SURVIVING THE MEMORIES SITE FOR SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

LINDSAY'S STORY

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Luka by Suzanne Vega

Please be careful while reading this.  It may be triggering for some people, and I don't want anyone to be hurt by this.

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Around junior high, my life turned downhill. I had a rough home life.  My father and I would fight constantly.  I tried to be the perfect daughter, but I was never good enough for him.  I had no real friends and no real family.  I turned to sports to fill that void.  I played basketball, softball, and was on two swim teams.  I need something to get me out of the house.  In seventh grade, even the swim team was no longer a refuge for me. 

There was this guy that I swam with. We were in the same division so we practiced at the same time and were in the same lane as a couple of others. things were okay for a while, but then he started to make sexual comments towards me, pull my bathing suit down far enough so he could see my breasts, and would touch them sometimes. Where the coaches were when he did this I have no idea.

On a few occasions, he said he would have sex with me whether I wanted to or not.  I confided in another friend and she helped me talk with the coaches twice. Both times they said I was just looking for attention and stood up for him. After the second time, I quit as well as my friend because she did not want to be on a team that allowed this. I've always kept that memory...its just been hard talking about it because it was someone my age who did this to me and not an adult. Its painful to think of what may have happened if I stayed on the team like my parents wanted me too. I was eight when Joanne and John moved in across the street from my family. 

 I was intrigued with them because of Joanne’s job; she was the head women’s basketball coach at the university in our town.  She was nothing short of a local celebrity, and every girl in our neighborhood would feel proud and important whenever she would stop by on her bike rides with John and talk with us for a few moments. Even before they had Maddie, John also was admired among the children on our street.  Many evenings he would come out and play ball with us; our favorite game was best in the fall where he would kick a football into this large tree in the cul-de-sac.  Leaves would shake off the branches, and it was our goal to run around and collect as many as possible.  He seemed like one of us. Maddie was born a year or two after Joanne and John moved to our neighborhood. 

Soon, she became the center of activity.  All the girls on the street prayed to be lucky enough to be invited over to their house to see Maddie, but it was me who was singled out when she was two years old.  I had been at summer camp for a week, and when my mother picked me up, she said I got a phone call from Joanne.  I was shocked and had no idea why she would call me.  I was at my grandparents’ house when I nervously called her back.  John answered the phone and was very cheerful.  He wanted to see if I could baby-sit Maddie while he and Joanne played golf the next day.  I stared at the phone for a moment and then emphatically said yes.  I hung up, told my mother we had to go back home that afternoon, and ran upstairs shrieking from joy. That first job started over a two year working relationship with the family. 

I lost the majority of my friends on my street because they were jealous that I was the one who was asked to be Maddie’s permanent baby-sitter.  I watched her grow from a young toddler to a preschooler first hand.  The job was not all glamorous though.  I often became wary about watching her and would sometimes argue with my parents about going over.  After a month of taking care of her once or twice a week, I soon started baby-sitting for her nearly every day for at least three hours.  Sometimes her parents would even send her right over to my house without calling me first. 

Those instances seemed to occur right when I would be leaving to do something else, but I felt obligated to watch Maddie.  I enjoyed her for the most part, but it seemed like I was the one who was raising her.  That is a lot to ask of a preteen.   My work for Joanne and John turned around the summer I turned thirteen.  Joanne came over in May to ask if I would go with her, John, and Maddie to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island for five days.  They wanted to go on a golf trip and needed me to watch Maddie.  I immediately agreed.  My parents were a little hesitant about the trip, but they knew how much it meant to me and let me go.  That week was amazing, but I started to notice definite differences in John’s behavior.  He rarely paid any attention to what I did and never did I receive any bonuses before hand.  Now, he was paying for everything on the trip.  We agreed that I would have my room and meals paid as well as $100.  When it was just John and I (or sometimes if Maddie was around), he would pay for other things as well:  souvenirs for my family and me, tickets to any amusements we went to etc. 

I was puzzled, but I gladly accepted all of these extras. When we returned home, John helped bring my backpack and suitcase to my house.  He chatted with my parents for a minute or two and then asked to speak with me and give me my pay.  I walked down to the end of my driveway with him.  He handed me almost $200.  I asked him if this was correct and told him I thought we agreed on $100.  He told me to keep it as a bonus.  John then asked if I wanted to go to Sugarloaf with him, Joanne, and Maddie over Columbus Day weekend.  I hesitated for a minute and said I would go if my parents allowed me.  He told me that it was a done deal then and not to worry about what my parents wanted.  John walked off.

 The day we left for Sugarloaf, I started to feel nauseous.  I had a bad feeling about going on the trip, but my friends at school kept telling me how lucky I was to be able to go.  I tried to gain excitement, yet I could not shake my fear that something horrifying was about to happen to me.  I should have listened to my intuition because it was correct.   I tried to convince my parents to let me stay home, but they, too, told me I was lucky to go and that I had an obligation to Joanne and John.

I walked over with my small suitcase and backpack over to their house.  Maddie greeted me at the door with a huge smile; I tried to give one back to her.  Her enthusiasm was clear, but something just was not right to me.  John came downstairs and took my things and brought them to the car.  Soon, we were all ready to go.  We stopped in Newport for a quick bite to eat before continuing on.  I was still nervous but tried to hide it by reading stories and playing car games with Maddie.   When we turned at “Oh my God” bend, my fears flew out the window. 

Sugarloaf loomed ahead of us, and while it was a dark, dreary day, the mountain was magnificent.  I was spellbound; the magic of the mountain was still there after all those years of going on ski trips.  There was nothing to worry about; I was safe because very rarely did anything go wrong when I was at Sugarloaf.  It was my refuge from the storms at home.  My refuge was about to betray me. “Indsay, Indsay, Indsay!”  I swatted whoever was there and rolled over to go back to sleep.  The young voice insisted that I get up.  I turned my head and saw Maddie.  Her parents asked me to come with them to Sugarloaf, a golf and ski resort in Western Maine. 

Joanne and John, along with their friends Mike, Debbie, Terrie, and Stan, wanted to golf at Sugarloaf over Columbus Day weekend in 1998, but they did not feel comfortable leaving Maddie and I at home.  Instead, Maddie and I went with them.   Maddie tugged on my arm so much that I eventually got out of bed.  I forgot for a moment that this bed was not my own at home.  I prematurely lifted my head and hit it on the top bunk bed.  Little did I know that in a few short minutes, I would strike my head on that same bed. I decided to bring Maddie downstairs and found some cereal for breakfast.  She sat at the table and hummed some short tune over and over while I prepared her food.  I sat the bowl and spoon in front of her, and she started to eat.  Her innocence and happiness were quite apparent that morning as she sat there, peaceful, gazing into her bowl like it was the greatest treasure on Earth.  She hardly even flinched and said nothing when I told her I would be back downstairs in a few minutes because I wanted to quickly get changed.  I wrongly assumed that I would only be upstairs for a few minutes; those minutes ended up being over an hour. When I reached the bedroom I shared with Maddie, I hastily locked the door. 

Or so I thought.  I rustled through my bag and found a bra and shirt to wear and quickly put them on.  I took off my pajama pants and underwear.  Instead of getting to put on my regular clothes, I gasped in horror.  The doorknob started to turn, and I panicked because I was only half dressed.  All of a sudden, John was standing in the room with the door slightly ajar.  I grabbed for my suitcase to hide myself behind because I was embarrassed and frightened.  He asked me where Maddie was.  I told him, “I took Maddie downstairs to get her some breakfast and decided to run up here to quickly get dressed because she was all taken care of.”  John smiled at me and said, “Good.  Now there’s nothing to worry about, okay?” while he closed and locked the door. John crossed the room and seized the suitcase out of my hand.  I tried to keep hold of it, but I failed.  He then clutched my wrists and pulled me down onto the floor.  He wanted me to have oral sex with him.  I weakly told him I did not know what to do while trying to force back tears from falling.  My answer was far from good enough.  I tried to do what he wanted when he made me do it anyway, but I was so scared.  Plus, I had never even heard of oral sex before and was confused as to what I was supposed to do. 

After a minute or two of me trying to hide my fears and performing to the best of my ability, he became angry, accused me of being lazy, and pulled me up from my knees.  I thought maybe he would go away, but he stayed there and glowered at me.  I looked wildly around the room for a place to escape, but there was none.  John was standing between the door and me, and the one window in the room was three stories up from the ground.  At that point, my mind shut off and I did not try to do anything to escape or let others know about what was happening. Again, John angrily grasped my wrists. 

 He pushed me onto the bed.  While he was shoving me down, I hit my head on the top bunk.  Even at that time, I did not know what was coming next.  I hoped and prayed that he would just leave me alone.  I knew that if I tried to fight him, he would be angry and probably hurt me more.  I became too scared to even scream for help.  I stayed silent and tried not to look at John. As soon as I was down on the bed, John lay down on me.  My eyes briefly met his, and all I saw was rage.  Where did the man who was like a father to me go?  That quick glance ended when I felt searing pain throughout my lower body.  I realized that he was doing what everyone at school called “having sex.”  Sex was never talked about at home and at school, the only people who talked about it were other students.  My school was a small Catholic school, and it strongly disapproved of sex, so the topic was never discussed.  I spaced out and tried to pretend this was not happening to me.  I prayed I would make it out alive.   Fortunately, John became startled and quickly got up.  He tied his robe back around him. Before he left, John told me to never tell anyone, that this was our little secret, that if he found out I told, he would kill me. 

I promised to never tell, but a few years later, I fully broke that promise.  Some promises just cannot be kept.   After John closed the door and was finally gone, I slowly sat up. My mouth was still filled with a putrid taste, and my body felt like knives had torn it to pieces.  I sat in silence for a few minutes, too stunned to do anything.  Then the tears started to flow.  I cried for quite awhile and rocked back and forth.  That’s when I also saw the blood, and I had to grab a pillow to hide my screams of terror because I was afraid he hurt me so badly.  That was the only reason why I would possibly bleed since I had my period two weeks earlier.  I realized that Maddie was still downstairs by herself, but I could not bring myself to go down and be with anyone yet.  I ran to the bathroom, made sure five or six times that the door was locked, and took a scalding hot shower.  I tried to feel clean again, but the shower did not work. 

I made myself look semi-presentable and went downstairs to see Maddie. When I reached the kitchen, the other adults were there and were talking with one another.  John looked at me and asked if I wanted any breakfast.  I diverted my eyes and tersely said I had already eaten.  In reality, I had nothing to eat earlier, but I was so upset that I knew I would become sick the instant I tried to eat something.  Inside I was still screaming and crying hysterically, but somehow I remained calm yet distant.  Joanne came down, and she, too, tried to get me to eat something.  She sat with Terrie and Debbie and made plans to go to a craft show over at the main lodge and then go over to Canada.  For a few minutes, they thought that they would just go by themselves.  I started to panic because if they left, that would only leave Maddie and I with three men.  I was scared that something would happen if they were gone; there was slim hope for me that a four year old and a thirteen year old would be able to fend off three grown adult men. 

Fortunately, Joanne decided that it would be good to bring Maddie and I along with them.  Despite me being furious with her for marrying such an evil man, I was grateful that she was allowing me to get out of the house.  We prepared to leave for the day, and I tried to convince myself that we would have fun.  My body still was in a lot of pain, and there was some bleeding, but I tried to forget for a while what happened.   \

At the craft show, I wandered around by myself most of the time because Maddie wanted to stay with her mother.  I pretended to be interested in the various paintings and woodwork, but I was lost deep in thought.  This ski resort, which brought so many positive moments to my life (it was the one place where my family actually seemed to be a family), suddenly became a danger.  I looked around at all the familiar and once comforting spots:  Widowmaker Lounge, Narrow Gauge cafeteria, the King Pine room.  No longer were these places safe.  I was afraid that I would round a corner and be confronted by a group of men led by John who wanted to rape me.  I remember one woman coming up to me and asking if everything was okay.  I quickly replied that I was fine and walked off to find Joanne and the others. We left soon after I found the group again.  I was thankful to leave that place.  I was glad to be going to Canada because I knew there was little chance of John being there.  I remember the ride across the border took awhile and the roads were narrow and winding.  I was just glad to have an escape, even if it was only for the afternoon.   Once over the border, we stopped at this little restaurant for lunch.  I desperately just wanted to sit there and pretend to be enthralled with what Maddie was doing, but Debbie was insistent that I order and eat something.  I sat in a daze while sipping horrible “lemonade” and picking at a chicken sandwich.  The other women were too busy talking to notice. 

Eventually, it was time to head back.  On the way back, we listened to Natalie Merchant.  I kept focusing on her song “Kind and Generous,”  and how ironic it seemed to be because while I loved the both Natalie Merchant and the song, what happened to me that morning was far from being kind or generous.  We stopped at this small restaurant where they made a reservation for that evening.  I would be alone to watch Maddie for a few hours while all the adults ate and drank more than their fair share of alcohol.  I was just glad that time with John would be minimal.   

Finally all of the adults left, and it was just Maddie and I.  I fixed our dinner, but Maddie ended up finishing both of our plates.  I was still in too much pain and shock to even think about food.  I put in a movie for her to watch and decided to call my parents.   “Mom?  I want to come home tonight.  Please can I come home?”“Lindsay, you made a commitment to stay and watch Maddie.  You can’t all of a sudden leave and make the rest of the vacation for Joanne and John difficult.  You have responsibilities.”“But mom, I can’t be around John anymore. 

Please, I want to come home now.”“No.  You have to stay.” My mother’s response resonated in my head.  I had to stay.  I had no choice in what happened.  This was only Saturday evening.  Most of the day tomorrow John would be there and late Monday afternoon, we would be leaving to go back home.  As much as I wanted to go home, I was too scared to tell my mother what happened.  I told her I had to go and that I would see her Monday evening.  I hung up the phone and wandered into the living room where Maddie was laughing at the movie.  I was thankful the movie ended soon after.  I brought Maddie upstairs and got her ready for bed.  Even though it was only around 7:30, I, too, went to bed.  I figured that this would be the only way to avoid John. The rest of the weekend went by in a blur.  Sunday, everyone played golf while Maddie and I attempted to hike a part of Sugarloaf. 

It had been raining earlier, and Maddie complained about her shoes being wet.  Every time I had to be in the same room as John, I would freeze up.  If he talked to me, I would give a curt reply and leave.  I was overjoyed when Monday arrived; it never seemed like it would come.  We packed up the car and left Sugarloaf.  I wanted to forget the weekend forever. I returned home that Monday.  I was in complete shock and just wanted to be left alone.  How could he do something like that to me?  Was I that bad of a babysitter?  Did I really deserve that?  My mother sensed something was wrong, but she left me alone until John called.  They wanted me to come over and baby-sit for Maddie the next day.  When I heard that, I was sick.  There was no way I could possibly watch her again.  I was torn though because I loved her like a dear sister.  My mother sat down with me and said I had to provide a reason with why I did not want to baby-sit Maddie.  I told her that John walked in on me while I was changing and that it really upset me. 

She said I was overreacting but that she would let Joanne know.  I was scared but relieved when I heard that Joanne apologized for what John did.  Of course, I did not believe John was sorry for raping me, but in a way, I felt that it was some sort of admission of guilt.  I thought I could forgive and forget. The next few months were sheer torture for me.  I started to feel sick all of the time.  I lost my period completely.  I had stomach pains, some bloating, and tender breasts.  Little did I know but I conceived a baby when John raped me.  I did not know that until I had a complete miscarriage.  I was not even sure then but I asked a friend of mine who was a nurse about it, and she told me I did have a miscarriage.  She advised me to go to a doctor, but I was too scared and never went.  I knew I could not bear the pain of the memories of being raped or my little innocent child so I tried my best to block them.  I remembered bits and pieces, but everything else I put on the back burner.  With the twins’ births, the trouble at home, applying to high school, the move to Veazie, and continued trouble with my father, I just could not deal with the rape and miscarriage.  

That worked well for a few years.  Despite not acknowledging my memories, it manifested itself in other ways.  Towards the end of my sophomore year, my mother made me enter therapy because she thought I had social anxiety disorder (I do not have this) and depression (I do have this as well as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD).  I fought her for about a year on this even when I was going to a counselor that was recommended by a friend of mine; I thought therapy was for crazy people, and I certainly was not crazy!  That began a long battle of finding a counselor I felt comfortable with.   I was with my second (out of about eight or nine) counselor when I finally disclosed to her about the rape. I have only disclosed to my current counselor about the miscarriage.  I was a junior in high school, and I had attended a weekend retreat for church. 

One of the workshops was called Divorce, Disease, and Depression.  They had counselors available that evening for a small group session, and I decided to go and listen.  One or two girls broke down crying and said they had been raped.  Boom.  All of a sudden, everything I had hidden so well about John came flooding back.  I started to cry and had to leave for a while because I was so upset.  Something like this could not possibly happen to me, could it?  Then my small suicide attempt in ninth grade suddenly made a whole lot more sense.  I became furious at John.  Because of him, my life became full of pain, sadness, and anger.  Why did this have to be the case?  I did nothing wrong; he should be the one to pay. If only I could say that life became easier after I started getting help after I disclosed about the rape, but it did not.  In fact, life may have become harder.  I had to live daily with the stigma and fear surrounding being a rape survivor. 

Some days I could hardly get out of bed.  I felt like no one knew or understood what I was going through.  I was alone in the world now.  I thought that rape rarely happened.  It was bittersweet when I came across a wonderful website called Welcome to Barbados and the subsequent message board Pandora’s Aquarium because I realized I was not alone. The statistics frightened me (1 in 3 women will be raped in her lifetime and 1 in 6 men will be raped in his lifetime) but at the same time, I finally found people who could relate to me.  I did not have to be in isolation anymore. 

I have discovered more message boards since then:  Perfectly Still, After Silence, and River Crossing.  While they do not replace counseling, they do provide me a sense of community, hope, and healing.  The hardest part in my healing journey for me was realizing how easy John’s life is.  He has a beautiful wife, darling 9-year-old daughter, and handsome 3-year-old son Jack.  Money is certainly not an issue for the family either, yet I have to struggle to make payments for my medications, which are results from his actions and the hospital bills.  A few weeks ago, I attempted suicide and all I could think about was John.  In fact, my attempt stemmed from him.  It was not premeditated; I had a nightmare, woke up in an instant, grabbed the pills, and took them. 

Thankfully Nicole found me and helped me get the proper care I needed.  I dreamt that John was holding onto my wrists, and he was telling me something he had told me when he raped me.  It is too hard to put it down into words.  Then it switched to a little girl around five years old with long blond curly hair (like I had when I was that age) reaching out to me saying “Mommy, come play with me.”  I did a lot of thinking after my attempt to end my life.  Does he have to live daily with all of the questions and pain?  He might live with a twinge of guilt or remorse, but I highly doubt that he goes through any of it.  I am the one who has to live with the memories.  I am the one who has to sort through the emotions and the flashbacks and nightmares.  I am the one who has trouble with relationships and trusting others because I am so afraid of being hurt again.  I may not have succeeded in life in the traditional sense, but I have succeeded in many ways.  I refuse to give him the power of taking over my life to the point where I do not want to live it anymore. 

I will not let myself get to that point anymore. I believe I am slowly starting a new chapter in my life.  I want to find peace and healing.  I do not want any of the past abuse to have control over me anymore.  By starting over, I will be able to have  freedom, and I can live life on my terms.  I read somewhere a long time ago that the greatest revenge is to succeed.  John never expected me to live a good life, be happy, or to feel whole.  In doing those things, he will have lost his grasp over me, and I will have been able to come out a champion.......... March 2004,Well, just when I thought that things couldn't get any worse...they did. Sigh. I've had new memories come back. I was very skeptical at first, but I'm not going to play that whole denial game anymore. I just can't do it. Hope you don't mind me getting it out...my supports will be much more limited on this because of the nature of it.I think it’s best if I just jump from September to November. No October for me. October was when the sexual harassment happened on the swim team in 7th grade and last year in my senior year of high school. October was when John raped me. Now October was also when I became an incest survivor at age 3. I just had a flood of memories about it this morning in the shower. When I was in the shower, I started thinking about Chris again. He's been on my mind a lot. But I also started thinking about my grandfather on my father's side...he's dying of cancer right now. My family wants to go out and see him, but I've been hesitant and keep making excuses about dates so my family keeps pushing the trip back to try and accommodate me. Must've been my subconscious screaming "NO!

Don't go see him. Look what he did to you!" again. So when I started thinking about that, I remembered the first time I met him. I was 3. Boom. Memories of bath time came rushing back. My mother just had my brother that January so she went to take naps when he was asleep and put my grandfather and step-grandmother in charge. My mother didn't have a problem if my grandfather watched me....after all, my father did, and there was never a problem with him. Where was my step-grandmother? In the kitchen cooking or knitting. So he would draw my baths and I would get in. He would let me play for a few minutes before he would start. He would slowly insert his fingers into me and I would look at him and freeze. I would cry and he said there was no reason to cry...he must've been scared my mother would hear me because her room was right next to the bathroom.

This was the only time he would do this (I think) but I had these brief flashes of three different times. Yes, this is painful to remember. Yes, I'm sad and I'm hurt and angry. I don't blame myself but I don't know if I blame him either really. All I know is I'm kind of grateful I remembered this. So much about the past 14, almost 15 years suddenly makes so much sense to me now!!! The reason why I have always hated baths since then and would fight with my mother...I wanted showers but she wouldn't let me take them until I was 5. The reason I never got along with kids my age except on rare occasions. The way I SI'd my upper inner thighs during late preschool-second grade. The reason I didn't fight back with John....by that time, when my father would start to hit me, I would fight back...I was very strong physically, but with John, I just went limp and froze. I became the little four year old.

The reason I never wanted to give my sisters baths when they were born and wanted to start giving them showers as soon as they were steady on their legs. So much is suddenly explained. I'm relieved in some ways. The reason I'd throw away every birthday and Christmas card from him. The reason I'd fight with my parents when we would go out to Idaho to see him "But I don't want to go..." and when we'd get there, I'd make sure I was never alone with him and that when I went to sleep, I would curl up as close to my brother as I could. The reason I never would talk to him on the phone. None of that is the case with my other grandfather. That missing link has been found. Maybe this is what I needed to discover in order to really begin to further my healing process. Who knows? I talked with Carla about this last night...she's my counselor. I was in denial...I told her my mind just must be making this up. But she said after telling her what I just wrote, I wasn't. The denial totally broke then. God, I hate this so much. Monday night, when I talked with Mike my RD about Chris's death, I asked him how much more I would have to go through just as a rhetorical question.

Less then ten hours later, this happened. Its weird though, I'm not as upset as I was with John....in some ways, I am thankful this came back now because I have worked through trauma stuff in the past and know how to deal with memories and things like that. I think the time was coming...it just was brought on at a really bad time...Chris' death was the trigger. So much makes sense now...I'm starting to feel wholeness because I can understand so much now.April 2004,Last week,  I went down to South Station to buy a train ticket to get to a job interview and to also buy some things to support our local RCC. On my way back, trouble struck. I gave up my seat on the subway for a blind man and had to stand since the train was quite full. This man behind me kept ramming into my body and hugging me. Soon he started kissing my back. I moved once I realized what he was doing and started crying. I had my CD player on but I hear him say "What did I do? I just wanted some love" I can't believe it...I'm just in so much shock and disbelief.
I went Wednesday night (that night) to the police station. I am so thankful that I had such supportive officers.  I gave them a detailed account and description.

Unfortunately, I didn't see any pictures that looked like him, BUT they did say they were going to go out to the area I said he was last in...because I was pretty sure he was homeless, he was most likely in that area because that's where they usually hang out in. They really want to catch him...I could see it in their eyes. I was scared because I didn't have a female officer or an advocate and had to tell my story to a few male officers, but they made me feel as comfortable as anyone possibly could in the situation. I hope to hear back from them soon and I hope an arrest will soon be made provided they find a picture of the right guy.

"You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise."

~"Still I Rise" Maya Angelou
 
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