Friday, February 13, 2015

"After fifty years, I still feel the need to write this story."

By Margie Taylor

After almost 50 years, I decided to write about being raped by my cousin. The Globe and Mail decided not to run it, which is fine, but I still feel the need to tell this story. I'll copy and paste it below. Read it or not, it's important to me to have put it on paper - finally:

As years go, this had been a tough one. My mother had died and my father was struggling both financially and emotionally to keep his head above water. At 17, the responsibility for the day-to-day running of the household was on my shoulders.

Early that summer I got a call from a man I’ll call Jeff. He was 7 years older than me and fresh out of the Navy. He was also my first cousin although I’d only just met him on a visit to the West Coast that spring and he seemed worldly and fun. My aunt, his mother, didn’t see him that way: she advised me to stay away from him.

“He’s been in the Navy,” she said. “God knows what he’s been up to.”
I should have listened but if I had I wouldn’t have been 17. When you’re young you think you’re invincible. You also believe you’re a better judge of character than a middle-aged woman who hasn’t seen her son in four years. Besides, we were cousins – nothing was going to happen. I wasn’t stupid, after all!

When Jeff called to say he was in town for the summer I was happy to spend some time with him. I introduced him to my friends and we “hung out” occasionally, going to the movies, visiting our mutual grandparents and so on.

One Sunday in July he rang to say he and a couple of friends of his were going fishing and would I like to come along? We didn’t own a car and the idea of getting out of town on a hot afternoon appealed to me. I didn’t know the other couple; they were his age and not very friendly towards me but I put that down to the difference in our ages. I was just a kid – they probably couldn’t see why Jeff would want to spend time with someone so young.

Cloud Lake is about 30 km south-west of Thunder Bay, not far from the American border. I’d never been there before and have never been since but I recall that at that time it was the site – or had been the site – of a church camp. A few derelict cabins were arranged along the shoreline; apart from that, there was nothing but wilderness.

Once we got there Jeff and his friends proceeded to help themselves to beer from the cooler and looked for good places to fish. I didn’t drink and didn’t fish and as the day wore on, I began to get bored. I decided to go for a walk.
I was gone for just over an hour. When I got back, my cousin was furious with me for “disappearing” on him, and he was also pretty drunk.
“You might have drowned,” he said. “What the hell were you thinking?”
I laughed it off, told him it was no big deal, that I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. His response was something to the effect of, “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that!”

We were standing just outside one of the abandoned cabins. Jeff grabbed me, dragged me into the building and pushed me down onto an old iron bedstead. I kicked out at him and tried to push him away, which was when he punched me – several times – in the face. He outweighed me by a good 80 lbs and had no scruples about using as much force as was needed. He’d obviously done this before. After a while I gave up struggling; he pulled down my shorts and raped me.

The four of us drove back in silence. The other couple must have known what happened but they likely assumed I should have seen it coming. At least, that’s what Jeff told me just before dropping me off.

I told my father the bruises and cuts and the rip in my shirt were the result of having fallen on the rocky shoreline. I never reported it and never told anyone at the time. What would I have said? That I had willingly gone to a remote lake with an older man who admitted to having a past? Fifty years ago even my closest friends would have put at least some of the blame on me. And my father needed no further grief in his life just at that moment.

I assumed I’d get over it, eventually. Because you do, don’t you? Surely something that happens when you’re 17 doesn’t reverberate for almost half a century.

Except that it does. You find yourself thinking about it at odd moments, reliving the scene in your head, wishing you’d had the nerve to report it – or, at the very least, told your father the truth.

Counselling helps, and I’ve done it. Confiding in close friends and family members is helpful, too, and I’ve done that as well. But nothing “fixes” it.
Recently I reached out to “Jeff”, whom I haven’t seen or spoken to since that summer. He hasn’t replied and I can’t say I blame him. He’s built a successful life for himself – a nice wife, attractive daughters – and I’ve no doubt he’s a very different person from the man who raped me that summer.

I, too, am not the person I was back then. I like who I am these days, but I sometimes wonder who I might be if I hadn’t gone fishing that Sunday afternoon all those years ago.


  1. Joan, I am so sorry this happened.

  2. Joan, thank you for posting my story. And just to clarify to the above poster, it's my story not Joan's - but I do think, from some of the response I've received since posting it on Facebook, it is sadly an all too common narrative. Again, Joan, many thanks for giving this a broader audience.