My son was in the apartment when I was raped. In fact, he was in my bed. He was six years old, and it's the last time I can remember him asking to sleep with me. When my dog barked, I got up to check the lock on the front door. My dog had never barked before.
My son remembers being awakened and told that I had been taken to the hospital. He wrote beautiful prose about it in middle school; he was asked to read his piece to classes other than his own because it was so powerful. It was during this time he was fixated on the locks in our home ... he would check the doors and windows obsessively before we turned in for the night.
I don't remember much of what he wrote, although he likely still has a copy somewhere. He's a bit of a pack rat when it comes to words, a quality I admire. It started with, "They woke me up, and told me my mom had been taken to the hospital."
I didn't realize at the time that he thought we were merely victims of a home invasion. I didn't realize he was blissfully unaware of what had actually happened that night. He didn't know it was his shirt the rapist used to tie my hands and he never missed it when the police took it as evidence.
I told my son about the rape when he was thirteen. It's a toss up as to whether the time was right or not. We were on one of our frequent drives between our home and our home town ... drives I treasured for the alone time they gave us, despite how often I complained about them.
The survivor's group I started pressed me to tell him. They said it was essential to my recovery. They were probably right.
Years later, we were victims of a home invasion. I left him home alone for the night ... he was sixteen. Feel free to discuss whether this is or is not appropriate, but I felt that leaving my trustworthy, responsible son home for a night with our two large dogs, knowing that our landlords (who had become friends) lived directly next door was reasonable. I was ten miles away.
He never heard the invader. The dogs never heard the invader. They were nestled next to him on the second floor, oblivious to noise on the first floor due to a loud AC unit in the window of my son's room. My son wasn't harmed, but when I learned what happened I cradled his face in my hands and let the "what ifs" wash over me.
He's going to college soon. I know how under-reported crimes are on college campuses, and I know I will fear for his safety the same way I do whenever he isn't in my sight.
However, I know he is strong. I know he can be influential. He has grown into a powerful man.