One of my earliest memories is of me as a little girl, all decked out in my ballerina outfit, my hair in pigtails. When I allow this memory to play in my head, it is as though I’m looking at a video of someone else. In my movie that little girl sits in a bedroom with pink walls and carpet. Even the bedroom furniture is designed to match the furniture in her doll house.
She plays with her dolls and her doll house, like any other little girl. But, if you think this is the picture of a happy child, you are dead wrong. Suddenly the “me” I view from a distance grabs a pair of scissors. She chops off her Barbie’s hair, then makes the dolls beat and rape each other. Breathing heavily, she snatches up the mutilated dolls and throws them into a closet, pretending to lock the door. That’s not what most little girls would have done with their beloved dolls, but she is acting out the things she sees every day—her normal.
Was she sending the abused dolls to a safe place by throwing them in the closet? I couldn’t tell you, but I do know my closet was used as my own hiding place. I did weird stuff like hide food and other things in there. Years later I learned that abused children often hoard food and hide it in their rooms. Sometimes they eat as if there will be no more meals, even if they have no reason to feel insecure about their food supply. In fact so much of my behavior was classic of abused children, even mutilating my poor Barbie dolls.
For example, I’d crawl up to the top floor and just sit in the closet. You see, there came a point when my tears stopped. From that time on, I couldn’t feel anything. No wonder I can’t stand to acknowledge that the child in my mental movie was me.
From the time I was four years old I lived for dancing. When I was dancing, I could be that perfect little girl in the perfect room with the perfect parents, not the “me” hiding in the closet who witnessed things so horrible they were squashed down in my memory for most of my life.
Dancing kept me going. Roller skating, the beach—these are the things that made me feel good. School was hard because I never could concentrate. I’d been thrown around and punched so much that my mind wasn’t functioning right. But they didn’t have traumatic brain injury awareness back then, so I just felt dumb and out-of-place.
My mom took me to dancing lessons three times a week, sewed outfits for my performances, got my hair done and was my biggest fan in the crowd. That part I do remember. But through the years I protected myself by suppressing so many memories, that it wasn’t until a few years ago I had any memories of my mom at all. I just felt I had to protect her. I guess I’d just seen her battered or drugged-out so often I thought I could make it better.
Life at home was such a hell that I was suicidal from the time I was four years old. That was when I began to pray to Satan to take my life because I knew God wouldn’t. I knew God wanted to save me, but being “me” was so hard.
Every time I’d done something wrong, I still felt I was a child of God, so I knelt down and cried with all my heart. “Please, please God, forgive what I’ve done.”
I experienced the comfort of Him telling me it was okay. He told me my life was going to be harder than most people’s, but it would be okay. He told me to pray silently to Him because only He could hear my mind, and Satan couldn’t.
That calmed me, but I couldn’t grasp what it all meant and why I felt so different. Sure, there are times when everyone feels like they’re different, but most four-year-olds don’t think that way. They are still innocent, just past being toddlers. However, I knew who God was and believed what He told me—that I was here for a purpose. It wasn’t a church that taught me I had to survive and have faith, either. It was something deep in my heart.
One memory I’ve recovered through therapy is the night my mom came home in the middle of the night and my father screamed at her so loudly that she gathered me up and took me to the spare room downstairs, where we hugged one another tightly, trying to shield each other from my father’s wrath. But he blasted into the room with a huge jug of cold water and dumped it right over both of us. As the vision of that awful night flashed into my mind, I shivered just as though the water was hitting me again and desperately tried to cling to the rare happy memories I have instead, like her getting me ready for a dancing recital.
When I got old enough to go to school, I pulled Cs even though I wasn’t trying. By the third grade I’d quit going home after school and went to my friend Heidi’s house instead.
That’s where I experienced my first molestation outside of my own family. For a long time I didn’t tell anybody. It was disgusting. She gave her older brother blowjobs and did all kinds of other sexual things. He threatened to tell and then pulled out the porn magazines and made us mimic the photos. He and my own brother were two-of –a-kind
and they wielded a crazy power over us by making us believe we were the ones who were wrong.
I was terrified of what would happen to me and to Heidi if my parents found out, instead of being confident they would support me and the boy would be punished. It may be hard for someone who hasn’t walked in my shoes to understand. And you may even think I plead my case too vigorously, but I went by what I saw happening to my own mother. How could I know that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be?
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I did tell my family what was happening. Who do you think was the most pissed? It was my brother, who was abusing me, too. Why do you suppose he was upset? Because he didn’t have control over these episodes with Heidi’s brother.
The police got involved but no arrests were made. Heidi’s family moved away very suddenly. Looking back as an adult, I don’t think it was a coincidence. My father would have used his power, connections and influence to achieve this outcome. As for the police department’s disinterest, it only reinforced in my little-girl head that people like my father could do whatever they wanted. He was able to resolve problems in his own way.
The San Diego neighborhood I grew up in was close. On the surface it looked like the American Dream with nice houses and cars in a well-tended atmosphere. We all played kick-the-can and other childhood games.
But there was a big, dark, secret among us all and that was the little sexual underworld of molestations that occurred from one house to another.
My best friend, Kelli, was older than my brother. She also was the only one who stood up to my father and hid me in her house when things got really bad. It took a lot of courage because as I said, everyone was afraid of my father, and that was a fact.
A few years ago I reconnected with one of Kelli’s brothers on Facebook, and the first question he asked was, “So did he (my brother) grow up to run gangs like your father?”
I laughed and said, “No the little girl in the tutu did.”