*Warning–the below blog post is written by Sarah Brennan, a certified NARM®-Informed Professional and member of the Embody Connection team. It contains material of a mature and difficult nature. Please take care in determining whether you would like to continue reading.*
My experience is one of being groomed and profited from inside my own home.
There are two parts to my rape. One, the rape itself. The second, and maybe the part that haunts me more, is how we got there. Seventeen years of a relationship with a parent who used me as a pawn in their life. The years of grooming. The years of preparation for the moment I would be valuable to him, would come in handy for some sort of gain. I wish I knew what his prize was. What was I worth trading for? I do not think my worth was something anyone thought about. It feels…in a word, shitty.
I now understand that my rape can be considered sex trafficking. It took years for this reality to hit me. I was groomed as a minor by my father for his personal gain. I am not sure if that gain was personal or financial. Funny only to me maybe but–at the end of his life he had very few friends and no money.
I never saw the three men who raped me before that night and I never saw them again. I was 17. I came home from being out with friends. Roxie, my mother, was out of town. She had been enjoying a summer of weekends at the lake with a friend. When Roxie was out of town there was no curfew. There was no need to come home because no one was looking for me. I wished that night I had stayed out, not come home, slept at a friend’s house, anything but come back to the place where I should have been safe but was so heartbreakingly unsafe. When I came home that night the three men were sitting with Art, my father, on the screened-in porch at the back of the house. I will never forget the candlelight, the August humidity, or their laughter. They had clearly been there for awhile, drinking with him. They had been invited to my home to enjoy the comfort of a summer night. I will never know what else they were invited for.
I stood at the table on the porch, not being invited to join but expected to stay. To entertain. I knew the routine. I made them laugh and was charming like I had been taught. I told jokes that were inappropriate for my age but that would make me seen as daring and fun, maybe even sexy. I finished stories I did not totally understand and for my “big finish” I said goodnight by taking one of their glasses and downing it–solidifying how mature I was by not wincing as hot liquor burned my throat. I walked away with confidence. I knew I had done well. The laughter and whispering to him about how incredible I was told me so. I knew he would be beaming with pride but actually soaking the attention for himself.
Later, at 2:22am when the first one came into my bedroom, I did not hear any laughter. I focused my attention to the sound of the water flowing from the pond in the backyard. The rush through the filter that kept the pond clean and fish healthy was all I heard. The pond that he had hired a high school boy to dig and help him build. That high school boy would be invited after days of digging to stay for a beer, maybe dinner, maybe more. During my childhood he had befriended lots of boys and young men who showed up at my dinner table. It took me until my 20’s to realize that he did not like women. He did not like men. He liked young boys. When you realize your father is a pedophile it almost breaks you, at least it did me. I met with one of his boys once. Not a boy anymore, he was a grown man now with a family and a business. He had sat at our table. He had sat on the screened porch on summer nights. I found him all those years later. I had questions. He explained that in the beginning he thought Art was a mentor, a surrogate, but in the end, he explained, Art was the “demon in his nightmares”. That was the phrase he used. That hasn’t left me.
The first man who raped me at 2:22am was followed by the other two, separately. I did not look at the clock again. But to this day sometimes I look at the clock at 2:22 and feel sick. The last one who entered my bedroom punched me in my side the entire time he raped me. It has been his drink I took and swallowed maturely.
I had always been Art’s sidekick. His excuse. His lure. He would take me everywhere. He took me to restaurants, to parties, to friend’s houses, to stores. I sat on sofas, in stairwells, in kitchens, and in cold cars. I waited. I waited for him. The waiting would come after though, after the relationship with whomever he was targeting was solidified. That grooming would take time – time when we would perform. He would set up a joke and I would take it home. He would start a story to engage his audience and I would finish it or laugh at the perfect moment to a tale I had heard before, maybe several times.
This was all I knew. It started at age 6 and ended that August night. Never again did I finish a joke or help make people with sons trust him. He wanted to always be the center of attention and I was there to help. That was my role. I legitimized him,disarming his targets. How bad could he be with his little girl by his side, laughing and playing along? I was his “Artful Dodger”. I only wish I had been stealing watches.
The morning after that August night I woke up, took a bath, and seriously questioned killing myself, only to hear a voice tell me to get up, dump the bloody sheets, carry on and tell no one. I named that voice Rebekah. I do not know why Rebekah saved me, but I am forever grateful. Roxie came back from her weekend and life continued along as if nothing had happened. He never had to tell me not to say anything. I knew the rules. This was not like being with the waitress at a restaurant, left for her to take me home. I remember her giving me bus fare the next day to get home. I did not tell anyone about that either. I was 7 and already knew the rules.
From an early age, I questioned the people who seemed to not enjoy him. Most everyone else did, so these people fascinated me. I saw them and I could not understand. When I think of them now I wish they had rescued me. I wish they had spoken up about what they saw or voiced their suspicion that everything was not okay. In my 20’s if I ever dated anyone that told me how great they thought he was, I would instantly break up with them. I remember my sister telling me when I was in the 5th/6th grade that he would “hit on” her boyfriends. Roxie told me she thought he and my sister had the same “type”. I knew what that meant and knew it should disturb me. Old enough to see the red flags everywhere, but too young to act. (The question just dawned on me: why do I call my parents by their first names? Are they just people to me now or have they lost the right and privilege to be “mom and dad”? Yes.)
It took years to say the words “I was raped”. I took pleasure in those later years when I could speak the words boldly, finally comfortable talking about it, pulling power from it. Now, I think I am in the next phase. The part where I really look at the years leading up to it and experience the truth of HOW it happened, the WHY of it…the HOW could he groom me? WHY was I not protected? HOW could it go unnoticed? I have only just realized that this phase is here, only just seeing it as necessary to process and heal from. Again I am faced with the road before me that is unpleasant at best and horrible at worst. This is the road of trying to move through my trauma–never fun, but necessary if I want to keep the life I worked so hard for, to stay the wife, the mother, the friend who loves, listens, and isn’t the angry mess I used to be. I have always seen this work as just that. Work. I feel the rumble of past trauma, my body remembering the terror, imprinted so deep, and I know I have no choice but to keep listening to Rebekah. So what do I do now? I work. I seek out talk therapy, Reiki, Transformative Insight Imagery, Somatic work, EMDR. I say bring it on.
I believe that telling my experience honestly, and being seen are important steps, but what I have come to learn, take in, and incorporate into my practice is the importance of TODAY. The present moment. How does my past experience come into play in real time? How do the techniques I used over the years, that have kept me safe, affect my present life and the people in it? This my path to follow. I keep going and I keep doing the work, moving through my trauma and coming out the other side, one day at a time.
If you would like to hear Sarah discuss this subject and her experience with Molly, you can listen to the Beyond Me Too: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Trauma Podcast, Episode 24. Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Google Play.
And if you are ready to meet with Sarah or Molly for an Embodied Healing Session, you can click this link and schedule a session.