The Masquerade 2
But then I saw the signs. I would always tell myself I was being paranoid, but later on wished I was. First, he would open the bathroom door while I was having a shower, pretending that he needed to get something like washing soap or toothpaste. The whole time he would watch while he was there. Sometimes I’d go on for days without showers because of it. Then he’d get more physical. Whenever I’d be standing in a dress in the kitchen, he would crouch down behind me and touch my leg and move his hand further up until I turn around and looked at him. He would stand up and walk away as if nothing happened. When large groups of people were around, even family members, but when nobody was watching, he would put a hand on my thigh and this twisted smile would creep on his face that would send a chill through me. Now that smile haunts my nightmares. It was like he was testing out the waters. To see how much he could get away with until I did something. I did what my family always told me to do when I was around him — just ignore him. I knew not to open my mouth again. I saw how much trouble I caused the last time, I wasn’t going to put them through it again.
One night, my other older brother had some friends over, as per usual. They would drink, get drunk and pass out. One of them knocked on my door. He came inside and asked for a massage. In the process he tried to make me put my hand down his pants. When I refused and asked him to leave because I was tired, he pinned me down. I played the cry and resist game. They seem to like that. I slowly drifted off to another place like always. He told me how pretty I was and how much he liked me. I didn’t believe him. But in a way, I was glad that the guy touching me this time wasn’t my brother. He told me he was going to pop my cherry. It was obvious I was a virgin and everybody knew. My attempts to escape were useless against a boy as strong as him. My begging and my word to keep silent if he left then wasn’t good enough for him. At first I was terrified. Then when I thought about it, I preferred losing my virginity through a rape by him then a rape by my own brother. The moment he was about to do it, we heard the voices of his friends downstairs looking for him. He jumped off and put his clothes back on quicker then when he took them off. He walked outside and yelled down that he used the toilet upstairs because downstairs had been occupied. Right before he left, he told me not to tell anyone otherwise I’d be known as a slut and that sluts don’t have friends. He needn’t bother with threats, I knew the routine all too well. I was disconnected to my family and all I had left were my friends, I didn’t want to lose them either. I didn’t want Aunty Ezar to be disappointed in me. It seemed like a onetime thing, but I still kept my distance from him in case. I never opened my door to any of my brother’s friends again.
Meanwhile, my brother was getting worse. The closer he was able to get without me flinching, the more confident he got. Then I found the rape porn on his computer. I was utterly horrified. I don’t know if it was real or not, but I know I want to keep it that way. I knew he was planning to do something, he was just waiting for the right time. Give him the chance and he will. All the touching was just foreplay to him now. The encounter with my brother’s friend taught me something: that I didn’t want my first time to be with my brother. I ended up losing my virginity to a boy who left me. I proceeded to act out promiscuously because I loved the attention, seldom liking the guys. It also got me out the house, as far away from my brother as possible. I believed the world was full of guys who only wanted to have sex with you. I did things willingly and unwillingly. Things that I’ve never so much as spoke, because there’s still some part of me that thinks if I don’t say it out loud then it never happened. I would be beyond recognition to my family, friends and counselors if they knew. Being sexually abused became nothing new to me, only the people. I began to wonder the reason behind my seemingly never ending misfortune. Perhaps I was ‘easy prey,’ to sexual predators. I was young, small and alone. Naive, unable to defend myself and had nobody to protect me. I was like an abandoned cub in the wild. Helpless, weak and all too vulnerable. The perfect victim.
My brother’s attitude was as arrogant as ever. He even had the guts to touch my thigh in front of the eyes of a family friend, who turned a blind eye. He knew he was going to get away with anything he did. My grand father told me I should always pity people like him and my mother. And I did. They couldn’t help the way they were. But why did I have to suffer for it? I had showed them nothing by unconditional love and support. All those years I forgave them every single time, waiting patiently for their redemption. But it never came and I’d be used and abused once again. I couldn’t leave them, they were my family. I was raised to believe that I must put my family first, before my friends and before myself. I was trapped.
That’s when I attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on anti-depressants. It was my only way to escape. It wasn’t fair that I had to withstand the abuse. “Why me?” I asked. “What did I do to deserve this? What did I ever do to make him hate me so much to do this to me?” I had always been a good girl and I loved my family. I had always helped my grandmother with the chores, helped my dad with the vegetable garden at the back of the house and kept my grades up. When they were distraught after finding about my abuse when I was eleven, I went to school the very next day just so I wouldn’t worry them. I never let them see me cry over it and was nice to my brother afterwards. I didn’t tell them about everything he did because I didn’t want them to feel bad. I stayed quiet because I didn’t want them to blame themselves that it happened again. I did it all for them. I loved them all so much and it wasn’t easy to make that decision. But I just couldn’t bear the pain anymore. I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. When I was younger it was easy. I just pretended it never happened. I was blissfully delusional. But with time, my brother returned back to his old ways and would pluck me out of my fantasy back to the cruel reality that was. Everytime I was pulled back, reality hurt more than the last time I was there. I was willing to take the pain, because family comes first. Eventually I couldn’t go back to my fantasy, I was stuck in my real life and forced to face everything. But I just couldn’t let it happen again, I was so scared. I didn’t want to get touched again, but I couldn’t put my family through that type of guilt.
I wanted to die. I didn’t leave a note. They all knew I was depressed but didn’t know why. Let them think it was my random depression that killed me. Let them think I was a selfish person for putting them through that type of grief. At least I wouldn’t be there to see it. But I was when I survived the attempt. Seeing how worried they were, I confessed why. I had to be honest. It was the least I owed them for everything I put them through. My teacher at Sunday school got the police involved (it was easy because she was married to a policeman) and my brother was forced to move out of the house. I was esctatic that I wouldn’t have to see him when I came home from the hospital. But I wasn’t exactly happy to come home to the shattered remains of our family. We fell back into our old dysfunctional way, but at least my brother wasn’t around. I didn’t need to talk to them about it to them. I’ve seen and know all too well what it does to them, so I just let it be. When I tried talking to some of my good friends about my sexual abuse they awkwardly told me, “he’s still your brother,” and “try to move on.” I know it’s because they didn’t know what to say and that they mean well, but in all honesty I didn’t want them talk, I just wanted them to listen. But even then, I saw how uneasy they got about it. Very my much like with my family, I don’t feel it’s fair to burden them with that sort of stuff.
The Masquerade is still somone’s brother, son and grandson. They’ve never seen the dark side that I been exposed to and I hope no one ever has to. They all have the peace of not knowing and so I want to watch them live happy carefree lives rather than taint them with guilt because I love them. I see now that people who haven’t gone through a similar experience just aren’t capable of understanding what I’m going through and I accept that. Maybe I expect too much out of people. I’ve learnt how to live a lonely life and just wait it out, figuring ways to pass the time. Now I’m doing my best to work on my trust issues because it’s left me feeling that if I can’t trust my own family, then who can I trust? In the end I don’t mind keeping it to myself as much, because now I’m not as scared of my Masquerade because he’s not in the room next door. Not in the home I’m suppose to feel the most safest. I’m all out of forgiveness. I can’t forgive which means I can’t forget, but I’m learning to live with it. I wonder how my life would have turned out if I had never been sexually abused. What would I have been like if I hadn’t known this pain. I guess I’ll never know. But I’m glad at how much I’ve grown up and realised that the Masquerade isn’t scary because I’m stronger, I’m the one with all the power.
I do want to end this story on a lighter note and say the most surprising thing I found of all is that I’m able to find support in people I don’t even know. Thanks to friends I have related with through Aunty Ezar, I’m able to read other people’s stories and see that I’m actually not alone. I hope this story inspires people to speak up about their own abuse and realise that they are worth something. I’ll be honest, it will be a long and difficult journey, I’m still in the midst of my own. The people you love most may isolate you and you will be alone for a while, but whatever you do, please don’t stop fighting. Out there, in the places you least expect, are people who are cheering you on for the rest of the way. We are not victims, but survivors.