I tell this story because even though it isn’t mine to tell, I inherited it. I carry it for her like a flame she handed to me. It’s a hateful story but the sharing of it is loving and beautiful. Silence is what is ugly. Speaking truths is never anything but an act of love and strength. Her birthday comes soon and this is a story I tell as a gift to her. I spelled it out in blood colors on canvas for a benefit show to try to protect other women from violence, and now I’ll tell her story and my piece of it again for Sexography
I was a chronic sick-faking hookie player in junior high and high school. I stayed home with mom one day and we watched soap operas and ate snack food. I was eating a bowl of Froot Loops when a talk show came on. I think it was Oprah but that’s after school and I know we were alone. There were adult guests on the show who were revealing for the first time that they had been molested as kids. Mom told me in a serious but comfortable tone that she had been abused. Her candor touched me, and I remember the air in the room feeling heavy and almost crackling.
Her uncle had molested her starting around age 5 or 6 and at some point as a teen he raped her- not to make to fine a distinction between touching rape and intercourse rape. It is an uncle I always hated to visit. We did though, as kids. Mom told me how she hated that. She asked me if I had met men with an obscene, smelly aura who seemed evil- I told her I knew exactly what she meant. There were two neighbors we both thought had the bad aura. (They were both later outed as sex offenders.)
She told me about her family. Her mother knew. They confronted his wife, and she called the child a liar to her face. My grandma never let mom tell her daddy, because she believes he would have killed her sister’s husband. So they continued to see them, and he continued to molest her and neighbors and gods only know how may other kids. Mom’s daddy died, and her mommy stayed silent and the family kept protecting the rapist’s wife.
Recently I was at Grandma’s and she was reminiscing about growing up on the farm and visiting there with her children. Her face darkened with trouble and she recalled to me that it was just awful the way Kermit would chase V around. (This is his real name.) She said he would disappear with her during their visits. By the time I left I was shaking and in tears. I couldn’t process my feeling that she was complicit in mom’s abuse and couldn’t find where to place that anger with the image of my old, darling papery skinned Grandma. I direct the hate where it belongs, back at the rapist.
My mom was broken in a significant way, and I don’t believe the rape what caused that. The silence is what hurt her and changed her forever. The family telling her she was the wrongdoer absolutely stayed with her. Mom was depressed and anxious and she just- I can’t frame it anyway but spiritually- didn’t own her power. She was like a warrior who just refused to pick up her sword. I promised in my mind that I would never be quiet about abuse. If I ever had a baby I would kill with my own hands anyone who hurt the child that way.
I hate my great aunt. I can’t stand to be in a room with her. I want to smack her and scream at her and call her an accomplice to child rape. It’s OK to hate her- everyone else loved her so much they ruined the trust of a young girl to protect her. She does not need my love too. I want to kill my great uncle. I’ve daydreamed about it for so long. But I just wait for him to die. I want to announce at his funeral that he raped my mother. I want to buy ads in the paper or spray paint it on their house.
The aunt asked me for photos of Molly for months and months after she was born, and I blew her off. The idea of that man laying eyes on my daughter’s image fills me with terrible rage. My grandma gave her photos, though. So they are there. Now it’s all just facts laid out and rage beneath them, burning in me and my mother’s sister. We share our hatred, live with it and cherish it. Forgiveness is not even an approachable idea, and it should not be. Our fury is a righteous and sacred thing that names evil and holds it accountable if only in the hearts that hold my mother too. That the love for her and anger at her abuser coexist is good. I don’t think she ever truly, deeply got enraged at the people who hurt her, so her women will burn that fury for her, like a devotional flame.
We are waiting to dance on his grave in her name.
This post is a celebration of the Sexography project in support of RAINN– the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. RAINN provides information, education, outreach and other services. Among its programs, created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE. Please consider a donation to RAINN. If you donate, please copy and paste my URL into the “donation in honor of” section (in addition to anyone you want to honor, including yourself.) This will allow project-related donations to be tracked, and every donation sent from my blog will be (to me) regarded as honoring my mother and all others who were kept silent. Thank you.