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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Child Samantha

The age boundaries of this segment start at my birth and end a few months before my twelfth birthday. As instructed by three different therapists, I have taken time to research this part of my life in great depth. I've looked at scrapbooks and interviewed people who knew me. As an interesting coincidence, one of my more recent financial clients is a person who was my neighbor when I was born and lived next to us until I was two years old. I had opportunity to ask him about Child Samantha. To him, I was adorable. When I learned to walk he would leave their apartment door ajar and coax me inside so he could cuddle and play with me. He and his wife were close friends of my parents. He talks of my dark eyelashes and abundant curly hair. He says I was tiny, giggled easily, and he says when I was with them his heart felt glad--something he assures me has not changed.

My earliest memories of Child Samantha, naturally involve being in trouble. I remember hiding under a bed to escape punishment. I remember constant disapproval. I remember being afraid of my mother and at the same time, loving her so much I thought it would consume me. I loved flowers, cats, stories, and green apricots. I climbed trees and ran incessantly. My father was gone most of the time. I remember feeling that I would explode with joy when he came home. He would hold me sometimes, on Saturday mornings, while we ate stale popcorn from the night before and watched cartoons. He chased me, caught me, tickled me and I felt in those moments that nothing bad could ever happen to me.

My mother enrolled me in dance lessons at age two. There was little I loved more. I loved to sing. I learned to read at age three and life became wondrous and amazing. I wanted to know everything. My father taught me to play Chess at age five. We played nightly for a week--and then I beat him. From that point on, I had to beg to get him to play with me. I loved the babies that came into our home. Three little sisters were born in that time. I played with them, dressed them, fixed their hair, introduced them to nursery rhymes, poetry, and my favorite stories.

Through all of this, I yearned for my mother to acknowledge that she loved me. I told her often. I sat next to her in church, wishing to be cuddled as my younger sisters were--as my older sister was. I asked her to bake with me, play with me, sing with me. She tried--I have to admit that--but it was obviously difficult for her.

At four years of age I was molested for the first time. My age dictates that my memory of this is not clear. I remember going to the restroom at church. An older female person was there--she may have been anywhere from 15 to 50-- four-year-olds have difficulty understanding age. She turned out the bathroom lights, removed my clothing and began to touch my genitals. I remember feeling trapped and afraid. I remember being left alone. She turned on the lights as she left the restroom. I dressed and returned to my family. I don't remember telling anyone. I'm not sure I had the ability to do so.

I fell in love for the first time when I was six. She was my Primary teacher, and I thought she was the most beautiful creature ever known. And she loved me back. I knew it. She saw me every Wednesday for our Primary class, and she always asked me to read or help with pictures. And on Sundays she held me on her lap during Sacrament Meeting. She hugged me and kissed me and told me I was the sweetest friend she had ever had. Then, one day in Primary she told us she had wonderful news. She was engaged to be married. She told us all about her fiance. She laughed and sparkled and let us know how happy she was. She also let us know that she would be moving after the wedding, so she wouldn't be our Primary teacher anymore. Then she gave us each an invitation to her reception. I took the invitation, walked out of the classroom, and ran home crying. I think I wept for hours. I realized that even if she loved me, it wasn't in the way that she loved her fiance. She wasn't mine. It ached terribly. I still have the wedding announcement/invitation. I still think she's beautiful. In some ways, perhaps, I'm still in love with her as only a six-year-old can be in love.

At age eight I was molested for the second time. Once again it happened in a church bathroom. I was at a church basketball game. A man followed me into the restroom. I heard him come in after me and turned to see who it was. I knew immediately that I was in trouble. He grabbed me and put his hand over my mouth, holding me between his legs as he roughly undressed me. I fought him in every way that I could. As he began to fondle me, I bit him. He released me and I grabbed my clothes, putting them on as quickly as I could. He watched me dress. As I ran from the bathroom I heard him say, "Don't you tell your dad!" I paused and screamed at him, "I will tell my dad! You're going to be sorry!" I ran to my father. I leaned against him, shaking and frightened out of my mind. Finally, I told him what had happened. I watched rage build inside him. He picked me up, placed me firmly on a chair and told me not to move. Then he left. The reality is that he found the man who had molested me and made certain that man would never touch me again. My reality told me that I was in terrible trouble, that I'd done something horrible to anger my father, and then placed in time-out to think about it. It seemed I was there for an eternity. In that eternity, my poor child-mind gave out. I could not understand any of this. I'd been attacked and hurt, and now I was in trouble. I have no more memory of anything pertaining to the incident after that point. My parents tell me that the next day we met with our bishop and I told him my story. I don't remember. No doubt, I felt he would be angry with me as well. The bishop met with the molester and his family, and supposedly, thereafter, legal action taken which also involved my testimony. Again, my last memory was that my father left me behind when I simply wanted him to hold me and protect me. For the first time in my life I felt abandoned by both parents and unsafe in any instance. The seeds of the idea that I must care for myself had sprouted.

In spite of all this, my eighth year was wonderful. I had many friends. I loved school. I was bright and in an accelerated program which allowed me to learn advanced math and pre-algebra. I developed a crush on a very cute boy...and on several girls, as well. The cute boy was nice to me--perhaps that's why I thought him cute. The cute girls were lovely to look at, and most were my friends. I felt whole and healthy and truly happy in many ways. Then we moved.

My mother's brother and sister and their families came to spend July 4th weekend with us the summer after we moved. We had a large family and a small house. Because sleeping space was limited, nine cousins were sent to the back yard to sleep under the stars. We were all good friends. We were happy to sleep together outside. I was sandwiched between cousin Jeff, my soul mate, and cousin David, an older but still delightful person. We watched for falling stars, discussed the ways our parents mistreated us, thought about going fishing in the morning, and giggled at terribly bad jokes. Eventually, we drifted off to sleep. I was awakened by a sense of danger and a tangible, odd feeling. As I became conscious, I realized that cousin David's hands were not where they should be. They were inside my underwear, touching me in ways they should not. At nine-years-old, I identified the action as "wrong", but had no idea what to do next. I moved away from him as much as possible, and he removed his hands. After a few minutes, though, he was back, trying to touch me once again. I got up and went indoors to my parents bedroom, where I sat on their bed and cried. They awoke, asked me what was wrong, and allowed me to report on the incident. I wanted them to hold me, to hug me tightly, to tell me they'd take care of me. Instead, they suggested I sleep on the floor of their room for the rest of the night. I found a spare blanket and took a pillow from the couch and tried to sleep. I don't think I did. Mostly, I think I just cried. In the morning, cousin David's family left unexpectedly. I remember nothing more of the weekend.

I have pictures of that holiday, though. I found one of me in ponytails, holding a cake I'd made for the celebration. It was a flag with stripes made of whipped cream and strawberries, and white whipped cream stars peeping out of a square of solid blueberries. There is another of me smiling with Jeff as we roasted marshmallows, and one of me holding my baby brother. Somewhere is a picture of me flying over the can to free the prisoners in our game of Kick-the-can. I don't remember it.

I didn't adjust well to our move. School was unhappy for me. I had become incredibly fearful of boys--and I was at the age when boys seem to be very interested in girls. Innocent "crush" pranks made me feel ill. One boy who decided he like me very much, wrote my name in ball point pen all over his arms and shoes. I was traumatized for days. Another young man followed me around, never saying anything, just watching me. His best friend (also one of my best friends) told me the stare-sessions were because I was "just really, really cute." I wanted to throw up. Bus rides to school were not fun. Older boys, who had overheard the "really cute" remark, began calling me "cutie". I responded by running away and hiding whenever possible. The teachers thought it innocent, even funny. I found myself having terrifying dreams in which my mother put me on display for scary boys to see, then left me to run from them while they chased me through the night, trying to remove my clothes and touch me in inappropriate ways. In sixth grade I watched as my girl friends experimented with kissing boys and holding hands and holding hands with them. I wanted no part of it.

Summers were wonderful. I spent days driving tractors, playing with my dog and cats, watching ducks hatch, and swimming in our canal. Cousin David didn't visit again until I was eleven, but cousin Jeff and I became wonderful friends and inseparable playmates. When they visited, we would sneak out of the house early in the morning, before my mother started her daily yelling. We would take a lunch of sorts (usually some bread and raspberries, and whatever candy we could find), and stay away until dinnertime. In those moment, I felt safe. I felt happy.


  1. Miki felt a similar guilt because of Lureen's response when she told her she was being abused by her cousin. Because of that, and because I know it's something prevalent, I've sat and thought about how I would respond, if ever that came up in my children's lives.

    I pray to God it doesn't, but I'm glad I know two very brave women who've moved on, despite this terrible thing.

  2. It's interesting to me that molestation by itself, while it can be scary and horrible, is not what was the worst. The worst was when people didn't do what the child needed them to.

    In my case, there was no forced anything, it was just playing around, though it was inappropriate, manipulative, and overall gross and wrong it didn't hurt or traumatize me. The thing that did traumatize me (if you could call it that. . .) was the way the adults around me behaved and treated me because of it.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this. It's hard for me to face the question of how I would respond if this happened to one of my daughters (or my son), because that would require me to admit it's possible. But if it ever did happen, I'm afraid my response would have been exactly what your father's was. I would leave my little girl where I thought she was safe and go confront the guy. It wouldn't occur to me that it might be better for my daughter to see that I am unhappy with what happened not because she did something wrong, but because somebody else did something wrong. It sounds like your father tragically missed an opportunity to have your trust when your cousin raped you as a teenager because he simply didn't know what you needed when you were assaulted at 8. If something that dreadful happened to my daughter, the last thing I would want her to do is keep it from me because she thought I would be angry.