In Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself, April is a lounge-singer who drinks too much. After her 16-year-old niece Jennifer is almost raped by April’s abusive, married lover Raymond, April knows Raymond has lied to her because she recognizes the terrified look in Jennifer’s eyes.
Her Colombian handy-man Sandino stopped the assault with a baseball bat. He protected Jennifer, and he went to the lounge to find April getting drunk. He looks at the hard shell April has constructed to protect herself and tells her she’ll never heal until she ends the cover up of her own experiences of sexual molestation by her mother’s boyfriend Lee.
I felt like I’d been hit in the solar plexus. For over a week, I have been battling a severe PTSD episode that surfaced my own flashbacks and nightmares of incest and sexual molestation.
I lost my innocence while visiting my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Johnny. I must have been between ages 12 and 14. Uncle Johnny noticed that I had started to blossom into a woman. My breasts were tiny buds. His tone was greedy and lustful. I didn’t understand. I was mortified. Why was Uncle Johnny talking about my breasts?
He told Aunt Ruth to dress me in one of his freshly laundered and starched white shirts. She complied and disappeared into their bedroom. He ordered me to remove my panties. I had been conditioned to obey my elders and to do as I was told. He ordered me to twirl around and then to come over to his chair.
His hand grabbed my bare behind and pulled me closer. He grabbed my wrist and dragged me into their spare bed room.
He shoved his meaty hand between my thighs and pried them apart. I felt his fingers rubbing me. I was terrified. What was happening? Why?
I heard Aunt Ruth say, “leave her alone.” But, he didn’t. And, she didn’t stop him.
Uncle Johnny knelt on the floor and leered up at me with the most evil grin. He forced my legs further apart. His tongue was in my vagina. I didn’t know I had a vagina. I sure as hell didn’t know what it was for. I felt his disgusting tongue lick and thrust and lick and thrust. Why wouldn’t he stop? What was he doing? Why didn’t my Aunt Ruth make Uncle Johnny stop?
I would be 32 years old before I fully understood what had happened that night. If done to an adult, consenting woman, it is called cunnilingus. When done to an innocent, young girl, it is called incest and sexual molestation. A crime. A felony.
I have told my therapists that I was molested. But, I never shared the details. I never shared that it was my father’s sister who served me up on a silver platter to her perverted husband. She should have protected my innocence, but she didn’t. She conspired to enable him to commit a felony.
I didn’t understand or appreciate until years after they were both dead how this one night created so much devastation in my life. I just knew that trust is nearly impossible for me. I am terrified of being intimate and run from any man who gets close. I am as prickly as a porcupine. I leave my television on 24/7 to help block the flashbacks and nightmares.
In time, I began to see the links between this criminal breach of trust and my experiences of sexual harassment at work, domestic violence, dating abuse, and stalking.
At my father’s memorial service, one of his students who had become an ordained minister gave the eulogy. I cannot fathom why he thought it was appropriate to share two stories with my mother, my sisters, and me. He thought they were funny. Everyone laughed. I was mortally embarrassed and horrified.
He told how my father, who taught high school agriculture to the boys in our small, rural community, took a car full of boys to a convention in Kansas City. As they approached the city limits, my father pointed out the various bill boards advertising strip clubs. He told the boys the strip clubs were near the hotel where they would be staying. He knew they would defy his orders not to go. When they returned to the room after visiting the strip clubs, he asked them if they’d had a good time. My father was a notoriously light sleeper. I know he knew they’d left their hotel room. They did too.
He told how my father had advised the boys that given the alternative between crashing their cars and getting a girl pregnant that they should opt for the latter as it would have fewer consequences. My father had a deep, intimidating voice. He could cut anybody down with a look. He had a reputation for striking fear into the hearts of recalcitrant students.
Fathers are supposed to protect and defend their daughters’ honor. Yet, my father had served me up on a silver platter to the boys in my class. I was shattered. Absolutely devastated.
As much as I wish I had never heard these stories, they helped me appreciate why my father never held my uncle accountable. They helped me appreciate why he never called the judge to suggest he find a healthy, new hobby that didn’t involve stalking me or putting loaded guns to my head. They helped me to appreciate why he did nothing when his best friend, a retired Methodist minister, routinely cornered me in the kitchen to rub his body against me. My father had a huge club in the closet he hauled out every Halloween to terrorize the kids in the neighborhood, but he never used it to protect me from sexual attacks or violence.
I am devastated that nobody in my hundreds of relatives ~ people who claim to be my family ~ ever protected me from this abuse. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
The judge’s cleaning lady, who took me in when I was homeless, told me about spiritual families. It is very hard for me to accept that I must divorce myself from my “family.” But, I am not safe with them. I will never be safe with them. It is an exceedingly bitter pill for me to swallow.
But, swallow it I must. Like April, if I am to heal, I must break down those walls of silence that protect the people who have abused me. Or, I will spend the remainder of my life in the PTSD hell of nightmares and flashbacks.
When I started my Journey to Joy, I never dreamed I’d hit such a deep pot hole so quickly.