I was abused as an adolescent. Even when it was happening, I knew it wasn’t normal, but I was scared to ask for help. Reading this reminded me of the only time I ever tried to get help.
I was maybe fourteen. I’d done something wrong the night before (I don’t remember what, but I think it had something to do with washing my clothes) and it had lead to a beating. This wasn’t common – most of the abuse was psychological and emotional – but it did happen now and then. I ended up with a line of bruises on each side of my spine, where my stepmother punched me. She was smart – she never hit where it would be seen while I was wearing clothes.
What she didn’t know was that I was one of the few girls my age that wasn’t ashamed of their body, and so I would just strip down and then kit up for PE. That day, I lifted my shirt over my head and squeaked a bit in pain. A friend who was changing beside me looked over and saw the bruises, and that was it. I was taken to see the assistant principal, and made to tell her what happened.
The next bit it a blur. My father was called in, and he made excuses for my stepmother. My little brother was picked up from school, by one of my teachers I think. There was a lot of fuss going on . . . and then nothing. We were taken home by my father. Nothing further happened.
I was terrified. It had taken all my strength to tell, and nothing had come of it. And now my stepmother was furious. She didn’t beat me again, but for weeks afterward she would terrorise me in whatever ways she could come up with.
You’re supposed to tell when bad things go on in your life. If you tell a teacher they’re supposed to make you safe. But no-one made me and my little brother safe.
I’m left with PTSD from what happened to me in the five or six years between when my father married and when my stepmother threw me out. I don’t remember much of it, but sometimes, I’ll do something, or see something, or smell something, and it all just comes back. It paralyses me.
I asked for help. I did what I was supposed to do. But no-one took it seriously enough to make me safe.