Friday, December 4, 2009

The Missing Pages

August 1984--between the 5th and the 10th.

An entry is missing...

Years ago, Jennifer tore this entry out of her diary and burned the pages.

What happened to her that night gave her a good hard shove in the wrong direction. She was already insecure. She was already uncertain about who she was. She had one foot in childhood and one in adulthood. The night of the missing pages was the night that her childhood disappeared.

I think I will just explain exactly what happened the way Jennifer told it to me. This missing entry is vital to understanding Jennifer's entries for years to come. So here we go. Remember, Jennifer has just turned fourteen years old. She's in Foster City, California visiting her dad and brother for summer vacation. She tells the story without emotion.

"Lara and I sneaked out of my dad's house around 10pm. We went to Whale park to hang out and swing on the swing set. Two older boys showed up. They spoke to us. I told them that I was sixteen. They seemed to believe me.

They offered us cocaine. We refused. I knew that was a red flag, but I ignored it. They seemed like born and bred Foster City boys to me--they were dressed well and hanging out at the park just like we were. My brother and his friends smoked pot so I kept my cool. I thought one of them was cute and he was talking to me. I wondered if this guy was looking for a girlfriend.

He had all his attention on me. I liked it. He told me he was nineteen. I was kind of amazed that he was interested in me at all. Even I knew that I didn't look sixteen. I thought it was a lie we were both pretending to believe.

The men separated Lara and I. I watched the other guy take Lara away. I was worried about her but not myself. But in a mirror image, she was watching a guy take me away. Maybe she was worried about me too.

We stopped at a bench and sat down. His name was Steve. He had brown hair. He was probably high. He kissed me and I let him. I thought, wow, he really likes me and he's so old. I thought love and sex were the same thing (still do actually.) I was on a whole different train of thought than he was. I thought he liked me.

He didn't stop with kissing. He went too far and I pushed him away. He pushed back. I screamed. He covered my mouth with his. Now both of his hands were free. Soon I was pinned. Struggling just made things worse. I couldn't get away.

I changed tracks and worked on preserving my pride. He didn't need to know that my world was crashing down around me. He thinks I'm sixteen, I reminded myself, stay cool. I stuffed my fear and stared at the houses around the park. I couldn't believe people were inside watching TV while this was happening to me. I wished I was safe at home in my bedroom. Already, I blamed myself for sneaking out. 

At some point, I heard Lara call out and ask if I was okay. She was nearby but I couldn't see her. Steve told her I was fine. She asked again, saying my name. He let me answer her so that she would go away. I told her I was fine. I also wanted her to go away. I couldn't bear the thought of her seeing me at that moment. It was too late for her to help me anyway. Then it was over.

Steve said his name was really Kevin. He asked if I would come back the next night to do it again. He told me he had a great time. I couldn't speak at all. The men left. Lara and I said goodbye to each other. I didn't mention what happened to me, although I felt like it was written all over my face. She didn't talk about what happened to her either, if anything even did. I walked home alone and Lara walked home alone. We never spoke about that night.

As soon as Lara was out of sight, I broke down. I could barely walk. I sobbed until I was home again. I sneaked back into my house. I stopped crying and I remember thinking, I'm a woman now. I went into the bathroom to stare at my new self. I hated what I saw. I hated the stupid girl in the mirror.

I changed. My white pants were ruined. I threw them away. I don't remember if I showered or not. I put myself to bed and cried into my pillow. I didn't want to wake up my dad. The thought of my family knowing sickened me. I almost told my brother a few days later but I couldn't. I had played with fire and gotten burned. I thought it was as simple as that. I was the one who had been bad. I was in no hurry to tattle on myself.

I know that secrets keep us sick. My acting out got worse. I thought my family would guess that something rotten had happened to me if I acted rotten. But it only got me into more trouble. I thought I was keeping my own secret all these years, but really, I was keeping his secret. I'm not keeping his secret anymore."

********

The following is the lesson here: Jennifer did not realize that she was raped that night until she was twenty-six years old! She focused on her part--sneaking, lying, kissing. She did not register his part--assault on a minor against her will.

Jennifer was twenty-six when the truth hit her. She was at a stable. A young girl walked by and the girl's mom mentioned that her daughter had just turned fourteen. This girl had always reminded Jennifer of herself. They were built the same--skinny! Jennifer looked at the girl and saw a child, not a woman. All the breath in her body left her.

He knew! He knew! He knew! She thought.

In a flash, Jennifer understood everything. Steve had to know she was miles underage as soon as he saw her. He was a high school graduate and she was a seventh-grader. She'd always thought he'd mistaken her for a peer. She'd always wondered why he'd given her two names, now she knew. He was protecting himself! What he did was illegal--with or without consent! If she'd told police, there would have been a manhunt in Foster City that summer. Finally, she saw his part.

Jennifer left the barn with her head spinning. For twelve years, she'd believed she deserved what happened to her. For three years after the incident, she hated herself, tried to kill herself, cut herself, took drugs, drank, suffered anxiety attacks and ran away from home. She had flashbacks of being pushed down almost every night when she closed her eyes.

She lived in this black pit for years without even seeing it. She marched on, getting good grades, continuing her search for the perfect boyfriend, trying to be a good daughter and wondering what was wrong with her.

It was liberating to get a new perspective at the age of twenty-six. It changed her life again. 

Jennifer wants parents to know that if something like this happens to their daughter--it might not ever occur to her to tell them! Jennifer was a bright, middle-class girl. This incident happened in one of the safest communities in California! She hid the evidence herself and went on with her life. Her grades didn't even drop.

Things like this happen to kids every day!!!

Kids are immature, it's what makes them kids. They can be easily manipulated. Steve didn't act guilty which reinforced Jennifer's feeling that it was her fault. He wanted to do it again. It wasn't an awful experience for him. She guessed there must be something wrong with her. (This is not unlike Bella blaming herself for bleeding and causing a vampire to want to kill her...stupid lamb!)

Jennifer's plea is that you check in with your sons and daughters often. Offer time for them to share that is free of judgment (or punishment) from you. Ask a close friend or relative to check in with your child. Sometimes they need a confidant who isn't their parent.

Think about your own life. Did anything uncool happen between you and the opposite sex. Did you tell your parents? Would you want to know if that same thing happened to your own child?

Things that are clearly wrong in our eyes can be innocently excused by a child. Jennifer didn't tell her parents about Erik either. She also didn't tell them that the daycare lady locked all the kids in the backyard and made them pee out there!   

As far as Jennifer is concerned, she has healed from this incident. She burned the pages of this diary entry in an attempt to erase what happened. It didn't work. She couldn't erase it but she did learn to live through it.

Jennifer falters for the next three years in the diaries. But she never gives up, she never stops dreaming, she never stops hoping.

Even now she is hoping. She is hoping that someone who is reading these diaries will feel less alone, that someone will reach out to an angry child, that someone might realize that "the thing" that happened to them isn't their fault either.

 

This photo of Jennifer was taken a few weeks before the night at Whale park.

Jennifer and her friends called the park, Whale park, because there was a large structure of a whale there. You could climb inside it and slide down. The real name for the park is Ketch Park.

If you are a teen reading this entry, please find someone to tell your secrets to--a human, not a diary!

3 comments:

  1. Jen, I'm so sorry that boy forced himself on you against your will, and then acted like it was a "date" and wanted to do it again the next night. Interesting that your response was anger and rebellion.

    When I was molested just before my 13th birthday, it was by my mom's cousin's husband who was 35 or so. Up until then I was an innocent child. I had been anxious to develop breasts and be able to wear a bra. I was a year younger than the rest of my class because I skipped second grade, so all the girls in gym class were already wearing bras. At long last I got to buy a trainer bra. I felt proud and confident. And then I was molested. There went my confidence and pride.

    My molester had the nerve to ask me if I liked it. I said no. He said don't tell anyone, and I didn't for 20 years. I was always a "good girl" who obeyed my parents and any adult. I never rebelled like a typical 13-year-old.

    After 20 years I finally told my mom what happened. She said he was slimy and always trying to hit on her. By this time Don had died of alcoholism.

    I felt ashamed after being molested. I wanted to hide my body so I would not attract that kind of attention ever again. I became very self-conscious and started gaining weight to hide my body in the hopes of avoiding another incident. I know intellectually it was absolutely NOT MY FAULT, but I still feel the shame.

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  2. Jen,
    Thank you for sharing this personal tragedy. Rape is a nightmare that no one should experience- I'm sorry.
    There is healing and God is so good!
    You are truly healed from your past and now are able to help others- something positive can come from something so negative.
    I hope that this entry will touch someone to open up, confide, be more aware, talk to the young people in their life, look for signs and clues...the sooner the better!

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