It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving. My niece comes in to my bedroom and says she has something important to tell me. I wasn’t prepared for what she has to say. My niece tells me that my daughter, Grace*, confided in her that my ex-husband continuously raped her during the last six months of our marriage. My world cracks and splinters. The shards pierce my heart.
Denial is the first thing that creeps in. If I can believe that it didn’t happen, then I didn’t fail my daughter as her mother. I feel guilty to this day over that feeling.
You see, I became pregnant with Grace when I was 16. While I refused to have an abortion for many reasons, one of them was because I stupidly believed that her father, my boyfriend of a year, would want to marry me.
When he walked away from me, I lost that innocence that comes with being a kid who thinks everything will work out and love will always win. But I wanted to provide for my daughter and show her that I could overcome anything. She is the reason I am successful today.
I call Grace in to my room. She sits cross-legged on my bed and darts her eyes to her cousin. I can see the fear in her eyes. I ask her about what my niece told me.
She breaks down crying and tells me everything up until the point of the rapes. The need to want to deny what I am hearing is strong. I want this story to not be true, for her to tell me that it’s a joke. I ask her why didn’t she tell me and she says the sentence that burns the denial away: He said that if she told me he would make her life miserable and she would regret it. Those were the words he used on me behind closed doors to make me stay in our marriage. I knew the fear those words held. I knew that he had raped my daughter.
I cried for two days straight in my closet due to my feelings of guilt, utter despair and plain agony. I shoved a towel in my mouth to muffle my cries so my daughter couldn’t hear them. I woke up at 3 a.m. from a dead sleep because I heard a whisper in my room that my ex-husband was going to kill me. I had an anxiety attack on the phone until 6 a.m. with my friend, who reassured me I was strong enough to overcome this. Those 48 hours are the lowest I have ever been.
I spent the next two weeks reporting the rape to the police, working with the child advocacy center, moving out of my home, trying to keep my children safe and keep some of my sanity. I shook uncontrollably answering the detective’s questions. I was numb waiting in the family waiting room as my daughter had her rape exam.
My ex was charged and arrested. His parents posted his bond and hired him an expensive, experienced lawyer. He cannot have any contact with me, Grace or the two children we have together.
We are now 10 months in to the legal system. The grand jury convened at the six-month mark and a formal charge was given. It breaks my heart to know part of the reason for the delay is due to the volume of cases. We try to heal, but it’s hard since we are constantly dealing with the trial; the constant back and forth. It’s like being on an emotional and mental yo-yo. It’s nothing like "Law and Order," where they solve and prosecute criminals in one hour.
His family chose him over my daughter. They have chosen to ignore the truth and ignore the love they felt for my oldest daughter. For them, it is easier than actually accepting what he did.
They have written my other two children I have with him out of their lives. My daughter blames herself because she feels that she took her sister and brother’s father away from them. When she tells me this, I look her in the eyes and told her that she saved them. She has no reason to feel guilty. My ex’s actions are his to own and not in any way her fault.
She fears the trial and having to tell strangers and his family what he did to her. I ask her who is the strongest person she knows and she answers that I am. I tell her that since she is my daughter then my strength is her strength and she is the strongest person I know.
I fear that I will never forgive myself for what happened to my daughter. I had an extremely close friend tell me that if she didn’t know me that she would blame me for what happened to my daughter. I deal with the blame and shame on a daily basis. I wake up with it and go to sleep with it.
I wonder if I will ever trust a man again not to hurt my kids and me. There is a part of me that feels I am unworthy of love. That the guy will look at me and think the same thing as my close friend and blame me for what my ex did. I feel as though this is the consequence I must bear for choosing him as my husband. I cry at nights and pray that I can get through this. In the mornings, it’s a new day and I realize that each day is a blessing and my kids need my strength.
I hear of forgiveness and I wonder if it’s even possible? If I never forgive my ex for what he did, then he wins. He will be a part of my life that is always there lurking in the darkness. But I don’t know how to forgive him. I go to church every Sunday, I have joined Celebrate Recovery but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe when I can forgive myself, I can forgive him.
My daughter and I are closer now. We talk about everything except the actual rapes. I’ve read the reports so I know what happened and what she told the detective. She doesn’t feel comfortable talking about the acts with me and honestly, I don’t want her voice in my head telling me what happened. It’s selfish but I don’t think either of us is ready to cross that bridge yet.
I hope and pray that this doesn’t become a reason why she will not succeed. I pray that she will overcome this and be happy with herself and the life she leads. But mostly, I don’t want the feelings of shame to follow her throughout her life. It’s not her burden to bear.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals