I never forget to scan my surroundings when I leave work at night, as I near my car I get my keys ready to plunge into the lock as quickly as I can. I look under the car as I approach—all clear. No one to cut my Achilles tendon as I get into my car. I read about a couple that cut their babysitters Achilles tendon when she was getting into her car. They eventually killed her—after hours of rape and torture. I read about in in a pediatric gastroenterologist’s office when I was eleven, before my first endoscopy. I remember feeling cold fear as I slipped off my clothes, pulling on a scratchy vomit colored gown. Freezing, as cold sweat prickled on my skin like needles, imagining what that babysitter must have gone through. The article said she had begged for her life to no avail—and somewhere inside me I understood that kind of fear and the realization that something very bad is about to—or has happened to you.

It’s been twenty-four years since I began looking under cars, behind bushes and making sure, I always have my keys ready, and eighteen years since the first time I remembered what terrible thing had happened to me, Before I would ever experience the violating plastic tubes of an endoscope or colonoscopy—or the blue gloved hands that would push in on all of my tender places as I lie crumpled with debilitating abdominal cramps, vomiting up bile—and I wonder just how connected those invasions were.

After fifteen years of intense therapy, introspection, and tear-filled confrontations with family members, legal threats, and extreme self-hatred, I can say: I go days, sometimes weeks, even months without remembering, I was ever sexually abused.

My Aunt says, “A soul is still a soul.” Her words shine like flashlights in me. Illuminating all of my dark hurting parts. I don’t want to see these predators, these human stains, as souls. I want them to be scraped off the planet, burned alive in a fire pit. I want them to feel—the pain I have felt from their actions, words, hands, even thoughts. Rage fills my veins, I feel desperate. I imagine him attaching me. I kick and spit at him, justified, self-righteous as I smash their invisible faces into the pavement. But the punishment, in those moments is never enough. Not for violating my peace, not for reminding me that I had to learn to forget…“A soul is still a soul.” Her words stir in me, but I don’t know why—I am truly justified in my feelings. I have a right to what I feel; no one would disagree with me. Her words remind me of mercy and pierce my darkness—reminding me that my legitimate hate, my righteous anger, is still operating out of the same evil that created my pain.