I’m Learning to Live Again
A bit of me died the first time I remember him touching me inappropriately. I was about 6-years-old and my brother *Thomas had taken me to the barn which doubled as an outhouse for us. When I finished using the pot, he wiped me as usual and I waited for him to pull up my panties; but he didn’t. He began to touch my private area in an unfamiliar way and I felt a piece of my once lively and trusting spirit slip away.
In that instant I knew something had gone terribly wrong; but I had no idea what to do to fix it so I pretended it never happened and desperately and silently hoped that it would never happen again.
My family and I, at that time, lived in Smithville, Texas, where most of the traumatic experiences happened to me. I remember when I
began to become familiar with him in the sense that I knew when he’d call me to be alone with him; it was a thought I dreaded.
I can remember being so happy and free, climbing trees, running through the tall grass, feeling the wind comb through my hair, hanging with my sisters upside down from the monkey bars, and spinning so fast on the local merry-go-round that I’d go flying off into the sand; not a care in the world, the good life.
Those pleasant thoughts; however, are often invaded by memories of being coerced into sexual encounters with my older stepbrother. On one occasion Thomas called me in the house to fix my hair; he pulled and prodded it into a weird style reminiscent of the rapper, Coolio. I was the oldest of my three sisters and he said I had to go last; he always made it seem like it was something to look forward to.
After he’d finished my hair, I was glad it was over and anticipated where I’d go play next outside but he had other plans for me. He asked me to unzip his pants and lay my head in his lap; I was so uncomfortable I could feel myself wanting to vomit. Thankfully we’d eaten earlier before we went outside to play and I began feeling queasy. As he caressed the back of my neck while holding my head down on his private area, in a twisted attempt to be pleasured, I tried to hold back unsettled fragments of bread, bologna, and cheese, unsuccessfully. I threw up all over his lap and his sick fantasy quickly ended.
I think about how free, innocent, trusting and completely oblivious I was to this kind of experience and how all the bliss of my ignorance morphed with each year and each horrible sexual encounter into a disturbing realization. I learned about things no child should ever know until it’s an appropriate time, I learned about sex, and the different ways to have it, I learned about foreplay, I learned to read when a man was sexually excited and I learned to flirt with men by the age of 10. I was flirting with older guys, with the knowledge I’d been taught by my own brother.
By the time I was 12-years-old I had conflicting sides of myself the extremely sexual side whose game was to flirt verbally and nonverbally with older men just to get them to respond to me, but I would be scared to death if anyone actually accepted my advances.
I was also ashamed of my sexual side because of the things my stepbrother had done to me and forced me to do. I didn’t trust men much anymore; I began to look at them all as potential predators who viewed me as nothing more than a piece of fresh meat and as a result of that became very self-conscious and disrespectful towards them.
The other side of me longed to be the little girl I used to be, a dreamer uninhibited, unashamed, trusting, brave, respectful and most of all, – me. I wasn’t sure of who I was anymore and feared what I had become.
At 12-years-old I got the courage to tell someone what my brother had done. I told an older lady I respected in the church I attended at the time, she didn’t tell anyone and I wasn’t sure I wanted her to.
For those that may be wondering what happened to *Thomas, did he get away with what he did to me, did he mysteriously disappear and fall off the face of the earth, or did he wander off into some country field and get eaten by a pack of wild coyote? The answer is no.
My tenth grade year of high school all of the secrets I’d kept to myself and had even practiced forgetting came back suddenly. I was sitting in my 7th period class, praying that something weird would happen to liven up or shorten the school day; like some delinquent student shaking up the mundane flow of class by roaming the halls pulling fire alarms. Though this was typical it didn’t happen that day, instead the loud speaker in our class came on and the office attendant addressed the teacher, then answered my prayer by uttering a phrase that every student has secretly hoped to hear at some point ‘would Jude Ivy’ please report to the attendance office. ‘Thank you God!’ I thought. You see it was unusual for my parents to pick us up from school early, momma didn’t play that. In fact, we didn’t receive awards for the best dressed or most popular in school but perfect attendance that we won consecutively.
As I did my happy dance out of class and bid my teacher a jovial goodbye, it didn’t cross my mind that anything could be wrong. I heard my other two siblings names called over the loud speaker as I made my way to the office. We walked in one after the other, looked at each other and then at the unfamiliar couple already waiting in the office. As suspected they were waiting for us. A white man and white woman dressed neatly thanked the office attendant, and then asked us to come with them. Now we’d been around white people before, but these people we didn’t know.
We eventually found out they were with Child Protective Services, picking us up on a tip they received from a school teacher at my younger sister’s elementary school. They took us to a local CPS facility and I was asked to relive many of the moments I had done such an immaculate job of forgetting up until this point of my life or so I thought. Hours later they informed my parents, and then my parents let us know that they were investigating Thomas on suspicions of indecency with a child. After interviewing us collectively, then separately they concluded that two of us should have rape kits done myself and one of my other sisters, *Amani. It was discovered that she and I had been raped repeatedly due to badly scarred tissue. However, our cases had reached the statute of limitation and nothing could be done directly for us, but indirectly and for my younger sister, *Shelby, a case could be expedited and it was. Because of our testimonies my older brother was sentenced to 40 years to life imprisonment with a chance of parole. I’m learning to live again and it isn’t easy but with help from my creator, family, friends and trained professionals, I believe a path is being created for me to live a life where my dreams can come true.
I am currently a senior journalism major with an emphasis in public relations, and speech communications minor at Texas Southern University. I enjoy communicating, it comes naturally for me so I intend to use my knack for speaking, writing, and encouraging others to promote tangible and measureable progression in sexual abuse victims as well as educate friends, family, and others on ways to recognize the effects of sexual abuse as a means to prevent it from continuing. I hope to own a non-profit that will support this cause and empowering others, I also hope to create a platform for myself in the public relations industry by owning and operating a boutique consultancy firm run predominately by women of color.
It takes courage to speak up about abuse. With each success in my personal and professional endeavors, I’ve learned that speaking up helps one to heal. I can slowly feel my spirit coming back to life. Because of my willingness to speak up against abuse, a bit of me is reborn and I am learning to live again.