John’s mistreatment escalated. One February afternoon, when I was twelve, he drove me to his house. He gripped my wrist, casually strolled into his mother’s kitchen, and introduced me as his girlfriend. She examined me head to toe, curled her lips, and then busied herself stirring a pot on the stove.
John nudged me towards the back porch. “Sit,” he said, as if I were his dog. What happened next was far worse than anything he had subjected me to in the past. On that day John forcibly stole my virginity. Until then, I had no idea what intercourse was. Now I knew. It was a painful, loathsome, and filthy thing to do.
When John finished, he tossed me aside. “Get lost,” he said, “I’ll call you later.”
Tears filmed my eyes. I tripped over my feet, anxious to get away from him and blot out what happened. Clutching my stomach, I wobbled along onto unfamiliar streets to prolong going home.
No! No! No! thundered in my mind. I thumped the sides of my head with my hands to stop the throbbing, but it only got worse.
When I reached home, I hurried to the safety of my bed and then burrowed under my covers. I finally fell asleep from the sheer fatigue of weeping.
A few days after John raped me, and frantic to talk to someone, I crept out of my house after midnight and walked aimlessly down snowy streets, wondering where to go. I tilted my head and gazed up into the ebony sky, half expecting an answer to fall from heaven. My parish priest, Father Downing’s, friendly face flashed across my mind. He looked like Santa Claus with his big, round belly and gold-rimmed glasses. And he always gave us kids butterscotch. Surely he would help me. After all, he had a direct connection to God.
With a hope-filled heart, I walked faster towards the church rectory. The scary silence frightened, me but I marched on. I knew that once I unloaded my burden to Father Downing, I’d be free from John forever.
Bobbing up and down in anticipation and chills, I tapped on the front door of the rectory. The door opened slightly. A sleepy Father Downing peered through the crack.
“Hi, Father,” I said, smiling certain he’d be happy to see me.
“My dear, it’s after midnight,” he said, yawning. “What are you doing here at this hour?”
I scuffed the bottom of my shoe back and forth and raised my eyes upward towards his. “Can I talk to you?” I asked, as my heart deflated.
“I’m sorry but children aren’t allowed in the rectory.” His voice sounded irritated. “Please go home. Have your mother call me in the morning.”
Too young to comprehend why Father Downing had refused me, I urged him to let me in, desperate to rid myself of the dirtiness killing me inside.
“Go home.” He closed the door. I stood alone on the empty porch. Father Downing didn’t even ask my name.
Another domino fell.
That night I began hating myself.
An icy wind blew hard as I sprinted down the deserted streets, my face red and stinging from the freezing air whipping at it. It seemed like hours before I made it back to the shelter of my bedroom. I remember only that I cried myself to sleep, as always, persuaded that there would be no way to fend off John.
John raped me like this several more times until his girlfriend, Diane, found out. The threat of losing her is what I believe motivated John to set me free. I’ll never know, because at the age of fifty-four, Diane committed suicide. John died a year later.
That April I had to go through the motions of Confirmation. No longer holy, my beautiful white dress mocked me. When that morning arrived, I threw up in the toilet. Mom called it nerves and urged me to dress quickly.
“Forty-five minutes, Nancy Jean.” Mom’s face beamed with pride. I rarely saw my mom happy so I forced a smile. For some reason, my confirmation had been a big deal to her.
I walked down the church aisle on that day next to my sponsor with my eyes facing the ground. The red gown that covered my pure white dress seemed to scream, “Harlot!” Bishop Ahr anointed my forehead with oil, we exchanged a few spoken words, and just like that, he confirmed me. It seemed pointless. By church standards I was now a “soldier of Christ.”
But I remained tainted, and no amount of holy oil could change what I felt inside. I never went to church again after Confirmation, and Mom didn’t question my decision. She had stopped going to church long ago.