I started to become so anxious every day when I knew it was time to go home, because I knew he was going to do it again. I would freeze each time. Never knowing what to do. How to react. What to say. Each time feeling more and more like a prostitute, because an “understanding” was beginning to develop. As long as I let him kiss me goodbye, he would let me work there.
All my life I wanted to work with animals.
I went to High School in a small, country town where my dreams of working with exotic animals seemed a million miles away. I attended church regularly with my little broken family- my dad had just left us for another woman. My mom went off the deep end, and all of this left me very much alone, with no one to raise me but Seventeen Magazine. I was fighting for my own chance to make it in the world. I believed I had to make things happen for myself, because NOBODY was going to help me.
So, when a very prominent man (an Elder) from our church took an interest in wanting to mentor me by offering me a job- I thought this was my answer from God! He was a very wealthy veterinarian, the uncle of one of my best friends, and I decided he was going to be the father I never had. How perfect could this be? I began working at his vet hospital and I was elated! I was on my way towards working with animals!
My first day on the job, he threw me right in!
I was delivering puppies with my bare hands- at 15 years old! By the end of the first week, I was sitting in and assisting with surgeries. At the end of every day, he’d drive me home (because I didn’t have a car), and hand me a crisp $20. bill. I’d give him a hug, say “thanks” and get out of the truck.
My birthday came around and Dr. J asked me what I wanted. He said he’d take me shopping! I remember thinking this was a bit odd, but I was ok with it, because after all, my family was on welfare since my dad left, and I never got to go shopping for new clothes. The day of my birthday he took me to the mall, and proceeded to let me pick out whatever I wanted- and then paid for it. SCORE! I should have known something was off when he told me he wanted me to model the bathing suit I got, for him. I laughed it off, but remember it was the first of many times I was made to feel completely gross by this dirty old man.
He’d take me to lunch some days, take me on “farm calls” on others- this was where we’d have to drive long distances to remote farms and tend to horses or cows or other large livestock that were too big to bring into the clinic. This would lend itself to long discussions about all kinds of things. I loved my job, and in my convoluted mind, he loved me like the daughter he never had. Maybe he’d even adopt me!
I can’t remember exactly when the obvious inappropriate things started happening.
Because it was slow, gradual. A hug would last a little too long, making me feel uncomfortable. But I wouldn’t do anything about it.
- One, I didn’t know what TO do. (No one ever taught me how to handle a situation like that).
- Two, I second guessed myself. (“It’s all in my head”).
- Three, I didn’t want my awesome gig to end. (I had good money coming in, he bought me presents, I had a high-schooler’s dream job…)
School was back in session and this was just a summer job, so a whole school year went by without working at the clinic. I would still see Dr. J at church- he was, after all, a well-respected and well loved leader. We’d say hello- and give hugs and “how are you’s” in passing- but that was all. I remember his adult daughter always giving me dirty looks- and I never knew why…
Summer came back around, and there I was at my job again. This time, doing the spays and neuters. He’d let me actually perform the surgeries while he watched. Man, I loved my job! But I began to dread lunchtime. He’d take me to lunch every day. Only he and I. He began talking to me about inappropriate things. Like where would I go, if I could go anywhere? And then he’d say things like… “Well, I’ll take you there.” Or like, “Let’s go away this weekend…” I’d feel really uncomfortable, but like I said before, I’d talk myself out of it.
Before too long, those questions became a bit more specific. And, to play the game, I’d say things like “I would go to Australia- haha…” Thinking full-well that this was impossible. He kept trying to open a door, and I kept shutting it. Or, so I thought.
One day when he dropped me off at home, he pulled me in for a hug, but this time he kissed me.
Not a cheek kiss. A full blown on-the-lips kiss. He actually reached behind my head and pulled me in for it. I knew in that moment that if I had opened my mouth, he would have opened his. I pulled away, and laughed nervously- said “goodbye” quickly and jumped out of the car. I went in the house and downed what must have been a half cup of Scope mouthwash, scrubbing my mouth with a washcloth. My mind racing… did that just happen? NO… I’m sure it was nothing.
Looking back, one of the things I blame this man for, is stealing my confidence. My knowledge of the “line”. My sense of KNOWING when it had been crossed. And causing me to doubt my own intuition. I was utterly disgusted that he had done that, but yet utterly torn because I LOVED MY JOB. When I see news reports of these sick men who get busted because they try and meet up with children to have sex, I know that it almost happened to me. Not because I wanted it to, but because I felt powerless to stop it. I know Someone was watching out for me, even then.
I decided to do nothing. And tell noone. I went back to work the next day acting like nothing at all had happened. A few days passed where nothing was mentioned or brought up. I convinced myself that that had been a one-time thing, and he was just showing me daughterly love. I had totally misread the situation.
All was well, until it happened again. And then again. And then again.
I started to become so anxious every day when I knew it was time to go home, because I knew he was going to do it again. I would freeze each time. Never knowing what to do. How to react. What to say. Each time feeling more and more like a prostitute, because an “understanding” was beginning to develop. He let me work there, I let him kiss me goodbye.
I wish I could say that something woke me up, that someone helped me come forward- but that is just not the case. It actually got worse. I’ll never forget the last time it happened- It was my last day of work before heading back to my last year of high school. Dr. J called me into his office for some reason. I stood in front of him, talking about (whatever it was) and he grabbed me by the buttocks, and pulled me into himself. I could feel his excited “self” against me, and he proceeded to kiss me- longer and harder than ever before. I kept my mouth closed (but again, I knew if I would have opened mine, it would have led to who-knows-what). I pulled away, laughed it off – as usual – and walked out of the office my face actually burning- feeling so ashamed and gross, accusations flying in my head like “home-wrecker”, “slut”, “This wouldn’t happen if you didn’t lead him on.” Things like that.
THAT line was too obvious to ignore. I wanted to tell… really! But, I never did.
Actually, I have never spoken of it in detail, publicly until today. At the time, I honestly felt that NO ONE would believe me. Like I said, he was a well-loved, well-respected leader in the city and elder in our church. Who was I? I let him steal my voice, and much more.
I can remember a dramatic decline in my self-worth and purity after that. I guess I felt like I had to take control over my body and my sexual self. So that I would become the seducer, and so that I would never be made to feel that way again.
I did, however, finally tell my mother because during my freshman year of college- lo and behold- my mom called to tell me that my little sister was going to start working at Dr. J’s vet clinic- I would be damned if I let that happen to her. I am not sure if anything ever came of it- but I do know my sister was spared because my mom did not let her go work for him. Who knows how many other young girls he preyed upon after me. What lines were crossed.
This is only a tiny part of my Lovely story. But one that needed to be told. If I had been bold and shared what had happened to me, who knows what other horrible things that followed in my life would never have happened. It almost was drowned out by the cascade of bad choices and horrible situations that took place in the years that followed. Within one year of the last incident happening, my virginity was taken via. date rape by some guy whose name I dont even remember- but whose face I’ll never forget.
If I knew then, what I know now. I would have spoken up.
I would tell that 15 year old ‘me’ to make sure and tell someone. I would tell her not to stop talking until someone paid attention. Until someone took her seriously. Until someone advocated for her. I would tell her that she was lovely.
Now, I know my voice is a weapon against injustice- and I use it. All the time. I know it is important, not just to me, but to all who need to know what I’ve learned so it doesn’t happen to them.
I was molested, and sexually harassed into silence.