The Boogeyman

When I was young, my grandmother told me stories of the Boogeyman. He would come out at night and punish naughty children. She said he lived in our attic. She was wrong. He lived in the bedroom next to me. The first time happened when I was seven and he was thirteen. My brother came into my bedroom and sexually abused me. No matter how much I fought him, he was stronger. No matter how much I said no, he wouldn’t stop. It wasn’t until I threatened to tell on him that he stopped. It kept him at bay, but not for long.

I thought by covering myself up as much as possible, I was less likely to ‘provoke’ him again to touch me. I would dress in layers, even in thirty degree weather. The adults would always ask why and I would always lie. “I’m cold,” I would say. I was scared to tell anyone. What if they didn’t believe me? What if then it angered my brother and made him do even worse things as punishment? I hoped keeping my mouth shut would show him I was willing to be silent forever and keep this as just an ‘incident’ and he would stop in return. But he didn’t.

When I was eleven I remember seeing these Kids Helpline commercials. There was one part of the commercial that really stood out to me. There was a bedroom where the girl in one of the posters was talking. She explained that the child ran away because they couldn’t stand being sexually abused anymore. I hated what he was doing to me. I would always wait for the commercial to come on and check if my sexual abuse was something I should tell somebody. That there was a chance it could be fixed. When I was certain, I swore that I would tell someone the next time it happened. I was terrified of him. But with the newfound hope I had, I regained some courage. This time I was going to really fight him if I had to.

And it did happen again. I was living at my grandmother’s house which was around the corner from parents and I was home alone. He came over and tried to sexually abuse me again. By this time he was seventeen and I was eleven. I told him to stop, but he didn’t. When I sat up and began screaming, I realised I had made a big mistake. He immediately slapped his hand over my mouth and pushed me back down. I saw how much bigger and stronger he was. I’ve never been more scared in my life then that moment. No matter how much I squirmed, I couldn’t free myself from his hold. With my last ounce of courage, I threatened to tell on him if he didn’t stop. And to my relief he let go of me and left. I couldn’t believe I had escaped. But all my energy and confidence in my plan to speak up was drained. I couldn’t run to my parents and tell them what he’d been doing under the same roof he lived in. I thought it would keep him away for a while. I wondered if I didn’t say anything, he would reward me by not doing it again. But how many times had I gone through this before. I had given him so many chances to not abuse me if I kept it secret, but he always came back. I couldn’t take anymore. Then I remembered the commercial and all the courage I had earlier. Instead, I decided to call. I figured that if the people on the other end of the line didn’t believe me it wouldn’t matter because nobody in my family would know I ever made the call (of course, as I got older I learnt calls like showed up on the phone bill). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the number. I turned on the television, desperately flicking from channel to channel trying to find it. But it didn’t come on. I was completely lost. So I decided to call the best thing. Nervously, my shaking fingers pressed the zero button thrice.

With every ring, my heart beat faster. I felt the adrenaline pumping through my veins. My confidence came back and I was ready to speak up. Finally, somebody answered, “Hello,” to which I immediately blurted out, “My brother touched me.” The person awkwardly replied, “Uh, hold on a minute,” and quickly connected me to a friendly woman. I repeated myself and this time the person knew how to handle the situation. She asked me to tell her everything. Who did it, what did they do, when did it start. I broke down. Fumbling and jumbling my words. I couldn’t breath properly because I was trying to say it all in one breath. Her voice was soothing and she easily calmed me down. She was extremely patient and kind. After I had finished explaining everything I was out of breath. Here came the moment of truth: can my sexual abuse stop? When she told me she was sending a police car I broke down in tears. They weren’t tears of sadness, but tears of joy. She believed me. I was finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was saved.

So I thought. I thought my brother was going to be the biggest hurdle I had to jump. I wasn’t prepared for the even bigger hurdle that was my family. They were constantly asking me if I had made it all up. I knew why. They didn’t believe me. All the police officers and counselors I told believed me. Why didn’t my family? I was awefully sympathic for what they were all going through that I forgot about myself. While they were all struggling to get their heads around it all, I was left in the dark. But I forgave them all for it, including my brother for what he did even though he never apologised. My brother wasn’t criminally charged and did no time. Only signed an AVO agreeing not to touch me inappropriately again. By the time the court proceedings were over, my family were done too. It was never to be spoken about again. Brushed under the rug.

A few years later my father and grandmother really wanted me to move in with my dad. I was hesitant because my brother was there. He was my greatest fear, my real life Boogeyman. My grandmother said it wasn’t fair that I stay with her because my older sister needed the room more. When I confessed my reasons why I wanted to stay, she said, “Get over it.” I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what I heard and from her of all people. My mother wasn’t around much, but when she was, she physically abused my siblings and I. She seemed to like us best when we were black and blue. When I was five, she held a knife up to my face and threatened me with it. That’s when my grandmother became my surrogate mother and took care of me. But now my once gentle and loving grandmother showed me a side I never knew existed. The blantant disregard for my feelings and well-being was gut wrenching. I had never felt more betrayed in my life. Even though I still love her with all my heart, I saw her in a completely different light. From that day on, I’ve never been able to look at her the same again. Even thinking about it chokes me up. She says I always use to smile when I was younger, but now I hardly do. Maybe I just don’t smile at her as much anymore.

If I could just, “get over it,” I would. I wish everyday that I could. If there was a pill to forget everything — even if that meant the good memories — I would take it in a heart beat. I’d take two just in case. I don’t like looking at family photos and thinking, “that baby grew up to be a monster.” I don’t like waking up in the middle of the night unable to tell if the nightmare of my brother was just a nightmare or if it happened again. I don’t like being scared by the sound of my own breathing because sometimes I mistake it to be his. I don’t like always being on edge even around the other male members of my family and thinking, “if my brother can, what’s going to stop my father?” And I am absolutely disgusted and ashamed that those thoughts could even cross my mind. I loathe myself for it. I hate upsetting my family because I’m depressed and I’m depressed because I can’t get over it.

And so I moved. Right next to the room of the brother who sexually abused me. I did it to make my family happy. Ever since I called the police, I felt like I was nothing but a burden to my family. They would ask, “Why didn’t you tell us first?” They seemed angry when they asked, but I knew they were just worried. But I felt I had caused nothing but problems to them. Especially when my mum left us, I thought it was all my doing. I figured that she wanted nothing to do with a messed up family as us. Every bad thing that happened from the day I spoke up seemed like a reprecussion from that event. That it was all my fault. All because I had opened my big fat mouth. It was rare for me to leave my room. When I did, I was sure to be quick. My door was locked at all times when I was in there, even if my brother wasn’t home. I didn’t even know I was doing it until a friend visiting asked me, “Why do you always lock your door?” By then it just seemed as normal as sneezing. Locking the door became an unconscious reflex.

But then I saw the signs. I would always tell myself I was being paranoid, but later on wished I was. First, he would pick-lock the bathroom door while I was having a shower, pretending that he needed to get something like cotton buds or deodorant. The whole time he would watch while he was there. Sometimes I’d go on for days without showers because of it. Then he’d get more physical. Whenever I’d be standing in a dress in the kitchen, he would crouch down behind me and touch my leg and move his hand further up until I turn around and looked at him. He would stand up and walk away as if nothing happened. When large groups of people were around, even family members, but when nobody was watching, he would put a hand on my thigh and this twisted smile would creep on his face that would send a chill through me. Now that smile haunts my nightmares. It was like he was testing out the waters. To see how much he could get away with until I did something. I did what my family always told me to do when I was around him — just ignore him. I knew not to open my mouth again. I saw how much trouble I caused the last time, I wasn’t going to put them through it again.

One night, my other older brother had some friends over, as per usual. They would drink, get stoned and pass out. One of them knocked on my door. He came inside and asked for a massage. In the process he tried to make me put my hand down his pants. When I refused and asked him to leave because I was tired, he pinned me down. I played the cry and resist game. They seem to like that. I slowly drifted off to another place like always. He told me how pretty I was and how much he liked me. I didn’t believe him. But in a way, I was glad that the guy touching me this time wasn’t my brother. He told me he was going to pop my cherry. It was obvious I was a virgin and everybody knew. My attempts to escape were useless against a boy as strong as him. My begging and my word to keep silent if he left then wasn’t good enough for him. At first I was terrified. Then when I thought about it, I prefered losing my virginity through a rape by him then a rape by my own brother. The moment he was about to do it, we heard the voices of his friends downstairs looking for him. He jumped off and put his clothes back on quicker then when he took them off. He walked outside and yelled down that he used the toilet upstairs because downstairs had been occupied. Right before he left, he told me not to tell anyone otherwise I’d be known as a slut and that sluts don’t have friends. He needn’t bother with threats, I knew the routine all too well. I was disconnected to my family and all I had left were my friends, I didn’t want to lose them either. It seemed like a one time thing, but I still kept my distance from him incase. I never opened my door to any of my brother’s friends again.

Meanwhile, my brother was getting worse. The closer he was able to get without me flinching, the more confident he got. Then I found the rape porn on his computer. I was utterly horrified. I don’t know if it was real or not, but I know I want to keep it that way. I knew he was planning to do something, he was just waiting for the right time. Give him the chance and he will. All the touching was just foreplay to him now. The encounter with my brother’s friend taught me something: that I didn’t want my first time to be with my brother. I ended up losing my virginity to a boy who left me. I proceeded to act out promiscously because I loved the attention, seldom liking the guys. It also got me out the house, as far away from my brother as possible. I believed the world was full of guys who only wanted to have sex with you. I did things willingly and unwillingly. Things that I’ve never so much as spoke, because there’s still some part of me that thinks if I don’t say it out loud then it never happened. I would be beyond recognition to my family, friends and conselors if they knew. Being sexually abused became nothing new to me, only the people. I began to wonder the reason behind my seemingly neverending misfortune. Perhaps I was ‘easy prey,’ to sexual predators. I was young, small and alone. Naive, unable to defend myself and had nobody to protect me. I was like an abandoned cub in the wild. Helpless, weak and all too vulnerable. The perfect victim.

My brother’s attitude was as arrogant as ever. He even had the guts to touch my thigh in front of the eyes of a family friend, who turned a blind eye. He knew he was going to get away with anything he did. My grand father told me I should always pity people like him and my mother. And I did. They couldn’t help the way they were. But why did I have to suffer for it? I had showed them nothing by unconditional love and support. All those years I forgave them every single time, waiting patiently for their redemption. But it never came and I’d be used and abused once again. I couldn’t leave them, they were my family. I was raised to believe that I must put my family first, before my friends and before myself. I was trapped.

That’s when I attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on anti-depressants. It was my only way to escape. It wasn’t fair that I had to withstand the abuse. “Why me?” I asked. “What did I do to deserve this? What did I ever do to make him hate me so much to do this to me?” I had always been a good girl and I loved my family. I had always helped my grandmother with the groceries, helped my dad with the gardening and kept my grades up. When they were distraught after finding about my abuse when I was eleven, I went to school the very next day just so I wouldn’t worry them. I never let them see me cry over it and was nice to my brother afterwards. I didn’t tell them about everything he did because I didn’t want them to feel bad. I stayed quiet because I didn’t want them to blame themselves that it happened again. I did it all for them. I loved them all so much and it wasn’t easy to make that decision. But I just couldn’t bear the pain anymore. I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. When I was younger it was easy. I just pretended it never happened. I was blissfully delusional. But with time, my brother returned back to his old ways and would pluck me out of my fantasy back to the cruel reality that was. Everytime I was pulled back, reality hurt more than the last time I was there. I was willing to take the pain, because family comes first. Eventually I couldn’t go back to my fantasy, I was stuck in my real life and forced to face everything. But I just couldn’t let it happen again, I was so scared. I didn’t want to get touched again, but I couldn’t put my family through that type of guilt.

I wanted to die. I didn’t leave a note. They all knew I was depressed but didn’t know why. Let them think it was my random depression that killed me. Let them think I was a selfish person for putting them through that type of grief. At least I wouldn’t be there to see it. But I was when I survived the attempt. Seeing how worried they were, I confessed why. I had to be honest. It was the least I owed them for everything I put them through. My counselor got the police involved who rearranged the AVO, now making my brother stay away from me and forced to move out of the house. I was esctatic that I wouldn’t have to see him when I came home from the hospital. But I wasn’t exactly happy to come home to the shattered remains of our family. We fell back into our old dysfunctional way, but at least my brother wasn’t around. I didn’t need to talk to them about it to them. I’ve seen and know all too well what it does to them, so I just let it be. When I tried talking to some of my good friends about my sexual abuse they awkwardly told me, “he’s still your brother,” and “try to move on.” I know it’s because they didn’t know what to say and that they mean well, but in all honesty I didn’t want them talk, I just wanted them to listen. But even then, I saw how uneasy they got about it. Very my much like with my family, I don’t feel it’s fair to burden them with that sort of stuff. Talking to counselors aren’t that bad either. It’s nice to get it off my chest. But it saddens me that I have to resort to someone being paid to listen to me, despite how kind they are.

The Boogeyman is still somone’s brother, son and grandson. They’ve never seen the dark side that I been exposed to and I hope no one ever has to. They all have the peace of not knowing and so I want to watch them live happy carefree lives rather than taint them with guilt because I love them. I see now that people who haven’t gone through a similiar experience just aren’t capable of understanding what I’m going through and I accept that. Maybe I expect too much out of people. I’ve learnt how to live a lonely life and just wait it out, figuring ways to pass the time. Now I’m doing my best to work on my trust issues because it’s left me feeling that if I can’t trust my own family, then who can I trust? In the end I don’t mind keeping it to myself as much, because now I’m not as scared of my Boogeyman because he’s not in the room next door. Not in the home I’m suppose to feel the most safest. I’m all out of forgiveness. I can’t forgive which means I can’t forget, but I’m learning to live with it. I wonder how my life would have turned out if I had never been sexually abused. What would I have been like if I hadn’t known this pain. I guess I’ll never know. But I’m glad at how much I’ve grown up and realised that the Boogeyman isn’t scary because I’m stronger, I’m the one with all the power.

I do want to end this story on a lighter note and say the most surprising thing I found of all is that I’m able to find support in people I don’t even know. Thanks to the Internet, I’m able to read other people’s stories and see that I’m actually not alone. I hope this story inspires people to speak up about their own abuse and realise that they are worth something. I’ll be honest, it will be a long and difficult journey, I’m still in the midst of my own. The people you love most may isolate you and you will be alone for a while, but what ever you do, please don’t stop fighting. Out there, in the places you least expect, are people who are cheering you on for the rest of the way. We are not victims, but survivors.