February 23

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Surviving

Survivors are brave souls. Survivors who bring their stories out of the darkness and share them with the world are among the bravest. Sweet Misery Love is demonstrating that strength and courage by sharing her story here. Sharing these stories is vital. It is in the sharing and the telling that shame and guilt are shed. It is a salve for the wounds of other survivors. We are so grateful that Sweet Misery Love is willing to do that here. -Gretchen

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My childhood wasn’t sunshine and roses. At an early age, I was abandoned by my mother, who couldn’t handle real life and turned to bars and all the wrong kinds of attention from men. Just like her mother before her and just as I would do later. A legacy of self-destruction and dependency, what a gift. It made me a survivor, though.

While my mother was in a bar somewhere, I was raped by my caregiver’s adult son, a man I loved and trusted like a brother. I was five, and when I told his mother, she assured me it was all my fault, she said that if I ever told anyone I would get in big trouble. And wasn’t she the best, not punishing me for being naughty?

So, I didn’t tell anyone, not intentionally. These things have a way of bubbling to the surface, though. I spent months in therapy and court, recounting with dolls and stories what had happened. The retelling was worse than the act itself, like I had to defend my position as a victim, at six years old. The shame of being that girl, the one who was raped as a child – I held onto that for a very long time.

You can’t look at me and decide that I was a victim of child rape, though. You can’t see the scars from the punishments that followed for telling the truth. You wouldn’t look at me and my mom now and think that she’d basically abandoned me for half of my childhood, leaving me with family and friends who never kept me as safe as she should have.

When I was 12, my mom met my step-dad and she started being a mom again; this guy, unlike those before him, was older than her and had five children of his own. His oldest son, I’ll call him Trey, was trouble from a young age; he was a handsome charmer with icy blue eyes and an easy smile.

Trey and I had both seen our parents go through several relationships with nothing ever panning out, we were home alone a lot and it was boring living in farm country – miles from civilization with nothing to do. Proximity and hormones led us toward each other. It was a short-lived exploration.

I went through some rocky teen years, graduated high school and when I got to college, something in me finally snapped into place. My university was exactly where I was meant to be – it fit me as a human being, a humanitarian, a lover of people and beauty and kindness. I was able to thrive, finally. I made friends and gained confidence. College was a healing experience for me.

After college, like most young graduates, I moved back home to get my feet under me. I found a job and Trey and I decided to be roommates to save money. Fast forward, about 6 months into living together: I had just finished an almost 70-hour week of video presentation production, I’d broken up with my boyfriend two weeks before, and I had a 6-pack in the fridge. Trey was home, so we had some drinks. We joked about when we were kids and used to make out, and somehow things led to the bedroom.

As our clothes came off, I sobered up and realized that this couldn’t happen. I told him to stop, that I didn’t want to, but he didn’t listen. I tried to push him off, but he got rough. Trey had a history of violence, a short temper and strength. I had a history of being abused. The damage was already done, so I swallowed back my tears and told myself it was just sex.

I told myself that for six years. I bottled up my anger and sheltered myself from within the heart of a storm made of rage and hurt. Following that incident, I started dating a much younger guy – someone who would come to love me, despite my brokenness.

For six years, I didn’t tell anyone what had happened with Trey, what would have been the point? I felt all the shame, though. I felt dirty, like I was a five year old girl again, being told I brought this on myself, even if no one was saying the words this time.

I punished everyone around me with my bitterness, my disappointment in myself, my anger and hurtful words. I pushed people away, hid behind how busy I was with newborn twins who were later diagnosed with autism, giving me a pass on family gatherings that I took with growing guilt.

I blamed myself. I should have known better, right? The blame, guilt and shame were all part of why I didn’t say anything. But mostly, I knew what it would do to our family, and after 14 years, they were all my family. Him – he was my brother.

Where does a family go from something like that? It was just easier to keep it to myself, to not tell anyone; until it wasn’t.

Two months ago I told my significant other, after a nasty, manic break-up. Then, I told my mom. And I told them I didn’t want to tell anyone else. I left it up to my mom whether she discussed it with her husband. Letting it go, giving it to the universe, so to speak, was like being freed from self-imposed prison. Two weeks ago, Trey was released from actual prison.

The thing is, Trey is still my brother – our relationship is just damaged. One night changed the course of who I would become, but ultimately, it didn’t change too much for the worse, did it? If it weren’t for that night, I wouldn’t have moved in with my friend, met her cousin, had his babies. That night led me to exactly where I’m meant to be now, just as every moment before it did.

That night is a perfect example of how Trey is, yet again, getting away with his crimes against women. I wasn’t the first woman whose pleas went ignored, and who is to say that I’ll be the last? But what do I do about that without putting a rift in our family?

That night brings up a plethora of emotions for me, and the idea of seeing Trey, of going to family affairs and pretending, as I’ve already done so many times, that everything is okay, makes me physically ill. I literally threw up after my mom called to say he was being released, and that he was staying with them. I fought back tears as I did my grocery shopping. It wasn’t this anxiety-inducing to see him before anyone else knew, so why is it now? Where do I go from here?

I’ve always had to be strong, so I guess I’ll just keep doing what I know: I’ll work to heal myself and if I can, those around me. I’ll take life one day at a time, not looking back except to be sure I don’t repeat my mistakes. I’ll keep surviving.
SWap
Sweet Misery Love is a mother, a daughter, a lover and survivor. Writing is therapy, it’s the way she works through the chaos in her mind and soul. You can find more at sweetmiserylove.wordpress.com.

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