06.01.12 Truth & Wisdom
BY Megan Molina
My molestation was also one of incest, by my brother. Being only two years older than me, I was very close with him, so you can imagine the deception I felt when the glamorized older brother and protector facade was shattered for me. I remember, as do most survivors, almost every event which took place over that five year period.
I remember clear as day the very first incident. I was 10 years old and it began with the most innocent of kisses (looking back now, I find it amusing that I was betrayed with the same gesture as Jesus). After kissing me and just before we went out for a barbeque with the rest of my family, he asked that I keep it a secret. Considering my mom and dad kissed to show their love, I thought it odd for me to be asked to keep it a secret. Nevertheless, I agreed. For a majority of the beginning, it was just kissing.
Throughout the course of five years, the only thing that was left intact by the end was my virginity. Yes, as all have asked, at some point I realized it was wrong. It took about three years from the starting point for me to really grasp that. I was raised in a very protective and conservative Catholic household. Our innocence and imagination was the main thing protected, so the conversation of sex was only discussed as a reason for reproduction.
It was when I was 13 years of age that I really began to understand what it was that was being done to me. There is a level of trust given to a family member of that level. I wanted my brother to love me. He had always had a closer relationship with my younger sister that I always envied. I wanted him to be my guardian, my confidant, my buddy or at the very least, my brother. I continually pleaded in letter after letter for the normal relationship I longed for. In addition, I had a constant return of hope. I continually hoped that one day it would change, that one day my obvious sorrow would be more than enough reason to stop. Lastly, my biggest reason, greater than all the others: I was afraid of him telling someone that it was my fault or alternately going after my younger sister. Instead, I remembered lying there night after night, playing stiff as a board and trying to act as though the sudden rigor mortis in my body was a result of my sudden state of exhaustion and sleep.
Throughout therapy, I kept having reoccurring dreams of this. I kept seeing these words also flash into my mind in glowing letters: CLASSIC ROCK, JAZZ, COUNTRY… I later came to realize those were the letters on my brother’s stereo, the only form of light in his room. My only means of distraction and safe place was to lose myself in thought, to transport to anywhere else. It was my memory suppressing tool, so I learned a key to my secret vault I hid so far away in my mind.
One day, my mom came and picked me up from school to play hooky as she often did, offering to have a girl’s lunch and then go shopping. Now, I do not remember how the conversation came about, but what I do remember is my mother telling me that when she was a young girl, she was molested by her grandfather. My mother recalled that she had made a vow as a child to keep the incident a secret from her parents. She remembered thinking that since this man was her father’s flesh and blood, she refused to cause irreparable damage. After that story, I vowed I would never reveal my story to her or anyone. There was no way I could tell my mother that her first born, a being conceived from love, had hurt me in the same manner in which she had been hurt. I swore that I would take it to the grave.
Soon, I gave up on writing letters and instead focused on new tactics to decrease the desire to attract attention to myself as means of a sexual outlet. I tried to make myself appear ugly as a scheme to repel him. I knew I had achieved the “ugliness” I was going for when the teasing and torment began at school. Girls can be relentless. The painful battle of existing and fighting the easy solution of just giving up started. The hurt and pain was coming at me in every aspect of my life.
I turned to church at some point. Seeking safety in the one constant in my life, God, I turned to him as a daughter to her father. I never remember asking for him to make it stop – to me that seemed to unobtainable – but rather to give me the strength to endure it. I asked God for forgiveness in my heart for my brother, I asked him for love. I begged for him to protect the rest of my family, to protect my sister and to only let me be the victim. I began attending regular church retreats, using my faith as a shield. In intense moments of silent prayer, I found myself uncontrollably in tears, not understanding my own body’s need to express it sorrow and hurt. I became more lost than before. My innocence was gone, and I needed to mourn.
I began the tradition of wishing every year on my birthday for the molestation to stop. And then one day, it did. A feeling of courage I had never experienced arose; I realized that I was in charge of my own story. I refused to be the victim any longer. One evening, I was in the spa with him when he began to come onto me. I stood up and told him I was going inside. He begged me to stay, for reasons I believe to be the result of fear of what I might do. I turned to him, looked him dead in the eye and with five years of built up power and conviction, I said, “What? What? What could you possibly say or do now that could fix the hurt I will have for the rest of my life?” His look was astonished. He looked at me and said, “Megan, I have never told you this, I swear I will never touch you or hurt you again.” He was right, he never did. That was the day that changed my life. Never again would I have to fear the night; never again would I dread being left alone with him.
Two weeks later, my brother lost his virginity to some girl at prom. All I could do was cry when I had discovered that news. I was that close to being that girl.
Looking back now, I can see how my body gave so many obvious clues as to what was going on. I used to have continuous bladder infections that plagued me year after year. I was told by doctors that this was due to an oversized bladder and not relieving myself properly. Later after reading many similar stories, I learned that this often was an apparent sign of victims, since they were no longer comfortable touching themselves in the area in which they were being abused, it would not be cleaned properly. I also did not start my period until a year after the molestation stopped. I have come to understand that it was my body’s stress and trauma preventing it from occurring. Lastly, the year the molestation started, I had my first prevalent encounter with my palpitations and tachycardia, resulting in multiple heart surgeries. Once again I felt as though I had to be the strong shoulder for my family to rest their fearful heads on. If I showed fear or pain, how would they cope?
I had gone years without discussing with my story with anyone but my little sister. That is, until I began talking to my closest of friends about what had happened. A few accepted me – the truth did not change their view of me, but instead it seemed to make them understand me better. Some couldn’t understand – they thought it was a choice or that I was doing something to welcome the act. The worst part of all this for me was how amazed I became by how many beautiful young ladies had fallen into the same path as me, some worse. I learned that no one discussed it. It was a dirty dark secret swept under the rug of shame. All these girls were afraid to share their stories, in fear of being labeled with a red “M” on their chests, so to speak.
I also discovered that by talking about it, I began the long road of recovery. So many girls that I had spoken with had used sex, drugs or suicide attempts as coping mechanisms to numb and deal with the pain left behind, continuously streaming like a bad movie . I just never found those as an option for me. Those outlets only would make me more of a victim. I wanted to survive and stop any other girl from getting hurt.
It was at the age of 17 that my world radically changed again. It was 3 days after New Year’s and my parents rounded my younger sister, my brother and myself up for a family meeting. My father had spent all day reading over internet articles discussing incest among siblings after finding out from my uncle, who had overheard my sister talking about “the secret” on Christmas. We all sat upstairs in my parents’ bedroom on the floor. My parents sat in front facing us, and then there was my brother in the middle holding both my sister’s and my hand. We were preparing for something else entirely. I knew my parents were having money problems, so we sat there waiting to hear that we would be moving. The three of us had not at all imagined the sentences that would follow next.
“I spoke with your uncle today. He told me something that was very disturbing.” He started very slowly, as if waiting for someone else to fill in the blanks. “He talked to your cousin.” Again my father paused, but this time looked directly at my sister, who was now as pale as a ghost and in tears. Suddenly it hit me like an electrical shock sent throughout every limb in my body. I took one second to squeeze my brother’s hand; in that exact moment, I pitied him. His whole world was about to fall apart and he had no idea the gravity of what was to be my dad’s next sentence.
“Your uncle told me about the incest… or ‘experimentation’ that went on in this house when you were kids.” I looked at my brother, who now had a matching complexion of my sister. He squeezed my hand back. My sister sobbed even harder. I stared steadily ahead.
He decided to talk to us about what he believed had happened. My sister (whom had only ever been kissed once by my brother) explained to my father in between gasps for air that he “did not want this to happen”. I was left to explain the rest as she was brought to a state of shock. I tried to explain to my parents in as little detail as possible what really happened. That forever changed my father. My parents gave me the choice of having my brother leave the house. He let go of my hand and began to cry. Being only 17 years old, I felt as though that was too heavy of a decision for a child to make. There was no way I could handle the gravity of that decision. Knowing that I had promised myself that I would protect my family – my brother included – from this terrible incident, I chose to keep the family together. I took it upon myself to act as the glue to hold my family together.
For my father, being an extremely devout Catholic and having me as Daddy’s little girl, he was torn. It took tons of talking with my parents and a promise that each child would attend therapy for them to even be able to begin their road to recovery. My parents turned to the church for their healing. That was a journey I understood all too well.
At the age of 20, I moved out of the house for a brief period of time in order to aid in my own self-discovery and healing. It took a couple years of therapy for me to start to come into my own as a woman and a survivor. It was best for everyone that I went through the stages of healing away from the family. There is so much darkness to the beginning and middle part of therapy, as well as healing; I didn’t want them to be a part of that. I knew that that girl was not a part of me, so I did not want them to have that violence and anger as a part of their memory of me.
When I finally did choose to have sex for the first time at the age of 20, I was grateful that it was with a man that was also a virgin so he knew no different than to just learn how to deal with my nerves, fears and flashbacks. There were so many triggers that I didn’t even know I had. Sex was the only thing not taken from me. I still had a choice as to whom I would give that gift. Even now, I have learned that I cannot so casually engage in sex. I need to have a relationship in which I can openly discuss my story with my partner. I need him to know that if I react poorly to a certain touch or phrase, that it is not his fault. It is a continuous trial and error experiment.
Over the years, I have continued to talk about my story, learn from others, engage in prayer, attend group meetings for survivors, advocate for the youth and read tons of survivor books. Every single day I learn something new about my inner strength, but the biggest lesson I have learned on my road to recovery is forgiveness. This does not at all mean forgetting, but rather it allows you to let yourself relinquish the kind of hold that your perpetrator has over you. The lack of forgiveness does not give you power – it actually does the opposite. Instead, you end up spending most of your time dwelling in hurt and anger, making you once again the repetitive victim. So choose to forgive.
I realized through time and therapy that my brother is no longer the boy he was, but now a man who is deeply saddened by the gravity of my hurt. This may not be the case for all survivors. I understand that it is not my job or duty to punish him. He is sorry, so I had a choice: stay mad at him while only hurting him with the memories I so vividly clung to as fuel to my anger, or forgive him and give the chance for the relationship I longed for. I only ever wanted the classic big brother, little sister relationship. Now is my chance. Forgive, because holding onto it only makes me a victim, not a survivor.
Featured image by vanz on Flickr