I am a child of rape.
I hated my mother. “What do you mean you don’t know who your dad is? like Maury?” was usually followed by laughter and disbelief that I was completely fatherless. No name, no face, nothing. I remember watching Armageddon when I was younger… probably 7-8 and the part when the kid says,”look mommy, it’s the salesman.”
And she replies,”That’s not the salesman, that’s your daddy.”
I asked my mother,”Who’s my dad?” She burst into tears. I remember feeling so guilty because I didn’t understand. After that my mother always said I was her gift from God. When I was old enough to understand she said that she was doing a lot of drugs around the time and just couldn’t remember. That sounds like an awful thing to say to your child but I grew up in Narcotics Anonymous. I understood at a young age the severe loss that comes at the hands of substance abuse. I accepted it young. Her and I would laugh and say my dad had to be white because my mother is Guatemalan and I was born with platinum hair and blue eyes. Or whatever attribute I had that she didn’t appreciate, she’d say I’d got it from my father. We were always able to laugh about it, as desensitized as it sounds it made it easier to not think about.
I had blood tests for two boyfriends my mother had around the time I was created. “I think he’s your father,” she whispered to me once. Moments after, she stepped out of the car and he was standing before her yelling.
"She’s not my child!" he yelled repeatedly. I was 9. I remember. He was a cop. We were parked under a street lamp in an empty parking lot outside the station. I heard every word.
Both tests were not a match. We kinda gave up after that. I stopped really asking, there wasn’t much to say. I would think about it from time to time and wonder but I never dwelled.
My mother is a lover, and that’s her biggest weakness. Men would come into her life and step all over her. I was a hellion child, and most definitely not easy to put up with. They were mean to me, and she always stood by them. I learned a lot about relationships from my mother. It took me a long time to let go of what I saw. I saw two separate boyfriends hit my mother. One broke her nose.
My mother is a fighter and that’s her strongest attribute. She fought for men, who fought her and not for her. I hated that she was so desperate for love and for help taking care of me that she was willing to put up with men like that. They didn’t love her like she deserved. But neither did I. Her and I would fight- and we would fight violently. She taught me how to fight with words and to keep my tongue sharpened. We’d go blow for blow, tearing each other down until there was nothing left.
When I was 19, and in the prime of my insanity, I went crazy on my mother for something very simple that I cannot recall. My mom for once, calmed herself quickly and asked me to come to her room. She said she wanted to talk to me. She said, “It’s about your father.”
Oh man, I couldn’t contain my excitement! I was so happy! I always secretly thought my mother knew who my father was and was maybe waiting to tell me. Or maybe she remembered something she forgot?
She sat me on the bed and explained to me this story.
October, 1990, my mother was at a Halloween party. She was too intoxicated to drive home so she asked some people she met at the party to take her home. They didn’t take her home. The two boys raped my mother…..I’ve never had the courage to ask her the details but I’ve laid awake in bed many nights wondering if she screamed or fought back, or cried, or was or was not coherent. How did she get home? Why didn’t she tell anyone? Here sat in front of me, the woman who birthed me. The woman who raised me. The woman who loved me, who fought me, who fed me, telling me that I was the worst kind of accident.
It crushed me. All of these years I resented her for being too fucked up to know my father and the truth was I only existed out of the utter destruction of my mother’s integrity.
She was only 20.
She was a child. She’ll say she was into drugs before that, but from the stories my nana told me and from her friends, I know she only got into heavy substance abuse after it happened. She was trying to cope. She was 21 when I was born. A blonde haired, blue eyed, fatherless child. She spent the next years raising me. Letting me be whoever I wanted, putting up with awful men for what she thought was a better life.
Man, it fucked me up. I remember driving back to my apartment and the sun was going down. I kept thinking of how I am a constant reminder of an evil moment in her life where she was entirely helpless, alone, and disgraced when she was the most vulnerable.
I’ve never loved my mom harder than after I found out. I would call her crying telling her how much I loved her and how sorry I was for never understanding. I think she regrets telling me in retrospect but I’m glad I know. She reminds me all the time that I saved her life and that having me was the best decision she ever made. I know she means it.
Sometimes I lay awake in bed and wonder if they know I exist. The future of social networking has made it easier to connect. Do they remember her name? Have they seen she has a daughter close in age to the time? Are they rotting in jail? Are they still friends? Do they have a pact to keep quiet? Are they married with children that they love? Do they kiss their wives goodnight? Do they drink beers and laugh about the time they raped a girl? Do they come into my work and see me? Am I paranoid? Am I still harboring the small hope they could ask for my mother and I’s forgiveness? Am I holding onto a pipe dream? better yet, why would I want to know someone like that?
When I asked why she never told her mother she explained that my Nana would’ve disowned me. She wouldn’t have wanted my mother raising a bastard child. I’m incredibly lucky my mother kept it a secret for so long. I was surrounded by love by my family growing up. I was able to know my nana without her knowing the truth. I truly believe if she found out before she passed that she still would’ve loved me dearly. My mother was just afraid.
I don’t know who half of me is. That can’t be easy for anyone.
My mom is now married to the most wonderful man and father to my little brother. She has a big family and a grand-daughter. I have sisters and brothers I love dearly. She has a Bachelor’s degree, two Masters degrees and is in school for her Doctorate. She has a great job as a therapist on an Indian Reservation, specializing in substance abuse and EMDR. She is a happy woman who lives in a big home, surrounded with love.
Recently I met a friend of a friend. To get to the point she was a radiant human full of warmth and positivity. I felt so comfortable and I told her about my father. She didn’t hesitate, and she reached for my hand and said that her boyfriend too was a child of rape. My heart sunk. Quickly, I felt connected because she had just spent an extended amount of time telling me how her boyfriend is the most kind, humble, incredible beacon of light. She showed me messages he’s sent her, what he writes about, and what he is about. He was just as overwhelmingly wonderful as she was. Here is this man, a child of rape, who was a vessel of kindness and love to every person he encountered. It brought me so much happiness.
It helped me see I was not alone. It’s a naive thought to think I am the only child of rape. But I know I can be a beacon of light (working on it haha) to other people. This has never defined me. I can instead reach out to anyone else who may have experienced this, or something similar, and remind them that they are not alone.
You are never alone. You are important. You are not your past. You are loved. You will be okay. It’s a constant work in progress, but I know deep down that I have so much life to live and love to give. So do you.
It’s easy to get caught up, be bitter or let things destroy you. I know, I still do it. But I know that I will overcome it. One day I will be able to help other people. I will be able to surround them with love, energy, and hope.
These are merely words, but they are my life. I am not afraid to say them. This is fucking personal and this is fucking vulnerable. It’s raw in a way I’ve never been but it is who I am. I love myself. I do not require sympathy. This is not a cry for attention. This is me grabbing the reins of my life and taking control. I am not ashamed of who I am. I am proud to be here.
I am Caitlin Nicole Sullivan and I am a child of rape.
(apologies for the punctual and grammatical errors- this is a hard subject to properly explain and I’m not as eloquent as I think I am.)