I Understand

posted Nov 2, 2017, 10:10 AM by Bridget Derkash   [ updated Nov 27, 2017, 9:29 AM ]

The smell was what woke me up, I had fallen asleep on a Greyhound bus headed to Cortez to see my sister and my new niece. The rotten stench from his body smelled like sewer and sweat making me gasp for air. Leaning close to my body he demanded that I get off the bus with him at the next stop. While his fingers violated my body, my brain froze in fear.

I had just turned 13-years-old and I was taking the bus to southern Colorado to spend a week with my sister and the baby. My first trip alone, it was a big deal for me, all grown up and on my own. His face was next to mine, almost breathing in my fear which fed his power over my body. I sat afraid to move away from the danger that was seated right next to me. I did not know how to respond.

 A loud voice boomed through the bus, it was 2 am and everyone else was asleep, except for the bus driver who was looking at me from his mirror. I can still see his face and the hat that all Greyhound bus drivers wore back then.  In front of him was a huge windshield and the highway lit up from the bus’s bright lights. The driver demanded that I get up and come to the front of the bus and sit by him. I blinked back the tears, he sounded so mad at me. I could not figure out what I had done wrong. I stood up and squeezed by my offender, afraid to go to the front of the bus to face another man who appeared very angry. I sat shivering and afraid, I was 8 hours from home and help.

We did not have cell phones back then, only pay phones. I was not sure where the next phone would be. I am not sure I even had any money to make that call. The bus rolled into the station and the rotten man walked right by me, two feet from my face. He smiled as he walked down the stairs, straight into my eyes, letting me know he just took something from me and he got away with too!  I remember staring ahead and trying to wrap my young brain around what had just happened.  No one had ever touched me like that and it made me feel sick and afraid. I was terrified, it was dark, I was alone and I had to trust the driver to get me to my sister safe and sound.

Cortez was the next stop and my sister stood smiling in the street lights, anxious to see me, we hugged. I never told anyone what happened. I suppose I thought I would get in trouble for letting a stinking scary man sit next to me and violate my body. I think for years I thought I had done something wrong, it must have been my fault for falling asleep. 

As a Victim Advocate for River Bridge Regional Center, I understand why children don’t disclose. How can a child disclose that a father, brother, uncle or grandparent is abusing them, when I could not scream, “help” when a disgusting man tried to kidnap me off a bus while raping me with his fingers?

It took years of me growing up to understand that the bus driver saved me that night. That his anger was not at me. He noticed this man get up and move to my seat, lean close to my body, and knew something was not right. Today he is a hero to me, I now understand.

I don’t know if I would have gotten off that bus in fear, I don’t know if he could have controlled me that much.  All I know is that my mind froze and it took a stranger in control to move me to safety. When I hear that a child is afraid to disclose, I understand how scary it can be, disclosing something so ugly takes a of lot courage. I believe every child that comes into River Bridge.

I wish I had known that I was supposed to tell someone, that my body belonged to me, and that no one had a right to touch it like the stranger on the bus did that night when I was 13 years old.


Where Silence Ends
Healing Begins