In my lifetime, I have been sexually assaulted by three men. These males were not the 'feel you up' horseplay of healthy males with consenting girls of their own ages. I will write briefly about my first assault, and about the third time. The second one will take some time to share. It will be penned in the future.
My first experience was just prior to the age of five. It was my late uncle John Fiero. I have since spit on his grave. As a young child, I ran up the stairs to my mother from my aunt and uncle's apartment, 'Uncle Johnny hurt me down there.' My aunt was in the house when he did this to me. When I ran out screaming and crying, all she said was, "What did you do to her?"
The details are not pleasant, and he hurt and frightened me as a mere child. He had a terrifying and shocking method. An aside and warning: To the men who harm children, we really do not forget.
My mother yelled at my father when he came home that day. My uncle, who was married to my father's sister never touched me again. I talked to a therapist about this in my late forties. In my earlier years, I had shared this with friends and family but never with a therapist beforehand. I initially said to the therapist, "My uncle molested me." I knew I had sanitized my abuse, because this therapist who was an ex-nun said, "Fran, he finger-raped you, he didn't just molest you." I was shocked at her choice of words, the real truth. I remember the internal and sudden shudder with her words... I shook like a shutter loose in the wind. Women and men have a tendency to sanitize their sexual attacks, and the abuses done to them by others. I was no exception. We must not do this. This uncle went on to harm many other children from what I have been told.
I had been thinking about writing this 3rd assault for years. Recently, other than Bill Cosby, two other thoughts finally pushed me to pen this: These commercials where co-workers are bringing in coffee for others; And an author's essay, who is also a mother of a young girl who is starting to blossom in to her teen-hood. The mother wrote of the fear she had of her daughter being used by boys or men sexually. The mother fears she will not be there to protect her daughter from the perversity in this world before the girl can learn the nuances of men. It was a powerful and moving essay from a mother who loves her children, and understands the real world.
I totally comprehend why the women who were allegedly (come on now) raped by Bill Cosby after he drugged them, did not come forward or even know to come forward. I get that some did not immediately put the pieces together on their own rape. Why? Because it happened to me, not once but twice, maybe even a third time. How can that be? It can be.
I remember the day another female employee ran across upper Warren St, in Hudson, New York. "Fran, I heard you were sick, too? Did the doctor give you any answers?" We were both desperate for answers to our illness. I had gone to several doctors by this time. Joann had all the odd symptoms I had been suffering through. Dizziness, nausea, a startle reaction to nearly everything, forgetting things, a dragging fatigue. We were at a medical loss, as were our doctors. We felt sick all over. Then I suddenly developed a pneumonia, and a fatigue so great that my brain was in a near fog. Neither of us could barely drive clients after waking on more than one occasion at the residences were we worked at the time.
I thought I caught a bad and sudden flu. The first time I had this 'flu' I woke at a residence where I worked for over 60 hours a week, with two twenty-four hour blocks of overnight shifts as part of my workload. I always slept in my clothes in case there were any medical or other issues in the night with the developmentally disabled clients. Only one person slept overnight, all other staff left.
This particular morning, I woke well beyond head-hanging groggy, with a severe headache. My eyes could barely focus or stay open. I felt sick to my stomach. I had the kind of headache that made you wobble when you walked. I was unsteady as I opened the door to the office, and made my way across a dining area to the staff's small bathroom. It was not until I pulled my underwear down to sit on the toilet that I saw I was naked except for my underwear. Totally baffled, I shook my head to clear what I thought was the cobwebs of sleep. I was shocked at my state of undress. What the hell did I do in my sleep, was all I thought.
I am an exacting one when I dress, so I was baffled: Why was I naked? Why was my underwear not only inside out, but on backwards? I can only say that my eyes took my undress in, but my brain did not make any sense of it. I had to get dress, make sure clients had their meals, and drive them to their destination. I drove them over twenty-miles feeling somewhere between sick as a dog, and drunk. I was so ill by the time I dropped them off that I had to ask the main office staff to drive the van and me back to the residence. I got in my car and left work for the remainder of my work week.
I had no reason to believe anything untoward happened. I thought I must have spiked a fever and perhaps undressed in my own sleep. I did remember telling a staff the night before, rather suddenly, that I had to lie down. It came on like lightening. I literally leap from my desk and headed the few feet over to the single bed the staff used. I was nearly walking on my knees when I hit the bed. It was the male co-worker who brought me the coffee, and the one in the room with me, as I crashed down. As he closed my office door, the last words I heard was his: "Go to sleep, I'll take care of everything.' Bam, I was gone until the next morning when the alarm went off as usual.
Just shortly after this man (co-worker) came to work the previous evening, he ever so sweetly handed me a coffee he had bought on the way to work. I was thrilled to be sipping fresh coffee with cream and sugar this night, as I sat at the desk doing the end of week paperwork that could take me to 10 pm to finish. This male co-worker was a charmer, kind, attentive and intelligent. I wondered more than once why he choose this work as he often went on about another business he had. But as long as he did well by the clients, I didn't probe in to his motives. Over a few short months of his employment he started to share more intimate details with me well before this night. He had a young girl on the side. I politely listened to his tales. He was married. Once I had to ask him to back up, he had his groin pressed to my back shoulder as I was at my desk. He was looking at my paperwork. He was audacious and I told him to watch it.
As I drank the coffee on that night, I quickly said to him as he stood in the office, "Oh my God, I have to lay down. I think I'm going to crash. I have to lay down!" I was urgent. The next thing I knew I was waking up and found myself in my underwear. I was so out of it, and I know this because I never, in a million years, would have walked naked from the office across the dinning area for fear a client would be up. It just wasn't me.
He came again with coffee at another residence where I was respite late one night. He was not on duty. The coffee was appreciated. I had no reason to believe he was anything but kind and thoughtful. He said he would let himself out as I did my paperwork at the desk. All the clients were in bed. The next thing I knew it was early morning, I was waking up on my side on a day bed in the office, not under any sheets but a cover over me. What woke me was excruciating anal pain. I rolled side to side, so groggy as I felt one painful spasm after another. I was dressed, but my pants were undone. I had no memory of even laying down that night. And again, I thought it was one more weird symptom that my doctor will not be able to help me with if I went in to see him. I never put two and two together. And I think that is what happens when we are in what we feel is trusting situations. This is human nature to think this way.
Shortly after this, the pneumonia flared again and I took a medical leave for three months. I was so ill, I never returned. And I had no idea why I was suddenly taken from what was top excellent health to hell.
I often think of Joann, and wonder if she ever had answers. I wish she was here today so we could share notes. I understand she passed away. She gave me a healthy cookbook, a vegetarian one when I left work for good. We were both so ill. She was younger than I was.
It took me years to figure out what really happened, to put the warped, odd pieces together. But how can I ever prove what happened to me, and maybe to Joann. That is where I can relate to the women (allegedly) raped by Cosby. We put our trust out there. Why would we not? Especially with a co-worker. It was not a bar, or some raving party this happened at... it was at work. There was opportunity and he took it. I think every county in America has a man or two or three like this lurking about as charming males.
So I warn women and men too. It is not always a drug in alcohol. It can be a hot coffee, ice-cold lemonade, chocolate milk, or hot cocoa. It's ashame my trust is gone. And I don't blame that author/mother who worries about her young daughter. There is a lot of ugly out there.
"Most victims don't remember being drugged or assaulted." www.womenshealth.gov