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Capulet

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Everything posted by Capulet

  1. Capulet

    Newbie

    Hello @Wanda5 - welcome to After Silence! It certainly is a loving tribe to be a part of. I love that word - it does take a village, and 'tribe' is fitting. Although I'm sorry to hear of the circumstances under which you've arrived here, I'm hopeful that you will discover that there is genuine strength in numbers. You're not alone here. Sending you my best wishes as you proceed in your healing journey, Capulet
  2. Hi @CosmicDaze333 - Welcome to After Silence!!!! Proud of you for taking the first step to sign up and introduce yourself. That's never an easy thing to do. But it is a leap toward that growth and healing you seek. This is a great place full of great people who are never without a kind word. It's not always positive here, but it IS a safe place to express those things that make it hard for us to see that light at the end of the tunnel. You're not alone here; many are in the same boat and are all striving toward our happy place. Sending you all of my best wishes as you begin this journey! - Capulet
  3. Hello @Arabellachristie and welcome to After Silence. I'm so sorry to hear of what brought you here but am glad to be able to welcome you into our safe, supportive community. Wishing you all the best, Capulet
  4. Capulet

    New here

    Welcome to After Silence, @Mimity - I echo everyone else and am glad you've found a safe space to gather support! Take care! - Capulet
  5. Welcome to After Silence, @Leda!! I am so sorry to hear of what's going in in your world these days, and to learn of the trauma that has brought you here. Court proceedings are NEVER easy but I truly admire your courage and strength!!! You've truly found a loving, supportive space. Our members are always willing to listen and many have been in the same boat in one way or another. Don't hesitate to lean on us whenever you feel you are struggling...we are a community that understands. You'll soon hear from a member of our Newbie Support Team. Until then, please know that I am just a shout away if you need any help finding your way around. My best wishes to you, Capulet
  6. @LRB50 - It makes me cringe too. And it makes me VERY angry that so, so many people share this pain!! I'm sorry you have it, too. Thanks!
  7. Welcome back, @Poison!!!! I'm sorry you've hit some roadblocks and hurdles in your healing journey but am glad to hear that things have been going overall well for you. Hopefully being back here will serve as a reliable source of that positive reinforcement needed to continue down this path. We are all here for you, as we've always been, and will continue to root for you and provide the unconditional support that you know you can count on us for. Take gentle care - am around if ever you need help with anything. Best wishes, Capulet
  8. Also posted in Share Your Story: Installment Two: The Party I am now fast-forwarding, (or rewinding, depending on how old I was in your minds upon completing reading of the first installment) to when I was seventeen years old as I bring to you all, installment 2 of my story. This is the full, uncensored version of what was shared back in 2007. One would think that as time goes on, you’re likely to forget some details. While that may be the case for some, I WISH that was true for me. Time has gone on, but in some ways, remained stationary – frozen, almost – and I still remember the details of that night as if it were only yesterday. And for the last nearly twenty-three years, it HAS been ‘yesterday.’ While I know a lot of work has been put into my healing efforts, the memory of the work isn’t as strong as the memory of the actual event. It’s stayed fresh, although I do have to admit that time HAS made it sting less. In this newer version of my story, I’ve decided not to talk about the ‘fluff stuff;’ by this, I mean the benign, unimportant events leading up to what happened on the night of October 4th, 1996. The pre-story of having gone to a classmate’s house, my lying to my father, telling him that I was going to be working on a school paper, my thinking this was a good way to jump-start my social status. Why not talk about these things? Because they’re not important, now. Originally, I perhaps felt partially to blame for what happened. It was a classic case of, ‘well, if I hadn’t been there, this wouldn’t have happened.’ Perhaps I was waiting for someone to say to me, ‘yes, that’s exactly why this happened. You were in a place you did not belong, and at a time that you shouldn’t have been there.’ Believe it or not, there WAS the occasional question of ‘why?’ but I have come to realize that there simply is not an answer good enough to justify what happened. I could search for the rest of my life and I’d still never find one. There IS one very important detail that you should know about me, though, before I delve deeper into this part of my story. If you’ve read through my first installment, you know that I was born deaf. This is something I don’t like bringing attention to – unless circumstances make it that I have to. I don’t share this with many people unless, well, I think there will be a reason they need to know. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with it. It just plays a COLOSSAL role in who I am. While it doesn’t define me, it also does. And this, as much as I HATE to admit – is a HUGE contributor to what happened that night. Whenever I think back on my trauma, it also ALWAYS comes back to this. As a matter of fact, it plays such a role in BOTH of my traumas, although I cannot remember one of them. I guess the running joke on this is – even from the very beginning, I didn’t want to hear it…it being drama, bullshit, and whatever else makes me momentarily (and rarely) appreciate my lack of hearing. My mother and father wanted me to speak, so they were quick to alienate me from the deaf community and (my mother mostly) moved Heaven and Earth to ensure that I functioned as a ‘normal’ hearing person. And, to be ‘normal’ was always something I had to work extra hard at – with certain limitations that were beyond my control, I had to overcompensate, all under the impression that this was what was ‘wrong’ with me and that it was never something I could fix. This was simply the hand I’d been dealt. And now – back to the story. To summarize, I was 17 and was at a house party. It wasn’t a frat house – it was simply someone’s home – off campus. I’d gone with an acquaintance from one of my classes – thinking this was what the stereotypical college kids did with friends on a Friday night. To call her a friend is inaccurate, for she never once had my best interests at heart and likely invited me to accompany her to this party so that she could delay working on the research paper we were assigned to complete together. She probably still, to this day, thinks I’m angry with her for forcing me to find another way home at the end of the night. I’d only seen her a small handful of times afterwards – once when I finally picked up my car, which was parked near her house – and a few times in class. I made very small talk and avoided her at all costs. We’d never spoken of what happened; which was my choice. She was the enemy. I wanted her out of sight and out of mind – and thankfully, I got my wish – we were fortunate to not share any more classes after that semester. And for a long, long time, possibly YEARS, I WAS angry with her. I even blamed her. It was, after all, because of her – the whole thing was her fault, simply because she was having too good a time to leave when I wanted to. For years, hers was the face that popped up into my mind when thinking back to that night. No, it wasn’t the ONLY face, but it was still a face that shouldn’t have been as much a focus as it was. HIS face is the one I see now. The only one I see when I think back to that night. There is no longer any blame for her. While I still unfondly remember her face, I’ve mentally connected the image of it to a ‘type’ of person that I’ve vowed to NEVER trust again. That’s the face I see when people around me are acting recklessly, in a manner that reminds me of the behavior of those around me at that party on that night. Although nearly 23 years have elapsed, I still remember. It’s funny, isn’t it? How we can recall with ease the moments BEFORE trauma, but draw blanks when it comes to the actual event? I cannot bring myself to forget their oblivious, stoned, drunk-off-their-asses expressions as I followed the man who would forever change my life through smoke-infused hallways. The obnoxious laughing, the booming music, the glazed-over looks, the tongues hanging out, the god-awful SMELL of weed. All of these things added to my overall discomfort of the whole scene and I wanted nothing more than to go home. This is where I will issue a trigger warning for those who are still reading. I am going to be sharing some things that I’ve never written before. If you’re not in a good frame of mind, please close this and bookmark it for another day. I totally wish it were possible to turn this night on and off in my brain – and there are times I have succeeded in doing so. But instead of an on/off switch, there’s a dimmer – sometimes it’s bright, sometimes it can be reduced into the background so that I can carry on as normal, whatever that means. The very purpose of this update is for me to be able to shine a brighter light on some of those things that I’ve kicked into the shadows for as long as I can remember, in hopes that they’d not find their way back into the light. We all know how well that works, right? So – trigger warning now in effect, for several details and for rape. The first thing I noticed about my attacker was how incredibly good-looking he was. Sporting thick jet-black hair, broad shoulders, a dimple, a complexion hinting that he was of either Spanish or Italian descent, ‘Eddie’ was undeniably handsome. I’d later learn that even the most physically beautiful people are truly capable of evil, of ugliness. For the moment, though, I remember having to remind myself that I had a boyfriend that I’d been seeing for two years prior to this night. I had my boyfriend in mind when I politely declined when Eddie, after overhearing my drunk acquaintance tell me that she was not ready to leave, offered me a ride home. There were a couple reasons, really, for my passing on the ride home – one – I didn’t see a drink in his hand, but I didn’t know if he’d been drinking before he approached me, and two – I didn’t think any girl should be in a car with a guy who wasn’t her boyfriend. Things might happen! I suppose, in hindsight, knowing that Eddie turned out to be the predator I was unaware he was at the moment, that was likely his original plan – for something to happen. Instead, I asked him if he could make a phone call for me – something that I’d asked several strangers to do for me in the past. I had someone from the campus office call my father for me when I’d left the lights on and now the car wouldn’t start. Someone to call my mother when my wallet was stolen. And in this case, for Eddie to call one of my other friends to see if she could possibly come pick me up from this disastrous party. He seemed slightly taken aback by my request, but agreed to make the call. “Come with me,” he said, “I know where it will be a little bit quieter.” We weaved through a crowd of other partygoers, went up a flight of stairs and eventually got into a bedroom, where he locked the door behind him. I’d gone in first, wanting to believe nothing more that this man was going to help me to get home. I am sure there were other phones in the house – he insisted that being in one of the rooms farthest from the speakers downstairs would be best and he’d be able to hear. There was the phone on a night table, next to the bed. It was black, the buttons glowed. The bed was along the east wall, there was a small adjoining half-bathroom straight ahead. Along the west wall, there was a window, a desk and a chair. There was a small area rug and there was a pair of 20 or 30-pound barbells rested on the floor next to the bathroom door. If this was a bedroom belonging to a teenage or college-aged boy, it was by far one of the cleanest I’d ever seen. The computer sitting atop the desk was on, but had been left idle for a good while – the screen-saver was activated and there was this bouncing, morphing shape…it would first be a ball, then a square, then spiky, then something else, all the while changing colors – before returning into the original ball shape. Background was black – it was the first thing I saw when entering the room and little did I know it would become an unpleasant reminder. I didn’t know what the definition of a trigger was, until this became my first one. It was a very popular screen-saver in the late 90’s, too, so it was every-freaking-where. At libraries, at doctor’s offices, on computer screens at electronics stores… Eddie went straight toward the phone. He sat on the bed close to the night table and patted the seat next to him. I sat, but not too close. He picked up the phone and asked me what number I wanted to call. I gave him the first name of one friend of mine that didn’t go to school with me, but lived somewhat close to my Dad’s house. I figured she’d likely let me crash at her house, and then perhaps she could bring me back to pick up my car in the morning, so that I wouldn’t have to tell my father the truth. I was also admittedly trying to think of another ‘cover story’ to tell my father – I certainly didn’t want him to know I was in this predicament. I recited her phone number from memory. He dialed. “It’s busy,” he said after a few seconds with the receiver to his ear. I had no reason not to believe him – this friend of mine was one of those who’d have her phone surgically attached to her ear if it were possible. He asked if I wanted to wait a few minutes and then try again. All I could think of was how much I wanted to go home, versus going back out into the insanity outside these four walls, so I nodded in agreement. He hung up the receiver. That’s when the questions began. At first, they were innocent. It was when I learned his name and his age. Eddie, 25. Twenty. Five. My initial thought was that this was the house of someone he knew. He claimed that he was a friend of a friend, and he didn’t live in the area. He was just ‘passing through’ and heard that there was a party and came down. He asked where I was going to school and what I was majoring in. I told him. He told me he was in between jobs at the moment. He then asked if I had a boyfriend. Let’s call my boyfriend Matt, for anonymity purposes. I confirmed. Eddie became genuinely interested in my relationship with Matt. Those questions started out innocently, as well, before becoming much less so. He asked how long we’d been together, if Matt went to the same school as I did – and then, boom – there was the question of whether Matt and I had ‘fucked’ yet. In those words. I could feel my face turn beet-red. I cannot believe, looking back, how much SHAME that question made me feel. Not because it was overly inappropriate for a pretty much stranger to ask me this, but because the truth was, I was a virgin. I’d never experienced sex. Matt was a virgin, too. Like me, he hailed from a strictly Catholic family, and pre-marital sex being forbidden and sinful was something his parents instilled into Matt and his siblings. My family was of the same belief, but this was never something impressed on at home. My sisters were barely 10 and 7; and my mother hadn’t had this ‘talk’ with me, yet. Perhaps she knew, she herself hadn’t been married when she’d first had sex – maybe this was one thing she didn’t want to be hypocritical on. Matt was a typical 17-year-old boy with raging hormones and we’d only gotten as far as kissing, roaming hands over the clothes and occasionally down the pants, but whenever it became dangerously close to becoming an ‘all the way’ situation, Matt would slam onto the brakes and it’d be over. Personally, I was ready to experience it all – and to lose my virginity to him – but respected that he was not yet ready for that step. We’d talked about marriage and how our wedding night would be absolutely amazing – but that, like many other things, was just a dream. An illusion. And it would never become a reality. When I didn’t answer Eddie’s question, he proceeded with, “Do you like it when he fucks you? What’s your favorite position?” There were other questions, too, and I could feel my face flush even more with each one. I felt increasingly embarrassed, and I HATED the fact it was because here was this handsome, likely experienced twenty-five year old man asking me about sexual encounters that I didn’t have. What the hell would he think of me if I were to tell him that the closest I’d had to sex was Matt’s hand down the front of my underwear for all of 0.4 seconds before he’d put the kibosh on the whole thing? It didn’t occur to me, not at 17, that there was more cause for alarm to be derived from that line of questioning, especially by someone that much older than I. Instead of scrambling for an answer to a question I didn’t wish to entertain, I asked Eddie if he could please try my friend’s number again. He picked up the phone again and asked me to repeat the number. I gave it to him, but this time, watched his fingers carefully. Back then, there was no need to dial the area code first, and I saw him dial SIX numbers, instead of the standard seven-digit telephone number. His finger did not fully press down on the number 4. He skipped right over it and went to number 8. I saw it with my own eyes. My heart jumped into my throat as realization sank in – he’d been lying to me. Playing me. This whole time, he’d been manipulating the situation. If the mental danger flags weren’t waving before, they were, now. My heart sank when he hung up the receiver again, turned to me and said, “it’s still busy,” thus confirming my suspicions that I might be in trouble. I suppose for a split second, I hoped he’d realize he didn’t fully press the number 4 and try redialing – but he did not. He’d already hung up the phone, and was again focused on me, probably expecting I’d answer his question now that we had more ‘waiting’ time. My heart began racing. The panic was setting in. If we had the option to ‘press pause’ during significant moments in our lifetimes, so that we could re-evaluate and to give more thought on how to proceed, this would have been my first pause of the night. Maybe I’d have answered his questions – if I’d known what would alternatively happen, perhaps I’d have been better off answering and buying time by doing so. Maybe someone would have knocked on the door. Maybe this, maybe that… I’m not even sure how I managed to croak a weak, ‘thanks for trying,’ as I stood up and moved for the door. I’d just managed to reach for the knob when it all went into motion. First, I felt his hand firmly clasp around my arm, just above my elbow. Then, before I could scream, I felt myself being flung. My body quickly hurled toward the bed that we’d just been sitting on, and then bounced off. I landed hard onto my back, hitting the back of my head on the floor. It took a moment to process what had just happened, plus I’d had the wind knocked out of me. I couldn’t move quickly enough. By the time the stun had worn off and I’d managed to pull myself into a sitting position with my back against the side of the bed, he was standing above me with his pants and zipper open. Still, I remained in that place in-between shock and paralysis. I’d always been taught there was a cause and an effect to everything. All I could think at the moment was, what I’d possibly done to make him transform from the man who was going to help me, into this angry, violent monster that I now needed help getting away from. Was this a punishment for finding someone other than Matt attractive? Was that considered to be cheating and this was the price I’d pay? Was it a consequence for having lied to my father and told him I was working on a school project that night? I MUST have done something wrong! Everything was seemingly in slow-motion from this point on. One of his hands was now behind my neck, and from there, he reached up and clenched a fistful of my hair in between his fingers, pulling backwards. His other hand was on his now-exposed penis. I’d never seen one up close before. I’d FELT Matt’s, even touched it once. I’d seen photos. I’d seen the ‘adult section’ at the video store (when they still had them, back in the day before digital streaming was a thing!) and those video cassette jackets were NOT censored in the least bit. Although I had very little sexual experience, I somehow knew what he wanted me to do, and again, panic took over. I pressed my lips together as tightly as I could, trying to shake my head every time he moved himself closer. With each time I moved, his grip onto my hair tightened. Eventually, he roughly yanked again, forcing open my mouth when I gasped in pain. He wasted no time and maintained his hold onto my hair as he forced his organ into my mouth. Every time I tried to move my head in desperate attempts to evade him, he’d jerk me into position again. I began to gag as he violated my mouth and throat, and in the process, felt my teeth eventually sink into the shaft of his penis. I WISH I could say this was done on purpose, but it was completely, 100% an accident. Regardless, he released my hair, quickly withdrew, and angrily struck me in the mouth, knocking me back onto the floor. I immediately tasted blood in my mouth, as my lower lip was punctured on the inside by a tooth when he’d hit me. I hadn’t noticed the tears until that moment. Maybe they’d started forming when I was gagging. Maybe fear had caused them. Maybe it was the pain – in my back, my throbbing head, my mouth, my throat. Either way, the tears were now rolling down my face and I could no longer hold them back. It was also the moment I chose to plead with him, as hysterical as I was becoming. When a normal hearing person with normal speech is upset, they sometimes become difficult to understand. When a DEAF person with ‘different’ speech becomes hysterical, all hopes of being clear and understood are pretty much out the window. I’m not even sure what I said, as I was in no condition to choose or plan out my words. But I know I begged him to stop, I pleaded with him to let me go. It’s likely I said more, but my thoughts were racing and I had no idea what matched what was coming out of my mouth at the moment, and what didn’t. I stayed on the floor as I sobbed and spoke to him. I was terrified that getting up would mean he’d hurt me more or strike me again. He stood over me, holding himself in one hand, rubbing where I’d bitten him. When he was satisfied that I’d not permanently damaged his penis, he smirked, got down onto his knees, and lowered himself on top of me, straddling me just above my waist. I could not move, for his knees were pinning my arms to my sides. I continued to shake in fear, to cry, to beg, to appeal to any part of him that was kind. I know now that there was no part of him where such kindness existed, especially when he brought his face close to mine and began to mimic my sobs. He spoke with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, to emphasize on what I probably looked (and sounded) like to him. To clearly state to me that he saw me as a special-needs person who somehow deserved to suffer simply because they were different. There was no doubt in my mind then, that he’d taken pleasure in hurting others before me, or even after me. Although I somehow came to this conclusion at this moment, I’d not revisit this particular thought until many years later. I shut down. I stopped begging. Just so he’d stop mocking. He did. He kept on speaking to me, though. I didn’t catch all of it. But I was called some very nasty names, names that fully supported my theory that he viewed me as completely helpless. I cried silently. Eventually, he began to lower himself, slowly releasing my arms in the process. I waited until they were free, and then attempted to push him off of me. My fighting seemed to excite him even more. In one swift movement, he lifted himself off of me and roughly flipped me over to my stomach. In that split second while he was no longer on top of me, I attempted to crawl away, but now, he was in a position that better served to his advantage. He shoved me forward, and I stumbled and landed face-down onto the floor. And quickly, his lower body was between my legs, he was using his legs to hold mine apart, and the heaviness of his torso was keeping me from further being able to try to escape. I couldn’t see his face at this point. I saw only the bedroom door in front of me and called out for help. I screamed. My arms flailed; I used the palm of my hands to bang the floor, but these were likely camouflaged as stray musical beats and vibrations, as I could feel from underneath me, that the music was blasting loud enough to wake the dead. I kicked my legs against the floor, too, but that, too, was ineffective and went unnoticed to anyone who was not in the room with us. He managed to gain control of both of my arms and momentarily held them above my head. Then, using one hand, he continued to hold them there, by pinning my wrists to the floor. He brought his face close to mine, and using his other hand, began to roam. He first ran it over my breasts, (more so along the sides, whatever parts were accessible with all of his weight being on top of me) and then began to hike up the skirt I was wearing. Next, his fingers were inside of the elastic of my underwear, and I felt them being pushed to the side. “No.” I remember saying it. I did say it. There was also a ‘please’ in there, but he ignored me. I said it several times, each subsequent ‘no’ becoming quieter as I began to realize that I’d lost this battle. I was trapped. He replaced his probing fingers with his penis, and again, there was a sharp, searing pain. It was like nothing I’d felt before. A combination of burning, friction and pressure. More of my tears rolled, but I went silent and limp. There were no more remaining ‘no’s;’ I saw no point in it, anymore. There was no desire to fight any further – hadn’t I been fighting all along, just to try and prevent this moment? A moment I never thought would happen to me – a moment I’d only heard about on the news or seen on television shows or movies. It was too late, now. He was inside of me. His grip on my wrists eventually loosened, as soon as he’d realized that I was defeated and resigned. And I was. I let my cheek rest on the cold, hard floor, feeling right away my tears transfer onto the wood below. While he moved my body with his, I stared at the screen saver, that was still bouncing, still morphing. I counted the beats that I could feel beneath my body. I noted the time on the clock and saw that I’d only been in this bedroom for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes. That’s all it took. I could tell that I was in a house that was cleaned regularly – with my face rested against the floor, I could smell the unmistakable scent of Pine-Sol. This would become yet another trigger – the Pine-Sol. I paid attention to everything except what was happening to me. I stared only at the things I’d chosen to focus on, even when he brought his face close to mine and told me how much I liked it. I’d caught that through the corner of my eye and wanted to scream back, no, I didn’t like it. But I feared that I’d receive the worst possible response to anything I could do or say, so I held my tongue. He’d added some other choice words in there, too. Even when he licked my face, even when he would become more rough in hopes of soliciting a reaction or even a cry from me. Even when the necklace he wore (it was a thick chain) hit me in the face with every thrust. Before tonight, I’d not know what dissociation was – but sure as shit, I did it that night. I felt my eyes glaze over as I left my body, and I encased myself within my surroundings, the music, the vibrations, the computer, the barbells on the floor, the flashing colon between the hour and minutes on the digital clock. On ANYTHING except what was happening to my body at the moment. For the moment, I only existed outside of the body I no longer would recognize as my own. I also remember thinking momentarily, what if these were the last things I’d see? What if this was it for me? What if he planned to kill me when he was finished? Would I ever see my family again? Would I ever turn 18? I didn’t want this stupid screen-saver to be the last thing I saw, my last memory. I remember letting my eyes slowly close as I scrambled for thoughts of good times, the smiling faces of the people I loved. It provided a measure of comfort during a time where my life was uncertain, although in a miniscule way. He eventually slowed, stopped, and withdrew. I opened my eyes only when I felt his weight shift from my body. Still, I didn’t dare move. Moving had always gotten me into more trouble. Instead, I remained stationary on the floor, even after he’d gotten up. I assume he took a moment to zip up his pants, because I only watched his feet. I didn’t want to see his face again. It was a passing thought that if we’d made eye contact, he’d speak to me. He likely had more horrible things to say. I didn’t want to be put in a position where I’d have to respond, so I avoided looking above his feet – which was easy, being on the floor. They eventually moved for the door, which was perhaps six feet away from where I lay. I saw it open, then close again. I was now alone in this bedroom – once a symbol of hope, and now a museum of unpleasant memories. Everything hurt. My head was throbbing. My stomach was in knots and was churning. My heart was racing. And down there, there was burning. I could tell I was bleeding. I could feel it. Still, I stayed on the floor and continued to stare at the same few things I’d stared at before. First the computer, then the barbells, then the clock…back to the computer for a few seconds, over to the barbells…. Oh, God, what if he came back? What if he wasn’t finished? The thought that he might not be finished was enough for more tears to fall before I began to slowly shift my thoughts over to how I was going to get out of this place. More than anything, I wanted to go home. I wanted to be in my own bed. I wanted my DAD. I don’t know that I wanted him to know what had just happened – I was still undecided on whether he would be mad at me or he’d criticize me for lying to him. Never once did I consider he would tell me it wasn’t my fault, because all I could think of at the moment was how much it was. I think, more so, I wanted to see my father’s face. I wanted to crawl into his lap like I used to when I was five, and watch a Mets game with him. I wanted to see him cheer when one of the Mets got a hit. I wanted to see him grumble when the relief pitcher turned out to be a bad idea. I knew though, most of all, I wanted to be anywhere but here. I moved my arms for the first time in several moments and using them for support, picked my head and upper torso up slightly to check the door. Eddie had locked it behind him, the lock was in its vertical position, same as it had been when he was in the room with me. Whether that was a plot to buy time so that he could make a clean getaway was only a consideration for a moment – I’d certainly been laying there long enough and was more concerned with how I was going to be leaving. If anyone were going to help me, to rescue me, they’d have done so already. No one even knew I was there. I could feel that the music was still blaring downstairs. Everyone was still having the time of their lives, while mine had just been hanging by a frayed thread – or at least that’s how it felt. The pain in my stomach had turned into complete nausea. Remembering there was a small bathroom behind me, I hurriedly scurried toward it and made a beeline for the toilet. I collapsed next to it, bent my neck over the side, and threw up. It was mostly liquid and whatever of my dinner (several hours earlier) wasn’t digested. When the contents of my stomach had been emptied and I was no longer heaving, I looked down. My skirt was still hiked up, and there were blood smears on my legs, mostly in my inner thigh area. My underwear was still on, as when he was finished with me, it had snapped back into place. I could feel they were wet, likely with blood. I sat there for several minutes longer. At least, it FELT like several minutes. In reality, it probably was not very long at all – but still. NOTHING made me feel dirtier than what was on my legs, what was in my underwear, what was probably still on the floor where I’d been lying. Again, I felt my heart begin to pound. Everything felt wrong. I felt as if I didn’t belong. As if I were intruding. There was not only the mess left on me, there was also the mess I’d made in a complete stranger’s bedroom. Completely disregarding the fact that a very serious crime had been committed here, I immediately felt the need to clean it, wipe it away. Erase myself from having ever been in that room. The words played over and over in my head, this is entirely my fault, I lied to my parents, I knew there was going to be drinking at this party, yet I came…I willingly walked into this room with a guy that I felt attracted to, although only momentarily. Maybe deep down, I’d wanted this, maybe I’d considered, even if only for a few seconds, that I was ready for a sexual experience – being Matt’s girlfriend was not a bad thing, but it was indeed frustrating at times, not being able to explore what sex was. Maybe I’d realized that, even if it were only for a very brief moment. I was a horrible person. That HAD to be it. I stood for the first time since I’d been thrown down. My legs shook as the skirt, that had been hiked up, finally dropped back down. I felt weak and used the sink to steady myself. I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror hanging above the sink and saw that there were also blood smears on my left cheek, and around my mouth area, from the split lip. It was no longer bleeding, but had certainly puffed up. That was first. I turned on the water and washed my face thoroughly. I washed away the blood, the tears, the snot. His saliva. I cupped my hand underneath the faucet and rinsed my mouth out, wanting him out of there, too. When I finally understood that no amount of rinsing could remove those feelings of shame and disgust, I stopped. Almost as if some cosmic force was trying to let me know what my next step was - because I sure as shit couldn’t think straight - I felt a gush. Almost like a period gush, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t from that. Even periods, with the added cramping, did not hurt as much as I hurt at that moment. I hiked my skirt up again, pulled my panties down and quickly sat on the toilet. Once I was seated, I lifted my ankles out of the leg openings and picked my underwear up. I wasn’t ready to look at them, yet, so I held them in my trembling hand while I sat silently for a few minutes. I knew that to look would confirm whatever pain I was feeling. The pain was in the same area I’d cramp in when I did have my period. Just far worse than any I’d ever had in my life. I shook more as I became overwhelmed with my first flashback – if you could call it that, given it’d happened just minutes earlier. He’d repeatedly torn into me, paying no mind to the pain he was causing me with each angry push. Somehow that thought turned into, ‘maybe if I’d asked him to stop, he would have?’ The adult me now knows that he absolutely would not have shown me any mercy, but the 17-year-old version of me couldn’t see past that fact that she’d stopped pleading with him, thus she’d allowed him to do what he’d done. Stopping the fight was the equivalent of giving in, and to do so was giving consent. I’d soon mustered enough courage to look at the garment I held in my hand. The back and sides were clean, but as I’d suspected, there was blood in the crotch area. There was absolutely no way that I was putting these back on. There was a small trash can in a corner across from where the toilet was positioned. I found the cardboard core of an empty roll of toilet paper, and using my finger, pushed my soiled underwear into the open space in the center. I then plugged both ends with small pieces of tissue to keep the panties hidden, and tucked the roll back toward the bottom of the trash barrel. I was sure there was also some blood in the toilet, something I’d confirm during the next stage of my clean-up. Dirty. I felt SO dirty. I reached over to the sink next to me, turned the water back on and dampened wad after wad of toilet paper and cleaned myself up as best as I could before flushing my ‘sins’ away forever. When I was as satisfied as I could be with my cleaning, I stood, grabbed another handful of toilet paper and wet it. I exited the bathroom and walked over to the spot where I’d been raped. There were some droplets and smears of blood on the floor. Not wanting to see them anymore, wanting them gone along with the evidence I’d just cleaned off of myself, I immediately took the wet wad of toilet paper to the floor, wiping furiously at each spot and smear, until I was convinced that there were no further traces of me and that nobody would ever know what happened here. When finished, I returned to the bathroom to flush the bloody wad of toilet paper. I then ensured there was no remaining traces of my blood on the toilet seat, in the toilet bowl, in the trash, on the floor or the sink, before leaving the bathroom. I realized then that I had nothing on underneath my skirt. Almost immediately, I felt exposed and overly vulnerable. I needed something to wear, something to protect what was right now, the one part of my body I wanted hidden by several layers of clothing. Inpenetrable steel would have been a lovely, although unrealistic alternative, but I needed something there before I could safely re-introduce myself to the world beyond these four walls. Realizing again that I was in a bedroom, I made my way over to a dresser and opened the top drawer, where I found a pair of boxer shorts. They were faded and looked old and unlikely to be missed, so I took them and slipped into them. I did feel badly about doing that, too – stealing was added to the mental list of things I’d done wrong that night. I made one final trip to the bathroom where I grabbed another large wad of toilet paper, and stuffed it into the boxer shorts, between my legs, with the intention of it acting as a makeshift maxi pad. I stood in the middle of the room for what seemed like an eternity. I stared at the door, mostly. What if he was still here? What if he was standing right outside? What if he was waiting for me? Would I even see that ‘acquaintance’ of mine? It’s awfully hard to put into words the impasse I was at during this particular moment. I no longer wanted to be in this room, but what was out there was proving to be just as threatening and terrifying. What if I was in fact, safer in here? I‘m not sure what drove me. Perhaps it as the feeling of suffocation that was starting to set in. Maybe another part of me took over – a part of me that knew that I’d likely be standing in that room for several more hours if I didn’t move now. I felt my fingers turn the lock, and then my hand wrap around the cool-to-the-touch silver knob. I then was greeted with the heavy smell of pot once I’d let myself out into the hallway. There were other people in the hallway, there was a lot of smoke, there was the same loud music playing and the place was jumping. There had been no lapse in their world – only mine. I knew from memory that the front door was only a few feet from the bottom of the stairs and that in just moments, I’d be out of this house. I descended the stairs in a daze, refusing to look in any direction other than straight ahead. I think, deep down, I told myself that if I continued to look straight ahead, I would be less likely to find him, less likely to see his smirk, his amused smile. As soon as I stepped out the front door, I was met with a cool, relieving breeze. I am unsure of which was more relieving – the fresh air, or finally being out of that house where the smell of pot was overwhelming. I walked as quickly as my shaky legs would allow me to – I took step after step, knowing each carried me further away from the nightmare I’d just endured. I will admit that I’d hoped that the further I became from that house, the less hold it would have over me. My plan for the moment was to go home and forget about it. All of it. I’d not tell anybody. Not my Dad. Not my Mom. Not Matt…especially not Matt! Once I got to it, I’d crawl into bed and sleep. For days, if I needed to. Until I felt better, then I’d move on with my life as if nothing had happened. I know that plan is laughable, but for the moment, it was pure gold. But I had to get home, first. I thought as I walked. How the fuck was I going to get home? My car was at that stupid bit*h’s house! Still, I kept walking. If only I could remember where she lived and what streets she took to get us to the party? Maybe I could walk there? But my keys were inside her house. My purse, too. My wallet. My book bag. Everything. It was either inside her house or in my car. EVEN if I could remember where she lived and was able to get myself there by foot, I didn’t want to have to knock on her door. What if she’d gotten home already? Would I be able to refrain from punching her in the face when she answered the door? What if her mother answered the door? No. That wouldn’t work… Kept walking, still. I could feel that there was more bleeding, but still needed to be further away. I needed more distance to be put between myself and that horrible place. I kept looking behind me, to make sure he wasn’t there. What if he’d seen me leave and was following me? I needed to be states away. My legs couldn’t get me that far, and that quickly. No fucking way was I going back to that house or stopping to knock on someone’s door. That was completely out of the question. I needed to move forward, not backwards, and to ask another stranger for help was, to me, moving backwards. I walked for several minutes more, pondering my options. There weren’t many. And the burning between my legs was back and intensifying with each additional step I took. I could tell the tissues I had stuffed into the boxers were already becoming saturated. I needed a bathroom so that I could clean myself again. I’d arrived at a busy street. It was late at night, so traffic was light, but there were still cars passing by. Across the street, there sat a small diner. It was one of those storefront diners, you could see through the front windows that there were booths lined up along the length of the window, there was a counter. And there was likely a bathroom, too, as any establishment that served food must also have a bathroom… My first thought when walking in was that they’d likely not allow me to use their bathroom if I wasn’t a paying customer. As it was pretty late in the evening, there was only one customer there - an elderly man sitting in one of the booths farthest away from the front door, his companionship being a lone cup of coffee and a newspaper. A plump, kindly-looking waitress stood behind the counter and greeted me with a smile. I leaned against the counter, exhausted, and asked her for a glass of water (as I was of the impression that you couldn’t use the bathroom unless you were a customer, and although I didn’t have any money on me, I NEEDED the bathroom and needed to, at least, LOOK like a paying customer!) and then after a pause, if I could use the ladies’ room. Without hesitation, she pointed in the direction of the bathroom. It was just past where the old man was sitting, and he briefly looked up from his newspaper as I walked past him and disappeared into the rest room. There was more blood, and several more flushes. I sat for a little bit longer, as my legs were weary and sore – I’d walked as fast as they were capable of carrying me. It hit me that I was still unsure of how I’d be getting home. It was looking more and more like I’d have to call my father – or have someone call him FOR me. The lady at the counter worked at the diner. Name tag and all. (What was it? Susan? I want to say it was Susan…) Could I trust her to make a call to my father? I probably could trust a business employee but I’d have to build up the NERVE to ask, first. I needed to think some more. When I’d replaced the wad of toilet paper, I stood and walked back over to the counter, where Susan was patiently waiting. Right away, she produced a glass of water and a menu, I guess, just in case I WAS a paying customer. In hindsight, she probably wouldn’t have cared if I was or wasn’t – she was soft, kind-looking and I believe, deep down, she knew something was wrong. She was careful not to touch me when she handed me the water and the menu. Perhaps it was the body language that spoke for me – back OFF. Or was it something else? My hands had been shaking on and off for the last hour – perhaps they were still unsteady? Maybe my lip was swollen? Had it begun to bleed again? I hadn’t looked in the mirror on my way out of the bathroom…what if there was blood on my skirt? I’d not seen any when I cleaned up at the house, but what if there was some there, now? I remember gently touching my lip with a finger and running my tongue along the inside of my mouth to check. I wrapped both of my hands around the tall glass of water, needing them to be still. The concern of there being blood on my skirt was the biggest at the moment, especially now that I was sitting down. What if I’d bled through? Susan waited until I’d taken a sip of water through the straw before leaning in. I felt myself tense up but didn’t move. I was terrified of people right now. Even the old man, probably harmless, sitting in the booth on the way to the bathroom. Even he scared me. I didn’t want to be seen; I didn’t want to be smiled at. I didn’t want to exist. Eye contact was a dangerous thought – I felt as if ONE look at my eyes would reveal everything that had happened, every shameful detail - and I wanted to NOT be in the spotlight. I wanted to be invisible – or at least completely unseen for the time being. Still, I knew that if it was likely I’d have to suck it up and ask for help for the second time that night, I’d better at least LOOK at her. Slowly, I raised my eyes and met the lips of the waitress, who spoke softly, almost in a whisper. “There is a cab on his way here,” She said, “the driver is a relative of mine and he’s trustworthy.” I’m not sure how I managed, but I thanked her. She said, ‘you’re welcome,’ and, I suspect that in addition to her good timing, she also had a touch of ESP, because she must have sensed that I needed a moment. She left me to sit in silence and walked over to the old man with a coffee carafe. My hands were getting cold from being wrapped around the glass, so I gently pushed my drink over to the side and picked up the menu. I knew I wasn’t planning on getting anything to eat, but there was still that desire to ‘blend in.’ To look as if I belonged, as if I was ‘fine.’ To put SOMETHING into my hands. It was either the menu or the nearby salt and pepper shakers. I knew I wasn’t ‘fine’ or even okay, and that I wouldn’t be for a while. Still, I held the menu in my hands, feeling them begin to tremble again. I looked only at the calligraphic writing for another indeterminate amount of time. I don’t even think I remembered how to read at the moment – the words stared back at me and would blur every few seconds. My head was pounding, and I felt sick to my stomach. Yet, the kind words of Susan the waitress, replayed in my mind. A cab…on the way. She’d called a cab. I didn’t have to ask her to – she’d done it on her own. She’d saved me the trouble of having to muster up enough courage to admit that I needed help. I wanted to cry, this was one of the first things to have gone right that night! When I felt a breeze from the front door being opened, I looked up only briefly to see a man walk in. He had on a Yankees hat, jeans, and a black leather jacket. He stood at the opposite end of the counter for a moment, as one would if they were waiting to be served. Susan, who had disappeared into the kitchen a few moments earlier, re-emerged with a tray of desserts to put out on display in one of the see-through counters that was noticeably low on muffins and cakes and other desserts that I normally would have found appetizing. There was a brief exchange between Susan and the man, following a quick kiss hello. They spoke softly while Susan grabbed the nearby carafe and poured him a coffee ‘to go.’ He then took his coffee and left the diner. I watched as Susan opened the dessert display case from her side of the counter and she put the tray onto one of the shelves. She then began to make her way over to me. Again, I tensed up and my heart began to race. I felt safe for the moment, but at the same time, still wary of impending danger. I wouldn’t be completely safe until this night was over and I was in my room, in my Dad’s house, in clean pajamas, with my own pillow and blanket. “My brother-in-law is here. His car is right out front. He will take you wherever you want to go. All you need to do is give him an address.” I turned my head and looked out the diner’s front window. The man with the Yankee hat was sitting in the drivers’ seat of a black sedan, with the name and number of a local cab company printed on the side. The lights were on in the car as well as the headlights. He was sipping from the coffee cup Susan had given him. I wasn’t sure about this. Susan had indeed been helpful and had taken the initiative to call the cab for me, but she’d not asked me what I wanted her to do. Perhaps I’d not have been able to verbalize, nor would I have been too comfortable having her explain to my father that I needed a ride home and why. Maybe the cab would have ended up being something I’d asked for. I just hadn’t had the time to entertain the idea of getting into another stranger’s car – even if it meant that it would be bringing me to safety. How was I to know, though? What if this guy was a crazy, too? But then again, if I didn’t get into the cab, how WAS I getting home? How much longer would it be before I would figure out what the plan was? I was aching badly in places I didn’t even know existed, my head was continuing to pound, and my legs felt rubbery and sore. It was an opportunity I had to take. I stood, slowly, knowing that it was my best option. I thanked Susan again and made for the front door. “Take care,” was what she said. That was the last I saw of Susan, at least physically. I’d see her several more times in memories of that night and of the difference she’d made. I’d regret never having the nerve to go back to that diner to see if it was even still standing and of course, if she was still working there, so that I could say the words to her that I couldn’t say 23 years ago. I got into the back seat of Susan’s brother-in-law’s cab. He put his coffee into the cup holder in between his seats, turned his head and asked, ‘where to, honey?’ Where to? To the house of my acquaintance to pick up my car? I did have her address confined to memory from when I’d MapQuested it earlier. Yes, back then, GPS’s didn’t exist, at least, I don’t think so. So MapQuest or written directions were the way to go. But could I actually drive my car, feeling the way I did? Or was I more likely to die in a fiery crash on the Sunrise Highway because everything was blurring on me? To the hospital? The thought of painkillers was a good one. There HAD to be something they could give me that would numb my entire body. But, wouldn’t they have to call my parents? I wasn’t 18 yet. I didn’t have any insurance or even any ID on me. They’d likely call the cops. And then THEY would call my parents. And then my parents would know. And, so would Matt, eventually. My mother never could keep her mouth shut, so naturally, that would mean the whole world would know, after what had happened was broadcast on the six o’clock news. Then my parents would be SURELY be angry with me… The driver was patient. He waited quietly for me to mentally scroll through my choices of places he could bring me, and only pulled out of the diner’s parking lot as soon as I supplied him with the instructions, “Exit 43 off the Sunrise. I’ll direct you from there.” I was going home. I’d figure out the car later. After I’d showered, slept, and the pain had subsided. When I was able to form a conscious thought. When every damn part of my body wasn’t shaking or throbbing or otherwise uncomfortable. The ride lasted about thirty minutes – and that’s only because it was late and there was very little traffic on the road. After he had taken the exit and I’d told him which turns to take, we arrived at my Dad’s house. All of the lights were off. My Dad had likely gone to sleep hours earlier. I realized then that I didn’t even have my house key. I knew though, that my father kept a spare key underneath a large rock on the side of the house – it wasn’t a decorative rock, just one of those stray rocks that nobody knew served an additional purpose than to just exist. I knew my father kept a pouch of grocery money in one of the drawers in the kitchen – I hoped there was enough in there to give the driver. As soon as we were in the driveway, I told him to wait while I went in to get him some money. “No,” he said to me. “Susan already took care of it. You just get yourself inside, okay, honey?” I tried to ignore the ‘honey’ – I knew he wasn’t being fresh or inappropriate. He was genuinely a gentleman – and had gotten me home, he hadn’t tried to engage me in conversation, he’d driven responsibly. For all of that, I was eternally grateful. I just didn’t like the ‘honey.’ Especially not tonight. I shook it off, though, for I was finally home now – and nothing mattered more than that. “Are you sure?” “Go on.” I thanked him, (and mentally thanked Susan, again) and got out of the car. As soon as he’d driven away, I made my way over to the side of the house, where I prayed no one had moved the concealed key. I REALLY didn’t want to knock on the door and alert my father to anything – I just wanted to quietly go inside and get OUT of these clothes…clothes that usually were comfortable and that I actually liked – now were tainted. I never wanted to see that skirt again. I wanted the boxer shorts I’d been wearing wadded up and discarded. I wanted the smell of weed off of my shirt, out of my hair, out of my nostrils, where all of the unpleasant smells of that night continued to linger. I located the key despite it being dark outside, thanking God that it hadn’t been disturbed, and let myself into my father’s house. I disabled the security system, and quietly made my way into my room, where I wasted NO time. I grabbed clothes from my dresser drawers and made a beeline for the bathroom one door down. Finally. Fucking FINALLY. I stripped as soon as I’d locked myself into the bathroom and stepped into the shower, switching on the faucet. I don’t know how long I was standing there – it could very easily have been forty-five minutes before the water went from hot to cold. Still, I stood there for yet another period in which time seemed endless, letting the stream of water wash away any residual traces of blood – and him- that had dried up in between my inner thighs and on my legs. I washed myself thoroughly with a soapy, even though it burned to do so. The bleeding had slowed significantly by now, but I still avoided looking at the blood-streaked water before it disappeared down the drain, along with any evidence that might have remained. I know what you’re all likely thinking at this point. No, I thought nothing about reporting what had happened. By now, I’d decided that I was NOT going that route. The shame was far too great, and I truly felt at this point, that the events of the last few hours had been entirely my fault. My parents would tell me the same thing. They’d call the cops. The cops would ask me about him and really, what would I say? I didn’t know anything about him, just that his name was Eddie. I didn’t know his last name or where he lived. They’d never find him. And I didn’t want to get into it. I wanted to forget it. ALL of it. I wanted it buried. The thought of people knowing about this – TERRIFIED me. What would they think if me? I suppose you could call me chicken – but my excuse stands – being seventeen and still ‘a kid’ DEFINITELY hinders sensible thinking. That shower was also the first time I cried since it had happened. I know I’d cried during, but in between Eddie’s leaving me and my arrival home, it had been unsafe to cry, to show weakness and vulnerability. Look at where it had gotten me in the first place, after all. I’m not sure what that night taught me as far as showing emotion, but to this day, I still have trouble crying in front of others – most particularly when talking about this one event. As I finally felt safe and alone and that the spotlight had been removed for the time being, I stood there in the shower, bawling, and at one point, sank to the floor of the tub and sobbed silently and until my tears had run out. It would be the most I’d cry about this for several years. When the water had become too cold to bear, I got out, dried off, put my pajamas on and gathered all of the clothes I’d been wearing that night. Into a plastic bag they went, until the bag was eventually discarded days later. After ‘squaring away’ those clothes, I’d crawled into my bed, and that was where I’d spend most of the weekend. I didn’t want to get up, or to move. It took a little time for me to fall asleep and it was almost dawn when I’d finally succumbed to it. My father had poked his head into my room a few hours later, and had asked why I was home – where was my car? He hadn’t expected me home until later that day. I told him that I’d gotten sick with a stomach flu and that my classmate had driven me home – I’d have to pick my car up when I was feeling better. He didn’t ask any more questions – and while part of me was disappointed that my own father hadn’t even been able to pick up on the fact that something was wrong, another part of me was glad. Maybe, just maybe I could keep this secret. It was, after all, mine, and mine only to hold, to carry, to hide whenever necessary. This installment is dedicated to the woman who just wanted to fit in. The woman who wanted to have a good time. The woman who wanted to try new things. The woman who was put in a bad position by stretching the truth. The woman who found him attractive at first. The woman who allowed herself to trust a stranger, a friend, a family member. The woman who stopped fighting because she couldn’t anymore. The woman who was rendered defenseless and powerless. The woman who was too afraid to report it to the authorities. The woman who did what she needed in order to survive. The woman who is to blame for none of it. - Capulet
  9. Hello there, @NotTheSame907 - extending to you a very warm welcome to our fantastic community. I hope that being here brings you peace, comfort and healing! Welcome to After Silence. Best wishes!! Capulet
  10. Hi @abnormalone2002 - Welcome (back) to AS! You'll soon see that there are many new 'faces' as well as some old, familiar ones and that we've changed a little bit in recent years - but we're still the same kind, supportive, and loving community you likely remember. Our chat room isn't working at the moment but we're hoping that it will be up and running soon. In the meantime, please do take your time to look around and re-familiarize yourself with our forums. Thanks for telling us a bit about yourself. Those special-needs children are truly fortunate to have people like you, who are willing to go that extra yard and who are truly looking after them and trying to help them to succeed! Good for you. I wish you happiness and success with your career goals! Again, welcome back! Lean on us for support anytime you like. Best wishes, Capulet
  11. Also posted in Share Your Story: Installment One: The Formative Years I was born on a snowy winter morning in 1978. Originally, I wasn’t planning to reveal my age – but felt there was some importance in divulging the time frame. I DO believe that there is FAR more awareness now than there was back then. Maybe, just maybe things would have turned out differently. Maybe it would have set off an entirely different chain of events. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this, now. As life is full of too many maybes and not enough definites, I’ve decided to chuck the what-ifs into the (digital) trash where they belong, because regardless of what the maybes are, they’ll never be proven and we cannot dwell on them. My mother was a schoolteacher. She’d been teaching kindergarten up until shortly before giving birth and my father worked in insurance. They married young. I’d learn years later that I was not their first child – before they married, my mother, at seventeen, had become pregnant with my brother – that pregnancy was terminated, likely for a number of reasons but two main ones stand out – one – they were young and not yet engaged – and two – although my mother claimed she was ambiguous and would have birthed my brother, my father was of the mindset that they weren’t ready to have a child, yet. So, they’d made the decision to terminate, and didn’t have me until eight years later and after they’d already been married for seven of them. When I was six months old, my parents noticed that I was not responding to loud noises or to my name being called. I think an investigation was sparked when my father set off the smoke/fire alarm, alerting all tenants of the apartment building we lived in, (I must say that his cooking has not improved) and I slept through it all. There was enough concern that they brought me to have my hearing tested. The audiologist took out a cowbell and stood directly behind me and rang it. My parents could hear it. The people in the office next door likely heard it, too. Hell, the people outside probably could have heard it. I, however, did not. I remained stationary in my seat and unfazed. “Your daughter is deaf.” The diagnosis rattled my parents to their core. They thankfully didn’t waste time seeking out second or third opinions – they’d likely have gotten the same responses. They liked this particular audiologist, too, and felt comfortable with her and her advice to get me fitted with hearing aids as quickly as possible. “What happened?” They did ask her. I am the only one in my family history to have a hearing impairment, so they knew this was not genetic. After discussing any and all possibilities, the one theory that seemed most likely was my mother’s (while being pregnant) having come into contact with a student of hers that had come down with the measles. Another way that ‘back then’ was different from today – there wasn’t so much stress on the importance of vaccinations and kids were showing up to school with brewing illnesses and sharing them with their friends, or in my mother’s case, with their pregnant teachers. So, the reason that’s been put down in all of my medical charts is, ‘birth defect.’ It was also explained to my parents that I’d likely never speak, having never been able to ‘hear’ proper speech. It’s been suggested, although never confirmed, that I was born with a severe hearing loss and it had rapidly declined into a profound loss by the time of diagnosis. It was recommended that I be taught sign language as a primary language – which would have meant that both my parents, who combined, didn’t know a single word in sign language, would have to first learn it themselves in order to teach ME to communicate. The sign-language route wasn’t an option that my mother was willing to accept as a primary plan. It quickly became a secondary, back-up plan as she decided to quit her teaching job and to focus on taking care of her special-needs child. I’m unsure if it was due to her strong background and focus in education, or if it was a personal mission of hers that she undertook at this point, but early intervention was her mindset and quickly became her obsession. If speech training could not be implemented into my day-to-day life, then they’d revert back to Plan B. EVERYTHING was a lesson. A learning experience. I am partially glad that I have no memory of this, either. The way my mother tells it, every waking moment was spent teaching me. Every time she spoke to me, she’d place my tiny hand onto her throat so that I could feel the vibrations of her voice. She’d also say the names of things she’d pick up, and make sure I was looking at her when she did, so that I could see how they looked on her lips, and put the image together with the words. Cup. Ball. Book. Toy. The list goes on. And the colors….this is red, that’s blue…etc. There were flash cards, too…she’d cut out photos from magazines and make these herself. She would eventually be able to say a word and have me point to the picture. She didn’t do all of this, herself, though. She also took several trips into the city, sometimes as often as three times per week, where trained professionals would also work with me on speech and language development. Being at home was just a constant continuation of all of the work they did there. In addition to being my mother, she became my first and most important teacher. My father wasn’t as involved with all of this. I’m not sure if this was where they started having problems or disagreements, but they were divorced before I had any memory of him living with us or being a constant within my very early childhood. My mother was given sole custody. My father didn’t fight her. While I know he loved me very much, he was clearly happy with having her do most of the parenting and he’d take me on weekends and holidays. I was 2 when their divorce was final; Mom and I moved out of the apartment that my parents shared. My Dad would remain in the same place for the next decade. As she needed time to get onto her feet, she moved in with my grandmother for a little while. My grandmother owned a house that had been in the family since HER mother bought when SHE was a child. It was a brick, two-story place that had been converted into a two-family home when my mother was still a kid. Now it was the very early 80’s and my mother’s brother and his ‘friend’ (a male roommate/his best friend/possible lover?) lived in the upstairs apartment while my mother and I lived in the downstairs apartment with my grandmother. This was only meant to be a temporary arrangement, as my mother, following her divorce from my father, had returned back to work. As soon as my mother began to gain a steady income, (along with my father’s child support) we moved out of my grandmother’s house and into a small basement apartment just a few blocks away. My mother, until she eventually re-married, made sure to stay close to my grandmother – and also my uncle. You see, she needed help with getting me to my appointments into the city for continued speech therapy. I was not yet in school, so my uncle, who was not working at the time, was tasked with taking me back and forth via city subway. There was a train station literally behind my grandmother’s house and it was one train from there to the city, where my uncle would bring me for my appointments while my mother worked. On days I didn’t have appointments, he was my babysitter – and would watch me at my grandmother’s house until my mother got home. A pause here, to tell you a little bit about him. He was (I suppose I shouldn’t say ‘was’ as he’s still alive – but my grandmother is not) my grandmother’s eldest. My mother also had an older sister, who at the time was married with a couple kids, lived elsewhere (although not too far) and had her own issues at the time – so was unavailable to help out. My uncle had joined the seminary years before I was born. I’m unsure if doing so had to do with his sexual orientation – or guilt and confusion relating to it. Either way, he became a Roman Catholic priest – and still lived with his ‘friend,’ a man I knew for my entire life and adopted as a second uncle. From when I was born, he was there. I’d never known my uncle to be without his ‘friend.’ To this day, they are still living in that apartment, even though I think now, he’s moved downstairs and is occupying the space that used to be my grandmother’s. But, anyway – I rarely saw him in anything other than the black pants, black shirt, priest collar. He never confirmed that my second uncle was anything more than just his friend, and no one wanted to ask. We all just went along with it, not wanting to know what went on behind closed doors. None of that was our business. My uncle was the equivalent of the ‘housewife’ while my ‘bonus’ uncle worked a regular nine-to-five – so unless it was a weekend or Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s or a holiday or family gathering, I rarely saw him. While we lived within walking distance from my grandmother’s house, my uncle would walk over in the evenings to ‘say goodnight,’ and usually that consisted of him telling me a bedtime story and tucking me in. Usually it was the same corny story. He would put me in as the main character – he would also insert my cousins, (my aunt’s kids) but always make me the heroine. There was no doubt that I was his ‘favorite’ and he made sure to tell me often. I spent a LOT of time with him when I was between the ages three to five. When I started elementary school, the trips into the city had lessened from three times a week down to two, and they’d likely be after-school appointments. He would still take me to those, as my mother’s work schedule often consisted of after-school tutoring, to earn a little extra. All that being said, let it be known that I have no memories of ANY of this. I only remember all of the above as that’s how it was told to me. By the time I turned six, my mother had just re-married. My new stepfather was a decent guy and a hard worker. My first sister was ‘baking,’ my mother had become pregnant shortly after her wedding. My father had also remarried within months of my mother. I now had two ‘bonus’ parents aside from my biological parents – I still lived with my mother, though, and we’d moved into an apartment further away from my grandmother’s house – meaning my uncle could no longer walk the distance to ‘tuck me in’ at night anymore. I’m not sure how this came to be – it might have been suggested that I was struggling socially in school, but my mother eventually decided to put me into ‘play therapy.’ It was church sponsored and free – but being six, I didn’t care about the ‘therapy’ aspect of it all. All I cared about was the fact they had a Barbie Dream House in one of their playrooms, and I LOVED the idea of being able to go play with it for an hour. There were a WHOLE lot of toys to pick from…blocks, puppets, stuffed animals…but that Dream House was all that I’d go for. They had a range of Barbies that I could play with, too, which only made it all better. I remember a Dream House of my own being added to my Christmas list, but it never did show up under the tree. Damn that Santa Claus! That’s where my memories start. I remember nothing before going to play therapy. I, however, remember THIS particular afternoon at play therapy where I clenched a Ken doll in one hand and a Skipper doll in the other. This is where it gets fuzzy. I don’t remember what the dolls were actually doing. Perhaps I’m not allowed to remember. I DO, however, remember the lady waving her hand to get my attention, and then when I looked at her, asking me who the Ken doll was. What was his name? I could have said, ‘Ken.’ Even back then, I’m sure I was a smart-ass. I did know that was the name of Barbie’s boyfriend. But I didn’t. In this representation, he wasn’t Ken. Instead, I named my uncle. The lady told me I could play for a little while longer. She would be right back. I didn’t care that she left me alone in the playroom. Thinking back, I’m sure she was going to speak to my mother and properly ‘reporting’ what had just been said. At the time, though, nothing registered. I was oblivious and uncaring, as long as I had a few more minutes with the Dream House, I was golden… I never saw that woman or that playroom again. I think I was more disappointed that I never saw the Dream House again, either. Shortly after my last play therapy session, two women showed up at our apartment. They sat on either side of me on the couch. My mother was there, too, standing across from where we sat. I remember her telling the women that I was deaf and I needed for her there to interpret, in case I didn’t understand them. I remember vaguely one woman beginning to speak slowly. She started out with some simple questions. What was my name? How old was I? What was my favorite color? What was my favorite toy? When she was sure that I could understand her without my mother’s help, she put down the clipboard she had in her lap, and slightly opened her legs. “Do you know what this is?” She patted her own crotch. It was quick, a pat-pat when the word ‘this’ was said. I remember looking at this lady as if she were bat-shit crazy. Of course I knew what THAT was. I had one too. I knew the name, but I called it a ‘private part.’ I remember there being a brief dialogue between my mother and these two women. My mother was someone that there was NEVER any issue lip-reading. The person I had NO choice but to understand. She was suggesting to the women that she’d spoken to her brother and he’d disciplined me because I was being ‘fresh.’ He’d admitted to swatting my bottom. Additionally, maybe that was why I was confused, and THAT’s what he’d touched, instead of where Ken had touched Skipper. I assume that is why they asked me what (pat-pat) ‘this’ was. ‘This’ and my bottom are not in the same place. In hindsight, even at six, I knew the difference between that was in the front and what was in the back. Why would I deny this, though? My mother was the one person I knew I needed to obey. Whatever she said was the truth. One of the not-so-good things about her being my first-ever ‘teacher’ – I took every single thing she said seriously and as being the truth. She was right about everything. Whatever she knew, I was supposed to also know. And like most students try to do with their teachers – I was eager to supply the right answer and to make her proud. I wanted to please her, I wanted to be right and not wrong. So, when the women turned to me and asked if that was what happened, and that my uncle had spanked my bottom, I nodded. Yes. If Mom said that’s what happened, then that’s what happened. I DID remember him doing that, after all. Not details, but I DID remember being warned by my mother not to give my uncle a hard time on the subway. I was six, of COURSE I was going to get out of line a few times. The subway had poles in the aisles and I’d love spinning around them…he’d probably complained about that and said I’d misbehaved. I’d probably been swatted a couple times because I didn’t listen. It wasn’t something done regularly. I suddenly felt very afraid. Of what, I don’t know. Maybe it was of these strange women and them being here and asking weird questions. They’d seemed friendly when they arrived. Now, they were just intimidating, and I wanted them to leave. I’m not sure how much longer we were talking but to an anxious six-year-old, time drags and it’s hard not to get restless. “I made it up.” Yes. I said it. I said it so they would leave. Sure enough, shortly after, they gathered their papers and clipboards and left. My mother let them out and said nothing more of this. Ever. Not a single word. You’d think something this serious would be followed up on. It would be something that I’d need facts on. Something that would be too hard to ignore, but it’s something my mother had too little difficulty ‘forgetting about.’ I do think, though, my uncle was spooked, and if there was indeed something going on, it stopped here. I did always remember that meeting with those women and telling them I’d lied and that I’d entirely made up what Ken had done to Skipper was always in the back of my head, bottled and stored in a place that would remain undisturbed for the next a decade and a half. It perhaps stayed in the back of my mother’s mind, too, but unlike me, she’d never get around to re-opening this bottle. I’m not sure if the behaviors began before or after this meeting with those two women. I remember nothing from ‘before’ I started to believe that I was a liar, for having made up something so terrible about my uncle. And now, looking back at the behaviors I remember so clearly, I was having to believe that there really was something wrong with me, too. I remember beginning to take my own baths at the age of seven. My sister had been born shortly before I turned seven, and my mother was now often busy with an infant. So, every night, I would go into the bathroom with my bucket of bath toys and take a bath on my own. This next part is one of the hardest things for me to admit – but I will do so anyway, as I’ve promised not to hold back, not to kick certain details over to the side because they’re too shameful or embarrassing. It’s important. It’s another huge, significant, blinking question mark when it comes to the whys behind it. Another black void that I truly cannot shine a light on, to see what started it. But – at age seven is when the masturbation started. Water was how I did it, mostly with the shower head/spray. I don’t know if this means of masturbation was ‘discovered’ by accident or it was a previously introduced method, but it regardless became a routine. At the beginning of ‘bath time,’ I would turn on the shower head and let the water hit me ‘there’ until I couldn’t anymore. I had no idea what an orgasm was, but there was a point I needed to get to – a point where I could no longer spray in that spot, because it was throbbing too much. While a child knows nothing about masturbation – certainly not the proper term for it - she somehow knew that it was how to arrive at that ‘feeling’ at the end. To experience that feeling soon became a bath time obsession for me. While it was something I had grown used to doing, and I am ashamed to admit I enjoyed, too – I also knew, deep down, that it was wrong. There was something about it that didn’t feel right – and I ignored that nagging feeling. Instead, I hid this from not only my mother, but from everyone else in the household. It was my secret, something I never told anybody about. A few years in, my mother did eventually realize what I was doing when she walked into the bathroom and caught me in the process. She’d confirmed my fears – it was wrong, it was a sin and it was disgusting. And because I’d become so intent on doing it, I felt even more so that this meant that I was not normal, I was a bad person, I was a disgusting, vile human being. It was something she would tell me that I needed to confess to our parish priest (we were Catholic…I only say ‘were’ because I no longer follow the Catholic) before receiving Communion at Sunday mass. So, every week, I’d shamefully admit to the priest (the face-to-face confessional was how I had to do it) that I touched myself. I’d grow increasingly ashamed of it, and of myself, as I got older. An addendum to the whole ‘confessing my sins’ bit – I wasn’t thinking to add this as I was almost finished writing this installment when remembering this part. As my mother insisted on my going to confession before church, and her brother was a priest, she would sometimes have HIM listen to my confessions. There was a room in his apartment that he’d made a mini-chapel out of – he had an altar, his statues, the communion dish, the wine goblet, the incense thingy…there was a single pew where we would once in a while hear him say mass. Or it was where I’d sit next to him and avoid eye contact while I told him the same things I’d tell our parish priest. He would absolve me of my sins every time, and then give me my three Hail Marys or two Our Fathers to recite as penance. I never really thought about how messed up this was – not until much later. I can’t help but wonder, looking back, what HE was thinking when hearing me say these things? Another behavior that also began when I was very young was soiling myself. This, I cannot explain the reasoning behind. I would literally ‘hold it’ even if I needed to go to the bathroom – and usually would have soiled underwear at the end of the day. I’d taken to hiding them when I took them off, fearful that I’d be yelled at. My mother would indeed yell, but usually it would be when she either realized that there weren’t too many pairs of my underwear in the laundry or when she’d find however many pairs that I’d hidden when she ‘cleaned’ a certain place in my room. She also knew about my soiling – she’d shame me for that, too, telling me I smelled, and that nobody would want to be near me. Perhaps, deep down, I knew that. Either way, this, along with the masturbation, was likely one of the several reasons I met my first therapist when I was eight years old. Dr. M had her office in the basement level of a brownstone in downtown Brooklyn. She was a Jewish lady with an 80’s perm, glasses, and a fondness for saying ‘what do YOU think?’ whenever I asked her a question. Her office had a playroom, too, but alas, no Barbie Dream House. She did have wooden building blocks, plenty of paper, crayons and other crafting supplies. Most of the time, we’d converse while I drew pictures or built something out of the blocks. I don’t recall what we talked about, but I do remember wanting to know more about her. How old was she? What was HER favorite thing to eat? It would piss me off to no end when she would smile and ask what I thought. I’d tell her, “I dunno. That’s why I’m asking you.” I saw her for once per week, for one year. It became something I looked forward to – it was hard, at eight, to view Dr. M as a therapist or to wonder why I was seeing her. Mom would later say it was because I was having trouble at school and that I was imaginative. Hmm. Imaginative. Meaning, I guess, I was a liar, and that was just a nicer word for it. I think she also threw in “well, your being deaf was making it hard for you to make friends at school.” That doesn’t quite top the ‘imaginative’ reference, but it was also true that school SUCKED for me. Kids were cruel, I kept to myself mostly, and shied away from as much social activity as possible. Not that seeing Dr. M improved on that – school was a nightmare all through middle school – being deaf was simply what was wrong with me now, and what would be wrong with me for the rest of my life. While the other stuff that was wrong with me was a secret, this wasn’t one I could keep. There was constantly attention being drawn to my disability, and my classmates, not being mature enough to be able to see past it, would be merciless and consistent with their bullying. To me, Dr. M was a kindly lady who talked to me, who drew with me, who let me tell her stories. Perhaps those were imaginative, too? I honestly have to wonder if any of my ‘stories’ raised any red flags, because suddenly, one Saturday morning, I was prepared to go for my therapy session and my mother informed me that I’d not be seeing Dr. M anymore. “It’s too expensive,” my mother said. In hindsight, I cannot imagine that being the case, as my father, who has always been comfortable with money, was funding all of this. That’s basically his role in all of it. My mother would tell him what she needed – money, take me to this appointment, pick me up, drop me off. Dad never questioned anything or the cost of anything – he just did it. She said to jump, he’d ask how high. There was never any closure with Dr. M. My mother stuck to the story that her services were too expensive. I remember being disappointed – sad, almost, that I would no longer see my ‘friend,’ Dr. M, but almost as quickly as it became a routine, it became a thing of the past. Life went on after the discontinuation of therapy. My mother and stepfather eventually had another baby. Another sister. My father and his wife remained childless; Dad always insisting that his one daughter was enough for him. I was with Mom most of the time and spent every other weekend with my father. Family gatherings continued to be held, most of the time at my grandmother’s house. We did all of the holidays – Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, birthdays. My grandmother was a non-driver – as my uncle too, never got his driver’s license, either. So, we always went to her house, as to simplify things for my grandmother and uncle – and us, as if we wanted them elsewhere, someone would have to pick them up and then drive them back home. My grandmother, up until she became sick, would insist on our visits on Sunday. Without fail, we went there on Sundays for dinner – even if it wasn’t a holiday. She wanted her family together – it was what she loved more than anything. This, I’m realizing, was something she passed down to my mother – I am finding that this family closeness is what my mother wants, as well, but it is, unfortunately for her, not how it unfolded. Still, life went on as if what had happened when I was six – had never happened. My uncle was no longer my babysitter, but he remained a constant. He was present at all the holidays and birthday celebrations. He would, on occasion, take me to movies during visits to my grandmother’s house. He didn’t seem to begrudge me for what I do remember having gone down with the dolls, and like my mother, he said nothing about it and carried on as if it was nonexistent. I will never know what was said between brother and sister – and what the plan was between the two of them – perhaps because keeping the family together was of paramount importance to my grandmother, it was decided that nothing would become of any of that – especially if I wasn’t remembering it…or at least, giving off signs of remembering. After all, as I entered adolescence, the abnormal behaviors (the bath stuff, the soiling) ceased and stopped. My mother had gotten her wish – I’d ‘forgotten’ about it. It no longer existed and it had effectively been swept under the rug. I carried on as ‘normal’ a relationship with my uncle as possible and ignored those little things that I would randomly remember for no particular reason. He has a birthmark on the knuckle side of his right hand – situated between his thumb and forefinger. His favorite breakfast cereal is Puffed Rice. Whenever I’d pass the Puffed Rice in the supermarket, I’d think to myself how much I hated it. He would call me ‘baby girl’ (his nickname for me) and I realized as the years went on, how much I hated that, too. Still, I said nothing, and would shift my thinking whenever any of these things came up. Several years went by without a mention of anything. Still, I remembered, but mentally, leaned more toward the theory that because I couldn’t remember any actual details, then I probably was confused and DID lie. I did, however, see less and less of my uncle, as my grandmother eventually became much older and too weak to host the weekly Sunday dinners. I know that this particular installment is really only supposed to discuss what I remember of my childhood and my young adulthood doesn’t really fall into this category. I however, need to fast-forward for a moment, to when I was twenty-two years old. This took place after I’d been raped at seventeen – after I’d moved out of my mother’s house, after I’d already given birth to my son and married his father. After a series of poorly-made choices that I’ll get into detail on in installment three. It was after life had succeeded in deepening the cracks that were likely made in childhood. My grandmother, sadly, had succumbed to osteoporosis and other health issues, and died in her sleep at home. A day or two following her funeral, my mother and I stopped by her house to sort through some of her things to see what could be kept, what could be donated, what could be thrown away. The minute I walked into her house, I was hit by a feeling of dread. Of unfamiliarity. My uncle let us in, and we saw that he’d already began to ‘move on.’ He (or the ‘bonus uncle’) had transferred all of his religious statues from his chapel upstairs and there they stood, wrapped in protective plastic, in the bedroom that used to be my grandmother’s. He told us of his plans to relocate his chapel downstairs, as well as take over my grandmother’s part of the house for himself – as his knees were declining and it was becoming increasingly difficult to climb up the flight of stairs every day. He was already beginning to fix the cracks in the floors by replacing the rotted wood squares with new ones. It was like a flip was switched. For the first time, I became angry. Grandma wasn’t alive anymore. I no longer had to pretend. I looked again at my uncle and realized how much I fucking hated him. I hated the sight of him. The smell of him. I hated the ‘baby girl’ every time he saw me, I hated seeing that ugly fucking birthmark on his hand every time he reached out to hug me. And he didn’t look like my uncle anymore. Not the uncle I’d been telling myself for all of these years, was probably innocent and that I was a lying piece of shit for having put him through that investigation that nothing ever came out of. No. Now, a look at his face made me want to insta-puke. All over his Jesus statues and new floors. Floors he could have had installed while my grandmother was still living and might’ve had the opportunity to enjoy them! Her body wasn’t even fucking COLD yet, and you’re redecorating!? I’d also, by now, experienced a sexual assault five years earlier – so I am thinking that, combined with the passing of my grandmother, was what made possible the swift, rude uncovering of those bottled-up suspicions that had been collecting dust in the back of my mind. It became harder to believe myself when that tiny six-year-old voice said, “I made it up.” Nothing made sense anymore. I had more questions now than I had answers. Guess what I realized on that afternoon, other than the fact that I hated my uncle? I didn’t make this up. Something happened. Something so horrible, that my brain will not allow me to remember it. A six-year-old kid doesn’t pull this shit out of thin air. Where the hell would she get it from? This started somewhere! I have seen my uncle only a handful of times since my grandmother’s passing in 2002. I cut him out. Completely. I wanted nothing to do with him. I wanted my KIDS to have nothing to do with him. I refused to attend any family gathering where he would be present. I no longer invited him to ours. I had to suck it up at the weddings of both of my sisters – he was there, and I’d had to be polite as not to arouse curiousity. I’d say hello and goodbye and avoid any interaction beyond that. There was a time during my mission to remove him from my life when he’d been hospitalized with an infection, and my mother, thinking he was going to die then, insisted I go see him – the hospital was, after all, just down the street from where I was living at the time. I’d told my husband to leave the car running and took the elevator up. As soon as he saw me, he broke down into tears and blubbered, ‘I didn’t mean for us to be enemies.’ Not knowing what the hell to do with that, I left minutes later, saying that there was no parking and they were waiting for me to come back down. That was as good enough to a confession I was going to get out of him, and I left the hospital that day further convinced that cutting him out was the absolute best choice I could ever make. THAT was what convinced me whenever there was question, whenever there was that moment of doubt. My mother, who, for many years, had seen me ‘carry on’ as if everything were normal, eventually began to ask me why I was so angry with him, why I no longer called him ‘uncle.’ Why I snapped at whomever dared mention his name or sing his praises. Why whenever someone said ‘he’s a priest!’ my face would scrunch as if I’d bitten into a lemon. I would never be able to say anything more than that initial feeling I’d gotten when walking into my grandmother’s house and seeing that he’d gutted it and been so quick to ‘remove’ her from it. He’d treated his mother like shit, he’d likely been anxious for her to die, so that he could redo her house and conform it to his selfish needs. Additionally, I added that he’d cheated my mother out of her inheritance – something I’d find out not too long after. Yes, she would have more reason to be angry with him over that, but it ‘fit’ and it was something more to add to my list of what to be angry with him for…but whether it was enough to hate him was probably unlikely. I also realized that I was becoming increasingly angry with my mother. This, though, was tricky and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly guilty each time I looked at my mother and felt periodic bouts of anger, mixed in with bits of hatred and disgust. To this day, I cannot hug her with my heart – only my arms. I believe this is only because the physical affection was obligatory – a greeting, a farewell, a special occasion – all those things that require hugs and shows of affection – those were easy, mostly because there was usually more than just one person to greet/say goodbye to/congratulate on whatever. I find it sad though, that I cannot hug my mother to show her love. I cannot go to her for comfort. I cannot trust her. But I do love her, in my own distant, detached way. My mother was the one who supposedly loved me the most, the one who molded me into this greatly improved version of what they told her I would be. She’s been there whenever I needed her to be. She helped us financially in the past, and she continues to, if she sees us struggling. She genuinely (and probably) does more for me than she does my sisters. While I’ll always appreciate what she’s done, I’m stuck on what she didn’t do. What she refused to see. For that reason alone, I’d chosen to not tell her about the things that would happen afterwards. My thinking on it – if she failed to help me when I needed it as a child, then she certainly would fail to help me at an older age. She had her chance to help me deal and cope with the aftereffects of abuse, whether it was child abuse or abuse I’d suffer in adulthood, but she failed. I’m unable to find it within myself to give her another chance. Especially now, in adulthood, where she continues to inadvertently insult me by repeatedly throwing her brother into my face. Especially now, that his health has severely declined and he’s actively experiencing end-stage congestive heart failure on top of not being able to walk or do much for himself without assistance – and she’s made efforts to get me to mend fences, even if by way of a greeting or a brief conversation with him before his (long overdue) death. Her efforts have failed, and will continue to fail, for he’s been dead to me for years, already. He ‘died’ on that afternoon in his house when that bottle of memories that I’d tucked away for years, was suddenly knocked off its shelf and had shattered. The idea of him had died. My connection to him – dead and severed. Unfortunately, his physical body has not yet died, despite a heart attack, a quadruple bypass, diabetes, obesity, knee and hip replacements, arthritis, that infectious disease he’d been in for when I’d visited him, and countless bouts of pneumonia and other respiratory issues. I swear, this disgusting, vile, rancid, sorry excuse of a person has more lives than my five cats combined! Anyway – I’ve seemingly gone off course. This installment was supposed to deal with just childhood and what I remember of it. It just seemed pertinent to discuss a little bit of my more recent attempts to reduce contact, especially since some of you have seen me bit*h and complain and moan about my mother and about having to be at the same family gathering as my uncle as recently as a few months ago. In closing, I think that it is safe to say there were many victories within my childhood. I succeeded where kids like me who didn’t have the extensive training did not. I was always ‘ahead’ in language, vocabulary. I thrived in the ‘hearing’ community, when it was told to my parents that the likelihood of that happening was very slim. I’d be more likely to graduate high school with a fourth-grade reading and vocabulary level – but that didn’t happen. I’d learned to function within a hearing community, and I wasn’t that . Granted, my mother had gleaned most of the praise for my accomplishments – having done all of the required foundation work. Perhaps that’s another mother-issue to analyze in another piece of writing – it won’t be done in this one. As there were successes, there were also several failures. Most of them, though, were not my own. Those two ladies who came to our apartment? They failed to persist, to follow up, to see through my mother’s version of events. They believed my mother when she said that I likely misunderstood. I was easily confused, and probably didn’t understand the difference between bad touching and a spank on my ass. So, they let this go. Dr. M? She failed, too. Maybe she had been getting close to uncovering what had really happened. Maybe not. Either way, she’d later tell me (more on that in a future installment) that there had been no resolution, as my mother yanked me from therapy at nine years old. My father – although he is someone I think my mother constantly lied to and therefore the person I truly believe was the most clueless of all of them, also failed by not assuming a more active role. Him, though, I’ve forgiven and don’t begrudge. My mother is a powerful force – and a master manipulator. She knows how to cover things up, how to lie, how to sway a child’s thinking. How to self-protect. Next to her brother, who also quite obviously failed me, she was the one who failed me the most, and in the worst possible way. And for years – I failed myself, too. Even unintentionally, I did so by denying, by burying, by ignoring things, by keeping silent. By lying about what I thought, even if they were lies by omission. By allowing someone else to speak for me, to tell a story that didn’t feel accurate. To always agree, because I was a liar and it didn’t matter what I said – it was wrong. By also giving in and accepting the idea that there was something wrong with me and that was the reason for all those ‘abnormal’ behaviors. Well…no more. It’s time to make this right. Make those things I thought were lies, a truth. Although I cannot correct what others have or haven’t done, it is time to turn my own failures into a victory - even if I do it here, first - behind the safety net that I know will remain intact and where I know I'll be met with the love, support and validation that I truly need. I do not know if I will ever be able to tell this story outside of this forum or to confront those responsible, but to be able to do it here at this time, is a freeing start. - Capulet
  12. Welcome, @curandoagora - I'm glad your friend recommended us to you. This is a lovely community, filled with people who are truly kind and understanding and there is never a shortage of support. I think you will find that healing is indeed possible, and that you're never alone! Wishing you all the best! - Capulet
  13. A little note of encouragement.  Happy Thursday, everybody!  :throb:

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  14. Hey, there!!!! Welcome back!!! Hope your hiatus was good to you.
  15. * This is also posted in Share Your Story. My story first appeared within the forums back in 2007. I’d just joined After Silence, and my trauma had occurred eleven years prior to that. Now, coming up on 23 years since I was raped, it has occurred to me that while my story remains the same, my perspective on it has greatly evolved. Much can be said for the passage of time – to include the coming to light of details that perhaps were overlooked or otherwise censored the first time I’d chosen to write about what is undeniably the worst time in my life. To explain, 2007’s post was written by an entirely different version of me. A me that still blamed herself, a me that was fearful of being told that I ‘should be over this already.’ A me that was on her way to becoming free of a loveless marriage, where the person who should have been my biggest support was also the person I was most afraid of. A me, who remained within a mental prison with little hope of ever being paroled. Regardless, this story was told once before, but to best try to describe the way it was written in 2007 – it’s like watching a movie on mute. You know it’s there, you’ve got the gist of what happened, but there’s still SO much there that was missed or omitted simply because I was either not ready to elaborate on details or because I thought to do so would be risky. I can honestly say most of the risk was attributed to my then-husband finding out that I’d put that much of my ‘dirty laundry’ online – and the smaller percentage was in being subsequently blamed for my own part in what had happened. Of course, I know now that the latter was a product of my own under-developed thinking… So, what’s happened since I last told my story? I got divorced. His idea, believe it or not – I guess I was unable to measure up to what he perceived to be the perfect wife. I was fat, I was lazy, I was horrible in bed. It was just easier for him to chalk it all up to depression and bail out of the relationship rather than try to fix it. In all honesty, it was beyond fixable and in hindsight, I’m GLAD he asked for the divorce. I know I wouldn’t have been the first one to walk away. If this were the case for him, I’d still be in a VERY bad situation. I finally went to therapy. I made my first appointment one week after he asked me for the divorce. He no longer cared to be ‘my person,’ and actually encouraged me to go. I’d realize later it’s because he was already seeing someone new and thought perhaps therapy would help carry me through the hurdles and transitions that lay ahead and would lessen his own personal obligation to me. I grieved my marriage of 8 years – not because I loved him. I did, but it was a somewhat forced affection for the man who presented as a ‘safer’ choice. When I met him, I was on a very dangerous, self-destructive journey, and I think to marry him was a choice I needed to make in order to force a direction that didn’t lead to my complete downfall. I grieved the familiarity more than I did anything else – I sobbed over the loss of not just a marriage, but also of the idea that stability existed for me. I eventually found love – the head-over-heels kind that I thought was the case the first time around. I found this with my best friend – another survivor. It is never a nice thing to hear – a loved one having been through their own trauma, but in our case, it made it all the easier to comfort one another and hold each other up when needed. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary this past winter. Through therapy, self-reflection and in realizing the true definition of a healthy relationship, I’ve come to realize that I am not a survivor of just rape and potentially of child sexual abuse – I’m also a survivor of the more ‘silent’ type of domestic violence – although my husband never raised a hand to me in anger, there was mental, emotional and verbal abuse and there was behavior that could be defined as gaslighting. It took many years, but I am finally understanding there is more to my story that originally put forth, things I’ve never said, and that I’m now needing to add to the previously presented version, if only for the sake of being accurate on where I stand now and why. So basically, after further thought on how to re-introduce my story, or at least, an updated, uncensored version of it, I’ve decided that it needs to be written in three installments. To explain, there are three very significant junctures within my life that I have realized are all connected and contribute to the woman you know today. The first installment will discuss - in depth - my childhood. It’s hard for me, in hindsight, to pinpoint exactly when I was first abused. Unlike the trauma I experienced in 1996, (this will be the second installment) I have zero memory of the point in my childhood where something went terribly wrong. I have written bits and pieces of what I do remember; in blog entries and in postings, but I will attempt to elaborate on things a little more clearly in this first installment. I am sure this will be the shortest one. For now, anyway. Perhaps at some point, there will be an addendum to it, should things ever come to light. I’ve shared with very few people what I suspect happened based on behaviors of mine that, as an adult, I recognize as being problematic. I have been holding onto some very broken, fragmented memories and tiny little snippets that cannot prove anything, as well as the belief that if I couldn’t remember, then it likely didn’t exist. Now, years later, while those childhood incidents have never been confirmed, I cannot deny there was something VERY wrong and that they were not handled the way they should have been. Although my mother, who was not my suspected abuser, is a key player in this particular time period, several people failed me. Several. My second installment will likely be the hardest of the three – for I feel that whenever I’ve recalled the events of October 4th, 1996, I’ve taken care to omit a lot of the grisly details as a means of sugar-coating and perhaps protecting both myself and whomever was listening. We all have our own personal reasons for doing so, and I’m no different. A friend recently confided in me that she felt ‘crazy’ for having the desire to get into all of the ‘nitty-gritty’ details – who on earth would even want to read that? It’s not crazy, though – it makes perfect sense to me. You see, we as survivors do not just remember the condensed version of our story that we might prefer to share with others for the time being – most of us remember the details more than anything else. We remember the things that were said to us that we’d never repeat. We remember what was done, we remember what we were thinking during the moment. We remember the fear, the pain, the shame. These are things we don’t really talk about – especially the shame bits. Too often, it’s because of shame that we try to avoid these details, some of which are very important to take the time to try to understand how they’ve affected us in the long term. The third and final installment deals with life after 1996. See, I truly thought my story ended there, as that was a more obvious trauma, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. Trauma does not always have an exclamation point – it sometimes is silent. This third installment will discuss those very things that were not quite as obvious to me – things I’ve only recently learned to recognize and give a name to. Things I’ve had to admit to myself as being yet another truth that I’d been denying existed for ages. Things I’ve had to reluctantly accept, even if it meant adding another form of abuse that I’ve experienced to a list that already seemed long. Along with this story comes that sad realization that there are still many side effects of the eight years that I was married that I still struggle with today - and that domestic violence is the main culprit. Friends - trauma leaves marks. No two marks are the same, but regardless, they are lasting and they’re impossible to erase, ignore or scrub away. So, rather than try to conceal these marks any further, I’ve decided to highlight them and to attempt to explain why they’re there – to myself, most of all, as I’ve realized that it’s mostly me who’s been in denial for all of these years and it’s time to transition into acceptance. I will be posting the installments here, and in the Share Your Story forum when I’m finished typing them up. It hasn’t been easy to hold myself to task and to write all of this out – especially while juggling life as I know it…family, house, kids, pets, school stuff - and I imagine some of it will be hard for you to read, too – especially those of you who have taken the time to get to know me. I imagine that now, you’ll REALLY know me. And surprisingly, while that scared the life out of me at one point, I’m now okay with that. I welcome any thoughts, feedback, well wishes and kind words via comments or PMs. Although I am not very good at asking for it, I will admit that I am needing periodic doses of encouragement as well as the reassurance that I am being heard as I struggle to reflect, analyze and interpret not only one voice, but three different ones as they each tell their stories. In closing, I wish to thank in advance, those of you who read beyond this introduction. I am hopeful that this not only serves as a reminder that while trauma affects us all in different ways, we are all actually very similar in the respect that we’re not alone in how we think, how we learned to stay silent in the first place, and most importantly, how we ALL deserve to heal. All my love, - Capulet
  16. Thank you so much, @Amsekhmet - I have seen SO much growth in myself since coming back from a lengthy hiatus a couple years ago. It truly helps me to have ingrained myself back into this community and to have the support of the folks here who have gotten to know me and who have always, even if unaware of it, motivated me and encouraged me to be a better version of myself. Not sure about bravery/courage - feeling a lot of mixed feelings about it all and it's hard to specifically pick those two out of the mix, but at the very least, I'm hoping to be brave enough to post the intro later. Thanks again, sending huggles! - Cap
  17. @goldraindrops Thank you so much!!!! Knowing that my friends are close by and are holding my hand through all of it (even if just mentally) truly does help this process. All of it. It makes perfect sense about the sleepless nights. Thank you. I needed that reminder! Although this weekend has been full of activity (nothing fun, sadly, my 'activity' consisted of some yard work and walking/jogging around a track near the house) I did manage to write up a little something - somewhat of a prologue/introduction of what is coming in three additional installments. I'm just putting the finishing touches on that and will likely be posting it early next week. My standing OCD is preventing me from posting it before I've read it over a hundred times - and until I've applied any and all necessary tweaks before doing so. Man, telling your story isn't for the faint of heart! I AM tired, though. I think sleep will be a little more forthcoming tonight. My body hurts, but I have to blame that on the amount of mowing I did! Hoping your weekend is going well!! Love, Cap
  18. Capulet

    Hello

    Hi, @rokcsjl - welcome to After Silence! I am so saddened to hear of the trauma you've experienced. I am however, hopeful that being here will provide clarity on whatever it is that you are unclear or fuzzy on, as well as comfort and healing. You are in a very safe place and we're happy to 'meet' you!!! All the best, Capulet
  19. Hello there, @Two of Us and a very warm welcome to you both to After Silence. I'm so sorry to learn that both you and your daughter have experienced trauma. I think it's truly fortunate that you and your daughter have each other to hold each other's hands through this healing path - there's truly nothing better than having someone at your side, who understands. I'm very glad you've found us, though. This is truly a wonderful community filled with very kind, supportive souls and we're happy to have you. Neither of you are alone. I thank you in advance for the support you will provide as well - I absolutely agree that the sharing of your thoughts and experiences and feedback will be of great benefit to others who may be in the same boat!! Maybe someday in the future, your daughter will become comfortable with having her own account. When that day arrives, please let me know and I am happy to help her register. Again, AS welcomes you. You'll be hearing from a member of our Newbie Support Team very soon. Until then, please take your time to look around and if you have any questions or need help with anything, I'm just a shout away. All the best, Capulet
  20. Thank you, AKB!!!! The throat-punch on my behalf is very much appreciated. She'll not see it coming, that's for sure. I agree, it's a transformation. That's a good term to use for it. It's been a gradual change all along, but I've finally reached a point in this process where the changes are more noticeable, and, at times, uncomfortable. All part of the process, I suppose, but better now than never. Sending hugs back!!
  21. Hello, @brokenchild and welcome (back) to After Silence. I am sorry you're struggling with PTSD and and that you're needing the extra support right now, but am glad you've come back to a community where you know it will be given freely and without hesitation. If there's anything you need, please feel free to give me a shout. In the meantime, do take your time looking around and re-familiarizing yourself with the site. We might have redecorated a little bit, but we're still the same awesome safe place we've always been. Have a great day! - Capulet
  22. Hello, everyone! I am hoping this finds you all well. While I am doing fine health-wise, I'm not doing so great with my sleeping. There are some days when I think I've got it all under control and then there are other days when I revert back to what has grown to be all too familiar. While food shopping last week, I found a bottle of NyQuil that is set to expire in three months - it was marked down to $2, so I grabbed it. I have it sitting on my desk as a reminder to go to sleep when the clock passes 2-3am. It sometimes hits 4 before I'll feel tired. Ideally, I'd want to take a swig before 2, but if I'm not feeling 'tired' enough, I'll wait another hour...or two....or three? And then, before I know it, I'm first falling asleep at 4-5am and waking up at 11. That's, of course, on the days I DON'T have my kids here and don't have to worry about getting the daughter up for school. Those nights, I could EASILY not sleep at all and make do with a four-hour nap when she's boarded her bus. What's that, you say? Insomnia's a thing? Really? Hmmm. That's what I have, then - no doubt! So, a little update for you all as I know it's been a while since my last one. (I know. I'm sorry.) First off, I'm officially a student!!!! *insert horns and sirens and whooping noises here!* Last week, I registered for fifteen credits' worth of classes at the University. There's DEFINITELY no turning back, now. My classes start on 8/26 and if all goes well, I'm set to graduate in 2021; with my bachelor's in hand. Most of my credits from 20 years ago have been transferred and there are only a small handful of classes that I have to re-take, that feed into the Social Work major that my previous credits will not satisfy - so there's American Government and then there's a Statistics class that I'm TRULY not looking forward to. My son is going to be taking that very same class, only at a different time slot (he'll literally be arriving when I'm leaving!) and it might be helpful if we could study together. I'm HORRIBLE with numbers - this is something I've unfortunately passed down to both my children, apparently - my daughter is wrapping up seventh grade with all A's and B's but with one C in Math! I admittedly still count on my fingers on some simple addition and subtraction problems!!! Math is just not me, not at all. Statistics is going to be a nightmare, but hopefully the Son and I can hold each other up through it. LOL. The Oompa came with me to register. Being a retired teacher, anything school-related gets her giddy. Plus, she never really had the opportunity to join me when I did this the first time around - so I allowed her to tag along on registration day, so she could feel in the slightest bit needed. I will admit, it was good to have an extra pair of ears along with me, in case I needed them. We met with my academic advisor, who so happens to be the chairman of the Social Work department, as well as one of my professors for one of the introduction to Social Work classes that I'll be taking. So, it was very nice to meet him and get a feel for how he speaks. We all know that any Oompa visit isn't without drama or bullshit. A couple times, I wanted to smack my mother in the mouth. The first comment came while we were waiting to speak with the academic advisor - we were seated outside his office. She asked if I was going to go for my master's. I told her that I didn't want to think that far ahead. I wanted my bachelor's in Social Work and then I wanted to focus on getting myself work. Here's the comment: "And you'll make nothing." It's not about the money, I told her. We all know my reasons for pursuing this field and it's certainly not something I wanted to get into with her. Not now, not ever. I didn't have to, though. She shut up for two reasons - one - the student that was visiting with the academic advisor before us was now leaving, and two, I think she sensed that I wanted to punch her in the throat and felt it was wise to shut her mouth. We had a meeting with the professor/academic advisor and the second comment came while we were walking across campus, making our way over to the bookstore. She spoke to him, though. "Can I ask you something, as a concerned parent?" Oh, here we fucking go.... "Do you think my daughter's disability will make it harder for her to find a job in this field? Do you think she'll run into discrimination?" She actually asked this to the man who was going to be my freaking professor. If I was gonna be able to find a job or if I was just wasting my time. She didn't word it that way, but it's even more clear, she doesn't want me to become a Social Worker. I believe she wants me to become a teacher, or go into Education or to become an educator or mentor for the deaf, something I don't have any desire or passion for - I am not a school person - never was. I'm only finishing school because I've finally got a desire to do something specific and I need the degree. Personal experience doesn't count, apparently. So, why the hell would I want to go into Education???? Why would I want to follow in my mother's footsteps??? I've been trying to run the other way for years! The professor probably couldn't believe the audacity and ignorance of her question either. He somewhat blinked. "Well, we have laws in place against discrimination..." You'd think my mother, the retired EDUCATOR, knew that. She was effectively shut down, though - see, I am of the belief that she wanted him to turn around and say, 'you're absolutely right, maybe Social Work isn't in your daughter's best interests..." but when she didn't hear that, she shut up again. And for good. Possibly because this was where we parted ways with the professor - I told him I was looking forward to meeting him as one of his students in the Fall. And I am. I'm all the more determined to make his class my BEST class (it helps that it's not statistics or history related, it actually has to do with what I am majoring in!) and to show him myself that I'm not the dummy my mother basically cast me out to be. I thank whoever's calling the shots upstairs - (I don't like using 'God,') - that my mother, the social butterfly, had a concert to attend with one of her friends that night and she had to head out immediately following the registration. I think, had I been subjected to more time with her, I would have unleashed on her my anger over WHY she constantly continues to draw attention to my disability - why she keeps inadvertently reminding me that it's a limitation, a reason I might not succeed at something, a reason people would discriminate against me. I cannot understand, why she continues to allow my deafness to define me, who I am. This is one of the things that angers me the most today, one of those things that I have struggled with for all of my life and that I STILL grapple with. My hearing impairment has indeed contributed to a LOT my trauma. I've been slowly realizing that it ALWAYS comes back to it. It contributes to my social issues, too, and there's SO much more to it than Oompa even realizes, but that, I'll take the blame for. That's my fault. I've never told her. Why? Because I'm not heartless. She's proud. I know she is. I am her masterpiece. She's proud that her early intervention is what I can honestly thank for getting me onto the right track. It was because of that early intervention that I am able to speak, I am able to function as if there were no disability. She did that. She pushed, she prodded, she poked. She was a pain in my ass for pretty much ALL of my childhood and formative years, and I DO owe her credit for that. I don't have the heart to show her where she's fallen short. I figure it's more important for me to know for myself where those shortcomings are, and a kindness to her to keep them to myself. While I'll not be able to explain all of that to my mother in detail, I can certainly do so here. I'm not hurting any feelings by doing so. I'm able to speak more freely here - I've always felt that way. On that note, I've begun the undertaking of telling my story. ALL of it. I know there are bits and pieces here and there, and some of you know some of the puzzle pieces already through my posts and blog entries. I'm able to pull out a few smaller pieces at a time, talk on it, and then I toss it back into the box because it's not needed beyond that. I've realized that my story is scattered, it's all over the place, and it's because I've never really taken the time to write all of it out, from start to finish, and to analyze any and all of those little traits and quirks of mine that I've learned to adopt as 'normal,' even if they are not seen as such by someone who cannot relate. I've been tossing the pieces back into the box rather than connecting them all and showing the bigger picture. So, I've been spending the last couple of weeks writing. Not here, obviously. It is currently being drafted via MS Word and I admit I've neglected this blog for a little while - and I apologize for that. I hope to make up for it by posting my story here, too, when I'm finished. It will likely come in three installments. I've done a lot of thinking over the last several weeks - and have come to realize that I don't just have one story. There are three very obvious junctures in my life, all with very different, but equally damaging situations. All three points in my life are contributors to who I am now, who I've learned to be. These are moments that, if I devote enough time to thinking about, will provide the answers to questions that I've recently had to re-ask myself as I begin the next chapters in my life. I suppose, in a way, I am restarting. I don't know if that's even the right term for what I'm doing. I can't say I am picking up where I left off, because I didn't leave off in a good place - I left off at a point where everything derailed and from there, my life took all of these unexpected turns and twists and I lost track of who I was and where I was going in the process. I guess the right term will come to me later, but for now, I'm sticking with that. I'm determined to get these installments out before school starts on the 26th of August - and they'll be posted here as well as in a more follow-able format in Share Your Story. I'm determined, but somewhat nervous at the same time. Like I said, I've told my story before, but I've never really told it in entirety. I've left out details, I've sugar coated enough to send whoever was listening into a diabetic coma. It is the first time that I am able to tell these stories without being afraid of what others may think, of being judged, of being criticized, of being told my feelings, thoughts, and reactions weren't normal. Yes, it is being done here, from within a community where there is no fear of these things, but it's indeed a start. Rome was not built in a day, and my story will not reach beyond its intended audience until much later. I just feel ready now, to begin writing it and sharing it with whomever would like to truly understand me. I don't know that I'll have this desire later, nor if I'll have the time, so while the motivation is there, I'm taking myself to task. I am sure this writing I've set out to do, too, is a contributor to not being able to sleep - I'm in the middle of some pretty hard stuff and am finding myself opening the word document only to close it after adding one or two sentences here and there. This isn't easy by a long shot. But I'm thinking that once the hardest parts are written, then I can focus on somewhat of 'cool down' writing - focus on writing about the harder stuff in the daytime and the milder thoughts in the evenings...I'll force myself to Ny-Quil no later than 1, be in bed by 1:30....set my alarm for 8 or 9am and eliminate the naps. It's a plan, anyway! When school starts, I'll need to have this routine down pat as my first class will begin at 9am daily. Perhaps subconsciously, it's why I'm trying to focus on the harder details now as opposed to when I will have less time to sift through it all and give it the attention it deserves. So...there's that. Other than the above mentioned, there really aren't many things to report as happening in my life. The Son has been finished with classes for a while and the daughter's last day of seventh grade is tomorrow. The next few weeks are going to be insane as during the first week in July, they both become another year older (19 and 13) and we will have family coming in for the celebrating and festivities, and of course, the anticipated drama that I'll likely be posting in my next entry. (That is, providing my next entry isn't the first installment!) I hope all is well with everybody. Until later, - Capulet
  23. Welcome to After Silence, @Soccergirl81 - Katherine, I'm sorry to learn you are a long-time survivor of trauma and that you are having trouble sleeping. You have found a very safe community and there is never going to be a shortage of support from others. You're not alone! Please don't worry about sharing too much at once - that is not encouraged nor pushed, here. We would rather you take your time and become familiar with the way the site works and with other members, first. We look forward to getting to know you, whenever you are comfortable! A Newbie Support Team member will be sending you an official welcome message, shortly. Until then, please know that if you need any help or have any questions about the site, I am just a shout away. Again, welcome. We are happy to have you. Best wishes, Capulet
  24. Capulet

    Hello

    Hi @feralcat - Welcome to After Silence. I am so sorry to learn you have trauma in your background, but am hoping that you will take comfort in knowing that you have found a truly supportive community in AS. It is truly a freeing feeling to release some of what you have been holding onto for so long - and although I do not know you very well, yet, I'm proud of you for taking this truly gigantic step toward healing! You should be contacted by a member of our Newbie Support Team shortly. Until then, if you need any assistance, I'm just a shout away. Again, welcome. Happy to have you among us and looking forward to getting to know you. Best wishes, Capulet
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