Ready or Not: cover detail by Liza Paizis
In 1981 I visited home having recently moved out for the first (and final) time. Two siblings remained, one my youngest sister. I was 20, and she 15.
My sister was upset about something that had happened to a grade school girl in the neighborhood. As I recall, she indirectly knew this girl from having known older siblings in the family closer to her own age.
Her eyes were angry and upset at the same time. She said the girl in question, no older than 13, had tried to kill herself. She didn’t succeed, but what horrified my sister most was why she had attempted her life. The girl had been raped some weeks or months earlier (I think the latter) but, out of shame and some guilt, had sequestered the fact. Her mood had become severely altered in the meantime, however; her parents and siblings knew something was wrong. The girl had changed. Family tensions had reached some sort of crescendo, so one or both of the parents demanded answers.
She told the truth. The girl had been walking home from the grade school following some after school function, that time past, and had been raped by someone lurking in bushes, shrubbery, or a copse of trees–I forget the details. I know the route well, having walked it myself for over 8 years, and I know the many shadier expanses a predator could have lurked inside. When she had dumped out her awful secret, the parents did not believe her. They sought some other explanation and wouldn’t hear any more of the story–the truth. This girl had then tried to kill herself. How I know not.
I had been as furious and sick-hearted as my sister was. Pity for this girl and fury at this wicked world welled up in my heart and has always remained for any such victims, especially the young. I told myself on that spot (I remember where I sat in my parents’ living room and the angle I viewed my sister’s face as she related this tragedy) that this will be fixed in a story. Or, at the least, addressed.
I wasn’t as upset by any lurid specifics of how the assault happened, for this scourge has been with us as long as we’ve been fallen; I wanted to fathom how a home life and a pair of parents couldn’t believe their daughter’s awful trauma: her secret, oozing sore of memories.
This is a terrible reality, and one I’ve seen in my work more than once. Sometimes peoples response to such an event is almost as bad as the event itself, the law and family are unable to cope or offer what’s needed.
I hope the story can honour what has happened. ROS
Thanks, ROS. This was the truth at the time. My brother gave me some follow up recently and says that the victim is doing fine now. She’d be in her early 40’s now! Bless her.