I swallowed hard in a futile attempt to dislodge the golf ball sized lump that had formed in my throat almost instantaneously upon hearing the voice on the other end of the phone. With some effort, I managed to squeeze the word “okay” out before sinking to the bed to catch my breath. Why, after all of these years, was he calling me now? It’s not like he ever completely left my thoughts, the flashbacks ensured that, but the years of no contact had lessened them. That was undone with a simple hello that day. I battled hard to stuff everything that was beginning to surface back down as I struggled to listen to what he was saying. Someone was making allegations that he had been inappropriate…wanted to be clear on our relationship…could be questioned… My thoughts swirled as the memories of the past collided with the conversation of the present in a violent, yet unseen tornado in my mind. I caught bits and pieces of what he said before hanging up the phone and being swept away by the storm. Closing my eyes as I fought back tears, I drifted away to the time almost ten years prior when I worked for him.
The job had started innocently enough and, at the time, seemed like a blessing in disguise. I wanted a car of my own and it would provide some income. The hours were flexible, which allowed me to continue my involvement in extracurricular activities, and the field was one I was considering as a possible college major. Besides that, I had always been a bit of a computer geek and the work I would be doing would allow me the opportunity to further develop my skills in that area. He wasn’t always there at the office when I worked, but when he was we would chat. He was pretty easy to get along with and seemed down to earth. A short time later, I began experiencing some pain in my leg. He offered to look at it since his area of work was along those lines. Nothing remotely inappropriate had happened or been suggested at that point, so I didn’t think twice about agreeing. What happened next caught me completely off guard and would change me and my life for years to come.
I became concerned when I felt his hand moving up the inside of my right thigh. He responded to my demand to stop by explaining that there were pressure points or something he had to check. Any desire to believe him went out the window when I felt him slip his fingers first inside of my underwear and then inside of me. My second plea for him to stop went unheard and shortly after I felt his mouth following the path his fingers had left. I was 17. I went home that night feeling so sick and so confused about what had happened. I threw up that night, but told everyone it was the flu. I couldn’t talk about it. I wouldn’t have known where to start at the time even if I thought I could have. The next day I went to work planning to quit quietly. He was there waiting and told me he knew I was quitting, along with a lot of reasons I couldn’t/shouldn’t. The manipulations began there and the excuses that existed during the first exploit soon faded away. What happened the evening before became a regular occurrence.
One day, shortly after my 18 birthday, it went further than that when he pinned me to the living room couch and raped me. It was virtually no holds barred from there as the touching, intercourse, forced oral sex, and other things continued for nearly two years. No meant nothing so, after a while, I quit saying it. I still didn’t tell anyone. What would people think? He was twice my age after all. Surely they would blame me. The lies, manipulations, and confusion ensured my silence. Then, just as it had begun, it was over. I didn’t hear from him for years prior to that phone call and never heard from him after it. I have no idea what became of him or the allegations that were being made at that time. I do know that I wasn’t the only one.
Personally, I tried and for a while was very successful at stuffing it all down. It wasn’t until after a near breakdown, almost killing myself, and some counseling that I finally, admitted to anyone anything that had happened during that time. Nearly twenty years of keeping a secret I never should have had in the first place almost killed me and did take a toll in a lot of ways. If it hadn’t been for Jesus, a skilled counselor who specialized in trauma, supportive friends, caring family, and a few “Only God” moments, I wouldn’t be here now to be writing this and, possibly for the first time since that day as a teenager, actually enjoying my life instead of simply trying to get through it. There are still some struggles and may always be, but the lies that defined me for so long have finally lost their grip and power. I know who I am and, more importantly, I know Whose I am.
Current statistics show that at least 1 in 6 women will be a victim of sexual assault. If you are currently experiencing any type of sexual abuse, please don’t believe the lies that you are alone, unwanted or unloved. It isn’t your fault. You do matter. If you’ve experienced an assault or abuse in the past, please know that you don’t have to spend your life hiding it, trying to cope on your own, or ashamed. It wasn’t your fault. You are worth it.
The writer asked that I include a link to Matthew West's song, Mended, as it so appropriately relates to the project and her story.
“When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home
When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I'm not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended”