Beyond the almost daily sexual assaults that I experienced in my own home…I have experienced a plethora of sexual abuse. For years I wondered why I would experience so much negativity. Over time I grew to understand that sexual predators seek out “victims”. Those who are confused…those whose spirit has been broken, those who don’t even understand where the boundary between no and yes is. Those who accept abuse those who do not feel worthy of love, respect or kindness.
The interesting thing about the first time I was raped is that the boy’s excuse was that he had mistaken me for a slut. It was not my shy, withdrawn demeanor, nor my then conservative clothing, nor the innocence of a girl who was yet to experience her first real kiss that led him to believe that I was a “slut”. No, he simply confused me for another girl he had heard about. A girl who was surely a slut… a girl who didn’t have the right to say NO! So, when I was invited to his house for a study date. I was naive. I did not know that he had plans for me.
I left my house and walked down the train tracks…crossed the trestle to meet this cute and popular boy who had taken an interest in me. I felt honored to receive his attention. I was looking for a night in shining armor. One who would protect me from the crappy things that were going on in my own home. But more than anything, I was seeking a friend. Someone to talk to, to study with and to share my secrets with. I did not know that this boy would cause me to keep a dark secret for many years. One that would change everything.
You see, up until I met this boy, I was a straight A student. I did not smoke, drink or do drugs. I had not been properly kissed, I had not even been alone in the presence of a boy. I was thriving, despite my less than healthy home life. All of that would change in the few minutes it took for this overzealous and severely misguided boy to steal my virginity. When we met halfway down the tracks that led from my house to his, my heart skipped a beat as our eyes first met. He had the most beautiful blue eyes. They were captivating.
We walked to his house. I remember that he tried to take my hand, but I had never held a boy’s hand and I was not ready for that, so I immediately withdrew my hand. As we arrived at his home, I remember thinking, wow his house is pink. Who lives in a pink house? Then his dog came barreling across the field to meet us. We played with him for a few minutes, throwing sticks and playing chasing games. It spoke to me of this boy’s character, or so I thought. He seemed like such a sweet guy.
We entered through the front door of his home to find his mother sitting on the couch with her feet on the coffee table, a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other. I remember thinking it was kind of early in the day for a beer, but tried not to judge. The smell of cigarettes still stands out in my mind. I always hated cigarette smoke, but nowhere near as much as I did after that day. In fact, smelling cigarette smoke can easily make me vomit, even now. That is one thing that I feel is necessary for people to understand. When people suffer a trauma, there are often a variety of triggers that can unexpectedly unleash negative emotions and fear.
Anyways, I greeted both his mother and his step dad and we went up to his bedroom to study. Very rapidly, it became clear that he did not actually want to study. He started talking about some of his friends (we were from completely different social circles). I remember sitting down on the edge of his bed (there was nowhere else to sit, but saying that is probably just me reaffirming that none of my actions caused what was about to happen to me). I remember getting out my book and setting it on my lap. I was wearing a skirt that came down just past my knees. I remember feeling self conscious about the lower half of my legs. The next part happened so quickly that I’m not sure I can clearly recall all that took place.
He stood over me with all of his body’s six foot and four inches towering above me. I tried to stand up because I all of a sudden felt very threatened. As I tried to bring my body upwards, he caught me off balance and shoved me back onto the bed with ease. He came down on top of me, his weight suffocating me. Within what felt like mere seconds, he had his pants down, fully exposed and ready to take me. I said “NO!” It was not a word I chose because of some commercial or education about date rape (I had never even heard the term date rape before this incident). It was just what came to my mind. NO!
He simply covered my mouth with his hand, tore my underwear off and shoved himself into me with a force that felt like a collision inside my being. I had been sexually abused throughout my childhood, but that was all “petting” and inappropriate touching during the dark hours of the night. This was sexual brutality. Within a matter of moments, he was done with me. From the description of this incident, one would think that this young man was some kind of monster. The reality is much more sad, really.
He was just a stupid kid who thought he knew what I wanted. He mistook me for another girl at school who had much more “experience” than I. Because of his upbringing (abusive home and an alcoholic mother) combined with the social messages that were prevalent in our town: Girls who are “easy” always want sex. Asking permission to have sex with a “slut” is not required. This kid actually thought that I was a willing participant; thought that I wanted to be fucked hard. At some point during this incident, I tried to scream, but my cries were muffled by his hand on my mouth.
I remember that he leaned into me, brought his mouth right up to my ear and said “Shut up, or my parents will hear you!” He also said my name into my ear while his tall, lean and muscular body further smothered the life and spirit in my own body. My dad had also whispered my name into my ear when he molested me. Over the years, I could actually vomit when I heard my own name. I will not speak my birth given name here….but I will share that, after many years of not being able to overcome the negative associations with my own name, I changed it. I chose Joy…because my clients always called me “Joy”. It is also what I wanted to replace the darkness with…the feeling of Joy rippling through my mind, body and spirit…opening my heart and filling me with light…where once there was darkness. I have been known as Joy for many years now…it is part of my reclaiming my life and my identity.
When this young man was finished, I shot up from the bed, grabbed my bag and ran down the stairs without saying goodbye to his parents. He ran after me and when he easily caught up to me, I remember halting and standing frozen in one spot like a dear in headlights. I braced myself for another assault, but none came. He had the nerve to ask me what was wrong. I screamed out something about him taking my virginity. I can’t recall the specific words I said. The look of shock on his face was unexpected. He simply said…”But I thought you were like a total slut or something.”
At that point in my life, I did not curse and rarely raised my voice. In fact, I was really shy and didn’t often speak “out of turn”. My dad had taught me that children were literally meant to be seen, preened and abused, but not heard. But I spoke out that day…I cried and screamed and came apart at the seams. Rather than defend his actions, or call me names, he cried with me and held me as I sobbed. He walked me to the trestle bridge and then said he better get home. He asked me if I wanted to come over and “study” tomorrow after school. I didn’t answer him, I just walked away.
The strangest thing happened on my walk home. I reached town, hopped down off the railroad track and headed towards Station Road…the road I spent my entire childhood living on. I saw my friend sitting at a table in the local restaurant. I walked in and sat down. She had a strange look on her face. She ended up telling me that her and her boyfriend had just lost their virginity together. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to share what had just happened, but I was afraid. I felt guilt and shame like I had never felt before. I ended up telling her that I had started dating this new boy and that we had also had “sex”. That was the day that the “mistaken identity reputation” became my own bad reputation…and I could now proudly call myself a “slut”. God knows everyone else did.
To avoid the stigma of being the girl who fucked on the first date..I continued to date the boy who stole my virginity. He turned out not to be a nice guy…go figure. During the 3 years I dated him, he continued to occasionally get his rocks of by forcing me to have sex with him. Not that we weren’t sexually active…we were, but every now and again, especially when he was disatisfied with my behaviour…he would simply shove me down as he did that day and take me with a force comparable to that of mother nature when she’s in a bad mood.
Our relationship ended with the filing of domestic abuse charges. He started hitting me during the first 6 months of our relationship and I never spoke out against him. But he made the mistake of nearly drowning me in a muddy ditch while attempting to slit my throat with a broken beer bottle. To get out of the hold he had on me, I had to wriggle out of my poncho (it was my favorite one with a big purple and black yin yan sign on the back). I ended up staggering home, covered in mud, blood and the stench of an uninspired young lady. I was seen walking down the road in this half dressed, half crazed state, which further affirmed my reputation as a total SLUT!
When I got home and my mother saw me, she said “What did you do now?” The next day at school, a guidance counselor talked me and my friends into pressing charges. He had made the mistake of knocking around a couple of my girlfriends when they tried to get in the middle of things between he and I. We pressed charges…he and I had been broken up for months when this incident happened. He defended himself by saying that he had been trying to teach me a lesson about what was right and wrong. You see, I was dating a young black man at the time. My town did not fancy my choice. I finally dropped out of school at 17, when I could no longer take everyone chanting “nigger fucker” when I walked down the hall.
I got no support from family, friends or my crappy guidance counselor who was the catalyst for the pressing of charges, but abandoned me when things became too intense. There was only one day, when I was in the bathroom and one of the girls who had treated me the worst locked the bathroom door and said “You know I respect you for standing up for yourself?” She went on to tell me how she felt so bad about the way she was treating me, but that it would be suicide to act any other way in my presence. I realize that this exchange of words in a locked high school bathroom likely sounds insignificant, but it was not. It was as if I down loaded some sacred information that I had previously been missing.
I realized that I was not alone…and that other people, other young women, found my actions inspirational. They were inspired by my ability to finally stand up for myself and say NO! ENOUGH! I never went back to that school. I transferred to a different high school in another region…although I dropped out with only two credits left before my graduation. That’s when I met the man who would teach me what true self loathing and brutality was really about. I would stay in my first marriage for 4 years before finally escaping and then I would never look back….it is then that the clouds parted..the darkness filled with light and I met my true prince charming; my Mountain man.
Together, Mountain and I would embark on a healing journey that would cleanse both of us…freeing us from our stories, from our past…I have written this story down 3 times now, but deleted it the previous two times. I chose to share this story today because I have been inspired. When I recently posted my album, Rape…I received hundreds of messages and emails. Many speaking their support, but many more sharing bits and pieces of their own story with me. Some people who shared their courageous stories with me are free…not just from abuse, but also from the trap of negativity that so often accompanies trauma and abuse. Unfortunately, others who shared their stories are still trapped in a relationship riddled with emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
My reason for sharing this chapter of my life is simple…I want to show that, regardless of how dark things are now or have been…there is always hope. There is always a way out. I’m not saying that it will be easy, or that the path to health and wellness is easy or even safe…Sometimes the path to freedom is covered with emotional land mines. Often times, the path to freedom is even truly dangerous…and there are risks to be taken. I know this all to well…so, rather than let my story upset or disturb you…please see it as a beacon of light. Please feel inspired to be free and to free others from the disastrous effects of emotional, physical, financial and sexual abuse.
This is and un-edited post..raw from my mind and written hastily…I can’t re-read it or edit it, so I apologize if it is not my best writing:-) From my heart to yours, Joy
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead