When I was 15 years old, 2 men, claiming to be marines in a hotel in Winston-Salem, NC, raped me. There was another man there that quietly watched a baseball game while his friends had their way with this little girl. This went on for the entire day (approximately 10 hours or so). I confided in a friend at my boarding school about what went on and she lovingly urged me to call the police. So, I did. I met with them in a building on campus. It was two men getting my story. They asked me every gory detail of what had happened to me. I was then escorted into another room where the Dean of students was waiting for me by the telephone. She sternly and quietly picked up the phone and called my parents. I then had to tell my parents what had just happened to me the day before. I was terrified. My dad asked me what had happened and as I told him everything grew very dark. I needed my parents with me there right then to love me and tell me that everything is going to be ok and no one will ever hurt you like this again. Instead, I hung up the phone to face my reality with this woman I barely new and the two male officers ready to escort me into their police car to take me to the hospital. There, I was told to get on a metal table and spread my legs for some stranger I had never seen before in my life. I had long instruments inserted into my body. They swabbed not just my genitals, but also my rectum. I had blood inside of my rectum from the man that called himself “Dan” who told me to shut up crying while he violently thrust himself into me. I was so scared. I wanted my mom. I wanted my dad. I missed my brothers.
The next day, I awoken to my parents and brother in my dorm room, packing up my belongings to take me home. We went to the DA’s office before leaving town. Again, I told my story to more men who were eagerly writing all the details of my story. My mother was sobbing. My father had a look of horror. As I carefully gave an account of what had occurred I was also warned that my story did not “look good for me.” There was some talk that I may be “crucified” on the stand. “I don’t understand! They did this terrible thing to me.” The authorities still encouraged me to go forward with the charges to see that these men never did this to another young girl ever again. Instead of moving forward with this, I pleaded with my family to take me home. I could not bear to see my mother in this pain. I could not bear to see my family go down this very dark road with me. Instead, I chose to walk away from it. Over the course of the weeks and months after that, things began to seem like everything was back to normal. I had moved back home with my family and life was going on. We all pretended like things were ok, but I was dying on the inside. I was screaming out on the inside. Couldn’t anyone hear me? Didn’t anyone know that I had been deeply hurt? I decided that somehow, it must have been ok. It is ok to do this to me and get away with it.
My relationship with my father went from bad to worse. There was a huge wedge between us. “I am cursed,” I thought. As the years went on, I found myself in the same situation over and over. It seemed like people who enjoyed hurting girls like me were always finding me. I would find myself in very dangerous situations over and over again. They always knew where to find me. I was dirty and disgusting. I was not good enough for real love. “This is what I will always get.”
My glimmer of hope arrived at the tender age of 16. My precious son had come into the world. His father was “my first love.” I thought that he would take care of my son and me. I was wrong. He chose not to spend his life with us. My son was the best thing that ever happened in my life. He loved me in a way that I had never experienced love. A mother’s love for her child is like no other. I knew that I would be the best mom to him. Being a mom came natural to me. He was the apple of my eye. However, I was still very broken inside. When he was 3 years of age, my journey down the road of psychiatry had grown very dark. Medications for depression and hospitalizations in mental wards were a very common part of my life. A man of great authority was inappropriate with me while being hospitalized for attempted suicide. He was a doctor. “Who would they believe?” I thought. When I tried reaching out to family I was told I needed to get serious and “stop playing games.” I saw many different strangers that would tell me they knew better what I needed than I did. “You need to get better. This is only to help you. It is for the best that your son is with other people, “ I would hear. “I want my son! Please, I need my son! Please!” Did anyone hear me? Do they understand that I am hurting? Can anyone help me? Please!”
My shameful life was full of sexual abuse, drugs, and a lot of alcohol. I was numb. Over the course of 15 years, I found myself in the same situations over and over again. I would normalize it at times. “This is just the way it is. It will get better.” Truth is, it doesn’t get better. It gets worse. It gets so much worse.
Just how much worse it gets proved itself in my marriage. Yes, we had had some major problems in our marriage. I still looked at this man as my friend. I had relied on him to help me when I felt hopelessly abandoned. “He was there for me. “ I was sitting on the couch reading “Redeeming Love.” Little did I even know, this book is about a girl named “Sarah” who has been sexually abused and has become a prostitute. She learned to have a hardened shell around her heart. Her story is a broken one. Eventually, a man comes along that truly loves her and rescues her from this hell. She was bought back. So, while I was reading this book that my sister-in-law had let me borrow, my future walks in the door. This particular night, he stared at me with a grin on his face. I wanted to hide behind my book. “I will pretend he is not here. I will ignore him. My husband will protect me.” Instead, he threw some dollar bills in my husband’s lap and smiled at me. Then he proceeded to place some crack on the table (nothing I had not seen or done before). I did not want to have anything to do with this. I just wanted to continue reading my book. They got out their crack cans and crack pipes. I was so nervous. Truth is, I did not even want to do this stuff. I hated the feeling this stuff gave me. “Cara, come here,” they would say. “No thanks,” I would respond with a smile. “Hey Cara, Get over here!” The word “no” didn’t mean anything. “No” really just delayed the inevitable for me. It always had, it always would. I would always, eventually, do as I was told. This particular evening, my husband told his friend, “I want you to have sex with my wife.” My heart sank. What was my husband saying? “No, no, no! This can’t be,” I thought. My husband walked out of the room, he turned his back on me. “We don’t have to do this,” I told his friend. The thought of my husband leaving me alone with another man to have sex with was more than I could bare. “God, please help me,” I would cry in my mind. The drugs became a regular part of this way of life- sex with this other man and lots of drugs. I would tell my husband that we should stop, but was told, “You know you want this.” I didn’t want to keep using the drugs but then… “Ah, this does feel better.” For a short time it was a lovely escape. No one could come close to me. It was all just one big escape. I felt nothing. “This is what I like.” I don’t have to feel anything at all. Feelings just hurt so much. Everything in my mind was so dark! I hated this feeling! I hated myself! I hated life! I miss my son! I miss my son terribly! I want him back! I can’t feel this! I just need to feel nothing….just one more time!”
This path I was on didn’t stop there. I began to believe that this other man must love me more than my husband. I moved in with him. “I would never sell you like that, honey. You are so precious to me. I will never hurt you,” he would say. Over the course of the next few years, I was subjected to much abuse. The cocaine and alcohol was a recipe for so much violence during this time. Many times I would stare death in the face at the hands of a very damaged and cold man. “This is it! I am never going to see my son ever again! He’s going to kill me! Oh God! Please!! Help me! I just want my son. God, please protect him if I die!”
I eventually moved away to try and put it all behind me. “I can do this. I can move on and have a normal life.” I had gotten established, somewhat, and had a relationship with someone who I just knew must love me. God had finally sent me the “one.” I was wrong, again. The hole was in my heart. I was very troubled because my life kept repeating itself. “Oh God! Please help me! Please save me!”
Then, I found myself in a place where I thought I would be safe and able to center on my spirituality. I was in the care of- what I thought- was a beautiful and gracious and loving family. “God is really saving me now,” I thought. They showed me a different way of living. I really felt like I would be safe. Very soon after my arrival to this home, it all began again. The man was a minister and his wife was home schooling 8 children. He began to pursue me in ways that a married man shouldn’t. He would ask me questions about my past and my issues. He would ask me inappropriate questions about my sexual encounters. I was very apprehensive to say anything. I certainly did not want to bring my problems into this family and their lives. I felt like I needed to protect them from that. “We have the same type of past,” I would hear. “We could help each other,” he would say. He seemed to love his wife and children very much. I couldn’t see how this could possibly be happening. “It must be my fault.” He would come into my room over and over and over again. “Hey, so why don’t you just rub me and I will rub you,” he would suggest. “Oh no! God Please!” I would carry on about my day as if I were fine. I would think of his wife and children and how I would never want to see their family destroyed. “Dance for me! Rub me! No one has to know! You are going to do this, right?” On several occasions I remember leaving in the middle of the night and walking around town just to not “be a stumbling block for him that I just knew I must be.” I found myself growing very resentful and angry. He would give instruction to others in the room to leave and go do something – leaving us all alone in a room together. “So Cara, are you struggling with anything sexual, right now?” “No,” I would respond. I couldn’t understand why he kept asking me about these very private issues. Again and again he would probe me to talk about masturbation and how I’ve been raped. He told me that it is just so common to have these struggles with a past like mine.
His children were so beautiful! I could not imagine anything ever happening to those little girls like what had happened to me. “Are you going to sleep in our room?” they would ask. They made me feel so special. Those little children showed me so much love. Why is it that all of this seems so wonderful in so many ways but I still have so much shame? Would I always carry around this dark secret? “This is just how my life will always be I suppose. I am not good enough for real love. This is what I have always had and this is what I will always get.” I couldn’t understand my place. Who am I?
On one particular night, the “minister” approached me about dancing for him. I had resisted many times before, and I never let him become intimate with me. It had been several months now and he had given me alcohol in the past when no one else was awake. I thought it a little odd, baut I figured he must just want me to “catch a little buzz.” I had time and time again told him, “No.” But this particular night he continued to press me on the issue repeatedly for hours. “Well, I suppose if I were to drink enough I could do it.” He insisted I would feel more comfortable doing it on camera where he could watch the video from upstairs. He turned off all the lights in the shop and said, “do whatever it takes to dance for me” and locked the door. The rest of his family were sleeping. I began slamming back shots. I grew more and more angry. “I am marked. I am branded. I am cursed. This is all I am good for. I am only good for helping out a married man to secretly fulfill his sexual desires.” I was disgusted. This is a man of God. He told me that I could trust him. He told me to stay and be a part of this family and he did not want anything from me. He told me that he understood me and that he knew better than anyone how to help me.” “Maybe he is ‘sanctifying me.’ He is testing me.” As it grew later in the night he came into the shop. I had been down there by myself for hours at this point. I had thrown back shot after shot after shot –not because I even wanted to be drunk. I did this so that I could “do whatever it took to dance for him” like he said. He unlocked the door and walked in with a smile on his face. Finally, I got up and threw myself on the ground. I very aggressively crawled to him, screaming “is this what you wanted!!? Huh? This is what you wanted right?” He backed away from me and said, “No no!” He left me there by myself. I was just a little plaything. You can do this sort of thing to me and get away with it. I woke up the next morning at another man’s house down the road – an old neighbor. I had no idea what happened. I asked the man and he said we had “fooled around a little bit.” I was terrified. “Oh God! Please help me! Please!” If only I knew what really happened. Did someone give me something in my drink? I was terrified.
That night, back at the house with this family – he comes into the room, again. I am asleep on the floor in his girls’ room. He placed his hand on my genitals. He encouraged me that because of my behavior I displayed last night – running off like I did – that it would be best to help each other sexually. “What about your wife?” “Oh, it’s ok. No one will have to know,” he would say. I told him that I would tell. “Oh God! Please, I don’t want secrets,” I would pray. Curling up in the fetal position many times, I would cry myself to sleep. “Something is terribly wrong with me.”
“I have got to get out of here!” I decided within the next day or so that I must leave immediately. They were actually taking me to visit my family and I was thrilled. “I am going to put all of this behind me and forget this ever happened!” I believed that I was better, but I was still terribly troubled. Many many many nights I have cried. “Oh God! I want my son back!!! Please! I want my son! Why has this happened to me? Why do I feel like I am dying inside? Does anyone love me?” This man and his ministry was shut down shortly after…he confessed to everything he had done to me. He can no longer bring troubled women into his home (his “ministry”) and sexually assault them. All it took was standing my ground and speaking out about what had happened.
I am broken. The world and everyone in it is broken. People that have hurt me are broken. The pain that others have inflicted upon me has brought me to the point that I am ready to see someone pay for things that have happened to me. But then I think of God. He sees all of my hurts. He sees my emptiness. Instead of bringing the charges to him, I realize that I am just as guilty as anyone. He has paid the price for all of us. Therefore, I can pick up the pieces and move on, knowing that I can forgive, because I, too, am forgiven.