This blog contains triggers and may be upsetting to my loved ones. I’m sorry for that, but it is like Maya Angelou said in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
It’s the wolf eyes. The look that men have when they want you. As a grown woman seeing this look in the eyes of the man you are interested in can be intoxicating. But I was just 13 the first time I saw this look, and it was two grown men looking at me with wolf eyes. I’d never seen it before but something in me recognized it and I was horrified.
Not everything about my childhood was negative; I think before I continue I’ll give some context as it is pertinent to this story. I was born in 1968 to parents who had been trying to conceive for several years. I was a welcome baby and there were lots of adults to love me. In addition to my parents, my maternal grandparents lived on the same farm and I saw them daily. My mom’s sister was unable to have children of her own and she and her husband became like surrogate parents. They didn’t live very close, but we saw them every Christmas and every summer. My dad’s youngest brother and his wife experienced the tragic loss of a baby, close to the time of my birth. They too became quite involved in visiting and spending time with me.
We lived on a farm with cattle, cats and I had a dog who was my best friend. My mom read to me every night and I was the summer garden helper for her and my grandmother. When I was 6, my sister was born and I was fascinated by the tiny living creature. I had little contact with children my age, but it was a great way to start out life.
School and social anxiety had entered my world (I touched on this in a recent blog post). When I was 10, my paternal grandfather died and my dad began drinking too much. Two years later, my dad’s younger brother and my favorite uncle tragically drowned. He and my dad were very close and my family fell apart for awhile. My uncle’s wife had what at the time was called a complete nervous breakdown.
Not long after this, my mom’s sister (my surrogate mother) was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called aplastic anemia. She died when I was 13. I was inconsolable at the memorial service. My mom and uncle were devastated. My dad wasn’t there as he had just had a heart attack and was in the hospital. My family was buckling under the burden of the consecutive losses and dad’s health issues. My dad was drinking more and it was around this time that I first recall being left in our truck outside a bar waiting for my dad. I had my first panic attacks sitting in the dark and cold, waiting outside bars.
I’m not certain how it came to pass, but I again traveled on my own to a city four hours away to visit just my uncle the summer I was 13. I stayed with family friends at the now rented acreage where I had spent so many happy summers with my aunt and uncle. One day during this visit, my uncle took me to a mall in the city and dropped me off with his credit card. I bought a bikini (for tanning at home) and a pair of shoes.
He took me to dinner, snuck me booze across the table, and afterward to the home of a friend who had a big home with an indoor pool. It was me and two men in their forties. They gave me more booze which I didn’t really want but politely sipped slowly and they both drank heavily. They decided it was time to go swimming. I remember not wanting to put on the swimsuit — I was very shy and self-conscious. They were both in the pool talking when I came out in my bikini. They stopped talking and gawked as I walked along the side of the pool to get in. I saw their wolf eyes.
My next clear memory is of the drive back to where I was staying. My uncle was talking to me and then suddenly his hand came over my knee and started to move up my thigh. I panicked, brushed it away, turned to the window crying. Nothing else was said on the drive. The looks, the drinks, and the touch amounted to a violation.
I had been sexually assaulted by another male family member two years before so my reaction was strong, immediate, and lasting. The close relationship with my uncle ended with that betrayal of trust. As I wrote previously, I told my mother what happened and she initially believed me. It was my dad who convinced her otherwise. The man who had assaulted me two years prior.
In the early years, I was always Daddy’s Girl. If he was working at the shop I was helping. Feeding cows? I was there too. Trips to town? Count me in. Each time he left me alone for hours in the truck while he drank I was sad and disappointed. At some point around the time I was 11, he started talking to me about how I was developing and boys would notice. That was uncomfortable. It got worse.
The year I was 12, I was left at home with dad and grandpa while my mom, grandma, and little sister when to visit family for a week. It was summer and I had to cook meals for the men who were farming; back then cooking was women’s work. One night dad came home from the bar drunker than usual. He wanted to play cards. I was game as I’d played a few times with my dad’s drunk friends and I always ended up winning money off them.
Dad continued to drink as we played cards. He began to talk about sex, saying he really wanted me to have a good first time with someone who would be gentle. Then he stood beside me and as he told me he was going to go and see if he had any “rubbers” around, he grabbed my hand and pulled it to him, rubbing the front of his jeans. I snatched my hand back like it had been placed on a hot stove and asked if we could please keep playing the game. I sat there, utterly devastated but pretending all was well and played cards. It was the first time I was sexually assaulted, and it was the worst of betrayals.