We arrived in Stockton, CA in 1984. I was 15yrs old. My StepFather had been transferred again. I was to start a new life. The conflicts began almost immediately. California was like a new world to a weird NW girl. We stayed at The Hilton hotel for a couple of weeks until we could find a house. I was bored. I don’t remember the excuse I used to get out or the time of day it was as I roamed the halls of the grand hotel just wasting time. I saw a man and went from zero to a complete fantasy of him falling madly in love with me in my brain. Looking back, I know now that he was the first “bad guy” I was attracted to. I changed into my swim suit and headed for the pool hoping to see him. I did. He told me his room number and invited me to come up. I don’t know what I was thinking would happen. Honestly, it was before I knew what it meant when a man invites you to his hotel room. I walked in thinking I would finally be having adult conversation and be a grown up. Maybe he would marry me. I hope my StepFather would like him…..
I was in his room for only a few mins when he came out of the bathroom wearing only a towel. At first I thought he had his swim trunks on under it. I asked if he was ready for the pool. He said the pool was fun but he wanted to get to know me first. I was still clueless. I was thinking he was paying attention to me and this is must be what adults do. He laid down on the bed and through the towel back. I was 15yrs old alone in a hotel room with an adult (I’m guessing 30’s) male who had just exposed himself and was laying on a bed. I moved like a flash towards the door. He didn’t move. I opened the door, yelled something about seeing women as a piece of meat and ran down the hall. I ran and ran without looking back. I told no one. The next day I was in the kids play area playing with some younger kids who were also staying at the hotel. I looked up to the floors above and saw him standing at a rail, pointing down to me and talking to another man. I again took off running. I stayed in our room unless my Mom or Stepfather was with me for the rest of our stay. Every time we left the room I was terrified I would see him and he would tell my parents what a bad slutty little girl I had been. I immediately blamed myself and feared I would be in trouble. Again, it never occurred to me that he was in the wrong and could have gone to jail.
A few weeks later we moved into a duplex in the nicer neighborhood of Stockton. The distinction is important because what I was about to find out is that California gangs are far more real and serious than anything we had ever seen in Portland, OR. My Mother took me to tour the school that our home had recently been reassigned to. We drove south and I was walked through the halls of a high school that felt like I was being walked straight into hell. We drove away and I told my Mother if she enrolled me in that school I would not go. She told me it would never happen. The city had just voted to start trying a “busing” program to try to integrate the students. Basically they were busing kids from both side of the tracks to the side they did not live on. I realize how it sounds now. But at the time I was truly terrified.
My Mom found and enrolled me into a private Christian school. The school required that we attend church. This is when I heard things like “Jesus, Atheist and sinner” for the first time. I showed up in my treasured black leather biker jacket with my Ozzy pins and my black eye liner thickly in place. I was immediately advised of the dress code and many other rules. The next five years were a nightmare. Now I had it in my head that I was evil and going to hell for my sins. Back and forth. Up and down I went. I would pray and pray and pray. I went to 6AM prayer meetings, attended church three days a week, read the bible until I had it almost memorized and sang my heart out to the beautiful songs of worship I learned. Then I would “rebel” as we called it in our youth group. Rebelling was when we would go party and act like normal teens. I became a master at hiding my rebellion and sins. My friends and I would drink, smoke weed and party like teens do. Then go to church or school and act like the perfect Christians. We had it down to a science. We had codes and always backed each other up when questioned by adults. We had changes of clothes, condoms, cigarettes and more stashed in the trunks of our cars. We knew exactly where we could change and still make it to our boyfriends and back on our lunch hour or after school. By my Senior year I was dating a guy who played the same game but was a year ahead of me. He went to a public high school but lived close to me. I met him while working after school at Burger King. He graduated and went to San Jose State on a full basketball scholarship. He was a talk gorgeous dark black drink of delicious and the first “player” I gave my teenage heart to. He was young and so was I. He never hit me, never treated me like anything less than a queen when I was with him. It was just that I had no idea what a player was and how much he played lol lol. I have no anger for him. He probably spared me a great deal by being my “boyfriend.” I sat at home waiting for him and writing him letters a lot. I drove to San Jose to see him twice and my parents never knew. I thought I was in love. I was just a seventeen year old very confused and desperate for love young lady.
I know that I was a difficult teen. I had a lot of emotional problems due to the molestation and rape. But I have to be honest and tell you that my StepFather also contributed greatly to my PTSD. Had I not been molested and raped his constant teasing and putting my Mom and I down for being women may not have had such an effect on me. But my reality is that I can still hear him telling me I am fat, ugly, stupid and that someday he will have to pay someone to marry me because no one will ever want me. So while I remember trying to disappear and be quiet, my Mom remembers constant battles. I agree that I was always in trouble. I just don’t agree that I deserved it. The night before I graduated from high school my Mother told me I had to leave her home because I was ruining her marriage. I was standing in the guest room ironing the silk gown / robe thing that goes over your clothes. She just walked into the room and said “you have 30 days to be out of my home because you are destroying my marriage” and walked out. I knew she was serious because when I was about ten years old and was in trouble for something she had told at me not to ever make her choose between me and her husband because she would choose him. A sentence she has stood by and I would like to slap her for. I looked at my son years later at ten years old and shook my head remembering that day unable to fathom laying some shit like that on him.
I tried to find a job and a friend who would let me move in with them. Three days before my deadline my Father drove down from Oregon with a friend to retrieve me and my possessions. My Mother did nothing to help me. She didn’t help me pack, teach me how to pack anything or offer any guidance. Every night I was quietly as possible putting my clothes and most prized possessions in boxes I got from grocery stores or garbage bags. As my Father and his friend loaded my things into his truck I was excited. I was leaving Cali and going back to Oregon to live with my Father. I was 18 and had a high school diploma. My Mother sat in the living room and watched TV. She had to be hurting but she choose to express it in anger. When we I told her we were done she looked at my Father and said “Well I guess I wont tell you all her problems, I’ll just let you discover for yourself.” Later as we drove down the road I asked my Father what she meant by that. He said he didn’t know and asked what I thought she meant. I remember saying that I didn’t think I was that bad and that I didn’t think it was nice of her to say that. I had been at my Fathers home for a week when he came to me and told me that the therapist he and my StepMom had been seeing had recommended one for me to see. I agreed to go.
“Something really really really bad happened to me when I was little….” This was the way I started the answer to the request from my new therapist to tell him my life story up to this point. I then proceeding to tell him about what a horrible person I was and how I had been so bad to have sex in high school and so on. I told him about the church and how now there were demons after me because I was a sinner. I finished my story just before the hour was over. “What was the really really really bad thing that happened when you were little?” he asked. I told him I was raped but that I was sure I had already given that to God and it was not a problem anymore. He suggested we start there to be sure and I agreed because he was the doctor and frankly I was on an upswing from having finally moved into my Dads home.
Two months later the therapy he started with me would trigger a flood gate of memories and I would experience my first flashbacks. I began to unravel and became suicidal. I look back and wonder if I really wanted to die or if I was trying to express the level of pain that was inside me. Either way, my Father, StepMother and I made the decision that I needed more intense therapy and at the prompting of my therapist I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I remained there for two months. I have gone back and forth regarding the treatment I received. If you watch the movie “Girl Interrupted” you will see almost exactly what it was like except it was the late 80’s rather than the 60’s. That movie was spot on. I had a completely enmeshed and inappropriate relationship with a fellow female patient. Not sexual at all. I wanted to protect her from being further abused. She lied and manipulated me. I was older. I was blamed for everything.
When I left the hospital I think I might have been somewhat worse off mentally but I was alive and that was a good thing. I just still didn’t fully believe it myself. I was 18 and all I wanted was to be left alone. I wanted a man, a job and to be loved. I wanted the fantasy all American life. I wanted to just be normal.