When I was seven years old, one of my mother’s friends brought her five year old to my house. The five year old grabbed one of my paper dolls from me, and I tried to take it back. Her mother gave it back to me, and the five year old cried. My mother made me give her the paper doll, and said, “she’s only five,” and everyone smiled at the five year old. I understood that five year olds were little and that people protected them. It didn’t occur to me that nobody had protected me as a five year old. I didn’t seem to have that kind of logic, or maybe I needed to find a reason why nobody protected me. I just wished I was five so I could have my paper doll and that someone would help me if I cried.
When I was seven years old, my mother was home when I got home from school. She told me we were going to the station. Bruce was a policeman, so I thought we were going to see him. She grabbed my hand and held it so tightly it hurt as we walked into the station. I noticed she started crying, just as we got inside. She hadn’t been crying at all on the drive over. As officers gathered around her, calling her by name, she started talking and crying harder, saying, “He put his hands between her legs,” pulling me tightly to her, and “I didn’t know; he told her that if she told me, I wouldn’t love her.” I was confused. He had always done that to me, and more, and she had always known, and he had never said that, and she had never cried about it, only acted mad at me about it. The policemen were looking at me and I could tell they were upset that Bruce had done things to me. I told one of them that I was only two years older than five because I wanted him to know that I was still little enough for him to help.
Afterward, we went home, and my Aunt Pauline and Uncle George (actually great aunt and uncle) were there, ready to take us to their house. I loved them so much, and wished it was just me going with them. My Aunt Pauline used to let me brush her hair and made me sandwiches and told me my songs were pretty. Uncle George gave big hugs and never yelled. I loved their house. Mom was mad at me all the time, but as long as Aunt Pauline and Uncle George were up, she pretended she wasn’t.
One day she picked me up from school and told me we were going to see Bruce and his lawyer who was going to help us. I was in a room with them, and they were sitting away from me talking. “I can’t ask her to lie on the stand,” the lawyer said, “but if she doesn’t tell the judge anything, that could work.” They were talking about me, I realized. They walked over to me and told me that they didn’t want me to lie about what Bruce had done, but that if I wanted to help him not be in trouble, I had to not say anything at all, not about the things that he did to me, or even talk to the judge.
“Don’t tell him your name, or how old you are, or what grade you’re in, or even nod your head at him,” the lawyer said to me. My mother said, “if you can just be really quiet, and not talk at all, I’ll get you that Barbie you wanted and we’ll get chocolate ice cream.” That part wasn’t even necessary. I did whatever I was told. I was always afraid of them.
I told them I would pretend I was at the library, because you’re not supposed to talk at the library. They all smiled at me, and I felt good that I was so clever.
The judge was very nice, asked me my name, waited…nothing…how old I was…nothing…several more questions, and finally, “Did your dad touch you between your legs?” I was so sad because I wanted to tell him, not because I believed he could help me, but because I wanted him to like me. But I was silent. He looked at me sadly, and talked to the grownups, and we left. The lawyer patted me on the head and winked at me. Mom and Bruce kissed in the parking lot, and they took me to get the Barbie and the ice cream, and got mad because I didn’t eat it, and it melted.
On the way home, my mother looked at me in her rear view mirror as I sat in the back seat. “You know, I love him so much that I risked my soul to eternal damnation by lying under oath. He is my husband. We are going to have to be extra nice to him, especially you, because you hurt him the most.”
That was a turning point in my life. From that day, and for forever, I knew beyond a doubt that nobody would ever help me, or even try to see me, not even the people who were supposed to help little girls, and not because I wasn’t five, but because none of what happened to me was about me. How could it ever be about me? Because I didn’t matter.