Today I sat and listened to 2 women talk about how sexual abuse played a role in their lives. I have always known that more women have suffered through being molested than those who have made the choice to talk about it but my question is why do we feel the need to be silent about the fact that we have been victimized? I myself honestly don’t know how I contracted HIV. Yes I could have been born with it but there is also the possibility that the father of my mom deceased 5th child gave it to me during one of the many night that he took advantage of me. My way of dealing with things thru out my life has been to forget. I’ve worked very hard at forgetting and I have gotten it down to a science. I’m so good at forgetting that I now do it with out trying. I’ve worked very hard to forget the scent of tobacco on his hands as covered my nose and mouth to silence my cries. I’ve worked very hard to forget the images of the naked women with “big girl bodies” that moaned and enjoyed the touch of the male supporting actors in the adult videos he showed me. It took years for me to forget the words he said to me “God is a man and he says you have to listen to me because I’m a man, if you tell you will never have a big girl body and your never going to grow up, this is normal I have to do it to you and you can’t tell your mom because if you do she’s going to be mad at you, the blood means its working”. In a way some of the things he told me was right. My mom found out and she was mad at me. I fell while sliding down the rail of the fire escape and I began to bleed between my legs. I only remember being less than 7 years old because by the time I was 7 I no longer lived in New York. My mom hurried me in the house and taught me that blood will stain so it was important to wash the blood from my clothes right away. She told me to undress while she went to run bath water and I did. I saw that the blood was in my panties and just like all my other blood stained panties I hid them in the closet because HE said I should. My mom came back in the room and asked for my clothes so I gave her my shirt and my shorts. She looked around and asked for my panties then she asked me to show her where I was bleeding from. I started to cry and she asked again. This time I went and got all the panties from the closet and told her everything. She got angry. She got her belt and spanked me. I remember this being the worst spanking I ever got in my life. She told me to go show Miss Ana how grown I was and she pushed me out into the hallway naked to knock on the neighbor’s door. I stood there crying and shaking with fear as I raised my hand to knock on the door. Before I could knock she grabbed my arm and pulled me back into our apartment. She put me in the bathroom and slammed the door shut. I could hear her crying in the next room and I just stood there afraid of what she might do next.
I believe this was after she knew she had HIV and I believe it was after her last child was found dead in his crib (sudden infant death syndrome, He was born positive, premature and had underdeveloped lungs) but as I said before I’ve worked hard at forgetting. I can’t recall dates but I have found the smell of cigarets brings me back to a place that I want to forget. Hearing a man speak with a Jamaican accent reminds me of the way it sounded when he would say to me “don’t tell or it wont work” hearing a young child cry reminds me of the way my mom hit me with her brown leather belt. Hearing a women cry reminds me of the way she sobbed while I stood in that bathroom. I now know she was just as confused as I. She was just as hurt as I. She now take full responsibility for my diagnosis. Even tho I feel it wasnt at all her fault. When any one asks the answer has always been that I’ve gotten it from birth. My dad isn’t any help at all. He avoided my question about his test results the 2 times I’ve gotten the nerves to ask him, and the abuser, Willy, is just a man whom I try to forget.
I was asked a question today “When did you learn about sex?” I had to think deep. I thought it was those night that he had his way with me but I didn’t know that was sex. I thought it was exactly what Willy told me it was “Something he had to do.” As I think more about the question my mom never had the sex talk with me. Growing up HIV positive there was always an educational event or safe sex presentation going on somewhere and my mom went to many. I was normally right at her side even tho child care was provided. I heard it all starting at the age of 8. I also had a support group that I attended with other HIV positive girls. They were maybe 2-4 years older than me but I was always mature for my age so no one ever knew I was younger than the others. Sex was a command topic because we had all heard things and the group was our space. Nothing we said there ever got back to our parents. I guess my mom just made sure to put me around the information so I could get it from a source that could give it to me better than she could. I think about it now and that has been my moms approach to parenting. She didn’t teach me how to drive, she didn’t show much interest in my education. Of the 3 years That I played the trombone in middle school and all the school band concerts she managed to miss all of them. I can remember asking her to come to my parent teacher night at school each semester and she would always say she was tired
Don’t get me wrong I’m in no way bashing my mom because through all of that I know my mom did the best that she could. Raising 4 children on her own and fighting for her life everyday I can understand why she was tired. I don’t have any kids now and just trying to take care of myself makes me tired. She may have missed parent teacher night but She had me to every Dr. appointment on time. She may have missed the school band concerts but she cooked us dinner each and every night despite how she felt and despite how much money it took. She was too sick to work and stress from raising her kids made it damn near impossible for her to but she kept the lights on and the water running hot and we never went without. I never had torn clothes or holes in my shoes and now that I think about it I wasn’t even forced to wear my older sisters hand-me-down clothes. I had my own and so did both my brothers and my sister. We grew up blessed with a mom that made the hard look easy.