Shared Stories

“I’m writing this story in the hopes that I can help save somebody 30 years to understand what I finally understand.”

By Dawn Spellman 

November 25, 2016

I’m writing this story in the hopes that I can help save somebody 30 years to understand what I finally understand.   I pray for each and everyone of you that are on this site because I know the pain you’re in, that few can relate to unless you’ve been through it. I consider myself lucky that it only happened one time to me, and that I had my mother and step-dad to support me.

I was a teenager, I was 16, I was partying a lot with my friends, ditching high school and getting in a lot of trouble. I didn’t realize that this was the criteria that he was already looking for. I didn’t know that this is typical criteria for what a Predator looks for because we wouldn’t be considered credible. I hung around with a bunch of guys, party, hiked, went off roading, they had plenty of chances to take advantage of me but never did. And he was my favorite uncle, and I trusted him. I didn’t even think twice about him taking me out to dinner and buying me drinks. It didn’t even strike me as odd or out of the ordinary, when he asked if I wanted to go to the teepee hotel to watch pornos, because he was my favorite uncle since I was little and I assumed I would be safe like I was with my friends. I didn’t worry about it when he kept giving me wine coolers. I didn’t worry about it when he laid on the bed next to me because there was no chairs to sit on to watch the movie. We were relaxed and comfortable. I didn’t see him put anything in my drink, I didn’t see any pills, I didn’t see anything. And when he tried to touch me sexually, I said no. I assumed I would be safe and he would respect my wishes. I was used to men making advances on me, but I was also used to people respecting me and my wishes. I assumed he understood that I wasn’t interested in sex, and would leave me alone, and didn’t think about it anymore when he gave me another wine cooler. But what happened next, is that I couldn’t move. So even though I told him “no” I couldn’t move and he did whatever he wanted with me. All I could do was lay there. And that’s what I did. He dropped me off, and and I just sat and petted my dog. I didn’t tell anybody except my 2 best friends. But, like all teenagers partying, we all knew what happens when you’re partying and drinking, but because my friends had always respected my boundaries, I didn’t expect my safe, favorite uncle not to respect me.

I told 2 people, my 2 best friends. My mother found out 6 months later. She filed police reports, my step dad wanted to kill him, but we had to explain to him that him being in prison wasn’t going to help anybody. I’m very grateful for the support system I had with my best friends, Mom and step-dad. I had to go to the police station and tell them everything that happened. The police were very kind, they wrote everything down and put it in the files. I had to go to the hospital and do a rape kit. The nurses weren’t as kind, because it was 6 months to a year after the incident, they insinuated that they didn’t believe me. My father reprimanded me that I shouldn’t have been drinking.

But what happened afterwards and for years to come, hurt more than my uncle ever could have. My grandmother and my great uncle kept coming by the house and screaming at myself and my mother that if the charges weren’t dropped, they would go to court and testify against me of what a slut I was.

My uncle ran away from the law and went into hiding for 5 years. I knew he was still around. I made sure I always knew where he was so I didn’t run into him. By the time they caught him I was 21, married, pregnant, living in another state, when we started receiving phone calls from him from jail asking to drop charges, I knew that he was suffering.

The law prosecutes perpetrators of this crime because a lot of times the family doesn’t support the victim, the victims can’t face the perpetrators anymore, and the families don’t support the perpetrators being convicted. So when the police called me and asked what I wanted to do, I asked not to testify. I knew what was going to happen if I went to court. I had already listened to my family say that they would testify against me in court and I couldn’t handle revisiting all of the old memories again.

My family tried to pretend that nothing had happened, they invited my children and I to all the family functions, and expected me to pretend that everything was okay. My family wouldn’t stay away from him so that I could visit them. They wanted me to go to the same functions as the man that raped me, and I couldn’t. My children grew up with only a few relatives that I could trust because I knew I couldn’t trust the rest of my family to keep my kids safe. My family hadn’t kept me safe or cared about my feelings. And they knew of the situation and if it had been up to them, we all would have pretended for the rest of our lives that everything was okay, but my life has been changed for forever.

The holidays hurt the most, when everybody was happy and with their family, and I couldn’t be. He was my favorite uncle, the man I trusted, the man I assumed would respect my boundaries and wishes more than anybody else because he loves me, and my family included him in everything and expected me to pretend everything was okay.

For years and years I went to counseling, everybody kept saying it wasn’t my fault but I didn’t believe them. I didn’t understand why my family turned on me, and even though I research it , I still don’t understand why families take his side and are against us. I’m just glad that I don’t have to pretend anymore that everything’s okay because I know that my life will never be the same.

The part I want to share is the following:

I didn’t understand at the time that I fit all the perfect criterias for what he was looking for. That I partied, had bad judgment, was a little naïve, and that’s what he was looking for. He told everybody that I wanted to have sex, I didn’t know at the time that that is how a perpetrator sees it, that the woman that they victimize wants their advances. He truly believes it was my fault , that a friendly smile meant that the women or child wants to have sex with them or worse. My favorite uncle even told me that it was because of a blouse that I wore on picture day for high school, that’s when he first was attracted to me.

Even today, my family still gets upset when I bring things up. They would like to pretend it never happened even though it changed my life forever. I choose not to pretend anymore that everything’s okay and have tried to live by that motto for the rest of my life. It is been hard not to be angry about my life, to choose to still trust people even though I know that not everybody is trustworthy. I chose to believe people are good, even though I know not everyone is.

If I can just help one person save years of guilt, because I wasted 30 years not understanding that what happened really wasn’t my fault, that in his mind- my smile at him, and me being friendly suggested that I wanted to have sex, and that he was looking for a person in my description: young, naïve, trusting, drinking, assuming he would respect my boundaries. if I had understood that it is so typical for families to support the perpetrator, and that none of what happened was my fault, if I can help somebody understand all this and shave off 30 years of blaming themselves and believing it’s her fault, then I believe publicly printing this is worthwhile. If I can help one person to understand all this, and ease some of the pain, I want to.

To talk about the all the incidents aren’t easy. Its been 30 years. I’m healed, but it’s the holidays again, and it still hurts. The memories come back of all the holidays that I spent by myself, hurting, because I wanted a family that acknowledged what my uncle had done, not trying to pretend that everything was okay.

It was reading on the “NotGuilty” website of other people’s stories of how their families did the same to them and how their loved ones head treated them, that helped me to understand that it really wasn’t my fault. It took me 30 years to understand that I was “not guilty”. That I was a typical scenario of rape.

I finally understand and believe what my counselors and loved ones had been saying, that “I’m not guilty”. I  pray that by publishing my story, it will touch others and save someone 30 years by understanding that you’re really not guilty. He knew what he was going to do to you before he did it.

Dawn Spellman

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