Sitting in the lobby of the Tempe Police Department I was a mess. I couldn’t believe the day had arrived to legally expose the truth of my childhood. My mind was racing and my heart was beating out of my chest. I decided to go to the bathroom because I didn’t know how long the meeting would last. The truth is I was fidgety and it was just too difficult to sit and wait. As I washed my hands I leaned towards the mirror at myself and sighed. My eyes were red and slightly swollen. Last night had been overwhelmingly painful and my heart matched my eyes – and hadn’t completely recovered.
I thought about my conversation with my father. He stopped by my home to officially say goodbye before moving to Texas. I wasn’t completely sure why since he stopped speaking to me many months prior. It’s one thing to not call or text someone but to walk in a room and have them completely ignore your existence is on another level. My parents were living with my sister and her family and I had lunch with her about three times a week. So this meant very often I’d see them.
I would walk through the front door and enter her living room where sometimes my dad sat in the dining room. Although I knew what would happen I’d say “hi dad.”
Or if he happened to be in the living room would practically run out of the room without saying a word. This had been our routine for a while now. He refused to acknowledge or even be in the same room with me. I obviously had done something but didn’t know what it was because he completely shut me out. At first I was determined to make him talk to me, then became irked over it, but eventually the rejection overtook and my heart felt wrecked with pain.
One day I was surprised to find him standing by my car waiting to for me. He asked if he could come over that night to talk. Everything inside me screamed NO, but I heard myself agreeing to it. I guess if there was a chance for peace and reconciliation I was gonna try. As I drove away I wondered how a father and daughter could ever get to this place? As much as I told myself I wouldn’t allow it to get to me – it did. What made it worse it that my parents would be gone in a few days so if it didn’t get fixed soon it might never happen. So I really didn’t have the option to say no – or at least that is what I told myself.
The first 5 minutes after he arrived revealed the reason for his silence. I was so stunned thinking “this can’t be it – there has to be something else.” It just didn’t make sense. The punishment didn’t seem to fit the crime. I sat quietly processing what he said, and not sure how to respond. I was just stunned. Slowly I realized the true underlying reason for his rejection. It’s where it always stemmed from – my abuse. Anything I said or did to protect myself or to move forward he was against. Okay I take that back. Anything other than quietly praying – giving it to God – and never mentioning it again he was adamantly against.
I panicked because any hopes of reconciliation i could quickly feel slipping away. I was desperate for him to change his mind and heart towards me. To do that I would have to betray myself and go backward in my healing. As much as the little girl inside me begged myself to do it – I knew I had come too far to ever go back. Even if this meant my father forever withholding his love and affection for me. In my final attempt to bypass his mind and reach his heart I told him a story. I hoped my transparency and vulnerability would unlock the door. Several years prior I discovered he took his brother (my abuser) in and supported him. When I found out I was shocked and livid and called my parents. They both defended their actions and he hung up on me twice. I immediately began to emotionally spiral downward as my wounds ripped open. I almost forgotten how painfully deep these wounds were because they were scabbed over for so long. I was trembling and shaking and crying uncontrollably and had an emotional breakdown.
I couldn’t control it – it was if my mind and heart took over and my body was just along for the ride. Once the idea of ending my life became forefront in my brain I got scared. I knew it was wrong and I knew it would only bring more pain to my children. Suicide just somehow appeared attractive to me – a way to finally be free. It was if I had stepped firmly in super sticky gum that I couldn’t remove. I finally mustered the courage to tell my husband who instantly took control of the situation and got me help. He loved and supported me in ways that I will forever be grateful. His devotion, God’s power, counseling, and a determination to live helped me through it. That gooey-grip that once felt frustratingly impossible to remove one day (after a lot of hard work) completely dissolved away. What had once seemed impossible became completely possible!! So I shared my personal and painful story to show if I could find my way out of that then I truly believed we could find our way through this situation between us.
We sat knee to knee on my couch as I cried through my entire speech. I could feel how uncomfortable it was for him to hear my words and watch me cry. When I finished his eyes looked down on the floor and he said “oh man” in a sorrowful tone. As a parent I thought of how difficult it would be to hear your child tell this story. Part of me felt guilty to do this to him. But nothing could’ve prepared me for what he said.
“I want to feel love when I look at your face but I don’t”….
“I don’t know why.” He said solemnly.
It was if the carpet was pulled out from under me. I never in a million years expected him to say these words to me. It never entered my mind that my father couldn’t or wouldn’t love me. It took me a few seconds to process the words that came out of his mouth and I crumbled. I began to sob and heard guttural sounds come from deep inside me that I’d never heard before. I was embarrassed to do this in front of him because it made me feel weak. Robbie heard me from the next room and immediately came over to comfort me.
I composed myself and looked my father in the eye. I can’t tell you where my strength came from and said “dad – until you or I die I will always hold out hope that things will change between us. I forgive you for everything and want you to know that I love you.” He asked if he could give me a hug and I agreed. I walked him to the door and watched him walk away.
Looking at myself in the mirror now I wish I would’ve stuck with my first instinct and declined to meet with my dad. Tears immediately filled my eyes and I thought “Okay stop it – only focus on today”. I wiped my eyes, took a few deep breaths, wiped my eyes once more and made my way back to the lobby.
I tried to will myself to feel stronger in attempt to mentally prepare for this meeting. Imagining the questions that would be asked, but later discovered I really had no idea. Ten minutes passed and the double doors opened and a man walked towards me. He formally introduced himself as Detective Bacon and shook my hand. Okay the irony is not lost on me. If I had to guess he was in his mid-to-late thirties, average build and brown hair. We had communicated by phone and email a few times which had gone well but still wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a big ball of nerves and his kind face and non-threatening demeanor helped me to relax a tiny bit. I also learned that a victim’s advocate would be joining our meeting as well.
Not long after a second person stood in the lobby introducing herself as Maria Gonzalez – the victim’s advocate. We then made our way towards the room where it would all begin. As soon as I stood up I could feel the tears pushing against the iron wall inside me that held them back. Walking down the hallway my mind went back to my conversation with my dad. It hadn’t mattered how much I opened up to him he wasn’t ready to have a relationship with me. I think it was a combination of the lingering pain from last night and nerves from my current situation. But I could feel my internal wall starting to shake. I told myself “damn it do not cry , do you hear me? do.not.cry.” We stopped at a seating area off of the hallway. There were four chairs facing each other on a circular rug with a table in the middle. This area had floor to ceiling glass windows where the sun was streaming in through the trees. If I wasn’t in the back office of the Special Victims Unit I might have enjoyed it.
Detective Bacon immediately explained the role of the victim’s advocate and why he had invited her. She spoke for minute and then said we could talk more once everything was over. The detective then explained what would happen. As he did the wall inside me collapsed and tears flowed from my eyes. I just couldn’t control it. They both just patiently waited until I regained my composure. When I did I said “I’m sorry this is just so surreal and I’m overwhelmed right now”. They politely nodded and the victim’s advocate handed me a tissue. My heart felt like it would jump out of my chest and I was pissed at myself for crying the first few minutes of this meeting.
I was then led to what I would describe as an interrogation room. It was small with a table and three chairs. Two were placed at the table and one was by the door. There was a trash can, a box of Kleenex and a large window along one wall. It was a two-way mirror where the victim’s advocate sat on the other side. I couldn’t see into the next room but she could watch the questioning. There was also a camera filming our meeting.
A file was placed on the desk in front of me and the questions immediately began. I had previously recorded a phone statement so I had an idea of what to expect. My memory bank of over four decades now had to be dusted off and reopened. Some information was easy to access while others took some effort.
“What room did this interaction you just described with your uncle take place?”
“My brothers room.”
“Can you describe the room to me?”
“As you walked down the hallway from the living room it was the first room to the right. It was small and there was a window on the south wall, and a closet to the left. The bed at this time was on the right.”
“Tell me the color of the walls”.
“For some reason I see a mustard yellow color but it could have been the color of the bedspread. I’m not exactly sure”.
“Tell me what he was wearing”.
I was taken back to that moment in that room on the bed. My uncle was on top of me and touching me. I ferociously strained my mind to locate the information that could recall what he wore that day. All I could feel was his mushy hot skin on me. My breathing increased as I literally was transported back to that moment. I choose to endure it in attempt to find the answer. It was deeply painful and with tears streaming down my face said “It’s was a long time ago and I just can’t remember”.
Defeat immediately washed over me.
About this time in the interview I realized this was going to be harder than I initially thought. My natural solution would be to end the meeting – go home and crawl into bed – get under the covers and begin to emotionally stuff everything back into my ancient burial ground inside me. This coping mechanism I’ve used my entire life I realized only worked up to a point. It was useful short term but ineffective in helping me to more forward. As badly as I wanted to retreat, hide and disconnect from life I purposely sat firmly in my seat.
“Bita we can stop anytime and reschedule for another day if all this becomes too much”.
So now I was given an out a way to end this mental and emotional torture. I wanted run out of that room and never return, but my soul begged for justice more.
“Okay thank you but I can’t do this a second time -let’s just continue”.
Question after question it quickly became evident to me how far down I buried my past. It took great effort for me to shovel the memories back up to the surface. Some memories faded over time while others were still intact. Some memories triggered others I completely forgotten existed. It was like opening a time capsule to my life and left me mentally and physically drained. As I spoke my answers to the detective I could smell and feel and almost taste the past. Something I always believed would kill me but I was wrong – it didn’t. I also realized in burying my past I wiped away the good memories too. I loved my neighborhood street and many people in it. The homes where we played – the trees and fences we climbed -dinners with friends – walking to school together – absolute special times. When my world began crashing around me I frantically rushed to rid myself of my painful childhood memories anyway I knew how. I was a child and didn’t know how to separate the good from the bad – so it all had to go down deep if I were to survive.
What would happen now it was all on the surface? I slowly began to remember and I mean truly remember. At first I was cautious because I was afraid of what could show up in my mind. Small impressions formed and a bunch of little details popped up like fireflies at dusk. Standing alone it might not mean much but all together created a beautiful but sorrowful painted masterpiece. My past was calling out to me and bringing me full circle. I was four years old when my abuse started. I didn’t understand what was happening to me and when I finally realized it wasn’t good I became confused. I was tricked into keeping secrets until I was a teenager. I made myself believe that stuffing the memories and emotions would save me. Believed pretending to be okay would be the best it could ever be. I mean how many times throughout the years did people say “just let it go” or “give it to God” or “choose to be happy?” I can promise you I have tried to do all these things all of my adult life, and it didn’t work. The funny thing is I’ve repeated the same survival skills knowing they were as worthless as a three dollar bill.
I was a little girl when I believed these things would work. It made sense at the time and I’m proud of her for doing what it took to survive. It was now time to change my method for healing. Things were happening in my life that made me see wasn’t a coincidence. Now I’m rounding the corner closer to fifty and the truth is like a flashing neon sign in front of me. My long winding journey for freedom has led me to this chair in the police station today. I was terrified. Did I have the courage to stand and face my past full of pain and torment? I felt weak and as if I would faint at any moment. Not just face it but walk through it. Force myself to speak of things that only ran rampant in my mind and heart. Things I’d never described to another soul – let alone a stranger. Every fiber of my being screamed “NOOOOOOOOO”, but I knew in the deepest core of my being this was the only way to move to the next level of healing.
I had been stuck for a while and didn’t know why. You see no one in my entire life had protected or stood up for that little girl. She had no say over who touched her or used her. She wasn’t allowed to talk about it to anyone. Even when she finally did discovered no one wanted to hear it. She was made to feel as if it was her fault and in turn stuffed it all deep down inside. To the point it almost killed her. Nervously I walked into the police station deciding that this little girl deserved a voice no matter the outcome. Sitting in that small room and answering question after question I realized the key to my next step in healing would take me back to where it all began…