There are so many of them. Each added another scar to my collection, some deeper than others. I didn’t realize until recently how much it helps me to write it down. Even though I am disguising some details, I feel like I am exposing them. Here they are, in reverse chronological order.
TRIGGER WARNING: I want to be honest, but I included some details that might not be appropriate for everyone.
Stephen. I met him online, randomly. I had early indications that he liked power play in relationships. I met him in person. I could see that he might be dangerous. I didn’t run away. He started to hurt me. I froze. He tied my hands, beat me, tortured me, raped me, all night long. I screamed. He hit me harder. He made fun of me. He shaved my pubic hair, saying it was disgusting. He said if I moved, he’d cut me. He raped me again. Exhausted, I fell asleep, and he woke me up to continue. In the morning, he threw me out of his apartment. I could barely sit down. I couldn’t stand the pressure of the shower on my bruised breasts. I was in shock. I hated myself for allowing that to happen. I went to the clinic to get emergency contraception. The doctor wanted to collect a rape kit, wanted me to press charges. I was so terribly ashamed of my complicity that I said no. The doctor was disgusted with me. So was I.
Ned. He was engaged to someone else but pursued me. It’s like he knew how weak my boundaries were. He kept pushing. He came over at 7:00 in the morning, woke me up. I didn’t slam the door in his face. I was too polite for that, too well trained to please. He came inside. He pushed me back into the bed. He made me feel good. He made me feel ashamed. I kept saying no. He kept coming over. He kept lying to me, and I kept falling for it. It lasted for a couple of months. I told him to stop, and he agreed, but then he kept coming over and trying again. One time he kept pushing while I dissociated. I ended up curled up in a ball, a wreck. “Who was it? Did he come to your bed at night? How old were you?” Asshole. He recognized that I had been abused, and he exploited the situation.
Thomas. I met him at a networking event for divorced parents. He used to call me up after work and spend an hour telling me about how annoying his co-workers were. I listened and commiserated, even though the stories varied little from one day to the next. He never asked about my day. He hurt me sexually. I pretended I like it, because I couldn’t tell him how I felt, what I did or didn’t want. I fell into a depression. That bored him, so he dumped me, but didn’t tell me. All he said was that he was busy. I found out from others that he was dating someone else. I didn’t care because I wasn’t really interested in him, but at the same time, I did care because I felt used and discarded.
Danny. I met him a few months after I separated from Miguel, my first husband. I took a class from Danny. After the last class, several of us from the class had dinner together. We said goodbye outside the restaurant, and Danny walked me to my car. when I was about to get into the car, he kissed me. I couldn’t have been more surprised. He was at least twenty years older than me and I’d had no inkling he was thinking that way about me. He continued to pursue me. I wasn’t really interested but I was lonely and doubting that anyone would ever be interested in my again. I gave in. I slept with him. I let him visit me. He was having a great time. I felt used but also needy. He talked about sailing around the San Juan Islands with me. That sounded sort of appealing. The sex didn’t matter; I could just check out and hardly notice it. He visited me again. After the visit, he called me, very upset. His wife had found out about us. His wife?!? What wife?!? Yes, probably he should have told me, but anyway now he needed comforting. It was all very upsetting for him. For him! What about me? Oh wait, that’s right, my feelings didn’t count. I was just a plaything for his mid-life crisis.
Miguel. My first husband. A wounded soul who coped by lashing out. I’ve written about him elsewhere. I was his second wife, 10 years younger than him. He’s now on wife number three, who is 24 years younger than him. Proof that he really could do better than me, I guess. I hope he doesn’t talk to her as mean as he talked to me. I hope he doesn’t make her do things in bed that she doesn’t want to. He liked anal sex, even though it hurt me. Maybe because it hurt me. He took naked photos of me when I was asleep. And then he’d yell at me if he thought I wasn’t dressed modestly enough when we were out in public.
Lars. My father’s colleague who thought it was ok to come into my room at night. Since I froze like a deer in the headlights and didn’t protest, it must have been fine, right?
Benjamin. Supposedly my first love, he played a lot of come here/go away. He told me that he was Catholic and believed it was a sin to have sex before marriage. He’d grab me and pull me into the bathroom to have a quickie. He had sex with me on the living room floor with my roommates walking around upstairs. He flirted with my roommate every day. He said believed in fidelity and lasting commitment. He cheated on me, at least twice that I know of. I was tall with long brown-blonde hair. He constantly pointed out small, dark-haired Latina women and told me that that was the kind of woman he dreamed about. I cried and wished I were someone else. He borrowed money from me, and I gave it to him because I wanted him to be happy. He never paid me back. His church told him birth control was wrong, so he said we shouldn’t use it. I worried about this but went along with it. I got pregnant. He accused me of doing it on purpose to mess up his life. I had an abortion, which he thought was the best solution. I never saw him again after the day I got that abortion. He did write to me for a while. During that time, he sent me a card once that said something like “They should give you a trophy,” and on the inside, “A bronze bed.” It made me feel so cheap, like I was nothing to him.
Ahmad. My family moved to a new state. Our house wasn’t ready, so we stayed with a friend of my stepdad. My sisters and brother slept upstairs with my mom and stepdad, but for some reason I slept on the couch downstairs. Some nights when Ahmad came in late from being out with his friends, he would come and wake me up on the couch and kiss and fondle me. I hated it. How did he know I wouldn’t tell?
Neighbor dad. I can’t even remember his name anymore. I babysat for his kids when I was in high school. He used to drive me home afterwards. He put his hand on my knee, slid it up between my legs. How did he know I wouldn’t tell?
My stepdad. He never touched me. But he scarred me and my sisters with his relentless emotional abuse. He was a joy crusher, a constant critic. We weren’t allowed to do chores together because we laughed too much. He banished me to my room for a weekend because I made my brother laugh, drop a glass and break it. We weren’t allowed to touch anything of his. I believed he hated us. One day my mom took us to the river to swim, and she sat in the shade of a tree and cried. I believed that she cried because he had told her to have us killed, and she had agreed, even though it made her sad. I really believed she would do that.
Caleb. He was my age, maybe 14, possibly 15. We’d been friends since kindergarten. I told him to stop, but he didn’t. He pulled at my clothes. I resisted. He didn’t stop. He kept going no matter what I said. He raped me. I had an orgasm. “You see,” he said, “I knew you really wanted it.” I felt so ashamed, so dirty. The next day I was a wreck. Then I literally didn’t think about it again for 17 years, and when it suddenly came back to me, I felt as though I was in the middle of it all over again. It took me years to stop feeling dirty about this. Now I finally feel angry. Or, I am numb and don’t feel anything. One or the other.
Alex. Caleb’s father. I was 13. He was at least 43. He kissed me, told me to kiss him back, felt me up. This happened several times. He was a “friend” of the family. I think he may have done the same to my sister, but she changes the subject when I try to bring it up.
And then the ones who set the stage for all the others…
My father. I was maybe eight years old. Or nine. I still can’t write about this.
Someone else? I have the fuzziest memory of something from when I was much younger. I know where I was but am not sure who I was with.
My great-uncle. He molested my mother when she was a girl, setting her up with weak boundaries, shaping the woman she became, the woman who married my alcoholic father and later my emotionally sadistic stepfather, the woman who continues to pretend that nothing happened to me, even after I told her.