Brigitte’s Story: It Was 40 Years Ago

Brigitte’s Story: It Was 40 Years Ago

To be honest, I’m really not sure if my story(ies) qualify. I know what happened was wrong. But, when I read and hear all of the multitude of stories that have happened to other women, I say to myself “well, maybe it wasn’t that bad?”. But, the entirety of these events has left an indelible mark on me that has shaped my life these past 40 years in more ways than I can even imagine.
However, I apologize if my experiences belittles those of others. I would never want that.

My name is Brigitte, and I live in Ottawa, Canada. I just recently turned 50.

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my mother enrolled me in the Big Sisters organization, and I was matched up with a lady who was a free-spirit, a child of the 60’s who was, looking back, very kind and very patient with me. She opened up a world that was new to me, and if she knew my mother was an unapologetic drunk, she never judged me for it. However, she had terrible taste in men. One in particular, and I can’t remember his name, was an older man, probably in his 50’s. One day, she was taking me up to her cottage for a few days, and for reasons I can’t remember, the backseat of the car was full so there was no place for me to sit except on the front seat – on this creep’s lap (this was the 70’s, so the seat belt laws were pretty lax). I remember being uncomfortable, but I said nothing. I was sitting with my back facing the driver’s seat. As we were driving, he slid his hand between my legs, and fondled me repeatedly. At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening. When it dawned on me that his hand hadn’t slipped “by accident” and that he was getting off on this, I froze. I clearly remember not moving, and barely breathing. What could I do? I was a kid. He kept feeling me up, rubbing me for a good 10 minutes, until we reached our destination. Once the car door opened, I jumped out quickly and made sure I was never close to him. I remember being completely disgusted, even at 10 years old, but I still wondered if maybe I was mistaken? Maybe his hand slipped? Maybe he thought it was my leg? But deep down inside, I knew that wasn’t the case. I was scared, more than anything. I don’t think it happened again, but I can’t say that with any certainty. Once was enough. I never told anyone – not my Big Sister (I didn’t want to disappoint her), and certainly not my mother. My home life was…not ideal. My mother was an alcoholic, and although I didn’t understand that at the time, I knew well enough not to “rock the boat” at home, and keep things as quiet as possible so telling her was not even an option. Besides, maybe this was normal? So, I never told anyone. Actually, that’s not true. I told my ex-husband, who completely dismissed it as “whatever”, and we never spoke of it again. I’ve never forgotten what happened, never forgotten how it made me feel, and never again put myself in a situation where it might happen again. Even as an adult. I sometimes feel as though I dodged a bullet – how much further would he have gone had he had the chance? 40 years later, I still get disgusted and nervous around men who look like he did. Dirty old man…

Another thing started happening probably a year or so after this. My brother used to make sexual advances towards me. He would ask me to perform strip shows for him, sneak up on me while I was getting changed. God, I hated him for it. The one sibling I had who I thought would protect me from my mother’s drunken stupidity turned out to be a creep. He left home when I was 13 or 14, so I fortunately never had to face how deviant he may have been. I’ve had no contact with him since the early 90’s, and I’m still so angry he treated me that way. I don’t know how to describe it. I feel almost…guilty? But, logically I know that, at 11 – 12 years old, what did I do to feel guilty about? Lead him on? Hell no.

And just when I thought I was “adult” enough to recognize the sketchy ones, I had a neighbour, about 15 years ago, who was absolutely convinced I should be flattered that he “chose” me to hit on regularly. He said to me “you know, if you didn’t have so much baggage, we would date” (not “should” – “would”, as though why would I ever refuse him?). He would make lewd comments about how I didn’t have a boyfriend, and thought he would be perfect as a “Mr. Right Now” for me (even though he had a girlfriend). He made me feel so uncomfortable, really cheap, you know? I remember I had gone away for a work trip once, and his girlfriend looked after my cats for me while I was away. He stole a pair of my underwear. He did allude to it. But I knew he had taken them. What a creep…Always a step away from doing something. He treated women like they should be honoured he paid attention to them, he had outdated views on women (he said once that our landlady’s granddaughter, who was probably only around 8 at the time, would “never get a boyfriend if she grew up to be chubby and didn’t pay attention to her weight and looks”). I know I was never able to stand up to him because of all the crap I endured. I could go on forever about some of the things he’d say. I avoided him like the plague…as much as I could anyway.

I’m surprised I ever got married. We had a terrible sexual relationship – I hated it. I’ve always preferred my own company, I don’t want to take the time to get to know any man – in the end, there is always something that they will do to shatter your trust and your self-esteem. I’ve always wondered if things would have been different had I not been violated at 10 years old, or if my brother hadn’t been such a perv. Would I have been better able to deal with the unwanted advances of my neighbour? Would I have been able to have normal relationships with men?

Why, after all these years, do I still feel ashamed because of the actions of these individuals? Yet, I do. To the point I don’t even feel as though I have the right to call it “abuse”. I’m sad I never had anyone to protect me. Sad I had no one I could tell. I truly feel, to this day – who wants to hear my sob story anyway? Boo hoo, Brigitte.

How dare they do this to me. How dare they change the course of my life, the person I was meant to be, and make me feel so, so insignificant. Even after 40 years.

You are the first people I have told.

Author

WYR

WYR

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

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