I was 11 years old when I was assaulted by a family "friend" His wife taught me in church and became like a grandmother to me since one lived in another state and the other had recently passed away, Okay, back to the story.
It was an ordinary Sunday. My sister and I went to a dog beach with him and his wife. He had been acting weird towards my sister, who was 9 at the time, and I told him to back off or I would hit him with my water bottle. I don't really know how to describe his behavior towards her, but it just seemed off. He just laughed it off and ignored me. That caused my big sister instincts to kick in and I followed through my threat and hit him in the face with my water bottle (my heart is racing and hands shaking as I write this) I didn't even think about how he would act, I just knew my sister was in danger and I had to help.
He was momentarily shocked I followed through with my threat, since i was this puny 11 year old who barely weighed 80 pounds. It didn't take him long to react and next thing I know I am shoved to the ground, one hand on my back and the other rubbing my face in the sand. I was lucky I didn't break a bone or get a concussion. Now mind you, he weighed over three times more than me, making it impossible to fight back, although you can bet I tried. I don't know how long he held me down, it seemed like an eternity but when he finally got up I could see, much to my satisfaction, a black eye was forming on his face, compliments of my water bottle. He yelled "You're not allowed back in my car or house until this" pointing to the black eye "heals" I was terrified he would leave me and my sister stranded but I was also terrified of the long car ride back home. His wife helped me get up and wash some of the sand off before getting in their car to go back to my house.
That was the longest car ride I have ever taken, nobody saying a word. He pulled in front of my house and told us to get out. His wife got out with us to stay with us until my parents got home. But I didn't have a house key and we were forced to stay in the family van until my parents returned. We waited for over an hour, covered in sand and I had to go to the bathroom so bad I finally went over to the neighbors house to use the restroom. They asked if I was okay because I was caked in sand and I lied that I was fine. I wanted to tell them and cry, but my sister was still with me and I felt I needed to be strong for her. Plus, I didn't know them that well and was pretty sure this wasn't the best time to get acquainted.
When my parents finally got home, I went straight to the shower. I looked in the mirror and saw to giant hand prints on my back. I cried in the shower and my mom heard and came in. Horrified with what she saw, she helped me clean up the rest of the way. I told her the story and she told my dad. I have never seen him more furious. He got in the car and drove straight to his house. I don't know what happened after that, the rest of the night was a blur. When I was finally able to get to bed all I wanted to do was sleep. But my mind had different ideas deciding instead to play it over and over in my head, all night.
As time passed, everyone around me thought since "time heals all wounds," I was fine. But how long do those wounds take to heal, and is the damage ever really gone? My wounds hadn't healed but rather than worry my parents, I buried my pain beneath a smile and a quirky personality. I felt isolated, without anyone to talk to about what happened. I couldn't talk to my sister, thought it might upset her. My best friend isn't the type of person who would be comfortable talking about this, I didn't talk to my parents because I didn't want to be told that I had to forgive him and "the only one I'm hurting is myself" So I stayed silent, alone and trying to forget the unforgettable. Spoiler alert, my attempts to forget made it worse, and I became trapped in. For years I had regular nightmares about the incident and still can't stand the sight of sand or the beach. If I close my eyes, I can still see the sand and ice plant in front of me. Even now, years later, I still get nightmare every few months. I don't know I they will ever go away.
My family is very religious and felt that forgiveness was a huge thing. So I felt pressured to forgive him before I was able to come to terms with the event. Maybe if I had time to process, I wouldn't still have nightmares of that event. Maybe my heart wouldn't start racing and hands start shaking if I was allowed to resent him. But I don't know. Deep down, I haven't forgiven him, nor have I forgotten. I've been told far too frequently that by not forgiving him, the only person I'm hurting is myself, but is that true? Not forgiving him isn't going to change his life, but forgiving too quickly can hinder your recovery, at least in my case. Do I have to forgive? No. Does it make me a bad person if I don't? That is an answer I have yet to find
I have great admiration for those who have found it in them to forgive people who have done worse to them. Someday I may reach the point of forgiveness and letting the pent up anger inside me vanish. I do hope to reach that point one day, but not today, and that's okay. If you have been hurt, nobody can dictate how you feel and process it. The healing process is all about you and finding peace within yourself regardless of the past.
One final thought about the situation. Insensitive people have asked if I regret anything from the situation or would change something, besides not going. My answer is the same each time: No. I don't regret anything I did and wouldn't change my actions. The alternative was not acting and I would have never been able to live with myself if something had happened to my sister. Anything I have gone through because of this is better than living with myself, knowing I could have helped her and I didn't. She stayed safe and that was all that really mattered.