My Harvey

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic


Almost everybody has a Harvey in their lives. This is the story of mine.

Submitted: February 06, 2018

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Submitted: February 06, 2018

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I was on the phone with my mom just now. She said she misses me terribly. It’s been four long months since we last saw each other. I poured my heart out to her during that last visit knowing I would be breaking hers. I was as honest as I’ve ever been, as I will be now.

Writing has always been my escape route, but it has been incredibly challenging escaping my own story over the years. 

I’ve placed a mirror next to the computer to remind myself that I’m still here, that this is me, writing my truth in the hope that through words will come healing.

The last couple of months I’ve been reading all these stories about sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood. I’ve dreamed about Harvey Weinstein. I don’t work in Hollywood, I’m not American, my native language isn’t english and my Harvey isn’t famous.

I’ve chosen to write my story in english because it helps. I tried writing this in my native language and it takes a toll. I get more emotional. The use of another language is my crutch. The anonymity is meant to protect my family, myself, and more than anything, our secret.

My Harvey is my older brother. 

...

Writing that last line was hard for me. I’m filled with fear and sadness. It’s scary to have the secret out there. The sadness I wonder if will ever leave me, but it has always helped me acknowledge the happy moments.

I was probably 5 or 6 years old the first time I noticed something wasn’t right. I remember my pajamas and my little belly that seemed to be always full. I was wearing a short and shirt with some sort of flowery design in light blue, pink and white. My mom used to tell me I had to wear pajamas with no underwear, it had something to do with the skin breathing overnight.

My younger brother was sitting on the floor, laying his back against my parents bed, hypnotized by the TV. I was laying face down at the end of the bed, dozing off. My older brother walked in. He must have been 8 or 9. He laid on top of me. He was so heavy I couldn’t move. He pressed his penis against my short as if he was trying to place the tyre of a bicycle in a bicycle rack. I felt so powerless. I didn’t even understand what was going on, but I couldn’t properly breath as he landed so heavily over me. I must have complained because my little brother turned around and said something that made him leave. I was paralyzed, scared and confused.

Sadly, this wasn’t the first time I would meet my Harvey, or any of the other Harveys. I think if none of the things that followed would have happened, I would’ve forgotten all about those scary minutes laying on my parents bed.

....

My older brother was always special. As a kid he wouldn’t do well in school, he got in fights and he always needed private tutoring. 

As he grew up things escalated. He would get drunk, use drugs, leave a guy in the hospital unconscious after a fight, get in various car accidents, get arrested for possession and so on. 

He was like a ticking bomb. Every two weeks something terrible would happen. I spent many years trying to convince my parents that he was crazy, that a regular therapist wasn’t enough, that he needed to be medicated.

It’s hard for parents sometimes to face reality. Eventually, after many many years, he was committed to a psychiatric facility and diagnosed with a personality disorder. He only stayed there for two years.

I think I always wanted my brother to get help because I naively believed he would stop harassing me if he did.

….

I grew up in a small town, outside the city in the early 80’s. The street used to be a safe place for kids to run and play. I was visiting my best friend. Her grandmother was taking care of us. We were riding a bike from one end of the street to the other, taking turns. The bike still had learning wheels. When I got to the corner, I turned around to ride back. Across the street was an abandoned fabric. A man leaned against one of the brick walls. He was looking at me with the strangest look. I hadn’t seen that look before. I noticed something in one of his hands. He seemed to have a very big thumb and he was shaking it and looking at me. He wanted me to watch and cross the street towards him. He kept inviting me over with his free hand. I rode off scared and told my friend’s grandma.

Soon after that my parents arrived and a police car was patrolling the streets. I knew something bad or dangerous had happened, but was unable to understand what. Was this man a thief? All I knew at the time that was bad and could happen in the world was a robbery. 

My mom explained that I shouldn’t speak to strangers and that no man should undress in front of me. She said, “if this ever happens to you again, start screaming, call my name”.

I understood it wasn’t a robbery.

….

Some time went by. I don’t remember how long as I was young. I must have been 7 already. My best friend and I were together playing, as usual. This time we were outside my neighbour’s house, with some puppies. It was a beautiful afternoon and we were so happy we had like seven puppies to play with. Our parents must have been having coffee inside or something. A man passed by on a bike. As soon as we locked eyes, I knew. He had that same strange look as the last guy. But he kept going, he didn’t stop. 

I told my friend I didn’t like the man on the bike and wanted to go home. We started grabbing all these puppies with our hands, but there were too many to carry all together back to my house and I didn’t want to leave them behind.

The man on the bike must have done a tour around the block as he came back. He got off his bike, took his penis out and started masturbating. I kept trying to scream and call my mom, but my voice barely came out of my mouth. All I could mumble was “mom...mom... puppies need milk”. My friend said nothing, it was her first time seeing this.

We made it home and I didn’t get a chance to explain much. My mom saw our faces and started screaming. My dad runned out of the house looking for this guy, he seemed furious. The police came and did the same thing as the last time, but they didn’t find him.

That second time I felt I’d learned. First, I learned that I could recognize a Harvey look. And second, I learned that even if I did, it still scared and paralyzed me. 

I started having nightmares. Bad things would happen in my dreams and I wouldn’t be able to scream or cry for help. Every time, my voice would disappear, no matter how hard I tried. I had become Ariel, the little mermaid. My voice was gone. The Harveys of the world had taken it.

….

My older brother, lets call him Harvey, seemed envious of me as we were growing up. I was a better student and never caused trouble. But, at the same time, he was proud of me. He was incredibly possessive and kept trying to protect me from everyone. He once referred to me as the white angel. He was the black and my younger brother was the grey. 

Harvey was always popular among friends and girls. I was 9 and girls that were 11 and 12 befriended me to get closer to him. Some of these friends started wearing bras, years before me, given our age difference.

We’d just gotten back from school. Harvey and his best friend were hanging out in the kitchen, gossiping and whispering. I was looking for some juice in the fridge when I noticed they were both staring at me, more specifically at my barely see through school shirt. 

All of a sudden Harvey comes over, pulls open the second button of my shirt, as the first was open, and sticks his head inside. Turns around and laughs saying “it’s not a bra, it’s a tank top”. I was paralyzed again. Speechless. My face was red and my eyes slightly filled with tears. Harvey’s best friend was looking at me as my brother continued to laugh. He apologized. My brother didn’t.

I started fearing growing up and becoming a woman. I thought having breasts would attract unwanted attention.

….

When we moved to the city Harvey got much worse. Everyone got much worse actually. My grandfather on my mother’s side had cancer, her brother had aids, my father was having financial issues. My mom seemed desperate and depressed. 

Don’t get me wrong, we were never poor. I never lacked for anything. Many people assume this kind of things only happen in families with no resources or education. I believe this sadly happens everywhere, it's just better hidden in families that have an image to look after and a knack for denial. 

Harvey would get in trouble all the time. He had always been a difficult kid, but adolescence was affecting him very badly. Almost every day my mom would start the day screaming at him and end it crying, exhausted.

My father was gone most of the time as he had to travel for work. 

Harvey started proclaiming himself as the man of the house. I was a pre-teen and missed my old friends. Nobody was happy and Harvey turned his attention back to me.
That is when the real nightmare began.

….

I must have been 10 or 11 years old. I hadn’t developed yet, but I’d started growing a little bit of pubic hair. Didn’t even had a hint of boobs growing. I was so awkward and embarrassed of my body. I was in that age were you look completely shapeless. I thought I looked like Humpty Dumpty. 

I was sitting on the edge of my parent’s bed, watching TV. It was summer and I was wearing a bathing suit. Harvey walked in and closed the door behind him. He looked out the window, we could both see my mom doing some work in the garden. He sat behind me with one leg on each side, surrounding me and started rubbing my shoulders. I said I was ok, I was just watching TV and didn’t need a back massage. 

He continued rubbing my shoulders. He said I should let him because he was really good at it. He always complained about how little I showed I loved him. I guess I was a bit scared of him, but was unable to pinpoint why. So, I felt guilty when he said that. I felt even more guilty everytime my mom said it.

He moved his hands from my shoulders to my back. He then slowly placed his hands inside my bathing suit, as a hug given from behind. I knew it was completely unnecessary for him to rub my front, with his hands inside my bathing suit, but he started doing just that. I remembered the school shirt moment and wondered if he wanted to check if I had boobs yet. 

I couldn’t move, I felt paralyzed again. His hands started sliding down my belly. I could feel his deep breaths on the back of my neck. I knew then where his hands were heading and what he wanted to do. He wanted to touch me. Harvey was horny. I stood up suddenly and runned to the bathroom. I closed the door with a lock. I was terrified.

When I came out of the bathroom he wasn’t there anymore. I was scared of ever being alone with him from that day forward.

….

As time went on things started getting worse and worse. He had his own bathroom but always found a reason to come running in while I was taking a shower in the other bathroom. I would start screaming and covering myself with the shower curtain until my mom would come in and take him out. He always had an excuse for her like “I don’t have clean towels in my bathroom” or “I’m out of toilet paper and need to take a shit right now”. 

I started locking the door every time I took a bath and my mom would get angry at me because she said “locking the door in the bathroom is dangerous, what if you slip and hurt yourself and I can’t get in to help you?”.

So my showers got extra short and I would try to take them while Harvey wasn’t home. 

....

You must be wondering why I didn’t say anything then. Everybody was already so upset that I felt there wasn’t any room for me to cause trouble. I also believed my parents wouldn’t take me seriously. And more than anything, I thought if I didn’t say anything, he might give up on me and maybe one day I would be able to forget it all and live a happy oblivious life. I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in the movies once. I thought if that “erasing memory therapy” ever existed, it would be the solution to my problem.

After all, Harvey is my brother and I love him, just not the way he wanted to love me.

....

Soon Harvey started drinking. Yes, he must have been 14 but he was drinking as a college student during weekends. When he got back home drunk, he would sneak into my room, get inside my bed and try to push me against him. He wanted to do what he did to me when I was 6. I was so afraid of facing the truth that I would pretend to be asleep, kicking and talking in my dreams, pushing him away until he would give up and go back to his bedroom. Thank god I’ve always been resourceful and creative. 

The next day he would tell a story over breakfast about how funny it was when he came to kiss me goodnight and I was speaking in my sleep saying nonsense. Everyone would laugh and I would pretend I didn’t remember anything.

I was always awake. 

I think until this day some friends and family think I speak in my sleep. I don’t think I do. None of my boyfriends have ever mentioned this. I guess that’s funny in a way. 

He would also grab my ass hard and make a “hmm” sound every time he did. But he wouldn’t hide to do that. He would do this every time I walked past him, almost anywhere, anytime.

I must have been 12 when I finally had the balls to say something to my mom. I said “Harvey grabs my ass, constantly”. She said “I will tell him not to do that anymore”. Then I tried again, “He touches my ass... with pleasure” and cried.

She didn’t ask any questions. She couldn’t see, she couldn’t deal.

Mom instructed Harvey to stop grabbing my ass. He would only do it from then on when nobody was around. But, for what it's worth, telling my mom about the ass grabbing freed me to scream, kick and punch him everytime he did this. I didn’t need to keep that a secret.

….

Harvey would find new ways to touch me, to threaten me, to scare me. When he was 15 he called me into his room. He had just gotten out of the shower. My brother developed really fast so he had the body of a grown man by then. He sat me on his bed and started talking about how my dad had abandoned us, even if he would show up during weekends. He said I shouldn’t worry as he was now the man of the house and he would always take care of me because he loved me.

...my parents were never separated, my dad’s work required him to travel (I did felt abandoned by him though).

He was wearing a towel, he put one of his legs on top of the bed where I was sitting. He wanted to show me his penis. He was trying to position himself on a way that I couldn’t escape from looking at it. I was looking back at the window behind me, paralyzed again.

Courage finally caught up with my frozen brain, I stood up and left. I locked myself in my bedroom and cried for a while. My mom thought I was an emotional pre-teen, but it wasn’t that. Things were getting more difficult. I was terrified of facing the moment when he would actually force himself on me and wondered if I would be able to escape him. He was getting stronger and bigger while I was just getting more scared.

….

We lived in that same house for 2 years, the most difficult years of my life. Harvey’s horniest years. Every night I would go to bed and beg to god that the next day Harvey would forget about me. I wished also to wake up in the morning and have forgotten everything myself. And on the bad nights, I would go to bed thinking if I could cut his penis into a lot of pieces like a sausage, he might stop having this feelings towards me. As if his penis was to blame for turning my brother into Harvey. 

….

We finally moved to another house and my bedroom had a big window I could escape to. I remember on the first week there I came out of the window and walked all over the roof. In this new territory, I felt it would be easier to escape him. I was now a bit older as well and felt more prepared to respond. I had various emergency exit plans thought out. 

Sadly, during the years that followed, it wasn’t just the Harvey at my house, there were Harveys everywhere.

There was a security guard when I was 14 who started speaking to me about how unaware I was of what me on my school uniform could inspire on men, even a married man like himself. Even he had fantasies. He wouldn’t let me keep walking with the excuse that I was in danger being naively sexy walking by myself. He said his wife wasn’t satisfying him anymore, but he still had the same urges as when he was a kid, like me. I finally got rid of him by pretending I was ringing a doorbell to visit a friend. I don’t think he bought that, but he walked away as I waved to an empty window. I waited until he was out of sight and then I kept walking. I got home, told my mom and the security guard was moved to a corner five blocks further, where he would then harass other girls.

I saw a man masturbating on the car next to us while we stopped at a red light with my mom. She was driving, I was on the seat next to her. The man had black windows but there was a small triangle that was transparent, right next to where the side mirror of the driver goes. The mirror was carefully placed so that if I looked to the side, all I could see were his hands on his penis. I pointed it out and it took my mom a few seconds to see it. She was shocked. “What a perv! How did you notice that?”. It's crazy but I did. I have a sixth sense when it comes to that. 

I had two taxi drivers masturbating in the car with me and my friends inside. I noticed even while sitting in the seat behind one of them. The way his hand would only be visible from my angle when changing shifts for example. The rhythm, the little amount of times he changed shifts, that is how I realized. He was attempting to hold his erection and he needed the other hand on the wheel, so he kept masturbating constantly and couldn’t change shifts as often. 

My friends started making jokes about how unlucky it was to hang with me as most of them had only gone through this type of experience while being out with me. The truth is I was always the first to spot them. I used to think I attracted pervs but, with time, I realized I don’t attract them, I see them while other people might not.

I noticed for example when it comes to a motorcycle, the driver leans over to the car where he wants to be seen. You automatically assume you are about to get robbed and when you look, there it is! The other gun. I remember my friend saying “he wants to rob us” while I said  “he wants to masturbate”. I was right. Sadly I’ve gathered all this information from personal experience. Is like that saying “Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it”.

I think that is what happened to me. Over the following years I had men masturbate in front of me in taxis, in the car next to me, in the motorcycle next to me, in the street waiting for the bus, etcetera, etcetera. I wasn’t necessarily paralyzed by each of these situations, but not once did I fight back. And I have quite a personality, but when it comes to those situations, I vanish and fear takes over.

When I became Ariel, is like a little needle got stuck in my throat and every time anybody abuses me in any sort of form or way, the oxygen coming in pushes that needle against my throat, preventing me from screaming or even speaking. I feel that pain in every breath that I take.

….

Popular Harvey and his friends started hanging out with my friends. I thought it was cool to hang out with older guys and maybe Harvey would see me as an independent person and respect me as an adult. 

I was wrong.

If there weren’t enough chairs he would ask for me to sit on his lap in front of everybody, after all, he was my brother. He would try to put his hand under my shirt through my back. He was always trying to kiss my neck, caress my hair and my back. I felt disgusted and terrified.

My friends used to think it was so great to have a brother that cared so much, that was so protective. But I knew the truth, he wasn’t just protective, he was jealous. He wouldn’t let any guys come near me because he didn’t want anyone else to have me. During those years I seriously contemplated suicide.

I remember two very particular situations where I felt my soul crushing. 

I was 15, Harvey was 18. My parents had gone on a trip. I’d asked my mom if I could invite some friends for a sleepover given we had a big extra bed. That night some of my best friends came over. 

Harvey called me upstairs and asked where we were planning on sleeping. I explained the arrangements and he said “I’m the man of the house, I’m the eldest, I’m sleeping in mom and dad’s bed. You will sleep there with me and your friends can use your room and mine”. 

I had learned to avoid alone moments with him. I never knew if I would encounter Harvey or my brother. But, at that time, it was clear to me who I would be facing.

“I’m not sleeping with you, you are staying in your room”, I replied. My hands were already shaking. I could see the storm building inside of him. Harvey got violent. He pushed me against my parents bed. He was screaming in anger. He closed his fist and raised it as if he was holding a heavy rock. He was coming for me. I jumped off the bed, ran under his arm and stormed out. As I was almost flying down the stairs in tears, I was trying to scream. Once more, I couldn’t.

My friends were in the living room. They heard the fight upstairs. I was crying so hard I couldn’t speak. We were all out of the house and at my friend’s place within 15 minutes as she was 16 and had a car. I didn’t go home until my parents were back. 

The neighbor heard the commotion that night and told my mom as soon as she arrived, so when she asked me what had happened, I told her. There were no follow-up questions about the sleeping arrangements. She punished Harvey somehow and said to me “your brother would never hurt you, I’m sure he wouldn’t have punched you”. 

We knew different people. 

When I was 17 I met this guy over the summer that I really liked. He was very cute and shy, he seemed so harmless. I was travelling with friends on a neighbor country and so were him and his friends. We all had a great time. 

I bumped into him again that same summer, a month later, at a party back in our country. It seemed so meant to be in my adolescent mind.

We were about to make out again when I feel someone grabbing my arm and pulling me away. It was Harvey. He kept calling me a whore and pulling me by the arm. I was so embarrassed in front of the guy I liked. Harvey was always much stronger than me, so I couldn’t get away. He threw me inside the back of his van and locked the door.  I screamed and cried all the way home.

The next morning by the time I woke up he had convinced my father I was a whore because I was kissing a guy that wasn’t an “official boyfriend”. Somehow my father agreed and punished me instead of him. I grew up in one of those communities where a boy that has been with many girls is a hero and a girl that has been with more than one boy, is a whore. Different times, right? 

I think my heart died a little in each of those circumstances. I felt so trapped, so miserable. I didn’t think I would ever be able to have a happy life. No one could protect me from Harvey. 

Nobody knew the Harvey I knew.

….

I must have been 19 or 20 the first time Harvey told me he was in love with me and wanted to marry me. 

My friends and I had rented a summer house at a beach town. Him and his friends had done the same. It was a trendy place, but we were robbed our second night there. Robbers busted open a window and stole some things. 

Harvey found his excuse. He would come to our house after every night out and sleep on the sofa or the porsche because he “worried for our safety”. I don’t think he did. He just didn’t want me to go back home with any guys. But, once again, my friends were happy to have an older brother protecting us and I didn’t have the courage to say anything. I thought about telling one of my friends once, but I was scared of anybody else finding out. Then again, I felt my story was just unbelievable, why would anyone believe such a horrible thing? Things like this don’t happen.

One night I was walking home by myself and saw him sitting outside a bar, having a beer. He seemed very drunk. The sun was coming out, but there were a lot of people around still, heading back to their houses. He waved at me. He started making jokes. He seemed on a good mood.

All of a sudden he started complimenting me on my looks. He asked me if I realized I was the most beautiful girl around. “You say that because you are my brother”, I said in an attempt to stop him from going on that direction. 

“I don’t care that I’m your brother. I love you, I’m in love with you. I don’t care what anyone says, I want to marry you. Would you marry me?”, he said while placing a hand on his heart. 

“You are being stupid, I’m your sister”, I said once more as I waved to a friend walking by to go back to the house with her. He didn’t come over that night.

…. 

I was around 20. Harvey was coming out of the bathroom in his towel. I was walking out of my bedroom. He grabbed me from behind. Locked his arms around me hard and lifted me. He was moving his hips back and forward against mine. I don’t know if he knew my younger brother was in the next room. I started shaking my legs desperately in the air. My arms were locked by his. I started screaming “let me go! let me go!”. My other brother came out of his room and screamed at him “let her go! What are you doing?? Are you trying to force yourself on her?!”. Harvey let go of me and started laughing saying “Are you crazy? I’m just having fun, she is my sister!”. 

I found hope there. My loving brother, let’s call him Tim, didn’t know anything back then. But I guess he noticed something since that is not the typical thing you say to break up a fight between two siblings. He gave me hope. Someone cared and was willing to speak up for me. 

From that day on I started getting closer to Tim. I found a little shelter within my family. Nowadays he is my best friend and my favorite person in the world.

….

I was the last of my friends to lose my virginity, at the age of 23. I was terrified of men that got horny. Everytime we got close to that point, I would freak out. I thought all they cared about was that, all they wanted from me was sex. Once I saw that in someone, I would stop seeing all the other things I liked. For me sex wasn’t a demonstration of affection or love, it was scary and repugnant.

I moved to another country by myself when I was 22. This was the best thing that ever happened to me. I felt free and more than anything, I felt safe. On the other side of the world, with no family around, surrounded by strangers from a different culture, I felt the safest I’d ever felt.

In that freedom I found love. I lost my virginity the day of my birthday with someone I was seeing. I wasn’t in love with him but I’d found love for myself. I decided that it would be my birthday present and a way to regain some control over the matter. I needed sex to be 100% on my terms. It might not have been spontaneous or romantic, like most girls dream of, but it was exactly the way I wanted it to be. 

It was an incredible experience. The guy was a feminist before men even knew what a feminist was. He was one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. He introduced me to sex in a fun and loving way and I will be forever thankful to him. He was funny, he was caring.

Most of my friends believe my first was my boyfriend after him. I never corrected anyone, partly because I hadn’t considered him an official boyfriend and didn’t want to be judged, and mostly because I felt that first experience was just mine to keep. It had always been just for me.

….

I didn’t know it then, but that year abroad would change everything for me and for my family. When I moved back I was depressed. Not clinically depressed but very sad. I hated my life. My mom recommended I saw a therapist and I agreed.

The therapist was an old man. I’d done therapy before but never had the courage to speak about what had been happening all those years. This old man was very good at reading people. As soon as I started speaking, he knew. I don’t remember what I said, but I wasn’t very clear or graphical as I hadn’t decided to speak out just yet. He looked at me and said “Harvey has been trying to abuse you for years, no wonder you don’t feel safe at home”.

I started crying. It was finally out there, in the air, it had a name... abuse. Saying it out loud made it real. There was no forgetting after that. It was like my fantasy balloon of forgetfulness had finally exploded. Someone else knew, it was real and it was a imprinted in my memory forever.

….

This old man was incredibly smart and also very practical. I wanted to move to another country. We did therapy for a month. We agreed the best for me would be to stay away from my family and focus on building a life of my own, a life where I felt safe. But he had one condition for me: I had to speak to my parents and tell them what had been going on before I left.

I was in such a rush to leave that I agreed. I’d imagined every sort of reaction. I was ready.

I remember the needle on my throat was killing me. I sat with them both, at their house, and told them my deal with the therapist. I wasn’t able to say much and nowadays, it’s a bit of a blur. 

For some reason I hoped that once I told them, I would be free, I would be comforted and understood. And them, as the parenting adults, would determine how to deal with that.

I was so wrong.

My dad was defensive. He kept asking questions about dates, times, witnesses, reasons I didn’t say, examples of situations were I’d “felt” something had happened. I was so filled with sadness that, again, I was unable to speak. My mom started crying 3 minutes into the conversation and never stopped.

I said I was unable to get into details at the moment as it had been already incredibly hard to tell them my brother had been trying to abuse me for years. I didn’t have the energy, the courage, or the encouragement actually, to say much more. My dad didn’t seem to want to hear it or believe it and my mom was weeping in some sort of vegetative state.

She stayed in her room for the next couple of days, with the door locked, crying. My dad approached me once again to get some “facts”. As I mentioned Tim in one of the few examples I was able to share, he wanted to speak with him. I said I wasn’t ready to talk about that with my little brother and the last thing I wanted was to affect his life in a negative way. I would decide when, where and if I ever told him as this was my story to tell, not his. I made my dad promise he would respect my wishes. I said I would never trust him again if he ever said anything without my approval. I suggested if he needed to speak to anyone, he could do so with his wife or a therapist. I also requested not be asked for any more details about this as I didn’t feel I could deal with that. I think they were the ones that couldn’t deal, but I didn’t want to see that then. 

It was my way of shutting down his personal inquiry that was pointed at one direction: Say this hasn’t really happened. This is a distorted interpretation of the facts that you have emotionally endured as a reality.

What I didn’t realize back then is that shutting down questions would have other consequences. It was the perfect shield to deny reality for years to come. They would hide behind the fact that I never fully explained what had happened... when, how many times; the details. Apparently the truth lies only on the details.

I was so broken I thought it would be best to leave it at that, buried, denied, for as long as they wanted. At least, even if they decided not to believe me, they knew now my reasons for not being affectionate with Harvey and they would respect my space. 

….

I had already graduated from university and had gathered some work experience so it wasn’t hard for me to get a job abroad, fast. Two weeks after that conversation I was gone. I’d gotten a job and a place to stay at this other country. I lived there happily in my little bubble for about 9 months. I was seeing someone. We had become best friends at the beginning, but it was turning into something else. I was able to share my story with him. Big steps for Ariel, trusting a boy.

Tim came to visit over the summer, the last 3 months of my stay in this country. I helped him get a job and we both shared a place near the beach with friends. It was great! He was all I ever needed for a family. I felt so blessed to have him.

Harvey had been going through some heavy counselling during the past year due to his alcoholism abuse, violent reactions and depression. Apparently there were suicide attempts involved, but in all honesty, it is very hard to know what ever really happens in my brother’s life. He is manipulative, creative and has his own way of interpreting reality. He would find out a friend was “hearing voices” and he’d start pretending that he did as well. Over time, he would truly believe that he used to hear voices. So, I will never know how real those suicide attempts were, but we had to take them seriously.

I guess this is only one of the many reasons I’ve never felt compelled to speak to Harvey about this. I don’t know what the consequences would be, he is always a surprise. But if my own parents that are functional normal human beings, that have known me to be a responsible realistic person my entire life, reacted the way they did, what good can I ever expect to come from a person that believes a story about himself that has never actually happened?

The saddest thing is I think he would most likely say something like “If I did all that is because I love you”.

Anyway, for some reason Harvey’s therapist told my parents that he was doing much better and it would be good for him to take a vacation. Unfortunately, my parents wanted to go on a vacation themselves (from him), so taking Harvey with them was out of the question. They felt they deserved a break. The problem was that Harvey was unable to be trusted handling his own money and needed supervision to not fall into alcohol or drugs again. Basically, he needed a responsible adult to look after him.

That is when my parents decided the best thing would be to fly him where his brother and sister were living and have me be responsible for his financials. After all, we are family and families share responsibilities.

He was supposed to give me all his money on arrival and I was supposed to give him bits day by day so that he would never have enough to get wasted.

….

I was devastated with the news of Harvey visiting, but couldn’t trust Tim with my feelings as I had been protecting him all this time by not saying anything. I decided to speak to that guy I was seeing, my then soon to be boyfriend, as maybe he could protect me somehow.

Harvey arrived after lunch sticking his head out of a bus, screaming and singing. He was wasted drunk on arrival. He gave me his money.

Almost every day, at any time, he would show up drunk in my room or at work asking for more money. I started giving him enough so that he could get wasted the entire day without coming to bother me. The guy I was seeing befriended him and would join him drinking at bars almost every night, staying out until Harvey was knocked out back in his hostel, in his own room. It was a good tactic to keep him away from me.

One night, the guy lost sight of him and went to bed. I was sitting outside my house, ready to go to work around 6.30 in the morning when Harvey showed up. He was wasted, as usual. He didn’t ask for money this time. He sat down next to me and started saying how much he missed me and how much he loved me. I said he should go to bed, as I needed to get to work. He pulled a ring from his pocket and asked me to marry him, again. I said he was drunk and I didn’t want any rings from him. He replied by saying it was a gift from his heart and he wanted me to keep it to be reminded of how much he loved me. He started sobbing emotionally and begging for me to keep it, so I did and I left.

I didn’t go to work. I showed up, said I was feeling sick and went to a beach nearby to cry. I assume he went to bed. The next day was like all the others, he seemed to have no recollection of what had happened. I gave a friend of mine the ring as a present, I said I found it on the street, that is most likely where Harvey found it.

For the longest time I hated listening to stories about marriage proposals. I couldn’t shake this thought from my head that the only two times I was proposed to, were by my own brother.

….

I decided to move back to the city. I wanted to settle down. I don’t know where that was coming from, I guess I felt I was getting old. Probably it was the fact that my friends were getting married or building their careers while I was still testing cities. 

I moved into my uncle’s house while I looked for a place. I was angry at my parents for having me go through that situation with Harvey, for having no respect for my wishes, my fears and my desire to escape all of them. What they’d done felt like revenge. I know it wasn’t, but at that point, I felt they were punishing me for speaking out and for running away. Like some kind of a statement: There is no escaping your family, because they are family.

A few months went by until Harvey was finally admitted into a rehabilitation center because of his alcoholism. Soon after that he was transferred to a psychiatric facility. It felt good to know that he was locked up, but by then all my hopes of him ever getting better were gone. I wasn’t praying for miracles overnight anymore. 

My father betrayed my trust and spoke to Tim. I found out when he came to talk to me to say that all Tim really remembered was the situation with the towel, but never thought or had reasons to believe anything else had happened. 

The needle expanded and then broke as if it was made of glass. It multiplied into a million little pieces, stuck on my throat, my lungs, my eyes, even my years. It felt like real physical pain. 

My father had finally come to talk to me about this but his intention was still denying. He was confronting me instead of comforting me. If Tim didn’t remember or had seen much, then it couldn’t be true. 

I started crying and screaming at him. “How could you have taken this from me? It was my story to tell, when I was ready!” He was forcing me into a conversation with Tim that I wasn’t voluntarily choosing to have. He had betrayed my trust with the hope that he could erase my memory somehow and turn it into the story he preferred; the story that basically made me a crazy person.

After telling him that he was the worst human being in the world and I could never trust him again, I asked: “Before I told you about Harvey, did you ever think I was crazy?” He said no. I continued “I’ve had high scores in school, in university, have gathered great work experiences, have lived by myself in different countries and learned new languages, do you think a smart person like myself would EVER chose to make up a story this awful?”.

He choked for a second and said something like “I’m not saying you are lying, of course you are smart. I’m saying maybe you have misinterpret some things… you know, I have sisters and we always fought with each other…”. I interrupted: “Did you ever try to see them naked in the shower?”. He said no. “Ok, did you ever sneak into their beds at night?”. No, of course not.

After a few minutes of going back and forward I said I didn’t want to speak to him about this or anything else because he couldn’t be trusted, it was pointless and I hated him.

….

I had to speak to Tim. I was unsure of what my father had told him. I had no idea what was going through his mind. My dad had lead me to believe that my little brother didn’t believe me either, but I couldn’t trust that to be true until I spoke with him. I was scared though. What if my favorite person, the one I counted on the most, didn’t believe me? What would I do then? 

We got together and almost immediately I asked, “What did dad say about me and Harvey?”. He explained my dad had asked him many questions like if he ever thought something strange was going on, if he’d seen anything and if he remembered any situations. He asked him about the time with the towel in particular. Tim responded saying he remembered that but nothing else. I continued to ask “What did he say was the reason behind all these questions?”. My dad said he was asking because apparently, at a young age, I had felt something had happened and was now very confused and sad and he was just trying to understand.

Tim felt the conversation was strange and kept trying to make sense of things. He wanted to speak with me to clarify. 

I finally opened up to him. I told him many things, not everything, but enough. He listened, he cried, he hugged me and not once interrupted until I was finished. We hugged for a very long time. He apologized for not noticing, for not thinking more of it after that situation he witnessed. 

He asked me why I’d decided to keep him in the dark all these years given we were so close. I responded honestly. I never wanted him to suffer, to resent his brother or to feel bad for me. I never wanted to bring sorrow into his life. He was always my happy place.

I was planning on telling him if he ever had kids though. Not because I felt Harvey was a pedophile but because I believe he is dangerous when it comes to emotions. He might want to express love or anger towards someone on the worst way possible. 

….

Back at my home town, I started seeing another therapist. I was doing pretty well with my life, had gotten a good job, was now officially dating this guy and had moved into a great apartment, but still felt I hadn’t full on dealt with the ghosts from my past.

I’ve tried different types of therapies over the years. I feel like I’ve learned a new tool for life or gained a different perspective on things through each of those processes. 

This particular therapist asked me to write a letter to Harvey telling him how I felt, how much he had hurt me, how scared I’d always been of him and how he’d ruined so many things for me with his advances.

In the letter I described almost every time he’d tried to abuse me and how each of those moments affected me.

Given the risks and consequences that could transpire from delivering this letter, the endgame was to challenge myself, to face my feelings. I had to burn it once I felt ready to forgive and to understand that Harvey is a disabled person. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. He doesn’t have a wheelchair or any visible sign to show for, but he is incapable of seeing the world like we do and that is sometimes harder to see and accept.

….

One day my mom showed interest in knowing how my therapy was going and if it was about Harvey. It seemed like she was finally ready to talk. I explained about the letter and proudly said “I think I’m ready to burn it”.

She asked if she could read it before I did. For the first time in almost 2 years since I’d told her about it, she wanted to know. I said I thought she might not be ready for it, since she had reacted so badly before, but she disagreed.

I gave her the letter. She read it and cried. I comforted her. She apologized a million times. She couldn’t wrap her head around it, she kept repeating “how did I not see?”. I thought we were moving forward after that. To my surprise, until this day, she doesn’t even remember what she read. I guess she was in shock once more.

Another year went by and for some reason, my father wanted to do a little family trip. Harvey was out of the psychiatric facility. We went to a small beach town for 4 days. It was expected for everyone to be happy and reconnect. My main goal was to avoid any situations that might make me uncomfortable.

We were having lunch at a restaurant and Harvey tried to put his arm around me and give me a kiss on the cheek. I took his arm off, moved my face and asked him to respect my space. His cheek kisses, although acceptable among siblings, still gave me the chills. 

Five minutes later my mom pulled me aside and asked if I could do an effort to be more caring with my brother, show him a little bit more love, not reject him as much. I looked at her and said “the fact that you now see something that you didn’t see before, doesn’t make it new or different. I’ve always been like this with him, the only thing that has changed is that now you understand why. You can’t fix this by forcing me to do something that I find uncomfortable. Deal with it. I will continue to take care of myself”.

She hugged me and said “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to make things better”. 

She couldn’t make things better because she didn’t know how to help me without hating her own son. She had to protect her disabled son and I wasn’t it. So she decided to keep denying.

….

My brother soon moved to another city. He fell back on his old habits, but this time, far away from home. My relationship with my parents improved a little. We were never able to speak about what Harvey did to me, but I was ok with that. I prefered to avoid the pain that might come with another one of those talks.

A couple of years went by until Harvey returned. I don’t know if subconsciously this affected me or if it was just time, but I eventually moved again to a foreign country. Tim came with me and stayed for a year. It was great!

When he was ready to move back home, I decided to stay. Most people think the hardest part of moving to another country or city is being away from your family. For me it’s the opposite. Since that first trip I took on my own when I was 22, I’ve always found comfort on being alone, without having to fake or hide anything, just being me. I visit my family and friends often enough, but I’ve build new relationships here and I actually really like my life.

My mom started to visit more often the last couple of years. While being here, she was able to slowly start speaking about everything. It was touch and go there for a while, sometimes she remembered, sometimes she denied.

I’ve heard things from her like “He might have crawled into bed with you as a teenager because he was scared at night and was afraid to say it. Maybe he fell asleep and woke up with a boner because that happens to men, specially teenage boys... and you misread that”. 

Every one of those talks was good but sad at the same time because she kept defending him, calling it a phase, something from the past, a misunderstanding or any other excuse she could find. And I kept trying to make her see, remember and accept. That left me emotionally drained. 

With my father things were different. Although my mom kept going back and forward on her denial phase, she was at least trying. My dad took my last words to him seriously and decided to never talk about what had happened to me again. 

On one of my visits back home, he was trying to convince me to move back and he said something like “things are different now, time has passed, your brother is doing better… I know that is an issue for you”. His choice of words hurted me... “issue for YOU”. As if it was only on my mind.

I stayed silent looking at him with disappointment. He continued “I know I’m not good at speaking about these things, I always say something wrong. I’m sorry I can’t be better in that sense, but you can always count on me... financially”.

….

Four months before I started writing this, my mom came to see me. After 9 years since the first time she knew, she was ready to really talk. She confessed she didn’t remember the letter and asked me to tell her everything again, in person. I don’t fully trust this time was any different than the others because I’ve been burnt before, but at least it felt different. 

I had recently started seeing a new therapist and was working on the acceptance and forgiveness of my parents, for being unable to help before and after they knew. The after part has been harder for me to understand. The first couple of years I was more compassionate, I felt maybe they needed more time to process things, but overtime I started distancing myself more and more. I couldn’t keep up the charade. I’d started noticing they still hoped for me to smile, forgive, forget and live life pretending none of it happened, like they did.
 
My mom’s visit couldn’t have come at a better time as I’d finally organized my thoughts. I knew why I was mad and disappointed at her. I said it all, with no special consideration to her feelings, with graphic details, no sugarcoat and the most important thing, pretending I was speaking about an uncle. I said, “I will tell you a story about what happened to me with an uncle of mine. Forget Harvey and try to focus on what happened to your daughter, with an uncle”. 

From then on the conversation was tough but honest and she seemed more together than other times. She wasn’t falling apart. That talk lasted for hours. She ended up confessing that once, when she was really depressed after hearing what Harvey had done to me, she was driving her car with him on the seat next to her, and she considered throwing the car off a bridge and killing him and her together. It was a brief moment of desperation that until this day, she feels guilty about.

I told her how one of the times when he disappeared for a few hours and had threatened to kill himself, I thought “I hope he really goes through with it”. Immediately I regret it and felt terrible until he appeared safe and sound again. 

We shared stories, we cried and for the first time in forever, somehow, my mom found a way to give me comfort. She seemed finally ready to deal with the real me, with my story and the person I’ve become. 

Since then we’ve spoken honestly about everything. Harvey is still going through life unmedicated and self medicating with different things. He is married and I think his wife is also emotionally disabled. My parents help support their lifestyle as they always did with him.

It’s been so liberating to be able to speak my mind about things with her. I know that last visit was rough but I’ve taken a huge load off my back and she seems to be holding up ok.

….

I thought I was never going to speak to my father about any of this again. After my mother’s last visit, he called. He said my mom had mentioned some things about Harvey that he didn’t know before. He didn’t fully say “I believe you and I’m sorry”, but at least he made some sort of a move, he said he was happy I was able to speak openly with her.

Which brings me to this story. I started writing three weeks before going home for Christmas. I had gotten as far as “But, he had one condition for me: I had to speak to my parents and tell them what had been going on before I left”.

My goal was to finish this story, download all my thoughts and feelings into it and go visit the family with a clear state of mind, an open forgiving heart and more than anything, acceptance of their limitations.

Instead of that, I got stuck. I was unable to write about my parents. I wasn’t ready to face something that was still hurting. My father kept living on denial. 

I caught a cold and stayed in bed for 10 days. Even recovered, the week before leaving, my voice was breaking. Every day I felt I had the words counted before I lost it, like in that movie, “A thousand words”. I was recovered from the cold but my voice was almost non existent.

I took a flight and on my second day back, after visiting friends, I met up with my dad. I had this dilemma on my mind: should I confront him and ruin my remaining days but at least get it out of my chest or should I stay quiet, swallow it all, accept his limitations and keep the peace?

I decided I was going to keep quiet (didn’t have much of a voice anyway), unless he pushed me in any way. I knew in my state of mind if he made any comments of denial, I wouldn’t be able to hold myself. I had just spent 10 days in bed remembering our terrible conversations. 

To my surprise, as soon as he saw me, he said he wanted to talk in private. I think he felt it was time he catched up with mom but had no idea how to do that. He offered to go to a restaurant. I said “If you want to have an honest conversation with me, don’t take me to a public place. I don’t enjoy crying in front of strangers”.

I suggested we go to one of his empty offices under construction. On the way there he started off by saying “Your mom never told me about that letter that she read. I never knew what really happened, you should have told me”.

My dad has always been good with his speeches. He knows how to turn a crowd around and how to win an impossible argument. He is so confident, so smart. He always says how much alike we are. It’s true, we have many of the same qualities, same star sign even. But this time, the student would be surpassing the master. This time I felt ready to speak, even with no voice. Unlike him, I’d been imagining this talk for years. I was better prepared and there was no room for excuses or denial.

The “you should have told me” part was like a punch to my stomach. I interrupted, “I should have told you? Have you read at least 1 article about abuse in the past 9 years?”. He said no. I followed, “If you are really interested in having this talk, please keep my mom out of the equation. You are both my parents. You have a responsibility towards me as much as she does. If you and my mother decided years ago that she was taking care of the kids and you were bringing in the money, that is something to discuss with your partner. But if you want to talk to me and repair a relationship with me, lets leave her out of this discussion, because unlike you, she has been trying for years and she has been smart enough to do some research as well”.

There was a long pause after that. He nodded his head. 

“The thing is I don’t know how much of a conscious Harvey has of that phase in his life. And he is doing better, he is married now, I don’t think he would try anything again”. I interrupted once more “A few things about that: 1- It wasn’t a phase, it was 20 years. Since I was 6 until I was 26, the last time he asked me to marry him. Please stop referring to it as a phase. 2- The fact that he has a wife makes no difference to me, he has had plenty of girlfriends and that never changed anything for me. 3- I don’t think he will try something again, but I will never give him the opportunity. I haven’t spent one moment with him alone since I spoke to you 9 years ago, except for that marriage proposal that caught me off guard. 4- Last and most important, I think is best if we try the approach I used with mom. Let's speak about Harvey as if he were my uncle and for the first time, try to approach this conversation focusing on what happened to me and not on what your son did”.

From that moment on, I slowly felt my voice coming back to me. He apologized and said I was right and he was ready to hear what had happened to me. I preferred not to be interrupted with questions as he always did and proposed he read this story. As far as I’d gotten then, right before speaking to him and mom about it for the first time.

“Can I ask you something? and I don’t think this has to do with Harvey. I feel like you have been resenting me even before you spoke to me about him. You were always distant with me. Why?”, he asked before starting to read.

“I have two different answers for you. One for the past 9 years and one for the time before that. You were always travelling and left us to deal with Harvey and I was the one that suffered him the most. You never had the courage to deal with him. When I finally asked for your help, 9 years ago, you basically called me crazy. You chose denial. You also decided to betray my trust because you couldn’t deal with things by yourself. You broke me and complained that I had chosen to run away… when all along, that was your choice. You chose my distance over facing reality and you have the audacity of accusing me of turning my back on my family. There, you have the reasons. Now let me just add that I’m thankful that you did all of that. You telling Tim turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. I needed family that cared for me and he was it. I’m thankful also for my present life. I am very happy where I live, I get to see the ocean every day. I am honestly thankful for all of that, as it all turned out for the best”.

He nodded his head and looked down at his feet. 

For the next minutes that seemed like hours, he stood against a window and read the story on my phone while I sat on the floor of an empty space and waited.

He finished, turned around and cleared his throat like he does before any big speech. I felt he was about to give me an excuse, a rationalization to deny it all again. He opened his mouth and a whale sound came out. He started crying, bawling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cry like that. He hugged me and said “I’m sorry” a million times.

I asked if he understood now. I said, “Do you understand now why I need you to have a relationship with me without having to force me into family situations with an uncle that gives me the chills?”. 

“I do, more than you can imagine”, he responded and kept crying. He said he wanted to share some things with me that he hadn’t shared with anyone before. He told me how his father was an alcoholic that would beat his mom and when he tried to protect her, would come after him. He gave me a lot more details about his difficult childhood and adolescence, but that is his story to tell, not mine. He married and moved to another city to be away from his crazy father. When he tried to help him by giving him a job, he almost ruined his business. When he was dying, he didn’t want to go visit him. By the time he finally got there, he was dead and he felt sad but relieved. 

He had finally taken that load off his chest. He apologized for never being able to deal properly with his son as he reminded him too much of his father. He said he understood why I had moved as he had done the same. He also agreed with what I said about him preferring me gone than having to deal with reality. He didn’t know a way to keep the family together if he accepted what had happened. But our family was broken a long time ago, whether he was willing to see it or not.

It was a good talk. I’m happy I inspired him to open up and deal with his own buried issues. This is real life and there are no perfect happy endings. Of course I wish he would have comforted me more than I did him, as it did feel like he was using his own story as an excuse for his past behavior, but at least he was owning up to things and finally accepting the truth. Baby steps. 

….

I used to get really sad thinking why wouldn’t my parents believe me. I couldn’t understand how they could deny something like that. But when I read the stories of all those women in Hollywood, I realized almost every one of them spoke to someone that didn’t believe them, advised or threaten them to stay quiet, or suggested they were crazy. Look at Dylan Farrow, people spent years acting as if that didn’t happen. Only now, when everyone else says #metoo, she is finally heard.

But the hardest part is speaking out. Nobody wants to be seen as a victim, as someone weak or damaged. Therefore, nobody wants to hear it either. It’s too scary. 

The next two questions go through the mind of both parties, the one telling the story and the one listening to it:
What does this say about me? How could I’ve let this happen? 

But the next are not: 
Why wasn’t I stronger, smarter, faster to react? Why didn’t I scream? Why did I not tell anyone? How could this have happened to me? What are people going to think or say about me? How are people going to look at me if they know? 

Believe me, all those questions still cross my mind from time to time. Think about that the next time you hear someone speaking about their own story of abuse. Be open and listen because it’s not easy to walk on those shoes in the eyes of this world.

Writing this story has been more healing and helpful than I ever imagined.

I feel more like Ariel the BIG mermaid now. I’m using my voice. I’m forgiving, I’m accepting and I’m moving on. I’m getting a haircut today, it’s not always about a break up, sometimes it's about closure. 

-The end-

 


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