This is awesome, and I agree with everything she says. I sure hope this 13 year old child is not having sex, but, I think it’s very a good idea for a 13 year old child to be as literate about a culture that supports rape as she seems to be. Good for her. I think that ‘slut shaming’ has a big connection to ‘rape survivor shaming’ – survivors know that girls that are seen as ‘damaged goods’ already through having been abused are at higher risk for repeated assault.
I am an amazon! I had a pap test and negotiated for what I needed. Yay me.
I went to the drop in clinic today because I have a stomach bug (at least that’s what I thought) that wasn’t going away. The doctor ruled out the bug pretty quickly and then asked if I had pap tests regularly. I said no. She asked if I was ready to have one today. I decided I was up for it. She wanted to check and see if there was something wrong with my uterus. I decided I was.
She handed me a paper sheet and was about to leave the room when I said “can I sit up for the test?” At first she said no. If I hadn’t already had a perfectly normal pap test sitting up, I would have believed her. I explained how the other woman had done it with the back of the table up. She said “I don’t know how to do it that way”. I said “I’m a rape survivor and I’d be more comfortable.” Her face softened an almost imperceptible amount and she said she would try.
I told her that the other woman had lifted up the back part of the table. She set it to an upright position and left the room so I could change. I’m not sure if she went online and looked up how to do it, because she was gone for awhile.
When she came back she had me sit on the table with my knees bent and my feet touching, then allow my knees to fall apart from each other. I think this was the part she looked up. She didn’t use the stirrups. This was actually even better than sitting up with the stirrups. Then she did the pap test pretty normally and fast. She seemed impressed that it wasn’t any harder to do in that position. I told her that a group of doctors in Alberta had published a booklet that suggested it as a better way to do pap tests for survivors, and it certainly worked better for me. She said it might be a good new way to do it for everyone, since most women don’t like to lay down (it sounded like herself included).
Rape survivor is so much easier to say, and yet still correct, than childhood sexual assault survivor, incest survivor or any of the terms that bring in the messy details of my age when it happened or who was the perpetrator.
Anyhow, I came through unscathed, no meltdown, no triggers, feeling empowered. I think I have this blog to thank for being able to be so articulate with my doctor. I’ve gotten so much more comfortable with thinking about and talking about my vulva and what I need as a survivor. It’s really common after all.
My next step I think is to try and find a specialist to do some reconstructive surgery on my vulva, and get rid of those little sore tags of flesh.
Here’s a link to the booklet I was referring to:
- Guide for doctors on how to offer sensitive care to sexual abuse survivors.
- Information Sheet for Gynecological Care Providers – A worksheet I created for sexual abuse survivors to fill out and give to your doctor to ask for help getting through the exam.
Well, my new relationship is now over. She broke up with me about a week ago, by email, after spending a lovely day together. That was hard. Some people need to be the central person in another person’s life and the polyamory didn’t work for her. It hit her that I have a wife I love, and that didn’t feel safe for her. I get it, particularly in context with what else I know about her. I’m grieving but okay. It’s hard to finally have what you’ve wanted for a long time and then lose it. But at least my relationship with my wife is still solid, perhaps even stronger than it was.
This is ordinary grief. Somehow being so familiar with complicated and long term grief, the grief of tragically losing my family, sets me in good stead here. I know the road map. I know that my emotional and cognitive ‘bandwidth’ is going to be reduced for awhile, that I’ll cry easily, that I’ll be tired and overeat a little. This will actually pass and taking good care of myself will help. B vitamins help. Eating well helps. Being around people who love me helps.
I’m a bit anxious I’ll never find anyone. I had one of my poly friends look at my personal ad and she told me her feedback was that it was intimidating, that it looked like I had it all together. I do, actually, have it all together, or as much of it as anyone does.
Anyhow, I’m feeling sad, and it will pass.
I wish I could write in more detail about my new lover and our first nights together, but the story is partly hers and not mine to share. All I feel comfortable saying is that it went well, and I was able to be a lot more open about my scarring than I had intended to. I had a flare-up of my vulvadynia, and dealt with it with the yoga move I’ve written about earlier. The next day I was totally fine and not sore at all. I am proud of really trusting the rhythms of my body and very pleased I was able to let go and be open to body sensations and pleasure in ways I haven’t been able to before. I’m so proud of trusting myself and the self esteem and sexual confidence I seem to have aquired somewhere.
I think this blog has had a lot to do with that, getting myself clear and really looking at the impact the vaginal/vulvar injuries I suffered as a child has had on my sexuality. I feel really confident I can do this. Thank Goddess for that.
My relationship with my wife is coping well with the polyamory, we’re taking good care of one another, and it’s working. I really feel lucky that she trusts me so much in this journey.
My life is full of beauty.
I haven’t written much because not much on the sexual abuse theme has been up lately. I’m happy. I smile. I look at old pictures of myself with a wistful look on my face and realize how profound that change is. I feel good physically. My year of working out twice a week with a trainer has paid off and I’m strong and muscular with a much smaller belly and way more energy. Happiness seems to have brought my cortisol levels down and the belly fat is finally giving up the ghost. I’m not anxious. My job is good.
Even my relationship with my wife is good. We’ve weathered so far the transition into polyamory. I’m happier, and she has more space, which she likes, and I have my old bodacious social self back, which I like. We aren’t taking one another for granted any more. We’ve both been putting energy into making the other feel loved. This is not to say I’ve actually slept with someone else, but that’s most likely to change very soon, and it looks like we’ll weather that as well.
I’ve been thinking about how and whether to explain to new lovers about the scars on my vulva, and the care needed to make sure I don’t get really sore or triggered. Frankly, preventing soreness is of more practical importance. This next relationship will be my first new sexual relationship after finding out about my scars and figuring out how to prevent and manage the chronic vulvadynia I’d had as a result of the injuries from the rapes.
Mostly I think I’ll start with – ‘I have some vascular damage, so I need there to be more than enough lube at all times and I need to change immediately anything that irritates no matter how fun it is, or I’ll be in pain for days.’ Anyone out there have a good speech for this kind of thing, that doesn’t break the mood, but gets the necessary info across? This will probably separate the wheat from the chaff, but we’ll see how that works. I’ll let you know. It’s one of those hard things for survivors, figuring out how much to tell a lover, and how to prevent the abuse from taking over our sex lives.
For those of you with similar vulva injuries, I have had good results with Probe brand lubricant, which is water based with a citrus preservative and doesn’t cause flare-ups like some other ones do. You can get thicker formulations of it that offer a bit more protection from friction as well.
I want to say that I’m hopeful, I’m well and yes, people can heal from even prolonged, early and violent child sexual assault. I believe that I’m one of them. It takes time, courage and work, and it’s not like all of the effects go away completely, but it doesn’t prevent me from doing anything I want to do anymore. I’m so grateful.
Apparently, at a recent Pantheacon, there was a scuffle between trans activists and women who want to have a women’s skyclad (nude) ritual without penises and testicles. The theoretical penis and testicles in question that so many people were up in arms about women excluding from pagan ritual would belong to a transwoman who had not yet (or did not intend to) have them altered. I don’t know if an actual transwoman was excluded from ritual, or just the idea that some poor penis-enhanced and vagina-challenged woman would be excluded from a ritual by feminists that got people’s knicker in a twist.
I think this is very much a sexual abuse survivor issue. The vast majority, although of course not all, of us were sexually assaulted by people with penises, who had more power than us not only because they were adults, but because they had male privilege.
There need to be sacred places where naked penises are not welcome. There need to be places I can be energetically open without my inner survivor child freezing and fearful. I needed that a lot more when I was younger than I do now, but it’s still very healing. I’m not saying that a transexual woman who has fully transitioned (hormones, genital surgery) should not come to a skyclad women’s only ritual. Personally, I think she’s very welcome.
Below is the full comment I wrote on a pagan blog about this issue. The character limit cut me off so I only posted the first part. Here is the rest.
I want to add some perspective here. The first time I was raped by a person with a penis, I was five years old. Over a decade of my childhood, I’ve been raped several more times, always by a person with a penis, who had male socialization and attitudes, and believed he was allowed to rape me because he was a man. The culture around us permitted and condoned his ongoing rape of me implicitly because of his status as a male. As a young woman, I had my body violated by grabbing, leering, rape threats and unwelcome comments several times, all of which by someone with a penis who had male privilege, and who got away with it because of that.
I am very concerned that tearing down women’s healing places comes from a place of mysogyny and discounting women’s actual reality under sexism. I have seen this process in effect with rape survivors and the battle to end rape is not over. I am not a victim. I am strong, but I needed women’s space, completely and utterly free from penises and internalized male sexism, to heal. Feminism has been very important to me, and so has spaces that feel safe because I cannot be raped there. The Goddess has healed me, and I could not have experienced that healing without women’s mystery ritual. 3 out of 5 women are sexually violated by the time they are 18. We don’t talk about it much in public, and we can’t enter into arguments like these without exposing something painful, private and often misunderstood, often to a culture that discounts the importance of what we have experienced. This is not right or fair.
A woman would understand the fear, and the need for body safety at a skyclad ritual. A woman with a penis should also understand this and respect this. If she doesn’t, she misses an key part of the experience of being a woman, and until she gains it she will likely not be experienced as an an ally of women like me who have survived rape.
No, I don’t even remotely think all men are rapists or potential rapists, or that men are evil. In Canada, where I live, a person needs to have bottom surgery to legally change their sex to female on their birth certificate and drivers licence. I think this is a good and clear boundary. I’d like to see pagans holding an equivalent of menarche rituals for transwomen who have taken this step, and the reverse for transmen who had completed physical transition. Once a person had had this ritual they would be considered their target sex and would be welcome in same-sex ritual of their target sex only after that.
The tool of air is discernment and boundaries, as represented by the knife that cuts the circle, so that some are in and some are out. There needs to be a place to draw a line and I don’t think a person’s declaration that they think of themselves as female alone, followed up with nothing permanent, is enough of a commitment to justify the harms to sacred healing space women like me would experience.
- What about people who do not think of themselves as either female or male? Should they be in the boundary of a ritual designed for women if they do not even include themselves there?
- If a trans-specific ritual were held, could ciswomen and cismen crash it?
- If a person of colour specific ritual were held, could a white person with a black ancestor ten generations back crash it?
- If specific ritual was held to connect with biological ancestors and gods from a particular pagan tradition practiced in a particular place and time, would that be racist? (Eg: a ritual to the Greek gods open only to people of Greek heritage?
Rather than attack women creating spaces for ourselves, can we please attack rapists, mysogynists and pedophiles and their apologists? Once those are gone, we will have no need for this debate.
I was at a first nations gathering where there was a moon lodge (a secluded space for women who are currently menstruating, where they are tended by other women. Menstruating women are regarded as being too energetically powerful to include in co-ed rituals, so at large gatherings, a moon lodge is built for them to do menstrual time specific ritual together instead.). The tradition held that the only people allowed to build or enter the moon lodge were women who had already menstruated or who were menstruating. I was honoured to be invited (as a white person) to help build the lodge. There was another white person who was transgendered (but not transexual by hir own report- more of a stone butch) who frequently would wear a penis prosthesis under hir pants. The elder crone in charge of the moon lodge said this person, who menstruated, was welcome to help build the lodge provided they did not wear the prosthesis, considered themself a woman and participated as a woman. This person agreed, respecting the culture and it’s gatekeeper. I do not think the elder would have permitted a naked person with a penis and testicles in the moon lodge. I do not believe it is possible to participate in a women’s mystery skyclad ritual with a penis and testicles, and not change it to co-ed ritual energetically. If a transwoman has had bottom surgery, that demonstrates commitment to being a woman, and I believe she should be included.
Feminists are easy targets in a culture that already hates women. Would we be so judgemental about a men’s ritual that excluded a female-bodied transmen who had had no hormone treatment or breast reduction? The reason this doesn’t happen is that a transman in such a situation would run a great risk of violence in participating and probably wouldn’t risk participating until he passed. Women like Z are used as the straw feminist to attack, so that women like me, who are wanting to have a reasoned dialogue about the actual impacts of including people with penises in women’s intimate spaces are silenced. I am beginning to very much resent it.
NOTE: By the way, before commenting on this post, please read the comments already posted. Reasoned and nuanced discussion of ideas are welcome.
One of the problems with having been in a chronic state of fear and anxiety for years and years while surviving the abuse, and then while healing from it, is that the cortisol levels in the blood get really high. High cortisol levels make it almost impossible to lose weight, and are linked to all kinds of diseases, as if we didn’t need more negative effects from the abuse.
Here’s some tips I researched to reduce cortisol levels. I’ve added my notes next to them about how they’ve worked out for me:
- Avoid caffeine, which can elevate cortisol levels. [I avoid cafeine, which does make me anxous, but still eat chocolate. If I feel the need for a latte, I have steamed milk, which is just as satisfying. ]
- Get a good night’s sleep. Cortisol levels are generally lower in the middle of the night while you’re asleep, and sleep deprivation has been shown to increase cortisol levels. [Hard to do if you’re already anxious. But I do modify my life to prioritize not having to wake to an alarm in the morning. ]
- Exercise regularly, but avoid intense or prolonged exercise as it stimulates cortisol release. [This is interesting, intense or prolonged exercise does make me really uncomfortable – I feel hyped up, anxous and emotional. When I work out, I now stop and take a walk around the gym if I get like that, and won’t do an exercise that doesn’t permit this kind of break when I need it. It’s really made exercise possible for me. ]
- Try music therapy, massage therapy, and dancing, all of which have been shown to reduce cortisol levels. [I like all these things, interestingly dancing is one of the vigorous exercise types I can tolerate well without getting anxous or adrenalized.]
- Consider supplementation with vitamin C, omega 3 fatty acids, black tea, or phosphatidylserine. [I don’t know what this last thing is, but I have been taking more vitamin C and Omega 3 fatty acids. I take 6 or more salmon oil capsules a day, after reading how good it is for the brain, especially those of us with gunk.]
- Laugh and cry – research has shown that both reduce cortisol levels. [This must be why crying always makes me feel better. I’ve been looking for more opportunities to laugh.]
- Eat regular meals and stick to low-glycemic foods to maintain a constant blood sugar level. [Always a struggle, but I think this helps too when I can pull it off. I don’t like sugary foods anyways so it’s not as hard for me as it might be for others, and I actually like whole grain foods. ]
Since it’s been a while since I posted.
Update: Things are a lot better with my wife. We’re communicating a lot more, and she’s reading an excellent book “Pagan Polyamory” which is starting some good discussions. We had a lovely romantic weekend a couple of weeks ago, which went really well. I also read my Car Crash post out at a workshop I was at last weekend. Afterward I felt like I’d overshared, but my friend who was there pointed out that it was a similar time I thought I’d overshared that had resulted in our friendship, so I think it was okay.
So, things are still rough with my wife. I was at a practice for the choir I sing with and during the vocal warm up for freaking sake I started crying and had to leave the room to calm down. Then I came back and during the first song we practiced (which was a sad one about the loss of a loved one…) I started crying and couldn’t stop, literally couldn’t stop. I’m pretty good, as I expect most survivors are, at squashing down feelings and going numb, but literally could not stop crying. I had to run out of the room and sob in the bathroom. My friend followed me and gave me a hug and held me as I cried. It took several long minutes to calm down enough to go back in.
Interestingly, I was out of the woods a few minutes later when that same friend asked me to dance with her during one of the other songs. She and I will likely do some choreography during this specific song so we were practicing it. Moving my body in this way got me out of whatever groove my brain had gotten into. I’m all in favour of grieving when you need to, but normally am able to postpone grief until I’m in an acceptable place to cry.
The grief I’m feeling about my marriage is really deep and as is frustratingly usual, I don’t actually understand fully what I’m crying about. Generally I don’t get this information until after I’ve really let the feelings out, which can be hard to surrender to, but seems to be the way I work. It’s another part of my feelings being dissociated from the information about it I guess. I’ve been crying on average once a day since then, which was about a week ago.
What I can put together is this: My wife has been my person, for the last 10 years, who will physically be there for me in the night, and physically hold me when I have a nightmare or need to cry. She’s gotten to be adequate at this over time, although my waterworks isn’t something she gets intuitively, unfortunately. Now that we’re sleeping apart about half the time, I don’t have this body comfort any more. I have a lot less touch in my life, something I really need a lot of. Her not wanting to have sex with me any more is something I really grieve, I crave that kind of intense physical intimacy with someone who loves me. This is not something that is easily replaced. I don’t even really have that with her anymore on the rare occasions we have sex now.
There is something that is so deeply accepting and shame reducing about an intensely intimate physical connection with someone who I love and who loves me. It’s something I really crave. Casual sex isn’t going to do it, and it will be a long time before I’m even ready to find someone else that I can have this with.
There is this central theme in the Harry Potter books, of which I am a fan, that Harry is spared a lot of damage from the abuse by his aunt, uncle and cousin by the spell his mother invoked, of loving him so much she gave her life to protect him. I was thinking about this today, and though I have no-one else’s love to immunize me from pain and psychological harm, I do have my own self-love. It seems to be my duty to learn to love myself as fiercely and loyally as I can.
My wife is out of town for a few days and I’m happy she’s gone. It gives me some psychological space to grieve fully. I’m finding myself hibernating from everyone.
Today, it is probably no accident that I forgot about my piano lesson. I am kind of relived I did, as I don’t think I could have played the piano without crying either. Perhaps that’s what I’ll do over the holidays, concentrate on loving myself and making music to clear out all this pain and grief. Surely there must be an end to it if I let it flow, that seems to be how it works.
To all of you in grief this December, I send my solidarity. May you love yourself fiercely.
I’ve been taking piano lessons. I’ve got a great teacher and I’m enjoying it. As I’ve written about before, I have a hard time learning to play musical instruments, despite being quite musical and not for lack of trying. I get anxious and frustrated easily when doing music, and have a hard time sticking with it.
Apparently my piano teacher has noticed this and asked me about it today, in a very kind way. He asked me if I’d taken piano lessons as a kid, and wasn’t surprized when I told him the teacher was awful. He said he gets that a lot and can usually tell if students have had bad experiences in the past. He even disclosed that he’d had a difficult upbringing himself, I think to make me feel comfortable. He doesn’t (and probably won’t) know the half of it.
My literally psychopathic father played the very same piano I have in my living room. I asked it of him (indirectly through my mother) as an apology offering for raping me as a child. The one time I saw him expressing what seemed to be a sincere emotion in response to a relationship loss was when he played one song, moonlight sonata, on the piano well into the night on the evening he found out his father had died. I think of it as my grandmother’s (his mother) piano.
I took piano lessons at age 8 with a teacher who lived at the top of a tall hill. She expected me to practice during the week, something I did not, at the age of 8, in a chaotic alcoholic home, have the organizational skills to do without support from a parent, something I didn’t get. She repeatedly berated me for not practicing.
When I was about 30, I auditioned for and was accepted into a professional music program at a local college. This program seemed to think it was a good idea to treat sensitive music students as if they were in some sort of boot camp. I got some good things out of it, and a lot of very painful ones. I dropped out after about a year. It broke my heart. It took me about a decade to recover afterward enough again to start creating music again.
I sketched the teacher and music school issues in rough terms for him and I really do get that I’m not going to be berated for not practicing, like my piano teacher, or for asking questions, like my music theory teacher in school. I’m very grateful that my teacher gets that I have issues and will practice as much as my issues will permit, but may learn slower than I might otherwise. Compassion that makes room for us to be as we are, and be supported in continuing regardless, is such a rare and beautiful gift for a survivor. I am blessed.
Okay, I know this is a blog about later recovery from sexual abuse, and specifically waiting for my abuser to die so I can dance on his grave, so what am I doing talking about polyamory?
Well, part of being a child sexual assault survivor, particularly once the flashbacks have died down a lot, is learning how to have an adult healthy sexuality. Like many survivors, I have apparently picked a partner who is not going to make any sexual demands on me. Now earlier in my healing, this would have been great, ideal even. All the affection, love and support with none of the having to deal with trying to satisfy a partner (and remotely possibly even myself) without triggering a whack of flashbacks. Perfect.
However, now that I’ve done all the hard work of reclaiming my own sexuality and sexual desire, I’d really like to enjoy the fruits of my labours. I have a lot to catch up on from all those years.
So why don’t I just divorce my wife and find someone who actually wants to make love with me?
Well, as a result of the abuse and neglect, I’m also what you’d call ‘insecurely attached’. This means it takes a long time to create a close mutual personal bond with someone else and as a result, these are priceless. I’ve been with my wife for over a decade. She loves me, she gets me. She’s almost the only family I have left. I want to keep her. She wants to keep me, and she wants it so much that my basically monogamous wife is willing to indulge what I admit has been a long time fantasy, having an ethical additional relationship with another woman.
My material life too, would be a lot simpler if I didn’t have to divorce my wife. We have a house neither of us could afford alone, and a lot of family connections on her side of the family. I help connect her to her family, and on a lot of levels, we work as a couple.
Is this non-mainstream choice another evidence of me being an abuse survivor? How the heck would I know? I had a really offensive commenter last year who said that I was gay because I’d been abused, and wrote a response on sexual orientation and sexual abuse that said that survivors often have difficulty figuring out what we want sexually, as a result of being forcibly divorced from our bodies and sexual autonomy at such a young age.
This, as they say, is not my first rodeo. I’ve been trying to connect with my true self, first my body sensations, my personal autonomy, my creativity and my right livelihood, my entire life. One of the benefits of having to work to connect with what is authentic and deconstruct the layers of slime put over myself by my abuser and upbringing, is that I get to dig a little deeper than most people, and to value my authentic reality more for having had to work for it.
I can say, honestly, that I’m not a jealous person. If my wife wanted to take a lover who treated her well and made her happy, I’d be happy for her. Of course, if she did take a lover, some of our other problems might be solved, as she’d have her sex drive back. I can also say, honestly, that I’m very Pagan/Wiccan in my sexual ethics, which means I support all loving, pleasurable sexual expression that doesn’t hurt anyone. I have strong reservations about BDSM, but I’m not going to oppose the practice, just stay away from it personally.
The BDSM thing is actually getting in the way quite a bit, strangely enough. It seems that most of the gay and bi polyamorists in my area, or at least the visible ones, are quite into what they call ‘kink’, which usually means BDSM. Sigh! Once again, I’m kind of unusual, apparently. I may be involuntarily celibate for a good long while longer.
I had a conversation once with a woman I was friends with, who considered herself a sadist top in the sack. She was also, I knew, a child sexual abuse survivor. I asked her how she could participate in sex that recreated some of the activities and dynamics of the abuse. She said that by participating in them again on her own terms, she got to process them and get control of them. I still don’t think that’s a good idea, but that was her take on it. I think that acting out the abuse for pleasure gives some very dodgy messages to one’s inner child condoning the abuse. I also have said before and will say again that at the very least, we have a responsibility to ourselves to be our own abused child’s best allies. However, that’s my personal take on it, your mileage may vary and be equally valid.
So am I duplicating some aspect of the abuse here? Is my partner a stand in for my neglectful mother? Am I a stand in for my ‘philandering’ father? I can certainly see the mother end of thing, and that’s worth pursuing. However, I can’t see me trying, at this late date, to justify or condone any parts of my psychopathic father’s behavour to myself, seeing how I’m pretty sure I’ve worked out all residual needs to please daddy or pretend to myself that he actually loved me. I know from experience what bargaining to avoid accepting truth smells like.
Speaking of which, I’m more concerned that I’m bargaining with the inevitable end of my marriage by saying that if I just find a complementary second partner, I can keep what I have with my wife, by expanding it. A lot of people cheat on their partners in this situation, and that ends the marriage, or doesn’t. Some men have both a wife and a mistress for long periods. Obviously other people experience this kind of dilemma, but I am not willing to sacrifice my integrity or sneak around. I’m not going to cheat, and if my wife decides that me having another partner is intolerable to her, then we’ll have to break up.
And what about breaking up? Could we be friends and share the house if we got divorced? I think this time is a trial run for that too. It could go either way, really.
I’m having a hard time figuring out whether to tell anyone about our reasons for opening the relationship, seeing how my wife is clearly not at heart a polyamorist. It makes me look bad, like I’m the big slut who needs other lovers, even though I’m doing it really as a result of her inability to have sex with me. If I can’t provide that second bit of information, I’m going to look like I’m if not cheating on her, at least taking advantage of her.
To that I guess I have to thicken my skin. Guard your honour and let your reputation take care of itself.
Am I deliberately hurting her? I know we have discussed this and she’s in favour of our current plan, but we both know and have discussed that she may feel differently when it’s more than theoretical. In her heart of hearts, I’m sure she sometimes wishes I’d just give up and go back to how things were.
It was her decision to live and at times sleep separately in our house, even knowing that it might be a deal breaker for me, and to be clear that she has no sex drive. She thought that maybe having her own space would help her get it back, but so far that’s not happening.
It was my decision to stop waiting for her sex drive to come back, even though it might be a deal breaker for her.
I think both choices are the right ones and ultimately lead us to our correct path. If it turns out to be a slower, gentler breakup instead of a new life together, then so be it. As long as we continue to behave honourably to one another, I’ll be able to accept whatever happens.
In Creston BC, which is in the western section of Canada, the country where I live, there is an organized paedophile ring masquerading as a religion. The fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) bills itself as an orthodox stream of Mormonism (The mainstream Mormon church doesn’t agree).
Mormons originally allowed/encouraged multiple wives for their most powerful and affluent male members, and that practice died out when polygamy was outlawed in the area of the US (Utah) where most of them lived. Most modern Mormons (LDS without the F) only have one wife, although their religious doctrines still permit or encourage more than one. Christianity and Islam, of course, also allowed their wealthy men multiple wives too in ancient times. There are lots of men in the Bible with multiple wives, including Joseph, David and Moses. In Islam, their prophet Mohammed had multiple wives. Joseph Smith, the founder/prophet of Mormonism and author of most of their scripture, said that he had received a divine revelation that not only allowed him to have multiple wives, but to ‘re-assign’ wives who were currently married to his followers to himself. This reassignment of wives from one man to another by religious leaders still occurs within the FLDS.
Anyhow, in my country, a small group of affluent men are, in 2011, holding marriage ceremonies and having sex with multiple young women and children, who have been groomed to accept this practice from birth, in a place called Bountiful, near Creston, BC. Female children and girls are illegally transported over the border from and to FLDS colonies in the US to serve as ‘brides’ for the creepy patriarchs of this sect.
Let me be clear, as a Wiccan, my religious beliefs are entirely in support of people having multiple partners of whatever sex, or recognizing additional spouses with a ceremony, as long as there’s no coercion and everyone is of age. One of the most widely held principles of my faith is that all acts of love and pleasure are sacred to the Goddess. Since an even more widely held Wiccan principle (possibly our only real area of unanimous agreement) is ‘as long as it harms none, do as you will’, we also are against child sexual abuse. Of course, as a childhood sexual assault survivor, I’m absolutely against children or teens having sex with adults for any reason.
As a married lesbian, I also don’t take the right to marry the person of my choice for granted.
So I can say in all honesty, that I’m one of the ones affected. I’m the one losing religious and social freedoms here, and I’m completely fine with it.
Since recently I’ve been exploring being ethically non-monogamous with my wife, I’m in communication with some polyamourous folk. They’re all in an uproar about a new court decision in Canada that puts minor limits on our freedom (Canadians can now legally have multiple common law partners but still not marry them in a religious or civil ceremony). It’s another one of those situations where I feel invisible as a child sexual assault survivor, and where you really want to say:
“As a person who was repeatedly raped as a young child by a much older man with the complicit support of her mother, and complicit non-interference of her parent’s friends, and culture, I think I have something to say about the difficulties of stopping systemic child sexual abuse in Bountiful. I know from experience that the existing laws are useless and almost impossible to enforce in this type of situation. It’s the perfect racket for abusers. This situation needs something stronger. If it is heavy handed, so be it. I also have something to say about child sexual assault. It’s evil. It’s close to the worst thing that can happen to a human being, and your petty little ‘I can’t hold a ceremony to celebrate my multiple love’ problem can wait until the children have been rescued from rape and slavery. “
In Canada, polyamory has been illegal for many years, and the attorney general is hoping to use that law to wipe out the child and woman abuse perpetrated at the FLDS colony at Bountiful. However, the FLDS has challenged the law’s constitutionality, which on the face of it seems like an easy thing to do. I mean, shouldn’t people be able to do whatever they want for relationships and marriage, particularly a religious thing? Aren’t there already child abuse and child trafficking laws that take care of the child abuse part of things?
Well yes, and no. Those of you who are also survivors of child sexual abuse, particularly those with complicit families or even abuser collaborators beyond that, know that laws are worthless if they can’t be enforced or aren’t enforced.
If children can’t know that what is happening is illegal, if they have no-one to tell, if they’ve been brainwashed from birth to accept abuse, if their religious authorities condone or support the abusers, and if their caregivers are all complicit in the abuse, then absolutely no one can and will help them escape.
This was my experience and I am sure the experience of many of those reading this. Even perfectly nice people aren’t doing squat to help children who are being abused unless it’s blatant and they have someone effective on hand and willing to intervene. Effective intervention doesn’t happen all that much in my experience and the experience of dozens of survivors of incest and child abuse I’ve known. So forgive me if I don’t want to rely on the existing laws about child sexual assault (and the paltry penalties for people who are convicted of one of the worst things you can do to a human being).
Fortunately, the FLDS lost their argument. The court upheld the anti-polygamy law, but clarified it to exclude multiple common law relationships, which are now officially legal. I read the decision handed down by my country’s supreme court and I’m okay with it, despite the fact that it limits my personal and religious freedoms as a polyamourous person and a Wiccan. The Canadian law, which is an old law recently clarified by the supreme court, criminalizes having more than one wife or husband. If people have a civil or religious ceremony to get married to more than one person, or are recognized by their community as being married to more than one person, they can go to jail. There is no minimum sentence, so I’m assuming they can sentence based on the harm done, which in the FLDS case is considerable.
The good news for ethical, egalitarian nonmonogamists is that, it does not criminalize multiple relationships, provided you don’t actually marry more than one of your lovers. If you want to live common law with more than one adult, that’s not illegal, so most my acquaintances with multiple partners are not doing anything illegal. Those of them with child custody battles will be and are relieved.
Personally, I’d like to just see heterosexual polygyny (having one man with more than one wife) made illegal, because that’s the sole practice that has been shown, across the centuries, cultures and religions, to lower the marriage age of girls, increase antisocial behaviour in the young men who are not permitted to marry, reduce paternal investment in children, increase infant mortality rates, increase domestic abuse and reduce the autonomy and personal power of women. There is no evidence that women having multiple husbands or wives causes any problems, or that harms are inherent in situations where both partners are free to love other partners. It’s just the ‘rich guy with lots of wives’ situation, particularly in combination with religious sanction, that seems to be the troublemaker. However, I realize that there’s no chance that this will actually happen, I’m just saying.
The court decision actually explored and addressed the rather well researched harms of polygyny in upholding the law’s constitutionality. Since polygamy is most often practiced by very privileged men, they also dismissed the idea that they would be discriminating against a vulnerable, oppressed minority. They also addressed the community aspect of polygamist abuse, pointing out that FLDS members, most of whom saw nothing wrong with a 15 year old girl marrying a much older man, are incapable of identifying child abuse when they see it.
If these FLDS child abusers are unable to have holy sanction put on their ‘marriages’ to children, then I don’t see how they’re going to maintain the abusive marital ponzi scheme they’ve created. One wife and a bunch of concubines just doesn’t come across as well in a church doctrine, although I don’t doubt they’ll try it. If these girls aren’t married in their own eyes and those of their families, then all the religious rationale goes out the window.
More importantly, it is far easier and more straightforward to prove a marital relationship than child sexual abuse. We can send these abusers to jail and get them away from their victims, and perhaps give those victims enough time and space to reclaim their autonomy and personal power and crush the whole paedophile ring. May it be so!
Civil libertarians will never understand this. They say ‘oh my gosh, someone is being prevented from doing some relatively minor thing they want to do, their freedom is limited!’. They’ll do court challenges with nice wholesome egalitarian polyamourous families who are, in fact, truly doing nothing wrong, and would probably never be arrested or charged under the law since the police have better things to do. If they do do this, they would once again be choosing the child pornographers, pimps and organized abusers over our most vulnerable souls. And if they do, I will curse them for it, for once again putting someones comparatively inconsequential freedoms ahead of protecting children and women from systemic sexual assault.
What about my freedom to grow up without being raped? What about these FLDS children’s freedom to live without being sexually exploited and coerced into child marriage with the participation of everyone they know? Isn’t that more important? Any sane person would think so, wouldn’t they? If I didn’t know that every day, sexually exploited children are abandoned and ignored, I would think they would have no other sane choice.
I hope they arrest all of these rapists and throw away the key as soon as possible.
May it be so.
Well, things have settled down a bit. We’ve moved into separate levels of the house now, and set up our own kitchens and bedrooms. We’re still sleeping in the same bedroom sometimes, but sometimes alone too.
I’m still grieving my wife’s decision to stop having sex with me, or her lost of libido or whatever. I can’t say that I’m feeling that graceful about it, but at least I’m not taking it out on her. She’s feeling much better having her space to herself, apparently having control over her living space really feels good to her, and I’m too messy for her. She refers to it as her OCD. She may actually have OCD, or perhaps a light case of Aspergers. She’s got a very high need to have everything stay where and how she put it, and feels comfortable with a lot of routine. All this is not a surprise, but she seems happier.
I’ve told her that come January, unless something changes for us as a sexual couple, the relationship will have to be open to me having other sexual partners (at least one, since now I don’t have any). It’s possible that having her own space will help her release whatever resentments might be getting in the way with being sexual with me, but I’m not holding my breath any longer. That’s why the three month delay. She’s agreed that I can’t be expected to be celibate for the second half of my life just because she’s no longer interested in sex, and doesn’t expect that to change. She’s willing as long as I am discreet and don’t sleep with anyone at our home, since she doesn’t want to hear me having sex with someone else. That seems fair to me. I’m kind of looking forward to it in a way.
It’s not all bad. I like having things my own way in my own space, and not being hassled if I don’t do my dishes right away or leave a drawer open or something. I’ve only told one friend, and we’re keeping it quiet for now. We’re not officially separated or anything. I can see us living together for awhile, perhaps long term, once things settle into a new pattern. It’s not like anything really has changed, except I’m not hitting on her or hopeful for affection and attention. She’s a bit more affectionate, knowing that I’m not going to press for sex, so it’s basically working out. We’ll see how that shifts once I start dating.
I’ve started to learn more about the polyamory scene in my province. Polyamory (other than the creepy sexist old geezer with young women kind) is where you have a sexual or romantic relationship with more than one person concurrently. It’s different from just sleeping around casually, in that you have ongoing relationships. We’ll see how it works out. I’m thinking I’ll try and connect with a nice woman who has a similar arrangement with her wife or husband, or someone who lives out of town.
Last night my wife held me while I cried for a long time. She curled around me, spoon-style, and held me solidly. I cried for the loss of her holding me in just this way, when I wake with a nightmare or flashback, or just need to grieve.
We talked this morning again, easier in the pitch darkness of our bed (my room isn’t ready yet, so we slept together last night). I told her I still have her back and I understand why she needs to live separately, and we talked a bit about opening the marriage so that I can have romantic and sexual relationships with others. One of our biggest issues is that her sex drive disappeared completely with menopause a few years ago. She’s tried various things, including natural hormones, to fix it, with little success. We are now facing the fact that it’s probably not coming back and that I can’t be expected to give up sex for the rest of my life.
It’s our 5th wedding anniversary today, and I’m feeling sad. This morning I thought of all the people who attended our wedding, which was structured as a relationship and family blessing and was very beautiful. I know there is a tradition that the people who attend your wedding agree to be there to support your marriage. This morning, I pictured myself asking them to hold us in their prayers, not to stay together or apart in a certain way, but to continue to bless us in behaving with love and honour to one another, and for everything to work out in the best possible way. We’re lesbians, we’re already different, we don’t have to do it like anyone else does. We can be loyal to one another and hopefully keep many of the things that are good (our connection to her family, our support to one another) while letting go of what has died.
If you are inclined to, I hope you will send us both some blessing that this transformation works out in the best possible way.
I came back home from my pilgrimage today. I have to say to all you Pagans out there – you’ll understand if you do real magic – you really have to be careful what you ask the Goddess for, as she often responds swiftly and decisively.
There was this one temple, underground, called the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum that we visited. It’s very difficult to get an appointment to visit, and we had special permission to visit without all the usual tourist interpretation, so we could be there reverently and sing within the underground chambers, which have beautiful accoustics, and were likely designed to resonate sound. The temple is thought to have been used as an oracle ( a place to see spiritual guidance) and a place where the bones and spirits of the dead were entrusted by their loved ones for rebirth. There are a number of womb shaped chambers where bones were put, and the walls were painted in spiral designs in red ochre, which was commonly used to suggest mentrual blood. This image of the Goddess, called the Sleeping Lady, was found in a place of honour in the temple, and is thought to represent the Goddess of death and rebirth.
Only 10 people an hour are permitted to visit the temple, so we went down in several small groups. I was in the second group. The first group was down in the temple and I was waiting upstairs, in a darkened theatre where they show a film about the temple. I decided to sit and meditate for the 45 or so minutes while I waited my turn. This theatre was built on top of the temple, so I was right above it.
The meditation was powerful and mystical. I connected with the spirit of the place. It may have been a Goddess. The place was happy we were visiting reverently, in the proper manner, and was yearning to be entrusted again with the dead. It felt right for me to offer the dead parts of myself, and the cold I had at the time, to the temple Goddess or guardian. I felt cords of energy pull dead parts of myself from my body, and the sickness, and willingly let them go. I also released my father, and was assured that he could be safely held there.
When we went down into the temple, it felt safe and holy, not like a crypt but like a womb or a sacred place. We each sang something into the space – I ended up singing a verse from a song for the dead that I sing. I sang it in respect and reverence to the spirits of hundreds or thousands of peaceful dead people who had been entombed there. The culture that built this temple has been studied and no evidence of war or conflict was found – no weapons, fortifications, war wounds on the bones found, no imagery of war.
My cold was healed, I kept a scratchy voice for the next couple of days, but it had broken and was gone. A few days later, I sang that same song while one of the women released the ashes of her recently dead husband into the mediterranean sea. A day or two after that, I spontaneously danced a sword dance in one of the other temples we visited at dawn. It made me wonder if some part of me was recognizing he’d died. I haven’t heard anything but wouldn’t be surprised if my father/abuser has died or dies soon.
Now I’m home. I arrived yesterday but slept most of the day after I returned. My greeting from my wife was friendly but neutral rather than joyful. This morning she told me why. She’d realized while I was gone that it was a relief to live without our struggling with one another. We decided, amicably, to live separately in the same house for awhile. We may go to couples therapy, or we may not. We spent most of today preparing a spare bedroom for me to sleep in, as I’m going to take the top floor of the house, and her the bottom. I go back to work in a few days so we’re going to spend that time separating the space. Tomorrow is our 5th wedding anniversary. We’re not telling anyone yet, except a couple of close friends, besides, what to tell them.
I have more to write about this but that’s all for today. I did a lot of praying about my relationship during my trip, and received a strong message to let go of what is gone and allow myself to grieve, after which I would know what to do. I’m very sad, but am trying to continue to let go what needs to die and be reborn. I asked for this, after all.
I’m on pilgrimage to various neolithic Goddess sites in Malta with a bunch of women. It’s been a good trip, but I’ve had a cold the whole time. Tomorrow we’ll be singing in one of the temples, an underground one with great accoustics. I’m staying silent tonight in hopes that my voice will heal by then and I’ll be able to sing with the others.
It’s kind of inspiring that these cultures, which have left no evidence of war (weapons, war injuries on skeletons, fortifications) lasted for thousands of years and lived in a sustainable manner. Their central deities were Goddesses and their temples and tombs were shaped as wombs, dark inside and painted red.
May your day today be peaceful.
My wife nailed it. She said “there isn’t going to be a letter, she didn’t get what she wanted.”
According to my aunt, my mom has allegedly written a letter in response to the one I wrote her a few years ago. That letter I wrote 3 years ago is of course out of date, since it was written before I knew about the scars on my vulva which prove not only that I was raped as a small child, but that my mother had to have known about it at the time and didn’t get me medical or police attention for my wounds.
Surely if I’d been brought to a doctor they would have sewn me up, as they would a woman who had given birth and torn in the way I did. I clearly wasn’t sewn up, as I have flesh tags and two long ragged scars. Apparently, vulva wounds on children often heal without scars, so the fact that I do speaks to the severity and perhaps repeated nature of the injury. And if I had been brought to a doctor, my father would have been arrested for raping me. I suppose it’s remotely possible, people being the denying assholes they often are in the face of child abuse, that even with hard evidence in front of them the police or doctor would not have helped me, but somehow I doubt it, and I further doubt that my mom would have hidden it from me all this time if she’d actually tried to get me help. So therefore, she knew and did nothing, and as a result is dead to me.
My mom only told my aunt she’d written a letter to get herself off the hook with my aunt I think, and probably also as a bid to see me. My aunt told me she’d be leaning on my mom to get her to respond to me with the info I requested, so this is the counter move. My response was clear, no direct contact, only via letter. I told my aunt about the scars and that my mom didn’t know about them. It’s possible she passed that information along (which would be fine with me).
Anyhow, I’m going on vacation in a couple of weeks that is a spiritual pilgrimage for me so I was hoping I wouldn’t get a reply before that, so that I could avoid having to process it during my vacation. Status quo has been restored, no contact with my mother, who is dead to me anyhow. There’s nothing she could do now, short of disclosing a phenomenal amount of coercion she’s never mentioned before, to restore her to a living presence in my life now.
One of the temples I’ll be visiting on my trip is called the Hypogeum, it’s a womb-temple to the Goddess. It’s underground, painted in red ochre to resemble a womb and when discovered, contained seeds of grain and a beautiful statue of ‘the sleeping lady’ Goddess. Apparently the acoustics inside are amazing, and we’re going to sing in there. The Goddess is the mother I have now, far more enduring and reliable than my birth mother. It feels like I have shed her like a snakeskin, and only the flakes remain.
I did end up writing a song,. about the hypocrisy of my mother expecting me to celebrate mother’s day, to give her her motherly due, when she was an accessory after the fact to me being raped and seriously wounded as a child by my father and then lied to me about it. The recording was intended to have a cool bossa feel, where an emotional song is sung with a cool bell-like delivery. It was done on my phone, with the soundcloud app, so it isn’t perfect but you get the feel.Here are the lyrics:
Mother, hey won’t you help me
There’s no way
without a fight
Somethings are too much
like the pain
tearing your body apart
or the eyes that don’t see
look at me, mother
first right, of kings.**
now you say
‘didn’t see it’
in the night
ripping open a child
giving scars from one side to the other
the eyes that don’t see
look at me, mother
what you say is a lie
there’s no way
I will play
this game on
I was left a very thoughtful comment today in response to my post about why I’m not going to have children because my father is a sociopath.
In Balbrouchan’s comment, which you can read here, she brings up some good issues. The first is that socipathy isn’t 100% inheritable, since she and I are not sociopaths, and neither are her kids, even with first order relatives that were. She says:
“Since you are not, yourself, an antisocial psychopath, I would say your children, if you had felt like having any, would not have been at risk from inheriting it from their grandfather – since the fact that you don’t have that behavior, plainly shows that you have not inhedited it…”
She also says:
“But I think it’s very harsh to tell fellow incest survivors they have high risks of having sociopathic children. If the survivors themselves don’t exhibit “antisocial behavior with psychopathic tendencies”, and are not married to a psychopath, the risk on their children is pretty low, even with a first order relative who is a psychopath.”
Balbrouchan is right, it is harsh to say children of sociopaths are more likely to have sociopaths for children, and I wouldn’t have the gall to say it if it didn’t apply to me too, and if it wasn’t what I honestly believe. Given the magnitude of damage my father did in his lifetime, ‘pretty low’ chances are just too high for me.
More importantly, though, I think my post could be read as perpetrating the ‘survivors are more likely to be child molesters’ prejudice, and I’m not trying to do that here, at least partly because it actually doesn’t bear out. Child molesters will report being abused themselves at fairly high rates, but when they did studies that were structured to eliminated any benefits from claiming to be abused, and backed it up with a lie detector test, the self-reports of abuse by child molesters went down to the same rates as the general population. (I got this from Anna Salter’s book on predators )
She also brings up an issue common to many survivors with children, the fear of turning into the kinds of parents we survived and abusing them too.
“The good part is that, while I was very afraid of “turning pedophile” on my own children, it has not happened. Time and time again I have checked with myself if I had any sexual desire toward my children and I’ve found absolutely nothing, to my own relief – and to my deeper disgust of my own father. I have never had even nightmares of sexual contact with my children (and you know one can’t control one’s nightmares – at almost 40, I still have nightmares where I end up willingly f*ing my father). I don’t have sexual desires towards other children as well, so all’s good on this side.”
I too, had a big period where I watched myself carefully for child molester tendencies (also something a sociopath wouldn’t do) and have always been extremely careful of treating children correctly. As a survivor and a lesbian, I know the stereotypes and prejudices attached to both of those categories, and have always been scrupulous in avoiding even the perception of creepiness. I go so far as to not usually initiate physical contact with children. Whatever stray hostile feelings I’ve had toward children (barring noisy disruptive ones in quiet restaurants) I’ve always recognized as being truly directed against my own inner child and dealt with them as such.
I’ve done a lot of reading about sociopathy, and one common thread I’ve found is that researchers think it’s partly or mostly genetic. Once a child is born and they’re exhibiting empathy, they’re not going to be a sociopath. They may do bad things, but they won’t be an actual sociopath, because that’s about the ability to feel empathy.
Balbrouchan points summarizes the situation nicely here:
The article you’re citing states that “in children with psychopathic tendencies, antisocial behaviour was strongly inherited. In contrast, the antisocial behaviour of children who did not have psychopathic tendencies was mainly influenced by environmental factors”.
“If I understand well, if your child has no early-onset psychopathic tendencies, then all is well and provided you give a right environment, no antisocial tendencies will appear. On the contrary if he has early-onset psychopathic tendencies, then his antisocial behavior will be mostly inherited and you’re in big trouble.
Strictly speaking, this research paper doesn’t mean that psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies are inherited. It shows “antisocial behavior with psychopathic tendencies” is mainly inherited. That’s a different story altogether.”
I’m not sure I get, in this last paragraph, how it’s a different story. Seems the same to me. Maybe I’m missing something.
It’s the ‘early onset psychopathic tendencies’ that I’m wanting to prevent, since I believe that’s what my dad had. If I’m technically wrong to say that’s sociopathy, then fair enough (although I don’t really get it), but that’s what I mean. I also, even if my kids are fine, don’t want to be responsible for passing a greater risk for ‘early onset psychopathic tendencies’ on to my grandkids or great-grandkids either. We can be carriers of the gene without having the problem. It’s like people who know that epilepsy, schizophrenia or hemophilia run in their family thinking twice about passing the genes on (all of these while serious, are at least treatable, unlike psychopathy), except in my case, it’s not just my descendants who would bear the impact of my decision, but their victims as well.
My kid (or grandkid or great-grandkid) is more likely to be born with great difficulty feeling empathy, and once he or she is born and I figure that out, I’d better be on my A game to make sure I parent in a way that corrects and compensates for that. Even good parents screw things up, and making sure my potential empathy-impaired kid isn’t a monster is a huge responsibility. Even if he or she isn’t, she or he will still carry the gene I carry and one of his kids could be born to parents who aren’t equipped to teach remedial empathy and we end up with someone like my dad again. Adoption or childlessness area perfectly viable options, and one way I can help prevent people like my father from being born. I realize we’re talking eugenics here, which is usually a bad thing, but unlike the Nazis, I’m not forcing anyone to follow my example, and really, is trying to prevent the birth of people with early onset psychopathic tendencies that will predispose them to behaving monstrously such a bad thing?
From talking to my relatives, and observing my dad’s relatives reactions to him, I think that my father exhibited lack of empathy pretty young, and it does seem credible that he was born that way. I think there are child molesters who aren’t sociopaths, and vice versa. They’re not one and the same. Raping me was only a small fraction of the antisocial, ugly and violent things my dad did in his lifetime. He’s not one of those ‘compulsively fixated on kids sexually’ types as far as I can tell, he ‘just’ likes to hurt people and animals and in general get away with things, which is classic for a sociopath.
Anyhow, thanks to Balbrouchan for pointing out I might be perpetuating stereotypes against survivors, something I’d never want to do.