Tag Archives: child abuse

5 Things Never to Say to a Survivor of Abuse

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I think that it’s very important for people from all corners understand how to approach others when they reveal that they have been abused.  Some people are well meaning but don’t understand how their comments can be very insensitive and sometimes also justify the actions of those that abused us.

  1. You need to forgive that person and move on with your life. The problem with this thinking is it’s not that easy and the “forgive and forget” mentality lets the perpetrator off the hook. Not all of our abusers have faced punishment and in my case, probably never will thanks to ridiculous laws. I don’t equate forgiveness to the idea of letting it go. Forgiveness gets rid of any punishment and life continues on as normal. Letting it go is something that happens after the victim is satisfied with the amount of therapy and release of  mental tormenting caused by the abuse. They are able to not allow the abuse control who they are as a person and don’t use it as an excuse to hurt others.
  2. Let it go (aka. Get over it). No. No. No. Don’t ever say this to someone that has been assaulted, abused, molested, raped, etc. This sort of thing doesn’t just happen on command and can take years and years for a victim to recover from. How about you just get over your grandma’s death? Oh, you’re still sad about that? Get the picture? Sexual abuse can seriously paralyze some people emotionally and sexually. They don’t just “get over it.”
  3. Why didn’t/don’t you call the police and turn that person in?
    The problem with sexual abuse and assault is that it’s not talked about enough. Most victims are terrified to say anything. In my case, I was plagued by guilt on so many levels. I also didn’t know that the clock was running out of me. The statute of limitations ran out in my state over 4 years ago. Back then, I was still trying to convince myself that everything was ok, but it was definitely not. In other cases, the victim feels like no one will believe him/her or perhaps they feel threatened. I recently found out that my stepfather molested and raped another family member for years. He had threatened her that he would kill the entire family if she told anyone. Given that a rapist or molester will only serve a relatively small sentence, any victim would be terrified of what could happen once that prison sentence is over or they are out on parole. In my case, I was told that my mother would be the one to kill everyone and herself. He played on her mental instability and knew exactly what he was doing. I still have that irrational fear. Others may lose their entire family in the process or even to greater lengths, their entire town could turn against them depending on who the abuser is. Just look at the Stubenville case.
  4. Gross. That was too much information! I got this once after revealing that I had been molested to a close friend. I was shocked. I expected a little more sympathy than that. Seriously, though, if child sexual abuse grosses you out consider the fact that one out of every seven kids you know is probably being abused. This statistic is only based on what is reported. It could be higher than that. So consider that there are victims that sit next to you at work or church and run the register at the grocery store. There are a lot of us. It’s too common. If you are going to be grossed out about it, then stand up and help do something to stop it. Apathy isn’t what we need and making you comfortable shouldn’t be our top priority.
  5. That person doesn’t LOOK like a child molester/rapist.  News Flash: just because a guy has a tan wind breaker and weird mustache does not make them an automatic candidate for sexual violence! There are people leading churches, schools, colleges, military, organized sports, etc. that have been convicted of sexually abusing children. These are people that the community looked up to and respected. Most of the time they have good taste in clothes and are very charismatic. If they aren’t leading, they are infiltrating organizations that have weaknesses so they have easy access to their victims. There have been attractive, young female teachers that sexually abused male students. This is just as wrong as a male teacher having sex with a 12 year old female student. They are still predators and manipulators. Looks can be deceiving. Don’t let yourself be fooled! Other predators are right under your nose. In my case it was my step-father. Most kids are abused by someone that has access to the living quarters like close friends or family members.

What does all of this amount to? When someone confides in you that they have been abused, the best thing you can do for that person is to believe them. If they are a minor and you feel that the abuse is ongoing, you have an obligation to report it. The other thing is to be genuinely there for that person. When I finally came out about my abuse earlier this year, I talked many ears off on top of writing this blog. It was the best thing for me. Knowing that others cared enough to listen and understand me and be a sounding board for my thoughts was such a gift!

 

 

An Open Letter to…. the World

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Child-Abuse-stop-child-abuse-34714840-480-537Dear World,

How about we stop abusing kids? The children of today are the leaders and caretakers of tomorrow so let’s stop neglecting them, raping them, taking advantage of them and let them learn and grow the way that they should. Our kids shouldn’t have to recover from their childhoods.

Please understand that child abuse isn’t limited to third world countries and the ghetto. Look around you. It could be your neighbor, your niece/nephew, the person warming the pew next to you in church, that shy kid in Boy Scouts. It can happen to anyone anywhere. A lot of times there isn’t much to tip off a person to sexual abuse but if you, for one second, suspect that a child is being abused, it is your moral duty to report it. If nothing is done by authorities and you know deep in your heart that something isn’t right- report it again and again!

Let’s stop perpetuating the objectification of others. No human is a piece of property. I don’t give a shit what your religion says. Every human being deserves to live the life they chose for themselves. Every child deserves to be given a chance. Parents, stop setting your kids up for failure. Teach your kids about healthy relationships; what is and what isn’t. Girls don’t need to dress provocatively to get ahead in life. Boys don’t need to pretend to be the macho-est guy. Stop putting your little girls in heals and short skirts. It looks ridiculous anyway and it’s bad for their feet.  Stop scolding your boys for not making that sports goal. Maybe he’d be better at science anyway. Maybe your daughter would love to play sports some day. Maybe your kids just want to be themselves but they don’t know how because their parents are molding them into weird reflections of themselves or trying to live vicariously through them. Just because your life was shitty doesn’t mean that theirs has to be.

Dearest beautiful people of the world,

what I’m trying to say is: stop being selfish assholes.

Awkward Little Me

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I was an awkward kid… at least I felt that way. I’m sure some people thought that I was just downright weird. It makes sense now. I probably had a hard time functioning as a kid because of all the crap my parents were putting me through. On the one hand, I had my mother ridiculing me for merely being a child. I remember her always telling me, “children should be seen and not heard.” I guess she thought that I talked too much. She was still giving me shit about that as an adult. She had no inner child so it was very difficult for her to relate with me at all. Then there was Dave, exposing me to all things sexual. I was being taught that those things were normal. He even told me how kids did porn. I am so grateful that the internet wasn’t big back then because there is no telling what else he would have done.

There were a few instances that I remember giving a grown up reasons to be concerned but I don’t know if it crossed anyone’s mind what was going on. When I was 6, there was the babysitter’s son. She walked in on us showing each other our privates. That was my idea. As I write this a new memory just popped up. That babysitter did call DFS because when the case worker came to visit, she mentioned that I kissed that little boy and told him, “this is how my daddy kisses me.” I was trying to French kiss him. That made two people, so I guess it did cross her mind. She didn’t babysit me after that. Now I know why. My parents also moved rather abruptly from that neighborhood.

A few years later when we were in the apartment complex, there was another incident at a different babysitter’s house. This sitter had 3 of her own kids. She took care of my brother during the day and me after school and on breaks. One day I was playing with their tape recorder. We used to record ourselves singing and just saying silly things. I had been playing with her daughter who was a couple of years younger than me. She got up and left and I was alone under the bed. The recording that I left was my version of an orgasm. Yep, I panted and moaned just like I had seen in Dave’s videos. Luckily for me, the sitter didn’t tell my mother (at least I don’t think she did). Instead she spoke to me directly and told me that was inappropriate and never do it again or she would tell my mother.  I think this lady might have known something was amiss because I don’t think this was the only time that I acted out with them but I don’t think she made any call to DFS.

As I got older, I had a knack for drawing cartoons. One of the things that I would draw was pictures of Dolly Parton and her big boobs. I also drew a lot of boobs. Just random boobs. I did this at someone else’s house and was called out about it. I do believe that this time my mother chewed me out for this.  I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to draw those sorts of things. I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal to kiss that way and make those noises. I was only portraying the environment that I had been exposed to.

I kind of feel bad for the adults that did call. They did what they could but still had to live with the thought that they knew a child was being abused and they couldn’t do anything else about it. Tonight I just realized that there were 3 calls made not 2. How many phone calls does family services need to get before doing a deeper investigation?

Needless to say, the abuse on both ends made me a very awkward child and teenager. I had a hard time making friends and keeping the ones that I did make. I had a hard time understand why someone would want to be friends with me. I still struggle with this as an adult. I can’t explain why.  I felt that I couldn’t be a part of the groups of beautiful, popular girls so when any of them would speak to me I would get all weird. I made some friends but not a lot and they usually changed every year. I had absolutely no self-esteem or confidence so that contributed to the difficulty that I had functioning with other kids.

I still struggle with my awkwardness today. I have a habit of being a wallflower and not putting myself out there. I’m afraid of risk and notoriety. I don’t like to be the center of attention. I feel like crying when people look me in the eye. I hate confrontation. I get this weird pain, almost like a bolt of electricity, up my spine when I do have to face someone who is being confrontational. A few times it has brought me to my knees. I hyperventilate when I think I’m going to disappoint someone.

I’m getting better, though. One thing at a time. I have actually gotten better at confrontation. However, when I do stand up for myself I get called down that I’m being a bitch and having an attitude. I don’t get that. Society is so fucking confusing sometimes.

How sick is this?

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I had another memory sneak up on me today. Something triggered it. I don’t know what but it was something. This was when I was a little older. It might have been when I was 18 and came out to church officials about the molestation. I remember talking to my mother about it and her reaction was just bizarre. She tried to justify his actions by telling me, “Well, I guess he just loved you so much that he wanted to make you all his.”

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

That’s all I could think. I feel like this Jackie Chan meme:

jackie-chan-meme-wtf-113

The Dark Parts of My Heart

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As positive and upbeat I may portray myself, there are still skeletons in my closet and deep dark secrets that I will probably never share. It’s ok. We all have those. Some of them might not even really be a secret but rather how you really feel about something or someone. One of those skeletons for me was how I really felt about my parents. Even though on the outside my relationship with them seemed to be normal but what I felt on the inside was far from it. Keeping in mind that I just came forward about my abuse and started this blog about two months ago, I am really having to face how I truly feel about these people. I sometimes felt bad for the way I felt. I never let anyone know about it because I didn’t want anyone to thing that I was lacking in ethical standards. The truth is, however, I always secretly hoped that my parents would just drive themselves off a cliff or something.

I feel terrible for having those thoughts because I am not a violent person nor do I wish death upon anyone but I had never really faced the pain within the deep, dark crevices of my heart. I suppose that I felt, in a way, that if they were deceased then my pain would magically disappear. I realize now that probably wouldn’t be the case. The one thing that would most likely disappear would be my mother’s drama but that has gone away… for now.

One of the fears that I had about disowning them was that they would get suicidal. My dad has always been depressed and had, in the past, mentioned very coyly people who couldn’t handle life anymore and just snapped. It’s also one of the reasons that I never pressed charges. I convinced myself that he was of no danger to the public and just didn’t think it was necessary. Truthfully, I just didn’t want to go through the drama of court appearances, my mother and the possibility of him committing suicide to avoid being raped in prison.

My fear of disowning my mother had more to do with her mental state. She always made it seem like I was her “savior” and that she couldn’t live without me. I hated this. She was almost co-dependent on me. I was not dependent on her, thank goodness! She felt like I needed to fill the gaps in her life that she couldn’t fill with legitimate friends and family. Well, they all hate her so I felt like I had no choice. I was scared and I still am a bit of what she is capable of. The woman is bat-shit crazy and is just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

I do live about a 7 hour drive away from her which is good. The other day I had a thought that crossed my mind that scared me. What if she went on an all-out lunatic crazy-spree and drove up here to try to kill or hurt my family or me? My heart sank. She has never been that violent or even close but there are a lot of factors in her life right now that could send her over the edge not including my situation. I think that she is too narcissistic to commit suicide but I don’t know if she is crazy enough to commit homicide. I feel myself beginning to cower in fear of her much like I did when I was little but this is much more serious. I don’t want to suggest that she is capable of it because I really don’t know.

I had a dream the other night that my husband and I were taking shelter from a bunch of tornadoes in a ditch. I think we came out of it fine. I’m not superstitious nor do I believe in the validity of dream interpretations but I do know that they could mean something psychologically. Perhaps I’m in the midst of my own tornado outbreak and maybe there is one heading my way. Either way, I know today that they are not my responsibility and what they chose to do with their lives, even if they end it, is not my problem. I have to be ok with that. I have to accept that it’s not my fault and not be conflicted with the other feelings that I have because my head and my heart are surely at war with one another.

Personal Responsibility

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One of the recurring themes in my mother’s life is that of personal responsibility. She has always had a hard time accepting it. When confronted about something that she did wrong, she would always blame someone or some situation instead of just admitting that she was wrong. When confronted about not taking responsibility, she would always blame the fact that she didn’t have a mother to teach her right and wrong therefore she has a hard time recognizing when she is wrong. Ok, that’s sweet but it’s still a cop-out.

Once my brother and I both became adults, we really started to confront her about these issues. Of course there was always some excuse. One of the big things that I would push is just her overall worldview. I am a huge proponent of living in the moment. I have always had the attitude that your life and your world are what you make it. When there are people living in 3rd world slums but are very happy and people who live in multimillion dollar mansions that are miserable, that tells me that money has little to do with it and attitude is everything. So, when I would talk to her about her life and she would go on and on about how miserable she was and how it was all Dave’s fault, I would be quick to answer “then leave him.” She would always agree that it was a good idea. I even went as far as to find a 2 bedroom condo that was affordable for her just to get the ball rolling. She would stop that ball in its tracks every time.

The truth is, my mother doesn’t want to take responsibility for her own life. She loves the drama. She feels justified in putting the blame on someone else. When it really came down to it, not only did she not want to be alone but she couldn’t live without cable, internet, a nice car, a nice neighborhood, her cats, etc. She was not willing to make any sacrifices to save her relationship with her children because she knew that she would have to give up a few things in order to make it on her own.

When money finally got tight enough (she’s unemployed), Dave and her had to move out of their nice suburban rental home because they couldn’t afford the payments anymore. My grandparents allowed them to live in their investment condo for almost 1/3 of what they were paying in rent for the house. It was very generous of them but they had a condition: they wanted to leave all of their furniture and fixtures. My parents would have to put all of their things in storage. Understandable. They are in their 80’s and don’t want to be moving furniture back and forth. They had nice furniture anyway. Was my mother grateful? Fuck no. Up until I finally cut it off with her, she bitched and complained about goddamn everything.

I am a problem solver by nature. It’s part of my biological makeup. Ok, I don’t know about that but I am definitely a problem solver. I’m good at math and computers and organizing and all of that. So, when a person comes to me complaining about a problem I immediately try to help them find a solution. What is the point of suffering when there are viable solutions, right? My mother complained about everything from their furniture to not being able to get cable right away. I suggested that perhaps she could spend some time outside getting in some exercise by walking. It was spring after all so the timing was perfect. The neighborhood wasn’t nice enough so scratch that. I suggested that perhaps she should listen to music and read books and rediscover her inner artist. Well, there was an excuse for that too. I gave up.

It’s not all about taking responsibility for one’s actions but also their own life. If you aren’t happy but yet you have shelter, food and clothing, then find out why. If it’s depression then get help for it. If it’s not then try to change your worldview. I always told her that nobody will be happy for her. Nobody will live her life for her. That goes for all of us.

She even tried to blame Dave for her abusing me as a kid. I did confront her a few years ago in as loving of a manner that I could. I told her that she wasn’t a good mother. Yes, she fed me and clothed me and bought presents but that was about where it ended. She blamed him and told me that he was always coercing her to beat me and spank me and that he would tell her that is how parenting is done. I tried to sympathize with her but this just never sat well with me. She was still trying to play me on the fact that she just didn’t know any better.  I still have a hard time accepting that.

What I have learned to accept is the fact that I am an autonomous, responsible human being myself. I am responsible for not only myself but also my children which is why I had to make the heartfelt decision to cut my parents off. The welfare of my children is of utmost importance. Also, I consider my own happiness and life to be my own responsibility. While my husband and I are working hard to get a college education, I have come to terms with the fact that things might not always work out as planned. Even if we end up living in a mobile home on food stamps, I still have to be able to find pleasure and enjoyment in the little things in life. I think that I have achieved that. I consider myself one to have a “silver linings” type of attitude. It drives my husband up the wall but I really do try to be positive and stay on the sunny side of things. If I don’t, I find myself becoming like my mother which I promised myself  I will never let happen.

I also have the responsibility of ending the abuse in its tracks. I don’t care if it’s been a generational thing. It ends with me. I have caught myself a few times getting full of anger and rage and have had to find a way to stop it and level my emotions out. It’s necessary. I never want my children to go through what I did, even on a small scale. I don’t want them to have to recover from their childhood when they are adults. I want them to look back at their childhood and remember all of the fun, love, mischief, family and all of the positive things that a child should remember.

I may have missed out on my childhood but I have an inner child emerging and a responsibility to ensure that my children always remember a beautiful childhood.

My happiness is my own. My pain belongs to me. My life is a reflection of all of those things and it is my choice to turn it all into something beautiful.

I’m No Damsel

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As a survivor of abuse, I can’t tell you how many times I just wished for someone to come a whisk me away and make my life better. When I was little I would dream of being kidnapped. No kidding. I seriously felt that being kidnapped by a complete stranger would be better than the hell that I lived in. I also dreamed that my grandfather (maternal) would show up at my school and take me away. I don’t know why I pictured him. I knew that he wasn’t a good father to my mother. Maybe it’s because I knew that my mother didn’t talk to him. I would daydream about my life as Cinderella. My mother fit the bill for the evil step-mother with the way she treated me and used me. I longed for adulthood. I couldn’t wait to meet my Prince Charming and get the heck out of there.

When those dreams seemed too far out of reach, I would dream of perhaps just running away and living on the streets. I figured any restaurant owner would give me food since I was a cute, blond little girl. I would sneak into Sears and sleep on the mattresses overnight and steal clothes when I needed it and still show up to school. I had it all worked out in my little head. But I always knew that even if I ran away, chances were, I would end up back at home with my mother even more angry and furious at me.

As I got older my daydreams shifted to a more romantic setting. I would meet a boy who came from a rich family and he would fall in love with me and take care of me for the rest of my life. I would have great opportunities to get an education and have an amazing career. It was all in my dreams. I didn’t even really date as a teen so the idea of ever meeting someone seemed so far out of reach and I had a hard time keeping friends as well. The truth was, my heart wasn’t in it to just get swept off my feet and married. I was searching for an out and someone who would stick up for me. It seemed like nobody would. I used to think that Dave was my buffer from my mother but I realize now that he never stuck up for me like he said he did. He would always tell me how he thought my mother was crazy and a stone-cold bitch and that he would stick up for me when I wasn’t around. I realize now that he only said those things to groom me and win my trust so he could molest me. His facade was beginning to shatter when I was a teenager and I had no one who would tell my mother to back off and leave me alone. He just stood and watched. Sometimes he would shake his head. If he did say anything to her she would have just exploded into another argument with him and he didn’t want that so I typically took the brunt of her anger.

When Forrest Gump came out in the early 90’s, I remember a scene that has always stuck with me. A young Jenny was running through a field to escape her abusive father when she stopped and knelt down to pray. She said, “Dear God, make me a bird. So I could fly far, far away from here.” Forrest then goes on to say that God works in mysterious ways and that he didn’t make Jenny into a bird but instead the state came and told her she didn’t have to live there any more and she moved in with her grandma. THAT was how I felt deep, deep inside. I wanted wings to fly far, far away. I wanted someone to come and say that I didn’t have to be there any more. I wasn’t religious and neither was my family but I began to pray that. I was about 14. The molestation was over but living with the memories and my mother was not.

God never gave me wings… or a social worker. I never got rescued from that home. I did finally leave at 19 and was independent my 21 and I was far enough away. It never worked out the way I dreamed it would. Things ended up quite different from my childhood daydreams. I didn’t meet a man who was rich or a prince or anything like that but I did meet a man who taught me personal love and strength. I was honest with him about my abuse from the get-go. I always knew that once someone got to intimately know me they would sense that something was amiss so I might as well be up front about it. He was loving and accepting toward me about it.

Anytime I told him that I loved him he would say, “me too.” Like, he loves himself too. He still does this! I asked him why he said that. I thought he was only being ornery. He always told me that nobody will ever love you more than you love yourself. He knew that I had self-love issues. I tried really hard to not hate myself but it was easier said than done. I hated everything about myself at times. After we got married, I began to realize that he was right. He didn’t step into my life and whisk me away and battle my family for me. Instead he stuck by my side and helped me find the strength to fight my own battle.

A few years ago I began reading up on feminism and admiring other women who were strong. I have learned (and still am learning) to take all that I have learned about strength, love, and myself and concoct my own medicine for healing. I have learned to build my own battle armor. I had to get to this place on my own and I am grateful for that. While it would have been easy on me for someone else to do all the dirty work, it just isn’t reality. Even if I would have been taken away as a child and put in the foster system, I would still have big personal battles to fight.

I have learned in the last few years that the idea of a damsel in distress is bullshit.  The idea that women are too weak to stand up for themselves or fight a battle is so yesteryear. Disney movies can suck it. What Cinderella needed to do was punch that old hag in the jaw and get out of there. Perhaps move to the big city and become a fashion designer with the help of her mice and tweety birds. I wish I could have stood up for myself as a child like that, but I couldn’t. Now I can.

I have to make the personal choice everyday to stay strong and stand my ground. Sure, the pain is real but it also reminds me that I made it and I’m alive. I don’t need rescuing or fairy tales. What I do need is relationships that are real and mutual. Everything else comes from within.

At this point in my life if I want wings to fly far, far away it’s gonna be on a plane to Hawaii so I can sit on the beach and drink Pina Coladas all day. Some day perhaps…