© unk
I grew up poor in the late seventies and early eighties. My mom stayed home with my two sisters and me until I went to kindergarten, our family couldn't afford childcare. Kindergarten was a half day affair so Mom asked my aunt, who lived across the street, if she would babysit in the afternoons. She had no way of knowing she was making a decision that would change my life forever.

My mom went to work at a sewing factory for piece work, meaning that her hourly wage was based on how many items she sewed. In order to make a decent wage she had to work her ass off, and she indeed worked her ass off. She was one of the fastest operators the company ever had and when she came home she was exhausted. Kaput. My dad was welder who was also a decorated Vietnam Vet, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross twice for bravery and courage in combat. He was distant and didn't say much, he was too busy reliving his own private horrors. There was a lot of stress and tension in the house due to financial worries; no matter how hard they worked they never could seem to get ahead.

I remember being really excited about school, I badly wanted to be like my big sisters who were the coolest girls ever! But once I stood in front of that huge building? Uh-uh. No, no, no, no. No way was I going into that creepy building where everyone was a stranger. Enter epic 6-year-old little girl fit. Complete with howling and begging. I'm sure Mom was horrified, she despised being embarrassed, and making a scene was guaranteed to embarrass. (I'm equally sure I knew this and tried to use it to my advantage). At some point she left and I made that long, lonely walk into unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar faces staring at me.

I'm not sure when my uncle started sexually abusing me, but by that November I was coloring everything black (I had to take a color blindness test at school) and refusing to bathe. I only know that one of my first memories is of running to the house from his garage. My white tennis shoes filling up with blood as I ran, each time my foot lifts, the shoe flings droplets ahead in the dirt. This memory plays in my mind as a strange timeless run in slow motion. The blood stands out in sharp relief to everything else, each drop takes a lifetime to arc and fall, the dust puffs up tiny, brown, dirt clouds when they land. The slap of my shoes as they hit the hard-packed earth becomes the beat of my heart pounding in my ears. My aunt is on the back porch looking like Pooh's little black thunder-cloud. I'm trying to scream but it's somehow lodged in my throat, I can feel my throat bulge under the strain. There is no sound. There are too many screams fighting to get out at one time, so they gather there with no hope of release. I feel safe as she takes hold of me, but safety quickly flees when her fingers bite into my upper arms. I numbly realize she is shaking me and screaming, her voice sounds far away. "Don't you ever tell anyone about this! Nothing happened! Do you hear me? Nothing happened!" Then I'm being hauled to the bathroom for the world's hottest bath next to chicken soup. Places ache and sting that I didn't even know existed. I just want to curl up, go some place far away, but my aunt won't leave me alone and she scrubs me raw.

By the time it ended 5 years later my uncle, his son, and another uncle had repeatedly abused me. Some memories I'm positive about what happened, others are displaced scenes that fill me with doubt. I have body memories where I feel things physically but have no mental recollection. Sometimes I am not even sure which man in which memory is abusing me. I remember in minute detail the Linda Ronstadt poster on my cousin's bedroom wall, I vaguely know what is happening to me, but that damn poster is imprinted on my brain.

I have PTSD and have been in therapy for ten years. I had a lot of black outs (no alcohol or drug consumption involved), they are kinda like when you are driving; you pull up to a stoplight and your heart jumps out of your chest because you have no memory of getting there. Like that, only for long stretches of time. I suddenly become aware of my surroundings (what the ...) and craftily find out when and where I am. I've learned to keep my wits nimble under extreme stress. There are holes in my past and I have no idea what I was doing. One time I apparently took my car to a title loan joint and spent the money on ... something. I hope something was interesting, like flying somewhere really cool to have awesome adventures. I worry that I did something stupid and embarrassing like spend it all at some bar where I took my clothes off and bought everyone drinks. (Woohoo!) Who knows? And in the dark of my soul is the secret terror that I molested someone and I'll never know, never be able to apologize and beg forgiveness. This thought haunts me. And I can't leave the house for days, weeks, or even months at a time. At some point I pick myself up out of the mire I'm wallowing in and tell myself that is not in me. I go on and the sun keeps shining.

It has long been known that situations like this, and others, breed in poverty. When poverty rates climb, child abuse soars. Everyday there is at least one Republican on the news telling us that social programs need to be cut. These programs they want to cut could help abused children become functioning members of society through mental health services and Medicaid, the vital food stamp program that could stop some abuse by relieving the stress on a family struggling to survive. Programs like Planned Parenthood where I had my first gynecological exam, and finally told someone what happened to me, who then helped me get counseling. These Republicans are "pro-life" but don't care what happens to the child once they are born. Millionaires in congress with excellent healthcare, making laws that benefit themselves and the rich, and giving handouts to large multinational corporations, tell us programs that only make our society stronger cost too much. We the people need to sacrifice. But it's the children who are sacrificed.

In the roughly four and a half minutes that it took you to read this, 27 children were abused.

National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Child Welfare Information Gateway