I am not supposed to tell you any of this, but I am going to anyways.
Woman :: Liar
Dread pools in my legs like lead. I feel guilty and like I’m wearing a perpetual badge that says: I was molested; take advantage of me. Years later I won’t even remember what time of year it was, but it seems like it was summer—I just remember that I wore my pale blue polka-dot blouse. I choose it carefully. It helps obscure my form, my breasts, any symbol that might remind others that I am a sexual being. I can’t bear for anyone to have those kinds of thoughts about me.
My brother’s therapist meets me in the waiting room. His rotund face gives me the impression that he shelters a deep-seated hate towards someone, or something. His thick hands enclose around mine as he greets me with insincere compassion. I know because his eyes flash with disgust as his smile lines deepen.
“Can I get you anything—coffee, water?” he asks.
“No thanks.” I answer. You can’t be beholden to these types for anything. I feel his disdain for me. It’s the same kind of disdain I experienced in the youth group of this church. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the reason they disliked me was because I felt something was off—and it wasn’t God, it was them. Their hypocrisy made the deep pit inside me fill with what felt like burning acid and dread. Memories of attending church youth group came rushing back like a tidal wave as I sit in my brother’s therapist’s office clenching my hands under my thighs until they turn white.
“Hi! We’re SO GLAD—Thank you Jesus!—that you came tonight!” Their insidious glee repulsed me. I knew they hated me, and yet they upheld the façade. At the time I thought I was too inherently evil to be acceptable to these church-people. But really, they probably treated me with unveiled disdain because on some level I rebuffed their bullshit. I watched as their plastic smiles faltered. The way their jaws clenched in disgust and rage. The way they laid heavy hands on me—too heavy to be righteous.
My therapist and I had prepared for what I would say to my brother. The truth I would finally dislodge from my insides. My finale purge. The only clear memory I have out of my abuse involves him. I can still see it—clear as day; yet still to this day, I worry that I “made- it-all-up,” because maybe I am what these people have told me my entire life; crazy. Despite my utter lack of self-esteem, and my absolute bankruptcy of self-love. I know I am telling the truth. The problem is, I just wish that it wasn’t the truth. I haven’t accepted it yet.
My brother is seated across from me. His presence is heavy and it feels like I have an anvil on my chest. My heart is hammering so fast I am afraid it will explode. I feel sick to my stomach. His hands clench at his sides intermittently until his fingers turned white, I fear his white-knuckled rage. I clear my throat. Surprised at the sound my body makes. Is that really my body making that sound? I laugh nervously, trying to distract everyone from knowing how the shame of what my brother has done to me cuts me do deeply I haven’t felt it on a conscious level since the day it began. It is a scarlet shame that mars my thoughts, my dreams, and my body.
It’s time. My therapist nods her head and I tell my brother that I remember everything. That I remember what he did. I tell him details. I concentrate on the words—to get them out of my mouth. They will die inside me if I don’t say them. I push back the gnawing shame. It shrieks in me, begging me not to tell. I’m desperate not to feel like I am walking into a room naked every time I see my brother, or into any room for that matter. I don’t know if confronting him will change that feeling, but it will unburden my spirit of a sin I am not responsible for—no matter what he, or others might, or have said.
My brother’s counselor soothes my brother with his calming directive.
“Stay calm, just let her finish.”
I don’t know it now, but later on I will find out that he has told my brother that “girls over the age of eleven only say they have been sexually abused for attention.” It will become part of the narrative my brother and his wife will use against me even fifteen years later. They will develop their narrative to include imagined fears, insults, and even criminal acts that they believe I have committed against them.
Because I am not supposed to tell, remember? I am not supposed to tell or something very bad will happen to me.
And you know what—they were right.