Anyone who knows me is already aware of my history. I was physically, sexually, and mentally abused for years by relatives for years before I ran away to live with my mother’s sister in Chicago. For years I suppressed it, mainly because it was a taboo topic. My mother’s family embraced me, gave me lots of love, but I still struggled through my remaining years of high school. I graduated pregnant (by a non-relative, thankfully), and ashamed.
Over the years, I tried everything I could to be normal. I prayed, I repented, (my paternal grandmother had told me once that I was fast* and so I deserved it), I tithed, I sexed, I gang-banged, but nothing gave me solace. After more than two decades of all of the above, I began to read self-help books about survivors of abuse. I would read it all and still feel distant-none of them sounded like me. (Some were bad, and some were downright terrible.) I either felt nothing or everything and neither feeling did me any good until one day, I read this article from a well-known life coach who I deeply admired. She talked about how she, herself had been a victim of sexual abuse and when she confronted her assailant’s wife, the wife had responded by asking, “How much pussy could he take?”
There it was. She was alive, she was successful, and she had been molested just like I had. And she still had pussy left.
And so for several more years, I tried to make this my mantra. Because as I had mentioned earlier, I admired this woman and I had read worse stories than mine, so what was my problem? Shouldn’t I just be able to get on with my life and move forward? My rapists had –and seemingly without an ounce of remorse– while I sat with daily reminders of what had happened to me.
How much pussy could they take, really? Sure, I’d had enough left to land a mate and eventually a husband, but there was always a gaping hole there. For years, I was not even sure if I really liked the sex, or if I was operating in the persona of the rape victim. I would have what I thought was amazing sex with my husband even, and a single word could send me back to Mississippi in some room with roving hands and familiar unpleasant smells.
At the age of 41, countless books and three therapists later, I can tell you how much they took. They took enough for me to traipse through life neither knowing nor understanding why these acts happened to me. They took away my ability to choose who, when, and how I would have intercourse for the first time. They took away my innocence and my ability to distinguish between sex and love or capacity to know if I were dating a man who really loved me or a man who could actually see my vulnerabilities as their gain. They took away so many nights of sleep, and they also took away what I thought to be my innocence. They ruined a little girl and left, for a long time, a broken woman.
I do not know the answers to so many questions such as, ‘why me?’ Nor do I understand how so many grown people allowed this horrendous act to happen. But here is what I can tell you without any doubt. I have a right to be angry. I can be as mad as I wish to be. I have a right to hate my oppressors, whether they be family or not. I have a right to discontinue communication with anyone who chooses to minimize my life and my journey. I have a right to kick and scream and yell. I have a right to all of these feelings. But I don’t have the time. Time is fleeting. And so I have to make a decision to be happy. Sometimes I don’t think about it for days, and then other times, I will see a woman walking down the street all happy and secure and have to remind myself that I too am beautiful. I have to tell the little girl inside of me that she is worthy of a happy life. Because molesters and their enablers (such as my grandmother) would have one believe that this happened to you because of something that you did. It is an uphill battle trying to convince yourself and so many others that there was absolutely nothing your nine-year-old person could have done to ward off grown men. Nothing.
I am not a psychologist nor am I a psychiatrist. However, I have worked with students for over fourteen years, and I can tell you that what happens to the little child, if not corrected is what the adult will suffer. I know that there are scars that are seen and unseen and just because others cannot see or feel them does not mean that they are not there. I have learned how to take the little girl inside of me and embrace her, help her to know that it is ok, that she is ok. But more importantly, I tell her that I am proud of her because they did take a lot, but she is still here, she is not a survivor, she has thrived. And more often now than not, she smiles, she has learned to sing a little louder, and to understand that she is whole.