Editors’ note: This story may be a trigger for victims of abuse.  Please make sure you are in a safe place when you read.


One night when I was ten, I woke up to an overwhelming presence. My 13 year old brother, M knelt beside my bed with his head down in shame. A pair of scissors lay by my side. My panties, my privacy, and my sense of safety had all been violated. I ran to my mother’s room (my father worked graveyard).  My “room” was an extended hallway suite which connected to every other room in our tiny little house. I had no door, no closet, no privacy.  All my family relationships changed that night. My parents took M to counseling.  He needed help. I was left to cope alone.


Over the next decade I wrestled with many emotional memories. Mother’s first words were, “Don’t tell anyone.  They will take you away.” I was terrified.  And this only reinforced a growing sense that I did not matter. My needs, my wants, who I was could only exist in secrecy and silence. That’s how I lived and that’s how I survived.


As I write, many painful experiences resurface — like how M told me I should be grateful because at least he didn’t rape me.  Dad was absent and unavailable. In high School, I asked M for permission to share my story with others who had similar experiences because somehow his feelings mattered more than mine.  Several times, when M cried huge suicidal tears, I was the one who listened and convinced him that life was worth living.  Years later when I confronted my mother, she screamed, “Why are you bringing up old dirt?  We’ve already dealt with that,” and she huffed away.


Through all of this, I learned to live with people alone.  But one question remained. This violation of privacy occurred two times exactly one year apart.  Why only twice?


All those years I felt so alone wondering why I wasn’t protected. My family had abandoned and failed me. Yet through everything, there existed a silent protector whose life was impacted as deeply as mine.  My oldest brother, L, had always protected, looked out for, loved, and believed in me.  He always showed me the good in life.


I found out ten years later that, as I waded through all those feelings of rejection, L had been watching over me. To protect me, he had sacrificed his adolescence and created a new pattern of existence for his future. All those nights that I got to sleep untouched, he stayed up to make sure that M stayed in bed. L was the light in life that allowed us all to survive. He prevented M from participating in a shame inducing habit that might have driven him to suicide. He prevented our father’s own cycles of childhood sibling abuse from continuing to another generation. He limited my trauma. L was my shining light. Throughout my childhood, he kept me safe and gave me everything I needed to survive until I could protect myself.

—  S.B. 

[See letter to readers about this story at this link: Respectfully Outraged].