to the woman who blamed me…
The Christmas Eve that I was 12, two weeks before my 13th birthday, I recall sitting up during the night and wondering if I had heard reindeer hooves… I remember wondering if Santa was real but adults just don’t believe and that’s why they don’t see him. My favorite pastimes were playing Nintendo with my little sister, playing house, sledding, sneaking forbidden tunes against the wishes of my friend’s dad, pretending mowed grass was food for our pretend horses, and climbing trees.
This is the 13 year old girl that I was when I met you. I was visiting and playing in the woods with my nephew before we went to put a bunch of snack cakes into a giant barrel for my brother in-law to go bear trapping with. I remember asking what it was for, why we were doing it, and how it would trap bears. It didn’t make sense to me that we couldn’t eat any of it because I didn’t know what the word ‘expired’ meant and I was too embarrassed to ask.
I was approached by my oldest sister and asked if I wanted to babysit for you. I hesitated in nervousness because it was several towns over from my house. I had only just started babysitting a few months before this and that couple lived right down the road from my home. I was encouraged to do it, and despite my nerves, I got excited at the thought of making some money so I accepted.
I immediately connected with your daughter and I loved watching cartoons with her. She loved the movie Anastasia and I gladly watched it over and over and over with her, and it became my favorite movie because that time was so special to me. She loved to dance and play and I enjoyed dancing and playing with her. I didn’t wish I was hanging out with friends, I didn’t wish I was doing something seemingly more fun. I loved her and wanted to be with her and I happily spent every day with her.
I share that little tidbit of me as an indicator of who I was at the time that I met you and David. I was a kid who enjoyed riding my nephew’s bike around my house, who played freeze tag, Barbies, and mannequin with my little sister, and choreographed dances with my friends to songs by Shania Twain, Clay Walker, and Boyz II Men. I was a kid.
It was to this kid that David did what I’ve shared in this book. I was innocent, unaware, and insecure, and he saw that. It was this child that was traumatized and hurt so deeply in every way, that was being trained to believe that love looked like that, that was groomed and manipulated into accepting what was happening as a normal part of love.
I was 13. For years I stated that I was violated at 14 but the grooming began when I was 13. It was a week before my birthday that he took my virginity from me. I say took, not because he physically forced me or held me down but because he emotionally and mentally forced me to, and he took something from me that was never okay for him to take. I realize now, the assault began the moment he crossed that boundary that protected my innocence, the boundary he knew was offensive, the boundary he waited to cross until we were alone.
From that moment, part of me was no longer in existence. I hated what was happening and I hated myself. There are times I still smell that sawdust smell… it causes such confusion to my senses as I feel disgusted and lonely all at once. I hate it because it comes out of nowhere when a man who works in the woods comes near. It can happen anywhere – in the store, at a sports game, at the park, and sometimes I’ve even smelled it on my husband. There is no warning, no preparation, and no way to shut it off. It’s suddenly there and I’m caught in that moment once again of being underneath him… my reactions vary between panic, nausea, depression, rage, and withdrawing.
David had convinced me that you all would be disappointed in me if you ever found out what “we” were doing. Exposing him wasn’t an option because I would be blamed. That innocent 13 year old girl was still in there, just trapped in these twisted manipulations and lies of my abuser, made to feel guilty and dirty as a participant in what he was doing to me. I was a child and still, even at 30, I’ve struggled at the need to prove to everyone that I wasn’t to blame. Why? Why am I still convinced I won’t be believed?
Then I realized, because David was right. You blamed me… despite the bravery it took to finally end what he was doing to me, you blamed me. Well, this letter is to tell you, that this child that I’ve revealed to you; me, I wasn’t to blame. You were wrong.
The child who your boyfriend sexually assaulted, and you blamed.