Ashley’s Story: How Could It Have Been?

Ashley’s Story: How Could It Have Been?

I’m a grown woman now, 27. I have almost a whole handful of my own children; three girls and one boy. I was only a child though, when it started and finished. During those times I felt some sort of sick normalcy, it’s all I really knew. Now though, looking back, it feels like those things would have been impossible. How could this happen? I was 4 the first time I remember anything, or at least that’s the age I chalked up based on the time frame. I distinctly remember it though, waking up on the floor like I fell from my bed, halfway underneath it and halfway out in only my underpants. He was touching me and I somehow knew to pretend to be asleep. Survival mode at it’s finest I suppose. After that it blurs a bit. I remember it happening, all the time, but nothing quite as distinct as that first memory. The years went by living this life, the older I got the more I felt it was wrong but still nothing came out of my mouth to tell. Of course, there were threats and coercion. I said no to him but never fought. How could I? Fight my stepfather – the only father I knew. I remember once, I walked into the hallway and he was in a towel sitting on top of my sister as if he was wrestling with her. He didn’t do anything but I knew in that moment he would if it wasn’t me – I made some sick childhood promise to myself that it would be me, not her. That I would watch and be diligent to never allow it to be her. We moved into a new house and the night time visits turned into more frequent day visits – mom got a job and a computer, she was so busy; so preoccupied. He could almost do it whenever, wherever. It’s strange though, I say do it and have to clarify. To my memory, he never RAPED me…. He did everything but, and tried to make me do everything but. I don’t know why. Over the years I made it so clear I didn’t want it, I made him think I might tell…. that I might even have some secret code going on with people to let them know when it happened. Maybe I scared him JUST ENOUGH to keep it from going all the way. It’s hard though, I blocked so much out during those moments maybe I missed something. I just know what I’m certain of. I cried a lot. It made him so angry. That would always be the moments where I took a good hit and threat. He held a baseball bat over my head once; cleaned his guns in front of me and made ‘jokes.’ I knew what it all meant. Sometimes, he’d bribe me. Once, he told me a friend could come over for the night but that we’d have to stop in the car on the way there. I was smart, but not smart enough. He was dumb, but also manipulative. That day, I took just enough time getting ready that I could play the stop off as, “people are going to wonder what’s taking so long.” He taught me the first important things I knew about puberty and sex. He shaved me down there when I started getting hair; in hind sight probably to keep me looking young, but I took it as a signal of what women are supposed to do once that begins. I remember the night he told me what 69 was…. I watched the clock as he spoke knowing my mom would be home soon and I could hide at her feet as she played on the computer. She pulled in just in time…. that night at least. As we moved through houses, and years of my life, I thought it would last forever. I didn’t even see myself being an adult who got away. It would just be. Always. It felt like it escalated as I approached 12. He still hadn’t put himself into me; although I remember once I had to warn him I could get pregnant. This new house we lived in, I’d put stickers onto a dresser after he finished each time thinking it might scare him off seeing this ritual. It didn’t though. He didn’t let me sleep in my room that I shared with my sister. He made it out as though I was too afraid so I would sleep in a makeshift bed on the floor in my parents room. He’d do what he wanted while mom played outside of the room on the computer for all hours of the night. Looking back, I don’t see how this happened but it did I know that. People asked. Mom asked. Grandma asked. My aunts asked. I never admitted it though I came close. They must have known though…. Mom has her own reasons for staying so long. The day did come though. That same year, that same house. I was 12 and they told me it was happening; DIVORCE. I lost it. I told my mother I hated her as he sobbed in front of me telling us how much he loved us. It felt like he was a dad who’d be losing his kids. I forgot in the moment, as I loved him in some sick way, that he wasn’t crying for those reasons. I kept quiet through the move and the separation. I knew I had some power because he was not my biological father and I didn’t have to see him. I did for awhile, and on my 13th birthday I woke up just as before. I pretended to be sleeping and made it through the day long enough to get home. That’s the last time it happened. I thought he knew better now. That he knew nobody had to see him, that I could tell and he wasn’t in the house to stop me. He left me alone. I saw him sometimes, he was my brother’s real dad. He ended up moving back into our house at one point, as my mom’s roommate. I didn’t have much to do with him. At 13-14 I didn’t understand pedophiles. I just thought he would stop since he left me alone finally. I was so happy, enjoying life. Enjoying friend. Enjoying boys who were my age, not my family. But I soon realized it wouldn’t go away. My life became stressful, my mom was drunk most nights, parading around at bars until she came home and I fed her bread. I used to love school but I hated it now. I lived online; like my mom. I think it all festered inside me but I didn’t even know it was boiling. I was late for school one morning, again. As a freshman, 14, My mom was getting truancy notices and that’s the only reason she cared. We fought and she yelled in my face about my perfect life and me needing to stop whining. So I said it. I laughed at her for saying I had a perfect life and told her what I meant. It felt kind of good but so scary. I didn’t know it would get worse though. I walked into the living room, confronting her and my baby sister, 13 now, was sobbing on the couch. My guts dropped. I’ll never forget the words she said, or the moment we shared. “Why do you think I’m not a virgin?” I died a little in the moment. We didn’t even get along, we were so different. I have never had a hug the way we hugged that day. For once my mom did a normal thing and called the police. It was a whirlwind of years…. He was aquitted. From what I remember there was bodily evidence that trauma had occurred over the years but no DNA and I guess that was enough in the middle of a messy divorce. I remember clearly, his lawyer used the Pat Benetar song ‘Love is a Battlefield’ to explain away my sister’s and I’s recollections as a bitter revenge from my mom. I guess it worked. I struggled but found strength, mostly through my grandmother who I strived to be like. I have nightmares though now. My sex life won’t ever be normal with my husband who can’t understand. And I’m facing the reality of paranoia about my own children and the day and way I need to tell them my story. I am proud of who I am but more flawed than the usual because of everything. I don’t know how I’ll hold it together forever as I feel I’ve done but I guess day by day. I want to make a difference now, use my horrors to help. There’s got to be more to it right? More to surviving than just getting by.

Author

WYR

WYR

When You're Ready.org is a community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

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