In Bloom

You think it’ll never happen to you, until it does


Trigger Warning: Story mentions themes and actions of sexual assault/child sexual abuse.

Everyone has moments in their life that change them down to their very core. You’d forget your mother’s name before you’d forget those moments.

For me, mine happened at 14 when I learned I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

There are very few things at that age that can prepare you for news like that. Discovering I’d been abused felt like that scene in Tangled where Rapunzel metaphorically wakes up, puts 2 plus 2 together and learns she is the missing royal daughter. Rapunzel lays on her bed spiraling out of control, unsure of who she is. I would know the feeling shortly.

It was a hot summer afternoon in July of 2014. I was home alone, in my room. There I sat in my twin bed with its hot pink sheets and Target comforter. A weird feeling came over me, the weirdest feeling I’ve ever known. Something in my gut whispered to me, “This is wrong. Everything is wrong. This is not normal.”

I pulled my thick black laptop out of its bag and went onto google. My little fingers typed out “signs of sexual abuse” fast as ever. The information revealed to me shocked me in a way I hadn’t known before.

In a bulleted list, I saw:

1. Grooming

I remembered all the clothes my abuser bought for me. All the food that was bought for me. anything I wanted was mine, as long as I spent all my time with him. He knew I came from a less fortunate family and used it to his advantage. Like predators do. Everyone who knew him was just too blind to see it.

2. Manipulation

I remembered all the fights we had. When I didn’t want to play his games anymore he guilted me with, “Look at how much I do for you; look at what I provide for you.” I remembered how protective he was, reluctant to let others spend time with me or give me rides places. It always had to be him, so he could keep an eye on me and control me.

3. Lack of privacy

I remembered all the showers I took with the door open with an unwanted visitor free to enter at a moment’s notice. And the monitoring of me, dressed but usually undressed. The way he wanted to control of every aspect of my life. The open doors let in his bad intentions and let out my youth.

4. Unwanted touch

I remembered the forced hugs. The way he would plead for just a little kiss. I remembered laying next to him while I remained vulnerable, naked. It was skin to skin and I remembered everything. He’d never gone so far as to rape me, but he crossed many other boundaries. His hands and mouth and wandering gaze filled in the blanks. My abuse began when I was about 11.
I felt if I didn’t stop this now, he would rape me. He was just waiting for the right moment.

I wanted out, but I kept reading. I had to know because I had to save myself.

The more I read, the more I understood, and the more I knew. I was a minor, and those kinds of actions were not “okay” or “normal,” even if they had become my new normal. I couldn’t believe it. This was a man my family trusted. a doctor. He was an OB/GYN dedicated to serving women and helping them but all he did was hurt me. The same man who delivered me at birth, the same man who took his time and waited patiently. He waited 10 years, watched as I grew, to take what he wanted. The last three years of my life were formative years for most girls, the preteen years.

I felt like I’d been stolen in my prime.

Website after website, and all that rang through my head were words. Abuser. Sexual Assault. Isolation. Shame.

After that day, everything became a sliding slope. I first confided in my late Aunt Jamie who was supportive as ever.

“Do you want to go to the police?” she asked me. I said no. I was 14 and terrified. How could I ever face him again? To this day, I still haven’t, and I hope I never will.

I then told my mom that same day, and her reaction broke my heart in two. I sat on her bed and explained what I had been going through every day of the last few years. She wouldn’t maintain eye contact, and proceeded to fold her laundry as she walked around her room.

“You never have to see him again,” she told me, “I am so sorry Sinclair.”

I guess I am just grateful she believed me. We never really spoke of it again.

Eventually two or three years later in high school I told some of my friends. The most common reaction was,“Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

There are a million answers to that question, something most survivors have had to deal with at one point or another.

For me, I felt trapped. My family relied on my abuser to pick me up from school, to watch me until my single mom was able to get off work. Most predators, I’ve learned, are not strangers. They’re people you confide in, people who know you and maybe even your own family.

Looking back…

My abuser, a family friend, was invited to my 12th birthday party and sat between members of my family. My own grandfather considered him a friend, not knowing what he had done to me. I felt like I had to keep it a secret because we needed him, and he knew that.

Another question following my confession was, “What did he do to you?”

People who’ve never been through it themselves always want to know. What they secretly meant was, “Did he rape you? How bad was it?” I’d usually answer “You don’t really want to know.” I would rather swallow knives than recount the lightning-quick visual memories I have from my abuse. That is a movie I hardly wanted to rewatch.

From then on, my teenage years that following held some ugly side effects that I wouldn’t realize existed until I was already in college, like I am now.

All I knew is I didn’t want to be like the girls on Law and Order SVU and those other crime shows. Those girls, maybe their uncles touched them in bad places. Maybe they were sold into prostitution at a tender age. Either way, I didn’t want to be a stereotype. I’d already had daddy issues; the last thing I needed was “molested as a girl” added onto my plate.

So, I didn’t tell anyone, at least not for a while. I refused. I tried to forget it existed. I tried to pretend I never knew my abuser and that he never abused me for three years and tried to isolate me from my family.

The thing is, trauma has its ways of sneaking up on you. Shortly after I ended contact with my abuser, in that same summer of 2014, I experienced my first bout of PTSD, in the common form of a flashback.

I’d been at Wendy’s with my grandpa for lunch. We were waiting in line to order and he put his arm over my shoulder and pulled me closer to him for a hug. My grandpa is a loving man and has always respected my personal space so this wasn’t anything out of the norm, just a familiar way for him to tell me he loved me.

My nervous system went into hyperdrive. I froze and then flinched because the movement was so similar, almost an exact replica of how my abuser would touch me in public.

He asked me if I was ok. I nodded and the conversation ended there.

In high school, I had friends that would hang onto me and wouldn’t let me go until I gave them attention. I remember expressing how much I disliked it, but no one seemed to understand why I needed my personal space bubble so badly. I didn’t know how to explain it.

Around this time I had also developed a mean streak towards guys my age and men in general. No one was okay. I walked a fine line of wanting to connect to guys, but not really trusting any of them. I did risky things because I didn’t feel like I had a say in what I did with my body. As long as I was just an object, I was safe. Just like how I’d been an object to my abuser.

As long as they didn’t want to connect with me, I was ok. Connection leads to trust, and I simply decided I’d never trust again.

It’s hard to see yourself being intimate with someone when you hate yourself. And I really did. I kept my trauma from my friends. I didn’t talk about it with my mom after I initially told her. I just wanted it to go away. It didn’t. It just manifested in other ways. I hated my body, I hated my mentality, my anxiety was through the roof and some days it hurt to get out of bed. I didn’t try to pursue a relationship in high school and I told myself it was because none of the guys there were good enough for me.

The truth was, I felt dirty. Used. Not worthy. I was embarrassed that a self-proclaimed strong independent woman like me had been violated by a man that I trusted and spent lots of time with. Never mind that I was only 10 when it started. I’d never forgive myself for letting it happen to me.

I’ve changed a lot since that fateful day in 2014. It’s a battle, don’t get me wrong. I still wake up some mornings and wonder, why me? What did I do to deserve going through all that? But I refuse to punish myself for what was done to me. I don’t let all the shame and guarded defenses I picked up as a result from my abuse control me anymore.

Almost six years later, I have just begun to heal. I’m currently focusing on my self-image, allowing myself to admit what happened to me existed, but not letting it define me. My abuser doesn’t get to have that power over me and write my story for me. Not anymore. I can learn how to trust again.

I’m also in a supportive loving relationship which I thought someone who’s been through what I have would never get, or deserve. Knowing that every guy is not another awful person waiting to use you and break your trust has helped the healing process.

I haven’t gone to therapy to talk out my trauma yet, but I am looking forward to going soon and letting it all out.

While the idea of sharing my personal experience with sexual abuse makes my stomach turn and my head ache, I’ve learned the only way out of all that hurt is by going through it and being open about this kind of thing. My secrecy and shame never helped it, it just made me push myself away from things that could’ve been good for me.