The Scars to Prove It

In therapy today I talked about how I’m still trying to integrate the scars I saw into my body image. It’s not like it’s a big change, I realize. I always felt there was something ‘wrong’ with my vagina/vulva and now I know.

My assignments out of therapy are threefold. First, to think about what kind of ceremony or blessing I would/could do for a six year old girl who had been raped, and think about whether I want to do that for myself. Second, to sit with the rage that’s coming up toward my father, my mother and all the adults who failed to notice a little girl with a torn and bleeding vagina. Third, to write the story of the scar.

I’m going to start with number three, piecing what I know together in time order, filling in what I can in a narrative.  This might be triggering for some people, so look after yourself. I can’t think of a picture to go with this, other than the one in my mind. In my mind I’m looking at the scars on my vulva.

 

My name is Kelly. I live in a brown duplex on my street. I have long blonde hair and am tall for my age. I like to sing and make up little songs. I have a dog named Tony who is big and black, and who likes to pull me on my crazy carpet in the winter. He’s very strong. I live with my mommy and daddy and my big brother. My brother is okay, although he mostly just does dumb boy stuff and doesn’t like to play with me. I can ride a bicycle with training wheels. My dad gets mad at my mom and sometimes he has a sleep on the kitchen floor. Our house has black and white shag carpet and book shelves my daddy made and a red phone in the kitchen up high on the wall. There is a tree out front that has dangly things that make stars when you crumble them. I put the stars on top of my mud pies, for sprinkles. Next door is Reo, she’s really nice and sometimes we get rhubarb from her garden and dip it into sugar and eat it, and sometimes her mom lets us eat rasberries. Her mom is really old. My mom’s friend Mrs H lives a few doors down and we go over there sometimes. I don’t like the H’s house because they smoke too much and the air is yucky. I play a bit in the carport in the front and sometimes we have garage sales there or I do a lemonade stand. Our house has a basement with a playroom, but I don’t want to talk about that.

I have a sore on my bum, near where I go pee pee. It hurts and burns and I feel like I have to pee, but when I go to the bathroom I just sit and hurt instead.

I’m dead. I know I’m dead because I stopped living. Last night my daddy pressed me down and hurt me and then I stopped living. When you die, it hurts a lot and then you go to sleep and don’t wake up, right? Well that’s what happened. It hurt so much. His eyes were big and stared and his lips were big and red. He smelled like beer. He was squishing my neck and I couldn’t breathe, like being tickled too much when you get dizzy and then I got more dizzy and everything went far away. Today I’m walking around but I didn’t wake up, so I know I’m dead.

When people die, everyone is supposed to come over and say nice things and cry, aren’t they? Nobody seems to care I’m dead. I guess nobody cares anyhow. My daddy isn’t home today, and I don’t like him any more. He smells bad and he killed me.

—–

My name is Kelly. I live in a house now. I have my own bedroom. I don’t really remember being dead. My mom says I’m an absent minded professor. I read a lot of books really fast and I stay in my room. Sometimes I can’t hear it when people talk to me, even if they’re right next to me and talking really loud. My dad is an alcoholic. My mom says so. He comes home and we can’t have dinner, no matter how hungry we are, until he has a few beers and relaxes. Then we can eat. Sometimes there isn’t any food in the house and this is the only time we eat anything. When we have no money because someone hasn’t paid my dad yet, we go to a restaurant and my dad has some beer and we get to eat. When he gets drunk he goes to sleep in his chair and then it’s good for awhile. My mom and brothers and I talk, not too loud and we get to watch whatever we want on TV.

I can’t get to sleep very well. My mom makes me go to bed but then there are scary things, like spots that float in front of my eyes, or the things that might grab my leg from under the bed. Or the things behind me. Sometimes I put my head under the covers so they can’t get me but then it gets hot so I put my nose out. I can hear the clothes dryer sound going round while I wait. My mom says I’m too old to be afraid of monsters. My mom says “I’m right hear down the hall”, but it doesn’t help.

It’s really late and I’m still not sleeping. The dryer has stopped. I hear my dad’s chair in the family room as he wakes up. Sometimes he turns on the tv again and watches for awhile. Sometimes he gets up to go to bed.  I hear his hands on the walls as he comes down the hallway. I can see the white around the edge of my bedroom door, which is open a little. He slows down. My heart starts to beat faster. He goes into the bathroom and closes the door. He clears his throat and spits into the sink. He does this because he smokes. I’m worried he will get cancer and die. He turns on the fan. I hear the pee going into the toilet and he flushes it. He washes his hands. A monster comes out and comes across the hall into my room.  My mom is just down the hall. She doesn’t do anything. When he’s done he goes the rest of the way down the hall and climbs into bed with my mother. I can hear the springs creak.

I’m afraid of the bathroom. Sometimes when I’m in there my brother will reach in, turn the fan on and the light off, and then lock the door from the outside. I scream and scream and eventually my mother makes him let me out.

When I come home from school sometimes I lie on the couch in the living room and look at the carmel-coloured leather. My mind goes away and my body goes very still. I can lie like that for hours. It’s hard to move or get up. It’s like I’m dead.

_____

My name is Kelly. I am having sex for the first time with my second college boyfriend. I can’t open up and he can’t get in. I can open up a little when I think about the hunting knife we had at my parent’s house, that has a little leather scabbard to hold it. The knife is sharp but it fits the scabbard so it doesn’t cut it. This makes me feel better. I tell him about it and he says “why not just think about a penis and a vagina?”  

I’m not sure what the big deal is about sex. Kissing was way better.  He wants to have sex all the time and I am seeing monsters. The monsters hide in the corner of my room and if I pay attention to them, they come closer. I tell my friend about the monsters and she has them too. She thinks that they are evil spirits come to attack us. Her boyfriend has ideas about how to keep them away. He wants to protect her. I tell my boyfriend about the monsters. He goes and talks to a psychiatrist at student health and they make me an appointment. The psychiatrist says I don’t have schizophrenia, which I didn’t think I did. She asks if I was sexually abused. I don’t know what she means. I tell her I may have been abused by a babysitter, but she doesn’t seem interested. She says I’m not ready to have sex yet. I tell her I don’t want to have sex, and lie and tell her I can avoid having sex with my boyfriend. When I break up with my boyfriend I go off birth control and tell myself I’m never having sex again.

____

My name isn’t Kelly any more. I’m in my doctors office. I have a sore vagina. The wrinkles in the condoms rub against me and hurt and afterward it hurts for days. I think I must have a yeast infection all the time, it’s so sore. I ask my doctor what to do and she takes a swab and gives me a prescription for some yeast medicine. It doesn’t really work. A few days after the treatment is finished I feel sore again. I think maybe I’m getting the infection again from my boyfriend but he won’t get treated. I go back to my doctor and she asks me a bunch of questions. She does some tests to see if I have AIDS or diabetes, since they sometimes cause women to have yeast infections a lot. I don’t have iether. I tell her I am a sexual abuse survivor. She looks very uncomfortable and tells me with a nervous edge “it looked fine”.

___

My name  hasn’t been Kelly for a very long time. I’m sitting on the examination table looking at the mirror. The nurse shows me a little nub of flesh near the opening of my vagina. I know this nub by feel. It gets sore all the time, because it gets rubbed. I never thought about what it was before, except maybe a leftover piece of hymen. She says “this looks like your vagina was ripped a long time ago and healed without being stitched up properly”. I look again at the nub and the white line leading up to it. She puts her gloved finders above my vagina, near my labia. The skin there is a dark purple. I’ve never seen it before. She says, it’s unusually hot here. The veins look unusually swollen and damaged. This speaks to me of some old vascular damage that would have happened when you were abused.  I tell her I’ve never given birth or had any kind of rough sex that would cause damage. She says, “this looks like this is really old scarring.”  I hold my wife’s hand and close my eyes. A wave of tears flow through my body but only a couple seep out my eyes. I tell her I’m ready to go on.

Mothering her

I was reading Faith Allen’s excellent blog , specifically a post where she was responding to another person with dissociative identity disorder. She talked about self-nurturing, visualizing wrapping the younger self that holds a memory and feeling in a blanket, telling her it was not her fault. It brought tears to my eyes, sitting here, as I realized I had not reached out to that little girl within me who suffered this injury, that little girl who is me, but who sometimes feels like another individual, whose trust I need to win, whose secrets I often don’t know until  she tells me, and who I have a duty to protect and mother. I’ve done the self-mothering before, perhaps with this very same part of myself, and I sometimes forget how helpful it is.

Reading Faith’s blog, I find a lot of similarities between the strategies she and other survivors with DID use to heal and the ones I’ve used. Event the dialogues with alters, remind me of negotiating with and comforting my abused inner child. I think dissociation is a spectrum, and we’re all somewhere along it. I don’t believe I lose time, although my forgetfulness is pretty well noted.

I’m still feeling a lot of discomfort from my injured vulva/vagina. I’m not sure if it’s from current day, or a body memory from the rape or it’s aftermath. I do remember having this same burning pain as a child, although I was a lot older than the first memory. Great. While I know I was raped several times, I’m not sure I want the extra detail. However, this is her/my story and if it’s coming up now it’s because it needs to for me to be whole.

This is what I tell her now:

Little one, you did not do anything bad, and he was bad to hurt you. I’m sorry it hurts down there. I’ll do whatever I can to help it feel better. Mommy is very angry at him and I promise I will keep Daddy from hurting you ever again. You are beautiful and special and I love you. It’s okay now. You’re safe now. You have people who love you and would never hurt you. You were a good girl to tell me about it. You did the right thing. Your dad can’t ever hurt you again. You can relax. Go ahead and cry, I”m right here. I’ll make sure you’re safe.  Me and the Goddess are here.

Warrior Schedules PAP Test

Photocredit: Francois et fier d l'Etre
Photocredit: Francois et fier d l'Etre

Okay, so I think I found a safe (to me) place to get a gyne exam. I found out through some friends that the community health centres have nurses that do pap tests, who are allowed to schedule longer appointments than doctors (who under our health system are allowed 15 minutes, if you can believe it!) .  Somehow a nurse seems less scary than a doctor, anyhow. Less hierarchical power.

How to Book a PAP test for a survivor in 10 not so easy steps:

Step 1: Look up on the web the community health centre my friends recommended. Read web site. Like web site. Find out I live in the wrong area to access this centre.

Step 2: Find out what community health centre I am allowed to go to for my location. Find that there is no website, no way to check out much about what they’re like. Hmmm…. Find short brochure for local community clinic with single helpful phrase: “Ask us what you’re looking for and we’ll help to connect you” and a phone number.  Give up for the day.

Step 3: Go back to web site. Re-read brochure. Print out brochure and put on desk. Give up for the day. Look at brochure several times over the next few days-week.

Step 4:  Call number on brochure. Say “I read in your brochure that I could tell you what I was looking for and you’d try and connect me, is that right?” Answer: Yes, I’ll try.  (Deep Breath) “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault and I haven’t had a PAP test in 8 years. I need to find a place to get a PAP test that will be compassionate.” Listen as woman on the line hems and haws a bit (albeit with sympathetic voice), and then when prompted with what I’d heard about the nurses, she says that they did have a nurse that came in briefly for a couple of times a month. She gave me a name and a phone number and apologized that she couldn’t make the appointment for me.  Write number down, thank her and leave room to go to the bathroom, cry, have a snack and tell my wife.

Step 5: Call number. I’ve been given the wrong number and get voicemail that says nothing about the person I’ve been referred to. I call back and ask for the switchboard operator, who confirms that that person is supposed to be at that local. I call again and get a live secretary, who tells me that person has moved to another local, gives me the local. I let her know the operator still thinks the other person is at this local in case she wants to change it.

Step 6: I call the local of the person I was supposed to call. Her voicemail doesn’t say her name or any department that seems related to what I want so I’m still not sure I have the right person, but I leave a message with my phone number.

Step 7: I call back the community clinic and let them know the nurse’s number has changed and give them the new number. The reception nurse remembers me, thanks me for letting her know, and takes my phone number so she can follow up and make sure the other nurse gets back to me, which I appreciated.

Step 8: I get a call back from the secretary for the nurse I’m trying to book an appointment with. She wants to book me in at  9:30 in the morning. I don’t think I can do 9:30, I don’t think I’ll be steady enough by 9:30, since mornings aren’t great for me emotionally. I tell her that I don’t think I can do 9:30 and that the reason I’m booking with this nurse is because I’m a sexual assault survivor  and mornings aren’t a good time for me for this sort of thing. She wisely accepts this without comment. We work out that 10:30 would be a lot better. She begins large amounts of hemming and hawing, and proposes a date two months from now when she can fit me in at 10 am. I accept, and then she says that the nurse I was referred to isn’t going to be there that day and someone else will be filling in for her. She asks if someone else would be okay and I say well, I asked the health clinic for someone who would be compassionate and this is who they recommended. I suggest that she root through the schedule and call me back when she has something. She seems relieved to agree.

Step 9: Nurse’s secretary calls me back and can put me in at 10:30 am two weeks from now. I accept. I put it in my computer calendar with lots of reminders and my cell phone becasue I’m likely to ‘forget’ about something that freaks me out. 

Step 10: Cry a little in kind of safety-relief.

 

Related posts: “Pap Test, Anyone?”  ” Hidden Disabilities and Dentists”  “The day before the pap “,”Warrior Victorious in Pap Test “,  “In the wake of proof

Related Link: The impact of a history of child sexual assault on women’s decisions and experiences of cervical screening