THE SOUL CRUSHING SILENCE, A MEMOIR

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Submitted Date 11/18/2019
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Introduction:

The purpose of writing my memoir is to give hope, inspiration, and courage to those who have not yet found their own voice within the silent shadows of abortion, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and/or rape. My story chronicles the span of time beginning as a young teen including up to the present day.

Chapter One: The Abortion

I remember that scorchingly hot August summer of 1971 as if it were yesterday. It was the year I began the arduous journey of my adolescence. I was fourteen. I hated the fact that my father had accepted a new job in a town very far away from the only one I had ever known. I did not want to leave the childhood friends I had grown so fond of. I was looking forward to joining them on our rite of passage into high school. But instead, here I was, unpacking boxes in the new bedroom I had to share with my six-year-old brother - UGH. The room had a window that looked out onto the street at the front of the house. My bed had been placed directly under that window. As I finished putting on the brand new, freshly washed polka-dotted sheets and matching comforter I sat down on the bed along with my menagerie of stuffed animals and gazed out that window as tears welled up in my eyes. I remember so strongly how I hated my life at that moment. I took a deep breath in...I could smell the detergent my mother had always used to wash the linens. It was called Salvo. For some inexplicable reason, I recall that particular smell being very comforting to me as a kid. As I peered out through my tears I noticed three men in the driveway of one of the houses across the street, one older and two much younger. I surmised that they must be a father and his sons. They were loading golf clubs into the trunk of a car. My attention was immediately drawn to the taller of the two younger men. He had a mop of curly blonde hair and had a great build, very muscular arms and looked to be right about the same age as I was, maybe a bit older. He was dressed in a crisp green polo shirt and khaki slacks. I thought he was insanely handsome. I continued to watch them until they got into a car and left. With that, I returned my attention to the mind-numbing drudgery of unpacking. I was desperate to find the box that held my cherished portable record player so I could listen to the new vinyl I had just bought with my allowance, Carole King's Tapestry. I thought maybe doing that would get me out of the deep blue funk I was in. We settled in over the next couple of weeks.

One day as summer began winding down I was feeling rather bored. I decided it was time to venture out on my bicycle into this new neighborhood I found myself in. I ended up discovering where all the places were that I thought would be useful to me. Along the route I took, I managed to find the corner drug store for my mascara replenishment, (it was the only make-up I was allowed to wear) the bowling alley, and the local park that had a public swimming pool. On my way back home I also decided to go and look around the new high school I would be attending. As I pedaled in and out of the four quads of the campus I kept thinking how glad I was that it was right around the corner from where we lived so I wouldn't have to walk too far every day. Before I knew it, the day had arrived. My first day of high school. As I walked totally alone that dreaded morning, all I could think about was the fact that I was going into a new school where I knew no one and I would have to navigate everything totally on my own. This fact scared me to death. I had hoped to possibly catch another glimpse of the handsome guy from across the street along my route but there were only groups of other kids. It didn't escape my notice that they all looked as though they had known each other forever. I envied that because it's how I remembered all of the friends I had known from my old neighborhood.

Once I got to school I was relieved that I managed to find the counselor's office, my various classrooms, the cafeteria and so forth on my own without having to ask anyone. At midday, as I stood in front of my school-issued locker, my attempt at opening the combination lock on it was being thwarted. I think it was due to the fact that up to this point of the day my brain had been filled with so much information, it was in a state of overload. The number sequence had completely retired into my sub-conscience. As I tried again and again to remember it, I kept failing miserably. I felt a sudden sense of panic overwhelming me. What was I going to do if I couldn't open it? How would I explain this to anyone and not sound crazy? I had no other choice but to go and find a janitor in hopes that it could be cut off so I would be able to retrieve the books I needed for the rest of the day. By the time I found the janitor classes were almost ready to begin. As he used his bigger than big bolt cutters to get the lock off a few kids were standing nearby as this scene played out. They kept shifting their smirky looks back and forth between him and me, probably thinking, "what an idiot, she can't even remember the combination to her lock?" Of course, this made me want to crawl into a hole and pull the hole in after me. Needless to say, I was late to my next class which meant walking into eyes staring directly at me as I walked through the door. In addition to this mortifying embarrassment, it meant that I would now have to lug all my books from class to class for the remainder of the day. Back in those days, you had a book for every single class and I had no book bag or backpack. No one approached me to help, or even asked what my name was. The sense of loneliness I felt was palpable.

Obviously, it wasn't the best first day of high school. However, as the next couple of months passed I finally ended up befriending a girl in one of my classes. She was very sweet and we seemed to hit it off. I sincerely liked the teachers in all of my classes, I joined a club and for the first time, I was beginning to feel as though the dark clouds had parted and the sun was coming out. I seemed to be getting used to the idea that this was to be my life for the next four years. Making a friend was such a huge relief and helped with the feelings of isolation and loneliness I had at the time. One day as she and I were coming out of a classroom, I was looking down, which is something I always seemed to be doing. I ran smack into a guy on his way in. I looked up and it was the guy...the cute guy from across the street. I remember when our eyes met. His were like two gorgeous blue pools and for a moment I swear, I got lost in them. My girlfriend thought it was hilarious as this happened but she was cool about it and just continued walking past us. I think she must have sensed he was "the guy" because I had told her the whole story about seeing him from my bedroom window. I was so nervous. I felt the crimson well up on my face as I gazed into his beautiful eyes. He said, "Hi, I think we're neighbors right?" Well, I was so dumbfounded that he KNEW that. I didn't even think he knew I was alive. I found out that his name was Jim (James). I didn't know it yet but that name would follow me for the rest of my life and from that time on hearing it would evoke feelings of both unending beautiful love as well as unspeakable loathing and hate. He sweetly asked if I would wait a minute so he could walk me to my next class. Of course, that's exactly what I did and off we went. As he dropped me off at my class he asked if he could meet me afterward since it was the end of the day. He suggested we could walk home together. Again, I agreed to his request. I was so enamored by him I think I would have followed him into a snake pit if he had asked me to. And just as he said, there he was, standing outside the door as I left my last class for the day. I thought my heart would leap out of my chest as we walked down our street together talking and getting to know each other. I found out that he was a year older than I was, a senior on the student council and a member of the golf club. I confessed to seeing him from my window shortly after moving in. I asked him who the other two men were with him and he told me they were his father and younger brother. He told me that they all loved to play golf at a local course nearby.

As we were walking along, a couple of other guys he knew saw us from across the street and shouted, "Hey Jim, who's the chick?"...with that, I felt like I wanted to suddenly evaporate into thin air. But he was cool about it and just waved them off. I guess he could tell by the expression on my face how embarrassed I was by their question. We began talking about me after that. He asked me where I had lived before, where I went to school and if I liked the new neighborhood, things like that. I told him about how hard it was for me to leave the only friends I had ever known and have to start at a new school not knowing anyone. He said he sympathized with how that made me feel. It meant a lot to me when he said that. It was as if he saw right into my heart and knew me. For a reason I'm still not sure of, I felt completely at ease with him. It was as if I had known him forever even though we had only just met. We began talking about our high school. I felt so comfortable talking to him that I even confessed about the debacle with my locker. I was finally able to laugh about it. He told me not to worry because he knew the school very well and would help me find my way around. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. This older, handsome guy had noticed ME and was walking me home. It felt like a dream. It was heady stuff for a girl of fourteen. Up until that point in my life, the only guys I had ever dreamed about were the popular teenage idols torn from the pages of Tiger Beat magazine, which adorned the walls of my bedroom. Now I had one in the flesh, actually walking me home. Thus began what would be the most beautiful disaster of a beginning and ending to first love. As time went on we became inseparable. Because of my involvement with him, I was shocked at how fast I suddenly gained a lot of attention, mostly from other girls.

They were quite interested in our relationship due to the fact that he was evidently, wildly popular in school being on the student council. I found out later that his mother worked as a volunteer aide in the counseling office. She was a very sweet lady and from what I gathered she was thought of very fondly by many of the students and faculty. We ended up going to all the school events that year. All the dances including Sadie Hawkins, his Senior prom and all the football games. I felt very grown-up and accepted for the first time since the move. During this time the inevitable happened. We ended up having sex on the living room couch at my house while my parents and brother were away somewhere. Such an unthinking, totally hormonal teenage thing to do. Obviously the thought never occurred to either of us that at any time they could of all walked in and caught us in the act at any moment. It was definitely not the romantic picture I had dreamed about in my head. I mean, I thought I had an idea of what sex was but the thought of it and the actual participation in it were very different, as I soon discovered. It was over rather quickly as I recall and I do remember that it hurt, which made the experience seem a bit strange for me. I never thought about the fact that it could possibly hurt. But when you are ignorant of the physicality involved in the act for the first time you understandably wouldn't realize that. I do remember the feelings as being extremely intense though as if I were a balloon being blown up slowly and would eventually explode. But he was extremely loving and sensitive through it all which helped especially when it got to the point of hurting. I was so naive, I didn't know anything about "breaking the hymen" or certainly nothing about the big "O". Protection was never brought up which in hindsight begs the question of it possibly being his first time as well. I suspect it was, although I never found out for sure. We never discussed it.

Once that threshold was crossed by us, having sex continued as often as we could find a time and a place and not get caught. When you're a teenager you can get very creative. As time went on and I discovered that it suddenly didn't hurt anymore we fell headlong into a full-blown loving, very passionate sexual relationship. We couldn't get enough of each other. We were always getting busted by teachers walking past us in the hallways because of the long drawn out kissing going on before parting and going on to our classes. But everything between us felt so right, I just knew he was the love of my life and I was going to be with him forever...or so I thought. Time seemed to pass very quickly and before we knew it the school year had finally come to an end. He graduated that June and what's strange is, I don't even remember going to his graduation. Some memories are as vivid for me as the watercolors of a Monet, while others have faded into oblivion. But I do remember how excited we were about spending our first summer together. We talked about going to the beach and going to see all the movies we wanted to see. And then it happened. A missed period. Then another. I began freaking out because I had started my periods when I was only twelve and I was as regular as clockwork. I think I instinctively knew I was pregnant, although I didn't want to admit it to myself. And the thought of telling my parents was something I didn't even want to contemplate. So instead, I decided to call my best girlfriend from the old neighborhood and talk to her about it. We had kept in touch, calling each other from time to time.

I had told her all about Jim during our conversations on the phone over the course of that school year and how we were "going steady". However, I didn't go into any details about having a sexual relationship with him. We arranged for me to go and stay at her house the following weekend. Once I got there, it took me a while but I finally broke down and told her about how far our relationship had gone and my suspicions about being pregnant. She asked me if we could possibly talk to her mother about all of it. I hesitated at first. I think she sensed my fear of confessing any of this to an adult. As we discussed the idea of telling her I realized it was probably a good idea. Since her mother had always been like a second mother to me, I finally agreed to it. I had somehow convinced myself that telling her would be easier than telling my own mother. It wasn't. After I told her and we discussed it for quite a while she pointed out the fact that I had no other choice but to confess everything to both of my parents. She said they had to be told because it was obvious that decisions had to be made. I knew this intellectually but from an emotional standpoint, I was terrified. My heart was breaking knowing that once I told them, it would indeed break theirs. So, I went home but I lost my nerve. I ended up telling my older sister and she broke the news to our parents. The way they took it was pretty much what I expected it would be. Shock, hurt, sadness, all of it. The looks on their faces made me feel like a dirty, disgraceful piece of shit. I had always been perceived by my parents as the proverbial "good girl". Good grades, always respectful, never getting involved with the wrong crowd, etc., etc. So now, I was no longer "good". I had a "problem" as they called it. The next thing I knew there we all were, sitting in our living room. My parents, his parents, he and I...sitting next to each other on the very same couch we had sex on for the very first time.

Our parents had never met before this, never even had as much as a passing conversation although their kids had been dating for months. It was weird and excruciatingly awkward. The discussion ping-ponged back and forth until a decision was reached in agreement by all of them that an abortion was the only "viable solution". Neither he nor I were asked how we felt or what it was we wanted during this discussion. But in retrospect, we were both minors at the time so I suppose it was irrelevant in their minds about how we might have felt or what it was that we wanted to do about it. Abortion laws were in effect at the time but still very new. Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 abortion was permitted on liberal grounds up until 20 weeks of pregnancy. Roe v Wade didn't pass until 1973. If the former laws had not been in effect at the time, the outcome of that conversation between our parents would have gone very differently, along with the rest of my life. It took me a very long time to understand that the decision our parents made was the only one that they felt they could make under the circumstances. My hospital stay was short, most of it a blur since I was pretty out of it between both the anesthesia and my emotional state. Although, I do recall that Jim was there along with my parents (not his) waiting until the procedure was over. I don't remember much about being there with the exception of nurses and doctors coming in and going out, poking me and asking me questions that I was in no condition to answer emotionally. I was released the next day and it was just…...over. We simply went home and it was never to be discussed again by me or anyone in my family ever again. I was never offered any type of counseling or therapy which should have been done immediately once I came home. The longest summer of my life had ended and simply faded to black, like some tragic romance film.

September came around all too soon with school starting up again. I was still reeling from the entire abortion experience and I had absolutely no one to talk to about any of it. I certainly had no intention of sharing the horrific experience with any of the new friends that I had made. I was certain that if I did they would all one by one, slowly distance themselves from me. I recall that first day being back as a cold, dreary, rainy one. The weather was appropriate, given the way I was feeling. I attempted to move on but no matter how hard I tried to put it all out of my mind, it was always there. Like a nightmare, I couldn't wake up from while at the same time attempting to find some way to be able to live with it. During the first week back some of those girls descended on me, the ones that he and I had known. They were full of questions about how we had spent the summer. I just lied my ass off and said we had a great time going here and there together. They all knew he had graduated so at least he wasn't going to be at school every day anymore. It would have been so stressful if he had come back. The thought of both of us attempting to go around campus together, pretending as if what we had just gone through had never happened was too awful to imagine. I never saw him after I was released from the hospital. It was as if he had disappeared.

The holidays came and went and I was still miserable but trying to go on as best I could. I would go to my window every now and then, clinging to the hope of catching a glimpse of him either coming in or going out of his house but I guess my timing was off because I never did. Then, unexpectedly one day in the spring he came to see me at school during the lunch break. I remember that day so well. The weather was warm and the air was thick with honeysuckle from the shrubs lining the campus. When I saw him my heart immediately started beating out of my chest, the same way it had on the day he walked me home for the first time. It seemed like an eternity since the last time I saw him. I had missed him terribly and was so happy to see him. We went and sat under the same shady willow tree, the one where we used to sit together so many other times before, away from prying eyes. The happiness I felt at seeing him again quickly turned into unbelievable sadness. He came to say it had to be over between us forever. He was very cold and unfeeling which not like him at all. As he spoke to me, all I could think about was how confused I felt. How could this be happening after the intensely personal experience we had shared? As bittersweet as the whole experience was, in my mind, it changed nothing about all the love I thought we still had for each other. But this was how naive I was...

From my very teenage point of view, I really believed that after some time had passed and we had healed from the whole abortion ordeal, we would eventually end up together once again. But I have no doubt that his parents had instructed him to end things with me the way that he did. It was the only thing that made any sense to me because the way in which he was speaking to me was not the sweet, sensitive guy I had always known him to be. I could clearly see how painful it was for him to end our relationship in this way. I still believe to this day that it was never solely HIS choice to end things as he did. Once he finished shattering my heart into millions of pieces, he calmly got up and walked away and never looked back. That was the last time I ever saw him. I have no idea if he went off to college or whatever became of him after that. And I never saw him either coming in or going out of his house from my window ever again. I had no choice but to accept that it was over. There were never any pictures taken of the two of us together which might seem strange to anyone in this day and age. We lived all of this during a time of no cell phones and didn't even own cameras. So, I simply kept the memories we shared in my mind for the rest of my life like pictures in a scrapbook and moved forward.

Chapter Two: The Aftermath, A New Beginning

I managed to struggle through my Sophomore year. I mostly kept my head out of the idea of hanging around any other guys and more into hitting the books that year which in turn made my grades on point, thrilling my parents. I suppose in their minds because I was doing so well academically it meant that I had gotten over all of what had happened to me. They never ended up knowing how wrong they were about that. Because I always kept silent about my feelings. This would end up being a personality trait that I would continue to carry throughout my whole life. I always had a voice about everything and anything on the surface that was stressful, difficult or sad. But when it came to how I was feeling deep inside myself, about myself and what I had been through, I was always silent about it. Because I was never given the opportunity to get all of the feelings out which had bottled up inside of me, I suppressed all of them. I had tremendous amounts of guilt, shame, loneliness, and fear after the abortion. Even though the doctors had told me that I would one day be able to have children, for a long time I had held on to an irrational fear that because of the abortion, I would end up childless. I told myself that it would be my penance for having had an abortion. Of course, this was not true but it felt very real to me at the time. The emotional scars of having had an abortion have never fully left me. They just became part of the landscape of my life.

I spent the following summer riding the local bus to and from the beach with my girlfriend at the time. The ocean became a refuge for me. The feel of the warm sand between my toes, the sound of the waves crashing and the smell of the sea air had such a calming influence on me. It became very healing for me to go and spend my free time there. Before I knew it, the summer was over and I was now going into my Junior year. By this time I had made several new girlfriends and a few were trying out for the drill team. I decided that maybe giving it a try could be a great way to get my mind off of the memories of Jim and keep busy. So I tried out for the team and much to my surprise, I made it! I recall working very hard practicing hours upon hours to perfect every move and because of all of that work, I ended up with one of the highest scores. For the first time in my life, I truly felt proud of something I had done. I remember running all the way home to tell my parents the day I found out I had made the team. I hit the back door and came in all giddy and excited. As I handed the two of them the information flyer and told them all about it, suddenly they seemed less than thrilled for me. I was crushed. But what I was totally oblivious to at the time but came to be aware of, later on, was why they seemed less than thrilled. The attitude they were having was because they had to figure out how they were going to pay for the two uniforms I was required to wear. All of the parents had to pay out of pocket for uniforms. I guess it never occurs to you as a kid what the reality of adult struggles can be.

They clearly saw how much it meant to me to be able to participate. I believe they were very aware of how I had been feeling after the move as well as the emotional toll it had taken on me, going through the abortion experience. Those thoughts had to have been weighing heavily on them at the time, probably more than I was ever aware of. But they never discussed how they felt with me so this is pure conjecture on my part. In the end, they managed to scrape the money together for the uniforms and I was able to be on the team. Once football season came around it was all about those very early morning practices with the band marching up and down the surrounding streets of the school. At the time, this undoubtedly must have pissed off the people living on those streets who enjoyed sleeping in before heading out for the day. We also practiced our half-time shows before and after school in the middle of the track field behind the school. I always hated the fact that we had to share a football field with our rival school because we didn't have one of our own. Between classes, homework and drill team activities I was being kept so busy that I found myself able to push the thoughts of Jim and the whole abortion ordeal as far back into my mind as they would go, although they still had an insidious way of showing up whenever I was triggered by a sight, sound or smell. In those moments it felt like bungee jumping, falling and getting jerked back up right before you hit the ground.

I have such fond memories of my Junior year, mostly because it was the year I genuinely had the most fun in high school, with one exception. The school had come up with these idiotic courses that all the Juniors were required to take. They were called "Mini-Courses". One in particular that I recall taking that I found so incredibly useless was called "Making the most out of High School". Oh, how I hated that class! I spent most of it paying absolutely no attention to the lessons or the teacher. Whenever she spoke it was like listening to the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons, whaa, whaa, whaa, whaa, whaa...but I did end up meeting a guy in that class who would become a very good friend to me. Not a boyfriend, just a really good friend. He was the first guy I had allowed myself to talk to at all after everything that had happened. He was always kind towards me, never pushy or pulled the macho crap that most of the guys seemed to love doing. He actually listened to me and seemed sincerely interested in me as a person which is something I desperately needed at the time. I found out later that he was always being mocked and made fun of by the guys he knew. Back then, the not so very nice things they would say to him in today's world would be considered bullying.

Maybe he sensed my pain, although I never disclosed to him about Jim or the abortion. When Christmas time rolled around, he asked me if I wanted to go to a party at the home of one of his friends who also happened to be his neighbor. He told me that the parties they had were always a lot of fun and that there would be other kids our age there, so I decided why not? Little did I know when I agreed to go to this party with him that I would end up meeting the guy who would eventually become my future husband. I recall being a bit nervous going into the home of people I didn't know. As we entered and went into the living room area I looked over and sitting on the couch was this really cute guy with dark brown wavy hair and brown eyes who looked to be about my age. He was wearing jeans and a ripped t-shirt. I was not immediately impressed. But then he smiled at me. It was a very warm, genuine smile and as his eyes met mine, he said, "Hi, I'm Jim". Well, it felt kind of serendipitous for a minute. His name was Jim. What are the odds? But once we began talking I actually found myself having a really good time and having feelings towards a guy I hadn't felt since my relationship with the previous Jim. I found myself thinking about him after the night of that party and wondering if I would ever see him again.

After the holiday break and school started again it was the second semester. In one of my new classes, as fate would have it, Jim ended up being a teacher's aide for it. He used to sit across the room on the counter and I could constantly feel him staring at me and grinning. It was unnerving. Every time I would catch him doing it he would look away and I would look away and totally blush. We kept up this little exchange until one day he waited for me after class. He started the conversation by asking me if I had enjoyed the party at this house. We chatted for a little while and then the bell rang for the next class. As I walked away I could feel him still standing there so I turned around and there he was with that infamous Cheshire cat grin of his. He watched me as I walked all the way down the corridor and turned the corner out of sight. This behavior continued every time we would meet in between classes. Finally, one day I asked him why he would do this all the time. He simply said, "I like watching you walk away". We started seeing each other quite a lot after that. We ended up going to his Grad Nite at Disneyland that June. It was our first "official" date. We have been together ever since. After his graduation, he went to work with his dad who was in the wholesale plumbing business. He idolized his dad and for good reason, he was an amazing man whom I grew to love very much. Jim was very much like his father, they both had a very calm, easy-going and gentle nature, very much like the personality type of the guy previously known as Jim. I suppose this was the reason I found myself drawn to both of them. We ended up going everywhere together during my Senior year. We hit all the theme parks, went to the movies, picnics in the park with his family and went to my prom together. However, we usually ended up at the bowling alley because Jim loved to bowl and he was very good at it. He and his dad were bowlers. I could take it or leave it because I was never very good but I didn't care, we always had a good time no matter what we did. Jim also seemed a bit shy, which I thought was very sweet. He never talked about dating any other girls or having any previous girlfriend. I found out later that I was his first and only serious one.

I never expected after my first experience with love that I would find myself having these all too familiar feelings again. But as time went on I found myself falling very much in love once again. Those long, passionate good-bye kisses at the back door got the better of both of us and eventually, we found ourselves entering into a sexual relationship. Now you would think at this point after going through all that I had previously I would have been a whole lot smarter and more conscience of using protection right? Well, you would be wrong. To this day I don't understand how I would have been so unbelievably irresponsible. I chalk it up to being young, hormonal and incredibly stupid. Of course, I ended up right back in the same situation as before, thinking I might be pregnant. But, as God would have it, I only ended up with a scare. But it was enough of one to wake my ass up and get myself down to Planned Parenthood and get put on birth control pills. It was easy enough to do without my parents even knowing because I was now seventeen and could get them on my own. Once I had them I didn't want my parents finding them, so I remember keeping them in this nifty little wooden box on a shelf in my bedroom. It was the same box that I kept the few pieces of precious jewelry I had, the ones given to me by my maternal grandmother. It had a lock on it so I thought it was the perfect place to keep the pills. I had the only key for it and wore it on a chain around my neck so no one else could open it. I had several troll dolls, the ones with the crazy colored hair in all different sizes that I placed surrounding the box. It was as if they were standing guard over it. Reflecting on this memory makes me wish I would have had the courage to be more open with my parents about taking the pills. It's not like my parents were prudes or anything, they were both fairly liberal with their views. However, because my "good girl" halo was now tarnished forever I didn't feel like I could bring it up. I still harbored so much guilt and shame over the whole ordeal. I think I had come to a point of maturity where I wanted to take responsibility for myself now, make my own choices and deal with whatever consequences arose from them without the two of them stepping in and taking over, as they had before. Even though I felt more mature at this point, I was still so far from it.

Chapter Three: The First Sexual Assault

Deciding to take responsibility for myself made me realize that I needed to find a part-time job after school. That and I wanted to start making my own money. I found a job working for an insurance company making cold calls to existing and potential customers. It was kind of a thankless job because I got hung up on...A LOT. But I had my own desk which made me feel very grown-up. I felt as though I was finally on my way into my early adulthood. The office had a group of men all old enough to be my father, which made me feel a certain amount of safety and security with working there. The men were all amiable and to my surprise, we all got along very well. One day I was told by the manager that there was to be a mandatory meeting for everyone in the office at a nearby restaurant later in the afternoon and I was expected to attend. One of the agents said I could ride with him to the meeting because it seemed ridiculous to take both of our cars since we were coming right back after the meeting anyway. This seemed perfectly understandable to me at the time so I just went along with it. Once it was time to go we went out, got into his car and off we went. The next thing I knew we were stopped at a liquor store. He said he had to go in and grab something before we continued on to the restaurant. The man was a smoker so I figured that he was going in to buy cigarettes. I waited in the car while he went in. He came out carrying a six-pack of beer and as he got into the car he threw it in the back seat. We pulled out of the parking lot and after a few minutes on the road, we didn't seem to be going in the direction of where the restaurant was. When I asked him about it he said that since there was still time before the meeting he decided it would be a good idea to wait down by the beach since it was such a nice day. At this point, I was beginning to feel incredibly nervous. We stopped as he said, at a parking lot along the beach. Under any other circumstances, this would not have been a problem for me because I loved the beach. But this situation I found myself in just seemed very strange. Not long after he parked the car he reached back into the backseat and grabbed one of the beers and began drinking it. Well, one turned into two, two into three and he was not talking about anything in particular, just random work stuff.

Finally, I decided enough was enough of me sitting there with this man, watching him drink beer after beer. The whole thing seemed so uncomfortably weird. My senses were screaming at me to DO SOMETHING! So, as calmly as I could utter I told him to take me to the restaurant NOW...I was anxious to be on time for the meeting. With that, thankfully he didn't question or argue with me. He started the car and off we went. I recall sighing in relief as we were on our way back now, going in the right direction. As we came to a stoplight along the way while waiting for the light to change I was looking out my passenger window. At this point, I really didn't want to look in his direction. Then, all of a sudden out of nowhere this man reaches over to me and proceeds to shove his hand down inside my blouse and totally grope my breast!! He didn't say a word while doing this. I immediately removed his hand from my blouse and told him to take me back to the office and NOT to the restaurant. I was very scared but also totally pissed off at the same time to think that this jerk would do such a disgusting thing. And then it suddenly sunk into my naivety that this was what the sicko had in mind the whole time. Getting the beer first was probably his way of finding the nerve to do it. The whole thing made me so sick inside. I started thinking about how all of this could possibly escalate into an even more frightening situation, even worse than it already was. So I began trying to figure out how I could unlock my door, jump out at the next stoplight and just run the two blocks back to the office. But I was unsuccessful in my attempt because he had a fancy car that I was unfamiliar with. However, by the time we got back to the office parking lot I had figured out the lock and as soon as we pulled in I opened the door and jumped out before he had completely stopped the car. All I could think of was that I had to get the hell out of there. As I ran over to my car I was fumbling for the keys that had sunk somewhere into what was the seemingly bottomless pit of my purse. I was not looking back to see where he was at this point. I was praying the whole time that he wouldn't make it out of his car and over to me before I made it into mine. I managed to find my keys, unlock the door, get in, lock the doors, and start the car.

As I looked in my rearview mirror while backing up, I almost hit the bastard because he was standing not far from the back end of my car when I did. I remember seeing him jumping out of the way in order not to get hit. For a brief moment, I felt glad that I had probably scared the shit out of him. I was driving like Danica Patrick all the way home, shaking and sobbing uncontrollably. I think the fear and shock of all of it had fully caught up with me. I pulled into our driveway and went so fast into the garage I almost drove the car through the wall in front of me. Jim happened to be there waiting for me to come home with my parents. When I walked in and they all took one look at me, they knew that there was something terribly wrong. The whole sordid story came pouring out in between incoherent sobs. I recall my dad going down to that office the very next day and demanding my pay and telling the bastard off. Of course, he denied doing any of it because typically no man ever admits freely to committing sexual assault once he is caught. No charges were ever filed, nothing else happened. The man totally got away with what he had done to me. I was still a minor at this time, so I'm quite sure he would have faced some type of punishment had my parents filed charges against him. I have no idea what my parents were thinking at the time. They never discussed any of it with me. Afterward, the same pattern of silence happened. Once my dad confronted him on his own it was considered over with. No further discussion about it, I was left to deal with the emotional fallout from it totally on my own. It was the same behavior as it had been after the abortion experience. This incident left me scared and shaken up but I managed to pull myself together and move on. But the horrible memory of it always lingered in the back of my mind….

Chapter Four: The Rape

I graduated in June and by the end of August, Jim asked me to marry him. Neither of our parents seemed happy about it. They all felt we were entirely too young to get married and because I had an older sister who married as young as I was at the time and divorced only five years in, my parents saw me in the same situation. But I told them I wasn't her and that it was unfair to compare her situation to mine. I remember our parents getting together one evening at our house while Jim and I were out on a date. When we came in they were all sitting around the dining room table talking. Probably about how they could get us to change our minds. To appease them, we decided to wait an entire year to have the wedding. They seemed to be very willing to have us wait. I'm sure they anticipated us calling it off. But I spent that entire year planning our wedding and happily showing off my engagement ring to everyone. But there was something dark and murky swimming around in the pool of our happiness. There was a secret between us. Something I had to tell my future husband that up until that time I had never told him about. I had to be honest and disclose everything to him about my relationship with the former Jim and the abortion. There was no way in good conscience I could enter into a marriage without being completely honest about my past. I was scared beyond all reason to tell him everything. But, I knew that if I wanted to have a chance at a happy, fulfilling marriage I had no other choice but to be completely honest. I remember so clearly the day that I finally told him. We were sitting in his car. I got very teary-eyed as I struggled through telling him the whole story. I honestly thought he would reject me and call off the wedding thus fulfilling my parent's wishes. But I underestimated him. He couldn't have been more understanding about all of it. He was so wonderfully loving when I told him. He said it changed nothing. He said he loved me and wanted me to be his wife. At that moment I think I was more in love with him than he will ever know. The fact that he would still want to be with me and still love me after knowing all of it told me all I needed to know about this man. Little did I know in my blissful state about the hell that was to come…

It was three weeks until my wedding day. My beautiful dress had arrived once the alterations had been completed and the only place I had to hang it was from the light fixture on the ceiling in my bedroom. This was perfectly alright with me because the bag it had come in created a kind of divide in the room between my brother's bed and mine. I really hated having to share a bedroom with my younger brother, especially at my age. The other preparations were going well and I was very happy and excited because my aunt was coming from out of town to help cook the food for the special reception we were to have in our backyard. During this time a close friend of my parents had come to stay at our home. He was someone I had known my entire life. I think he had lost his job or something and was very upset about it, so my parents were letting him sleep on the couch in our den. Although he was a friend to both of my parents he and my father were especially close, they had many things in common and were always engaged in some heavy discussions about one thing or another, politics usually. As the years passed and I got older I had only ever known him to be an affable man, whose name was...wait for it...JIM.

One night as my brother and I lay sleeping, this affable man decided for a reason only known to him to enter our bedroom, climb into my bed and proceed to rape me. When I initially realized that he had crawled into my bed I kind of jerked to one side and I just stared at him thinking, "what in the fuck do you think you're doing?" He immediately climbed on top of me and the more I resisted, the more he persisted. I did what so many women do. I FROZE. I wanted so badly to scream but I knew if I did that it would undoubtedly wake up my brother and he would be very confused and frightened, so out of fear I tried to stay as silent as possible. It was a very surreal moment. I kept hoping it was a nightmare I would suddenly wake up from but it was happening. And the part of it that was so awful for me, that made me so sick to my stomach was that because I had previously been consensually sexual in the past, my body (but not my mind) kept trying to respond in the natural way that it does. I kept fighting against it because this was anything BUT consensual...this was RAPE. I found out many years later that your body responding in this way is not unusual and sometimes occurs. Which makes it even more heinous, confusing and causes so much of the shame in the aftermath. He finished after what seemed like an eternity, got off me and quietly exited the room without as much as a word. I was suddenly filled with so much disgust that I thought for a moment I would vomit. I was feeling so many things, my head was spinning. I couldn't even begin to comprehend how or why this had just happened to me. Why would this man, whom I had known all my life, who had certainly never done anything inappropriate towards me, do such an unspeakably despicable thing? I wanted so badly at that moment to run down the hall, wake up my parents and tell them what had just happened to me. I started thinking about doing this over and over in my head. I thought about how I would feel if I told them and they chose not to believe me. I thought about how not being believed would make me feel even worse than I already did in that awful moment. On the other hand, if they did, believe me, I have no doubt that my father would have killed the man. I remembered how appalled and upset my father had been before with the insurance man who had sexually assaulted me.

However, this was a man he thought he knew, a man who he loved like a brother and trusted. All I could see in my mind as I pondered these thoughts of telling them was my mother hysterical, my father hauled off to jail and my whole wedding day destroyed. As the thoughts swirled around in my dazed and confused state, suddenly all I wanted to do was go into the bathroom and shower off the stench of him and feel clean. But it was the middle of the night. I was afraid of my parents hearing me and wondering why I would be showering in the middle of the night. I was in no condition to answer questions. So I just laid there quietly sobbing until I fell asleep. I wanted to escape the horror of it all so badly that sleep seemed like the only way to accomplish that. I woke up the following morning, my eyes almost swollen shut from crying. I immediately went in and showered. As the water ran over my body I scrubbed and scrubbed until my skin felt raw. My mouth was so dry as if I had a huge wad of cotton in it. I was surprised I couldn't cry. I felt like crying but I guess all my tears had dried up. Afterward, I came into the kitchen to get a drink of water and there he was, sitting at our kitchen table, eating breakfast my mother had made for him. He was smiling, laughing and acting as if it were just another lovely day. I completely ignored him. At that moment I wanted to open the drawer in front of me that held the sharp knives, quietly take one out and cut off his dick right in front of my mother. I could see myself in my mind actually doing this. But instead of getting the water I did as he had done to me. Without a word, I exited the kitchen, went back to my room, shut the door and stayed there.

My mind kept reliving the rape over and over like some cheap black and white horror film. I kept trying to simply go about my day and act as normal as possible but inside I was screaming. I didn't have any plans to see Jim until later that evening. While out on our date I kept it all inside. I tried so hard to keep the focus and discussion on our upcoming wedding. But I kept thinking, "how can I keep this all inside?". I had just been RAPED by this man the night before. I pushed it all down. The thought of telling Jim made me so sick inside that I just stayed silent. Later that evening after our date I kept to myself in my room. It got very late and it was past my brother's bedtime so when he came in to go to sleep, I decided I might just as well too. Sleep seemed to be the only tangible way to escape the constant flashbacks of that horrible night. It was difficult at first but I finally managed to drift off. Then, the unimaginable happened. I was awakened once again by this man to be raped for a SECOND time. Same scenario as the first but this time I was trying harder to get him to stop. I remember he put his fingers across my mouth and telling me not to make any noise or my brother would wake up and it would not go well (whatever the hell he meant by that). This time my body froze in the same way as the last time but I also went into what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience. It was as if I was floating up above my body so as to not BE in my body, Later, through therapy, I learned that having this feeling is known as "disassociation".

I kept going in and out of my mind, seeing that huge bag that held my wedding dress hanging from the ceiling fixture. The streetlight from outside my window kept casting eerie shadows on it through the cafe style curtains. I was thankful that it was hanging there creating that division of the room blocking any view in case my brother woke up. The horror of him witnessing any of it was too awful to think about. I do remember how badly I wanted to just suddenly die at that moment. He had finished and left the room before I was even fully aware that he had. OMG. It had happened AGAIN. I quietly cried and sobbed all night, the same as before. But this time all I could think about was how in the world I was going to manage to get up the next day and be able to function normally in front of my entire family without any of them catching on that something was terribly wrong with me. From what I had been told my entire life up to that point is that I have the kind of face that usually tells you the whole story of what I am feeling in any given moment. So, I was very fearful of this being noticed. But it wasn't. And the only reason I can think of for this was that my parents were either not paying close enough attention to me or I was putting on a decent acting performance. I was never questioned which was a relief but at the same time rather disturbing to think no one was all that tuned in. I especially didn't know how in the hell I was going to come face to face with that piece of shit sitting at our table once again, putting on his act for my parents. Once morning came, I managed to get myself out of bed and go shower AGAIN, scrubbing my entire body in the same manner as I had done before. When I came out of the bathroom, I ran into my mother in the hallway and she informed me that he had gone home "unexpectedly". While I was very relieved to hear this news, at the same time I was completely devastated. I thought, "well, Jim will NEVER marry me now".

When he saw me later that day he knew that there was something terribly wrong. I guess my face was finally showing more clearly how much in distress I was. He kept pressing me to tell him what was wrong. I completely broke down and told him everything that had happened. He immediately wanted both of us to go to my parents and tell them. I BEGGED him not to. I was so full of fear, disgust, and shame. After putting my parents through my pregnancy and abortion mess as well as the sexual assault incident, there was no way I could face them with this. So he begrudgingly kept my secret. He was the only person I ever told. We ended up getting married exactly as we had planned. I felt as long as I had him by my side as my husband and he knew all of it, I could deal with keeping silent about it from everyone else for the rest of my life. This turned out to be a very fatal mistake in terms of my own well being. But it was the choice I made at the time. Both of my parents went to their graves never knowing what this insidious man had done to me, their own daughter. I could never face the unimaginable fallout of what would have happened had they been told. So I kept silent.

All too soon after this, it was now our wedding day. As we were pronounced husband and wife at the end of the ceremony I began sobbing uncontrollably all the way back down the aisle. It was because I felt an enormous amount of relief at that moment. It was as if marrying Jim was not only fulfilling the wish I had for our happily married life together, it also gave me the mistaken idea that he was somehow my savior. He was the one who would save me from all the feelings of shame, disgust and self-loathing I had from not only being raped but sexually assaulted as well. This was so unfair, not only to him but to me. Not to mention ludicrous. No one can "save" another person from anything. It's an INSIDE job. You have to do the work yourself to heal from these types of atrocities. However, healing is not linear. It has no timeline. I did all of it totally backward. I put the proverbial cart before the horse. I don't recommend anyone doing it this way. I thought that a happily ever after with Jim, eventually having our children together and creating a loving home would be the way in which I would make peace with all of what had happened to me. The joke was on me because it didn't. It only made it that much harder to cope with the emotions because they were all still there, even within the sanctity of our marriage.

While I was busy creating this happy life I wanted so badly, I never fully faced any of what had happened to me. I pushed all the shame, guilt, fear and self-loathing down. And it sat deep within me for decades, completely being ignored until it almost took over what was left of my soul. And because I stubbornly refused to face my demons I think it adversely affected the way I behaved as not only a wife but a mother as well I wasn't always the best I could be because I was so broken inside. I became a master at the cover-up. I had an uncanny ability to always make things look prettier and cleaner on the surface than they actually were in reality, including but not limited to myself. Our wedding night was difficult for me because I kept flashing back to the rape. I couldn't appreciate being with Jim fully because of this. What I mean by that is physically I was present, but emotionally I was basically checked out. And of course, this brought on a huge dose of frustration as well as guilt. I wanted our wedding night to be so special, everything one should be but I struggled so much with it. I was in way too fragile of an emotional state to have been ready for it. My body felt like a huge raw exposed nerve. Being touched literally hurt even in the most loving way possible. At one point during our honeymoon trip I allowed myself to get a massive sunburn which made doing anything even more difficult. I think back on doing that and have always wondered if it wasn't a subconscious effort on my part to make having sex harder, if not impossible so I wouldn't have to deal with the constant flashbacks. Jim seemed to understand this at the time and never made me feel anything but loved. He still does, even to this day. But we did the one thing that we shouldn't of. We didn't talk about any of it. We didn't bring all of the darkness into the blinding light of awareness. Because it was so painful for me as well as for him to have to keep reliving it all by simply having the conversation.

Chapter Five: The Second Sexual Assault

Looking back now we should have sought out a good therapist after we came home from our honeymoon. It has taken me almost our whole life together to understand and admit out loud that we were both dealing with the rape. It was never just me. He had his own feelings about it. It affected both of us as a couple. I didn't even realize that I was dealing with PTSD at the time. I didn't even know what that was. I don't think Jim did either. It would be decades before I would fully come to an understanding of what that was. There were times I literally thought I was losing my mind during episodes of that. But I had the same MO. I pushed it down every time and made all kinds of excuses for it. All I wanted to do was leave the whole horror show in the past and focus all of my determination and what little courage I had at the time to work at having a solid, stable and happy marriage. I also hoped to have children with Jim so we kept the silence going about the rape, not just with each other but with the rest of our families and everyone else. We went full steam ahead and began the rest of our life together always ignoring the huge elephant that was constantly in the room with us. The first few months of our marriage were going as well as they could under the circumstances. But I was growing restless and needed to find a job. I started selling AVON but I ended up spending more money than I was making so I quit. Sometimes in the afternoon I would go pick up Jim at work and we would have lunch together, or once in a while I would go and spend the day at one of my sister-in-law's homes. Our little one-bedroom apartment had a pool so there were times I would spend the day lounging and swimming but I got very bored with that after a while. So, I finally bought a newspaper and started combing through the employment ads (yup, that's how it was done back in the day). Since I only had a high school diploma and less than one semester at the community college taking a few dental assisting courses, my qualification choices were rather limited. After searching for a while I found an ad for a dental receptionist position that was at an office not far from our apartment complex. I wasn't sure they would even hire me but I thought what the hell, all they can do is say no, so I applied.

I ended up being called in for an interview. I was pleasantly surprised since I had such limited experience. I really had my hopes up that they would hire me, I desperately needed to have something meaningful to do in an effort to fill up my days and give me a sense of purpose. It was a small dental practice. Just one dentist and his assistant. She had been doing double duty as both assistant and receptionist but the practice was getting busier so they needed to hire someone to take over the role of receptionist. The interview went well, I met with both her and the dentist. She was a very nice woman, a bit older than I was and the dentist seemed like a nice enough man. He had a beautiful smile, very straight white teeth (not surprising for a dentist) and a friendly, outgoing demeanor. I seem to recall he was either of Indian or Middle Eastern descent because of his obvious accent. They both agreed that although I didn't have much experience I did have a bit of knowledge so they would give me a shot at the job. I started the following week on a Monday.

I spent my first day filling out all of the necessary paperwork and getting trained by the assistant on the phones, how they handled the insurance billing and so forth. I was catching on fairly quickly and by the end of the month, I was finally beginning to feel comfortable in the position. I was actually feeling somewhat better emotionally at this time but still experiencing random episodes of PTSD which of course, I pushed down and never talked about. I never disclosed how having these made me feel. I used every excuse I could think of, a headache here, period cramps there, etc. etc. I was still so full of shame and disgust over the groping and rape and I was lost in terms of knowing how to effectively communicate those feelings to anyone, even to Jim. Even though he knew all about it. I thought if I constantly brought it up he would get sick of hearing about it and it would cause damage to our relationship. This type of non-communicative behavior was a defensive mechanism for me based on the fear of losing him and in turn had me avoiding the feelings altogether. It was such a hamster in the wheel kind of situation. We just kept going around and around. Not communicating got me nowhere in terms of healing from any of it.

I had been on the job for about six months and everything was going great. By this time I had the receptionist thing perfected and was getting to know the regular patients very well. One particular day the dentist called the assistant and me into his office. He wanted to know if either of us personally needed any dental work. She said no but I said yes. It had been a couple of years since I had even seen a dentist so I thought it might be time to at least have some x-rays taken. He explained that he would give us a discount on any dental work because we were his employees. I recall thinking this was great due to the fact that Jim had no dental insurance coverage through his job at the time and sometimes dental work can get a bit pricey. We discussed it and decided to set up my appointment on one of our slower days. Finally, the day came for my appointment. We had no patients scheduled until after lunch so there was plenty of time to do anything that needed to be done. Once I got settled and put my things away the assistant took me in for x-rays and then on to the next room for the exam. She got me settled in the chair, set up all the instruments and said the dentist would be in to see me shortly. She said she had to go and cover the phones and left me there to wait.

I was trying my best to relax and stay as calm as possible. I am not the best at having dental work done. The dentist finally came in after what seemed like forever. He put my x-rays upon the lighted box on the wall and then proceeded to look into my mouth with the dental mirror. He explained to me that the x-rays had revealed two cavities on my lower molars that needed to be filled. He then asked me if I had ever been nervous about having dental work done before or if I had a fear of needles. I admitted that I was a bit nervous but not typically afraid of needles. He suggested using nitrous oxide and oxygen which while doesn't put you completely to sleep, it does help to relax you. I understood all about the use of it and its effects on the body. In one of the classes I had taken during that short semester in college, the coursework had covered the use of it. Using this protocol wasn't anything out of the ordinary for a nervous patient. After this, the assistant came into the room and hooked up the machine. She placed the mask over my face and instructed me to simply breathe normally and in a few minutes, I should feel more relaxed. I remember it feeling quite nice actually. I think it was because up until this point in my life I had never felt that fully relaxed. I was always on high alert, thinking there might be some unknown danger lurking when in reality, there wasn't.

The dentist came in after a few minutes and asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was more relaxed now and that my arms felt a little heavy. He said this was normal and now he could begin. He reached over me in what I thought was his attempt to retrieve an instrument. His head at this point was in very close in proximity to my own and I remember him looking at me strangely, as though he was searching for a sign of a bad reaction to the gases or whatever. The next thing I remember is him reaching his hand into the top of my blouse and fully groping both of my breasts!! My mind immediately flashed back to the first time I had been groped in the same way by the insurance man. Then the rape came flooding back in all its technicolor horror. I felt completely trapped. As I said, my arms felt heavy and it also felt like everything was happening in slow motion. I don't know how I did it but I managed to get one of my arms to move and come up to grab his arm (while digging my nails into it) and removing his hand from my blouse. Once I had done that I ripped off the mask, got myself up out of that chair past him and ran all the way down the hallway in order to get into the bathroom.

I remember knocking over a potted palm in the process and heard the crash of the glass when it landed on the floor behind me. I got into the bathroom and immediately locked the door. I literally sank to my knees and began sobbing uncontrollably as I had done so many times before. I found myself asking God "why...why does this keep happening to me? I don't understand any of this". Then all of a sudden, fear started welling up inside me so much that I felt as though I would choke on it. At this point, I had no idea where the dentist had gone or even where the assistant was. The next thing I remember is hearing the assistant knocking on the door asking me if I was okay. I told her through the door to go and get my purse and my sweater because I had to go home, I wasn't feeling well. She did as I asked and when she knocked again I rose up from the floor achingly slowly. I still felt a bit groggy but able to function. As I unlocked the door I opened it a crack. I saw her standing there holding my belongings as I had requested. I opened the door all the way, quickly took my things from her and practically sprinted out of that office. I was in no condition to drive but I did anyway. All I wanted to do was get home to our apartment in order to feel safe again. I managed to get there in one piece but I was still lightheaded, trying desperately to regain my composure.

Once I got home and had settled myself somewhat I picked up the phone and called Jim at work. These were the days before any cell phones. I got the secretary answering. I was trying to remain calm when asking her to transfer me to Jim. The second I heard his voice and I started to speak he knew something was very wrong. I told him something had happened at work and it was bad but I couldn't tell him over the phone what it was. So he came home right away. I remember it seemed like an eternity before he arrived. I was pacing the floor, smoking cigarette after cigarette, crying and stopping...crying and stopping. Just before he got home I had managed to calm myself. But the moment he came through the door and I saw him, all of that changed. I fell into his arms and started sobbing once again and attempting to get out the whole awful story of what had happened. Of course, he wanted to immediately go over to that office and confront the man. And just like I had done after the rape, I begged him not to do that. I was reeling. I started imagining all kinds of various scenarios, none of them good. In my mind, I saw him going over there and getting into a physical fight, getting arrested or even something much much worse.

All I wanted him to do at that moment was to hold me and reassure me that I was safe now and everything was going to be alright. Which he did. Oh, how I wanted this incident as well as all of the others that came before it to just disappear from my conscious mind. While he was holding me through my unconstrained sobs I remember suddenly blurting out that I was never going back to work again. I told him that all I wanted to do was stay in our little home and how much I wanted to have his baby. Which is exactly what we ended up doing. Looking back on this now, we were both so young and inexperienced dealing with anything as awful as what I had been through. Neither one of us had the knowledge to fully comprehend how badly I was in need of some help from a therapist. Jim had never been open back then to the idea of seeing psychiatrists or therapists. He thought of them as charlatans who took your money for nothing. Maybe because he had this mindset it influenced me in some way against it. I'm still not sure about that but it's a possibility. He changed his mind about this but it took decades of time before he came to that realization.

As time passed, I dreamed about the day I would get pregnant and hold our baby in my arms. Achieving this was not as easy or pleasurable as it sounds. Most couples find immense joy in the process of creating a new life together but I was still dealing with the bouts of PTSD which inhibited me greatly. I think I was also somewhat depressed during this time period. But it didn't take long, I was pregnant in less than a month. I guess I was one of those fortunate women who are able to conceive in record time even though I had been on the pill for a while. For obvious reasons, it was a very emotional pregnancy for me and because I quit smoking once I found out I was pregnant, I compensated for that by eating horribly throughout the entire pregnancy. I craved hot fudge sundaes like crazy and it didn't help that there happened to be an ice cream parlor directly across the street from our apartment complex. It got to the point where whenever they saw Jim coming in there they would immediately start making one because they knew it was for me and why. It was something we would laugh about over the years but in reality, it was anything but funny.

My weight ballooned. I went from 110 pounds to over 200. The last month was the worst. I couldn't even fit into any of my clothes. I had to wear this horrible green Hawaiian mumu all the time. And flip flops because I had retained so much fluid that I couldn't even get shoes on my feet. My doctor was having fits every time I went in for a check-up because of the possibility of toxemia. I looked like the Pillsbury doughboy and I was miserable. But thankfully I never developed toxemia, my blood pressure stayed within normal ranges and by the time my water broke everything had gone along normally. I remember that early morning when my water broke...it was like the parting of the Red Sea. I didn't think it would ever stop. It completely ruined our mattress, we ended up having to buy a new one before I came home from the hospital. My labor started immediately hard, it wasn't a long, gradual process. From the time my water broke to when I made it into the hospital, I delivered our daughter in only three hours. Record time for a first baby. Jim and I had attended childbirth classes and used the Bradley Method of childbirth which was popular at the time, all-natural, no drugs. I was afraid of using drugs during the delivery because I knew they would go straight into the baby's bloodstream. I was very proud of myself for getting through the birth without any drugs.

I will never forget the moment I held our daughter for the first time. I looked at her and she looked at me and it was as if she knew somehow. She knew that she had filled up what had been a vast wasteland of emptiness in my soul where I had buried so many emotions. I never thought of her in any way as a "replacement" for the child who had been aborted. It would never occur to me to think in those terms. Every child is a separate being, special unto themselves, a blessing. The irrational fear I had of never being able to conceive, carry the child to term and give birth had now vanished. Because I had done it. God had not cursed me into being a barren woman. I think God blessed me because HE felt I had suffered long enough. She became my whole world. I was amazed every day by the fact that she was ours and watching her grow into the smart, capable woman she is today has been an indescribable joy for me. Always happy and smiling she filled me with so much love and light that I had no room for any darkness...or so I thought. By the time she entered kindergarten during the in-between hours, the horrors of my past were always there, wanting to nip at my heels.

I fought those horrors so hard with everything I had in me against it seeping into my thoughts. I had a child now. And I had a responsibility to HER. So I shoved all of my pain and unspeakable violations into drawers lined with silence. I continued on as best I could. I was still struggling to have what most people would consider a "normal" sex life with Jim. There were times when I wouldn't experience PTSD during sex and it would actually be a pleasurable experience. But then there were other times when all he would have to do is grab my ass and it would turn into a full-blown trigger for me. I would jerk away from him and he would look at me with confusion. Again, I didn't tell him what I was feeling in those moments. I would just walk away in silence. If he felt confused by this, imagine how it made me feel. I loved this man deeply. He and our daughter were everything to me. I was always afraid I would lose him because of how I struggled so much with regard to sex. I put up a good front, especially in group settings where sex was brought up. I never let on to anyone how much I struggled with it to even my closest girlfriends. I was still harboring so much shame and far too worried about other people's opinions of me. I didn't want them looking at me with pity or feel sorry for me because I was "damaged".

Shortly before our daughter began kindergarten I found out I was pregnant again. We had actually been trying for a year to conceive but when it wasn't happening I thought it might never happen. But then it did. I felt very different during this pregnancy. Not nearly as emotional, I ate much better and didn't gain nearly as much weight. I think having our daughter and the anticipation of a sibling for her took my mind off the traumas and kept me busy. This time we had a son. He was a big baby, over 9 pounds. He had turned the wrong way in utero and when it came time to give birth they couldn't turn him back the right way so it was determined I would need to have a cesarean birth. They came in and prepped me but during that process, they discovered he had crowned so by that time they had to get him out because his heart rate was dropping. It took four nurses and the doctor to help push him out because by that time I was too exhausted to push anymore. I had a massive episiotomy because of this and so my healing time took much longer. I also had to end up having a spinal anesthetic which upset me greatly. I wanted a natural birth as I had with our daughter.

But in the end, he was born healthy so that was all that really mattered to us. After his birth, I told Jim that I was done. Because it was such a difficult birth I was quite afraid to have another child. I remember while in recovery they had packed me in ice because of how much I had swelled and how deeply I was cut. I told everyone I felt similar to a fish that had been gutted and put on ice. Jim was as puffed up like a peacock, along with his dad because although I didn't really want him to share their names (Jim and his dad share the same name), I felt there were enough Jim's not only within the family but that name was one I felt so much ambivalence about. Love Story had been a favorite film of mine at the time and I fell in love with the name Oliver. Everyone laughed and sneered about my liking that name and possibly wanting it for our son. I could feel how much Jim and his dad wanted to carry on their names with our son so I relented. I now had another James (Jim) in my life. However, we have always called him Jimmy. He was (and still is) my baby boy. In raising him my tendency to always do too much FOR him for whatever reason, turned him into a typical "mommas boy". He struggled more in school than our daughter did, she was always far more independent. So, it seemed to me he needed more of my attention.

This was probably not the best thing for him but I was such a young mother and had so much to learn about parenting. And I was doing this simultaneously while dealing with my own trauma which was not the best recipe for parenting effectively. Because I know for a fact that whenever I was triggered my anger showed up at times when it shouldn't have. My kids saw that. I know on some level it had to of had a negative effect on them. As time went on, however, our son gained more self-confidence and discovered baseball, mostly because Jim loved the game and wanted to show our son how much fun it could be to play. Jim had been coaching baseball ever since our daughter was a baby so once we had our son I knew it was only a matter of time before he had Jimmy out on the field. Now I was raising two children and our marriage seemed to be going well despite all of the trauma I was not dealing with.

By this time I felt as if I had in some strange way, morphed myself into two different women and was using it as a way to cope with everything. The woman on the outside that the world saw was the one who was the wife and mother, blissfully happy with her married life who had no hang-ups or insecurities about sex and made sure everyone saw that and more importantly, believed it. Then there was the other one, the one who was buried deep and lived on the inside. The one who had been shamed into silence. The one who couldn't bring herself to put into words how emotionally broken she was. The one who was always on high alert for any situations either real or imagined that she saw as potentially threatening. The one who could never fully relax or let her guard down enough to simply enjoy the pleasure of her own body. The one who would at times flinch at the mere touch of her husband's loving embrace. The woman on the inside had a hard time feeling free enough to simply love and be loved in return. The trauma caused by the violations sometimes wouldn't allow it. I longed to find a way to bring the two women together in order to have a productive conversation in order to find a way to make me feel whole again. I didn't believe doing that was even a possibility.

I have a vivid memory of the cute little house we were living in after our son was born. I had fixed it up and made it so cozy. I loved that little house so much. I felt very happy there. One evening we came home to find that we had been robbed. All of our belongings were scattered everywhere. Our precious vinyl records were littered all over the living room, plants knocked over with dirt everywhere. Our TV was gone. They stole Jim's wedding ring, he had taken it off the day before to play basketball and had forgotten to put it back on. They also took all of my precious jewelry from my grandmother that I had kept from the time I was just a baby. They had opened and gone through every single drawer in our bedroom. All of our clothing had been scattered from one end of the room to the other. As Jim called the police, I began picking up our clothes, folding them ever so neatly and placing them back into the drawers. While doing this I stopped. I pulled them out again and threw them all in the laundry basket. I thought about the fact that they had been touched by filthy, dirty thieves so they had to be washed and cleaned. I sunk to my knees the same way I had in that dentist's office after being assaulted. I felt as if I had been raped all over again, just in a different way this time.

This terrible experience has touched many other people's lives and they undoubtedly understand how it feels to have had their homes robbed. But for me, because of the past sexual assaults and rape, this incident caused my palpable fear and imagination to kick into major high gear. I envisioned the men coming back not only to get what they had left behind but also seeing it as a possible opportunity of perhaps being attacked physically once again as an added bonus. It didn't help that while taking down our report the police officer mentioned that sometimes but not often, people who rob houses might return to the scene of the crime to get what they may have wanted but didn't have the chance to take. This was probably why my thoughts were going where they were. After this incident, I didn't sleep well for weeks after it was over. I was constantly checking and double-checking all the windows and doors making sure the locks were secure. They had got in through a window that had a broken lock on it that we were unaware of. I never told Jim about not being able to sleep well for those weeks afterward. I never told him about my thoughts on the robbers potentially coming back. Once it was over, it was over much like all the other incidents had been. At least for him anyway. Me, not so much.

Even though I was married to this wonderful, loving man who would have totally understood my fears, I kept silent about how it made the inside woman feel. The outside woman had totally moved on from the incident. I didn't feel safe talking about my fears. I thought he would start looking at me differently and believe I was being irrational. The thoughts that I would lose him if I expressed my fears would always rear their ugly heads. Fear can be a great motivator for you to do and say things that will make absolutely no sense to anyone else. After months had passed after the robbery I felt a curious sense of loneliness come over me even though all my life I have never been completely alone. I have not only always had my husband and kids with me but my extended family nearby as well, being very loving and supportive. I knew in my heart I was loved by all of them. And yet, this unrelenting loneliness crept in like those thieves in the night. I began thinking thoughts such as if I were too happy or too peaceful in my life it would mean certain doom was waiting just over the horizon in the form of a tornado. It was there whirling, ready to swoop in and take it all away. Whenever I seemed to be getting myself into a good place emotionally something else would happen and I would be violated in some way or another all over again.

As the next several years passed I managed to get through them all, not easily but one day at a time. There were many ups and downs, highs and lows, and thin and flush but we hung in through it all together as a family. By now our kids had entered elementary school. Our daughter was taking dancing lessons and our son was firmly into Little League with Jim as his coach. Because of Jim's coaching, we ended up making a lot of new friends, so during this period of our lives, I felt more okay than not okay. I was still suffering from PTSD but the occasions of it happening during these years seemed to be less frequent for some reason. Maybe it's because my mind was kept so busy with the kids and their activities. Plus, I had always been a "clean freak" as my family and friends would lovingly refer to me. I came to realize that my incessant need for over cleaning everything was born out of the irrational idea that I had NEVER been or felt clean after being sexually assaulted and raped. Cleaning felt cathartic for me. However, nothing was ever clean enough no matter how much time I spent doing it. Like the time I spent scrubbing my body raw in the shower after the rape.

I was also this way with our kids. Their clothing always had to be sparkling clean, never a stain to be seen. If anything was ever spilled on them, even the littlest bit I would immediately change their clothes. I could never deal with either of them looking the least bit dirty or unkempt. I would take it personally as if the kids looking that way was a direct reflection of my suitability as not only a mother to them but as a woman in general. I understand now that there was absolutely no logic whatsoever in thinking this way. But at the time it all made perfect sense to me. I imagined everyone judging me on how my house, my children and I looked, all the time. Back then I cared far too much about other people's perceptions or opinions of me. It was totally irrational thinking. But I believe it was understandable considering all I had endured. I had tremendous amounts of guilt for quite a long time because of this type of behavior. I think this behavior about the cleaning was more difficult for my kids than it really was for Jim because for him it just meant he was lucky to have a wife who kept such a clean house. But my kids were another story. I was constantly getting after them to clean their rooms, even if they weren't all that messy. I mean, I wasn't entirely full-blown Mommy Dearest about it but I was a tad obsessive when it came to their rooms being cleaned.

Chapter Six: The Third Sexual Assault

Another summer had come and gone and the kids were back in school. Little did I know that the tornado I spoke about earlier was about to strike. This bright and sunny September day was like any other. I got the kids up, kicked them in the ass (figuratively, not literally) to get ready for school while packing both their lunches in the new boxes they had picked out for themselves over the summer. I sent them lovingly out the door with kisses and hugs and wished them a good day as they left. Then I went about my day cleaning (of course), doing loads of laundry, prepping for dinner later, etc., etc. Just as I was sitting down for a second cup of coffee there was a knock at my door. I opened it and much to my surprise it was a guy whom Jim and I have known for years, an extended member of our family, on Jim's side through marriage. He explained that he was doing a job nearby and decided since he had some time to kill he would stop by and say hello. I invited him in and we sat at our kitchen table as I poured him a cup of coffee. We ended up chatting for about an hour or so. I talked about our kids mostly and what they were involved in at the moment and then he asked me about Jim's job and how that was going. Totally, relaxed, friendly conversation, the same way we had done for years. Suddenly, he looked at his watch and said he would have to get going back to work. We both got up from the table and I walked with him to our front door. As we got there he turned around to give me a hug, which was not unusual behavior for this man. He and I had hugged each other many times both in greeting each other as well as in departing during numerous parties and family events over the years. I had never felt anything strange or certainly nothing inappropriate from him towards me, ever. But as he leaned in and hugged me this time suddenly and very forcefully he shoved me up against the wall near our front door.

The next thing I knew his hands were all over my body. I kept shoving his hands away and told him to stop it and to get the hell out of my house. He was obviously not hearing me because right after I said that he literally picked me up, threw me over his shoulder and began walking down our hallway into the master bedroom where he threw me on our bed with so much force he ended up landing directly on top of me. I was completely astonished at his behavior because it all came out of nowhere and it was so unlike him. He kept trying to kiss me. I kept turning my face away and trying unsuccessfully to shove him off of me. He kept it up and suddenly I could feel him getting more forceful with me. It was in that moment where I felt that all too familiar feeling welling up inside of me AGAIN. I went into freeze mode, exactly how I did when I had been raped before. I began flashing back to the rape during all this. Up until this time, I had been dealing fairly well with the PTSD but this brought it all back as if it had only been yesterday. The fear I felt was paralyzing. I remember clenching my fists and bringing them up near my neck as I pleaded with him to stop and just leave my house. Thank God for whatever reason he just suddenly stopped, got off me and walked calmly back down the hallway and out the front door, closing it behind him. I laid there in my still frozen state for a couple of more minutes in an attempt to thaw out long enough to jump up and run down the hallway to bolt the door. I went to the phone and picked it up. My hand was shaking as I recall trying to dial Jim at work. I slammed the phone down. I thought, "well at least this time his name isn't Jim".

This all seemed like too much Deja Vu. How many times am I going to have to tell my husband either in person or on the phone that some man has just tried to sexually assault me? It was all just too much for me. I was deathly afraid of not being believed because of what had happened to me in the past and it seemed far too incredible that this would have happened yet AGAIN, But it had. So this time I decided to call someone else. I had to call someone who not only knew me but also knew this man as well. I will not name her because this is my story, not hers. Suffice it to say she was also a member of my husband's family who knew this man very well. I got her on the phone and as I told her the whole story she said something totally unexpected. She told me that he had tried the same thing with her! Well, I was floored by this. On the one hand, I was suddenly not feeling as alone in the situation but on the other, I was sickened by the thought that this man was obviously going around assaulting other women as well. Then she asked me if he was drunk. I told her he was not. She said when he tried it with her he was. At the time I didn't even think to say to her how irrelevant it was if he was drunk or sober. He was committing sexual assault!

After talking about it with her for a few minutes, she told me that I had to hang up with her and call Jim immediately. I knew I had to but I was dreading it. The rest is kind of a blur but as I recall once Jim came home he called this man and told him he wanted to meet him the next day during lunchtime. They had arranged the place and time but the guy never showed up. What a surprise! The end result of this was that he was never confronted about it by Jim. We have known this man and his wife for years. All of our kids were very young at the time of this incident. We had been to their home many, many times over the span of years without any hint of impropriety on his part. I guess both of us were more concerned about what the implications for everyone else would have been if we had confronted him rather than considering how keeping silent would continually eat away at me. It would have had a ripple effect on our families and everyone would have known about it along with everything else that had happened to me in the past. I was terrified once again of my past being brought up. But the prospect of not being believed was even worse to consider. These types of men who commit such vile acts count on their victims and their families doing exactly as we did which was nothing. We kept silent. Unfortunately, because of doing this, it's exactly why they continue to get away with it.

I know I am not alone in keeping silent and never disclosing about sexual assault and/or rape. There are countless women in the world who have done exactly the same thing. If every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted and/or raped and who never revealed or reported it started ringing cowbells the sound would be deafening. So once again, here I was, sexually assaulted by yet another man, one that I knew. And the worst part of it is this man, in particular, was that because of the extended family connection I knew we would eventually end up crossing paths at some future event. It would either be at a wedding, a funeral or some other type of family function. So, I figured I would just have to "suck it up" and deal with it by ignoring him completely if faced with that situation. What an idiot I was for thinking that way. Because I never HAD to be anywhere near him ever again. I had the power to choose who I would be in close proximity to or not. Family connection or no family connection. But here I was, putting myself last and everyone else first. Staying silent to keep the peace, to stay safe from the possibility of not being believed, especially by family members. After this nightmare encounter many more months passed and we had not been in his orbit which suited me just fine. Especially since this incident had stirred up my PTSD once again. I fought against it. I always did.

Then the inevitable happened. An invitation to a family party at HIS home. There were other extended family members coming in from out of state, people we hadn't seen in several years. Jim and I absolutely hated the idea of going but both of us really wanted to see the other family members. So this time we did discuss going or not going. We thought as long as we just ignored him and stayed focused on the other members of the family everything would somehow be okay. There would be so many people there it would be kind of impossible for him to pull anything like what he had done before, especially since this was his own home and his wife and kids would be there. I hated having to even be in his house but for the sake of seeing the out of towners, I agreed to go. Again, what an IDIOT I was thinking this way. I should have never allowed myself to be anywhere near this man ever again. Both Jim and I completely underestimated this man and what he was capable of. On the way over to the party, I was thinking that I would just walk in there with my head held high and not allow this unimaginable bastard to get to me. But there he was at the door with his wife, greeting both of us with his phony smile and actually had the nerve to walk up and HUG me. I wanted to slap the shit out of him. But I let go very abruptly and just walked right past him, I was so appalled and sickened at his complete and utter arrogance. But his wife was right there by his side, so of course I felt like I had to "keep up appearances"...because if not, then I would be opening myself up to the possibility of being even more hurt and/or humiliated if any of the family saw through my facade straight into my eyes of pure loathing and disgust.

I didn't want it to seem weird to anyone else who might have been watching us, even though it was at least for Jim and I. It suddenly occurred to me as I watched his wife interacting with him that she is absolutely clueless about the tool she is married to which is sad (and as of this writing they are still married, so go figure). Because I did know, for a fact at the time of this party that I was not the only woman he had assaulted in the past. The woman I had called on that previous day when he had assaulted me also happened to be in attendance at this party. I managed to stay as far away from him that night as was humanly possible, which wasn't easy because their home isn't very big. I found myself consuming more wine than I normally do, I guess I was thinking of the wine as liquid courage in order to tolerate being there in his domain. As I was sitting in the living room chatting with the other out of town family members I suddenly felt the wine kicking in. I wasn't full-on drunk, just feeling lightheaded. So I excused myself and told Jim that I was going to go lie down in one on their kid's rooms for a little while. As I was lying there the door swung open.

It was him. He didn't come near me, just hung out in the light of the doorway. He asked me if I was feeling okay. I started to get up with every intention of getting out of there and back to the living room. As I got up for some reason I began coughing and I sat back down. It was like I had something caught in my throat. I kept coughing and suddenly he rushed over to me and got me up. I got the impression that he thought because I was coughing as I was it meant I was going to vomit. I guess he didn't want me vomiting on the nice clean carpeting in his kid's room so he started leading me down the hallway through the master bedroom and into the bathroom. Once we got to the bathroom I honestly thought he would just leave me there and go back to join the others, possibly letting Jim know that I was not feeling well and I was now in the bathroom. But this was the LAST thing he was thinking about doing. Instead, once we arrived at the bathroom doorway he pushed me so hard inside that I fell on my ass. I was so stunned for a minute by the time I knew what was going on he had come in there and shut the door behind him.

I didn't even have time to stand up before the man had unzipped his pants, pulled out his dick and proceeded to try and shove it in my mouth. I kept turning my head away, much like I did when he was trying to kiss me the last time he assaulted me in my home. Once again, the PTSD flooded my mind with flashbacks, not only from the last sexual assault by him but the other ones and the rape as well. He got the message quickly that I wasn't going to comply, so with that, he decided instead that he would just jerk off right there and spew his shit all over the top of my head. When he was done with that he opened the door quickly, shut it and just left me there with his shit running down from the top of my head. In my buzzed, wine-induced state I was thinking, "well, maybe he was pissed off because the last time he assaulted me he didn't get as far as he wanted to, so now here I am". I managed to get to my feet, clean myself up and walk out. I didn't cry. Mostly because this time I was more pissed off than I had ever felt in my life. I was angry because I had allowed myself to be there in the first place which I should never have done. Angry at the complete humiliation I was feeling while sitting there before I got up like some stray piece of toilet paper he had just wiped his ass on. Not to mention that now this disgusting excuse for a human being had just sexually assaulted me for a SECOND time.

Meanwhile, everyone else at the party was so engaged in conversation elsewhere in the house that no one, including Jim, was even aware of any of it. I could not believe how brazen this man was. This was his home...where not only his wife and kids were in attendance but other family members as well. Anyone of them, including my husband, could have walked in and witnessed what was happening at any time. All of this seemed so unbelievable to me! As I cleaned myself up I started to imagine how the scene would have played out if anyone had walked in and saw what was happening. I know for a fact the ass hole would have totally blamed me and the wine-induced state I was in to get himself out of any part of it. But I had no more time to think about any of that. All I wanted to do at that point was to go get Jim and our kids and get the hell out of his house. So, I found Jim and told him I wasn't feeling well and wanted to leave NOW. So, we went and collected our kids and as we were leaving that bastard had the unmitigated gall to actually walk us out to our car. He oh so politely waved good-bye to us as we drove off. Our kids were in the car so there was no way I could tell Jim what had just happened.

I had to keep reliving it all the way home. I thought my head was going to explode. I had to roll the window down for air. Once we got home and had put the kids to bed I ended up telling Jim what had happened. Obviously, "upset" would be a colossal understatement of how he reacted to hearing that he had done this AGAIN. But here we were, in the same place as we were before. If we confront him he will most certainly deny it, of course. And then who knows how it would have all gone from there. But the awful truth was this: He damn well should have been confronted. Family or no family. He should have been held accountable for his abhorrent actions. But it was the same as before, silence. Because of fear. Fear of being blamed for something that was in no way my fault. Fear of losing people we love over it. Fear of people turning against me over it. Fear of not being believed. Especially when it all seems so unbelievable. Jim has always been a very non-confrontational type of man. He was never a macho, I'll kick your ass type of guy. He was always calm and steady. It's one of the reasons I was attracted to him in the first place. He came from a broken home. His parents fought bitterly in his home before they divorced and he was a witness to all that. He was only in his early teens when they split. I think it's why he developed this type of personality. He was a peacemaker, not a fighter. I was a middle child. We are always known as mediators in a family, the peacekeeper. So here we were, two people who kept from having confrontations in order to keep the peace. Unfortunately for us, the situations that happened to me needed fighters, not peacekeepers.

To be honest, I don't think either of us knew how to mentally process such horrific situations back then. So we would just fall into this silence dance we did together. Because it seemed easier to not deal with it at all than the idea of having to endure confrontation about any of it. However, as more years passed living this way began to consume what little was left of my soul. It was having such a detrimental effect on how I was living my life. Somewhere in my mind, I think I had always known this inconvenient truth. But both of us just kept going on day by day with our life together after it was over and really didn't talk about it. Since this last incident, we have seen the man on other occasions but I have never been more than two inches from Jim's side when we have. And as usual, whenever he sees me he will arrogantly come up to me and hug me, always directly in front of other people. It got to the point where I honestly felt as if he were taunting me by continually doing that after what we both knew he had done to me in the past. It was like sheer torture when he touched me, it literally made my skin crawl. This along with everything else that had been going on in my life during this time got so bad that I finally made the decision with the help of Jim and our adult kids to seek out a good therapist in order to get some kind of perspective and control over my feelings. Not just regarding the assaults by this man but about the others as well and even all the deep, unresolved feelings about the abortion. I had to acknowledge out loud how much it had all come to a head and was deeply affecting my mental health.

Chapter Seven: The Lessons and the Healing

Prior to seeing a therapist, I had made a decision for myself on my own, to become celibate at least, for now, going forward. I had arrived at a place where I didn't even want to think about sex anymore as far as it is a part of my life. Basically, the trauma that I had never processed or worked through in any healthy way throughout my whole adult life had now all caught up with me. And because I never really faced any of it, it killed that part of who I used to be. I feel as though the healthy sexual part of who I once was, has now withered and died. When I made this decision I went to Jim and gave him the option for a divorce. I felt it was only fair for him to decide if it was something he could live with or not. He said he understood and he still wanted to stay with me. I feel very blessed that he would make that choice. Most men would have had to walk away. But Jim isn't like most of the men I have ever known. He was and is willing to stay with me as my husband, my partner and my friend whether or not there comes a time in the future when I can figure out if I can ever be sexual again without it causing me so much intense suffering.

I have always believed that marriage is so much more than just sex. You better have more than that if you expect it to sustain the changes that come, whatever those changes may be. If I am to be completely honest, it's difficult sometimes without it being a part of my life now. Because there was a time when sex was as easy for me as breathing until it started to suffocate me. That's why I had to separate myself from it in order to possibly find my way back to it again without all the pain and suffering that came along with it. I have to give myself however long it takes to be as open and vulnerable as I once was with it long, long ago. I know I still have a lot of inward work to do. I know the traumas I have experienced will always be a part of me but they do not define me in any way. They are only one part of the story of who I am as a woman. A significant part, yes. But I am no one's VICTIM. I consider myself a SURVIVOR. Because I am still here fighting my way through the sludge of all the shame, heartache and pain. One huge thing that I have learned from my therapist is that I absolutely did NOT have to feel pressured into allowing this last man who assaulted me to touch me in any way. I had the power to simply put my hand out and say NO. Because in reality, I had the power all along. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I simply had to learn it for myself. And it was past time to take my power back. By setting boundaries. By simply replying NO to invitations for any parties where I would feel uncomfortable, family or no family. If Jim feels the need to go he can go without me and the world will not come to an end. I had to start calling the shots in my life for my own survival. I think setting boundaries for people who were not supportive of me and my life whether or not they were friends, family members or especially extended family members was the hardest part of this process for me.

But dammit, I have the right to say NO without any guilt or any other negative feelings after I've said it. This is the very first time in my life at almost 62 years old that I have allowed myself to do any of this. Because I was a chronic people-pleaser. To the point where I had totally compromised my own well being. This was not a healthy way to live anymore and I knew it could not continue. Recently Jim finally did end up confronting this last man, the extended family member who had assaulted me. We knew he was going to be at a specific family event but the venue was large enough where I never even came into any kind of close contact with him. Jim found him and told him he wanted to talk to him alone. So they went off to a quiet corner and Jim told him that he knew all about the two assaults on me from all those years ago. He told him in no uncertain terms to never come near me again and he better not ever put his hands on me in any way ever again. Jim also told him that I was seeing a therapist now not only because of what he had done to me but because I had suffered other sexual assaults prior to his. He didn't share any specific details regarding the other past assaults or rape with him, only that they had occurred. Jim told me later that when he first approached him and began talking about all of it he started to back away as if he thought Jim might hit him. And then, right on cue, he denied all of it. He told Jim that he was confused and didn't know what he had done. He said how "sorry" he was after Jim told him that I was seeing a therapist. All I kept thinking was, he knows. He now knows Jim knows what he had done to me. And now he has to live with knowing that Jim knows.

He didn't know what he had done? Seriously?? I am so sick to death of these bastards who sexually assault and rape ALWAYS doing the same thing. Deny, deny, deny. We have all read the stories and heard on the news about sexual assault, sexual harassment and/or rape happening time after time in all walks of life. Everyone from the very famous to the regular John Doe down the street. Because of them we now have the #MeToo movement happening. I'm quite sure these treacherous men will never lose a night's sleep over the damage they leave in their wake. Because in my opinion, they have completely lost their sense of humanity (if they ever had any, to begin with) while committing such heinous acts against it. And what it's really about is not sex in and of itself. It's having some sick, perverted sense of power and control over another person using sex as the weapon in their arsenal. But because sex is used as the catalyst for them to attain their depraved sense of power and control, it is why the survivor is left feeling confused, ashamed and fearing what should only be a loving act between two people. It was wonderfully liberating for Jim to finally confront this last man for what he had done to me. For so long I kept asking him not to. For him, I'm sure it was like taking a bullet. But Jim loved me and I believe all he ever wanted to do was to spare me more pain and heartache so keeping the silence going became a habit neither of us seemed to be willing or able to break free from.

Maybe it's the romantic in me but I feel that good, decent, honorable men feel a sense of empowerment in defending the women they love. I just wish I had my own sense of empowerment back then and found the strength and the courage to defend my own honor. I wish with all my heart that I had made so many different choices with regard to all of these traumatic events that wove themselves into the tapestry of my life. Such as, I should have never allowed myself to become sexually active at such a young age. I think about this now and I was only one year older than my own granddaughter is now when I became pregnant, only ONE year older. It makes me shudder just thinking about that fact. I should have had way more self-control. If I had I would have never had to endure the gutwrenching process of teenage pregnancy and abortion. As for each man who sexually assaulted me as well as the man who raped me, they all should have been prosecuted or at the very least confronted as the last man finally was. But then when I really think about this, it makes me realize that IF I had done it all differently I probably wouldn't have the life I have now. I wouldn't have Jim and his enduring love or our beautiful kids or grandkids. So in the end as awful as it all was for me, I don't think I would change any of it. Because it helped to create the woman I am today, at this moment and gave me the life I do have. I am stronger and much more focused now. I have a wealth of knowledge that I can impart in an effort to help others. What I have also learned about myself that I find surprising is how even after all I have endured that I still believe in true love, romance, and marriage. And that they can last forever even under the cruelest of fates. I know that steadfastly holding onto this belief is the thing that has saved me from falling into an abyss of complete and utter despair.

Conclusion: What I know now for sure is this:

Keeping sexual assault, sexual harassment and/or rape silent is NEVER the way to deal with it. The silence will systematically crush your soul into dust. If you can't find your voice and speak, seek out a qualified therapist to help you find it. Don't live your life as I did, thinking you can handle it all on your own by keeping it all locked inside. It's not possible. It's not an "inside job", trust me on that. And never put your spouse or your significant other or your children in the position of having to be silent along with you about it either. Because all of us have our own personal demons to deal with. Instead, allow your family and friends who have your back support you, hold space for you and love you on your journey into healing. It's a lot to ask of a person to remain silent with you, especially when they love you and want to defend you. I have been very blessed to have had the love and support of a good man and great kids who have stood by me while I am still sorting through all the madness. And keep believing in yourself. Never allow anyone to make you feel like you don't have a voice, or that your story doesn't matter, or you aren't believed when you finally stand up and are brave enough to tell it in whatever way works for you. Now that I have found my way I have begun work as a novice writer. My hope in writing my memoir as well as writing for various blogs who accept my work is that my words will touch someone out there to let them know that they are not alone. So reach out. And keep the conversation going, even if your voice shakes while you're speaking…..



 

 

 


 

 

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