will never know.

She also told me that her brother raped her when she was eight years old. I know that he molested several of the cousins, including myself, and one couldn’t bear to come to his funeral service because she was still dealing with things he had done.

In preparation for the funeral reception I contacted one of his daughters. In the planning conversation she casually mentioned that her father had raped her, before asking if she should bring a pasta salad. Apparently he raped both his daughters.

A granddaughter, who did attend the services, had told me some time before his passing that her grandfather had done “unspeakable things” to her during her childhood. Another granddaughter still misses both him and her grandmother and is sad at losing the best friends of her lifetime. She did say that he wasn’t really a nice man and had once punched her mother and had even punched her once.

I look back on our earliest childhood immortalized in black and white photographs. He and I in Florida when the sisters lived and worked there while the fathers were in the service, WW2. He and I playing in the park on stone monuments; sitting on the wooden stoop of an apartment building; later, he and I on the porch of the duplex in Enfield, he in ragged pants and I in my little wool coat.

We were in Germany together, he stationed in one area, my husband in another. He visited one week-end and fell asleep in a chair. When I woke him, he shot up straight, swinging his fists. He was drinking heavily by that point and had been since his teen-age years, during which time he once came to my house, woke me up and wanted me to go with him, which I did. I always did. “Little Cousin” he called me. He was very drunk and we just rode around. My mother never knew.

His life went by in a relatively quick period of successive violent incidents. I remember his holding off the police at gunpoint from an apartment when he was younger, ‘til he waved a white flag of truce. Violence is kind of a ridiculous waste of time.

Photo Courtesy of: Jourdan Buck Photography

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your story. You are strong. You are brave. Your voice matters.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#MeToo, #WhyIDidntReport, Rape, Sexual abuse, sexual assault

#WhyIDidntReport

#WhyIDidntReport

I was 15 and a virgin when he raped me. I told him no, but he didn’t listen. I cried. I cried while he was inside me. I cried when he left, as shame held me hostage in my bed. I wanted to shower, to get it off me, but I couldn’t move.

My world went dark, as depression took over. Suicide was the only way out. It was the only way I knew to stop the pain. When my obituary was found, my plan was foiled. I couldn’t end the pain, I had to learn to live with it, with the secret of that night.

When my mom found out I had sex, she called me a dirty whore. When my social worker from the Department of Child Services found out, he made me go on the pill –because I was promiscuous.

No one would have believed me.

I was too afraid to go to court to testify against him. I didn’t want to look at him. I was already in court with my stepfather for sexually abusing me. I just couldn’t go through another trial.

I was 15.

I was afraid.

I was ashamed.

I didn’t even tell my best friend.

I couldn’t tell anyone.

I thought it was my fault.

I thought I asked for it.

I thought I could have made him stop.

I was 15.

#WhyIDidntReport

#MeToo, Rape, Sexual abuse, sexual assault, Uncategorized

“Honey, He Raped You.”

“You know you wanted it.” His voice blasted through the phone as memories of those nights flashed in my mind. My silence enraged him. “You begged me for it! Make sure you tell them that.”

So I did.

I was afraid of what might happen to me if I told the truth. It was easier in my fifteen-year old mind to do as he said so it could be over, and I could move on with my life. I hadn’t meant to tell anyone in the first place. My intention was to end my life…so I really and truly could be done with it.

I sat at my mom’s word processor in her living room as I typed my obituary. I wanted the world to know who I was when I was gone. I knew no one knew me well enough to write it, and the thought of what they might have written made me want the end to come even faster. I imagined it to go something like this:

Jessica Aiken-Hall, 15 of Lyndonville, VT was a failure. She failed at everything. And now she is dead.

I was pleased with the words I was to leave behind. I didn’t want to make anyone feel guilty about my death. I didn’t really think any further than the pain would end. I would not be able to fail at life any longer. But I failed at that as well.

My obituary fell out of my notebook onto my mom’s floor. I was taken out of class and brought directly to my counselor’s office. The burn of humiliation flushed my body as my social worker drove me to her office. I even failed at killing myself. You can’t get any lower than that.

In my counselor’s office she asked me “why?” Her genuine concern for my wellbeing might have been what saved my life. I tried to lie my way out of it, but she wouldn’t allow it. She pressed until she got to the truth.

“I had sex…I didn’t want to. I said no, but I wasn’t strong enough to make him stop.” The tears blinded me as I looked down at my feet. I didn’t really know then, that this was the reason behind my suicide plan. I just knew I was done with feeling worthless, and the shame from the “sex” lowered me to an all new level of self loathing.

“Honey, he raped you.”

Raped me?

She went on to tell me that I had to tell the police, and there would be a trial. Panic rushed over me. I couldn’t go through another trial. I was still in the midst of the one with my step-father. I didn’t have another one in me. She begged me to tell the truth, but I couldn’t.

I was brought to the police station, where I was interviewed. “So, tell us what happened, Jessica.”

He came over to my room, after Gram was asleep, and we talked for a few hours. Then, he kissed me. He pulled off my pants and underwear and pushed me onto my bed. He turned off the lights and then he unbuckled his belt and pushed his pants to his ankles and got on top of me. I told him “no,” but he didn’t listen. He put his hand over my mouth and told me to “Shush.” I was scared, but the pain helped keep the fear away. I felt the warmth of my tears fall down my cheeks as he thrust inside me. When he kissed me, all I could taste was his Wintermint gum. The smell of his leather jacket filled my room. I wanted to vomit. All of my senses were on high alert, and took over everything. When he was done he left. Left me in my bed, wet from tears and his ejaculation. Left me empty.

He came back the next night, and did it again. This time I did not fight him. I let him do what he wanted. He told me I was worthless, and that I was lucky that he was “fucking” me. “All the girls want me, you know.” He left me again. Numb and alone.

“He came over to my house and we had sex…I wanted it.”

“So it was consensual?”

“Yes.” I shook my head as I tried to knock the images from those nights out of my mind.

Because he was twenty-one and I was fifteen, he was charged with statutory rape and placed on the sex offender registry.

My mom called me a whore, and my male social worker made me go on birth control, since I was promiscuous.

He was not held accountable for what he did to me, just like all of the others.

For years after the RAPE when I smelled leather, or Wintermint gum I would be back in my bed, under him. My life flashed back to that scared, fifteen-year old girl and I was paralyzed in the moment. When I saw him at a store, the fear from that night made me feel helpless, and alone. Uncontrollable tears would fall and my heart raced.

I paid for what he did to me for years and years.

He stole my virginity. He stole my self worth. He stole my power. He stole my control.

But he did not steal my hope.

I saw him recently, for the first time in many years. I stood in the distance and watched him with his wife. A middle aged man, with demons he will have to live with. I was not the only one he did this to, but like me, the others did not turn him in. Because of his actions those cold, February nights, he will forever be a registered sex offender. He no longer holds any kind of power over me. I understand now that he RAPED me, and that what happened was his fault. He did steal moments from me, but he no longer is entitled to any more control over my life.

For years I was ashamed because of what happened. When I told of past sexual partners, I always included him. The sting of his actions haunted me. But no more. I will never forget what he took from me, or the pain he caused me, but I have released him.

I have forgiven him.

I am stronger because of it.