Disclaimer: this story contains details of sexual abuse that may be upsetting to some.
“I was 5 or 6 years old, running around the playground with a friend. He and I were making random chit chat (that of a 5-year-old) and I remember somehow… I mentioned my Grandpa touches me down there. All he said was ‘ew’ and we just went right back to playing.
I don’t recall ever saying it aloud before then. This was the first time I started to question what was happening to me. Grandpa. He’s my Step-Grandfather, so he’s not bloods related to any of us. He’s German. A veteran. A retired pharmacist.
Grandma was a telephone operator for a local hospital. I remember going to work with her as a child and being able to listen to the phone calls and push buttons. She’s my mom’s mom. Grandma’s FIRST husband (my mom’s real dad) was also in the service. They moved around a lot because of it. All I really knew about him was he was basically an asshole. He used to whoop their asses for every little thing. Obviously, it ended in divorce and he drifted away from his 3 children, maybe speaking 1-2 times a year only out of guilt. The divorce happened well before I was even born.
Instead, I grew up with having him as my grandfather. Grandpa and I had a special bond, besides the obvious molestation. He and I were very close. He found a way to educate me any chance he got. He’d teach me about war and history, geography, math – everything. He was humorous and temperamental, as was I. We would swim in the pool almost every day. He was the one who taught me to swim. When I was around 10, Grandpa decided we should all travel every summer, so he bought an RV. So, we traveled. Grandma, Grandpa and I. Some trips even included my older cousin. We saw national monuments and beautiful scenery out West. My summers were filled with opportunities I would never have had if it weren’t for Grandpa.
When I was 8 years old, I invited a friend over to my house. She was my best friend and still is to this day. I thought we’d go over and say hey to my grandparents. Grandma was at work, so HE was the only one home. I introduced her to him, and we all talked and played with their cat. I got up to use the restroom and when I opened the door to leave, my friend shuffled in and closed the door. Her face was red and she was crying. She looked beyond terrified. She said, ‘I want to leave. Your grandpa is scaring me. I just want to leave. Pleeeeaase!’
So, we left. As we walked home, I remember asking her what happened. She said he’d cornered her. That’s all I remember. It was never discussed any further. This was when I stopped questioning. Suddenly, I knew. I knew this was wrong. At 8 years old. I knew something was totally screwed up.
This was around the time I started to resist him. I would tell him, ‘Stop it Grandpa!’ and he would laugh and mock me, which turned into both he and Grandma mocking me with the phrase that would stick around for years to come. ‘Stop it Grandpa.’ Grandma pretended she didn’t know what I was saying ‘stop it’ for, but out of a 7-year old’s mouth it was apparently and ignorantly adorable.
I remember the many times Grandma would witness him touching my breast or making inappropriate comments and she would just quickly brush it off. She would say, ‘Don’t do that! That’s you’re granddaughter!’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Not by blood. Haha.’ Yep. Then she’d shake her head and leave the room. She’d leave me in his bedroom to cuddle and watch TV. She would say we were inseparable. I slept there every weekend. In his bed. And nobody even questioned it.
My family has a bad habit of sweeping things under the rug. Things are never dealt with. They just…are. Resisting him almost never worked. He would just tell me it was normal. It was all okay. It was good for me. I believed him, because I admired him. However, he had told me I wasn’t supposed to tell. I had mentioned it to my Grandma at some point and she then questioned him. It caused him to be very angry with me. He’s extremely scary when he’s angry. I don’t remember even mentioning it to her in the first place, but I remember him confronting me about it.
What strikes me as odd, now that I’m 28 years old, is I don’t exactly recall telling Grandma, but I remember being confronted ABOUT telling Grandma. So…she knew. If she hadn’t known for a fact, she had the opportunity to investigate. She did not.
In the living room, there’s a mirrored wall. Completely mirrored. His recliner would sit beside the mirror, facing the TV. I have a vision in my head I’ll never forget. Laying on my stomach. On his lap. Him touching me. I’m staring into the mirror, watching myself. I had to have been between 1-2 years old in that image. I wasn’t even considered a toddler. I know it’s not some image I’ve created in my head over the years. The image in my head never changes. It stays a single step above every single thought I have or have ever had.
By the time I reached middle school, I stopped going to their house. I stopped calling. I stopped all contact. Middle school and high school were awful for me. I was socially awkward. I had anxiety and depression that turned me into a different person. Throughout high school, I would get the emails from him. Telling him I would feel better about myself if I would have sex with him. I asked him to leave me alone and he’d be offended. Grandma would just constantly call my mom or myself and guilt trip me that I ‘don’t like them anymore’ and I never come around.
I was somewhere between 15 and 16 when I got guilt tripped by Grandma to take a road trip with Grandpa for a day. He purchased a bike two hours away. I gave in and rode in his truck with him, so I didn’t have to hear Grandma’s bulls–t. On the way home, I made a snide remark that ended in the conversation of his Will. I told him I wanted his new truck when he dies. He said, and I wish I had the opportunity to record it, ‘’I’ll leave you my truck. But you have to have sex with me for it.’
I called him a c–k-sucker. He pulled over and threatened me with a look on his face I’d never seen before. After that, no more road trips. I was 16, almost 17, when a friend suggested I finally tell my mother. I’m honestly unsure if she really had my best interest at heart, or if she secretly thrived on hardcore drama. We were at that age, so I can’t blame her.
At this point in my life, I thought… ‘Why the hell not?’ So, I did it. I told my mom. Before I even saw a tear roll down her cheek or a speck of a meltdown, she looked at me and told me she was also molested. Not by Grandpa, but by her biological father…and she’d NEVER told anyone about it. She then asked me not to tell anyone what happened to me. She said it would kill Grandma and it would break Daddy’s heart. So, I kept my mouth shut.
I kept that monster of a secret until I was 21. Then I told my dad. We were out eating lunch when he was talking about how my mom was at the time, mentally. And I admitted I knew about her trauma. He was surprised I had known, but continued to say, ‘It shouldn’t have that big of effect on her now.’ I could feel my face getting red. I can still feel it. My face was on fire. I wanted to cry or turn the table between us upside down. Instead, I told him my story. He was shocked. I’m surprised I didn’t cause him to stroke out. He said he was sorry. He was obviously angry. But in the end, he did nothing. He refuses to be around Grandpa, even now.
But he did nothing. I suppose he didn’t know what to do…after so much time had already passed. I mean, would you? Every. Single. Person. Every single person who supposedly loved me, never protected me. They never fought for me. It’s more than just what physically happened to me. It’s that I’m alone in this.
I now have an almost 3-year-old daughter. For whom I’d do anything to keep safe. Everything I’ve sacrificed, is to make sure she never knows what any of this feels like. Ever. At 28, I decided to try something different from anti-depressants. I figured a therapist would help me. She was amazing, but I didn’t need her. Everything she’d said was something I’d already thought of.
I’m not stupid. I google the heck out of ‘what happens after childhood sexual trauma.’ So towards the end of my most recent mental breakdown, I got a phone call from my Grandma. She said, ‘You never call me anymore. You never see us. You hate us.’ That was all it took. That f–king guilt trip.
I said to her what I’d been dying to say for over half my life. I told her what Grandpa did to me. I told her I knew she knew about it. She denied it. But said she was sorry and hung up. I called my mom immediately and told her I spilled the beans. So, my mom walked over to Grandma’s house and got her out for a few minutes to talk. To see if she was okay. Somehow, my mother decided it was the perfect time to tell Grandma about her own childhood trauma. Leaving Grandma in a state of ‘supposed’ shock.
My mom didn’t let me have that moment. Throughout my whole life, my secret had been forcibly hidden. I finally got the courage to open my mouth – and yet again – I lost my voice. My trauma seemed to have been swept away by someone else. She saw my strength. She wanted to feel what I felt. She needed that release. I can’t blame her. There’s no rule book here. We’re both ticking time bombs. She finally released her monster. I’m proud of her for it. That’s 50+ years of feeling alone. It was time.
To this day, Grandma won’t look me in the eyes. Even when she comes over, she’s very distant. For well over 4 months now. She recently confronted me in the hallway of my house while I was getting ready for a night out. Told me I never call anymore. She’s my elder. I’m ‘supposed to respect her.’ And out of that respect, I should be checking in with her and calling her. She said it wasn’t her job, it was mine.
I felt my face getting red. I was ready to pounce, but I composed myself and gave her just the reply she’d unknowingly asked for. I said, ‘I have a very hard time respecting you. I love you. But you don’t call. You don’t check on ME. You can’t even look me in the eye, yet you are giving me the impression that you’ve forgotten about what Grandpa did to me.’
I stood and waited for a reaction. What I got was so unbelievable, I really should’ve just expected it to begin with. She said, ‘Well you know this has ruined my life. It’s ruining my life. I don’t know what to do. This has just ruined my life.’ It ruined HER life. HER LIFE.
I laughed. It was comical to me at that point. I had ruined HER life. She asked me – with my family 5 feet away – what he actually did to me. Because she couldn’t believe it. So, I told her. I also reminded her how many times she’d walk in on it and tell him to stop and then leave the room. I knew she knew. I have no doubts. She asked me what I wanted her to do about it. I said, ‘Not a damn thing.’ I went back to what I was doing. And that’s that.
That woman has married two men in her life. Both were child molesters. You can’t tell me she had no idea. She chose to protect herself. She taught my mother to protect herself. And I will teach my daughter to protect herself…but not to destroy other people in order to feel safe. I love my mom. She only knows what her mother taught her. That secrets go under the rug. Things don’t always have to be confronted.
Secrets are actual monsters. They hide under your bed, waiting for the opportunity to ruin you. They wait until you feel like you can finally live your life. As you reach into your closet to throw on a brave face for the day, your monsters are there to grab ahold of you and remind you you’re not safe. You’re never safe. Monsters aren’t just secrets. Monsters are sometimes people. Monsters can be people who keep secrets in order to protect themselves.
I love my mom. As much as I hate what she did, I love her. She did what she was taught. She knows now what she did wrong. If she could take it all back, she would. As for myself, I will be the best mom I can be. I will keep my daughter safe. I will check under her bed. I will leave her closet light on. I will fight to protect her from the monsters in our family. She will never have to feel like someone else’s burden. Someone else’s object. If I have any purpose in life, it’s exactly that.”
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