I went back, last week, to the place where I was raped probably hundreds of times as a child. I went back to my grade school.
I asked a good friend to be with me there so I wouldn't have to go alone. The support she offered was comforting. I was afraid. I was afraid that being there would trigger flashbacks or a cascade of unstoppable horrifying memories. It didn't.
The school has changed. Or rather, the people have changed the school. The classrooms part of the school has been completely gutted and re-worked. It has a different layout and an addition. There are windows from the outside into all the rooms that children are using. And windows from the inside into all the rooms (except the bathrooms and furnace room). There are lots of doors.
The copy room and textbook storage room are no longer closed locked dark places of torture and rape. They're open cheery spaces off the main entry lobby. The classrooms are open and bright. It has a good vibe. It felt like a place where children could be safe, be happy, grow and learn. I am glad.
And I'm proud. I'm proud that the people of the church involved believed me. I'm glad that they didn't simply let things stay the same. I'm glad they thought hard and worked hard to change their school. I'm glad they've had long and serious conversations about how they can and will never allow such a thing to happen there ever again. I'm glad they haven't forgotten. I'm glad that my experience, telling it, reliving it for the courts, surviving it, has made a difference. To me, it feels like these folks have really stepped up in the wake of something terrible. They've taken a stand never to allow such things to occur under their watch. And they are watching. It makes me feel like it wasn't all for naught.
At the same time, going back there made me deeply sad. Sad for the little girl who learned that her teacher could rape her, smile at her, and send her home knowing that if she told anybody, there'd be hell to pay. Sad for the other kids whom I know endured similar abuses at the hands of this man. Sad for the broken lives and torn families.
People sometimes say that time heals all wounds. No, it doesn't. For some kinds of hurts, it's as if time doesn't exist sometimes. There are moments when the memory of it or the feeling of it is as present day as your coffee in the morning. Time, for me, about this, has given me space. Space to learn to live with what happened there. Space to choose to heal. And space to work on it. But, last week, stepping into that school as a grown woman, over 30 years after the first rape there, I felt as small and scared as the 9 year old girl I used to be.
It was a strange mix of emotions. Being happy for the change. Being sad. Feeling small and afraid. And it's taken me a week or so to sort it out enough to write something that even remotely makes sense.
I hope, that by looking and going back to the places of the stories of my past, I can begin to put to rest some of the grief I've carried with me for so long. Maybe, one day, I'll be light enough to not have a constant migraine. I hope.
2 days ago