INTERVIEW: Sexual Abuse by a Relative
ON SEXUAL ABUSE
This lady picked me up while I was hitch-hiking on my way to do another interview. She was well-spoken, well-educated, well-dressed and well-adjusted; a clean, kind-looking lady in a nice vehicle. She looked like anyone’s mom. Once I described this project, she was open and just started to talk; I didn’t have to ask.
This was a very short interview – about fifteen minutes during the ride. I would have liked a longer, more detailed talk, but the feeling didn’t seem right to ask for a later meeting for further talk; in some situations you make do with touching briefly as you fly by people, you only accept what’s offered freely, and don’t grasp at getting anything more.
*I may have misremembered her name, as I neglected to write it down immediately and we did not share any contact information. If so, sorry. Another lesson learned by a beginner.
Laurie – “I can tell you a lot of things; I guess the most important I could talk about was my uncle sexually abusing me and my sister.
I was young when it started, before my teens, and we’d be left over at his house for babysitting, and it would happen.”
I wonder if the ‘lot of things’ she just mentioned all grew from how the abuse made her life change?
VERY COMMON REACTIONS AND PATTERNS AFTER ABUSE:
“I didn’t tell anyone until years later when I was working through it, mostly in therapy. My Mom felt just awful, devastated, for a long time; she felt so guilty, like she should have known, should have done something. But she didn’t know.
It wasn’t her fault, she couldn’t know, because he did the usual (as most abusers) afterwards – he’d tell us not to say anything, threaten that our parents would be really upset with us, with him, that we would ruin everything for all of us. That her and me would be responsible for ruining our whole family – how twisted is that?
But it’s all so twisted when you’re that age; a grown-up can pretty much make you feel all mixed up, like you don’t know what’s right anymore; they can pretty much make you do what they say.
I still feel the effects of it. It takes a long time to sort it out; when I was older, in my later teens and then twenties, my relationships all followed the same pattern: first everything would be okay with the guy, I’d feel great, we’d have a good time, sex was great, there was no real problem there.
Then I’d start to feel bad – I can’t explain it very well – I’d just want to be away from him. I’d feel trapped, so I’d start to distance myself, push him away, and eventually break up. Same pattern, every time. I went through it all, I have a ton of stories: teenage pregnancies, abortion, being a teenage mom, being screwed up (life/emotionally), hysterectomy by age twenty-three…
I think I didn’t like myself. It takes a long time to get to like yourself after you’ve been…”
My sister didn’t do what it takes, though. We don’t know about her really at all any more, don’t even know where she lives most of the time. Alcohol, drugs, really still messed up and it’s twenty years later.
And you know, he’s (uncle) still as bad. I was at a funeral a few years ago – a funeral – and he came up and said, ‘You know, you’re the best-looking girl here.’ He said it, not innocent-like, like an uncle complimenting his niece, he was… you know, ‘Let’s do it.’ I couldn’t believe it. At that age, after all that. Like he thought it was okay.”
THERE IS STILL UNREST
“I still think I should take him to court over it all. I still think about that.
I don’t know if he’s done it to anyone besides us.
No, I’ve never confronted him about it.”
There was a little magical moment, the end of this interview as she dropped me off. I remember the look on her face – there were so many different thoughts in it those last thirty seconds.
This calm, clear, strong, thoughtful aura just seemed to settle through her, her whole demeanor changed and her talking became very quiet and clear. It looked like something that was dormant had just been awakened. You don’t see that look in people’s faces very often, and I haven’t seen it again in anyone else I’ve interviewed.
Each time I read this interview I wonder: what’s happened with her since that moment she dropped me off?