If you follow my social media then you probably already have an idea of the topics that have been floating around in my head over the last 12 hours. If you’ve seen my Facebook specifically, you would have noticed that I shared two different stories involving rape.
“Rape” is a terribly strong word, isn’t it? It’s almost profanity even though it isn’t–it’s blunt, and unforgiving. When writing the first mention of the word in this post, I originally typed out “sexual assault” just to ease the blow. It is, for many, easier to call it something official sounding than to just call it rape.
If you’ve followed my YouTube channel or read this blog regularly, then you should already be familiar with the fact that I was subjected to long-term sexual violence as a child. Does that sound better than saying I was raped repeatedly for over a year as a kid? Maybe, but that isn’t the point here.
The reason I’m writing this is to give you an uncensored peek into the mind of someone who was coping with such a situation while insisting on keeping it a secret. I’m not here to preach, I’m not here to tell you what you should do–I sure as hell don’t need to be seen as some guru or inspirational story. I’m just a person, and being a victim of something horrible doesn’t make me a saint–I’m far from.
Back to childhood. First of all, what happened to me was going on before I had a solid understanding of sex or romantic relationships. In fact, the first time it happened I was much more confused than scared–I simply didn’t know what he was trying to do. The fear didn’t actually start to kick in until the pain did. I started to retaliate, but my tiny body could only take so many beatings. Over the subsequent months, I fell victim to learned helplessness. I stopped fighting. I did everything I could to avoid making contact with his fists.
This all started when I was 7 years old, and ended just after I turned 9. I stayed quiet about it the entire time, and 8 is still a number that haunts me. 8 resembles the infinity symbol, which also reflects my mindset regarding the situation at the time. I thought it was going to last forever, or at least until he killed me. Telling my parents about what was happening to me was simply not an option–but why?
I’m not here to assign blame. The only person who should take responsibility is the person who acted against me. Sure, my parents could have been around more, or been more adamant about finding out the true cause of my many bruises, but blaming them for something as horrific as this is just insulting.
I had a ton of reasons for not speaking up, most of it was because I was afraid of what would happen if I did. I may have been young, but I knew that opening my mouth about this could tear my family apart. People will start pointing fingers at each other, trying to figure out who’s at fault for not protecting me. On top of that, I was living in a Catholic country where openly talking about anything sexual was a no-no, and being a virgin was an essential part of being a young woman.
It all ended abruptly. I woke up one day and he had just packed up and left. Maybe you’d expect my reaction to be one of joy or relief, but it wasn’t. Still, I remained confused and almost in denial about it being over. There was no way I was actually that lucky. Oddly, I was, and I never saw him again. The question in that moment was “What now?” I finally didn’t have to live in fear, so do I just forget that it happened? I tried.
For the first two years after it ended, life seemed pretty normal. I went to school each day able to enjoy myself and not fear for my life once I got home. Everything was quiet–too quiet. I don’t remember what brought it all back, but by age 11 what happened to me started to sink in. It began to hurt in a way that I’ve never been able to put into words. For me, the worst part of it was dealing with it alone. It was something that had completely destroyed me, and yet I didn’t have a single person in my life who I trusted enough to talk about it. I became severely depressed, reliving it in my head every single day. It was my secret, and one that I vowed to take to the grave with me. No one was ever supposed to know what happened to me.
Holding it all in was driving me insane, and I finally broke my rule. I had opened up to a cousin of mine who was roughly the same age as me–and to my surprise–she had also been abused by the same person. We both knew we couldn’t tell anyone, so my secret became our secret. “Just one” I thought. One person could know, and that’s it. No adults, no parents, no therapists.
Once again, I broke my rule. By age 13 I had told a few classmates about what had happened to me. I probably never should have said anything to them, but I made mistakes while in my depressive states. Teenagers can never keep secrets, and I soon found out that my story had been telephoned beyond those who I trusted with it. Soon there were others who had simply heard about my past as a rumor, as gossip, as entertainment. I would later come to find out that the reason why certain people were quite nasty to me was because they considered me “an attention whore for making up rape stories.” I brushed it off, as these words didn’t hurt anywhere near as bad as my experience did.
By age 15, my secret was still mostly a secret. Sure, a few kids at school knew, and so did my cousin, but everyone else was left in the dark where they should be. My family was still clueless. By this point in life I had moved away from my family and was staying with a boyfriend–an abusive one. That, however, is a story for another time. I knew leaving him would be both difficult and painful, but mostly painful. I endured one last beating, and made my way out the door. My ex destroyed most of my belongings that I had left at his place, and I was on the streets. I figured that perhaps this was the right time to patch things up with my family, so off to mother’s doorstep I went, completely defeated.
That day was one that I’d never forget, and oddly, probably one of the best days of my life. Once the sun went down, my mother retired to her room for bed, and I slept on the living room floor. My sleep was soon disturbed by the sound of my mother’s footsteps. She stood over me and said six words that I never, ever wanted to hear: “I know what happened to you.”
Now, I could have lied, or played dumb, but for some reason I didn’t. In fact, I said nothing, or at least that’s how I remember it. I didn’t bother asking her what she knew–I just knew that she knew. I was, as the internet people of today say, exposed. My ex had called my mother and told her I was raped as a way to hurt me, to hurt her, and to hurt my entire family.
I didn’t get any sleep that night, none at all. My mother and I always had a rocky relationship. She was (is, actually) an alcoholic and diagnosed with a mental illness. She had already been particularly unstable at the time due to a recent miscarriage and the loss of her job due to her addictions. My ex was fully aware of this, and still decided to do what he did. Not only that, but he also spilled his twisted version of my past and our “relationship” to the public via social media. In short, all eyes were on me.
My mother was hysterical. I can only imagine what it must have been like coldly being told that your first child and only daughter had been hurt in such a way. She was broken, and within a couple of hours my entire family was in a state of panic. They frantically tried putting together the missing pieces, often saying things along the lines of “Oh, so that’s why you’re messed up. That’s why you enjoy dark things.” An aunt of mine called me and immediately suggested that I get a therapist. She didn’t even bother to ask me how I was feeling, and instead jumped straight to giving me a list of ways to “fix” myself. Others in my family did ask about what had happened, and actually decided to argue against it, saying that they would have noticed if something that terrible had gone on in our home.
In that moment, I found myself actually hurting way more than I ever have. A part of it was illogical guilt, and the other part was the fact that no one in my family was treating me like a human–a daughter, a niece, a grandchild. They only saw what happened to me, and wanted desperately to forget it. It took me some time, but I’ve come to forgive them for that. They were hurting too, and simply didn’t know how to cope with the initial shock of finding out what was going on within the family circle. They all died a little inside that day.
Of course, I didn’t come to that conclusion until a few years after this all happened. Instead of facing everything with my family, I once again moved out. I waited until 2am when everything had settled down, and out the back door I went. I was back on the streets with just a backpack, running away from reality the same way I always had.
For the next few years I kept to myself. I had cut all ties with anyone who took the side of my ex when he did what he did, and I never spoke to anyone in my family about what happened again. I tried to make the secret a secret again–or at least deny it long enough for everyone to forget.
This leads me to where I am today. There are literally thousands of people out there who know about what happened to me, and needless to say, it isn’t a secret anymore. It’s not something that I hide or deny when people ask me about it. About nine months into my YouTube channel I decided to publicly talk about my childhood. Now, you’re probably wondering what made me decide to do such a thing. The thing is, keeping it a secret was possibly more damaging to me than the actual incident itself.
I thought about it endlessly for days before I went public about it. I knew that there would be backlash, just as there was backlash from classmates and my family alike. I knew that there were still people out there who knew it was a long time secret of mine, and thought of it as my Achilles’ heel. Despite that, I knew it was something I needed to talk about. It was my story, not anyone else’s. I create–I draw, I paint, I make videos. These all have to come from a place of honesty, and how could I be honest about my art when I’m not able to explain the origins of the emotions I’m expressing within them?
Backlash did happen. People called me a liar. They said I made up the story for attention or simply to gain views on my channel–a “PR stunt” is what they called it. Some rape victims put me on blast as well, blaming me for giving them terrible flashbacks. Some even threatened me with death, or wishing “actual rape” upon me, saying that they were going to do everything in their power to find my personal information and publish it.
This, I’ll admit, did hurt a bit–but I knew that these people were hurting in much the same way I was. Just as my family did, these people didn’t know how to cope with being faced with something that they themselves or a loved one had probably had to deal with in the past. I don’t blame them.
The video in question has since been unlisted, but not out of regret or any kind of fear. It simply didn’t mesh with the rest of the channel, and I find it more constructive to share my experiences and thoughts in writing, hence this blog and my Tumblr before it.
As I said earlier, I’m not here to preach, or to serve as some weird half-assed internet guru. I’m simply here to tell you a bit of my story, and you can take whatever you like out of it. I know that there are still many out there who are keeping their past a secret, and I completely understand why. Remember earlier when I said that the day my ex “exposed” me was oddly one of the best days of my life? Allow me to clarify. If that never happened then I’d still be alone with my thoughts, and I’ve come to the conclusion that denying the past only made it hurt more and prolonged my suffering. What I eventually came to understand is that the truth wasn’t the problem–it was the fact that people weren’t hearing it from me.
Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got to say about that for now. Go watch some cat videos on YouTube and bust out the ice cream or chocolate. Enjoy yourself a bit.