I was a happy child, playing outside, rain or shine. I enjoyed going to school, coloring, playing Jax, jump rope, hop scotch and all the things little girls like to do. But my favorite pass time of all was hanging with all sorts of animals I came in contact with in my neighborhood. Dogs were my very favorite; I loved them so very much! I suppose it was because of their incredible ability to give me unconditional love and lots of attention.
The first time I recall feeling something wasn’t right, that the “thing” someone was doing to me was intrinsically wrong, was around age 11. I woke in the middle of the night and two of my older brothers were standing over my bed and had their hands on me where they shouldn’t have. I was shocked at first and then I felt afraid! I couldn’t understand why they were doing this. I was so embarrassed that I just lay there pretending I was asleep. I can’t remember how many times it happened, probably a few. I must have blocked it out. I learned later on that blocking out details of the memory is very common when you’ve been violated. I also recall feeling shame, that I had to hide it and pretend it wasn’t happening. I just knew in my heart, true or not, that I would be blamed for this awful thing being done to me. I don’t know why they stopped but remember being so relieved that they did! As I grew older, I was very guarded since they were still trying to invade my privacy by coming onto the roof of my second-floor bedroom window to see what they could. I so hated that they didn’t treat me with respect.
Then at age 12, I met a man who was living in the neighborhood that was over 21 and a “recovering heroin” addict. He told me he was taking methadone although I had no idea what it was. He was a small man, soft spoken and spoke kind words. It seemed like he cared about me; unlike my brothers and father, who were hurtful and critical. He convinced me to go to his apartment nearby. So, I went and found myself being raped. The strange thing was although I was a virgin and very afraid, he didn’t have to force me. I thought he cared and wanted to be with me. I was starved for affection from a father or brother figure and it seemed he was going to give it to me. I was extremely uncomfortable when he was on top of me. And there was pain when he penetrated. I never saw him after that day. But the feelings of being violated and taken advantage of, stayed with me for a very long time. In fact, these feelings were part of what shaped the way I saw myself. That I was, as an object to be used for pleasure, not to be respected or confided in; I believed I was not lovable nor did I have any worth.
After that incident, I became promiscuous and was easy prey for older boys and men who took advantage of me to satisfy their sexual appetites. I had formed the opinion that if I wanted them to give me any attention, I had to give them sex. Now, I understand, that the only men who would expect a young woman to betray herself in this way are dysfunctional, perverted and selfish.
At the age of 14, I was hitchhiking my way to school, which was common back in the 70’s, when a man picked me up but didn’t take me to my destination. He brought me to his apartment and we sat in his van as he urged me to come in “just for a few minutes”. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to go; I was so afraid of what he might do. Then he said “if you come in, I’ll take you to where you want to go”. I felt I had no choice. I had no idea where we were. So, against my inner voice screaming NO, I went in and he promptly forced himself on me. I cried and begged him to stop the whole time. When he was done, he brought me to my school and dropped me off like it was an everyday thing for him! I couldn’t wait to get away, I felt sick and so dirty! I believed it was my fault and again, I felt so much shame. In my young and insecure mind, I believed I could have avoided it.
I never told a soul, not even the sister who I felt closest to; she took me in when I ran away from home but, not immediately. When I first left to get away from my extremely dysfunctional home environment, I lived on the streets and was exposed to very unstable people. This lifestyle was a hotbed for abusive behavior.
From that time until I was about 16, I was violated two more times, once in the park in broad daylight and twice on a dark road and then in a park (same man). There were other close calls that I was able to avoid but it seemed that every man I came in contact with wanted to take advantage of me and have sex. I had lost hope that any man could care for or cherish me as a person, as a woman.
From the age of 14-24, I can remember having sex with countless men along my journey. In my younger years, I would sleep with them and find myself crying, there were a couple that asked me why but I couldn’t explain it to them. All I knew was that it made me feel so empty and used, like an old garment to be discarded.
At the age of 24, I met a man through a friend who also lived a promiscuous lifestyle. I assume he was attracted to me physically but it was most likely more the case that he saw me as an easy “score”. He wooed me by telling me what I wanted to hear. I was desperate for affection and attention from men. I remember asking him if he had protection and he said he had a vasectomy so I didn’t need to worry. Several weeks later when my menstrual cycle was late, I discovered he lied to me to serve his lustful desire. I was pregnant by a man who I barely knew! I had no idea what I was going to do and I felt like a fool to find myself in such a predicament. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I was single and carefree!
In my next blog, I will share with you, how I met Jesus and how He brought light into my dark existence. How He took this broken woman, who was deep in her sin and shame and loved her and healed her. I am still amazed by His love and grace in my life.