“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

This is a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. and it can be found on my ex-step-father’s Facebook page. Sure, it’s a great excerpt, but not when used in this context. When I was in the fifth grade, I only remember two things — when I got my period and when I started getting sexually abused by someone who I thought loved and cared for me. I was young and naive and I believed him when he told me that he did things to me because he loved me. He told me things like “if I had met you before her, and you were my age, I wouldn’t be married to your mom”. Sure, that sounds fucked up and obviously wrong, but I was 11. I thought I was loved and I felt enamored with the affection and attention I was getting.

He came into my bedroom three to four times a week, but always at night. I knew it was wrong, but he had brainwashed me to the point where I thought it was love. I’ve never told anybody this, but I actually went out of my way to seek his affection sometimes.

My sisters, step-brother, and I all slept in the same room, because we loved being near one another. It was the best and worst time of my life, because looking back at it now, my family was closer than ever, but they had no idea what was being done to me.

Sometime during the first year of my step-father’s visits, my step-brother started molesting me as well. As I said earlier, my siblings and I all slept in the same room, so it wasn’t hard for him to do so. I would just try to feign sleep and turn away from him. I don’t know why I never said anything about all of the abuse. I guess it was the part of me that didn’t want to mess anything up. I knew everything would crumble to pieces if I revealed what was happening.

Because my brother had been touching me at night, he noticed when my father would come into the room. He would pretend he was sleeping while I was being woken up for a late night romp. Romp isn’t the right word to use. I guess I should use ‘rape’. Part of me still feels like it wasn’t rape, because I consented to it. That part of me is the Catholic schoolgirl who was raised to blame herself for things done to her.

So anyway, my brother found out about my step-father’s transgressions and told my older sister. They walked in on us mid-rape and not a word of that has been spoken of since. Three years of rape happened before I decided to get a backbone.

I told my father that either he would tell my mom about his actions or I would. On the day he was supposed to tell her, he got drunk, told his problems to a priest, and crashed his car. He broke both of his legs that day. My mother was by his bedside at the hospital and fingers pointed at me. He told her what had happened and she sympathized with him. While he was in the hospital, my siblings, mother, and I had a family meeting where she asked me if he had raped me. When I didn’t know how to respond, she asked me if I had been molested. She was trying to figure out if I had consented to it or not. She and I had a moment when she thought I was raped and we held each other and cried, but then got cold when she realized I was “only molested”. This is why I don’t talk to my mother anymore. It doesn’t matter if I had consented to it or not. It was his fault and he should’ve been the one in the interrogation seat.

The priest called CPS and we ended up having one-on-one interviews with a social worker. My mom asked me to make a choice — either tell the truth or lie to help him get away with what he did. She told me that either way, they would get a divorce, so I wouldn’t have to see him again. I lied. I lied because he brainwashed me to love him. I sympathized for him, even after all that he did to me. He said he would get castrated, but obviously that didn’t happen. Lies are what built my family and lies are what separated us.

To this day, I haven’t gotten any justice for what happened. I’m afraid to bring him to court, because it’s been too long since the abuse happened. I feel ashamed that I’m letting him go. I’ve stopped all communication with my mom because she’ll never admit that she was wrong. She asked me, a young child, to choose the fate of her abuser when she should have stood up for me at all costs.

I don’t regret what happened because it made me into the empathetic, loving person I am today, but I do regret how little everyone around me has grown from this experience. I am a survivor and it’s taken me 13 years to start loving myself, but I’m here, broken, healing, and raw.