Do you know what’s the biggest mistake when discussing sexual abuse and rape? To give a boogeyman’s face to anyone who commits this crimes.
From what I’ve learned from life and with YOU CAN SCREAM*, this person does not look like a human scum. He has no color, social layer or religion. He smiles. He is friendly and generally adored by everyone around him. Above all suspicion, he goes into your house and pleases you. And worse: you can even like him while he destroys your life.
“It took me twenty years to write this letter.
I want you to have an understanding of the much you destroyed me and so, I will reconstitute the most relevant moments that your selfishness may have made you forget.
I often say that smiles on portraits hide big lies. And in our family, the lie laid on its composition. There weren’t five smiling faces, but only four of them. My father used our home as a dormitory, arriving late at night and leaving early in the morning. He would paid the bills, give birthday presents and check the school reports and in his mind, the mission was accomplished. He never asked if we were happy, whether we liked the new school, who our friends were. He’d rather not spending his vacation with us, despite my insistence. And would arrive on our birthdays just in time not to miss the photo that would be in the living room portrait. I begged for love and he replied that he was busy.
My parents split up.
A few years later, you arrived. My mother was thrilled, the dining table finally had its chairs all occupied and the house was happier. But mainly: you cared. You asked about feelings, friendships and flirts. To my complete joy, you even used to drive us to school sometimes. Finally, like all the other children, I did have a paternal figure. Completely out of standard, but who cared? You were funny and loved to tickle us. We laughed till our sides hurt.
When I turned fourteen, your started to tickle me on my groin. I did not tell anyone, but stopped laughing.
Unlike other teenagers the same age, I was a girl. My body was skinny and I didn’t even have to wear braces. I played with Barbies and my room was full of Teddy Bears. When I turned fifteen, my breasts began to grow and you started to touch them every dawn, entering my room and getting excited while I pretended to sleep. I knew you looked at me during the day, too. Since I was not allowed to lock my room’s door, I covered its keyhole with Hello Kitty stickers so you would not spy on me while changing clothes. But during the night, the house heavily sleeping, I had no defenses. To be able to feel minimally clean, I would rub my body with a bushing during the shower. But in my hope that this was only a nightmare, I kept on liking you.
Some mechanism that I will never understand made my memory erase what I did not want to remember. And I kept confiding my feelings to you and becoming envious when you complimented me by saying that I was clever and beautiful. Do you know why I never told anyone? Because I believed I had seduced you by liking you. A kind of unintentional Lolita. And the guilt, then, could only be mine. As a cretin, you disregarded that I told you all my secrets because I needed a father. It was at this age that I started smoking. My way of screaming and crying for help was to have antagonistic behavior: I was a only girl, but smoked cigarettes. No one understood. Soon after, I started smoking marijuana and yelling “Hello, I smoke marijuana!” But I only turned into a rebel without a cause. At least she was able to get me out of the bizarre reality with which you returned the trust I placed on you.
When I turned sixteen, I wanted to learn to drive. Again, my father was not there and you offered to teach me. Always there, ready to fill my paternal needs. “Let’s go and then we’ll have an ice cream.” I never imagined that you would eat that banana split in a motel, after rubbing yourself on top of me. There, you inaugurated a habit: to take every opportunity alone with me, far from home, to act as you pleased. The longer time passed by without me denouncing you, the more accomplice I was. Increased the guilt and reduced the courage. And just like that, you were holding me into your web. How could I leave? “Do not forget, we were just having ice cream as you wanted.” So I stayed, each time more entangled in your web.
For the entire society, you were a perfect human being. Funny, intelligent, a multinational director, full of friends. Only I knew how your face would became transfigured when alone with me. You shouted, gave orders with that glazed look filling me with dread. And I kept on erasing my memory to survive.
I despise you for all the years tickling my groin, every night touching my body and for all the motels in which you took me in. But I despise you especially for the night when, offering a ride after work, you took me to that famous square, turned off the car engine, slipped your hand under my skirt and when I threatened to scream, you said : “You can scream, no one will hear you.” I screamed. And no one heard me. Until today, these words make me shiver: “You can scream, no one will hear you.”
You thought it would last forever, but fate gave me – finally – someone who encouraged me. And I told my mother how throughout my teenager years you abused me. It lasted forever just the way you destroyed us both, though we pretended not to. And you were thrown out of her house, not without threatening us if we ever told the truth. I could never scream, indeed, regardless of your threat. After all, in a family with economic and intellectual status, members of a small religious community, everyone has obligation to perfection and smiles on portraits.
Today, in spite of you, I embrace people. In spite of you, who made my breasts insensitive, I nursed my children. In spite of you, I can look at pictures of my youth, even though I prefer not to keep any of them with me. And because of you, until today, I do not scream. It’s been a while since I last heard from you. I hope from the bottom of my heart that you have gone to the place where I always wished you were: to hell!”
* My nonprofit project in Brazil which aid in the recovery of sexual abuse victims, giving them voice by writing their stories. Like the one above.
(Cover image: iasexpress.net)