I cuddled in my grandmother's arms and imagined the conversation/interaction between my mother and step-father as she confronted him. I knew I had shattered everyone's lives. My grandmother whispered as she held me, almost speaking to herself, but explaining at the same time, "I could hide behind that door and shoot him when he comes through it, but then you'd lose me too while I spent the rest of my life in prison... do you understand"? I knew if I said just do it, she would. I nodded. I understood. She loved me enough that she was willing to do it and loved me enough not to.
Life became even more awkward between my mother and me. She wanted me to testify against him. She said I had to protect other little girls by doing this. I only wanted to please her. I didn't know what a courtroom or a judge was. We only watched rated G programming as the Church mandated. No crime shows or anything that could corrupt. (Which is a little ironic). I knew that even though she said the right things, there was an emptiness in her eyes. Her heart was full of blame and conflict. I overheard her tell a friend that I was a seductive child. I became frozen inside knowing that people knew I had "been" with my "father" and that I seduced him. My body still lived in fear even though he was gone. I knew he wouldn't be back. The fear was not of him. I didn't know where I stood. I didn't know who knew or how I was being perceived. Over and over I told my story. The police, a lawyer, a social worker, a therapist, a doctor.I was taken to the courthouse and sat in a hall and waited with my mother. I was taken into the room that was nothing as I had imagined and saw him at the table. On the stand I could not look up. I shook all over. I couldn't speak. He could see and hear me and would know everything I had to say. I could feel his eyes on me. There were a thousand eyes on me. Someone had mercy. I identified who he was and was told I could go into a room with my mom. Later the man in a suit came to get me and explained that I could tell the story without him being in the room. There would be the "jury" and a camera. Finally I told my story in a room with a long table with 12 people sitting at the table. A man asked very personal questions which I answered. I only looked up once at the people sitting at the table. An old man with a ball cap. A white haired woman with red lipstick and pearls. Her lips were wrinkly and her lipstick ran in little lines like rivers of red around her lips. I didn't look at each person. Just the people closest to my seat. I looked down the rest of my time in the room and talked about the intimate details of the last five years. I am nine years old. I have to say the word penis in front of a LOT of people and a camera. God was probably going to smite me for saying penis.
It was the first conviction of child sexual abuse in PoDunk County. A county where the good ol' boy system was well in place and every one was related to everyone else in some way. After court my grandma took me to the Five and Dime across from the court house. We bought some candies and then went to the only place in the town you could get a hamburger, Jim's Bar and Grill. My hamburger and fries sat untouched. I refused food often during my childhood and hunger evaded me especially today. My stomach churned and my head hurt. I asked Grandma what was happening. Everything was so hush hush. She finally said we're waiting for a "verdict" It only took a few hours. Sentencing would be another day. My mother said I was a "brave" girl. I felt sick and shaky. I knew I wasn't brave. I was obedient.