When i was a young girl, I was molested by a babysitter. Although I was only six, I remember every detail down to what I was wearing( a blue tank/shorts outfit with a big strawberry on the front), what was on the television, the orientation of the room, the food I ate that day… everything. I eventually told my mother and one thing led to another until I was sitting in a court room before a judge and jury as I shared my story. Even though three girls testified, the person responsible walked free. The whole thing has haunted me for years. I have nightmares and flash backs. For a really long time, I couldn’t even be in the same room as people who looked remotely like him.
This year in class, we had to write an autobiographical episode. As I am learning to deal with my past, I decided to finally openly share. Below is what I wrote:
The inquiry rendered her larynx immobile
A top the faux-pillars of law
As the demon’s champion demanded a name
With his crooked claw staggering out
He claimed no trickery.
Couldn’t he ask about the adorable flowered dress?
Or the way it bloomed as she twirled?
Maybe he should inquire about her long spiral tresses
And the alien smell of hairspray
Applied solely for this day.
Instead he tried to extract the memories
Of rough skin on soft knees
For the bud behind Disney themed underthings
And the intruding tongue in a mouth
Of baby teeth
The devil’s advocate wanted the title
Of the chimera in her nightmares,
The ribbon between her lips remained in knots
Double and triple tied as laces on her
Lucifer himself watched behind oak
As long as she remained silent-
Petrified by his gaze,
He would walk free.
As a child, I painted elaborate expectations in my head. Before my first soccer game, I imagined overwhelmed fans in a raised metal stadium cheering me on as I raced forward to kick the tie-breaking goal. I supposed they would paint their faces in my team colors and make up sing-song versions of my name. Imagine my surprise and subsequent heartbreak when I encountered lethargic parents, precarious plastic goal posts, and poorly watered field. My young mind worked in grand fantasies for everything including the “serious stuff.”
I was constantly shocked by the mundane and unspectacular aspects of life. This is especially true when I encountered the judicial system at the age of six. Before, I believed the law to be all knowing and perfect. Bad people are supposed to go to jail, and their victims are supposed to feel justice holding them up. In big court rooms, the judge bangs the gavel and all is right. That gavel is supposed to fix everything. Justice could never have protected me. I should have protected me and the others.
The court room I entered smelled like my great grandfather’s house. The air was musty with layers of dust, the kind of air that chokes you if you breathe too deeply. I wanted heavily polished hardwoods, but the faded blue carpet muffled the clicks of my shiny white shoes. I focused my vision on the fraying, purple covered chairs and tables better suited for a high school chemistry class than a trial. My family was not allowed in the room as I testified, because then the defense attorney could accuse them of coaching me. I was only six, but I remember the exact dress I wore. It was silky blue with yellow roses. As I inched my way to the stand, I pulled at the loose strings at the cuffs of the matching yellow cardigan my grandma bought me because she knew the courtroom would be cold. How did she know?
As I took my place on the slightly raised platform at the front of the room, I expected to place my hand on a bible. Mom told me it would be okay to swear this time, but instead of the lord’s book, the prosecutor asked me introductory questions. He asked me my name. The judge asked me my name. The defense attorney asked me my name. Maybe someone expected me to slip up on the only name I had, or maybe they wanted me to forget. At the end of the day, I wished I could forget. I wanted to cut a hole just below my ear and let the faces of the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the first police officer I met, and the man/monster bleed out onto the pillow with my name like draining the pus from an infected wound. That way I could forget all the men who could never scar me again, and pretend they never had.
By the time the defense attorney got up to question me, I could hardly talk. All these people, most of them strangers, now knew my darkest secret. They knew the way I tried to hide stained under things beneath my dirty socks in the hamper. They knew the result of his whispered threats. They knew I was a tattle tale, but even more, they knew I was unclean. I was the type of dirty you scrub until your skin bleeds but you cannot get rid of. I did not want him to force me to say it all again, just in case they had plugged their ears, but I told them all again anyway. I had no choice.
My lungs emptied out into the room again with every question. I tried to give this man his fill in hopes he would stop asking for more and more. Did my mom tell me to say this stuff? Did the other girl’s mom tell us to say this? Was I lying? No, no, no. I answered every question over and over again until my small frame shook from exertion. After a lifetime of question he finally asked me to simply tell the court the name of the accused.
This is the point where I wake up in a cold sweat. A decade and a half later and I can still feel the little girl sitting in that dungeon of a court room staring across the room at the boy in question. I can still feel his blue-eyed gaze boring into my skin causing all the muscles in my body to painfully spasm. I knew his name then, and I know his name now, but the difference happens to be that back when I sat in that room, I still believed he could hurt me. My six year old self feared that if she uttered his name, he would harm her mother, her sister, and they would all blame her. My chest still tightens at the thought of the defense attorney’s jubilant smile. He knew I could not say the name. For whatever reason he believed, he knew he would win this case.
The irony of my tale is I direct all of the anger and emotion inward until it becomes guilt I carry every day. I somehow failed to imprison a predator who not only hurt me, but hurt two other girls alongside me. He even acted upon a girl with Down syndrome, my friend Kayla. He went on to abuse four other girls until he finally went to jail. I feel guilty for all of it. I could not give anyone justice or protection all because I could not say his name during the trial. I shut down and started crying until the bailiff escorted me out.
A jury member said it was not that they did not believe something happened, they just did not know without a doubt that the charismatic boy who cried during the court proceedings was the one to act. I wish I could have shown them my insides and all the scar tissue. If I had just told them the name, I could have changed everything.
She could count that on her fingers
No need for toes for
a few plus a few more years
That beautiful girl with shinning eyes and beaming smile
The golden child with the golden hair.
Then you gave her scars to bear
Oh, that vile fruit of knowledge intended for
Those with a choice.
You stole her voice.
You marked her insides as vile,
Sullied by unknown sin
I have to carry this broken daughter of eve.
And you were barely 13.
Her + I= We,
We live on.
Needing both hands and
Both feet to count the years gone by
But clocks and calendars mean nothing When we sleep.
Your face creeps in night tremors.
The face that violated as is spewed lies
Into her pores until they sunk down
And down into her core
3+3+5 and 7+3= 21
21 years and I cannot fathom
I cannot forgive you (me.)
You dammed her, ruined her, but couldn’t bury me.
All I am is a torrent of anger, inconsolable emotion.
These fingers are no longer good for counting
But would serve to choke and mangle
Smash, claw, bruise
Instead I use them to write.
Logic tells me I was only six, but I cannot see through the lens of logic. All I know is the weight of feelings and memories. The little girl testifying is still me. We are one in the same and therefore I cannot excuse her mistake because of something as simple as age. More often than not, I envision my current 21 year old self going up to my six year old self right before walking into the court room and begging her to just say his name, say it and point across the room so everyone in the world would know of his actions. If she did it with confidence, he wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone anymore. She could have saved the world, or at least a few dozen people’s families.
There is no way for me to travel back in time to tell myself to just say the name, or even stop the event from happening in the first place. All I can do is work every day to lessen my guilt bit-by-bit. I have to tell myself I was the victim, not the perpetrator. I deserve to let this go. Today I start by doing the one thing I couldn’t back then.
His name is Gary.