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Trigger Warning: Possible triggers concerning sexual, psychological and physical abuse

I don’t take a lot of photos of much of anything when it involves me. I have very very few photos of growing up. Over the years I have tried to learn to love my own face and what I look like and I’ve used selfies to do that. Still, when I go on trips or vacations, there are very few if any photos of me in any of them. I’ll be honest, I hate photos. I hate looking into the faces and looking back in time and remembering. Reminiscing or nostalgia is not for me. I want to look ahead, don’t look back. Like Bob Dylan said:

She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back

She Belongs to Me by Bob Dylan

I feel that way. I have everything I need, I am the art and I am the artist, I don’t look back. Keep creating and moving forward. That’s me, that’s my life in a nutshell. But I was a cute kid (even if I do say so myself!)

 So take a photo like this one. Adorable, isn’t it? When you look at it you see this little girl, happy, opening presents at her birthday party. When I look at it, I see someone else. That isn’t me. That is some little girl who was happy and innocent. She didn’t know or care for much more than exploring life from her little girl eyes, learning and having fun. Enjoying being alive. She will grow up to be something important, worthy, successful. Maybe she’ll have kids of her own one day. She could be anything. A teacher, a doctor, an astronaut, the sky is the limit for this little girl. That’s what I want to see.

What sucks to me is that when I look at this I can’t even relate to this little girl. I don’t see me at all. That can’t be me because I didn’t grow up happy and curious and excited about life. I didn’t enjoy being alive.

When the man who was to become my stepfather came into my life, that little girl moved out. I don’t know how she left, if she flew out of the window or packed her bags and caught a train but she left. She wasn’t having any of this and she left me to deal with it.

My memories can get foggy. I can’t pinpoint a “first time” he “bothered” me. Let’s discuss that first of all. This is a term my mother and many others have used in the past to describe my abuse…he bothered me. “Did he bother you?” “Is he bothering you again?” Really? Bother? No he wasn’t bothering me he was raping me. Let’s call it what it is. Molestation is too nice of a word too because anytime your body is forced to do something sexual against your will it is rape. So let’s stop using cushy words. From now on I will not candy coat my words.

So I can’t pinpoint when exactly he started raping me but I know it started out stereo typically, sitting in his lap, tickling, a slip of his finger here a slip of his finger there. At first, as an eight year old, you don’t think anything of it. You don’t realize it but then it happens a lot. You start to notice it is happening a lot and it is very uncomfortable. It’s making you feel weird, uncomfortable and you don’t want to sit on his lap anymore. Now those feelings I got in the car, the ones where I knew something wasn’t right about this guy, started to make sense. People think children are stupid, they are not. They can put two and two together more often than you think and it was at that very moment…when I put two and two together and realized that this man who made me uncomfortable merely by being in the same car was also making me uncomfortable when he was supposedly showing affection for me. That was it. That little girl in the picture got up and left. This man, who I never knew until that day in the car but who we suddenly saw all of the time would stay overnight and pretend to like me, pretended to like children, made me feel something and become aware of something that I wasn’t aware of before. I now knew there was something he was doing that involved “down there”.

What was down there, I wondered. I knew I peed from there but why would he be curious about that? Maybe because he was a boy and I heard from my friends that boys pee different than girls. It happened over and over again until multiple fingers were in my panties and I started to struggle to push his hand away. I knew this was wrong. I knew I didn’t like it and it had to stop. But I was eight. He was the adult. He would say, in a very dominant voice, “Stop it!” And eventually after feeling threatened by that tone, which I had never heard before I stopped fighting. I didn’t have a dad. I didn’t have a male in my house. That angry, dominating tone was new to me. It sounded powerful to me. “Stop it!” he would say when I pushed his hand away, tried to squiggle out of his lap or whine to get away from him. “Stop it! I’m not hurting you!” But I didn’t understand why he said that. He was hurting me.

This was only the beginning. This was nothing compared to where this new little girl was going. This was nothing compared to where he would take me. This was before we even moved in with him. I got quiet. I was a naturally withdrawn child but I withdrew even more into my own mind and little body just because I didn’t know what to do. I never knew a father or a father figure and now there was this man in my life and he was not a nice man. “Stop it!” I still hear that when I go to complain about something or stand up for myself. “Stop it!” I hear in my head, echoing and telling me “I’m not hurting you. You are fine. You don’t get a choice. You don’t get an opinion. You have no voice. Don’t even think about telling me what you don’t like or what makes you uncomfortable.” To this day I struggle to stand up for myself…that voice is always there.

Like I said, this was only the beginning…