My Gran has a habit of making me speak about things in a frank and honest way, things I often think of but don’t normally speak about so openly or in such detail. I don’t know why I feel I can tell her so much more than anyone else, maybe it’s because she was like a second mum to me while growing up? Maybe it’s because I look up to her and therefore, subconsciously, seek her approval/understanding more so than anyone else’s? Or maybe it’s because she wants to hear me, she wants to listen to me and understand me. She’s interested. And she loves me unconditionally and will think no less of me no matter what I tell her, no matter how stupid or weak I’ve been. She wants to know why I felt the need to hurt myself over and over, why I was so weak minded that I didn’t leave an abusive partner the first time she did something to me. Why I chose to move out of my home rather than kick out the people who were driving me out. I appreciate her genuine intrigue, she asks such blunt questions but with no judgement. They’re questions she asks because she genuinely cannot imagine letting anyone treat her that way. And she cannot, for the life of her, imagine me – her youngest granddaughter, her intelligent, head strong, independent granddaughter – letting anyone treat me like a piece of shit they’ve just scraped off their shoe, like I’m scum and not worth spitting on if I was on fire. Or why I would feel so lost and horrid that I would take a piece of glass and hack at my own skin.
It’s not so much the physical stuff that stays with me. I mean, yes she hit, kicked, even strangled me a couple of times. Threw me on the floor, elbowed me in the face, threw me against a wall and sexually assaulted me with an object to name but a few. And the slaps, oh the bloody slaps. No, taps. Yes taps on the cheeks. Constant. Sounds like the least of my worries huh? But no, they were where the physical and psychological abuse collided. Relentless tapping. I’d flinch every time. It was a form of control and, more importantly, humiliation. That played a huge part in all of that. Making me feel downright stupid. Laughing at me. A silent threat. Power.
I soon learned to keep my phone on silent, even dimming the screen and making sure it didn’t vibrate. I was cut off from everyone. I remember one time we had gone camping. She loved camping, the great outdoors, away from every other person that could possibly want to make contact with me. My phone rang, shit! I knew who it was, I’d removed his name from my phone book but recognised the number. Someone I considered to be one of my best friends who just happens to now be my husband. But it wasn’t like that then, we were mates. I answered it, pretending I didn’t know who it was and then when he told me I acted surprised and said my new phone didn’t have all the numbers. Then made an excuse to get off the phone. All the while I can feel her eyes burning into me. To cut a long story short, she left me there. No way to get home, no money, no phone. She just drove off. Oh she had no intentions of leaving me there really, it was to punish me. Back she came less than 5 minutes later. Of course I had to grovel, how could I not? She was my ticket back to civilisation.
I was often accused of sleeping around, be it past or present. My brother in law popped in to see me and that meant I was sleeping with him. A) I would never do that to my sister. B) He is like a brother to me, ew! And C) Just no no no!
“I know what you’re like” – the amount of times she said that to me when she actually had no clue what I was like. Looking back, it’s embarrassing. Humiliating. During sex, out of the blue she said to me “You need to get an aids test” I was obviously shocked, she never failed to shock me, and was automatically scared of what she was going to do so immediately fell into obedient mode. “I know what you’re like” that oh so familiar statement. “You’re disgusting, I know where you’ve been” and it went on. At first I was silently agreeing then she had me to the point of verbal concurrence. I just wanted it to stop.
She preyed on my weaknesses. One of them being water. It scares the shit out of me. Unfortunately she lived right by the water, and when I say right by I mean her back gate, a bit of grass then water. Walking along one day, there was no argument, no accusations just her digging at me for being scared of water. Next thing I know she’s dragging me by my hair, top, arms, whatever she could grab at with me struggling, dragging me towards the water. I’m pretty sure she never intended to put me in that water but in the moment I wouldn’t have put it past her, in fact I was 100% sure that’s what she was going to do. I begged, pleaded, apologised for nothing, told her I love her, etc etc etc. She just laughed and called me pathetic.
Then you have the false sense of security! That moment you find the strength to fight back, you find your voice. The moment they let you get away with it and you think “ha, take that”. A prime example of one of those moments was a time she elbowed me in the face. We happened to be laying on the floor in her living room, we were sleeping down there that night for some reason. Petty argument, I leant over her and, wham, elbow connected with face. I saw red, grabbed her top and got right right in her face “Don’t ever so that again” and pushed her down. To my surprise she backed off and said nothing. I felt fear, then confusion, fear again then power! Wow, I did it! I showed her! She even silently cuddled up to me as I laid with my back to her. I fell asleep powerful and confident. I woke up the same. That lasted all of 2 minutes… a day of paying for daring to retaliate. She showed me I was not powerful and my confidence was gone.
She would write me letters, I’m sorry letters. I didn’t mean to letters. I don’t know what came over me letters. The night she had me pinned on my back, leaning off the bed holding the radiator, trying to pull myself away from her while she assaulted me, she wrote me a letter. Curled up in a ball, eyes squeezed tight pretending to be asleep, she wrote me a letter and left. I could barely read most of it but what I did read was along the lines of “what have I done? I’m so sorry. I don’t deserve you”. I kept all the letters for years after. Not to show people. It sounds stupid but they were my proof to myself that it happened. Proof it was as bad as I remember. Is that ridiculous? I don’t know.
I did get rid of those letters eventually. But I remember them all, just like I remember everything she ever did to me. I still can’t bare anything against my throat or taps to my cheeks even in jest. I remember. I can’t forget. Letters or no letters.