Penetrating Innocence

I know that this one is pretty long and emotional but stick with it until the end. This is my story. That means this actually happen to me. I wrote this story a few years back (besides some updates). As some of you know I am teaching a class about writing through sexual abuse and I couldn't very well ask people to tell their story if I wasn't telling mine. So here it is the good, the bad, and the ugly. If there is anyone I have ever hurt out there please forgive me. - CL


Penetrating Innocence


Cherlnell Lane


I took a bath the night before and that was the last time I felt clean. I noticed that the bathroom was smaller to me than I remembered. I guess that should have been a sign. All of a sudden I could hardly move through the little room. It was like I was inside of a dollhouse. I chuckled at the thought, “Me inside of a dollhouse? Yeah right!” I didn’t like dolls let alone the “houses” they supposedly lived in. I could never understand why girls wasted their time with them. I looked in the mirror. I had grown, gotten taller, and filled out just as a sixteen-year-old should. The problem was that I was eleven. My D-cup bra served as proof that I was blessed with ample curves to share. Boys were starting to notice my shape. I knew this because their eyes wandered and lingered on certain places. Their gazes held something different when they looked at me that wasn’t there before.

I shook my head and turned my focus back to the room. It looked like the inside of a Pepto Bismol bottle - pink curtains, pink rugs, and pink walls. I mean even the toilet seat was pink!  My aunt was girly and her two daughters followed right behind her with petticoat dresses, Barbie dolls, and curls. As you could probably tell I was not girly, no scratch that, I was anti-girly! I couldn't stand dresses and I hated the color pink! That’s why my changing relationships with my male friends upset me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like being a girl, I just didn’t like girly things. I didn’t like the invisible rules or the separation that was taking place. Boys and I used to climb trees together. Now, they’re falling out of them because they are too busy looking at me. Women were always telling me to stop climbing trees, stop being so rough, and stop acting like a boy. But that is just it, I didn’t act like a boy, I was just being myself. As I looked behind the door to see what my aunt had left me to sleep in, I noticed that it was pink with ruffles on the collar. I sighed and then I put on my aunt’s pretty pink nightgown.

The next morning I woke up excited because it was a Saturday. After my stressful week dealing with school work, friends, bullies and my parents’ divorce, my plan was to sit around all day in my PJ’s watching cartoons. You know, we never know when our last moment of childhood will be. It comes out of nowhere like a flash. It’s interesting how things change in a matter of moments, seconds, minutes, or hours. Things that slowly deprived a childhood of the love and nourishment that it needs until there is nothing left but a shell that blows away in the wind. It never occurred to me that losing innocence comes with a cost. I couldn’t have guessed that I would start paying mine that day.

My uncle sat relaxed with his elbows resting on the dining room table. He and my aunt weren’t married, but he had been there since I could remember so he had earned the title, “uncle.” I smiled at him like he smiled at us when he chased us around the house making us giggle. I loved when he played music and we danced around the apartment. The smell of his morning drink of gin and juice attacked my nose and made me wrinkle up my face. It was usually an indication of...nothing. That is just it, I don’t remember him not drinking. It was normal. I don’t remember him being an angry drunk, but I do remember his face from time to time being frowned up like he was really upset about something. Not today though he smiled at me and I reciprocated. Galloping feet grabbed my attention as I slid under the table just in time for the younger children to run past.  

I was laying there watching TV when by some change in the current of neurons in my “uncle’s” brain made him decide to take his foot and put it under my gown. At first, I thought it was an accident. I didn’t pay it any mind the first two times. I thought that maybe his foot had slipped. Then, I realized what was happening. I felt my blood churn as his callused, roughened skin rubbed up against my leg, longer and further each time. I scooted away on the soft, beige carpet as my mind went through the denial that maybe I was in his way. That was until the further away I moved, the closer he got. He leaned back in his yellow chair and rolled it across the floor inching closer to me. It was silent as it glided across the fibers like an animal stalking its prey. If I could hear it maybe it would be a warning, a branch snapping under one’s foot alerting the pack, but there was no warning. When I couldn’t move over anymore, my legs were forced open by his lower extremities. My heart stopped as he entered me. The round firmness of his big toe expanded my young virgin walls. My heart hardened as he moved it in and out. My will was weakened and I was frozen in fear of what I am not sure. The shame and embarrassment that I felt lengthened the time and turned minutes into hours. Then five seconds after forever, it finally stopped. The whole time I laid there screaming inside hoping that someone would come and rescue me, remove me from this impossible situation. This impossible but happening situation. How was this happening? Maybe it wasn’t happening...maybe it was in my head? Maybe that’s why no one came? If only I could close my eyes and he would be gone. I closed my eyes but he was still there torturing me. The horrible feeling that was happening in my chest was still there. My heart was racing. I was mad that I was being violated, sad that it was someone I loved, and confused about why it was happening to me. 

I told my mother as soon as I saw her. My mom is the strongest, bravest, and smartest person I know. So I figured she would know what to do. She sat there while I told her looking out of the window. The more I spoke the more her face contorted and tears welled up in her eyes. Her hands, once resting calmly on the steering wheel were now balled up tiny fists gripping the wheel. I knew that she was hurt for me and that she was ready to go off on someone for her child! And she did. I just didn’t expect that person to be me. I was the person bombarded with questions that I just could not answer, "Why didn’t you run and scream? Why didn’t you tell your aunt? Why did you let him do that to you? What did you do?" I was told that there was going to be a talk with my aunt and I was to wait.

I thought up so many different outcomes to this problem that I had now caused. I thought that he would try to kill my mom or my aunt. That he would try to do this to another girl or even worst he would try to do it again to me. After about a month of constant nightmares, I went to my mom worried, asking what was going to be done. She sighed and went on to explain to me that the daughters that he produced should not be subjected to the embarrassment and ridicule of having a father that raped his niece with his big toe. So I broke down, “What about me” I thought. “What about my embarrassment?”  I didn’t understand. I was so confused.  Tears ran down my face and I almost fell to my knees. I wanted to scream! “Why was all of this happening to me? Wasn’t I too a child?”  Any ideas that I had that my age would matter were thrown out the window, ran over by a truck, and tossed in the gutter when my mother said, "What happened to you wasn’t nothing! I’ve had a lot worse happen to me. So suck it up and stop acting like a baby!" So I shut up and I shut down.

Even four years later, when I sat in front of what would be my first of many mental health therapists, I couldn’t bring anything up about it because I was warned that it was a private matter. That no one needed to know. Even when I could talk about it, I wouldn’t deal with it. I thought that talking about the rape without really talking about how it related to me was enough.

How my mother dealt with the situation and the fact that this was done to me by someone who I considered family set the standard. If I wasn’t safe at home, then where was I safe? If my mother couldn’t be bothered to protect me, then who? After that everything else was common practice like being used and abused by people in my life.

I become the statistic that everyone spoke about. I was fulfilling a prophecy put on me the very moment that my “uncle’s” skin touched mine. I was so hurt and confused by what happened to me, I felt unattractive. So when men approached me about sex, I was thrown so off guard that they even wanted to do something like that with me that I quickly did what they wanted before they changed their minds. I did what I could to make them happy because I thought that would, in turn, make me happy.

Six years after it was stolen from me, a poor, ignorant, misguided, girl on a dining room floor, I gave it away. Something I didn’t have. The first time that a man entered my body, something very important to me was taken away too soon. The next time that a man entered my body, something important was given to me early, and it changed my life forever. Seven months after I gave myself to a man, my son entered this world. The only reason that I hadn’t had sex up until that point was because I was trying to be good. In the end, I got tired of having my virginity. This thing that was supposed to make me pure when I already felt so dirty. Maybe I thought that it was a lie that I didn’t want to live anymore.

For years I went around trying to collect as much love as I could from men. As hard as I would try, I couldn’t get full because I didn’t know that to fill something you have to fix the holes. There was a big gaping hole in the bottom of my heart; whatever I put in came right back out in the form of anxiety and self-loathing. My idea of love was warped. I didn’t quite know what I was looking for but I knew it was something I didn’t have.

I just knew that there was something wrong with me. I was tainted and if people realized how much, they would never want anything to do with me. I didn’t see my love as anything worthy. So I wouldn’t charge much for it. For a smile, a kiss or a kind word, I would give everything I could in thanks for showing me attention no matter how slight. Being hungry for attention is like a neon light to soul vultures. People who prey on the souls of others to feed themselves. They follow you around waiting for the perfect time to strike and when you are at your most vulnerable point they slide in and rob you of your heart.

There was the guy who loved me so much that he threw knives at me. He threatened to kill himself for me. I promised that I would love him through whatever. That was the worst mistake I ever made in my life. He had me hiding knives under my pillow in order to sleep in case I needed to protect myself. He used fear to keep me near him. Fear of him hurting me, fear of him hurting himself, fear of me going back on my word, and fear of me being alone.

There was another man who played on my emotions. He used his voice and charm to get into my heart and his award-winning acting to chain me blindly to him. He, who wasn’t even in a relationship with me at the time, made me promise to give myself to only him. When I slept with someone else he cried real tears because he was so hurt and I cried with him. I felt lower than low so I was placed in the “makeup” zone. I was so busy making it up to him that I almost missed the fact that he was using me to cheat on his wife that I didn’t know he had.

By the time that I reached my late twenties, I had been so conditioned to receive and accept madness that I married someone I should never have. I used the equation: years known divided by the years we had sex to stand in the place of a relationship that never really existed. He was my go-to back scratcher when I had an itch, and I was his go-to honey pot when he needed something sweet. We were always there when neither of us was taken, to fill in. There was never a relationship, but I had to make it sound official. I couldn’t tell people that we got together in April and married in November because it would sound as unreal as it was. We didn’t go on a date for the first seven years of this so-called relationship, we just had sex and he was cool with that until he needed a place to stay. I then took a very thin layer of forged politeness to make me see the good in someone. He knew when to say please and thank you, but was rarely pleased and never meant thanks. Also, a thin layer of commonality made it easy for me to run off to the altar. Truth is, we didn’t have much in common so the things we had in common I held on to like the diamonds they were. I told myself that we were meant to be when the truth is that I never believed that there was going to be anyone else. I thought that this person was the best I was going to get so I had better not miss my chance. I knew the day after my wedding that I had made a great mistake, but it was too late. I had taken vows before God and I had to try as hard as I could to make it work. Four months later after the cheating, the screaming, the lies, and the abuse I decided that it wasn’t going to work for me or my son

After I ended my marriage, I decided to let go and let God. I thought I was tired of dealing with men who not only weren’t for me, they were detrimental to my health. I said a prayer that God would send the man who I was meant to be with to me. I prayed that God would help me know and understand my worthiness. That I would have the patience to wait for him and the eyes to see him when he showed up.

On July 17th, 2014, a year and three months after my divorce, I started talking to who I thought was the man of my dreams. We got married on December 13th, 2014. I thought that the experience would have been a great one and God would show me through this man what true human love was. Unfortunately, I was wrong. My second husband was definitely a life changer for me. He has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. So, he followed my pattern of abusive partners. He was just way more clever. He would say things to me that hurt me to my core and made me cry. In the same breath, I would take up for him because I just couldn't believe he would treat me that way on purpose. In my second marriage, I was so busy trying to make sure that I wasn't doing anything to make him leave me that I  missed all the reasons I should have left him.  As I wait for the divorce. I still feel unlovable and unworthy sometimes. I still have a hard time realizing my true power, and that I am a  Queen because of things that I’ve been through.

I am mending my holes which started with forgiveness for all parties involved, including myself. My mother and I had a very tumultuous relationship after the incident. We were pretty much at each other’s throats all of my teenage years. I could not see how she could put his girls over me. I resented her for it. It seemed to me that every time I tried to heal the opportunity was taken away from me. She would say things like I wasn’t raped because he didn’t use his penis. Every time I said the word rape, she would say molested. It wasn’t until I looked up the word myself that I knew the truth and could stand on it. “Rape,” unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with or without force by a sex organ, other body part or foreign object without the consent of the victim.  After I became mature enough to know the real meaning of and the meaning behind words, I was able to finally figure out the words my mother said. What she said was, “What happened to you wasn’t nothing! I’ve had a lot worse happen to me. So suck it up and stop acting like a baby!” What she meant, “In my mind was, ‘what I went through was much worse than what you went through and no one did anything for me so I don’t really know the right thing to do for you, but I’m fine and you will be too.” Once I saw her words this way I was able to forgive my mom, she was playing with the cards she had been dealt. Sure she could and should have played them in a different order, but once a card is played that’s it.

Recently my mother and I had a talk where she admitted everything that happened to me. She told me that the real reason she didn’t file charges was that she didn’t want me to have to relive the event over and over again with the police, in the courthouse, etc. My mom didn’t want it to be his word against mine. I was shocked, but because I had already forgiven her, I was able to hear and accept what she had to say. She didn’t know that I had relived the event every time that I had a nightmare and woke up in a cold sweat wondering if he was hiding in my room. I didn’t have a scary, hairy monster hiding in my room, it was him behind the door and under the bed.

My rapist has since passed away but before he died, I hadn’t seen him for years. While he was on his deathbed, I kept getting requests from his daughter to pray for him. She still doesn’t know what happened between us. I take praying seriously so I wanted to pray for him but I had so many reasons not to. I talked with God. I prayed for him to give me the strength and I remembered something my mother told me, “You don’t forgive people for them, you forgive people for yourself. They will still live their life or afterlife while you are still left carrying the burden they left on you.” I realized that I was tired of carrying this burden. I also knew that God will deal with this man the way he saw fit if he hadn’t done so already. So before he passed, I prayed for him and his soul to find peace.

I am still working on myself which I have found is the hardest part. Instead of cleaning and removing the cesspool of this incident, I have built layers up over the years. I thought the layers would hide the stench, cover up the scars and mask the embarrassment. I’ve since learned that layers are a temporary fix, a band-aid. Eventually, the smell comes through, cuts get deeper, and the mask fades away. After all of that layering, you still need to fix the problem - the rotting, infected gash underneath. Now, because of the lack of care, there has to be a careful breakdown and reconstruction to repair the injury that penetrated my innocence. After years of dealing with this pain, embarrassment, and low self-esteem, I realized that even though others may have dropped the ball in my life it was up to me to pick it up again. Not only have I picked up the ball, I’m dribbling down the court; I am doing spectacular things to uplift myself. I have created a loving family with my son. I am helping others release their pain through my pen by writing this story and teaching classes. I am doing all I can to help myself and others. After all, I’m not a child anymore...