Brampton

The second leg of my Epic Adventure brought me to Brampton. What I thought would be an easy and uneventful segment turned into a difficult, life changing one.

I stand with my hands resting on the counter, staring at myself in the mirror. I look worn, like an eraser that has tried to rub out too many mistakes. In five seconds I’m going to have to go down stairs and tell my Aunty Ruth the truth. I’m not looking forward to it.

When families feud children can be subjected to the most elaborate lies. When I was a child I was lead to believe my Aunty Ruth didn’t like me because of what I’d done. It seemed like a reasonable claim. I’d encountered many skeptics in my young life.

I was picked on by children at school. They would over hear their parents discussing my situation at night.  I never knew when an insult would be hurled my way. I felt like Super Mario. One minute I’d be walking in a world full of magic and wonder and then a Koopa would come flying out of nowhere, causing me to flee or fight.

That morning, in my aunt’s living room, I ran into Bowser. Flipping through her wedding album I found him there, staring back at me through his aviator glasses.

“Who’s this,” I asked, though I knew the answer.

“That’s Beau,” my Aunty Ruth replied.

My heart began to race. It was difficult to breath.

“What wrong,” she asked.

“Nothing,” I lied. “I’m going to go up and take a shower now. I’ll be back in a while.”

***

Crying in front of the bathroom mirror, I’m furious with myself. I don’t have time for this. Not at the beginning of my two week odyssey.

“You stop crying,” I tell myself. “In two hours you’re going to leave for your Aunt Debbie’s house and you cannot arrive looking like some messed up, blotchy little creature. Further, did you come to Ontario in the name of truth or are you here to be a pansy ass? You go down there and tell your aunt what happened.”

I decide to pack my bags first. My Aunty Ruth has always been good to me but I’m not sure how she’ll react to the news. I want to be ready in case she wants me to leave.

My Nanny was married to Beau for a number of years. He wasn’t my mother’s biological father but she called him Dad and I called him Poppy. He was well loved by the family. When he and my Nanny divorced in the late eighties many were devastated by the news.

Walking down the stair toward the living room I think of the lyrics to an Ani Difranco song.

everything I do is judged

and they mostly get it wrong

but oh well

‘cuz the bathroom mirror has not budged

and the woman who lives there can tell

the truth from the stuff that they say

and she looks me in the eye

and says would you prefer the easy way?

no, well o.k. then

don’t cry

The issue had been biting me in the ass for years. In 2006 a college boyfriend used it against me. He said I had a choice. I could get back together with him or he’d tell my secret to the entire campus community. Holding my friend Dani’s hand in my room on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to take the hard road.

That night one of his friends approached me at the campus bar.

“I’ve been told you don’t like it in the ass,” he sneered. He was just a boy. I wondered if he understood he was using my sexual abuse to blackmail me back into an abusive relationship with my ex boyfriend.

The weight of his words made me weak in the knees. I didn’t expect such a malicious attack. I grabbed on to the bar to keep myself up, trying to show strength. My friend Dani flung a string of expletives at the boy then helped me outside. Sitting down on the stairs of the Arts and Administration Building, she handed me my first cigarette.

“This always calms me down but don’t get addicted.”

We stared up at the moon in silence. I broke into a coughing fit a moment later and decided cigarettes were not for me.

“Do you suppose the sexual abuse will always be something someone can use against me?” I asked.

“I want to believe the world is a better place than that,” she said. “But perhaps you can get help so you never have to tell another man that story.”

I agreed with her. I hated doing it. But when my relationships progressed to love I had to tell my boyfriends what they were up against. I never imagined one would use the information as a sword to cut me.

***

Sitting next to my Aunty Ruth in her home in Brampton I decide to take a stand. I open the wedding album and point to the picture of Beau.

“Can I tell you something?” I ask.

“You can tell me anything,” she says.

“This man here? This is a very, very bad man.”

Tears stream down my face despite my desire to remain calm and confident. I tell her what he did to me before the age of five. I tell her he’s a pedophile.

We sit in silence for a few minutes. Aunty Ruth looks as though the wind has been nocked out of her. Turning to her album, she pulls the picture out and tears it in half. She places the half containing her image back into the album and tears the rest of the picture into tiny pieces. As she tears Beau apart, little pieces of me fused back together.

“I believe you Sweet Pea,” she says. “And I am so sorry that happened to you.”

She has no idea how long I’ve waited to hear those words.

 ***

When I was ten years old I confessed to what Beau had done. Other girls came forward too. We gave our testimonies and Beau was sentences to two and a half years in jail. I didn’t know my Ontario family at the time but I was told they weren’t happy with me for what I’d done to their friend.

When I met up with my mother’s side of the family at my Great Grand Daddy’s funeral many years later I didn’t know if I’d be welcome. I was shocked by the number of hugs I received and taken aback by the kindness. My family didn’t seem angry with me which was confusing and unsettling.

That’s when I understood I’d need to return to Ontario one day to address the issue.

Sitting with my Aunty Ruth, my pedophile resting in a tiny pile of defeat on the couch, I cried tears of relief. My inner child, who endured years of torture at the hands of a beast was finally free. I confessed and was met with love and acceptance. One of the big issues I hoped to address over the course of my trip had been seen to.

***

A few years ago Oprah had a group of pedophiles on her show. She wanted them to explain themselves. During the interview one said something that angered me to my core. He said he killed the person his victim could have become. He damaged her in ways she’d never come back from.

“Don’t flatter yourself asshole!” I screamed at the television. Shaking with anger, I sat down and composed the following poem:

You Cannot Have Me

Insanity

Insecurities of the highest order

You cannot have me

I am bigger than you

And stronger than you expected

Despite your best attempts

To defeat me

And I will be what I was to be

What I am

Before hands touched me

Before words cut me

Before everything was taken

And nothing was left

I am

Sturdy as though everything was solid

Complete as if nothing were broken

Pure, free, and vivacious

As the day I was born

I am not defaced

I am not tarnished

You have not killed

Anyone I am or should have been

I am who I am

Who I was always meant to be

And you cannot have me

My name is Terra Bruhm. I was sexually abused when I was a child and I am no longer afraid to tell you that.

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13 Comments on “Brampton

  1. Terra you were always loved by us ,, . Even though we had not seen you for all those’s years..Sweet Pea keep your chin up … You are a STRONG woman !!! ❤

  2. Terra, I’m sorry this happened to you. It was cruel and unfair. The mom in me wants to hold your little girl close and keep her safe. The decisions made by others early in our lives may influence our story, but we are the authors. Keeping writing (righting), my friend.

  3. Terra, I cannot express how much admiration I feel for you. I am only sorry that we did not meet earlier in our lives. Continue your journey. Your loved ones will still be waiting for you.

  4. My dear sweet Terra, my heart is breaking… I had no idea what you had endured.

    I could not be more proud of the strong and caring woman you have become.

    I am just sad that we haven’t had the chance to get to know one another better.

    I love you Terra, and am so happy that I will have the opportunity to give you a big hug next weekend!

    Melanie

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  5. Oh Terra, I am a mess, having just read your latest chapter. You are such a strong woman to carry on with this journey and to write about it. I have nothing but admiration and support for you my girl.
    Love and lots of hugs
    Mumzy

  6. I’m so sorry this happened to you Terra. I wish there is something I could have done.

    Sending you hugs and hoping this journey helps to take away some of the demons from the past.

  7. Honey, I am heart broken, I never knew all this, I always thought I was taking care of you, I Guess not good enough, how can I face you now,? I am so ashamed to find out all this, I feel i am part to blame, and wish I had of been told long before this. Please forgive me for not taken better care of you than I did,I don’t know how I can ever face you again. I love you very much, and I don’t know how to fix this. Wish I could hold you right now.
    Love always
    Nanny & Grandpy
    xoxox

  8. Dear Terra: You are a beautiful young woman. Uncle Max and I were shocked to read about this happening to you. You are loved by us more than words can say and always will be. God loves you as well and has given you the strength, power, and wisdom to share this with us all. You have done nothing wrong and you are precious in His sight. He has brought to you a handsome loving and caring husband in John who cherishes you more than anything in this world. So go forth with peace knowing that you are loved by us all. God will continue to Bless you so walk tall keep your head up and enjoy life. We miss you and love you very much. Love and prayers always Aunt Margaret and Uncle Max

  9. Terra, I wish I could give you a big hug right now. Quite often you are in my thoughts as I think of the sweet, kind, loving girl who was often at our house having fun with her friends.

  10. Care bear, I am so proud of you. For doing this for those who are not strong enough to do it for themselves. For doing this for those who wouldn’t know where to start and for doing this for those who we pray this kind of thing never happens to! My dear wife, you are amazing. Never forget that and never give this up! Love very much, the
    3rd wife.

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