A book in the works - feedback requested

Chapter One – The Candid truth – I am not the only one who was ever molested.  Lets talk about it.

At the age of 39 I feel as if I’ve already lived 9 lifetimes. I’ve been molested by three different men, one of them my very own father, all of them family members. I ran away from home at a very young age, I had a baby at 17, I’ve been married three times, I’ve moved from west coast to east coast and back. I attempted suicide while living in New York City not once, but three times and I was hospitalized for each attempt. I lost all my friends due to depression only to come back to the west coast and live on the streets of San Francisco.  Happy ending? I Found love, we had a baby and I am finally living my happily ever after. There was a lot more in-between  and all that and I am happy to indulge.

The first memory you can recall is usually when you are about 4 years old, so for me that’s the first memory I have of him touching me. My mother and father were very young parents, my mother married my father when she was 18 and he was 15.  Turns out she was pregnant but she didn’t know by who.  It also turns out she was a bit promiscuous when she was in her teens.  (These were her own words when trying to convince me to get an abortion) According to her, she set her sights on the man who she claimed was my dad. 

They got married in June of 1974, however I was already born in July of 1973, they never told me that they got married after I was born and they lied about their anniversary every year to hide the truth I don’t know if it was just to hide it from me or their entire network of family and friends, at any rate they always claimed they were married in 1972.  I got a copy of my birth certificate when I was 28 and that is when I found out that my real name is Tanya Marie Bennett. However, I knew myself to be Tawnya Marie Long, ALSO, under “Father” it said, “Unknown” This is when I found out that my parents anniversary and my own name were both lies.  But I digress, so ok, they were married, had me and lived happily ever after or so they want the world to think….

When I was 4 my mother worked at a nursing home, she would leave the house in the afternoon and work through the night. When I woke up in the morning she was home again.  This is where the first memory comes in, when she would leave, my father would be lying on the couch watching TV smoking a cigarette. I remember he would ask me to come to him on the couch and lay down with him which as an obedient only child I did. He began touching me all over in places I felt very uncomfortable with.  This happened again and again, he would put his fingers and other things inside of me and I remember not liking it at all. Then he started coming to my bedroom in the middle of the night and lying on top of me.  I remember dreading his footsteps approaching my door. The only good thing about his coming to me in the middle of the night as opposed to him asking me to lay with him during the day was I could pretend that I was asleep.  He was heavy, and he really hurt me when he put things inside of me. He always smelled of beer and weed. 

People have asked me why I never told anyone, what you have to understand is that for me, it was a way of life, it was something that always happened so I thought it happened to everyone, I thought it was like eating a vegetable that you don’t like or brushing your teeth because your mom wants you to. You know, doing those things kids don’t like to do, but you have to. I actually thought it happened to everyone. I guess somehow I knew not to talk about it but I honestly didn’t know that my mother didn’t know. 

One day when I was 8 years old we were at a house party at my parent’s friend’s house and I started to feel pain, down there.  I complained to my mother and my mother told my father and we immediately went home.  My mother tucked me into bed and a few hours later, my father woke me up and took me into the bathroom and asked me where it hurt. He began to examine me in that area.  Before he attempted to examine me I told him I felt better but he did it anyway. I have no idea what he was looking for.

When I was 9, I remember my mother talking to our neighbor who was also her best friend. My mother was saying that she thought my father was having an affair. I didn’t know at that time what an affair was but I do remember the conversation and I remember wondering what an affair was. Many years later, that same neighbor at this point estranged from my mother, reminded me of that conversation and knowing the truth confided in me that she now knew that my father was indeed having an affair. He was cheating on his wife with his own daughter.

When I was 11 my father opened my door, by this time I was a very light sleeper I constantly dreaded his arrival to my bed. He knelt down like he usually did, took off my panties from under my nightgown and then took off his own. He lay down on top of me and did what he always did, inserted himself inside of me while I pretended to be asleep.  This night however, was different, because this was the night that my mother finally noticed that he was no longer lying beside her.  She got up, and entered my room and caught him in the act.  My father jumped up, startled, pulled up his unmentionables and scurried away.  You would think she would follow him yelling but instead she turned on my light and got about two inches from my face and yelled, “what was your father doing in here?”  Mind you, I was 11 and this had been going on much to my dismay, for 8 years as far as I could remember. I looked at her, completely terrified because my mother was my whole world, I loved her so much and if she was mad at me it broke my heart. I looked at her and shrugged and frankly I was surprised that she didn’t know about this.

The next morning my mother confided in another friend about this and that friend advised her to call CPS (child protective services), which she did. They showed up that afternoon, my mother had not spoken to me that whole day, other than telling me to stay in my room until she said I could come out.  I stayed in my room until they showed up.  They were, a man and a woman. The woman asked me to show them, on a drawing of a person where my dad had touched me and how many times. I could show them where he touched me but I had no idea how many times. They asked if he put anything inside of me. I was honest and told them the truth about everything he did. However, at this point all the different times melded together. I really tried to not be present in the moment when he was doing these things. I tried to pretend I was somewhere else, or “find my happy place” if you will.  They left, my mother asked me to go back to my bedroom and she continued her silent treatment with me. I could hear her on the phone to other friends and family members.  That evening, just before my father was expected to return home from work, my mother asked me to pack a bag of clothes and toys and she and I went to stay at a friends house. This friend happened to be my father’s best friend’s family.  I was so happy to be there, my best friend was there too, and I felt safe for the first time.

Three days later my mother sat me down, and finally broke her silent treatment to me. She said that we have to go talk to my father. I asked her if it was ok if I wasn’t ready to do that, she said, “No”.  That night we went back home. My mother told me to wait on the couch while she went into the bedroom to speak to my father.  About a half an hour later, my father came out and sat down next to me.  There were tears in his eyes and I could tell he had been crying.  My heart was breaking, I hated that they were both so sad and angry.  My father looked at me and his exact words were, “I am so sorry for what I have done Tawnya, and I swear that I will put a gun in my mouth before I ever touch you again”  And I said, “Its ok dad, please stop crying” and he said, “its not ok” I started to cry and I could not stop.

I didn’t know what to feel, I had no idea what was going on, all I knew was I wanted that, I wanted him to never touch me like that and I wanted my mom to love me again and I wanted him to stop hurting.

We stayed home that night and my father did not enter my bedroom.

The following week my mother and father sat down with me and they told me that we needed to go to see a lawyer and we needed to go to CPS. My father’s sister was going to be there too.  She arranged the visit with the lawyer and was there as a witness. They coached me on what I needed to say.

Mom- “Tawnya, its important that you tell everyone that you made this up. That you lied about what your father did to you, if you don’t, daddy will go to jail. Do you want daddy in jail?”

Me- “No”

Dad – “I know this is confusing kiddo, but once we get through this part, everything will be back to normal”

I’m thinking, normal? I have no clue what normal is right now, if that means you’re gonna touch me again I do NOT want normal back. But I was fiercely obedient to a fault. I adored my mother I had sympathy for my father and I just wanted everyone to love me again.

We went to both of those appointments, I, to this day still remember sitting in that lawyers office my aunt and my mom whispering to each other my father white as a ghost and everyone relying on me to be a good liar.  I answered the lawyer’s questions with the fabricated truth that everyone expected of me. Then, on to the CPS office, where we sat in a tiny little room with the man and woman who interviewed me previously.

My mother told them that I made it up, and she finally got the truth out of me and she was so sorry for wasting their time.  The woman looked at me and said, “Tawnya, did you make that story up?” I looked down and said, “Yes, I’m sorry” then she said, “why would you do that? Why would you put your family through this much trouble?” Still looking down I said, “ I don’t know”  She looked at my mother and she wished her and my father well and said, “Good luck with the future, looks like you guys have your hands full with this one” And that was that.

Chapter two – The effects, when no one knows the cause.

My mother had told so many people about what my father did, but not that they had asked me to lie about it. So we had to move and cut off all communication with all of our friends and neighbors. They put our house up for sale and we went to live with my Grandma (dads mom) on the west side of Modesto.  My mother was very different towards me, she hardly spoke to me or hugged me. She was always so angry, and would tell me things like, my breath stunk or how horrible my hair looked that day.  She was really cautious about what I was wearing around my father and told me not to call him daddy.  I was no longer her daughter, I was now her competition.  I was never her daughter after that.

I got the message, I began to ignore my dad, she had to make me speak to him. Go tell him goodbye when he was leaving for the day, go say goodnight before I went to bed.

I switched schools from Teal Middle School to Robinson Road Elementary. I got to go to 6th grade camp twice so that was fun, but  I hated my teacher. Her name was Candace and I honestly thought she singled me out and yelled at me infront of the class for no reason. When I told my mother this she called an interview with Candace and the principal, and of course I sat there and felt terrible about the whole situation, once again, I felt like I was making people unhappy and I needed to lie to make everyone happy so when the principal asked me why I was unhappy with Candace, right in front of Candace, I said, “I don’t know, I’m sorry” and that was that.

At my grandma’s house I used to play in the yard, a lot, the entire yard was exposed because the fence was so low. Two houses down there was a boy, he was 17 years old by this time I was 12. He used to flirt with me and finally, I started to sneak out of my bedroom in the middle of the night.  I had already had sex as we know from the previous chapters, however, this was the first time I had sex with someone besides my own father.  I was 12…… he was 17……. There is absolutely NOTHING ok about this.  It happened over and over and over again.  I confided in a friend who happened to be the daughter of my mother’s good friend, and she told her mom, and then her mom told my mom, and then my parents decided to try to tell me that it was not ok.  At this point, I’m pretty confused about right and wrong, and the line between truth and lies is a blurry one.

I continued to see Rudy, even when we moved into our new house clear across town. I rode my bike in the middle of the night 10 miles to see him several times a week. Finally, one day I got caught and my parents started putting the house alarm on at night and that pretty much put an end to that.

I switched schools again to Prescott Junior High 7th grade. I think the change of scenery changed me, it was as if I got my virginity back, I had boyfriends, we held hands and sometimes they tried to kiss me, but I never let them.  Handholding was all I’d do.  I started to forget that I was not a virgin and tried to maintain an innocent allure. Boys would break up with me for not kissing them, no joke!  But I kept this up well into my freshman year. 

In the 8th grade I dated a boy a year younger than me,  Anthony Hammond, he was a toe headed skater boy.  I was obsessed with him…. I did kiss him after about 4 months.  J  Anthony used to come to my house and we would hang out in the front yard. One day we were holding hands when my father pulled up from work.  He saw us holding hands and was furious, he yelled at Anthony to get away from me and then told me to get in the house.  Anthony was never allowed to call me or visit from that day forward. I guess my father was jealous, I have no idea what could have been going through his mind, he had already ruined me, did he want to ruin my chances with other people too?

In the 9th grade, I was finally out of that awkward stage.  I lost the huge glasses, I finally knew how to fix my curly hair and I started to dress better.  And Anthony and I were officially over.  I was a candidate to be a cheerleader, I had good grades and was so excited, I was at all the cheerleader practices and auditions, but my father said that because I had a B in literature (lowest grade I had at the time) I could not try out.  I watched all of my friends become cheerleaders and had to sit in the sidelines.  This broke my heart.

Chapter 3 – A look at my happy ending to lighten things up. Then back to the rest of my life.

Brian, my adorable sweet fun loving Irishman of a husband. He and I found each other exactly when we were meant to. This man was the first sign of goodness I had seen in a very long time. I never believed in unconditional love until I met Brian.  Brian loves me through the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly, the hard times and the good.  He is the reason I know that there is good in the world.  Brian has given me the most adorable baby.  Our other Irishman Zavier Kilian.  Zavier and Brian have given me all the joy and happiness I thought I would never see again.  I had all but given up then along comes this amazing man who is someone full of life, and integrity and just a really good guy. And now we are raising our very own, really good guy. J


Cami Presha said...

You are a strong woman and should be very proud of how far you have come. The past doesn't define us unless we allow it to. xo Cami

Tawnya Cassidy said...

Thats mostly true, but how we are brought up can leave some intense scars. And I swear if I could change anything it would be those scars.

catwoman707 said...

I could just scream, I wrote a lengthy comment, and it is not here due to an issue with me logging in!
It took alot out of me so I will have to postpone writing it again. Hugs.

catwoman707 said...

Tawnya, your courage and bravery to not only write this, but to put it out there for the world to see, deserves an enormous amount of praise. I relate first hand the damage we went through as children is not something we can simply turn off, make go away, even once we come to terms with maturity, aware that there was nothing we did to cause this, that we as children are innocent, are the products of our parents, the good and the bad. They create and mold who we become our entire lives. Unelss you have walked in our shoes, people who had stable families and what's considered a good life growing up, with it's ups and downs,do not bare the scars and deeply rooted emotional pain and suffering that is so deep inside, it is who we have become, and no matter how strong we grow to be, no matter what we accomplish, it never leaves us.
I know for myself, beginning my youngest years and memories, I felt alone. I wasn't the same as other kids, carefree, normal...I couldn't wait to grow up and be an adult, because I believed that it would mean I wouldn't feel so sad and alone, and different. But it didn't happen, I have always, my entire life felt alone, the ache to feel loved, and wanted, has never gone away, at least never more than for a short time.
So I tried filling that emptiness with food, and that leaves me feeling worse, ugly, weak...fat. Everything negative.
It is also the driving force behind me rescuing cats. I feel needed, useful, like saving them is saving that little girl somehow. Take their pain away, their abandonment feelings away, turn their lives around from lost to them feeling a sense they belong someplace in the world, they are loved, and wanted....
So I understand you Tawnya, if only we could literally cut that part of our lives out, make it be gone. Isn't it funny how we are mature adults, yet somewhere inside we are still those little girls, who want to go back and fix things? So sad.
You are my hero for exposing this. My friend and former psychologist convinced me, just how common this really is, it is passed along from generation to generation, secretly, silently, with so much scarring and damage. How that silence allows it to go on and on...endlessly. Until someone like you exposes their memories.
Thank you for doing this. You are amazing, and an awesome mom!!
Lisa-catwoman707 :) Hugs.

Tawnya Cassidy said...

Wow, I guess I missed this! I tend to ignore my email for stints of time :) I think telling it is better than keeping it in, now that I'm 40 I think I get that keeping it in is not a way to heal and that there are so many others out there who could benefit from my story. Even if it turns my family away, I don't care, I won't hide the truth.

You are also one of the kindest people I know. Having a heart as big as yours is not common, I love what you do and I am so proud of what you do.

Thank you Lisa,
You'll always be a friend