I’m not sure if I was four or five when my uncle began raping me.
I was with my Grandmother that year. My mother had her jaw broken by one of her ‘men of the moment’ and while she recuperated we were shipped off to Annapolis for what turned out to be a lot longer than anticipated. I didn’t mind. I loved my Grandmother and I was indisputably her favorite. My Grandfather was both terrifying and temperamental. He associated me with my mother, who was at the very least a disappointment, and so as long as I stayed out of his way he ignored me. My Grandmother had a second batch of kids after my mother was a teen. My uncle was nine or ten years older than I was, and I worshiped him. My aunt, who was only a few years older than I had to share her room with me and my younger sister. Her resentment at the loss of space, and Grandmother’s attentions, were a constant reminder that we did not belong there.
My uncle built robots and lived in the attic. It was a den of all sorts of strange delights and dark secrets and was far more welcoming than the hostile space I shared with my aunt. Looking back, I realize what a dorky and awkward teenage boy he was, but at the time, I thought he was perfect. I would sit at his feet for hours and listen to his endless talk about science fiction. I don’t remember the first time he raped me. I just know that it began then. I know Grandmother caught him doing something to me and made a rule that we weren’t allowed in the attic alone together. She refused to believe what was happening, and her inability to face the stark reality of his actions meant that it they were allowed to perpetuate for the next four years.
My mother was ill equipped and unready to parent two small girls. She left us with my Grandmother frequently and at one point my grandparents moved to California to stay with us for a year while she went off to Europe. I’m sure she had her reasons, but for that year, I was raped nightly by my uncle who was now a senior in high school. I still loved him, I still worshiped him, but I knew what he was doing to me was wrong. I would dread going to bed and his nightly visits. Even if I pretended to be asleep, he would pin me, cover my mouth and penetrate me. I had the basic fundamental knowledge of the birds and the bees and I knew I was too young to care for a baby. I didn’t actually know that I couldn’t have one yet; I just knew he wasn’t supposed to be doing that to me. I told him to stop. I told him I would tell if he didn’t. His response was to tell me that if I stopped “playing our nightly games” he would have to play them with my younger sister.
I summoned the courage to tell my Grandfather that my uncle was “trying to have a baby with me.”
My Grandfather beat him senseless and the rapes finally stopped.
When I was sixteen I furiously confronted my mother about leaving me alone with my abuser when she invited him to stay at our house for Christmas. My mother claimed not to have known. My beloved Grandmother said that I was lying and being ‘difficult’. My Grandfather said nothing. When it finally came out as the truth, the person who was blamed was me.
I had seduced him. I had enticed him. I had been provocative. My mother pointed to a picture taken when I was twelve. I stand with my hands on my hips and a ‘come hither’ expression. Lolita, she said. I was the blamed one. I was the bad seed.
My mother, the narcissist, made everything about her and true to form created a constant crisis to fuel her dramatic personae. She milked the events of my childhood for the next twenty years and used every family gathering as an opportunity to rehash what had been ‘done to her’. She blamed all my problems on the rapes. They absolved her of any blame attached to her poor parenting skills.
I was addicted to drugs in my late teens.
Childhood survivors of sexual abuse are four times more likely to develop a drug problem and six time more likely to use cocaine*.
I was promiscuous as many survivors often are*. I suffered from an eating disorder. I was raped several more times in my twenties and was sexually assaulted at work more times than I can count.
Childhood sexual survivors are six more times likely to be raped in their twenties.*
Why didn’t I report any of them? Because as a victim, a child no less, I was the one blamed. Because each time I acted out, or something else happened, my family returned to the ‘Blame Gretchen’ game. I was at fault. That was the only thing that made sense because that meant they didn’t have to look at their own behavior. They didn’t have to look at what they had done or not done. I learned from my first assault that any time I pointed at the perpetrator and said “UNFAIR!” they were going to do everything in their power to make me the scapegoat. If you are powerless, then the chances of being able to be heard are slim indeed. If you are the one holding the power then the chances of being held accountable by a victim are equally unlikely.
“Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who “tell” and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems often lasting into adulthood.” www.Chauciesplace.org
There are so many women like me. Women who have spent their lives battling the demons who live inside them after that first rape, that first assault, that first time of being blamed for being a victim. I have seen a therapist for half my adult life. I have been treated for PTSD for much of that time. What happened to me has affected my whole life. It has cost me unfathomable amounts of money and suffering and decades of time to get to a place where I want to get out of bed most mornings.
Childhood survivors of sexual abuse are four times more likely to develop PTSD.*
I never reported any of my rapes. I have never had restorative justice. I am one of five women in the United States who has been raped. I am one of the 81% of women who has been sexually assaulted. I am one in four girls who has been sexually abused*. I am not asking to prosecute my rapist now, four plus decades after the fact. I am not asking for a criminal investigation. I am not asking to try this in a court of law. What I am asking for is for the men in the room to understand why we don’t tell. I’m asking for people to understand the lifetime implications of sexual abuse. My childhood rapist has had a brilliant career at the top of his field. I have spent well over one hundred thousand dollars in decades of therapy. I suffer from PTSD. I suffer from depression. I have issues with trust in my relationships with men.
Should there be a statute of limitations?
Should there be justice for what happened to me as a child?
You tell me. I am tired of the comments of men telling me to “get over it” or “it was a long time ago” or “you have no proof. “ I am tired of being ‘mansplained’ as to why it is not fair to bring this up now and threaten the livelihood of a man who has gone decades without prosecution. I am equally tired of the men who tell me that I have no accurate memory of the event or it is ‘not fair.’ You are so right. It wasn’t fair for a child of five, and now fifty, to live with the consequences of a crime that was not of her own making or her own volition. It is equally unfair to say that a young man is not responsible for the crime he commits.
I don’t know what I will do in the future about my abuser. I do know that I have paid for it my whole life. I do know that right now I stand with the women who accuse Brett Kavanaugh and I want to have their story heard and want a full FBI investigation. We all should be willing to hear their story and we should all want to know the truth. We are potentially confirming a Supreme Court Justice who is part of the pattern of sexual assault from my generation. Our country deserves better than this. I deserve better than this, Christine Blasey Ford and her fellow victims, deserve better than this. The women who never reported deserve better than this.
This is not a political issue. This is an issue of our time. I am that person who votes on both sides of the aisle and is the face of childhood sexual abuse. Ask yourself what you would do if I were your daughter, your sister, your wife, your friend. Would you ask for an investigation or would you want a man confirmed to the highest court of our land who was complicit in the same crime as my uncle?
Where do we stand now? Are we a nation who values all our citizens? Who protects our vulnerable?
Ask yourself what you believe. And then stand for that.
*For statistics please go to:
Excellent post Gretchen;,thank you for telling your story. I respect your courage in speaking out.
Wow. Thanks for sharing. I love you.
I am sorry this happened to you. I am sorry that has happened to other children & adults. I read this and associated much of this with myself. And yes, she needs to bring this forward. No one should take a high office that governs the public with that background. And in the meantime he could use a beating from your grandfather. Namaste
In his own way your Grandfather cane to the rescue but no adult should ever ever be silent at the smallest suspicion of abuse! The gut … if you feel it there… listen and it’s a call to action.
Gretchen I’m sorry you are carrying this with you. You are amazingly strong and brave. You turned out friggin awesome!