“He puts his hand down my pants and touches me!”

Standing face to face with my mother in our front yard (if you could call the dirt patch next to 3 broken down cars a front yard), I remember not knowing what to say and just blurting these words out. I was eleven or twelve years old.

The silence between my blurt and her response felt like 10 years. And maybe it was.

Finally she said, “What do you want me to do about it?”

I will never forget how her blue eyes stared straight through me, and how I didn’t know how to respond to that.

I’m sure I was the first to break eye contact. Looking to the ground and feeling empty.

Even to this day, when I think of that moment, the feeling of emptiness wells within me. Now I have words to make sense of it: The parents who were supposed to take care of me just weren’t capable. I am on my own.

That’s the day I grew up. The moment I grew up.

It was a knowing inside of me more than a concept in my mind: she wasn’t going to help. She wasn’t capable of helping.

I walked away feeling older and less connected to my mother.

I think a child version of my mom showed up in that pivotal moment. It’s never been confirmed but I strongly suspect that my own mother was sexually abused as well. And when she was faced with her own daughter being abused, the helpless child inside her showed up, as it would with trauma.

Later, I would fantasize about doing that moment over and yelling at her, “I want you to kick him off our property! I want you to go ballistic on him! I want you to protect me!! Go to the police! Do something, anything!!!”

But even that younger me knew that none of it would work. Doing any of that would mean separating herself from her own family. It would mean being brave in a way she was never capable of.

So instead, I decided I would just stay away from him. I would separate myself from the family. I would opt out of family activities, and if I was forced, I would stay quiet and small and out of the way. There would be an invisible wall between us at all times.

I would control what I could control: myself. Even if it meant no movie nights, no oreos or doritos, not being with my favorite aunt and the baby cousin I loved to dote on, I would be strong.

I would do what adults did and sacrifice connection for protection.

My mom lost my respect that day. I grew up and she became like a child to me. Needing my protection.

And I know you’re asking, “What about your dad?”

I knew I could never tell him. In my mind he would get so angry he would kill my abuser and then he would go to jail. And he was our provider. So no, that wasn’t an option.

The only option was to grow up and figure it out on my own.

Does this story resonate with you? I’d love to chat over on Voxer.