I grew up with beautiful sisters. Anita, Isabella, Emma, and Sophia were all small, dainty little girls that liked pink and unicorns and tiaras. My sisters wanted to play princesses and tea parties, while I prefered to climb trees and play with GI Joe.
My parents were worried by the time I was a teen. I was a late bloomer; physically and emotionally. I wasn’t boy crazy at twelve like my older sisters had been. And my parents were sure I was going to end up liking girls and that was not going to go well. My parents took things like “spare the rod, spoil the child” quite literally and they would have tried to beat the lesbian out of me, if I’d liked girls.
When I finally fell for a guy at sixteen, I thought my parents were going to throw a fucking party. They told everyone “Oh, it’s a miracle, Fiona likes boys and some boy is finally interested in her.” Most people wouldn’t have considered my parents abusive, but looking back, they were. I was broad shouldered and my features were too stark for my parents’ tastes. I didn’t look like a china doll like my other sisters and they told me about it all the time.
Before I got a boyfriend, they even put me on a diet. They were determined to slim down my waist, and somehow magically narrow my shoulders, as if they were broad simply because I had fat shoulders. The day I turned fifteen, the diet began. I was allowed only salad for dinner without salad dressing. I could sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and I was given three tablespoons of plain extra virgin olive oil to use as a salad dressing. I wasn’t allowed bread or dairy. And twice a week, I was allowed meat with my salad, a single piece of grilled fish, with only salt for seasoning, as if garlic and lemon contributed to being fat.
This lasted eight months. Then one night, as my salad was put on the table and the rest of the family were served cheeseburgers, my sister Isabella stood from the table without permission, grabbed my salad and dumped it on our father’s head. Then she stole the cheeseburger from his plate and put it in front of me and told him if he thought salad was good for changing body types, he needed to start fucking chowing down, because his fat ass wasn’t getting any thinner.
Isabella was seventeen at the time and our parents kicked her out. As her parting shot, she gave our parents a BMI chart with my height and ideal weight circled as well as their own. I was five feet seven inches tall and I weighed 109 pounds, slightly below the ideal weight for my age and activity level. Whereas our mother at 5’0″ even and 170 pounds was considered morbidly obese and our 6’2″ father at 290 pounds was even more obese than our mother.
I was forced to go to bed without dinner that night. Sophia, the youngest, waited until midnight and snuck into my room with a warmed up cheeseburger. It was possibly the best cheeseburger I had ever eaten. She had smothered it in mayonnaise and left off all the vegetables.
After Isabella moved in with a friend, she called the division of family services on our parents who managed to lie their way out of it, because our younger sisters were too terrified to speak up for themselves or me. Then there was Brad.
Brad was my first boyfriend. I’d met him while playing flag football. He was constantly complimenting me. He told me I was beautiful. He told me I was sexy. He told me I was his entire world. Perhaps most importantly, he didn’t mind when I ate cheeseburgers and he told me he loved me. The first two months were great. Then Brad got cut from the high school football team for underage drinking. I hadn’t been with him at the party and I didn’t even know about it until the next day.
The following night, Brad took me out to a movie and dinner. We went parking. He punched me when I refused to take off my shirt. He hit me again when I asked about his DUI, the second time he hit me harder. I don’t remember anything after the first punch, until the following morning. I woke up in gravel parking lot where we’d been making out. I was completely naked and Brad was nowhere to be seen. Blood had dried on my face and on my inner thighs. Half my face had swelled up and I couldn’t see out of my eye. I didn’t have a purse or my cell phone. Some poor mother showed up with her two young kids, thankfully not long after I had woken up. She called me an ambulance and the police and then she called my parents.
My parents told the police I had probably done all of it to myself, as atonement for fornicating with a man I wasn’t married to. He didn’t even want the to run a rape kit on me, despite the doctors and nurses telling there was evidence I’d been raped and sodomized. And two of my teeth had been knocked out. My father was mad at me, because some stranger had seen me naked in a parking lot. When I was released from the hospital a few days later, my parents invited Brad over to dinner to discuss this misunderstanding. Sophia got in touch with Isabella. My other sisters were too afraid to contact her, afraid our parents would turn on them. As I sat at dinner pretending Brad hadn’t raped me and left me for dead in a parking lot, Isabella arrived. She kicked open my parents’ front door. She stormed into the kitchen, grabbed a knife and told me to stand up, we were leaving and she hoped our parents burned in Hell.
She hastily packed me a suitcase and sent our other sisters to pack their own. When we came down from our bedrooms, our father shot Isabella. He told the police Isabella was high on something and had broken into the house to kidnap us. And finally, for the first time, me and my sisters were questioned without our parents present.
I was later told it was Sophia that broke first. She began sobbing out the diet I was on, how our parents were crazy, and how we were all terrified of them and how, our father had actually congratulated Brad for raping me when he got to the house and proving himself a man.
The rape case against Brad was a waste, because my mom testified on his behalf. She told the same story my father told, I had beaten myself up as punishment for my promiscuity. Isabella required being shot by our father. She had surgery and somehow a jury believed he’d shot her in self-defense. However, my sisters and I were sent to live with my mom’s mom. Isabella even came with us.
I can remember my grandmother screaming in the phone every time our mom called to check on us and then she’d spend an hour or more muttering about how she didn’t raise her to be like that she didn’t know what was wrong with her. She’d find out many years later. But our grandmother never forgave her and went to her grave hating our mother.
When I was twenty, I got a letter from Brad. It was an apology letter. And if he hadn’t taken five years to do it, my father would have gone to prison. He and my mom had paid Brad to date me. They had paid him even more to beat me up and rape me, to ensure I wouldn’t become a lesbian. My rape and beating had cost my parents five thousand dollars. I don’t know who’s sicker, Brad for taking the money or my parents for offering it to him. They are both very fucked up things to do.
Then came the incident with Sophia. I’d gotten engaged. Isabella had killed my fiance for being abusive and a cheater. Sophia had been eight when she went to live with us at our grandmother’s. She was sixteen when the incident happened. I was in college six hours away. Sophia decided she wanted to see our mother. She hadn’t seen her in eight years and she missed her. Our grandmother reluctantly agreed, under certain conditions; our father couldn’t be there and there had to be a chaperone. One of my mother’s sister’s agreed. The three of them, Sophia, our aunt Agatha, and our mom all went to lunch.
As they were leaving, our father showed up. He hit Agatha with his car, got out, grabbed our mother by her hair, and dragged her to the car. He then shoved her in the trunk. Next he went after Sophia. Sophia ran. He caught up with her and began punching her in the parking lot of the restaurant and dragging her around by her hair, screaming at her. Another car pulled up and our father shoved Sophia into it and it sped off.
Luckily, some people at the restaurant got the license plate number. The plate belonged to a friend of our father. Police raided his house and found Sophia beat up and raped on his living room floor. At his trial, he produced a check and a letter from my father stating that Sophia was too much like me and that he knew she was going to turn out a lesbo if she didn’t get a good fucking by a man and learn her place in the world while she was still young enough to learn it.
My father and his friend were both sent to prison. That’s when we all learned the horrible truth. Any time, our mother had tried to stand up for us girls and let us be who we wanted to be, my father would chain her up in their bedroom and slice her with a knife. She had more than a thousand scarred cuts on her body.
Our grandmother asked why she had never left and our mother said “Because divorce would have meant I was excommunicated. My minister told me, it was better to let my husband beat me than to leave him and if I did leave him, I could no longer attend church, my children couldn’t attend church, and we would be shunned by our community. I couldn’t do, that, especially with four girls, we had no money and nowhere to go.”
“What the hell do you mean you had nowhere to go? You all could have come home to me at any time. If I had known he was doing this, I would have come prepared with guns and big men to forcefully remove you from his home. No, child, you had somewhere to go, but you choose to stay because you didn’t want to sully your reputation within the Methodist Church. Do you think God loves you more simply because you stayed and endured and let your husband pay to have his own children raped?”
I will never forget my mother’s answer. It chilled me to the bone. “I and my children will go to heaven for our sacrifices on Earth while you will go to Hell because when you divorced our father, you sinned against God and made all your children’s fatherless bastards.”
I don’t know what mental illness my mother suffered from, but she must have suffered from something. She eventually married again, after our father died in prison. She was married to him for three years when he shot her to death because he was convinced she was having an affair. In reality, it was him having the affair.
Sophia got pregnant from her rape. She decided to give birth to the baby. She didn’t live long afterwards. When the child was three months old, my mother showed up with our Methodist minister at our grandmother’s house. Sophia agreed to speak to them as long as Anita could be in the room. They agreed. Sophia killed herself that night. Anita later told us our mother and the minister told her since she’d gotten pregnant in sin because she didn’t marry the child’s father, if she didn’t have it baptized as soon as possible, it would go to Hell if it died and it would prove Sophia was unfit to be a mother and there was a special place in Hell for mothers who conceived babies out of wedlock condemning their bastard children to Hell for eternity.
Anita took in Sophia’s child. She’s 8 now. She knows she was adopted by her aunt after her mother died. She doesn’t know she’s the product of rape or that her mother committed suicide and she knows her great grandmother is a big part of her life and that both her grandparents are dead. We’ve told her, that her father is dead too. And she’s been kept very far away from the Methodist church. Anita, Emma, and I are all Wiccan. Emma works with rape victims. Anita is a stay at home mom, not only raising our niece, but raising two of her own children. I became a Wiccan while in college. Anita met her husband Jake, when she attended a Wiccan festival with me. Jake is a professor of classical religions at a major university. Anita was the middle child, Isabella and I were older than her, while Sophia and Emma were younger.
It is only due to our grandmother that any of us are still alive and not drug addicts or something. Once she got custody of all of us, she put all of us in therapy. We were all suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome and no doubt, we would have continued the cycle of abuse if it hadn’t been for her. Not just the therapy, but the love. My grandmother did not believe sparring the rod, spoiled the child. Instead, she believed that if you gave a child enough love, their own desires not to disappoint would keep them from doing bad things. She was correct too. Emma and Anita, did not want to do anything to disappoint grandma, even though they knew the worst punishment they’d receive was being grounded for a few days and a discussion with grandma where she explained why she was disappointed. She wouldn’t even yell during it, it would be a calm discussion.
After my mom was murdered, she told me “I raised your mother the same way I raised you girls. I don’t know why she did that to you all. I suspected something was wrong with your father and with your childhoods, but I didn’t have proof and I felt I couldn’t do anything about it. I was wrong. I should have trusted my gut and I should have stormed in with armed guards one day and taken you girls when you were all little. Maybe, if I’d done that, Sophia would still be alive, you wouldn’t gravitate towards abusive boyfriends, and Isabella wouldn’t have chopped up a guy. And Fiona, that will always be my fault, not yours.”