2007 STORY #38: SHE WALKED BESIDE ME
I had left early, but arrived 20 minutes late. I sat in the parking lot wanting to leave, but afraid of my own thoughts. Just the previous night, I had sat on the edge of the bathtub and pressed a razorblade to my wrist. I called a sexual assault crisis center, but hung up twice. The third call the supervisor answered the phone and quickly said, “Don’t hang up. You don’t have to talk, but don’t hang up.” It took some time for me to agree to come in and here I was.
Eileen Tateo was my counselor. In no time words burst forth like a broken dam. I was incredulous that there wasn’t a look of distain about her. She looked at me with great compassion, not pity.
In weeks that followed, I told her about my father who became sexual with me at 9 and began raping me at 12. At 17, I locked my bedroom door for the first time. The love I thought I had turned into angry stares and silence. Aileen listened, gave me positive affirmations, and assured me that I was not crazy.
“Toni, I want you to know that I will never be sexual with you.”
Initially, I was perplexed. As I revealed the details of incest and my deepest fears, I became very dependent on her. I needed her reassurance and craved her approval. I dare say I fell in love with her. It was hard for me to comprehend that she could so freely give of her time and energy without wanting something in return. I know I would have acquiesced had she made any sexual overtures toward me.
Eileen's honestly allowed me to divulge an even darker transgression. At 19 I had been manipulated into a sexual relationship with Father X, the campus priest. I went to him seeking absolution from what I saw as my immortal sin. I needed a friend, a confidant, a counselor, and a priest…I did not need or desire a lover. But I didn’t know how to say no. I thought he deserved it because he hadn’t turned from me in revulsion. He told me he loved me, that it wasn’t my fault, and the sin was not mine.
As Eileen helped understand the dynamics of that relationship, I told him I needed his friendship without sex. He told me he understood, but in the end he raped me. I was devastated.
Eileen was there to help me pick up the pieces. With her it was safe to cry, scream, question, be angry or confused, move forward and slip backward. She was angry on my behalf, but ever the professional; she did not let it show. I admired the fact that she never pushed me toward anything I wasn’t ready for. Her fiduciary responsibility came before her emotions.
I was so inspired by her professionalism and her eventual friendship that I went through training and became a counselor at the crisis center also.
"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain." (Unknown)