***A note from Nettie: I am an adult now and I wrote this autobiographical story a few years ago. I authorize the WY CASA Network to publish this on their website. All the abuse, dreams and feelings are hauntingly accurate. At the time of the abuse I was never urged to tell anyone about it and it continued until I was about 14 years old. The effects of child abuse are with you for life. In addition, there was never a compassionate and caring CASA Volunteer to help me and there was never the opportunity to confront my abusers in Court. I added those to emphasize that looking back – they could have made a profound difference in my life.
I urge all who may read this to seriously consider volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate so no child victim of abuse and neglect will ever have to as the question, “Will they listen to me this time?”.
Will they listen to me this time? thought Nettie as she sat alone, on a hard chair, in a big room, clutching her stuffed bear, feeling so very lost, waiting.
Nettie was small for her 8 years. Her hazel eyes were the focus of her small, pale face and her brown unruly hair was long and fell across her face. She was waiting in a room at the courthouse and she felt alone, so very alone and terrified. Amy said she would be there for her - but where was she?
Just then, the door opened and Amy, her CASA Advocate walked in. Nettie looked up but couldn’t force a smile. It was so hard to smile when she hurt so much. Amy was one of the only people who really knew how she felt. Amy knew she was filled with pain and every time she tried to let the pain out, she couldn’t. Amy came over and sat next to Nettie. Without saying a word, she held on to Nettie’s small hand and waited with her. At least when Amy held her hand Nettie felt a little less alone. She wasn’t safe but she wasn’t alone. What did they want her to say this time? She’d gone over it before - again and again. That was months ago -years ago, a lifetime ago. Nobody wanted to listen, nobody wanted to make it stop, but Nettie. Then her Aunt had urged her to tell the truth. Maybe this would be the last time she would have to relive the abuse by telling. She was scared of what had been and what might be. Why did she have to keep revisiting the hell. She felt if she had to keep telling it she will explode and come apart - breaking into a million pieces of sadness and disgust.
She knew she was very young, about four years old, when it all started. She could remember back to the time in her bedroom when he had come in during the night and got in bed with her. Whiskers rubbing her face, scratching, hurting, smelling of cigarettes and whiskey and rotten body odor. At first, he just lay there and then he started petting her, like she was a dog. But she didn’t know why. He was whispering things “my angel” “my little girl” “Isn’t this a special time with Daddy?” But she never said a word. Then he got on top of her and she felt she was going to suffocate. He kept rubbing up and down on top of her. She thought she was going to die. She tried to push him off but he held her down by her arms. She wanted to craw out of her skin. She wanted to leave her body and crawl to safety. She just wanted him to go and leave her alone. After what seemed like a very long time, he went back to his own bed. Before he left he told her not to tell, it was their secret. Later she would just pretend it didn’t happen. She soon learned she could pretend so easily.
Then came the nightmares. The bear. It attached her twice in one night. She was sitting in the grass when she saw the bear coming down the road. It started to come after her but she couldn’t get away. She called for help but no one came. He finally caught her and she only remembered it tearing her apart. In the other nightmare, she knew he was coming. She watched him. There were other little boys and girls there but he came just for her. She tried hiding, but he found her. She remembers people around saying they should probably shoot the bear while he was on top of her with his claws in her arms and his face in her face, his breath became her breath, his smell became her smell. When the people finally stopped thinking and shot the bear, they couldn’t pull it off her. She continued to live with the bear everyday hoping someone would hear her.
But she had tried to tell. She was sitting at her desk, drawing a picture after school. She liked spending time after school with her teacher. She remembered when she was five and told her nursery school teacher her daddy hurt her. Her teacher asked her what happened and Nettie told her the best she could - but her teacher didn’t believe her. She said she must have been mistaken, a daddy wouldn’t do that to his little girl. Well, maybe she wasn’t his little girl. Maybe she belonged to someone else. There had to be some reason he hurt her. After that, she kept quiet for a while but her Dad continued to hurt her again and again.
Besides, she thought, it wasn’t just her Dad. They hadn’t paid any attention when she told about her Grandfather either. Nettie remembered biking down the alley near her home on her way to her grandparents’ home. Her grandma was sweet and soft and smelled real good. Sometimes she got to go to her grandma’s for lunch during the school week. But that one day she went, her grandma wasn’t home. Her grandfather was. That was the time he showed her their cellar where they stored their can goods. She hated that cellar. She hated the spiders and bugs and the blackness when he shut her in after he touched her. He wanted to teach her a lesson to make sure she wouldn’t tell. After he let her out of the darkness, she remembered riding her bike part way home and stopping along the alley and curling up in a ball under some bushes and shaking and crying and shaking some more. Her mother knew she was upset when she came home, but she didn’t bother to find out why. Her Mother didn’t want to listen, didn‘t want to see. Nettie was sure her mother knew by looking at her - Nettie felt she had been branded “Dirty Little Girl”. She knew she was soiled, rotten, just a piece of garbage. No one wants to hear about that.
There were other times. Many more times. Like when she fell asleep in the car and her Daddy found her and hurt her again. And when her Mother sent her on an errand to her grandparents and her grandfather made her look at those dirty pictures in the magazines in his garage. She could still remember the ugly clouded windows with just a little light coming in as she looked down on herself and her Grandfather. She hated what she saw was happening. Nobody paid attention when she called out for help then even though her call was a whisper in the night for someone to help her. No one listened to her as the words “Like Father, Like son” echoed in her mind.
She remembered how everyone thought her Daddy was such a good man, very important in the town and her Mother was active in her church groups. No one would believe her. After all, her mother kept reminding Nettie of her wonderful sense of imagination. That’s what Mom would always say. “Why Nettie, that’s all in your imagination.” or “Never say that again, what would everyone think.” So Nettie stopped trying to tell and started denying things to herself. She started denying herself. She hated that -she knew better. But she couldn’t live in her present world so she started to live in a fantasy world. It was safer for her there.
Nettie’s favorite place was a garden - her beautiful garden. It was a magical garden. Not surrounded by a fence or walls but an invisible barrier against evil and danger. It would be circled as if held in the arms and hands of God. The sky was a beautiful, brilliant blue with scattered white marshmallow clouds. There was always a slight breeze bringing the fragrance of flowers to you at every minute, no matter where you were in the garden. The grass was so lush and soft and thick and cool you could walk barefoot and never hurt your feet on anything. There was a beautiful river running through - slowly and gently in some places and rushing over rocks in other places. Flowers and trees were all over the garden - all colors, all shapes, all sizes. A riot of beauty. Yellows, blues, pinks, purples, reds - happy colors. The garden had all kinds of animals - dogs, puppies, kittens, deer, horses, bunnies, raccoons, birds - all giving their sounds and affections to all the children in the garden. The children were the only permanent humans in the garden yet the children could find love and nurturing in the “parent forms”. These forms would take whatever shape and size the child wanted and would appear whenever the child would need them. Here, all the children found safety, love, warmth, affection and “people” who listened and believed them.
Just then the door opened and a man in uniform came in. He told Amy it was time for Nettie to come to the other room and talk to the Judge. Nettie was so tired. She felt real small. She didn’t want to “go there” again. She didn’t want to relive the terror again. Even though Amy held her hand she knew she would do this alone. She stood and walked with Amy to the large room with all the seats and with the big man sitting on a platform above everyone else.
Amy led her to the seat right next to the man they said was a Judge. After she sat down, she saw her Dad sitting at a table but she didn’t want to look at him. She wouldn’t be able to say a thing if she looked at her Dad so she stared at Amy. After she promised to tell the truth, she did.