© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

We were sent to live with my father who lived in a roach infested apartment in south side of Providence. 

 

He was an alcoholic and a chain-smoker and a womanizer. 

He also had a reputation for messing with little girls at the bus stops. 

 

*

 

He raped me repeatedly. 

 

He told me he was trying to teach me something, to teach me how to be an adult. 

I was 13 at the time. 

 

It went on every night, except when I had my period, until I got to 9th grade. 

 

*

 

He would call me fat and tell me I was ugly. 

All these things to beat me down, things that I still struggle with today. 

 

*

 

He wouldn't let me play outside. 

I was not allowed to walk to the bus stop by myself. 

I felt trapped.

 

I hated my body; I hated everything about me. 

I took pills.  I did whatever I could to just end it. 

 

*

 

I was bullied at school. 

 

One day we had indoor recess. 

I was sitting, as usual, at the cafeteria by myself. 

Valena said, “Come here Candace,” and I stupidly went over there. 

And she said, we have to tell you something. 

And I said, “What?” 

And Shanté said, “About you having sex with your father.” 

I was crushed. 

I was like, how did they know? 

When I went into high school I had enough. 

I was full of so much anger and hatred.

 

He tried to come to me one day in my room and said, "I want to check if you're clean down there."

 

I lost whatever sense I had. 

 

I just started kicking and flailing my arms and screaming and told him to get away from me.

I ended up making contact with his face with my foot. 

He had this look of fear and shock in his face.

And he left the room.

 

*

 

I didn't care anymore about my life. 

 

I gave back whatever he gave. 

He yelled at me, and I yelled back.

 

He had this huge leash, and he was choking the dog. 

I said, 'What did he do that you have to choke him?" 

And he said, “None of your f-ing business.” 

And I said “It is my business.  He lives here.  He's our dog.” 

 

He takes the leash off the dog and he comes up to me. 

He's a foot away, and he has this wild look in his eyes. 

I said, “Do it.  Go ahead and do it.” 

 

He dropped the chain and he rushed out onto the porch.

 

*

 

There were some wonderful guidance counselors at my school. 

My last year of high school I revealed to them what was going on. 

 

I got accepted to Rhode Island College, and they called the house. 

They said, “She needs to go to school;  she has to work.” 

 

I had a job at the supermarket and a job at the school library. 

And my father would take my paychecks, the whole thing. 

 

I said Ok, I'm going to put in more hours and say I'm taking classes.

I would give him what he expected. 

The rest I put in the bank. 

In no time I had $6,000. 

 

I was able to run away. 

I had an apartment near the college.

Things didn't get any better in terms of relationships. 

I never wanted any sex or anything like that, because I thought it was gross.

 

But it found me. 

 

I was helping a guy who said he needed help moving.

He raped me in my bedroom.

I went to the doctor and he had given me chlamydia. 

 

I told the pastor. 

And the guy blamed me. 

They had a board meeting where they discussed this sexual act. 

In their minds I was just as guilty as he. 

 

I left the church. 

 

 

*

 

I chose from the bottom of the barrel. 

The people who were decent and good—I felt I was so dirty and I had been ruined that I would just dirty them and ruin them. 

 

That's when I ended up with this guy Erik. 

It was 4 years of hell.

 

*

 

There were times neighbors called the police, because they could hear me screaming.

He was scary. 

And he was a very thick dude, very strong. 

 

*

 

We'd had some argument and he cussed me out in the car. 

He had to pick something up. 

I drove away. 

 

He got home, and I was afraid.

 

He started pulling down the curtain shades and throwing them across the room. 

 

And then he beat me up, stripped off my clothes. 

He pinned me down on the bed, my arms and legs. 

I was completely naked. 

And I was crying, crying, crying. 

And the look in his eyes...I knew that he was going to kill me. 

 

The dog jumped on the bed. 

He made the dog lick my naked breast, which was humiliating for me. 

 

He picked up dirty underwear on the floor and he stuffed as much as he could in my mouth. 

I can remember just thinking, “This is it.  This is how I'm going to die.” 

He put his hands over my mouth with the dirty underwear in it.

And he started suffocating me, suffocating me. 

I started seeing stars. 

I was going in and out of consciousness. 

 

And I said in my mind, “Angels, God, just please, please let him release me, and I promise I will run and I will never come back.” 

And all of a sudden his eyes cleared. 

And he eased off me with a look of confusion.

 

I grabbed whatever I could grab, pulled it on, ran outside to my car. 

I called the police and I stayed in the car with the doors locked. 

But they didn't find him. 

He had run into the woods.

 

*

 

I had to get restraining orders, go to court. 

I had to deal with him breaking into my apartment and hiding in the loft. 

He ran up fines in my name, parking tickets, opened a credit card in my name. 

It was years. 

 

A neighbor saw him shimmy open the front window, and he got in the house. 

The police rang the doorbell and he opened the door. 

And they arrested him.

They charged him with breaking and entering. 

I moved again. 

 

I had ended up going with a guy who was a registered sex offender, and I didn't know. 

He forced me to have sex and then told me that I was causing him to sin.

 

*

 

I was done.

I became bitter and very angry. 

Anyone asked me out, and I had a word for them. 

 

I never thought I would have a family of my own. 

My biggest fear was that I would have kids and my husband would abuse my kids. 

And then I would go to jail because I would kill him. 

 

I spent a lot of time in reflection. 

I wrote a lot of poetry then. 

I have a big chest in the attic of all my journals. 

 

*

 

I had written a letter after I ran away saying I had forgiven him for all he had done. 

But by forgiving does not mean I want you in my life. 

I'm just forgiving you for the sake of myself.

 

If I weren't able to do that, I probably would not be married today.

I knew my husband already. 

I met him from workshops. 

I remember the first time I laid eyes on him, I was in my 3rd year teaching. 

This Irish guy from Providence.

And all I could think was Keanu Reeves. 

 

*

 

Before we got married, after he had proposed to me, I had written a poetry book. 

 

{The book included Candace’s abuse, and she gave her fiancé a copy}

 

“After you read it, tell me if you still want to marry me.” 

 

He came over and he said, “What happened to you is not your fault. It just makes you even more loveable because you've been hurt.  Now someone has to help you heal.” 

 

And he's been doing that for 11 years.

 

*

 

We funded our own wedding. 

It was magical. 

I never thought I even would be in a gown. 

And over 200 people there. 

It was beautiful.

 

*

 

Intimacy was very difficult. 

It took a lot of mind over body. 

I had to keep repeating, “This is Peter.  This is Peter.  This is Peter.”

 

I have to take sleeping pills, because I would have constant nightmares of my father. 

I have PTSD, acute anxiety and major depressive mood disorder. 

 

He helped me to get treatment for my symptoms which has been the best thing ever. 

 

*

 

I was afraid of having children.

And when we had the first one she was my world. 

 

And then we had a boy. 

 

When I found out we were having a boy, I cried on the table. 

He said, “What's wrong?”

And I said, “I don't think I can raise a boy.  I'm afraid.  I didn't think I could nurse them.” 

 

But when I held them everything went away, and there was this baby that needed me.

 

*

 

I took part in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

 

My daughter was with me. 

My husband participated. 

I was so proud of him. 

The men had to wear high heeled shoes, and he's 6' 2" with huge feet. 

He had these silver high heeled shoes.

 

I was very nervous because I had to give a speech at the statehouse about my experiences. 

 

Some people who I went to high school with were right there showing support. 

They said “Candace, we didn't even know.” 

 

This woman had come out from New Jersey. 

After I read my speech, she came to me and said, “This is my first public appearance.  I put everything in my car and I left my abuser.  And I came here and I hid out in different shelters.  Your speech was such an inspiration that I know that I can make it.”

 

I felt the more I talked the more I was healing myself.

 

 

 

-Candace