I interviewed my mother over the phone first. She wasn't present when the incident happened. On top of that, she was experiencing a difficult pregnancy. I don't really remember seeing her much during this year of my life. She was often sick, and when she wasn't, she was on bed rest. Also, I didn't know what I would hear from her. She has dementia. What that means is she has no healthy emotional boundaries. It is common for her to hijack whatever topic is raised and make it all about her. There's a bit of narcissism in her personality that has been exacerbated by the dementia. I was pretty sure I'd find nothing of importance in her interview, but Therapist had assigned it, so I did it.
And it wasn't horrible, actually. She was more lucid than I've seen her for years. And she was completely honest. There was no twisting to make it all about her, no assumed or constructed impossible details, no lamenting about what a horrible mother she had been. She simply said, "Sam, I wasn't there. I don't really know anything that happened. I was only personally involved afterward, when we went to see the bishop about it."
I told her I knew that, I just wanted to hear what she remembered. She told me my father related the incident to her. She said she thought he had asked me, on the way home, what had happened, and I had said that Brent (because apparently, that was my attacker's name) had followed me to the bathroom and lifted up my skirt. She said they had spoken with his parents and the bishop, and she and my father had been pressured to let the parents speak with their son and handle any necessary discipline.
My mom said she never felt it was enough but, based on my account, the encounter had been scary, but I hadn't been physically harmed, so she was unsure if they would be able to report it and prosecute the man. He was mentally disabled, after all, she was told.
Then she asked me what was going on; why was I talking about this now? I briefly let her know that things had been triggered, that much more happened in that bathroom than peeking under my skirt, and that I was doing a therapy assignment. She was quiet for a moment. Then she said, "Sam, I'm so sorry. I wish we had done more. We didn't know what to do." She said, "I wish I had held you when you came home. I would have told you you were loved and safe. I wish I had done that. I'm sorry."
Five years ago, those words would have made me angry. I would have felt resentment that she had assumed I would want her to touch me. I wouldn't have responded at all.
This time, I was grateful. I'm not stupid. I know, given where our relationship was at that time in my life, she probably didn't have the emotional stamina to offer love to me. But somehow, hearing her say this now, even knowing full well that it probably stems from her dementia, was important. I needed to know that she felt something about what had happened to me. I needed to know of her need to love and protect me, even if it was fabricated. And so I told her, "Thank you for saying that, Mom. It helps. It really does."
I've come a very, very long way.
My father called me about an hour later. He corroborated most of the story I've believed my whole life. He told me when I returned from the bathroom, I was visibly upset and seemed confused, incoherent. When he understood what had happened, he asked me to sit on a chair near a family friend while he got our coats. They were on the other side of the gym. He was able to see me, and I him, the entire time we were separated, and retrieving the coats took a matter of seconds.
I told my dad that wasn't what I remembered. I remembered being left for a long time. Later, I said, he had told me he found Brent and threatened him with violence if he ever harmed little girls again (this behavior, we found out later, was chronic-- I was not the first victim). My dad said, no. We left and went home immediately. It was later, perhaps a week or two, before he spoke with Brent.
He mentioned the car ride home. And I remembered. I remembered it was dark, and I was afraid. I remembered him asking me if Brent had hurt me. I remembered saying no. He just lifted up my skirt. I think that's what I wanted the story to be. I think it was too hard to talk about what really happened. I think there was a part of me that wondered if I was in trouble or if I'd done something wrong. Mostly, I was just too scared and confused to talk about it.
My dad told me that he wished they had prosecuted, or at the very least, made a police report. I'm not sure I could have endured that. Within a day, my subconscious was hard at work making me forget, redrawing my clothing, shutting down the memory.
My father told me that Brent and his brother were often in trouble. At one time, they were throwing rocks through car windshields and breaking them. The sheriff took them to the tiny, local jail, and locked them in overnight. In the morning, he told them they could go home if they promised not to break anymore windows. The men promised and were released. No more windows were broken.
My dad said that, as no repercussions seemed to be forthcoming for the bathroom assault on his daughter, he felt he needed to make yet another impression on Brent to deter him from harming any other little girls. He spoke with Brent a few days later and showed Brent his pocket knife. Brent admired the knife a great deal. My dad said, "I want you to remember this knife. I keep it with me all the time. And if I ever hear of you following another little girl into the bathroom for any reason, I'll use that knife to cut off your penis."
I have no idea if the threat was effective or not. After all, I was working very hard to remember that nothing ever happened. But none of the girls my age ever went to the bathroom alone. It was an odd circumstance that left me alone the night I was assaulted. For whatever reason, I had been allowed to go with my father to the basketball game. It was late, probably 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. It was a school night. No other children were there-- at least, none that I knew. I don't remember seeing any other school-age children. If there had been any there, I would have been playing with them rather than watching the game.
My dad asked me if I was going to be okay, and expressed his dismay and distress that I was still suffering after so many years. I reassured him that the suffering had just begun and told him not to worry. Therapist and I would work through it and I would be fine. He told me he loved me. I think I've always known that.