I went through Grand Jury – I was given that opportunity. I wanted nothing more than to tell my story of childhood sexual abuse and have a jury of my peers decide if my abuser should be charged. I wanted this badly because my mother and father (step-father technically but I always thought of him as my father) had chosen to not protect me when I disclosed my sexual abuse to them. See, my step-brother, Matthew C. Cardinale, sexually abused me repeatedly from BEFORE my parents were married in February 1995 to the Spring of 1997. I was no older than 9 years old when the abuse started, and I was 11 years old when I finally had the courage to tell my parents and it ended. In the beginning when the abuse started – I once asked him if everyone did “this” and he told me only “special people” do. This is why the abuse continued for as long as it did. At that point I thought he really must love me and I was special. I didn’t know it was wrong. Really sickening right? Why am I speaking about this now – at 31 years old?? Well a few reasons – I am pregnant and can’t for the life of me understand why you would not protect your child who is the VICTIM, my husband is extremely supportive and I feel comfortable and loved enough to be able to speak out, and I can’t sit back and watch victims of sexual assault be blamed and treated poorly any longer. There have been some big cases in the news in the last few years – Brock Turner especially – and this really had me livid. Not to mention I was in the presence of a highly educated individual while speaking about Brock Turner when this person started blaming the victim for basically being a “whore” and “wanting it” – all while he used the excuse of intoxication to justify this predators sexual crime. That was it – I could no longer keep my own story quiet.
I had come forward about Matt when I was 11 – as previously stated – but was basically paid $200 in an effort to make it okay. I wanted the police called – but between my parents and his mother, the decision was made to instead tell me that this happens a lot and that I would be okay – and could skip school the next day and go on a shopping spree with $200 they had just given me. I was 11. I obliged. Now – I am angry with both of my parents for handling the situation like this. How the fuck could you have lived with yourselves after this? I feel guilty about the anger since they are both dead – but I just can’t help myself. They knew as a teenager and young adult that I was suffering tremendously – yet my mother especially chose to ignore it and I was made to feel as if I was being ridiculous. I was essentially begging for help from my parents and never got it – until I decided to help myself.
The abuse started when I was no older than 9 and he was 15 years old. We occasionally would spend the night at my fathers (at the time he was my mother’s boyfriend) and I would sleep on the couch as there was no extra bedroom for me. One night I woke up to Matt with his hand up my shirt – touching my bare breast. When I asked what he doing – he told me he was looking for the TV remote and stopped immediately. This happened a few times. Little did I know it was only going to escalate and get much worse. Today I see this is how the grooming process started. He started with less invasive acts to see what he could get away with.
The abuse escalated after my parents were married in Feb of 1995. Matt also turned 16 years old at this time while I was still 9 years old. Now I understand he was young – but at even 15 and 16 you know what sex is and that you don’t do it with your family or a fucking child. The next act he committed was rubbing his bare, erect penis on my bare vagina – holding me up against him and his bed as I was completely naked and vulnerable. Yet he kept his shorts on – so as not to make himself vulnerable. This happened repeatedly – for the rest of the time of the abuse. Thankfully – he never actually “raped me” which constitutes penetration – although what he did is just as bad. *The language I am using is so proper and factual because basically – to say what he did any other way (slang, etc.) makes me even sicker.
Fast forward a bit too when he must have gotten bored with what he was currently doing to me. On evening he told me he “wanted to show me something cool.” I sat in a chair in his room while he masturbated in front of me to the point of ejaculation. I had obviously never seen this before. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I asked him if I would have a baby. He response was “if you were older.” I remember like yesterday. I can tell you what he was wearing even. Personally – I don’t understand how this pleased him to have me watch – but again he is a sick individual. How could any of this really please you when it is a child?!
Move ahead to the fall of 1996. I was 11 years old and he was 17. At my parents’ house was a small wooded area in the back yard. I was outside playing there one day when Matt came back. He wanted me to give him oral sex. Seriously – you were that desperate that you needed an 11 year old to do this for you? You were a senior in high school – couldn’t you find anyone your age who was WILLING to please you?? I resisted – at this point I was aware that what he was doing was wrong. I used the excuse “what if it’s dirty?” He told me he would go “wash it off with the hose.” And that he did. I watched in horror as he ran ice cold hose water on his penis – which had to be extremely uncomfortable – all because he wanted so badly for his 11 year old step-sister to give him oral sex. Yes – fucking pathetic and disgusting. He came back to me in the wooded area and put his erect penis in my mouth. It didn’t last long – I wanted to get away. I was not okay with this. He let me go. I think he knew at that point it had gone too far.
At this point the abuse stopped for a while – a few months at least. I can’t say for certain if it stopped because he was nervous I would tell – or if it was because he had a girlfriend who could please him sexually. Then in the spring of 1997 – when he was 18 years old and I was 11 years old – I woke up in my bedroom to him holding a flashlight in one hand and his other hand in my pants touching my bare vagina. I guess his girlfriend didn’t do it for him – he couldn’t just leave me alone any longer. I asked him what he was doing and he told me “looking for something,” then just walked out of my room. That was it. I was not going to let this restart. See – I will never understand if you have gotten away with something, why on earth you feel comfortable enough to push the limit. The next evening I was in the shower getting ready for bed as it was a school night. My mother was at the sink getting ready for bed. I said quickly (because I was losing courage and did not want to) – “remember when you told us if anyone was touching us in a bad way to let you know?” She stated “yeah.” I said “well I have something to tell you.” I knew if I could just get that out she would make me tell her after I got out of the shower.
So – once out of the shower I told her. My dad stood outside their bedroom door because I was embarrassed. He came right in immediately after hearing what I told her and just kept stating “I can’t believe this. I believe you – I just can’t believe this is happening.” At that point, my mother was balling and he asked her when she was leaving. I could tell be her response, “what?” that leaving had not crossed her mind. I did not want to break up their marriage. She asked me what I wanted to do – I told her not to leave him. While I loved my father very much – we were closer than ever when he died in 2015 – this is the decision that started off the protection of Matt and the setting me up for lifelong problems. I can’t say today I would have wanted her to leave – but I can say I want nothing more than for him to have been held responsible. My dad called Matt at work at Ciccino’s – where he still works today as the bar manager – and told him he needed to leave immediately. He was confronted by my father (I assume) and he never stayed another night in our home. He moved into his girlfriend’s apartment right then.
I had forgiven Matt for so long – but NEVER forgotten – because I truly thought he was sorry for what he had done and we were “family.” Soon after my father died – it became clear he did NOT feel this way at all. He was now hurting my mother along with my brother and I – and that was it. I was not going to let him hurt US any longer. In October 2016, I contacted the Seneca County DA’s Office regarding this to see what I could do. I then met when the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office and ADA – gave them my story – and was told that due to the oral sex part of the abuse – he COULD in fact be charged criminally. Months later, after begging to go to Grand Jury and being able to stand up for myself and protect myself because no one did when I was a child – I was given this opportunity, although reluctantly. It was a very old case with no physical evidence and the only two true witnesses – my parents – were deceased and could not speak at a trial. Yes – my mother died in Feb 2017. The Sheriff’s did speak to Matt about this – to which he went silent and stated “I don’t know what you are talking about and have nothing to say to you.” Then he hired a lawyer immediately – guilty much you sick bastard?? Grand Jury happened in April 2017. Unfortunately – it became known AFTER Grand Jury that when the oral sex occurred, the child had to be “less than 11″ according the laws back then. I was 11. You can’t be serious right?! How the fuck was this not figured out before making me testify and tell my story in person to a room full of people?! This was the only law that would have still been prosecutable today – as there is no statute of limitations. Grand Jury could not hand down an indictment. Talk about being utterly crushed. I just received this news today. I was failed by many things – I was failed by my parents first and foremost – I was then failed by Seneca County for this horrible mistake that lead to me testifying at Grand Jury for a crime that essentially could not be prosecuted due to the laws when it happened (they are different now thank goodness) and I was failed by NYS as a victim of childhood sexual abuse. NYS is one of the few states that still has a statute of limitations for child sex crimes. We protect the abuser instead of the victim. Well Matt – I think it’s time I stop suffering alone and you actually suffer some sort of consequences. While they may not be legal consequences (which is BULLSHIT) – I refuse to allow there to be none. I want people to know how disgusting you are and what you did to me – and then I want you to be embarrassed and feel like the piece of shit you are. See – this never goes away for me – so I don’t want it to ever go away for you either. I will continue to tell my story and do what I can to fight for me – rest assured.
I am writing this post because I am no longer going to protect the person who hurt me indefinitely, who took away my childhood innocence and a very important part of my development, who made sure that I will have a struggle with intimate relationships for the rest of my life. My husband also has to suffer with what Matt did to me for his own selfish, sick reasons. It’s not fair. I want to also encourage other victims to speak up. You see – if you don’t stand up for yourself – in many cases no one will stand up for you. I should have been in therapy as a child so that I could have dealt with my abuse appropriately and moved forward. Sadly – I never got that chance. If you or anyone you know is a victim of childhood sexual abuse – or any sexual abuse – please speak up. Don’t stay quiet. Don’t protect the abuser. There are many devastating consequences – and I am a prime example.