Grief, when you least expect it

I went out to ‘Trouble with the curve’ tonight with my wife. This story of a relationship between a father and daughter and it’s impact on her life really touched me. Wierd eh? My father is a sociopath, Clint Eastwood’s character is crusty but quite beautiful actually.

There’s a scene where he beats a man into unconsciousness for pulling his daughter, then six years old, into a shed and touching her arm. It is obvious to us, and to him, that more would have happened if Eastwood’s character hadn’t found them. I just realized, that is what made me cry. To have a male relative that would defend me, who would beat the crap out of a child molester, is pretty potent stuff. Just seeing that, portrayed so compellingly by Eastwood’s character, must have opened up the grief. In my case, the molester was my father, so that kind of escape was impossible. My mom claimed once that if my grandfather, her father, had known, he’d have killed my father. I wish it were so.

I didn’t realize till now that that is what made me so sad. I walked out of the movie feeling sad and not knowing why. I felt a longing for the father figure in the movie, who in the end perfectly understood his daughter, who had finally gotten him to hear her about who she was and what she wanted.

My father may have groomed me, and I know my pre-rape self loved him, in such a pure, open hearted way that I don’t think I’ve experienced since, but I haven’t actually grieved the relationship with him on those terms for a long time.

Feeling that longing and sadness, I realize I have to listen to that part of myself who was manipulated into loving an evil person, but I don’t think that’s exactly who I’m grieving. It makes more sense to me, connects more emotionally, to miss the father I never had, the father who would have beaten my actual father to a bloody pulp for hurting a beautiful, pure-hearted kindergartener.

It’s wierd to have an emotional landscape that is so foreign, even to me, at times, so that I don’t even know why I am crying until the tears have run their course. I’m glad I’ve learned to let them flow anyhow, to trust that the truth will come after, perhaps much after. This is what it’s like to have experience in fragments, and to make those fragments whole.

Inheriting Evil

Speak See Hear no Evil
Speak See Hear no Evil - Creative Commons License (click for source)

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.

I did it.

Photocredit: Zanastardust

I just finished bringing my father / abuser’s file to the attention of the RCMP in connection with some murders of young women that have been happening in and around my home town during the time my family has lived there. I used an online tip form, because it seemed a lot easier to write out what I know than to be interviewed on the phone. I hate talking on the phone. I gave them my real name.

I did it because my vulva has been hurting all day, and it needed to be done. I spent an hour or more writing out all the facts I know of, looked into my files to check dates and it does seem possible he is the one murdering these young women. Either way, I didn’t say anything that they can’t verify themselves. I didn’t give them the full time-line, although it does look like there is a murder within a year of events that would have been stressful to him (getting interviewed by the police about raping me, his wife leaving him etc…) The first murder happened about a year after we moved there.

I sure hope that either they don’t contact me or at least that it’s not a bad experience if they do. I’m stronger now than I was then. Tips aren’t supposed to be a case all sewn up, they’re just information that might fit into the case. I have done all I can do, now.

Do I report my sociopath father to the police? Again?

-Likely to be triggering –

As I’ve written about before, my father is a sociopath, a person without empathy or conscience. I don’t mean this merely as an insult, but as a literal fact. This means that he has no internal limits on his behaviour.

As a result I have to wonder what else he’s done besides rape me so severely as a young child that I have scars from the tearing that stretch from one side of my vulva to the other.

Here’s what I know for sure. He ‘got fresh’ with my aunt, when she was 15, so badly that she badly scarred his leg by kicking it bloody. This was before I was born.

My abuser would say sexual and insulting things to women (including his sister in law) when drinking and told me about talking to young prostitutes. He liked to dominate people and to torture-tickle us kids until we couldn’t breath. He ‘repaired bicycles’ for young kids in our neighbourhood in our basement, a place where I was abused. He also took my brother and his friends camping and hiking a lot. One of those friends is now a recluse and probably an alcoholic. My older brother has suspicions he was abused, which probably explains why he stays away from me. It’s likely I’m a trigger for him.

He likes thrills. Drinking driving. Dangerous driving, swerving around the road to scare my mother. He likes scaring people.  He scared my uncle with a shotgun once when they went hunting together. My uncle wouldn’t go hunting with him again.

The last thing is that someone is murdering young first nations women in the area around the town where I grew up. This has been going on for decades, the entire time my family has lived there, and given the racism of the area, has taken activism on behalf of the first nations communities in order to be made public and given some attention from law enforcement. The young women are picked up hitchhiking apparently, and after being sexually assaulted and murdered, they are dumped by the side of the road.

My father’s job provided for frequent road trips to local communities. Now that my mother has left him, he has no-one to see his behaviour. Even when my mother was home, he secured his silence about injuring me, so I think some suspicious behavour wouldn’t have made her report anything to the police. She refused to speak to the police when they questioned her about my assaults, so she may have more to hide than my assaults. He may have made her feel like an accomplice, which of course she was in my case, by hiding what he did.

My father is a racist, and mysogynist. I’ve heard him say bigoted things about first nations people (and gays, and women and…)

I took the timeline of the murders and tried to match it up with what I know of his whereabouts. What I have, matches. However, all I have for certain is data on his hospitalization and recovery period.  If I asked around I could probably get some exact dates on when my aunts were there looking after him, when his surgeries were. Going back into the past, my mom and brothers and I often went in the summers to our grandparents place, leaving him alone to work. I could theoretically get all that data, if I was willing to talk to my mother or get my brother to talk to me.

The house where my father now lives by himself has a ‘cold room’ in the basement, intended for storing vegetables and such. It’s built of concrete block with a solid, insulated door. We used to store garden vegetables in it, but would be an ideal place to hold someone captive.

I reported my father/abuser to the RCMP about twenty years ago. I’ve written a fictionalized version of the experience here.  They didn’t even take my report seriously enough to put in a child protection investigation to protect my younger brother. It was back-burnered so deep it took seven years and a political pressure for them to investigate, and even then they found enough to charge him. So they have the information about him, but I don’t know if they’d connect it. Canada has a sort of sex offender database, but although I reported him, and the crown was prepared to lay charges, it didn’t go to trial and so he wasn’t convicted, and I’ve read in the news that the police don’t have access to the database to go ‘fishing’.

I don’t know that my father is this serial killer. The police think now that it’s not a serial killer at all, but a group of unrelated murders, or at least that’s what they’re saying publicly. All I know is that he lives in the right town to have access to all the sites, he’s a sociopath, and he’s capable of it.

So here’s my quandary. I could call the anonymous police tipline and tell them what I know. However, the things I know pretty much disclose who I am, and aren’t terribly concrete. I really don’t want to be invalidated or seen as the girl who cries wolf. You folks know how seriously sexual abuse survivors are taken by the police. Even if he dies of the cancer or drinking driving or whatever, his house could be a crime scene and could give the families some closure. If he dies or the house is sold, that evidence is likely gone.

On the other hand, my father is a sociopath, a rapist of children and possibly a murderer and could easily find out where I live. Sociopaths are like hornets, best to avoid disturbing them if you want to be safe. Perhaps this is why my mother won’t give me any information against him, and why she barricaded her door and slept next to it on the floor for at least a year after she left him. I’ve felt safer knowing that I’ve reported to the police, and if I am killed he’d be prime suspect #1 and he knows that, but I am still afraid of him of course.

What I could use is some advice or reassurance from someone who works in law enforcement on whether this is worth speaking to the police about, and how to go about it – tip line or just call them.  I don’t live anywhere near the city where my father lives, so I don’t even know who to go to about this.

Any blog readers out there with input?

Car Crash – or what PTSD is like – novel

Photocredit: Kel Patolog via Flickr

[Note: Since I first wrote this, this piece has gotten a lot of attention for being a really good way to explain to people in your life what it’s like to have PTSD and Complex PTSD in particular and why there aren’t any quick fixes. I hope it’s helpful for you and your loved ones.]

I’m writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) and the following excerpt is what I wrote today on it.

The novel this year is about sociopaths, a people making sense of a past including child abuse, disconnection with nature and people trying to do the right thing in the face of it. I don’t know exactly what shape the pieces will take yet. I didn’t know last year at this stage iether really, but I suspect it will be more complicated this year. Last year was a simple time-travelling love story.

This is an installment of my novel, in progress. More pieces here.

Excerpt:

It’s like this.

Imagine you are a mother driving home from a family function with your nine year old daughter in the passenger seat. You have had one or two drinks but it was awhile ago and you decided you were okay to drive.

The night is rainy and you get into a serious car accident. You are thrown forward in your seat and injure your body where the steering wheel strikes you. Your daughter is killed. You are helpless, pinned inside the car, unable to reach her as she dies before your eyes, convulsing, screaming, blood coming from eyes and ears.

The experience is so overwhelming, emotionally that your brain can’t process it, can’t store it in the usual way. The information flows in to fast and too intensely to be properly filed in one place, all together. The sensation of the steering wheel and the pain in your abdomen gets put in one place, completely separated from the visual memory of your daughters face as she struggled and died. That memory is separate as well from the contempt in the voice of the rescue worker who asked if you had been drinking. That memory is separate from the lights of the semi high beams in your eyes which blinded you for a moment, contributing to the accident. The pain from your chest. The emotional pain of watching your daughter die. Your daughter’s last words.

Those snippets of memory, and hundreds of others from that night are stored in little boxes in your mind, with no connection to the other pieces. They don’t form a whole memory at all, and you have no ability to put them in the correct order or link them to one another. It is too painful and overwhelming when you try, so you don’t.

You receive medical attention but everyone drifts away from you after that and you move to a new place where no-one knows. You vaguely remember that your daughter died in a car accident, but don’t remember details. People think you are lucky not to remember any of it, and are relieved you have nothing to tell them. Knowing it happened at all is bad enough for them, and the uncomfortable look on their faces soon teaches you to not even go that far with them. You can’t tell anyone about what you do remember, because it feels like it was your fault. After awhile you seem to forget it happened at all.

Then one day you are riding the bus and someone pushes you hard, in your abdomen. Suddenly the memory fragment of the crushing sensation in your chest is triggered, which in turn has a connection to the box holding the emotional pain that you don’t know is from watching your daughter die. They both ‘fire’ in your mind simultaneously.

You feel the pain in your chest as if it was happening now, along with a loss so great and horrifying that you panic. There is no other information to explain what this is about. You freeze, ashamed, and people are well meaning but think you are crazy, or think you need a doctor. You think you are crazy too.

Later on, this type of thing happens again and again. Lights in your eyes trigger some part of the memory, or a particular phrase, or seeing a simulated car crash on tv, or seeing someone who looks like your daughter did, seeing a rescue worker in uniform, or being around your family members at the holidays, who carefully do not talk about what happened.

You feel anxious and fearful a lot of the time, but couldn’t say exactly why.

If you are lucky, you will be able to stand the sensation during the gift of memory that is a flashback long enough to put the pieces together a little and don’t try to numb it very often with drugs, or alcohol, food or work. You do remember that your daughter died, and you think that maybe this has something to do with it.

You find a therapist and tell her what you remember consciously, which isn’t much. Your daughter died. You were driving. The rest is a blank. One day you have a session after a particularly intense flashback. While telling her about it, in the safety of a non-judgmental relationship, you have another flashback that fits with the first and make the connection with what you already know. You realize that the lights in your eyes you’ve been having nightmares about are the headlights of the truck you saw that night. The next time you have a nightmare about them, you tell yourself this and it calms you down. The better you get at doing this, the less often you have these nightmares, and you gradually find you can look at headlights at night without feeling much panic. Eventually they are sometimes just headlights, unless you are having a particularly stirred up day.

One day, with a lot of support from your therapist, you get the courage to ask after the accident reports. You travel back to the town you lived, practicing deep breathing to keep from having panic attacks when you see familiar landmarks. The day you go to the station and get access to the report, you are terrified. Some of what is written is not exactly as you remember it, it is told from a different perspective. It reads like it happened to another person. When you read in the police station archives, that it said you’d indicated you’d had a drink at the party prior to driving, you become unable to read further and freeze. You run into the bathroom, find a stall and break into deep sobs in the police office. You hope no-one comes in and hears you, or worse, asks what is wrong.

However, the report helps because it gives you a framework to attach the snippets of sensation and memory that intrude into your consciousness or have been invited during therapy sessions. You find that they all fit at some place in the story, and you begin to have compassion for the woman who experienced this tragedy, that woman who doesn’t quite feel like yourself.

Now imagine that the situation is not a car accident, witnessed and documented by police, so you can check the validity of your memory fragments. Imagine that an incident equally horrifying or worse was perpetrated on you by a loved and trusted person while you were a child under their control. Imagine that there was no medical attention, even though you were seriously injured, and no one to help or tell. Imagine that it wasn’t a single traumatic incident’s worth of sensation fragments to piece together, but fifty, spread out over a decade or more. Imagine that as a result of the first couple of incidents, you had walked around in a self-protective haze for most of your childhood. Imagine that as a result, your brain didn’t bother to store the kind of information that provides context and meaning for these later traumas, but only the sensations of pain or horror. You are missing a large number of key pieces of several of the memories, meaning that without outside validation, you will likely never be able to explain or integrate them fully for yourself, make them whole and stop them from intruding into your life.

Imagine that your family members refuse to talk to you about what they remember of what happened, because it is too painful for them, or because they don’t want you to remember what happened, they blame you or they don’t want you to remember their part in condoning it. Imagine that they tell you that you are lying, making it all up, that you are crazy, either directly or indirectly. Or imagine that instead they say they believe you that this person hurt you, but don’t think it was a big deal and still spend christmas every year with the family member who hurt you. They expect you to do the same.

If you are lucky, you will divorce your family, get good therapy, and find some friends with similar experiences who understand and normalize what happened. If you are lucky you will have a spouse who becomes trained to hold you and calm you at night when you have nightmares, or if you have flashbacks during lovemaking, does not take it personally and learns not to touch you in ways that trigger the minefield of memory fragments. With luck and time, you connect the puzzle pieces you can, and develop what explanation you can for those you cannot connect. You learn, in the midst of the panic, to tell yourself, “this is abuse stuff” and that you are safe now, and most of the time that helps enough. If you are lucky and face it as square on, for as long as you can, then the memory fragments intrude less and less, and eventually they stop. You make peace with the mysteries you can’t solve, and protect yourself from further harm effectively.

You don’t tell most people about all this, as it upsets them and often they say stupid things that make it worse. They ask why you aren’t over it by now. They say “parents do the best they can with what they know at a time” or “forgiveness will set you free”. Their own experiences with minor wounds and misdeeds tell them that these are the truth, so they think it applies to you.

Friends you trust enough to tell how it really is are uncomfortable with the anger you have worked hard to feel and express, because turning it inside poisons you. They tell you that forgiving the sociopath who hurt you solely for his or her own enjoyment will magically make all the aftereffects disappear, forcing you to make the decision to tell them what naïve fools they are or just change the subject. Sometimes you want to ask them, “will forgiving the truck that hit you make the broken bones go away?”

If you are lucky, you will have some people in your life who never say these things, or you will soon have no friends at all. You learn not to tell most people things they can’t understand, which means that sometimes your behaviour is unexplainable.

Without being able to share the facts, it becomes impossible to explain in a compelling enough way to strangers, that unless they want to hold your hand, remind you to breathe, listen to you tell them the disjointed snippets of what you remember about being trapped and tortured in a small box, and comfort you afterward, all of which would actually healing, you simply cannot ride in an elevator today.

Some days you can do it with no more than some attention to deep relaxing breathing, and focusing on the elevator musak and the knowledge that you are safe and an adult. Doing this often enough will make things permanently better, but takes a lot of internal fortitude each time. However, you know from experience that if you do succumb to pressure and ride in the damn elevator (or whatever) when you’re not ready, you will pay by going numb for days, and spend days on high emotional alert and nights of nightmares. Because  they don’t or won’t understand why you have needs they don’t, people find you rigid and odd. They have no idea how courageous you are.

Talking to a lawyer

The Goddess Brigid

So I did end up talking to a lawyer about my father and the scar tissue last night, but not in the way I expected.

I asked a friend of mine, who is a lawyer about how I might go about finding a suitable lawyer. She asked what about and we got into it. She was very helpful, and told me a few things.

Criminally, there’s no time limitations on being charged for raping kids. Unless charges were laid and dropped, I’m good to go.

My aunt’s testimony wouldn’t be usable, since you can’t use ‘he did things like that to other people’ as an argument apparently.

She knows some women in the system and is going to ask around about who might be helpful. In one case she knows of a witness for the crown (which I would be) hired a lawyer to advise her about her records (journals, therapist notes etc…)

Because I was assaulted as a child, there might be an automatic publication ban on my name and by association the name of my father, which would be against what I want, which is to out him as a rapist.

I could put a stop to the proceedings at any time if it got out of hand just by refusing to cooperate, since I’m the main witness. They’d be unlikely to force me to testify.

The judge reads over journals and notes and medical records and such and decides what is relevant before allowing it into the court, but don’t give anything to the police that you don’t want my father’s side to have. The thought of him having access to my private information is creepy.

And she’d be willing to come and watch me dance on his grave, if it came to that.

Aren’t allies wonderful?

Do I really want to do this? As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, I’ve been mulling over what the spiritual meaning of my fathers ongoing near death experiences are for a long time.

I believe that the Goddess gives us help to do what we’re meant to do:

I have proof now.

I have more support now.

I have a job that will tolerate me going to another city for a court case now.

He’s old and sick and the stress of being charged would do him good.

The question I have to answer for myself is  the same one I was asking in my last post. What do I want to have happen? What do I need for me?

My friend said to be clear about what I need and want. If I go to dance on his grave, who do I want with me, how do I want to travel there? What do I want to have happen? She said to treat it as if I needed a lot of medical attention and expect the same support. People support someone with cancer or whatever by rallying around. I could invite that around either the court case or his death.

What does the sword at the top of my blog mean for me? Is it the sword of the sword dance on his grave, or the sword of justice? Is it the Pagan sword of the East and air that cuts the circle and sets the boundary around oneself? In what way am I meant to be the sword dancer?

I hate and may regret when he’s dead that he got away with it. He may be up there raping kids and women all these years because I didn’t go through with the court case all those years ago. Not that he’d have been likely to have gone to jail, even then. Convictions don’t stop abusers from offending, we know that. Psychopaths like my father just keep offending. Only the Goddess can stop that. My hope is that his poor health has kept him from his usual activities.

What is happening to me this past year is a rite of passage, the rite called, “Death of an Abuser” or maybe some level of warrior initiation. The first initiation was all those years ago, when I was in university and was safe enough to recognize the intrusive and fragmented memories for what they were and who they were. This plunged me into a kind of isolation, where my whole world was healing for about five years. I’d always felt separate and different from other people, but now I knew why, I’d experienced something that most people don’t want to think about.

The second stage was reporting him to the police. I did it to protect my younger brother, and because it was the right thing to do, but I don’t know if I ever expected it to go to court. The crown didn’t even contact me about it and the police didn’t investigate till several years later, when some political pressure was forcing them to get old sexual abuse cases off the books.

At that point I told my first lawyer in full about what happened. He interviewed me for seven hours, but it was a relief rather than an ordeal. I discovered that I actually did remember a lot of detail. He told me that abusers are always at a disadvantage in court, because they’re lying and people can tell.

I don’t know what this stage is. Facing some hard realities I guess. My mother was complicit in the abuse. My formerly revered older brother is behaving a lot like my father and is now essentially dead to me because he won’t deal with what happened directly. I now wonder if my nephews have been safe all this time. My only reassurance is that my sister in law is a strong woman, who I hope would know what to do if there were concerns. The memories I have of being raped as a tiny child are absolutely real. It really happened. It happened to me in this body. I not only still have the scars, the damage still physically affects my ability to do something as simple as having sex with my wife without pain.

The Goddess Brigid

Or perhaps this stage is knowing the possibilities and having the opportunity one last time, to choose. How do I approach justice? Do I just begin speaking about the abuse, doing whatever activism I feel is necessary? Do I earn myself a sword in that battle, the sword of truth, by fighting the monster in his den? Do I wait for him to die and dance the sword to celebrate my victory over him?

When I pray for guidance from the Goddess, I have to be willing to listen to it. She doesn’t always make it easy, but doing the right thing has it’s own blessings attached.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.” WH Murray

I believe this to be true.

I wish I could say I knew in my soul what I’m meant to do. Or can I? All this is adding up to taking him to court. The scars, the friend coming back into my life at this time, the support from my aunt, all my ducks in a row. When I found out he was dying (or so I thought) I literally could not stop crying, something that almost never happens. Not grief for the dying psychopath, but what? Regret? Relief? Fear?

I was afraid of him dying and haunting me, but now I’m not. That’s a good thing. No matter what I decide, it’s about me. The important things I’m meant to do with my life could be about the arts rather than justice. Or the arts and justice. I’m meant to write, I’m meant to sing and write songs, and who knows whether a long court battle would just drain and distract me from that? Perhaps dancing on his grave is enough. Or perhaps I’m avoiding, as anxiety is wont to make me do. To do what I’m most anxious about would be to go to his door and confront him – and having the RCMP at my back would only make it stronger.

I don’t want to disrespect Her gifts. I want to honour them, and myself. I don’t want to be a martyr for the cause. My ‘scars to prove it’ song has been running through my head. A concert tour to raise awareness about incest. Could I go public about the incest without ‘earning my chops’ in court? Am I entitled? Are the scars enough? Do I want vengeance? Of course I do. Who wouldn’t? What I need is a Pagan to talk to about this.

Have I committed myself? Perhaps not yet. I’ve committed myself to dancing the sword, but the ‘stream of events’ could carry me away if I’m not sure where my tiller and my sail are intended to take me. That is what I need to decide and commit to. It’s clear the Goddess is ready with a wind at my back.

Body Memories of Strangulation

I haven’t been on this blog much lately because I was writing my novel. I did it! I finished 50,000 words in one month. Yay for me. I took a break from the singing practice during novel writing month and hope to come back.

[Abuse triggers]

Lately the big issue for me is strangulation.

I’ve been having body memories from when I was strangled. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a body memory (I don’t have a lot of them) or just a sore neck in a place that made me think of when I was strangled when I was about 6. So being the kind of person who likes to know what I’m dealing with, I did some internet searching on long term effects of strangulation. I was wondering if the pain I was feeling was some kind of long term effect.

Kind of a mistake, although maybe not.

I remember being strangled into unconsciousness from pressure on the front of my throat. I was fairly young, maybe 5-7. I remember the pain, struggling to breathe and not being able to take in air, and passing out. I passed out long enough that I was disoriented and he was gone. I was in shock or quite disoriented for a day or two afterward.

What my internet search told me about this is that I survived attempted murder.
My air was definitely cut off, and perhaps blood to my brain as well.

Here are some immediate effects:

  • Abrasions, lacerations, contusions, or edema to the neck, depending on how the patient was strangled
  • Subconjunctival and skin petechiae cephalad to the site of choking (Tardieu spots)
  • Severe pain on gentle palpation of the larynx, which may indicate laryngeal fracture
  • Mild cough
  • Stridor
  • Muffled voice
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hypoxia (usually a late finding)
  • Mental status changes (short term -restlessness or combativeness, long term  – amnesia, psychosis (hallucinations))
  • I definitely had the larynx pain. I don’t know what else. Hypoxia is a shortage of oxygen in the tissues. Cerebral Hypoxia which can cause confusion and fainting. I have these constant, recurring nightmares where I am trying to get help but am confused and can’t successfully do whatever I’m trying to do, usually get away or call for help on the phone or some other way.  I think when I came to I was very confused.

    Apparently depending on how much blood supply is cut off, a person can lose consciousness in as little as 10 seconds, if the strangulation happened for longer, I’d have been dead. Strangulation, according to the sources I looked at,  typically has very subtle marks, even when it is severe. Even people who were killed by strangulation might not have much in the way of marks. There might not even be bruising, which tends to lead law enforcement to underestimate the severity of the attack. Women are far more likely to be strangled by men than men are by men, since the person doing it has to be a lot stronger.

    I can’t find the reference now that really hit home for me. It said something like if the victim was strangled for a short while they might lose consciousness and then regain it quite quickly when the strangulation was released. If the person was strangled for a little longer, and lost consciousness for longer, then they were very close to serious brain damage and death. That was me.

    What was different for me this time is that I’m feeling less separate from what happened to me. I used to feel these things as happening to my child self, with an intellectual sense of it having happened to me. Now, I think it is finding the scars on my vulva. These things happened to me.

    I told my therapist my full memory of being strangled, went into the body memory and described it to her. The pain in my throat was bad, and over the course of the session it dissolved. My larynx still aches from time to time, when I get triggered, but is a lot better.

    No WONDER singing has been such a struggle for me. No wonder I’ve had these constant dreams of being confused. I sure hope I’m going to have more of these body memories. I know there’s more, unfortunately. I guess the only way out is through. They’re validating but painful.

    A Signed Confession

    Walking to a friend’s house today, it occurred to me what I want from my father before he dies. Even better, I think I can get it.

    I want a signed confession. I want him to sign a paper, witnessed and legal, that says that he sexually abused his daughter.

    Here’s why I think I can get it:

    • First of all, he’s dying, so a confession can’t hurt him.
    • Secondly, the statute of limitations for his abuse has long since passed, so a confession can’t hurt him.
    • Thirdly, he’s dying, so even if I sue his estate for money, I’d essentially be suing my mother, not him.
    • Fourthly, we can even put it in the care of a lawyer with me not getting it till he dies, if he wants to.
    • Lastly, there’s no one he’d care about knowing who hasn’t already known for years.

    What good would it do me to have this paper?

    Well, first and not actually most importantly, surprizingly enough, I’d have  a talisman against my own denial. If my father himself admits he did it, I never need to doubt myself again.

    Secondly and more importantly, if I want to do activism around incest (and I think I do), I’d then be able to be described as “myname, incest survivor” as opposed to “myname, who alleges her father sexually abused her”, or even “sorry we can’t report on that since it hasn’t been proven in court that he did it” , which would make things a lot easier.

    Lastly, it helps with the unquiet ghost thing somehow. He will have confessed, and can go into death at least being honest about that.

    Now, I may be unrealistic here, but I figure, the idea came to me for a reason,  and I will try.

    I’ll tell him “I want this from you so I can work to stop it happening to any other little girls. It doesn’t cost you anything. You owe me this.”

    He was Bad.

    I’ve been wracking my brains for weeks now, trying to ferret out what made my father do it. Was he a flawed man with some redeeming qualities who inexplicably got fixated on sexually abusing his daughter? Or was he a sociopath who merely pretended to be good sometimes, for appearances sake?

    The first theory presents as evidence my ‘daddy’s’ behaviour:  playing guitar and singing “how much is that doggy in the window” for the sheer pleasure of his 4 year old daughter, reading stories to her, and recording fairy tales on tape, so when he wasn’t home I’d hear his voice telling me stories.

    The second theory presents as evidence my father’s extreme dissociation while he raped me, his obliviousness to my screams and the physical injuries on my little body. His mysogyny, his disrespect for the boundaries and feelings of people around us, his cruelty to our two dogs.  As  further evidence, the fact that anyone in my family or friends of my mothers who knew him, believed without question when informed he’d abused me. It seemed to fit with their experience of him.

    Why do I need to know? Because my four year old self wants me to explain. She loved her daddy. She loved him right up till the pain started, and after that she thought a monster had taken him over. She was energetically open and innocent. She needs to know.

    I’ve been thinking about this in adult terms.

    Wrong.

    Today, driving home from therapy, allowing myself to grieve from that 4 year old place, it came to me.

    “He was Bad.”

    That’s all she needed. Yes. He was bad.  Somehow whether he meant it when he sang with me or read to me is suddenly irrelevant. ‘Bad’ is a concept that explains everything to a four year old, apparently. The explanation settles in, clicks somewhere and ties the monster and daddy together.  It seems to provide a reason, and relieves her of the burden of needing to find out if the monster swallowed her daddy.

    He was, simply, Bad.

    Do I need to say goodbye to a ‘bad man’? Maybe not.  Do I need a deathbed confrontation or to write ‘rapist’ in weed killer on his lawn? I won’t rule it out at this point, but at this moment, I feel peace.

    Goodbye Letter

    So it wasn’t just t-shirts that got me thinking the other night in my chocolate (and probably PMS) induced sleeplessness.

    I’m behind in my correspondence.

    It’s been years since I wrote dear old dad a letter, and him being (hopefully) close to his deathbed, perhaps it’s time to drop him a line.

    I sent him a fathers day card a few years ago. I found one with a sappy saying “Thanks for a lifetime of happy memories”, crossed out the word “happy” and sent it to him, unsigned. I think he knows who sent it though. I’d planned to make it a yearly event (I figured if he gets to get away with raping me, then me sending him a nasty card once a year is certainly within my rights. ) However, like I said, I’m behind in my correspondence.

    So let me rehearse my draft to him here.

    Dear Dad (yes, I’m using the term, since well, he is my Da, and it’s what I called him last I spoke to him. The word ‘Dad’ just doesn’t have the same meaning for me as it does for other folks, I think. Then again, since a full 20% of all people in the US have been abused, my meaning might be more common than it appears.  )

    So I hear you’re dying of cancer.

    Good.

    Hope it’s really really painful.

    I wanted you to know some things before you die. First off,  the police MP have you in a database of sexual offenders, and have been watching you, so if you are thinking of getting in a bit more abuse before you go, know that they will pull you in and I’d be delighted to provide a character reference.

    Secondly, you know all that Christian stuff about forgiveness you were taught? I didn’t buy it. As you may have heard, I’ve gone back to my Pagan Scottish roots, which make a lot more sense. I want you to go into your death knowing that I don’t forgive you for raping me and for insulting the honour of our family, and I never will. I won’t be laying flowers on your grave, and neither will anyone else.

    However, I want to give you one thing, one secret, before you die. The only way to go into death clean is to feel remorse for the horrors you’ve done.  I suggest you get down to it right away. Our family doesn’t need a restless ghost.

    I want you to think about your death, about your own soul, which you have dishonoured, and which surely must be a bleeding scrap by now. I know your father beat you, and I don’t know what else happened to set you up to believe that raping your daughter was an option, but I don’t care.  I know you think your drinking was an excuse. It’s not.

    I assume you’re a sociopath, but who’s to know? I certainly have no sane fathers to compare you to. I remember when you found me on the highway, unconscious, after I was hit by that car, and you told me how you’d realized in that moment you loved me, with great surprize in your voice. Do you remember that? It actually makes sense, for a sociopath to be surprised at experiencing love, however briefly.

    I told your mother you abused me before she died and she believed me.

    Everyone believed me.

    Right away.

    They figured, yes, it was something you’d do.

    Do you know that you are legendary for your selfishness? At my wedding, someone made a selfish, arrogant and self-centred statement and someone else said he was just like you. Go into your death knowing you are not forgiven, but you will be forgotten. You have done nothing of value.

    I have lived my entire life trying to overcome the pain you inflicted on me, and I curse you for it.

    I do not need to kill you. Mother Nature will do it for me. I would not dishonour myself by making myself a murderer. But know this. When you die, I will rejoice and I will claim your death as my victory. I declare victory over you now, for you will be dead soon, and I will be alive and happy.

    I win.