I am eight years old, playing barbies whilst lying on the carpet floor of my bedroom, I can feel it's harsh wool impose angry imprints on my skinny knees and I adjust my weight to make a new set of marks. I continue to play inside my fantasy world with the fantasy dolls as it never fails to satisfy. I spin the model maiden around on one of her plastic legs and admire as she pirouettes with perfection. My tiny fingers press over the molded swell of the doll's breasts then drift further down as I shyly examine the groove between her legs, nestled innocently enough under the tutu. I look up startled when I hear Karen, my playmate on a Saturday, hurtling down the hallway full speed. She is grinning like the cat who drank the cream as she empties plastic bags crammed with 'real' dolls clothes, (baby clothes) onto the floor at my feet. I shriek with joy and express my satisfaction with a round of hysterical clapping. Playtime !
Keenly we start to dress our dolls in the soft, lavender scented jumpsuits.Our giggles peppered with the snap of press studs as we fiddle our fingers around the buttons and bowties.
Karen was the only person in the world who knew that someone was touching me, but Karen was only eight too - so we just kept playing dolls. It cheered me up and made the night-time a little bit easier to forget.
Karen was an only child, how I envied her close and loving family were - even though she never rubbed it in and always said that I should be her sister as she always wanted one. It liked to sting at the the same time though - I always wanted to feel the way her parents cuddled her and looked at her like she was everything. They were always proud of her - even when she wasn't looking - but I would never fail to notice. Yep, she seemed really lucky to me.
I was only allowed to play with Karen because our fathers worked together as laborers. This meant that we would see each other on weekends as our fathers tinkered with tools, The Stepmother would be doing the Saturday shopping. Upstairs, we would play dolls in peace and I would tell her the latest developments - the latest thing The Monster had made me do to him. It was as if The Monster went away and thought about new ways to make me feel sad. It was as if The Monster only thought about him ; what was going to feel good for him - it did not seem to worry him if it actually hurt me. Who was I ?
Today I was anxious to tell Karen the way he had made me put It in my mouth this time. I told her and I told it all. I told her how I had to swallow this horrible sour stuff that tasted like curdled milk. Karen listened wide-eyed as I whispered incredulous about how big his dick was and how sometimes he could make me choke on it. I never cried when I spoke to Karen, it was just so good to be able to tell someone that I was scared I would frighten her away. I made her promise that she would never tell. I made her swear her life upon it. I knew that she knew my situation at home with him and what would happen if he found out I had told. She never told.
A part of me knew that we should tell a grown up - but what would happen then?
Nobody wanted me anyway - this would be finally a reason to send me away to a home.
Then there was Daddy. It was always about trying to make him proud of me. Make him notice that The Stepmother was not ever going to replace our Mummy. But he couldn't see – he just couldn't see anything like he used to.
He told me that wasn't able to just leave her and go back to Mummy - but why don't we ever stop hoping ?
He was going to be so ashamed of me. I was all dirty now.
I wish I told My Daddy the first time Stepbrother touched me. I wish I didn't wait four years.
I am so mad at myself Daddy - so very mad that I get very angry but I still cry when I'm red.
I'm choked up with shame and I feel like I have let everyone down. Mainly me.
That I can never be normal now and I will always be the different one - forever. It will be up to me to deal with this.
You said that we will get through it - then things changed and no-one wanted to talk about it.
It was like nothing ever happened and I was even more different know as I was so angry and so sad - not a very good daughter anymore I suppose.
How did I reveal the abuse? Well, a variety of things happened.
As an emotional precursor ; I saw an ad on television about Stranger Danger. I remember the nice lady had a voice that was smooth like syrup; she was appealing to me personally almost - telling me ever so gently that it was best to be talking to a trusted neighbor or your School Teacher if someone was 'touching' you. I was amazed to think that other little girls were doing these things too. All of a sudden I was not so alone and a weak smile struggled through the storm clouds.
I feared telling anyone outside the family - The Stepmother would be so embarrassed and I would only be more shame to my family. She worked so hard at trying to keep a facarde around this family - always battling with her drunk husband and the futility of poverty.
But I didn't know how much longer I could keep this secret. I was starting to lose the fight; I was starting to come down from the safety of the ceiling. I wished my birth Mum was still around so I could tell her all about what he did under the covers. Only in my mind, she would take me away and hug me for a very long time. I wish the courts never made me stay with The New People... I wish my mum did not love drugs more than she loved me.
I still wish that.
I started to feel so heavy inside; it was like my tiny body was filling with tears. My school shoes lagged in the hallways and my sandwiches sagged inside my knotted stomach.
For attention, I picked at my scabs that covered my knees until they bled. I then spread the blood in my panties. I wanted someone to see the blood, which at my age symbolized danger, and I wanted to show the world the place where I really bled. I sat on the toilet and picked at scabs on my legs, big fat tears rolling down my face as the drops of blood splashed onto my cotton panties from the tips of my fingers.
My heart was breaking...and it bled from everywhere.
I still remember the exact moment of afternoon that The Stepmother loomed at the door to my bedroom. Instantly, my mouth went dry and my hands fidgeted as fast as my heartbeat. I tried to remember if I had done all my chores and said all the right things. The air tightened between us as it always did and always does.
She tilted her head as if she was assessing what to say.
"***** - I have noticed when doing your washing lately", she seemed half cautious yet still distantly curious,"That you have blood in your knickers?" She said it almost like she had not witnessed the florid stains that had blemished my knickers since I was six.
I felt my face flush crimson and I wanted to hotly defend myself but I didn't know how.
It was happening. My secret - she knows and now your dead !! This is what you wanted. To be dead. I thought so much in so little time that I realized I had not said anything in response.
"***** - I'm talking to you young lady ? " Her brown beady eyes bore through me with a special brand of malice.
"Have you been touching yourself?" She looked at me with utter disdain.
I shook my head. I was mortified at the thought. It was not me that was dirty.
It was him.
No more words. I would not say it. I will not let her see me cry and if I speak … I am going to cry. A lot.
Many moments passed and she seemed to search the heavens for an answer so I was most surprised when she spoke.
"Has someone else touched you?" Her face started to cloud with a distant concern.
The words sounded like a million champagne flutes toppling from a overflowing fountain of lies.
It was so beautiful yet so tragic in the same defining moment.
Just say yes. You big cry baby! Who cares anymore ? Just say it. Say it !
I knew that if I didn't take this chance now that it may be another year or maybe another four until we had this discussion again.
I nodded grimly and another chain of his power fell to the floor.
Then I started to get really frightened that I completely froze.
I still get goosebumps when I recall the moment that defines my courage.
You can do this - YOU HAVE TO DO THIS. Even if no-one ever stays on my side at least I know that I didn't sit there and take it. I am a fighter. I am not always going to be weak.
Just live for today and maybe someone will come for me tommorow.
But I am frightened and I want it all to go away? It won't thats the beauty of the bruise, on the surface it always fades...
She was coming for me now and she would never leave it alone.
It finally dawned on The Stepmother that I was not able to verbalize this. I was constricted with fear and was physically unable to speak.
"Was it the neighbors?" Her face was a sheet of sweaty white, her eyes flashing. Her fists slammed into the doorframe and she cussed so loud that I jumped.
I shook my head.
"Do we know him!?" She started to back away from me, denial seeping into the furrows.
"Yes" My voice wavered. The carpet started to waver like I was in some emotional heatwave.
"Who is it - Tell me his name !" She spoke so strong that her jaw line shuddered with rage.
I took the deepest breath and closed my eyes. In my mind I reached up and grabbed the links of the heavy chain of secrets that were coiled around my neck and I gave it an almighty yank.
I'm screaming in my mind and the chains fall slow motion to the floor..They fall and I go too.
A single tear slid down my face.
That was the name that haunted my nightmares and now I was finally free of it's meaning.
That was all she needed - she spun on her heel and began to run to his bedroom that was at the other end of the house. I was never embraced and I was never held in that moment. All I could hear was the terrified screams of The stepbrother as she flogged him mercilessly, he was crying and so was she. I heard his high pitched screams even though I closed my eyes so I could be anywhere but here. How could I ever face him again ? Her shrillness flooded the house and I shivered on the floor , rocking back and forth ..back and forth. The last of my childhood slipped away and I never had time for goodbyes........
I wanted to scream and never stop I know that would mean she would only halt hitting him and come and beat me.
I was scared that if I dared to cry that she would have more emotional armory on me by shunning my need to be soothed. So I just went and had a shower and let the tears slide down the drain. The door flew open and she was there.
"Stop fucking crying - He's admitted it ok? He's just as upset as you so stop snivelling - this was the last thing we needed. We will not be telling your father - or so help you god! " I started to shake when she said this and she lunged into the shower pushing my ribs into the taps.
"Get yourself together - stop being pathetic !" She laughed cruelly and sniped " You really know how to ruin a family " She slammed the door and I was finally left alone for another few precious moments before the next attack. I had to try and remember to breathe as everything was going black, the tiles became like an geometric ocean of blue as I hyperventilated in the shower.
Minutes ticked by and I tried to stem the tears. I really did try.
I knew daddy would be home soon. I would never mention this again. I would try to do whatever she told me to do - she was more important to keep her happy because if I didn't she could make my life hell. We both knew that from experience.
The almost funny thing was that I didn't have to tell my Dad.
The night before Karen's dad found Karen's diary and when he read the entries she wrote about me and the whole sordid story - he showed it to my Father over a very strong rum.
They are still friends to this day for that reason. He got involved and told my Father everything. I still don't know how that conversation went or how it made him feel.
I just know things never were the same.
After the fifth double rum, he said goodbye and clamboured into the station wagon.
Dad was on his way home and he was as mad as hell.
But he wasn't my guardian angel anymore.
Her name is Hope
Her power is my Courage.
I made sure he never touched me again.