I started writing this almost a year ago. I just could not bring myself to post it. It is very personal. Then the rape of the young woman on New Year’s Eve happened…and it rocked the jiu jitsu community. I still waited. Today I decided I needed to release this burden. Here goes…this is for my sister.
I share a lot about myself and my family on this blog, but something that most of you probably don’t know is that I had an older sister. Her name was Melissa. She was four years older than me. When I was little I would follow her around and hang on to her every word, and if she asked me to do something (even if I knew it probably wasn’t a good idea) I did it anyway, she was my big sister after all. We rocked along like this for a while until the little sisters came along and she didn’t really want to play with me anymore, she was four years older than me after all. But, I have really good memories of her and me as little kids (one in particular involves our house and a red crayon, good times). And, to tell the truth, she did take me to my first R-rated movie. It was exciting and a maybe a little bit risky, but it was our secret. It was something that we did together, just the two of us. It is something I still smile about, and any time I’m channel surfing and that movie is on, I stop and watch it, because it reminds me of happy times with my big sister.
The other thing most people don’t know about her is that she was a victim of sexual assault. I don’t share that with very many people. It makes people uncomfortable and they don’t usually want to talk about it. But, it is reality, and it did happen, and she was forever changed by it. Something broke inside my sister. She was never the same. She spent many, many years doing battle with the demons in her mind. She struggled with her mental health. She put up walls and didn’t really let anyone in. How can you just sit and watch someone you love slowly deteriorate a little at a time and not be able to do anything to help her. Then when you think all is lost, things can turn around. For the first time in a long time, things were good, really good. It was February 2008. My sister was 44 years old. Out of the blue, one afternoon in early February she dies. No warning signs or indications that she was ill. We later find out from her autopsy report that she had a pulmonary embolism. She went peacefully and in no pain. She doesn’t have to do battle with her demons anymore. She is finally at peace.
You might wonder why I would want to write about this or what it has to do with jiu jitsu. I had developed a certain sense of security, familiarity, of trust with my jiu jitsu community (men and women alike). I really thought we were a special, honorable community of people. I let my guard down, maybe there is nothing wrong with that, but then the rape of the young woman on New Year’s Eve happened. The social media sites were bombarded with images and postings and it just completely took me to a very dark place. It brought back a whole lot of hurt and anger. Not only did my sister’s life change the day she was raped, so did my life, and the lives of my two younger sisters. It changed my parents forever. Not only did my sister put up walls, I did too. I don’t trust people easily. I don’t open up very easily. I am guarded and sometimes controlling. Most men that I meet are a suspect first until they prove otherwise. Plus, I’ve got a teenage daughter now. I know I’m probably overprotective with her, and it is difficult for her to understand why. I only just recently told her what happened with my sister and that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I also had to talk to her about the rape of the woman on NYE…by her teammates. I wanted her to understand what a horrible, horrible abuse of power that incident was, by people this woman thought she could trust. I wanted her to understand that she has to be extremely careful and aware and prepared, sometimes even with people she thinks she can trust. I hate that it has to be so different for her than for my son. I’ve been really struggling with this for the last couple of months, trying to figure out if I was going to post something or not. It’s been building up, about to boil over. I always think of my writing as therapy. I find that when I write about it, it sort of releases something inside of me. It doesn’t just belong to me anymore. I don’t have to carry the weight of it by myself anymore. For that I am grateful.
I believe that despite everything that has happened we are a special community of people. I think jiu jitsu was meant for everyone, especially women. My sister would definitely be stoked at the thought of the smaller, weaker person dominating a larger, stronger person. In a way, she was struggling with that her entire adult life. I wish she could see how strong I’ve become, how jiu jitsu has changed me, how it’s changing my daughter. I know she would be proud.