“Without sharing details, I will simply say that I didn’t have a chance.”
During the last months of my mom’s life I was alone a lot. My mom was confined to the hospital and my dad worked out of town. On the weekends he would come home from his job but go to the hospital then return to his work on Sunday nights until the next Friday. I wish I knew where my family was but honestly, the only thing I can remember is that they weren’t around. Those who did visit only wanted to moan to me about how bad of a person my dad was. I knew he had problems, they knew he had problems but a thirteen year old kid was not the person they should have been complaining to so I preferred to be alone. My favorite aunt on my Dad’s side drove often to see us on the weekends but for the most part I got myself to and from school and took care of the house until my dad came back the following week. There were people in the apartment complex where we lived that I could have called upon in a true emergency but I was on the path to becoming self-sufficient.
I wish I could put into words how lonesome those days were. I envied my friends who had their parents, even just one who cared about them. I envied not having to watch a parent deteriorate. I envied being able to spend time with people, go places, experience anything but isolation. By this point I had accepted that my mom was going to die. It was just a matter of time and had accepted that was my life; Insecurity, isolation, dread.
I spent a lot of time walking back then. We lived in a not-so-nice area of town but I never went far and just walked in large circles around a nearby nursing home to think. No one ever questioned where I went, what I was doing or why I spent so much time away from home. It was the closest to being on my own as I could have been. It was also bitter sweet. Yes I was alone but at the same time no one was yelling at me. No one was putting me down. No one was telling me I was worthless. No one was abusing me. No one was griping about my dad or how bad he was or how he never treated my mom right. No one was talking to me about death and cancer. It was the only peace I had known.
Eventually, I began to get a little braver. I walked a little further and stayed out a little later. Finally, one night I had walked the further than I had ever been. Not far enough away to be lost but far enough that I was in an area I had before only seen from a school bus window. It began to get dark and before I realized, it was pitch black. I was making my way back home but had at least a mile left to go. I pulled my jean jacket a little tighter because it was getting cool as a light blue, early 80’s model 2-door Monte Carlo pulled up beside me with two men inside. The passenger rolled down his window to ask for directions to a place that I didn’t know. They pulled ahead of me a couple of yards, stopped and the passenger opened his door and got out in front of me. I started to take a step to the right and realized the driver was already out of the car and around the front. Without sharing details, I will simply say that I didn’t have a chance. I can’t remember if I screamed and I can barely remember the struggle but that night I was raped.
It took over twenty years for me to tell a sole and until this posting only a handful of people knew that it ever happened. It was never reported. My parents never knew and for over two decades I have had a death grip on the shame that night brought me. If only. If only I had stayed home. If only I hadn’t walked so far. If only I had paid more attention. If only I took notice that it was getting dark. If only I had been more observant. If only. At the time I didn’t see the point of telling my mom. She was dying, why burden her with something stupid I had done? And the single reason I never told my dad; the two men were black.
Growing up in Arkansas, even in the late 20th century, to have told my dad that I had been raped by two men of color would have meant that he would have disowned me without question. Im not proud of that, it’s simply the way he was and as much as I was starting to hate my dad by then, in some sick, twisted way I was still trying to win his acceptance and I wasn’t willing to risk losing any chance I had of him being able to love me by telling him of something that he would have said was my fault anyway. So instead I closed off.
It’s been so long since that happened and to this day I am ashamed when I feel tension because I can’t be alone in a room with a man of color. It took years to be able to walk down the street and not cross to the other side when approached by a man of another race. I once became physically sick when a friend suggested that she would “hook me up with chocolate.” I had nightmares. Built up anxiety and emotions that it took a very long time to explain to myself. The worst part for me was that I didn’t want to be racist. I didn’t have hate for anyone and I didn’t WANT to be that way. I didn’t WANT others to think of me like that but it seemed that because of what happened my brain had flipped that switch and I didn’t know how to turn it off.
I saw different counselors and a couple of therapists. I shared this with a few very close friends but nothing ever got better. Talking about it DIDN’T help. Therapy didn’t come close and I wasn’t about to medicate. At last, I did the only thing left to do. I turned it over to God. I was reminded that “in just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.—Psalm 37:11. I wasn’t seeking justice or revenge. I simply wanted the peace that God was offering. The best part was realizing that I didn’t have to wait for Jesus to come back in order to have it! He was not only offering peace but His word said that I didn’t need to give “getting revenge” a second thought because He had that covered too. My focus was on becoming WHOLE; making my WHOLE story come to light so that I could heal once and for all.
I wish I could testify that my path is complete and my journey is over and that I have achieved reaching my ultimate goal of restoration but the truth is, I don’t want to reach an end. By reaching an end of our chain of growth it means that we have reached the highest level attainable and there is nothing further beyond that point. THAT’S not what I want. I want the long and winding journey with peaks and valleys to increase my growth in Christ. I want to be challenged. I want to be tested and strengthened with every day presenting new opportunities to be closer to Him. I want MY story…my WHOLE story to ALWAYS be continued and in doing so continually nurture my relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you’re wishing the trials would stop, the pain would end or the hammer on the anvil would let up…stop for a moment and remember that in everything; EVERYTHING there is a purpose and when the crashing blows of life hurt the hardest; it’s because He’s strengthening the most.