Culture

Craigslist Confessional: Did I ruin my friends’ lives?

Wondering about the reverberations of a childhood trauma.

Culture

Craigslist Confessional: Did I ruin my friends’ lives?

Wondering about the reverberations of a childhood trauma.
Culture

Craigslist Confessional: Did I ruin my friends’ lives?

Wondering about the reverberations of a childhood trauma.

This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Dea Bala started meeting people via a Craigslist ad in 2014 and has been documenting their lives ever since. By listening to their stories — anonymously and for free — she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. In sharing them with you, she wants to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. To share your story with Helena, e-mail her at helena@craigslistconfessional.com. Read prior Confessions here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.

Warning: This article contains graphic/disturbing language.

“My mother got me a dog, like some sort of consolation prize.”

Sophia, late 40s

Our house burned down a couple of weeks before my third birthday, and my parents and I went to stay with my father’s sister and her husband. There were a lot of kids in the house, including a teenaged uncle of mine — he must have been no older than 15 at the time. He was bold about it. The only room in the house that had a lock was the bathroom, which happened to be right next to the kitchen. He would take me there to molest me while my mother was right next door, making us snacks.

I didn’t tell anyone about what happened to me until I was 22. I told my first serious boyfriend, who didn’t know what to do with the information. At around the same time, I told my mom and dad. My brother — I’m pretty certain he was molested, too — was a witness but not a participant to some of what happened to me. We’ve never talked about it. When I told my parents, my mother was outraged and my dad was mum but horrified. And that lasted for about a day; then, we never talked about it again. A few days later, my mother got me a dog, like some sort of consolation prize.

Thankfully, I only have a very spotty memory of the two years during which my uncle had easy access to me. I don’t remember there having been any penetration — he only touched and performed oral sex on me. I’ve been to therapy for very many years and, for the most part, I’ve come to terms with what happened. There’s only one thing about those years that still haunts me.

When I was around six or seven years old, two of my girlfriends and I were in the basement of my house, playing with dolls. I don’t remember how it came about, but I remember telling them — showing them — how to make a girl feel good. I took my clothes off and sat on a large stuffed animal. They both did the same thing. And that was it. That’s the end of my memory. I’m certain that nothing else happened.

What I did that day has haunted me every single day since. Did I ruin their lives? Did what I showed them haunt them as much as what my Uncle did to me has haunted me? Do they think of me with the same horror I think of my uncle?

When I hit puberty, I gained a lot of weight. I learned later through therapy that young girls who are molested gain weight during puberty as a defense mechanism — so that men will leave them alone. At 23, I was diagnosed with depression. I don’t have children and have never been married — and that’s neither here nor there. But I tend to be attracted to not very nice men — men who are very controlling and emotionally abusive. I don’t know if it’s because of what happened or due to my own parents’ marriage having been such a mess — but I can’t help but wonder about the larger and less obvious repercussions of the trauma I suffered.

But I remember so clearly that for the longest time after what my uncle did, I would not go into the bathroom at home. I would pee outside, behind the couch, behind the chair, or in my bed. It happened for a couple of years, and I think of my young self then and the fear I must have felt, and I feel really terrible that perhaps I’m responsible for doing the same to someone else.

I don’t know whatever happened to my uncle. I never saw him again. I don’t know where he lives. I don’t even remember his name. I lost touch with my friends, too. I don’t remember what they looked like or their names. Maybe one of them — it could have been Laura?

If you would like to speak with someone, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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Craigslist Confessional: Did I ruin my friends’ lives?

Craigslist Confessional: Have I already failed as a mother?

Craigslist Confessional: My parents ruined my life

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Helena Dea Bala is a former lobbyist turned professional listener. She lives in New York with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Stanley Zbornak.