When I was 8 years old, my sister Layne was born. She was tiny and she was pink…and I wanted to be a mommy and I loved that little girl. I had two brothers; Tyler who was 6 at the time, and Nathan who was 3. My Dad was a tile setter and he worked all the time. We barely saw him then except for some nights and weekends. My Mom stayed at home when each of us were little, and would go back to work when she was able to get daycare. We lived in Vancouver, in a little house with the attic renovated to fit two slope-ceilinged bedrooms; one for the boys and one for the girls. Every day we fought and we played, we ran down the streets barefoot and had adventures, we ate sandwiches for lunch that our Mom had made us, we took baths and cleaned up our toys. My sister was the last baby born in the family, and I knew she needed me more than my brothers did. At 8 years old, I knew the world was dangerous for little girls. and I could prove it.
When I was 5 years old, my Mom worked at the stock exchange. Tyler was 3, Nate wasn’t born yet, and it was the summertime. We had a lot of neighbourhood friends who were around our age, and we would make forts in our backyard, play in random neighbourhood cars, and just hang out on front lawns. My Mom had our aunt come and live in our house and be our nanny that summer. I don’t remember her much. I remember the neighbourhood kids more.
There was one kid in particular I remember. His name was David. He was quite a bit older, maybe 10 or 12, and he would come over a lot. David liked me the best. He would try to get Tyler to play with the other kids so he and I could be alone. He would sit with me and tell me how pretty I was, how he was going to marry me, what car he was going to drive me around in, how we were going to be together forever…I liked David, he was my friend. He taught me how to whittle popsicle sticks into shivs, how to make the best kind of fort…and I didn’t understand what he was doing when he told me to pull my pants down. I knew I wanted him to be my friend, and if I didn’t do what he said he would go away. So I did it. David molested me, and I never told anyone. It happened that whole summer, until I went back to school. And the whole time, he would tell me how pretty I am, prettier than everybody else. And because I had been told this my whole life, it made sense to me. I was pretty. And this is what happens when you’re pretty.
I forgot what happened that summer for years and years. I didn’t know why I gained a massive amount of weight when I hit puberty, why I was incredibly depressed my whole adolescence. Why I could barely even stay awake one year and my Mom had to get me tested for mono and a thyroid disorder before the doctor said “are you sure you’re not depressed???” I didn’t get it until I read an article in a magazine about a woman who preferred being overweight because then, no one looked at her. She felt safe. Well, no one looked at me…and I was still miserable. I was 16 when I read that article and remembered David. 16 when I was realized I was a sad statistic…I had had a feeling for all that time that I needed to be guarded, that the only person who could really take care of myself was me…but had never understood why.
I also had always felt unworthy. Tainted. Like garbage. Honnestly, I still struggle with that. I know I’m not garbage, I know that what happened was sick and wrong and not my fault…but it changes you when it happens so young. It coloured my perception of myself. How could I be loved, and precious…and have THIS happen? No, it doesn’t make sense. It has to be that I invited it. I must be dirty. And lastly: how I look made that happen. When men like you, they do very bad things to you. End of story.
At 19, I went to Bible College. I had gone to get away from home, make some new friends, and have a year of fun. One night in one of the first weeks I got there, I felt restless and went out to the big field to look at the stars and think. And God talked to me. He said “Brianna, you know it’s time to face this”…and I burst into tears. I knew it. I couldn’t walk around anymore being so damaged and so hurt and pretending I wasn’t. The next day, I went to the counselling office and applied for a counselling grant from the school. I got it. I went to counselling every week that year for free…and it was a huge blessing. Shannon and I discussed my need to be perfect and control everything…and that it was ok to be angry. I was so, so incredibly angry! At David for molesting me, at my parents for not being there, at God for letting it all happen to that little trusting girl who had no idea what kind of evil lurked just around the corner from her house. Most of all, I was mad at myself for not dealing with this sooner, and not asking for help. It was a great year, and I worked through a lot…still haven’t finished though.
I have never talked about this in a public forum. I’m pretty aprehensive about publishing this actually. First, because I don’t want it to seem like I’m sharing too much. This isn’t a light subject, and I don’t speak of it lightly. This is important, this is real for so many women…and although I’m pretty open, I have talked to very few people about this. Probably because I don’t want to teint their vue of me, which brings me to my second reason for aprehension; I don’t want you to see me differently. I’m the same Brianna you know, and I’ve been carrying this a long time. The entire reason I’m writing this at all is simply this: this is NOT something I should have to be ashamed of. This is not something I should have to hide anymore. Some things are private, yes. I will never write about the intimate things that happened in my marriage, my friends private lives, or anything that is about another person that he or she may not want to be shared. But this is me. And I’m not alone. There are so many of us (I know, I’ve talked to a lot of you) who have been changed by sexual abuse and don’t talk about it. Because we’re ashamed. Because there’s a stigma. Because it’s not spoken of in polite conversation. Well fuck that. It happened, and it changed the person I became. It changed how I see myself, and it changed my relationships with men. And it wasn’t my fault. I’m not garbage, I’m Brianna. I’m still me, I’ve just been hurt. And to stop feeling hurt, I need to stop feeling ashamed. And so do you, if you’re in the same boat as me.
So there’s a happy ending! Jesus loves me sooooo much, he cried when that happened. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? He doesn’t. The world is bad, and we made it that way, and he aches when we’re hurt. And he wants me to love him back, and take his free gift and come live with him in Heaven where I will feel more loved and safe and peaceful than I can possible understand, and it has taken me so so long to accept that this offer has been extended to a person as broken as me. But it has. We’re all broken…and we’re all so loved. And God loves the man who hurt me so many years ago just as much as he loves me. It’s weird…but that makes me feel better. Jesus loves David too. So much.
In the end, I know I’m going to be ok…and my little sister, who I want to protect so badly is far away living her life. And she’s going to be ok too, no matter what happens to her body. No matter who tries to make her feel worthless, God has given her infinite worth already. Accepting that, though it seems hard…is your free ticket home.