by Jackie Danckwart Rust
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I continue to struggle with body image, the need to be perfect, and not collecting blame.
I write children’s stories, an online journal, and poetry.
I wrote this essay years after the assault, to help me heal. And it did. I found out the neighbor who molested me had died from a brain tumor (and he knew he had only one month to live.) I was able to forgive him.
Artist statement: Originally I wrote this as a picture book, in the hopes it would help children who had also been sexually assaulted. They could see that I survived and flourished. In the author's note, I encouraged the child to seek out someone he or she trusted and talk to them. But no publisher was interested. Maybe someone reading this knows a child who could benefit from this story. Please share it.
Even as a student in high school, I enjoyed writing. I kept a journal of stories that I created. I continúa to write children's stories, essays, poetry, and an online journal.
Writing is not a hobby. It's essential for my emotional health and keeping my inner child alive.
“Mom, I’m going over to Tammy’s,” I call as I run out the door. Tammy is my best friend.
“Don’t cut across the field. Use the road. You’re wearing down the soybeans,” calls Mom.
I don’t like walking on the road because I have to walk past the gravel pit. I know I’m ten years old, but the gravel pit gives me the creeps.
“Where’s Tammy?” I ask her big brother, Edward.
“Upstairs, but I’ll play with you.”
I don’t like the way he looks at me. “No, I don’t want boys playing with us.” I ran up the stairs.
“Hey, Jackie,” says Tammy. “Edward thought we should play hide and seek in the gravel pit. We can hide and he’ll find us.”
I remember the way he looked at me. “No…let’s just play here.”
The room seems darker. Edward stands at the door. “What’s the matter, Jackie? Afraid I’ll find you?”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I’m staying overnight at Tammy’s.
“You have new pajamas.” Tammy pulls on her pajama top.
We hop into bed.
“Do you remember when we dressed up like we were on “Bonanza?” We giggle.
“I hear you have new pajamas. Let me see them.” Edward is standing by the bed.
“No,” I say.
He pulls back the covers.
I grab at the covers. “What are you doing?”
“Crawling in bed with you.”
“I don’t want you to.”
“I’m sixteen and I can tell you what to do.”
My voice gets loud. “I want to go home.”
Tammy sits up in bed. “Edward, get out of here or I’ll call Mom.”
“You are such a baby.” He stamps out of the room.
Tammy and I don’t say anything and we don’t giggle anymore. I don’t know why, but it felt wrong for him to get into bed with us. A little voice inside of me told me so.
I don’t stay overnight at Tammy’s anymore. I don’t like to lie, but I do and tell her mom won’t let me, or I’m grounded, or I won’t be home.
A few weeks later, I ran past the gravel pit, to get to our mailbox. I hope there is a letter from my pen pal, but it’s all for my Dad. I turn around to walk home and there stands Edward.
“Hey Jackie, I have something to show you.”
“No, I have to go home.” I tighten my hold on the mail.
“Come on. Tammy and I both wanted to show you, but she’s at our grandma’s. You’re going to want to see it.”
I don’t think I should go with Edward. The little voice inside of me tells me not to. But if Tammy wanted me to see it, it must be okay. I follow Edward, until he starts into the trees, by the gravel pit. I stop. “Mom says I’m not to go near the gravel pit.”
He grabs me, puts his hand over my mouth, and drags me into the trees.
“Don’t scream.” He forces me to sit between his legs.
My back touches his chest and I can’t see his face, but I feel his hot stinky breath.
He slides his hands down into my shorts, into my underpants, and rubs between my legs, where I go to the bathroom. I wanted to scream, but he told me not to, so I sat there. His jeans feel scratchy on my legs.
He pulls his hands out. Then pulls up my top. His hands grab at me. “No tits here.” He stands and yanks me up. “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you.”
His voice is serious, and I believe him.
He climbs out of the gravel pit and leaves.
I stand there and cry.
When I get home, my other best friend, Sue, is there. I tell her what happened. “He tricked me. I didn’t want to go.” I cry.
My Mom comes outside and sees me crying. She tells Sue to go home. I tell her what happened.
“Jackie, you must never tell anyone about this.” She goes inside and starts to fix lunch.
The way she says it, I know I have done something wrong.
“Are you going to tell his mom and dad? They’re your friends.” Part of me wants them to and part of me doesn’t.
But nothing is ever said again.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“Hurry up, Jackie. We need to give Tammy and Edward a ride to school. It’s raining.” Mom grabs her car keys.
“Mom, Edward is going to ride in the car with me?”
“Yes. He can sit in the back seat and you can sit in the front seat.” She pushes me out the door.
I do not turn around and look at him that day or any other day we give him a ride, but I can feel him looking at me. I can feel him wanting to touch me.
- - - - - - - - - - -- - - - -- -- -
I became an adult and I walked around with this horrible secret inside of me. I couldn’t tell anyone because what would they think of me? I acted out sexually since I was bad anyway. Finally, when my sexual proclivities became dangerous, I saw a therapist. I saw several therapists. It took twelve years for me to understand that my mom was wrong to blame me. It was not my fault.