Ruthie has been getting really frightened at bedtime. It used to be bedtime was this huge trigger for sadness and loss. Nata ought to be there—she’s not. Oh, that’s right. She’s dead. Cue a tidal wave of grief.

I didn’t used to understand this exactly. I didn’t see Nata every day, and the amount of time we spent sleeping always felt brief, like they were naps. During the night, but not a proper going-to-bed-for-the-night.

And then one of the parts tells me that usually we were there all night. My dad came to pick me up early in the morning. So, yes, it was going to feel like bedtime. We solicited and we bathed and then we fell asleep. It was a short night, 2 or 3 hours of sleep at most, but it was the whole night.

It also makes sense I would associate that more with the here and now than falling asleep in my parents’ house, where there was no sense of comfort or safety. I feel comfortable and safe in my own home here. It’s more like being with Nata. Only Nata is not here.

Anyway, it’s not like that now. Ruthie is just scared. It seemed to me this was probably about the pre-Nata years, that I don’t really recall that clearly. I have memories, but there’s sort of no context. There are other little, little girls and they speak Spanish. They aren’t teenagers or young women. They aren’t Russian-speaking. It might be a different hotel—I think it is. But cheap hotels look mostly the same, so I am not sure. I cannot remember who might have been in charge of things. I don’t really remember adults at all, except in a vague way, as johns or potential johns, but no one who might have collected the cash.

But I need to deal with Ruthie’s memories when I’m not desperately wishing I could sleep. It needs to be a bit earlier, when it’s all less exhausting.

So I ask a friend to ask her about it. I could try to get the wall to thin between. Then I’d get all the pictures and the sensations, but it’s hard to do it that way. It’s hard to get the dissociation to recede enough to start making a dent in things. It’s easier this way.

My very helpful friend obliges. The stuff Ruthie says would make your hair curl, but that’s not really the point of this post just now. She says one thing that really makes me think.

She says you have to put toilet paper in your panties so that the blood doesn’t come through onto your dress and see what has been done to you. If other people know you are being treated badly, they might treat you badly too. It really strikes me, what she says, this need to keep the secret.

Perpetrators blame their victims. Usually, this is what happens. It’s something particular about you that has led them to hurt you. Your pain is your own fault. Often, it’s something they claim to be the only ones to know this fault of yours. I suppose this keeps them from having to feel guilty about what they’ve done: they have found a way to excuse their behaviour.

It has the consequence, however, of isolating the victim. There becomes this thing about you that needs to be concealed—whatever you have told is the reason for their singling you out as a victim. You don’t want anyone else to see it. On the one hand, the victim never gets discomfirming information. They never find out that the perpetrator’s claims about them are wrong, that other people do know them and even know them well and other people don’t see this fault in them or if they do see it, they don’t believe the fault to be that important. Certainly not justification for hurting someone.

It means, too, the victim is deprived of support in dealing with the pain. They cannot tell without revealing this flaw in themselves that has, according to the perpetrator, led to the pain in the first place.

So I never found out that if someone else knew I was being regularly and brutally sexually abused, that person would most likely help me. I never found out that other people who are not sociopaths or sadists don’t look at someone vulnerable or powerless and see someone they can hurt with impunity. Instead they see someone who might need comfort and warmth or even protection. I never saw that my pain would not make someone want to hurt me more.