And the worst part? My family took his side.
*Trigger Warning*: non-explicit mention of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and secondary trauma.
He hurt me on a fall afternoon in the nineties. I was seventeen and he was more than two decades older. Everyone knew him from his job at the local hospital, a highly educated professional who wore tailored suits to work. I doted on him.
Though he wasn't my real father, his presence still meant a lot to me. I looked up to him. I longed for him to be proud of me and love me like daddies love their little girls. But everything changed that day.
My first year living on my own (with the state's help), my son, who could barely walk, and I lived on $300 a month — not enough money to do much of anything. Needless to say, things were constantly getting turned off. That day, I had no power. I needed help, so I reached out to the only person I felt I could trust: my dad.
Although embarrassed, I swallowed my pride and called him. My voice trembled as I spoke to him, "Hi Dad, I need your help. My lights got turned off."
"Oh, kid," he sighed. "How much do you need?" I told him and then paused.
"I don't have the money now, but I'll give it back to you on the first."
"Don't worry about it, brat. I'll be by in an hour to take you to the power company."
My anxiety subsided; he saved the day again, like many times before. I could depend on him. He was my dad, after all. Why wouldn't I trust him?
He watched me grow from the time I was three years old. He tucked me in at night, bandaged my boo-boos, and wiped my tears when I cried. I loved him but soon, I saw he loved me differently.
Like clockwork, he arrived at my apartment and honked the horn. Happy to see him, I jumped in and kissed him on the cheek.
"Thanks, Dad. I promise I'll pay you back."
"Don't worry about it, brat." He repeated, then chuckled.
I gazed out of the window as he hummed to a distant jazz melody. The ride was short. He paid the bill but I had to wait a few hours for my power to be turned on. He offered to drop me at his house to wait. I accepted.
"Thank you, Dad. I really appreciate it. I'll pay you back ASAP."
"You know, I thought of a way for you to pay me back." He glanced at me then tugged at his ear.
"OK, how?" I responded with a slight smile.
His pause made things weird; I felt everything move in slow motion, shades of memory. The year before, he tried to show me some photos that were hidden above the kitchen cabinet. He took them down, but apparently changed his mind at the last minute. I felt the same butterflies in my stomach.
He stuttered, "I... I..."
My eyes were glued to his lips, "What, Dad?" I laughed nervously.
He was silent once again as he turned into his driveway and then parked the car. He looked at me with a crooked smile, then spoke.
"I'm wondering if we can exchange oral sex."
My heart sank. I felt disgusted. My eyes filled with tears. "What?!" I could hardly catch my breath.
He repeated himself, this time his voice lower and steadier as he asked, "I'm wondering if we can exchange oral sex?"
Tears strolled down my cheeks as I searched for my father's likeness in his eyes. Who was this stranger? I wanted to punch him but pain consumed me. I became immobilized. Eventually, anger filled my belly like fire and assisted my roar.
"NO!" I sobbed. He tried to explain, but I could no longer look at his face. I wanted to get away from the shell of a man I used to call my daddy. He grabbed my arm. I ripped it away and jumped out of the car. He ran behind me.
"Wait, sweetheart. I'm so sorry." It was too late. The girl he watched grow disappeared into the darkness. Only despair remained in my hollowness.
"What did I do? Why would you say that to me?" I sobbed.
"Well..." he paused. "Your mom told me some things about you."
Again, that horrible woman had betrayed me. It seemed she reveled at the fact that anyone could love me. Now she had taken away the only dad I knew. I hated her.
"What could she have possibly said to you?" He had no words. I waited; I wanted to know.
"Look, I'm sorry." He hurried past me and unlocked the door. "I have to go." He shuffled to his Ford SUV and drove off.
He left me standing there, my heart shredded into a million pieces.
Things would never be the same.
He was no different than the man who raped me in Mississippi while I slept. The pain was the same. My body cringed at the thought of him entering me.
I wanted to rid myself of the pain, but it had no exit. I clawed at my chest and paced as my thoughts wandered. Was I ever his daughter — or was he just waiting for me to grow old enough to f*ck? Had he always looked at me that way? Why me?
His words stuck to me like glue. I felt filthy. My skin burned and I scratched harder. I wanted to forget but couldn't.
"God," I pleaded. "Please take me. Dying is easier." I waited, but nothing happened. My depression grew deeper.
I told my family. They made excuses and then acted like it never happened. They blamed me. They said I dressed too sexy. I believed them, even though I knew they were wrong. I stopped coming around. They told me to try harder. I could no longer pretend.
I resented him but I resented them more for supporting his monstrous behavior. I lost myself that fall afternoon. Fragments of my brokenness remain. No one utters a word of that day.
My tenderness took a backseat to his sickness. I guess it's easier to blame the victim.
This article was originally published at rachelintheoc.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.