The waiting wasn’t the worst part, but it was a close second. The girl opened her bedroom door and called for the dad to hurry up. She closed her door and wriggled back into her hiding spot in the darkened room. She had pushed the mattress away from the wall a bit so she could slide between it and the wall. She quickly pulled the covers over her and the bed, hoping that the dad wouldn’t notice her small figure hiding. The door opened and a crack of light came into the room. The dad shut the door and started looking in her usual hiding spots. The girl could hear him looking all around her small room. He couldn’t find her! Would he leave? Did she want him to? Suddenly the lights turned on and she felt his hand grab her. The dad had found the girl. He turned the lights back off and she shifted herself back on the bed.
They talked for just a few minutes about inconsequential things. “Do you want a kiss?” the dad finally asked. He asked every night, and every night the girl didn’t know what to say. If she said no, he would leave; rejecting her. If she said yes, he would stay and she could tell him about her day while he did it. Both choices would end up being painful. The girl whispered, “Yes.”
She slid off her bed and laid on the floor. The dad helped her take her underwear off and then pushed up her nightgown. The girl talked about her day the entire time. At one point, she felt herself leave her body. She felt like she was floating above her room. She could see herself lying on the floor with her eyes squished shut and her hands in fists. She could see the dad between her legs. She could see her rumpled bed and outside the window with the glow of the Christmas lights. Eventually she came back into her body. Her talking had never stopped. When the dad was finished, he helped her put her underwear back on. She climbed back in bed and he pulled the covers up over her, giving her a goodnight kiss on the check. Then he left the room.
The girl tried not to cry. She heard the dad go into the brother’s room next door. She got up and went out to the bathroom, looking down the hall into the family room where the mom was. The girl knew the mom didn’t know and the girl knew that she would never tell her. She tried to clean herself up as much as she could in the bathroom even though the dirtiness she felt was on the inside and couldn’t be cleaned away. She went back to her room, into her bed and sat there with her ear pushed against the wall that separated her from the brother. She made sure that the dad and he were both talking; making sure that the dad wasn’t doing anything to the brother. She couldn’t stop this for herself but she would stop it from happening to the brother if it ever did. It never did. It only happened to the girl. Every night it happened to her. She curled up in her bed, hoping for something to come and take her away from this. Maybe Captain Kirk would come beam her up to safety. Maybe Jaws would come tearing up through the floor of her room and just eat her and that would be the end. She had an active imagination. The girl was six years old.
Second grade was difficult for the girl. Her best friend had moved the year before and she wasn’t good at making friends. She would watch the kids on the playground running and laughing while she sat by herself. These are the same kids she had run and played with last year with her friend, but things had changed. She wasn’t that girl anymore. She was a new girl. A different girl. A dirty girl. So she sat alone during recess and lunch, looking through her purse or eating her lunch slowly.
It was different in the classroom. For some reason it was safer for her to reach out to the other kids in class; even if she got in trouble for it. The girl was always finished with her work before everyone else so she would start talking to kids near her. Maybe they needed help with the math or reading. She knew she could help. But as always, she ended up in trouble. Eventually she sat at the corner desk. All desks around her were empty so she had no one to talk to. Her parent’s received many notes from the teacher in regards to her behavior.
At home, the girl suffered from headaches. She was “dramatic.” She would lie on her bed with her head hanging off the edge and stare at the sun. She would do it as long as she could before the sun burned her eyes. She knew she could go blind doing it and that was okay. She didn’t want to see what was happening to her every night.
Her parents eventually took her to a psychologist. The doctor kept saying that the tests might be difficult but they weren’t to the girl. At the end, it was decided that she was gifted and bored in second grade. The girl was reading at a fifth grade level. The dad never mentioned what the real problem could be and the mom never knew, so the girl went home where nothing changed. The kisses had been happening for two years now—every night. The girl was seven years old.
The dad was in the girl’s room again looking for her. She was hiding in the closet again. This was a usual spot for her if she knew he was going to be coming in quickly. But she was as far back in the corner as she could get and was sure that the dad couldn’t find her. The closet had just one sliding door as the other had been broken. She tried not to breathe. Then she saw his hand; a black shape reaching around the door towards her. She would have nightmares about hands grabbing her for a very long time. His head came around the door and he somehow saw her. He opened the closet door and she climbed out and into bed. They talked for just a few minutes about inconsequential things. “Do you want a kiss?” he asked. This time she whispered, “No.” He said, “okay,” gave her a kiss goodnight and left. She lay in bed crying because she knew that he would only stay with her if she said yes to him. He didn’t stay to hear about her day. He just left; rejecting her. She lay in bed, listening to the murmured voices from the brother’s room. She didn’t listen at the wall anymore because she knew by now that this only happened to her. Tomorrow she would go ahead and say yes so that he would stay with her. It was the only way. She still wondered if something would come take her away from of all of this but she knew in her heart that it would never happen. It would just go on and on. The girl was eight years old.
The girl started getting mean. It was bits of anger that she had stuffed inside of her for almost three years. She was making fun of kids at school and saying horrible things to them. It was a small town so everyone knew everyone’s business. The girl made sure that she said all the mean things that she had heard from the town gossip. She didn’t actually say it. She had a new friend that was bold. This friend would say anything the girl told her. Once again, the girl was in trouble at school. She was going to the high school for advanced classes but still stuck in fourth grade. There had been talk of moving her up a grade but then she would have been the same grade as the brother and her parents didn’t want that. So she stayed where she was at. And her anger came out. And no one noticed or those that did notice didn’t know truly what was wrong and didn’t know how to stop her. She eventually stopped herself. Maybe it was a phase. Or maybe the girl was just able to stuff the anger further down so it wouldn’t come out. The girl was nine years old.
Fifth grade was a bit easier for the girl as she was able to keep the anger inside at school. She made more friends and even became the captain of the Safety Patrol at her school. Then she became Captain of the town Safety Patrol and even competed for the county spot. At school she was a normal girl. She had gotten good at living two lives. There was the daytime life where she was at school with other kids and she tried to blend in and do her best. Then there was the home life, where the day always ended in her room, with the question, “Do you want a kiss?” The girl was ten years old.
The girl’s only safety was at the grandparent’s house. There she was free and safe and loved. Anytime she visited there, she always begged the mom to spend the night. Most of the time, the mom agreed. The girl and the brother would borrow a t-shirt from the grandpa and sleep in the pull out couch. In the morning, she or the brother would run over to the television and turn on cartoons and then run back to bed. As the girl and the brother got older, they were allowed to sleep upstairs, first in the room with twin beds and eventually in their own rooms. During the summer, each one of them got one week alone at the grandparents’ home. The girl treasured these weeks and always begged to stay longer. She would spend the day with the grandmother, doing whatever was on the schedule for the day. When the grandpa got home from work, the girl would help the grandma make dinner. The grandpa went to bed early and so the girl and the grandma would watch television until late at night. The grandma would make a late night snack for the girl to take up to bed. As the years went by, this home was the only sanctuary for the girl.
The girl had her first boyfriend. The elementary schools had merged into one middle school and a boy in town that she had never known liked her. Sixth grade relationships consisted of holding hands between classes and sitting with each other at lunch. The girl was able to keep everything that happened at night away from this first love. She kept it innocent and pure, even with what happened to her every night. They went to the movies. They went to dances together and their first kiss was at a dance. They were sitting down and he leaned over and kissed her. It was a good kiss. They were boyfriend and girlfriend for over a year. Then he moved away. She was heartbroken. They tried to be long-distance boyfriend and girlfriend but that was too difficult. But every time he came back into town, he would come by and visit her. The girl was 11 years old.
The mom told the girl and the brother that she was leaving the dad. The dad had been cheating on the mom. The girl was confused. The dad was married to the mom and had been with all these other women and the dad still came to the girl every night. The girl let out a howl that sounded like an animal in pain. She didn’t understand. Why had the dad been doing this to her? What was wrong with her? What had she done that had been so terrible that she was being punished every night for so many years? The mom tried to console her as she walked her and the brother to the car. They were going to go stay with their grandparents for a while.
They ended up staying at the grandparents for a long time because the dad wouldn’t leave the house. He had closed all the bank accounts so they didn’t have any money. The school days were long for the girl. The girl and the brother would get up really early because their mom had to drive them 45 minutes to get to their school. After school, the girl would go home while the brother stayed after school for sports. Around four o'clock in the afternoon, the mom and girl would go to the high school and wait for practice to be over. The dad got home from work after four o'clock and they didn’t want to be there when he came home. They would drive down to their grandparents’ house after practice was over and have dinner and do homework and then get ready for bed. They would repeat this every day. The dad finally left the house when the divorce was final and he was ordered to move out. The girl thought things would be different now that he was out of the house. They were but they weren’t better. The girl was 12 years old.
The girl hated visitation weekends with the dad. He lived in a two bedroom apartment with one bedroom filled with his reptiles. This meant that there weren’t enough beds for everyone. The dad had his bed in the master bedroom with a single bed along the wall for one of them to sleep in. There was a love seat in the living room. This is where the other one would sleep. Sleeping arrangements were based on who stayed up the longest. It seemed like the brother always stayed up the longest so the girl would have to sleep in the bedroom with the dad. The brother would get the love seat. So the girl would wait as long as she could before going to the bedroom, hoping that the dad would already be asleep. Sometimes he was and she would go to bed in peace. But he usually woke up, almost sensing her coming into the room. They would talk for just a few minutes about inconsequential things. “Do you want a kiss?” he would ask and she would always answer “Yes.” She was afraid at his home. The dad was the only adult there and the girl did not want to make him mad. If she said no, would he do something worse to her since there was no one else around except for the brother? So she said yes and it kept going on and on. The girl was 13 years old.
The girl started avoiding visitation weekends. She made up excuses about spending the nights at a friend’s house or having something to do with school. She would shake uncontrollably when she told the dad this on the phone. The dad would then ignore her and finish talking with the brother. Once again, she was rejected. The girl couldn’t avoid every visitation weekend but she avoided a lot of them.
It was the girl’s birthday. She hadn’t been to a visitation weekend in a while. The dad wanted to take her to dinner for her birthday. Just her. The girl went. After dinner, the dad took the girl back to his apartment. This was the first time the girl had been alone with the dad at his home. He made her some punch, which she drank. It tasted different and when she asked the dad what it was, he said that it had some wine in it. They didn’t stay very long as the girl had to be home early. The girl went to the door to leave but it wouldn’t open. The door was locked. She twisted the lock on the handle and still the door wouldn’t open. The girl got very scared. She was locked in. The dad reached around her and opened the deadbolt. The girl started shaking inside. The dad was a very big man. Why did he have the door and deadbolt locked while they were inside? It was summertime. The sun was still out. They were only in the home for a short time. The girl was very quiet on the ride home. She decided then that she would never go for visitation again. She didn’t care how painful the phone calls would be. The girl knew that she could no longer be alone with the dad. The girl was 14 years old.
The girl became a cheerleader her junior year. She was shocked and happy. It was strange to wear the uniform around campus. She was so insecure, trying to be a normal girl and not let anyone know what had happened to her. She couldn’t say hi to kids in the hall even though she had known some of them since first grade. She had friends but truly only one best friend. If her friend wasn’t at school, the girl panicked and reverted back to being alone. It seemed like everything was a façade. On the outside, she was a high school cheerleader and everyone expected her to be the happy stereotype. Inside she was trying to survive the horrors of the past. She knew that people thought she was a snob but she had no idea how to reach out. She felt so alone and dirty and tried to hide the secrets of her past.
The girl was angry. So much anger and she didn’t know how to control it any longer. She was mean to the mom and the brother. So much had been bottled inside of her for so long. She no longer saw the dad during visitation. She only saw him at holidays and other occasions when family members would be around. She was never alone with the dad. But she was still so angry. She fought with the brother all the time. The mom wouldn’t even take her out to practice for her driver’s license because she didn’t want to be in the car with the girl. One night the mom and the girl had a bad fight. The mom said that the girl should go live with her dad so that they could have some space. The girl started crying and said that she couldn’t do that. The mom asked her why and the girl couldn’t answer. The mom asked if the dad had done anything to her and the girl nodded. The girl told the mom what happened and they cried together. Finally the girl’s story had come out. The mom took the girl to the family doctor the next day and he recommended a therapist. She started therapy immediately. The girl was 16 years old.
The girl had been in a fight with her boyfriend and he stopped talking to her. She was so tired of rejection. She wondered if love always involved being rejected, being ignored. She came home from school and went in the bathroom and took a bunch of pills, washing it down with water from the sink. She walked into her bedroom, lay on the bed and called her boyfriend. She got sleepy while talking on the phone and when asked what was wrong, she told the boyfriend that she had taken pills. The boyfriend asked to talk to the brother and he told the brother what had happened. The brother hung up the phone and called the mom. He then got the girl up from the bed and made her walk around the house. She was so tired and just wanted to go to sleep but the brother wouldn’t let her. They were in the living room when the mom drove up. The brother had the girl sit on the couch and he ran outside. She could hear the brother tell the mom that he had tried his best to keep her up and walking and awake. The mom rushed the girl to the family doctor. She was given ipecac syrup which made her sick and flushed her system of all the pills. The girl missed school the next day and went to therapy instead. They talked a lot about anger and guilt. Over the next few months, the girl started to get angry with the dad.
The girl decided to press charges against the dad. The sheriff came to her house to speak to her. She told the man what had happened to her. The sheriff took notes and said that they would go to the dad’s work and place him under arrest. He suggested that they get a restraining order to keep the dad away. The grandparents helped get an attorney for the girl. She had to meet with him and once again tell him everything that happened. The attorney was a very nice man. He asked her a bunch of questions about exactly what happened to her. She had to give very specific details about each and every time it happened. It was like asking her what she had for breakfast every day. She knew she had breakfast but she couldn’t remember what she ate when she was 6 or 7 or 10 or 13. So they got out photo albums and the girl tried to remember different clothes that the dad had taken off of her. They eventually came up with 14 exact instances that she could remember it happening. She was confused because she kept saying that it happened every day for over 7 years and they only had 14 “counts.” The attorney said that this was how the law worked. He asked her if she wanted to go to trial. If the girl went to trial, then she would have to testify as to what happened. The girl was not strong enough to do that. So they were going to go to court.
The girl was voted onto the A.S.B. She was the Spirit Commissioner, in charge of all the pep assemblies as well as the Homecoming week and dance. Unbeknownst to her, the mom told some teachers about what was going on with the girl. The teachers were shocked and wanted to take away these school duties from her. But the mom told them that the girl just wanted to be normal and to let her do all these things but to keep an eye on her. So they did. They watched her plan the Homecoming week activities, spend the night decorating the gym for the dance, get up early and take the SAT test and come back and work at the dance. What they didn’t know was that a few days later, the girl was going to the hearing against the dad, hoping to send him to jail. The girl was 17 years old.
The attorney had warned the girl that there was a chance that the dad wouldn’t be prosecuted for what he did. He told her honestly that there weren’t many cases of children prosecuting their dads for incest. Also, the dad was an upstanding citizen. He worked at the same company for 19 years and had helped coach kids sports. The attorney said he would be happy with any type of sentence, even if it was only probation. Once at the hearing, the dad made a plea bargain. He pled guilty to two of the fourteen counts. The sentencing was two months later.
The girl had a victim’s advocate that was going to speak for her at the sentencing. The victim’s advocate tried to tell the girl’s story but it didn’t come out right. The mom was crying and couldn’t talk. So the girl stood up and told her story the best she could to the judge. She wouldn’t look at the dad. The dad was sentenced to state prison for the middle term of six years per count, with the count two being served concurrently with count one. The attorney for the girl was astonished that the dad was going to prison for six years. He truly thought the dad would only get probation, if that. The dad was allowed psychological testing with a follow up hearing a few months later. Until that time, the dad would be in state prison. At the second sentencing hearing, the sentence was reduced to three years. The dad was sent to a minimum security prison where he served a year and a half for good behavior. He was able to get his job back when he was released.
During this time, the girl sued the dad for damages and won $100,000. She used this money to buy a car and pay her way in college.
At one time, someone told the girl that she was lucky she wasn’t a prostitute, addicted to drugs, or dead. It’s true, she wasn’t any of those, but she didn’t come out unscathed. This was her life from age 6-17. Her whole life was ahead of her. And every day she would have to deal with what had happened to her. Every day the horror from her childhood would weave its way into the girl’s life.