Linear time 7+

Photocredit: Mararie, Piano Keys

When I was 7 we moved to the second house. The dog who died in the first house was replaced near the end of our time there with two black lab puppies. What were my parents thinking? Amos was a high strung hyper dog, and Andy was more placid. My father was training them as hunting dogs and made them respond to whistle commands. Andy often ignored the commands because he thought he knew where the duck was better than my dad did. He usually did. One time he couldn’t find the duck my dad had shot and brought back an uninjured one instead. He was a good dog. My dad would pinch their ears if he thought they were misbehaving. I thought the noise was terrible and that my dad was cruel, which of course he was.

The new house had a playroom in the basement that I remember quite well, along with a suite of rooms that became my older brother’s bedroom. It also had a formal living room that wasn’t often entered, that I would hide in. I spent a lot of time being still in that living room, staying out of notice. The living room contained a piano, which my father would play sometimes. I took piano lessons for awhile, but my teacher wasn’t nice and nobody made me practice, so I didn’t do well with it. I now have that piano in my home. I still don’t really play it, but at one time I thought I would. I still kind of intend to learn…. Chaotic households don’t lend themselves well to establishing routines, something I still don’t really have the hang of.

I also remember my own bedroom well, and every area of the house and yard. My parent’s bathroom stank of my father and mother’s bodies, which always repulsed me. I had a closet in my bedroom that was furnished with fake-gilt furniture my grandmother had bought me, complete with a pink canopy bed. I was one of those princess girls, so much for the stereotype of the butch from birth lesbian. Come to think of it, I was given that furniture when I lived in the old house and I do remember when it arrived and setting it up there, which is kind of a bedroom memory. I was one of those girls who had barbie dolls, and I even had a barbie townhouse for a short while, which made me a popular gal around the neighbourhood. That ended when my younger brother ran down the hallway with one of the townhouse pillars in his mouth, falling and cutting the back of his throat. At least that was what I was told. It happened while I was out of town with my mother for a family wedding, so Goddess only knows how his throat got damaged. He’s never told me any different.

Anyhow in the new house I had my own room. My abuse memories from that time are mostly about waiting for my father to go to bed each night. He’d get hammered beginning before dinner, and then eat dinner, watch tv, get belligerent and pass out. Good nights were when he passed out fairly early. Then my mother and brothers and I could relax. As long as we didn’t make too much noise we could talk and be relatively relaxed. While my father was awake and belligerent it was important not to rile him up. The more riled he got the more likely he was to take it out on me.

I’d be put to bed, but wouldn’t sleep. I’d lay in my bed in terror. I complained almost every night to my mother that I couldn’t sleep, and she’d say everything was fine and she was right down the hallway. A lot of good that did.

My father would wake up at some point and would turn the TV back on and watch it. He’d often wait a couple of hours after my mother had gone to bed. I think he did this on purpose to maximize his chances to abuse me. Finally he’d come staggering down the hallway, his big fat-fingered hands brushing on the walls as he made his way down the hall. Sometimes he’d pass my door, which was opposite the bathroom, and continue down the hall to their bedroom, which had it’s own ensuite bathroom. Sometimes he’d go into the bathroom across from me, use the toilet, turn on the fan. When he came out he’d come into my room. I don’t remember much more. All I know is that I spent some time in my closet in that room, that I really really wanted a lock on the door, and that I have a trigger about light shining around a partially opened bedroom door. I honestly don’t know if I was raped there too, but I think it’s likely given all the triggers. Iether he slipped my mother something to keep her asleep, or she pretended not to know. I do have one memory of trying to wake her and being unable to.

I remember spending a lot of time in the bathroom with pain in my vulva. I had an itchy discharge and pain I now know is similar to a urine infection, sitting on the toilet for hours feeling like I had to pee but being unable to. I was pretty thoroughly out of my body, but I remember this pain.

I got my period when I was 13. After that I think the rapes changed from vaginal to anal and oral. I have body memories of the oral, mostly the aftermath, and to a lesser degree of the anal rapes. I don’t know when or where those rapes happened, but I’m guessing that they were in my bedroom. I know that around that time I became unable to sing. It felt like I had phlem in my throat, which was sore, all the time.

One thing I wonder about is something my mother said to me repeatedly. If we were talking about my father’s crimes, she’d say “but what did I do?” with emphasis on the “I”. At the time I thought (and said), “it was more what you’d didn’t do, which is not protecting me or leaving him.” But now I’m wondering if she did anything to me herself. I’ve never had much response when a love goes down on me, and have a particularly hard time staying in my body while it’s happening. If she did anything to me, that’s what she did. I had that wierd kind of memory last year of her abusing me, that I discounted, and I’m still not sure whether it was real or not.

I was anxious and odd enough by the time I lived in the second house that kids teased me, including my older brother. Noticing that I would get terrified if I was in the bathroom if he reached in and turned off the light and on the fan, he would do it to torture me. As an adult, knowing what happened to me, he apologized for doing that, knowing that my terror must have been related. Not that it made it any easier for me at the time.

My younger brother, who would have been about 3 by this time, had his own room across the hall from my parents’ bedroom. I don’t know if my dad abused him directly. I hope not. I’ve always felt protective toward him.

When I was in grade 9 I think, I read an article in a magazine that talked about a young woman who had been arrested for prostitution. She’d been put in a cell, which she had smeared the walls of with menstrual blood. The article explained that she had run away from home to escape the sexual attentions of her step father, and had ended up in prostitution. The tone of the article made it clear that the stepfather had no right to be hitting on his step daughter, and that she was clearly forced to run away.

This article was liberation for me. Before that I had no inkling what sexual abuse was and that he wasn’t allowed to do it. This is why silence about sexual abuse to children is so harmful. I immediately began to fight back. I think I realized I could tell the police on my dad at some level. I argued with my dad when he became belligerent rather than trying to placate him. He began to get worried. The abuse ended definitively one evening. He confronted me in the hallway, in front of a wall hanging of trees screen printed on a sheet. He said “you know I would never hurt you” looking at me in the eyes. He didn’t say it like a question, but like he was instructing me on what to believe and say. I don’t remember what I said in response, but it was not compliance. He left me alone after that.

Life wasn’t a whole lot easier at that point, but it was manageable I guess. I had two boyfriends in succession, and one part time job, and got decent marks, good enough to earn me a scholarship that paid for my tuition in my first year of university. I got the hell out of town at 16 and went to university. I started to realize I was gay, but didn’t do anything about it. I had two boyfriends in university, which lasted till the end of my third year there, when I came out. I had been fighting to suppress some pretty major flashbacks most of my teen years. I continued to have major flashbacks in first year, but didn’t make much sense of them, again until third year, when I started attending a 12 step program for children of alcoholics. I started hearing other women speak honestly about their childhoods, and some even disclosed abuse. It was the first place I’d ever remembered feeling safe. Once that circle was opened with the women sitting in a circle doing the beginning readings, it was like a magic circle had been cast and I was protected from my father. That circle saved my life. I began going to twelve step meetings a lot.

I’m amazed I didn’t act out. I barely drank, didn’t do drugs and didn’t particularly sleep around, although I’d had sex with one of my two boyfriends. I think I felt I needed to be ‘on’ to be safe, which mostly involved manipulating situations that got scary rather than kicking butt. That I learned to do later. The first boyfriend was gay, which worked out pretty well for both of us until he left me for a guy. The second boyfriend, predictably for a guy of 18, wanted to have sex several times a day, and I didn’t usually want to have sex at all, but complied out of a sense of obligation and to maintain his attention and regard. I liked to sleep with him for the feeling of protection. When I broke up with him I swore I’d never have sex with a man again, and didn’t for several years. It wasn’t all bad – he was a kind guy aside from the sexual pressure, which I stopped being mad about after a couple of years, and we’re still friends. After we broke up he called my father to confront him, but my mother either wouldn’t put him on the phone or he wasn’t home. I would have paid money to hear that if he’d have been able to get through to him. While I was with this boyfriend, I wrote my mother a letter disclosing the abuse, and cut ties with my parents. I moved and didn’t tell them where I was living. For most of the next several years, I didn’t even tell my mom where I was living, just called her from time to time to let her know I was okay. I’d hang up without saying anything if my dad answered. During this time my I didn’t speak to my younger brother, who was still living at home. It was about 14 years later that my mother finally left my father. During those years I almost never saw iether her or my younger brother.

Every once in a while she’d breeze into the town where I lived and have a very short visit, one or two hours, sometimes more. During this time I asked her to mail me my stuff, which she mostly did, but she went through and read all my journals, which, not surprizingly, had nothing in them about the abuse, although a bit about the neglect, which I haven’t mentioned. Basically, there was almost no food at home. My parents used their credit cards to eat in restaurants during the day, but there was often no groceries at home, at least not enough for hungry teenagers. There’s one passage in my journal where I am a teenager and am talking about how hungry I was and how there was no food at home, and how I was using the money from my part time job to buy groceries at the mall and eat there. I could get more food for less money if I bought groceries rather than going to a restaurant or fast food place. I also bought vitamins for myself. What kind of teenager does that?

"The Wedding Couple, After Abott" Photocredit: Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com

So until about 7 years ago, I didn’t see most of my relatives at all. Then my mother left my father and I made an effort to be supportive. I started seeing her a couple of times a year, and realized who she is like when she’s out from under my father’s shadow. How she is is mostly anxious, needy and high maintenance. She needs to have all the attention, and tries to buy my affection with gifts she thinks I’ll like, while withholding what I actually want, just like she did when I was a child. She had a couple of shining moments of helpful mothering, like when she co-signed our first mortgage, and when she organized a bunch of relatives to attend our wedding. She was like the poster mother for gay friendly parents, telling her friends they needed to accept that her daughter had a female partner or lose her friendship. Every once in awhile she gets it right. Most of the time she gets it very wrong because she wants me to pretend everything is okay the way I did when I lived at home. F— that. I respond by pretending for short periods and then getting irritated with her. Finally I stopped seeing her all together. Now that I know about the scars, I don’t know what I’d say to her. If I told her about them, she’d deny knowing, and I’d feel like killing her.

Linear time – Age 1-7

I was told that it was good to tell your survivor story from beginning to end, as part of integrating it and setting it to rest.

Part of the problem with that is that I have some gaps  and some memories that are still in dissociated states, but I’ll try. I’m going to ‘bold’ the memories where I remember what it felt like to be ‘inside my own head’ for that memory, to be the girl having those thoughts or experiences.

My first memory is before the age of 7, since it is in the front yard of the first place we lived in, one side of a duplex. For some reason I don’t know who lived on the other side, but the neighbours in the next house had a daughter a few years older than me who I adored and looked up to. Her mother was also nice, but looked more like a grandmother than a mother.

In my first memory I’m making mud pies sitting under a tiny weeping willow or similar tree, which had long dangling drooping seed clusters that were green and then would dry to a caramel colour. When they were dry you could crumble them into the seeds, which were like roundish flat stars. I put them on top of my mud pies like sprinkles and my memory is of being delighted with discovering their beautiful star shapes and deciding to use them to decorate my mud pies. I could hide under this tree and it felt like a bit of a fort.

I also remember being outside in my front yard when I came home found out my dog had been put down. The front yard was covered in small pools of yellowish vomit. I think he must have had a heart condition. They didn’t tell me beforehand so I didn’t get to tell him goodbye. I still think this was wrong, although I can understand why they did it.

I can remember almost the entire path to my elementary school from the duplex, which was black and white on the outside. We walked through a forest trail we kids called “the path” which ran in a cut between two rows of houses. I liked the path.

I remember sledding on that street one winter, with my dog Tony pulling me behind him on the sled. We thought he was a very strong dog.

I remember learning to ride a bike with training wheels, it was a blue bike I think, and my dad was helping me, and when he let go I crashed into the neighbours yard two doors over, which was on a slight hill. I landed on the grass so it was a good place to crash. This lady and her husband both smoked, which smelled bad, and had a daughter with bad asthma who had to have oxygen tents and go to the hospital, but her parents wouldn’t quit smoking. I wrote some of my first word ‘mom’ I think, when I was four years old, at her kitchen table, to much approval. I felt very smart. I also remember helping change her baby daughter’s diapers when she was little, this is the one who had asthma,  and the beautiful pink drapey stuff on her crib.

There was another lady who I think lived nearby as well although she moved before we did, who had a son exactly the same age as me with my same birthday, so sometimes his mom and mine would have birthday parties together at their house, which I didn’t like.

I remember a chair in the front room, the living room, which me and a friend rocked on together until we crashed it over and I had to go to the doctor for stitches. I remember this because we were trying to experiment with trying to rock it side to side and around in circles at the same time.  I remember the stitches felt stiff, like someone had laid a strip of glue on my skin.

I don’t remember my bedroom at all. I don’t remember much more than the hallway, where my dad, drunk and angry, ranted at my brother and I for awhile about what a terrible house cleaner our mother was, herding us around and showing us the dirt and dust bunnies. Our mother wasn’t home and we were scared.

I remember seeing my father ‘asleep’, passed out from alcohol, on the kitchen floor, which had a kind of U shaped cabinet with a sink and window and then another area with kitchen table and a red rotary phone placed high on the wall. I don’t know if I remember this phone directly, since it’s in a picture I saw as well. I don’t remember my mom there at all, except maybe at that garage sale we had.

I remember I had to stay home all summer and not go out and play at all, although my younger brother could go out (he would have been only 2 or so?) because I had to be there in case he needed me. This just doesn’t make sense to me now, since I would have been too young to babysit, and surely they didn’t let a 2 year old run free in the neighbourhood? Anyhow I wasn’t allowed to go outside and play with friends all summer. But when I remember it, I remember the duplex, not the later house, so I think that happened then. Now I think that perhaps this was a ruse to keep me inside while I was healing from the rape.

I remember having an elaborate cool-aid stand in front of the duplex that I ran with a much older boy (about 10 or 12) who tried to kiss me in his basement. Around the same time I was at a Halloween party at his house and saw someone sit up out of a fake coffin and got very badly scared, in a reaction that was much more extreme than warranted. His sister was about my age. I remember a girl named Carla who was relentlessly teased for being fat, who lived at the other end of the U-shaped street, across the street from the boy. I still feel sorry for her and hope she is now happy and grown up. I remember my kindergarten room at school.

I don’t remember the basement at all, although I have a vague recollection that it had a window that looked up into the back yard. The stairs led up and down from the doorway at the side of the building, down to the basement and up to the main floor. Apparently there was a play room there, chock full of toys. I think it was where I was first abused, although my bedroom is also a good candidate. How come I remember the yard so well and the inside of the carport, where we had a garage sale once, in front of the house, and a lilac bush my mom liked just behind the side door, but not my own bedroom or playroom? This is of course a rhetorical question, since it is likely where I was abused. I have fairly fleshed out memories of places in my front yard or neighbourhood, but not the back part and lower levels of my own house.  I also remember my neighbours garden really well, and exactly where she planted the rhubarb that my neighbour and I would eat sometimes with sugar. I also remember my neighbour friend’s bedroom a little.

We moved from that place when I was 7, and to another house where we lived till I left home at 16 to go to university (yep, I’m kind of smart).

I remember the day we moved my parents brought us over to the new house and we waited in the basement, watched I think by my older brother, who would have been 12, while they did the final cleanup of the old place. This was during a brief prosperous time where they bought the house.

I was afraid of basements, and had a persistent fear feeling walking up stairs from the basement, especially if the light was turned off, as we were supposed to do when we left the basement. I would always run up the stairs, taking two at a time, in the new house, which had the same sort of entrance door that opened onto a landing between the basement and upper floor.

I know now that I was raped during my time at the duplex, probably in the basement. I have two abuse memories from that time, one of the pain of the actual first rape and belief that I was dying and afterwards,  had actually died , a persistent terror of basements, and one of trying to climb frantically up the stairs at the duplex and being pulled down by someone bad, probably my father, by the ankles. Now perhaps I have no memories of certain places in the duplex because I was in shock so much of the time there.

There was a babysitter we used to go to named Mrs. L – she had a day care in her basement, and I didn’t like her. She was rigid and strict and unfriendly and English. My older brother didn’t like her, and my mom apparently stopped taking us there when my brother wouldn’t let go of her legs one day when she was dropping him off. We stayed with Mrs. and Mr. L one time when my parents went away on holiday. Mrs. L had nothing she considered age appropriate for me to do, she said all her toys were too young for me, and I was permitted to file my nails and clean them, and I think watch a half hour or hour of television, but otherwise had nothing to do. Mr L could watch TV, but we weren’t allowed in to bother him.

This is almost the complete set of memories from zero to 7. I have no way of knowing if that’s normal, but I suspect it is a bit sparse. I had a babysitter who would do crafts with us, a girl, who we liked. Once coming home from school a person (lady?) asked us if I wanted a ride and I said no, since you weren’t supposed to take rides from strangers. She wrote a note on a brown paper bag for my mother, since she actually was my mom’s friend as she’d noted, but everyone said I was good not to get in the car.

What I’m trying to make sense of, integrate, is the incidental non-traumatic memories of the time and the abuse ones. I’m looking for holes and for some bits to fit together to make others make more sense. Was my father the only one to abuse me, or did he get his friends involved? Were my brothers abused as well? My older brother hinted at some things he had to go to therapy for, triggered by me disclosing abuse. I’d really like to know what those things were. I shared a bedroom with him at that house, so he might have been abused or witnessed abuse. It’s frustrating to have gaps, and it’s also frustrating to have so few memories that feel ‘in the first person’ like I can remember experiencing the event and not just the details or that the event happened.

the great divide

I can’t sleep so I’m writingthis in the middle of the night on my mini-laptop in bed. What a modern gal I am. My wife is sleeping next to me, and I”m hoping the dim light of the screen doesn’t wake her.

I’m thinking about taking a break from my therapist. It just doesn’t feel lik I’m making any real life positive changes as a result of therapy any more. If anything I’ m a bit more ashamed,a bit more depressed than has been typical, and I can’t seem to shake it. \I feel like I need to do some present day life housecleaning to feel better, to get on the physical level and her approach isn’t really that style.

I need to get this feeling of general dissatisfaction, confusion and shame about my job sorted. \I’ve taken on too much and am just not ableto do the stellar job for all my clients that I once was.

I feel overworked, anda bit burnt out. My father is still not dead, stinking Father’s day is looming (I don’t know exactly when it is, but the media is putting on more positive stories about fathers and someone tried to sell me a robot controlled helicopter today at the mall for father’s day.I didn’t tell him my father is an evil bastard and the only way I’d buy him a helicopter is if it could be reliably expected to hasten his death.

My marriage is a bit better than usual lately, and I’ve seen some of my friends more. I’m thinking I could get a nice long aromatherapy massage every two weeks for the same money as seeing my therapist and probably more benefit to my mood.

It’s not that I don’t like her or that she’s doing a bad job or anything like that, it’s just that I don’t feel like I’m getting anything done,or that seeing her right now is improving my mood or life. She’s become like a friend I complain to, and that’s not cutting it.

I need a mom, nurturing or life skills instruction. I need a small business coach or a priestess to bless me. I need to feel that it is all going to work out okay. I need to know it, with help to create a rational plan I can reasonably believe will do the job in a reasonable time span. I need hope. I need someone to tell me what vitamins to take and what exercise to do to make me feel better, who isn’t flaky or expecting me to take their advice on faith with no evidence.

I have no mother or father or big brother to believe in. I have no family but my wife and she seems fragile and overburdened herself half the time. She loves me. Today was her day off and she popped into my office to bring me snacks andvitamins and juice smoothies at intervals,did my filing and looked after the dog so I could concentrate. She’s a good person and gives me practicalsupport that I find nurturing and helpful because she loves me. does she talk abou tfeelings with me? not so much, but she doesn what she can.

The great divide is between the physical and the emotional, or perhaps both of those and the spiritual. It should all be one seamless whole, but it feels unbalanced.I need to be in my body more, I think that will help with the shame. What do I feel shame abuot? Really I’m not sure. The loss of my older brother and mother, realistically, finally, is something I’m still grieving. Their rejection seems like a rejection of some child part of me, like my inner child just can’tfigure out why my adored older brother, the safe one, the hero, treats me like I’m craxy and bad, and my own mother won’t do me the courtesy of responding to a letter I sent more than a year ago.

the great divide is between holding on to my reality, the true reality where there is actually nothing inherently wrong with me and their reactions are their own gunk and nothign to do with me at all, and the fear that somehow they are right, or perhaps just me bargaining with the loss. If I accept their premise that it really is me that is wrong, that I need to just shut up about the abuse and behave as if it never happened, then I don’t have to accept that I’ve lost them both. However, since they really do believe that, I really have lost them both. Perhaps I need somesort of grief ritual for more than my father. Perhaps it is not just him I’m burying.Like most of the survivors I know, I have finally lost my family of origin.

I was talking to an old friend of mine who I ran into yesterday. He was saying how his family had basically disowned him for being gay, but that his mom had told him years ago, that as you get older it’s your friends that matter more than your family, that your friends become your family. Perhaps this is true.

I’m a pretty intense person. Apparently us creative types, and highly sensistive people often are. I like the richness of my inner life, the depth and the interconnection of symbol and spirit that I feel and wouldn’t give it up. It’s what helps me write,what makes me care about my job, and have compassion for other people. It’s what  makes me who I am. But  being true to myself can sure make me lonely too, realising that very few people see the world as I do.

Getting to Core

I just reread my last two posts (and found and fixed some typos).

Getting to certainty is important. When I read Tarot, I get myself calm and centred, and then reach down to my roots and dwell there. This helps me be grounded in my intuition and my connection to the Goddess. If I don’t do this, the cards are just cards, and nothing magical happens.

But when I connect deeply, I know with certainty. I can judge my emotional and spiritual health, no matter what is going on, by how deeply connected I feel. I am a tree with deep roots. I am a bird who rides the updrafts. I am the sunlight sinking into muscles and the green generators of plants. I am the water seeping into the porous soil, filling every tiny crevice and crack.

When I am connected, magic happens. A month or so ago I read a book about the science around psychic phenomenon. I’m not going to get into all the interesting double-blind, scientific evidence that certain kinds of extra-sensory perception exists, which was amazingly credible to a gal with a university education and a sharp analytical mind. This book validated something I have believed for a long time.

When I changed my first name, the name I chose fit me so well that even my mother agreed it was better. I chose it because it was a name I’d given as a child to several of my most precious stuffed animals and dolls in succession from early childhood. Then I looked it up in one of my mythology books and liked what it meant. It fit in a way that my birth name had not. I hadn’t intended to change my first name, only my last one, as a symbolic disowning of my father, but ended up changing both when I connected with this new name so deeply.

I have spent many times in the past twenty years connecting with myself as a child, talking to her, sending her love and the assurance that things will work out well in the end, that she will survive and that I love her. I have told my younger self this during flashbacks and when her fear and pain makes me afraid at night. I have done this for years.

As a child I had no-one, really. I drew my comfort from plants and my self-centred older brother, my books and my dolls and my teachers. I had few friends, a precarious social existence with my peers and a mother who was the complete slave of my father. I had a dear younger brother, who was also my bratty younger brother.

But I did feel connected, somehow. Connected with rocks, and trees and the stuffed animals and dolls. I named the most important and comforting of these, the ones that were an extension of my self,  with this name I now wear.

I believe that I felt then the love I’ve been sending to that self.  This kind of retro-time communication is one of the effects documented in the book I read. I believe that it actually, literally reached me in my most painful and terrifying moments and that’s why I’ve done so well for myself despite being alone and abused.  The Goddess used me to reach out to myself.

Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favourite authors, writes through a character named Umegat in the Curse of Challion that “The Gods are parsimonious”, meaning that they work through people rather than the flashy miracles most of the time. And yet the more open we are to the path we are led to, the more beautiful and right what flows through turns out to be. The lead character in the book, Cazaril finds his way to a place he’d lived as a boy after a horrible ordeal and betrayal in war, and is drawn by his own good character and at times reluctant willingness to be used by the Gods into ending a powerful curse.

Perhaps we survivors are suffering in the service of a greater goal, to end a powerful curse on the whole biosystem, a curse of domination and greed.

In the book, the curse can only be broken by someone who dies three times for his country. Cazaril turns out to die three times, once by intervening as a galley slave to save a younger slave from a likely lethal beating, which he incurs instead. The second time he performs an act of death magic to kill a villain who  is forcing a princess Cazaril has been entrusted to protect to marry him and intends to rape her. The spell itself is a prayer for justice and price of is one’s own death in addition to that of the guilty party, who must truly be guilty. When a Goddess by miracle seals the soul of the guilty man inside a tumour in Cazarils body, the death of the enemy is accomplished without Cazaril’s death but Cazaril is burdened with constant and physically painful haunting. The last death is when Cazaril is fatally stabbed by the villain’s even more evil brother, who pierces the tumour, and ends up paying the death magic price in Cazaril’s stead, freeing him of his brother’s soul as well.

The whole point of this convoluted tale is that all this was actually necessary. The Gods needed Cazaril to learn the skills of surrender that allowed them in the end to enter the world through him so they could correct what was causing the curse.  It was all a lesson in becoming empty and getting out of the way.  They really wanted to end the curse causing so much pain, but couldn’t do it without an agent in the land of form and matter.

As clumsily as I have paraphrased Bujold’s beautiful story, it inspires me. It makes me believe that the lessons of being a survivor are worth something that are worth the price paid.

When Cazaril experiences the miracle sealing his enemy’s soul inside him (with effects very reminiscent of being a trauma survivor, actually) he becomes a saint, and is recognized as such by a temple priest Umegat, also a saint, who has been holding the curse back from killing the king. Cazaril asks Umegat what the duties of a saint are.

Umegat says”

“You cannot outguess the gods. Hold to virtue—if you can identify it—and trust that the duty set before you is the duty desired of you. And that the talents given to you are the talents you should place in the gods’ service. Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent to you. Not even your life.”

Then Cazaril says:

“If the gods are making this path for me, then where is my free will? No, it cannot be!”

Ah.” Umegat brightened at this thorny theological point. “I have had another thought on such fates, that denies neither gods nor men. Perhaps, instead of controlling every step, the gods have started a hundred or a thousand Cazarils and Umegats down this road. And only those arrive who choose to.”

“But am I the first to arrive, or the last?”

“Well,” said Umegat dryly, “I can promise you you’re not the first.”

So, taking Bujold’s lesson to heart, what does that mean in my quest to do the Goddess’ will in making the world a better place?

Hold to virtue, if you can identify it.

Trust that the duty set before you is the duty desired of you. (hmmm… I  see a court case in my future.)

And the talents given you are the talents you should place in the gods’ service. (I see a squad of holy sword dancers outside a courthouse in northern Canada. I see speaking and writing and singing about this. )

Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent you. (I will have what I need.)

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.

Getting ready to fight

I’m thinking about scaling back my therapy schedule from once every two weeks to once a month. It’s been over a year now since I found out  my father/abuser had a severe cancer recurrence, and apparently he’s once again dodging the bullet. Apparently even the afterlife doesn’t want anything to do with him.  Why prepare endlessly for something that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon?

I need to decide once and for all if I want to put in the enormous effort to try and get it established legally that he raped me as a child. It would allow me to be a spokesperson to raise visibility about the need to report suspected child abuse. I haven’t talked to the lawyer I picked out to talk to about my options for getting it an established fact that he abused me. If I could do it in writing I think I would, but having to deal with a real person and their reactions to my story is intimidating and exhausting. Perhaps I wouldn’t even have to do that much. I could just start accusing him publicly, and if he tries to sue me about it, game on. However, I’d feel safer to get a legal opinion first.  It’s hard to get up the momentum to do this kind of thing. It took me months if not longer to work up to getting a pap test, and this is worse I think.

It does make me angry that  he’s gotten away with it. So he lost his wife, eventually, over it. So his family knows. So his mother died knowing her son rapes kids. So the police in his town know he’s a molester. So what? He lives his peaceful life in the home I grew up and was abused in, and feels sorry for himself no doubt. He even has a girlfriend. How low must her self esteem be to put up with him? She’s apparently an immigrant woman of colour. He’s racist – so how sick is that?

I bought a membership to a gym that does kick-boxing circuit training. I think that staying in my aggression while exercising will keep me from freaking out. I haven’t gone yet.  Maybe doing a little kicking and punching will build up my momentum and reduce my fear.

Happy Solstice

Today is the morning of the shortest day of the year.  A time when I usually clean up, simplify, tidy, pray.

I’m grateful for my blessings this year: learning to persevere, my friends.

I’m also grateful for something that happened recently.

In the place cleared by recognizing that I’d already lost my older brother, I found I have other relatives.

I talked to my aunt yesterday, my mom’s sister. She’s had therapy so is pretty real to talk to. We’d made a date (she’s in another time zone) to talk about my father as a young man and my mother and whatever context she could tell me.

She told me some useful things and gave me a lot of support.

Apparently I was right that my father acted out with other women – he’d ‘gotten fresh’ with my aunt (which I think means he made a pass that was more than verbal) and she’d had to kick him hard on the leg to get him off of her. After she told me this, I remembered, I’d seen the scar and heard the story from his perspective, which was mostly in the line that my mom’s crazy bitch sister had kicked him in the leg and left a scar. It’s a big scar, maybe 4 or 5 inches long, and pretty wide and red. I told my aunt “good for you” for giving it to him.

She told me she made a point of telling her sons to keep their kids away from my dad, and why. She confirmed the story I’d heard about my other aunt and my dad saying something awful to her too, but said I’d have to ask her directly for the details.

She explained a bit about their upbringing, and how they’d been raised to do whatever your husband wanted, and that their mom would be very angry at any show of disloyalty by her daughters to their husband. This tells me a bit about how my mom might have been cut off from support for leaving my dad. I also was able to explain to her what I wanted from my mom. My aunt and I agreed that my mom probably wouldn’t be able to face the enormity of what happened, that she’d be stuck in this workaholic avoidance for a long time. I told her I felt it was loving to not write her off, to believe she could do it, even though it was unlikely. I think she got it. She knows my mom better than I do.

She asked me essentially if I would ever heal, as if she thought I hadn’t, and I told her in one sense I already had, probably ten years ago. I gave her an example of a person getting in a car crash as the driver, where the passenger was killed. I said “would they think about it, on and off for the rest of their lives? probably. It’s not something you’d even want to forget, something that important. Would they still have feelings come up about it from time to time when they were reminded? Of course they will. What happened to me was many traumatic events like that, so there are more reminders and more feelings. However, essentially it’s as healed as it would ever be.  I think I’m getting better at explaining it.

She asked me about confronting my abuser. I told her I’d reported him to the police and how that had all gone down. I said I didn’t think I wanted to talk to him personally about it, because he’s so creepy I thought he might make it worse by telling me something more that I didn’t know. I told her about the scar tissue, and about planning to sword dance on his grave. She said she’d be happy to come and hold the circle for me when I did that, and so would her kids and my uncle and his family. This brings tears to my eyes even today.

So I seem to have lost a brother and gained some aunts and an uncle and some cousins. Not too bad, actually. I had dinner last night with my other brother, who is a good guy. He works in the alcohol industry and his job essentially requires him to be a party guy, so I worry a bit about his alcohol consumption, but he’s a stand up guy, and I avoid judging him as much as I can.

I had a birthday party this week, and eight people were able to make it, which is a miracle, really for December. We had a really nice time, just having dinner in a restaurant, but with lots of good food and talk. I felt connected.

Yesterday one of my friends gave me an drum lesson on the Irish hand drum (the Bodhran) which was fun and I did pretty well at. It seems like a good bardic instrument.

So today, I am grateful for my family and my friends.

Happy Solstice and Yule Everyone.

Blessed be.

Hard time

I’m having a rough time. Losing my older brother has really sent me into grief. First my mother hasn’t responded to my letter in over a year, and now my brother seems to have written me off.  My wife and I sent off our ‘solstice letter’ to a bunch of people with Christmas cards, mostly her relatives, and to my mom and brother and a few of my relatives as well. I got a birthday card from my mom with some cash in it. This, from my mom’s perspective, is an insult, as she loves to shop and makes a big deal about buying gifts.

I’d really rather she never give me anything at all, and actually we’re not buying gifts this year, just donating to charity in honour of both my wife’s family (this is what they want) and my own (who probably will hate it, since they’re materialistic, but whatever). One of the charities we selected is one that provided me with free counselling and help making my police report about twenty years ago, so it feels good to be in a position to give back.

My rough time is just the grief, and the feeling of being relatively alone with it. It’s not like anything major has happened recently, like someone dying, or losing a job or being injured, it’s just old grief catching up to me.

One thing I wanted to ask about. Do any of you other survivors have trouble with exercise?

I’m afraid of exercise because I often have a strong emotional reaction when I do. Lifting weights, I get really angry afterward, and feel volatile. Doing Kung Fu, it gets hard or stretches the wrong thing and I break down in sobs. Trying to run, I get scared. Doing yoga, I break into tears, not gentle quiet tears I can hide, but wracking sobs I have stuff down until I can sneak to the bathroom to let them out. I don’t do much in the way of exercise as a result. I can go for long walks with no bad effects, and can dance, and that’s about it. Anyone else have issues with exercise?

I’d really like to find a bodyworker / massage therapist that I could work out the stuff stored in my body with. They’d have to be someone who knew about the abuse and would be able to be compassionate and not shut me down if I went into a flashback, but instead actively chase down the stored gunk and process it.

I felt near tears all day, and am a bit better now. I took some B vitamins, which I haven’t been doing lately, and which seems to help a lot. I feel better, now, a few hours later. My wife is working on her health stuff, but doesn’t have a lot of comforting to spare, and I don’t have much in reserve for myself right now. Thank Goddess I’m not a mother. I think I might be depressed – I feel foggy-brained and stupid, as well as teary. I’m just over my period, so I don’t think it’s hormones.  This week is my birthday, and I’ll be seeing some good friends, so that’s good.

Anyways, I wanted to explain why I haven’t been writing or commenting much lately. I’m going to be okay, but I just don’t have much extra right now.

Big fight with brother

Ah, that stuff they I read about family systems work is right. When you try and change a long-standing pattern, people freak out on you to try and get you to change back. The deal is that you’re supposed to respond in a low key manner.

I wrote the follow-up email to my older brother, where as promised I responded in more depth.  Probably not a mistake, but man did it piss him off.  My first email had been textbook family systems, my second one, less so.

I told him his behaviour was condescending toward me, and essentially he didn’t know what he was talking about. I said that his fancy story of the woman he knew who’d just decided to be ‘over it’, was a case of her succumbing to peer pressure. And I called him on being incorrect when he said he’d ‘always’ believed me. (He once accused me of being delusional  “I know *you* believe you were abused…” he’d said in that patronizing lets be nice to the crazy person or imbecile tone. He was in med school and must have got it from somewhere)

Now, I did word it very carefully, and kept it brief, but essentially I shifted myself out of “messed up younger sister willng to put up with condescension and arrogance and let you get away with crap” to “knowledgable adult who calls you on your crap”  This is a big change.

His email back to me was vicious. Poor fellow must be freaking out. He accused me of all kinds of things, like making a dig at him in my speech at the wedding (he’s dreaming it) or buying a gift for his teenage son that was too young for him (I liked it, and I’m a lot older than his son, and besides, who criticizes a gift?).  He’s been holding all sorts of stuff against me, although I think the main thing is that it scares him I’m switching roles and he’s mad at me for disclosing in the first place, instead of being mad at my father.

Anyhow, I replied and told him I was his sister and he’d either have to work out his issues with me or project them on to other relationships, and if and when he was ready to talk further I would. I also responded to all of his accusations, explaining some of the misunderstandings he’d had without backing down.  As far as family systems correct responses go, I’d give it a C, since I did sink to his level a bit, and really you’re supposed to respond in a light, friendly and firm way, without muckraking. I did edit out some of the worst bits and was certainly warmer than he was.

The thing is, he’s behaving a lot like my dad. I wonder if he realizes? It’s that alcoholic selfishness, everything is never one’s own fault, getting angry when being held accountable. I don’t know if he’s a drinker, but he’s sure behaving like one. Someone at my wedding told me she thought my older brother was selfish and arrogant in the same way my dad is (she was a friend of the family and knew my dad. I defended him at the time (she’s a friend of my mother, and what my mom sees as selfish isn’t really), but now I see her point. )

This was just in email, thank goodness, but I was so angry I pounded my hands on the table and cried. What a dickhead my brother can be. I have this place where I remember him as a really nice guy, and I hold on to it, but honestly, he’s not showing it to me, not in several years.

Wierd News

<–Warning – first sentence may be triggering —?

Photocredit: St Stev
Photocredit: St Stev - Note: This pic is of no-one mentioned in the story.

When I was a teenager I remembered being sexually molested, touched under my panties, by a babysitter. I found out today, that the person I thought might be this babysitter has died. He’d died homeless, due to complications of severe alcoholism and cancer. I hadn’t known he’d been a drunk. He alone of all his relatives inherited his dad’s alcoholism. His dad, now dead, was a drinking buddy of my father’s and his brother is still a friend of my brother.

Was this boy a victim of my father? My mom claims I had no male babysitters, but I don’t trust her not to lie or misremember things she doesn’t want to think about.

Several years ago, I was visiting his mother, with my mother, in a nearby town. My mother stayed to visit longer and this guy gave me a ride home, a trip of almost three hours. During the trip we said little to one another.  I checked in with myself as I sat in the passenger seat, and realized I felt no fear. At that point I doubted he’d ever abused me, for how could I be around him without body fear or triggers if he had?

Now I don’t know either way. I feel nothing about him at this point. I do remember the incident vaguely, but not enough details to verify who.

I’m more pleased that my older brother called. I’d called him on his birthday, but he’d been out of town, so was calling me back. It was nice, we actually had a real conversation. Okay, he still didn’t ask me anything about my life or follow up any conversation topic I initiated, but as long as I was willing to play the listening game with him, it was quite pleasant. I hang out with so few guys now, but I vaguely remember that this is a man thing, to talk on an on about oneself or things he thinks will be interesting, but not sharing the conversational floor by asking questions or expressing interest in topics you introduce.

Anyhow, he seemed genuinely happy to talk to me and I was relaxed talking to him back, so the content doesn’t really matter at this point.

Predators

I’ve just finished reading “Predators,  paedophiles, rapists, and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ouraelves and our children” by Anna Salter, PhD.. This is not a book to read lightly, as it has quotes from abusers that can be pretty disturbing.

However, I wanted to understand my family a bit better and it certainly helped. I took the author’s suggestion and didn’t read the chapter on sadists, but the rest I read.

[This post might be triggering for survivors. I’m going to quote some stuff from the book that talks about why child molesters do what they do. I found the book validating and only manageably triggering, but your mileage may vary. So I’m going to put a picture here, and if you don’t want to read on,  here is your warning. ]
Great nurse sharks look dangerous but are harmless to people. Paedophiles are the exact reverse. Photocredit: Richard Ling
Great nurse sharks look dangerous but are harmless to people. Paedophiles are the exact reverse. Photocredit: Richard Ling
Polygraph Test Photocredit: Spiralstares
Polygraph Test Photocredit: Spiralstares

Wierdly, I found myself even laughing occasionally, mostly at some of the things author Anna Salter says. She has a matter of fact, no-nonsense way about her that survivors will find refreshing and familiar. She interviews these assholes and backs up what she says with a lot of research studies and analysis. I found myself really liking her.

The parts I found personally useful were these:

She explains really well why people blame the victims, why we aren’t believed, and how these shitheads get away with it again and again.

It apparently is really common for abusers to abuse children while other adults are in the house, without the other adults finding out. It is so common for a father or stepfather to abuse his kids while mom sleeps or in another room that my situation, where my mom claimed not to know, is more the rule than the exception. Child molesters rely on people’s unwillingness to believe someone charming and likable could be a monster an awful lot, because it works for them.

She has the same analysis I do about how people don’t want to believe that bad things happen to good people for reasons that are not their fault. She explains why they persist in the face of overwhelming evidence to not believe that abuse is perpetrated by people who seem harmless or good to them. It’s because abusers are so intent on appearing normal, and put such energy into grooming people into seeing them as good guys.

She talks about why even experts can’t tell reliably when paedophiles and abusers are lying (polygraphs are the only halfway reliable method). After reading her book, I think we should use polygraphs routinely whenever there is any suspicion of child abuse, since in the absence of physical evidence there is no way to tell.  Even if you watch a child and her abuser together, the body language might not be a give away, because of all the grooming that goes on.

She analyses the whole manipulativeness thing in depth, how even prison guards who know these guys are guilty get sucked in all the time.  This part is definitely worth reading.

She talks about the strategies that child abusers and rapists use to get access to us and our kids and how to deflect them.

Mostly, so far I’m not too freaked out.  Okay, a little bit, but the validation around my dad was worth it. He’s utterly normal for a sociopath. One freaky thing was how many victims more paedophiles have. My father almost certainly did not abuse just me. There could be a hundred other victims out there, if he’s typical. Knowing that if a man has molested one child (and particularly raped one) he’s almost certainly abuses tens or hundreds of others, do I have a moral obligation to do something? Festoon his neighbourhood with ‘danger child molester lives here’ posters? Hire a private investigator to follow him around? [hmmm… that’s not half bad. ]

When studies were done that were structured to eliminate any rewards to claiming to being abuse survivors, and interviews were backed up with a polygraph, only 30% of convicted violent sex offenders reported having been abused themselves as children. This is only a little bit higher than the general populations. So what creates abusers? Nobody knows. However, we do know that paedophiles abuse children for some of these reasons:

“There is a subgroup of child molesters who molest children simply because they are sexually attracted to them. There are others who molest because they are antisocial or even psychopathic and simply feel entitled [I think this is my dad here]. There are still others who use children for the intimacy they are too timid or impaired to obtain from adults. And there are others who molest for reasons we don’t understand at all. But make no mistake, whether men molest because of sexual preference or other reasons, their compulsiveness can be extraordinary.” (page 75)

“Whatever the reasons people develop such a fixation, it tends to be chronic and resistant to change. The people who have such patterns are not a small number, more like an invisible army that cannot be recognized on the street. Certainly, some of them are unemployed, take drugs, and fulfill the stereotype of the street criminal. But there are others considerably more successful in life, and they may be equally goal-oriented and driven in pursuit of children…These men — and they are usually men for reasons we also don’t understand — are part of our communities, part of our network of friends, worse yet, sometimes part of our families. …. No one has all the answers on how to stop them, nor even why all of them do what they do. But at least we should have the decency as a people to stop making excuses for them.” page 76  [ See why I like her?]

The bulk of child molesters are straight men, and she writes about the various types of paedophiles and the various types of women who abuse children as well.

Abusers will iether not care about the moral implications of what they’ve done, or have rationalizations.

Even the best treatment programs for abusers only reduce the reoffense rate slightly. There is no cure. At present, the only effective thing to do is lock them up for life or kill them.

She had some practical recommendations:

  • All predators can and do pass reliably and frequently for nice, harmless men, so take precautions anyway. Most will take pains to establish themselves as nice, harmless upstanding citizens and will be indistinguishable from those who really are.
  • Don’t open your door to strangers, no matter how harmless they appear, when you’re home alone.
  • If you date a stranger you met on the internet or through a dating service for example, make sure you know things about him that are verifiable and verify them. Find out where he works and find a reason to call him at work to verify. Meet him in a public place and have a friend there for the first while minute or two – perhaps you were meeting her for coffee first? Tell your friend(s) everything you know about him and find a way to slip it into conversation that you’ve done so. [This is where being a lesbian is pretty convenient. Since only 3-5% of sexual offenders are women, it makes blind dating a lot simpler and safer.]
  • Psychopaths tend to collect in cities, rather than small towns since it’s easier to not get caught in a lie there. They also tend to prey on religious communities and other environments where people assume they’re good just because they appear to be.
  • The best way to catch a child molester lying is not by talking to them as they are usually excellent and practiced liars, but by verifying the information they give you. They will normally mix some truth in with their lies. Always check references and do criminal records checks if you are hiring someone in a job they’ll be interacting with children in.
  • If you get into a fender bender and are alone, don’t leave your car. Rapists use this as a way to get you out of your car. Lock the doors and window and call on your cell for help.
  • Put a deadbolt on some doors inside your house so you have a safer room with a window to retreat to and escape from if you need to.
  • Keep your cell phone by your bed so if the phone lines are cut you can call for help. That combined with the deadbolt gives you a safer place to go, a way to call for help and some time for help to come.
  • Assume that all workers in child-centric professions are high risk to be child molesters – these professions attract them and they work hard to look trustworthy. They’re not all or even mainly child molesters, but you won’t be able to tell which ones are.  Of particular concern are persons without adult sexual relationships or who spend a lot of their time with children of a particular age and sex. Be involved in your child’s life. Go to their team sports practices and games, chaperone their field trips. Involved parents make for children that are less desirable targets. If you are a single mom, don’t let guilt about lack of male role models make you give some guy lots of access to your kids. Don’t permit people overnight or unsupervised access to your children.
  • Most women who get raped as adults are young – 16-30 yrs.
  • Houses with dogs are apparently way safer – houses with dogs don’t as a rule get targeted. It doesn’t have to be a big dog, just a watchful one. If  your dog barks at night, pay attention.

Garter snakes, also the reverse of paedophiles. People mistake them for something really dangerous but they're really harmless. Photocredit: Via Moi

Rage

Now, probably some folks will think that with name like SwordDanceWarrior and a project like planning to dance on my fathers grave, I have no issues with expressing my anger. Quite the contrary.

I finally got in to see my therapist today and figured out the intrusive images of being abused by a woman. We stayed in the ‘I don’t know’ place with them and did some EMDR with the images. If you’ve never had EMDR before (I hadn’t), its a technique where you basically get distracted by a visual or kinesthetic stimulus while you’re paying attention to the intrusive image, flashback or whatever. The idea is that it makes your brain integrate it better and reduces the level of anxiety/emotion/gunk attached to it. It’s a bit like when you’re in therapy re-living some crappy thing that happened to you, but you have part of yourself watching and comforting or analysing or just being aware that you’re an adult and okay at the same time.

I’ve always thought that it was not fair to turn down the volume emotionally on a memory or flashback until I’d made meaning of it, but today I didn’t really care.

So my therapist sits in front of me and to the side and waves her fingers back and forth in front of me while I’m supposed to call up the intrusive images. She stopped and grounded me whenever I couldn’t focus on both at once. It worked a bit better when we tried the tapping method, where you cross your arms and tap one side and then the other. I couldn’t do the staying open to the image and at the same time look at her finger thing, but the tapping I could do.

Anyway, my point, rage.

I’m enraged at my mother. I’m angry at her for allying herself with my father yet again by not replying to my letter. It’s been a couple of months.  But instead of feeling my rage at her (I’m thinking I needed to maintain connection with her as a child, and she had a thing about anger – I was not to express even annoyance in her presence), I create an image of her hurting me instead.  Helpful, huh?

I’ve done this to myself before.

When I was about 20 my best friend got assaulted and narrowly escaped being abducted by a truly evil man who was a serial abductor/rapist. She escaped, thank Goddess, and thank herself for being a fierce and resourceful amazon, before many of the truly evil things happened to her that happened to the other women. This guy got caught and tried and it was a big media circus. He was also rightly sentenced as a dangerous offender, which I understand means they’re never letting him out.  It was all over tv and radio, announcers describing what had happened to my friend and what had almost happened to my friend.

I was angry, but I didn’t feel it. I was extremely stressed out, but my best friend was in hiding from the stinking media so I couldn’t talk to her, and besides she was in worse shape than me. I also couldn’t talk to other people about my connection with the situation to preserve her privacy. Instead I sort of hallucinated (I say sort-of, because I knew it wasn’t there, but it was still pretty damn real seeming) a guy hanging from a rope in my bathroom who talked to me saying he was going to kill me.  I’ve never experienced anything like that in real life, so it wasn’t a flashback. It was me projecting my rage, like a movie, in my bathroom, but having the man I wanted to kill threatening to kill me instead. It was terrifying. Crappy, eh?

A therapist finally figured it out for me. She said “You’re having revenge fantasies. You’re in a murderous rage.” This made sense. I figured out eventually that the sure-fire way to make these images go away was to say to myself ” I’m angry, I’m really angry” and to intellectually figure out what I might be angry about and say that to myself. “I’m angry at shithead rapist abductor for hurting my friend” “I’m angry at my father” etc… and the monsters (as I called them) just dissolved. The more I could feel the anger in the correct place, the less power these projections had. I eventually stopped having them.

Needless to say I’m not real open about having had these experiences. I also want to note that a boyfriend concerned about the monster experiences I told him about got me in to see a psychiatrist, who confirmed that I was a garden variety survivor, not coming down with a nasty case of schizophrenia, which is a relief.

I haven’t had them in so long, actually  that I’d kind of forgotten what they were like. I get a bit triggered by scary movies and such and sometimes have intrusive images, but not nearly as persistent (and disturbing) as these ones recently.

Labelling them as repressed rage against my mother feels right in my bones, and is frankly a bit of a relief. I’m too fricking old to remember another abuser. I don’t want to go through all that again. 

I am angry at my mother. She’s chosen shithead over me and she is so fucking clueless about what she’s missing. I’m quality daughter material. I’m a woman to be proud of birthing and she blew it. She’s a disappointment to me, again and again, stubbornly sitting down to the occasion. I repeat – I am enraged at my mother. I hate her. She betrayed me and she’s going to keep betraying me. She doesn’t deserve me as a daughter.

And while I’m on it, why the fuck isn’t my father dead already?!!! liver cancer 5 years ago with recurrences last year, necrotizing fasceitis, .4 blood alcohol, flail lung, chronic alcoholism, chronic heavy smoker, 68 years old, living in a town with a lot of air pollution. What is his problem? Die already!! I had a nice murder fantasy going on in my therapists office, where I go into his hospital room and remove whatever tubes or masks or whatever is keeping him going and bludgeon him to death.

I’m that angry.  

And this, as my friend Butterfly would say, is why you shouldn’t fuck kids. (Or fuck them over, in the case of my mother).

Book Review and Divine Intervention

The other day I was picking up a book I’d requested at the library and absent mindedly browsing the books nearby, which happened to be about religion. I picked up about 8 books in all, including one called “Leaving the Saints: How I  Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith” by Martha Beck.

Here’s the divine intervention part. I really think the Goddess sent me this book.

Martha is the daughter of a Mormon scholar and apologist, and an incest survivor. She describes what began as a spiritual search for union with God and progresses toward experiencing repressed memories and leaving the church. At the time of writing she was a straight mother of three (actually according to her site about the book she’s now in a relationship with a woman) with a doctorate in sociology from Harvard, and she was raised within a patriarchal religious community  but other than that her experience reflected mine so much that it took my breath away. It also made me laugh or snort out loud several times, as she’s got a wicked and irreverent sense of humour.

She was raised with the regular Mormonism, not the trafficking-children-in-‘marriage’ -for statutory-rape-by-old-geezers polygamist type  that spring to mind when discussing Mormon child sexual abuse, so her cultural references are relatively familiar. She had a supportive husband who didn’t care that she doesn’t cook, similarly to my spouse.

She was also first raped by her father at the age of five. Her father was also a highly intelligent, high status guy who was highly dissociative, liked to speak in codes (my father once  inserted himself into a college phone conversation with my mother and told me quite seriously not to let any man make me his teddy bear, a comment I still don’t understand), and believed he’d been cured of serious illnesses (in my father’s case, complete blindness) by God. However, given my fathers near miraculous survival from multiple health hazards and accidents, he may have something there.

Unlike me, her extended family were mostly unsupportive, because her dad is so famous in the Mormon world and also because the Mormon’s are all about propping up male authority no matter what. Some of the press in particular has made the usual accusations of false memories, something Beck refutes in a particularly clear statement online.

At this point I’d like to pause for a nice clarifying rant.  Here’s the backup references for what I’m about to say: [click here] So called ‘false memory syndrome’ is NOT recognized as a syndrome by any reputable scientific source, like the DSM or the American Psychological Association. The folks who made this completely false syndrome up and promote it are themselves accused child molesters or their spouses. One of their ‘expert witnesses’ was quoted endorsing sex with children in a paedophilia magazine.  People don’t want to believe bad stuff happens to children because it freaks them out. I get it. But lying and hurting people who’ve already been through so much is unethical, and supporting the propaganda interests of pedophiles and their apologists is heinous. Journalists, stop being manipulated by child abusers!  End of  rant.

Beck says some very useful things about abusers and their behaviour and what causes them, and has also learned the same passionate devotion to truth and hatred of lies, silence and complicity that I have.  She also has had mystical experiences of the divine (although hers seem more striking to me, somehow) and has found them an important part of her healing.  Her mother also initially said she believed her, in a conversation chillingly similar to the one I had with my mother where she said “yes, that’s something he’d do” but also wanted her to forgive and support her father anyway, like it didn’t matter what he’d done at all.

She also has something I’m a bit embarassed to envy – scar tissue inside her vagina  that proves she was raped as a child. I don’t know if I have scar tissue, and I’m kind of scared to find out. I told a doctor I was a child sexual abuse survivor (just in case I had a flashback with my legs in the stirrups, not (gasp!) to get all emotional or needy on her. She was horrified. She told me everything looked normal, like in those words she could erase ten years of experience. What would I gain in making that up? gees!  I’d really like to know if there is scar tissue,  but doctors are generally robots – how could I find one that would seriously investigate for physical evidence rather than trying to invalidate me from their own discomfort? I have some ‘female issues’  that could be related like vaginal infections so constant that a doctor once tested me for both AIDS and diabetes (I have neither) to try and figure out what might be causing it, but honestly, although I enjoy the TV program House MD, and like my Gray’s Anatomy, I don’t have any faith in medical doctors’ ability to figure out more subtle stuff like mine and have simply managed symptoms on my own and do all the recommended things to avoid infections.

Martha (Dr. Beck, actually, but really she feels more Martha to me) has a definition  of forgiveness,  taken from another source, that I can endorse. “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a different past”. If that’s the case, I’ve definitely forgiven my father, years ago,  and probably also my mother. I’ve always just called it ‘Acceptance’ the last stage of grieving, where things actually begin to feel better, even though the tragedy hasn’t changed at all.  I’ve long embraced grief, knowing that when it’s time to cry, it is a profound gift. Grief is my friend, as it it the only thing that actually heals tragedy.

In short, I may need to buy a copy of this book to have around for validation, since the library will only let me have it for two weeks.

On the hiding front, I’ve come down with a sore throat, a few days after my music jamming with my friend and future performing partner. My body has come to the defense of my psychic camoflage, and is trying to shut this scary passion business down. This is good, it’s like learning not to dissociate: I’ve begun to recognize when I”m doing it. I still want to sing, and I’m going to sing sore throat or no sore throat. My fingertips are tender from practicing my guitar and I’m not stopping.

I’m so grateful for this blog and the support I’ve gotten from survivors posting comments. For the first time in a long while, I have a place to be, to tell the truth to the Goddess and people who understand.

The last few weeks, I’ve been gradually eating a small supply of chocolate Eostre/Easter eggs. In my faith tradition, spring equinox eggs are sacred to the Goddess Eostre and represent rebirth, as do the red balls on the evergreen tree at Yule. I’ve decided that every time I eat an egg I’m going to dedicate it using a prayer for rebirth. Rebirth of hope. Rebirth of presence in my body and today, with this book, rebirth of Validation.

Going on living

Photocredit: mtsofan on flickr
Photocredit: mtsofan on flickr

As part of my ongoing quest to stop I’m starting gradually to getting back into both doing things I’m passionate about and letting others witness me doing them. Tonight, I’ll be meeting to jam for the first time with a friend of a friend who plays the guitar. We’ve been discussing material and will be putting together some jazz and folk numbers, perhaps to perform. This is probably a good thing to do this week, continue to unfurl the sprout and reach for the sun rather than focus on worrying about how my mother will react.

I realized why I have the fear my mother will kill herself ‘accidentally’ in a car accident driving while sleep deprived (she works two full time jobs)  in reaction to my letter. It’s happened before.

A few years ago I decided to send altered father’s day cards to my abuser, reminding him of how his actions had affected me. I’d read this thing that talked about how under partriarchy the consequences of actions all flow downhill – boss yells at worker, worker yells at wife, wife yells at older kid, older kid hits younger kid, younger kid teases dog. I decided to make the ball roll up hill. I bought and doctored up a couple of these fathers day cards and sent them off in intervals. I forget if I sent one or more than one, I know I intended to send them every few months. I have a few left somewhere. It helped me deal with all the mushy  mushy we love our dads stuff around father’s day, by formally acknowledging my remembrance of daddy is quite different.

Anyhow, later that year, on my birthday no less, I get a call telling me that dear old dad had drunk himself into a .4 blood alcohol reading (in the range that causes death) and driven his car into the wall.  The two family dogs were with him and one died. The other was found unharmed. My abuser was in intensive care with a flail lung. (50% mortality rate) Coincidence he did this on my birthday a few months after his wife left him and I started sending him regular reminders? I think not. He almost died before some idiot doctor dropped by, spotted the flail lung and put him in intensive care, saving his life. In ICU, he was diagnosed with liver cancer  and contracted a flesh eating disease  (that almost killed him as well. Then he had to quit drinking, a virtual impossibility, and find a liver donor (also hard for an old drunk) to get a transplant. All of this news was spread out over the next several months. I was a wreck, getting news every couple of weeks or so that he was on his deathbed. My wife wouldn’t let me go visit him – she thought I might be tempted to kill him. I wouldn’t have done it, although I might have yelled at  him a bit hoping it gave him a heart attack or something.  I went to the cancer centre for these relaxation groups for family members. Blessedly, they didn’t make you say anything so I didn’t have to say I wasn’t actually hoping he’d survive. Then my mother, who had left the bastard a few months prior, moves back in with him to nurse him through his transplant and I was afraid she was going back permanently. She didn’t and recruited my abusers’ sisters to take second shift. She noted that they went as a pair, so neither would be alone with him. The family really pulled together to save his life, which felt like a slap in the face.

What seems like divine intervention to me (Goddess only knows why) is the following:

  • Death rate from .4 blood alcohol – unknown but high
  • Death from serious car accident – unknown but high
  • Death from flail lung = 50% mortality
  • Death rate for Liver cancer over 5 years =94% mortality rate
  • Death rate from flesh eating bacteria = 73% mortality rate

Why are the Gods keeping this guy alive these past 5 or so years against all these odds? To give him more time to suffer (I approve) , give him more time to get to remorse (he’ll live forever…) or to give me time to prepare? I’ve been banking on at least the last one.

You can see now why I’m expecting him to die any time now. Particularly as he’s had a recurrence last summer and still smokes and drinks.

So anyways, tonight I’m going to sing. I’ve lost almost 20 lbs of camoflage so far and I’ve mailed a brave letter to my mother. One day soon I’m going to set up a sword dance lesson with the teacher I researched.

I can do this.

This is a song I wrote several years ago:

When the world is full of pain, and there’s no way you can stop it.
The truth’s a bitter shame, and the holy has been stolen.

When there’s no safe place to go and there is no-one safe to love
And you have to hide your face to survive.

Remember, there’s no reason to go on, but you must.
The world makes no damn sense but you go and live there anyway
When you remember, there’s no reason, maybe no hope and no reward, go on living, loving, hoping anyway.

I thought my courage to survive was all I’d ever need,
but the world I re-emerged to I could no longer believe.
When you’ve seen the very worst there is the greatest feat of all is to

Remember, there’s no reason to go on, but you do.
The world makes no damn sense, but you go and live there anyway.
When you remember there’s no reason, maybe no hope and no reward,
but go on living, loving, hoping anyway.

(Copyrighted material (C) 1991 All rights reserved. You can quote it but always credit the source.)

Photocredit: Ecstaticist on flickr
Photocredit: Ecstaticist on flickr

It begins

guess this is a small taste of what it will be like when I finally hear that my dad is finally dying.

It is way too early in the morning. I am holding myself back from going into flashbacks, feeling/seeing my father running up the stairs behind me, looming viscerally behind me as a I write.

Today is the day my mother will get the letter I sent. To paraphrase my friend Butterfly, who counts the reasons why you shouldn’t screw kids, this is the reason why why child rapists are abominations. I know the word ‘abomination’ gets used too lightly, to describe gay people or people who violate religious holiness rules for eating or clothing. The word as I am using it now means something like putrefaction, rotting flesh and violent death, the flayed soul of Voldemort with a side order of acrid and foul smell, and it just begins to describe the edge of the horror and sacrilege against Life Herself of men who rape their children, who rape any children.

This morning I wake up too early thinking that I don’t have enough money to continue therapy (I probably do), that my mother will commit suicide by car accident when she reads my letter (she probably won’t), that ‘oh THAT is why I ate so much chocolate yesterday and wondered if I was PMSing’ (again) and why I’ve been feeling like my marriage might be ending.

My wife has chronic pain, and chronic sleeplessness, and is understandably quite cranky and fussy, alternating with a kind of shut-off stoicism. This has bee going on for about five years.  Most of the fun things we used to do together are off the menu, and what’s worse, she wasn’t doing much to solve the problem so there was no end in sight. The acupuncture/traditional Chinese medicine is helping her, and because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels safe to experience how hopeless I’ve been feeling about my future with her. We were just married 2 years ago, and have been together for eight, and I’m stuck between two things that hurt too much to face square-on –  the idea of divorcing and the idea of spending the rest of my life like this. Perhaps this is another part of the inner me that is emerging to sunshine from winter, this awareness of a bit of pain I had frozen since I thought it had to be ignored.

How do I separate all that from the growing feeling of doom that my mother will be reading and reacting to the letter today?  I don’t. It’s all of a piece.

How do I protect myself over the next week? I’ll be screening my calls. My mother will just have to deal with her reaction to this on her own, and I’ll have to fight the urge to look after her, to retract, I tell myself firmly. I’ve got enough to deal with. I told my wife I could use a little extra TLC this week and why, and she told me the best she can do right now is stay away from me, since she’s just unable to not be cranky. I forgive her, because I believe she’s in as much pain as she says she is, but thinking of it brings tears to my eyes.  She’s not a survivor. I’m seeing a survivor friend tonight who does get it and I’ll be busy today.   That will have to be enough comfort. I’ve made do with less.

I re-read my last post about the emerging sprout and it gave me hope. The Goddess is helping me wash away what is already dead, and nourishing what is holy and intimate, soulful and good, with rich moist soil and gentle sunshine. Even in my panic, I know She is there.

Against that certainty, I have the cold, resigned stillness that is my standard way of coping, the antithesis of the sprout. I realized I have gone cold not because I could feel it, but because of the picture that I was drawn to to go with this post, a stone grave-angel. Martina McBride has a song about a concrete angel that fits the picture and feeling as well. [video] [lyrics]

Goddess, grant me Serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference. Blessed be.

Maiden Revisited

I was at a women’s spirituality conference last weekend. It was my first time in awhile attending anything to do with my religion/spirituality in several years, so is another part of me stepping out.

One of the workshops I took part in was on dreams and movement. I brought in my dream about the Goddess selecting plants and worked with it. The exercise was that we split into groups of three. One woman was the Maiden, one was Mother, one was Crone. The maiden’s job was to silently act out their dream, explore it through movement. The mother was to copy her movements, mirror them. The crone held the space. When it was my turn to be maiden I acted out the dream, first in the role of the Goddess, spritzing plants to expose what was healthy in them, planting the healthy ones in arrangements.

Then I shifted perspective on my dream and became one of the seeds. I started curled up on the floor, a seed, slowly awakening, unfolding, really being in the dream, being the seed sending out first one seed-leaf and then the other into the light of the Goddess.

Photocredit: Miracle Moods
Photocredit: Miracle Moods

You need to understand that this was a safe, sacred space I was doing this in, which had been blessed by women singing multifaith sacred songs, dancing and drumming. I felt open and safe to really let myself experience this moment.

As I reached my leaves up to the light I felt welcomed by a loving Mother in the world, and the contrast with how I’d actually felt as an infant and child made me cry with gratitude at the warmth and love I felt from the Goddess on my emerging little embryonic self.

The woman who was holding crone during my dream-acting, wrote the most beautiful poem about my ‘dance’. She described the tears as dew collecting on the new plant. I hadn’t told iether of the women about what my dream was and her poem made it clear she’d understood it perfectly, without any words.

It felt like a blessing from the Goddess on this re-emergence of my most sacred and authentic self, this little green sprout in the sunlight, with deep rich soil and warm weather.

Today is the day after I mailed my letter to my mother. She won’t have received it yet, I reassure myself. I don’t have to panic till Monday or Tuesday now. I found an earlier version of the letter, cleaning up today. I’m glad I didn’t send that version, but it was good to read it again, to be reassured that it really is as serious as I am treating it, what she did.

I will protect my Self, allow her to bask in the warm sunshine, allow her to grow. It’s scary to be this new, this vulnerable. It is an act of will to allow myself to be blessed.

Phtotocredit: Adam Chamnes
Phtotocredit: Adam Chamnes

Letter #1 – My Mother is not a saint

I like this picture - to me it speaks to breaking the false story of my mother as saintly and martyred, but also speaks to being truthful in one's heart.
I like this picture - to me it speaks to breaking the false story of my mother as saintly and martyred, but also speaks to being truthful in one's heart.

Hi Mom,

I’ve been thinking about how to mend my relationship with you. I thought I’d start by sending letters.

What I thought is that, in 14 years where we had almost no contact, you really hadn’t gotten much chance to know who I’ve become. I was 19, then I was 35 and now 40, with hardly any contact during that time. I think some of the tension we have with one another is that you might be expecting me to behave toward you in the ways I did back when you saw me more. Part of this is my fault, because often it has been easier and more familiar for me to just be fake with you than to be honest with you about how things really stand between us. I grew up needing desperately for you to love me and protect me, so I’ve gotten into some bad habits of protecting you from the truth when I know you won’t like it.

I have changed an awful lot in those 14+ years and I know that when people close to you change, it’s hard. Perhaps learning more about what has changed might help you understand some things about me.

I have an anxiety disorder called complex post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Complex post traumatic stress disorder is not a mental illness, but an injury that happens when a person is exposed to chronic, repeated trauma, in a situation that goes on for months or years where they are under total control by another. Anyone who survives that type of situation will have these symptoms, regardless of how healthy they were beforehand. I’ve printed off a fact sheet about complex post traumatic stress disorder for you to read.

From my perspective, you were there and are a part of the system that harmed me for almost a decade. It’s as if I was a prisoner in a concentration camp and you were one of the guards, maybe not a very powerful one, but still with more power than me.

A person who gets raped once, or a soldier who sees or participates in horrible things, might get post traumatic stress disorder. It turns into ‘complex’ post traumatic stress disorder if you are abused for a long time over a period of months or years, and can’t get away. This is what happened to me.

I need you to accept that I’ve been changed forever by what happened. I need you to accept that I hold you responsible for not saving me, and most particularly for staying with [abusers name] after you got my letter about what happened. The crown council also told me you refused to speak to the police when they were investigating after I reported him. I can’t prove you knew he was abusing me, but I really think you should have known something was terribly wrong. You’re right, I can’t hold you responsible for what [abusers name] did, but I do hold you responsible for what you did, and in these things alone you’ve got a lot to answer for.

I have spent nearly as much time and money on therapy to recover from your betrayal in staying with [abusers name] , as I spent on recovering from the abuse.

Complex post traumatic stress disorder gets better with effort, and mine is a lot better than it was, but the effects, while lessening, are permanent and affect my life daily. Little things that remind me of those horrible times still produce strong fear reactions and have profoundly changed how I view the world.

Who am I now?  I have fought hard to feel at home in my body. For many years, I had a spacey, unreal feeling in my body, and wasn’t aware of how it felt. I have fought hard to reclaim my voice. When I was 19, I had a soft, almost inaudible voice when speaking at school or in groups and didn’t know how to speak up for myself. I dressed in long sleeves and pants, even in hot weather, so that none of my body would be exposed. I didn’t want men to be interested in me, because I thought that meant that they would rape me. I averted my eyes from men so they didn’t think I was encouraging them. When I saw films with anything that reminded me of the abuse, I would get so terrified I’d have to walk out of the theatre right away. Afterward I would have weeks of nightmares and fear about what I’d seen and what it reminded me of. Now, I choose not to see movies I think might have suspense, captivity or sadistic violence, but if something comes on the TV I can usually tolerate it for a short while without having terrible nightmares. I went from hating myself for what happened and avoiding thinking of anything to do with it, to keep my fear under control,  to being able to face my past, grieve it and make sense of it. I went from being so terrified of the dark that I couldn’t get up in the night to go to the bathroom to pee, to being able to feel safe in my home with my wife and dogs. I am grateful that I never used drugs and rarely used alcohol, which I knew instinctively would make things worse.

Where were you when I was learning to do all that? You were living with my abuser. He’s a sadistic, controlling, evil rapist. You chose him over me. Were you held captive? Were you threatened with death if you left? Did you have no relatives, friends or places to go to? You never once asked me for help leaving, or asked if you could come stay with me. You seemed to be able to travel freely and not be captive in your home. If you were forced to stay, then I need to hear details about that.

How does this affect you and I? Why can’t I just be ‘normal’ with you? I need you to understand how insulting it is that you want me to have a ‘normal’ relationship with you at all.

Now maybe you have post traumatic stress too, it’s certainly possible. You sometimes behave like someone who has PTSD.  There may well be horrible things that happened to you I don’t know about, but up till now I haven’t seen any evidence that what you went through was even close to what I went through.

I realize that when I was young that you did help keep [abusers name] from hurting me as often as he might otherwise have done. Things like the time you turned him away from going in my bedroom, or just his need to keep it from being too blatant, did help reduce his opportunities to hurt me. Because of this, as a child, I very much wanted you to be as strong as possible so that I would be safer. Now, how that affects our relationship now is that I try to fix you, to make you calmer (so your anxiety doesn’t make me anxious and I am more comfortable) and look after yourself better. Since I’m completely unsuccessful in this (as most people’s attempts to change other people are), it doesn’t help how I feel at all. When I see you relying on [brother] to make your decisions for you and not looking after your physical and financial needs in ways I would think necessary if it were me, I feel an echo of the fear I felt then, that you would fall apart and I would have no protection at all from [abusers name] . I also get angry or irritated at you, since when you do those things, I am reminded about how ineffective you were in helping and protecting me.  I realize I am an adult now and can protect myself effectively from [abusers name] , but old habits and reactions die hard.

How I would like to handle this differently in future is for me to mind my own business and not worry about you so much. I need to have faith that you will sort out  the rest of your life and your retirement for yourself, and to remind myself that you’re no longer in any immediate danger. When I was in Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) they talked about it being unhealthy for a person to do for someone else what that person can and should do for themselves. I’m going to try and take that more to heart. This might take a few tries to do gracefully!

As a result of being betrayed by my parents, I’m very conscious of people’s integrity and cautious not to be betrayed. I look closely at people’s words and actions to see if they match. If they don’t, I try not to associate myself with the person. This is because the tension/suspense of knowing that they might betray me makes me anxious, and I need to keep my anxiety down. With you, that affects our relationship a lot. You said you believed me about [abusers name] , but didn’t think his actions were worth divorcing him over. That is the second worst thing anyone has ever done to me. I really don’t know if I can forgive you or trust you because of it. I have spent almost as much time in therapy sorting out my feelings and the effects of that betrayal by you as on anything else. I am absolutely, lividly furious with you that you could have the lack of integrity to not stand by your professed feminist beliefs and your professed love for me.

Because you have betrayed me in this important and painful way, I don’t trust that you will do what you say when it really matters, or act in accordance with the values you say you have. Another thing that is confusing for me is that you also don’t seem to remember some things about my childhood that [brother’s name] and I remember clearly, like when we didn’t have enough money to buy groceries and [brother’s name] and I went hungry.

Aside from the betrayal I experienced, what I think most gets in the way for me in being comfortable around you now is your denial about how bad the abuse was, and your suggestion that since things were hard for you too, any mistakes you might have made should be excused by that. I do not accept this. I agree that things were hard for you, and you need to heal that somehow, but that doesn’t excuse you from being responsible for your decisions.

I say these things, not to hurt you, but to  correct my misrepresentation of how things are between us. I have been trying to be kind, to be generous, to give you the benefit of the doubt, to give you time to make explanations and amends on your own.  I think this was a mistake, as it may have given you the impression that things aren’t as serious as they are. This is what might have given you the impression that I was willing to accept your version of events. I think it has come time to be honest, to make it clear that we have some serious issues between us, and I’m not willing or able to brush them under the rug. I know you birthed me and looked after me, and that most mothers feel entitled (and are entitled) to expect a certain amount of attention and sacrifice from their children because of that fact, but in light of your 14+ years of betrayal and refusal to assist the police in their investigation, I need to tell you that I don’t owe you any of those things.

I am very proud of how well I have improved my PTST and how well I manage it. It has been a long, expensive and time-consuming struggle. I think I have done very well. My most important coping strategy is my faith. Part of what kept me going, even as a child, was my spirituality, which has always been more about the Earth and the strength I draw from nature. When I grew up, I found religious beliefs that fit well with what I already believed and found strength in. Something you told me as a child, helped me survive spirituality, and to not lose hope and become suicidal. You told me repeatedly that ‘things always turn out for the best’ even when things looked bad. I took that to heart, and it probably kept me alive. Thank you for giving me that.

If we are to continue seeing one another from time to time, what I would like to do in future is to limit our visits to about 2 hours. Perhaps things will change between us, but since I can’t make you own up to the harm you have done me, I need to keep our visits short so I can maintain my composure around you. Because I have a long history of pretending I’m fine when I’m not, of putting your emotional needs before mine automatically, and numbing out to tolerate bad situations, I can seem fine when in fact I feel horrible. I spent many years learning not to automatically dissociate or ‘space out’ when things became uncomfortable, a process that has a lot of bad memories for me, and can exhaust me for days afterward. I sometimes do that when I am with you for too long, and I don’t want to have to do that any more. If I start to feel like I am doing that, I’m going to choose to just walk away, even if it’s less than two hours, when I feel anxious, frustrated or angry. I would say something like “I think I’m going to go now” and [Spouse] and I will leave. Knowing I can leave with no explanation if it gets too much will also help a lot. This will work better as an ‘escape valve’  if you avoid check ing in with me about whether I am becoming anxious or spacey, because I will then feel pressured to make you feel better by hiding my discomfort, which I’m not willing to do anymore.

Because you live so far away, when you visit I feel obligated to make it a longer visit than I want to make your effort worthwhile. If you lived in my city, we could do something routine and familiar like go grocery shopping together for an hour and then go home, which is about my speed. It’s pretty much impossible for me to think of coming and staying at your place, even with [wife’s name] there as a buffer. At some point, I might be able to visit your town if [wife’s name] and I stay at a hotel, and then drop in and visit with you for a couple of hours in the midst of doing other sight-seeing by ourselves.

I value honesty a lot in myself and in others. I need to have people around me I can be myself with, so my close friends are very important to me, and fill the space of family for me. I need you to respect that they have equal status to yourself and [brothers’ names] in my life. When you thought you had the right to un-invite [friend’s name] for Christmas (at MY house, no less!) so we could be ‘just family’, you were way out of line.

It was great how you and my other relatives came together for the wedding. I will always treasure that, and I know you were a big part in making that happen. Thank you. Thank you also for helping [wife’s name] and I buy our house by co-signing our mortgage. This is something no-one else would do for us and we appreciate it very much. Because of your help, we have some security for ourselves, and it makes both of us very happy and will help keep us safe in our retirement.

I realize I can’t be angry with you forever. I can hate [abuser’s name] forever, because he’s so evil that no sane person would ever forgive him. With you, I think we could have a decent, if not terribly close, relationship, if you can take responsibility for what you’ve done that has harmed me, and we can find ways of relating honestly with one another.

With so much left unsaid about the abuse between us, it really feels false and insincere to talk with you about anything else until we have that resolved. In my opinon resolving it means you fully appreciating the harm you have done me and changing some of your behaviour and expectations toward me.  I realize you may not see things the way I do, and you may not want to see me under these conditions. I’ve reached the point where I can be at peace with not seeing you again, if that is your choice.

What would help me in a practical way would be, a  signed letter acknowledging formally, in writing, unequivocally, that you believe the abuse happened and that I am telling the truth. This is because one thing I would very much like to do when [abusers name] is dead, is to speak out to help prevent what happened to me from happening to other children. I can’t stop men from abusing children, but I’d like to help stop the silence about it, which provides camouflage for abusers, and prevents kids in the situation I was in from getting help as soon as they need it. It would help me make my lifetime of stuggle to repair what happened have some value to the world. Because [abusers name] wasn’t criminally convicted of his crimes, and can’t be now that the statute of limitations is past, it is difficult from a legal and media perspective to refer to my own experiences in the way that would be most helpful. I would like to be able to refer to myself publicly as an incest survivor as part of helping to stop the silence and inaction around incest.

My friend, who is a newspaper editor, says that since I am telling the truth, if any of [abusers name] ’s heirs sued me for defamation that I would win. It would be horrible, though, if we had to go through all that, and your letter would reassure any media, for example, that referring to me as an incest survivor would not be a legal problem for them. I hope you will support me in this important work by giving me a written statement acknowledging that the abuse happened, and ideally providing all the reasons you know it to be true. This would is something you can do to make amends to me, and surely is in line with your values? By helping stop the silence and denial around child abuse, our experiences would be made meaningful and useful in some small way to others. I may also write to him and ask for a written confession from him as well, but I’m not holding my breath.

What I hunger for from you is truthful information from you about my past. You were an adult during times that I was so young and traumatized and it would be very helpful to compare what I remember with what you and others who were adults during that time remember. I don’t want to hear that you didn’t know, I want to hear what you now realize were signs he was abusing me. What has been hard so far for me when I ask you about the past, is that you don’t seem to remember some of the bad things I remember and [brother’s name] clearly remember, like not having enough to eat. When you do this, it is very frustrating for me and I think you don’t want to remember the truth or think a lie will be more pleasant for me. I know painful or shameful things are hard to remember accurately sometimes, but your courage in being honest with me about how things were would be much more helpful and would help rebuild my trust.

Why would this be of practical use? Part of healing PTSD is putting all the pieces together and grieving them. Once they are known and grieved, the impact lessens. When memories are stored during a time when a person is traumatized they get stored in a different way, similarly to how a person who learns something when they are really tired only remembers it again properly when they are again really tired. Although there are some things I remember clearly and have been able to heal, for other things what I am left with is the feelings that go with some of the memories, with only some of the information. Lttle details can help put things together and the truth is very important. It would be very helpful to me if you could help me remember some more details of what my childhood was like, not just the abuse. I would also like to know more about what [abusers name] was like then, from your perspective, and who else was around the family. I would like to sit down with you and a tape recorder and ask you questions about everything you can remember from that time. I would also appreciate it if you could write down for me everything creepy/abusive [abusers name] did that you observed and can remember, and everything you now realize was a sign that he was abusing me. For example, I know from [brother] that Uncle L—- said that [abusers name] called Aunt R—- a whore (or something similar), and that Uncle L—– and Aunt R— didn’t associate with our family after that. Were you there when he said that? Can you tell me more about that? Were there any other women or children you saw him make inappropriate or offensive remarks to? Did he have affairs? He spoke to me about his conversations with prostitutes and I got the impression he’d hired them – did you suspect that he hired prostitutes? What made you suspect if you did? I remember him fixing bicycles for neighbourhood children on [street]. Given how selfish he seemed to me to be, that doesn’t sound like something he would do without an ulterior motive. I know it’s not likely to be something you want to think about, but I think that he may have abused other children there. If I don’t know the truth, I will always wonder and therefore be afraid I will remember gruesome details unexpectedly, which is quite unpleasant. I’d rather remember on my own terms. Because of all this, it would also be really helpful to me if you could draw me a floor plan of the place we lived on [street] of the main floor and the basement.

These are real, practical ways you can help me, and also prove to me that you can be truthful and follow through about things to do with being accountable for the harm you have done me. I don’t want to go shopping with you, or go to dinner in fancy places or resorts. It’s too easy for me to fall into my habit of making you comfortable insead of being honest with myself. Instead I want to talk about the abuse until I have the answers I need.

It has taken me several weeks to write this letter. I find writing to be a good way for me to be sure I am saying what I really mean, and explaining myself well. If you would like to reply to my letter, you may, but I’m not ready for phone calls or visits yet.

Sincerely,

Sword Dance Warrior

The Mother

800px-mafate_marla_solar_panel_dsc00633Today I threw the switch to turn on a 9 kW photovoltaic (solar) power array. I have done something good in the world. I am a proud mother.

Yesterday night I was thinking about my own mother, and what to do about the non-contact I’ve imposed on our relationship. [Spoiler: I like the end of this post the best, so if you get bogged down in me whining about my mother, just skip it.]

My mother was likely aware that my father was sexually abusing me throughout my childhood, and when she ‘officially’ found out when I was 18 declared right away that she believed me. However, she did not leave my father over it. The shame, grief and betrayal I have felt over that fact, that a major crime against her daughter (and really all women and children) wasn’t sufficient for my mother to be willing to endure the hardship of divorce or separation, has been persistent and heavy.

My mother is now separated from my father, which she clearly states was because he was a bad husband, not because he raped me. (Although surely, raping your children makes a man a bad husband?)

My mother is anxious, dependent and scattered. She relies heavily on my younger brother for all her decision making and loves to be waited upon. She connives to be fussed over using the same tactic as some men use when feigning helplessness in the face of laundry or a diaper. She provides steady pressure on me to be a close and affectionate daughter, to visit her, fuss over her, pamper her for mothers’ day etc… She is a paradox, a feminist activist who could not leave her own rapist husband, a woman who can run for city council but could not figure out how to stand on her own.

I cannot stomach it. A mother who condones the rape of her daughter by staying is no mother at all. I will not give her her maternal due. She birthed me and taught me, diapered me and (some of the time) fed me, but this one betrayal, it seems, cancels all those other debts.

However, I used to be a therapist, and know that it is pointless to cut off one’s relatives, for the issues they present will just show up in other ways. My father is a special case, I think. Only someone deep in denial or striving for some kind of misguided sainthood would associate willingly with a man who had raped her. One needs to draw the line somewhere.

Harriet Lerner, the author and family systems therapist, says two things I like. One is that the antidote to shame is being open about what one is ashamed of. I am starting to do that by letting more and more of my friends know that I am a survivor.

Bohr Atom Model - if the electron moves into a smaller orbit, electromagnetic energy is released. Conversely if the atom absorbs a lot of energy, the electron jumps to a larger orbit.
Bohr Atom Model - if the electron moves into a smaller orbit, electromagnetic energy is released. Conversely if the atom absorbs a lot of energy, the electron jumps to a larger orbit.

The second thing is that distance stores energy. When I am separate from my mother, I feel less anxious, and if I move closer to her, that anxiety stored in the distance will be released and I will feel it. The more anxiety there is, the more energy is released by even a small change in distance, such as moving from not talking at all to writing post cards on a regular basis. This is similar to the energy stored in the electron orbits of an atom, where enormous amounts of heat is released when an electon moves into a closer orbit around the central proton core.

I have decided to write her a letter or two. Lerner says that the way to change an intrenched pattern in a relationship is to state clearly who one is, without blaming,  firmly and while staying connected. I don’t know if I can do that. My relationship with my mother confuses me so much it is hard to know where and who I am around her, which is part of what I hate so much about being in her presence.  Perhaps I will tell her a bit about how my life was during those 14 years I had no family, between the time I ‘came out’ about the abuse and began healing and when she separated from my abuser. Perhaps that will be a way to start.

The Mother I replaced my fragile, weak mother with provided me a support I could not have lived without. When I was 19 and grieving for the theft of my innocence and family by my father, She was the Ocean I stood by witnessing my howls and holding the huge pain while I let it flow. Ocean was the mother I brought my art therapy clay sculptures of parts of the abuse to, for Her to dissolve and purify. Ocean was the place I could go home to, where I could lay and listen to the sound of my Mother’s heartbeat in the waves.

My real Mother was the spruce tree in my elementary school yard with a little hollow underneath where I could sit and look at her green, fragrant branches. Just seeing Her calmed me, allowed me to cope with the teasing from other kids for being teary-eyed, ‘easily’ upset, and different.

My Mother was the grove of poplars at the end of my street I would tell my day to by standing very still and gazing up at them on my way home from high school. I grieved for them when they were cut.

DSCF0619My real Mother was the tall deciduous and ancient trees on the campus of the university I attended,  which I could look up to and calm myself, feel heard and understood without saying a word. My mother was the Air between their branches and the roots of these aunties and mothers beneath my feet.

My Mother was the heart of the flowers I looked at every day for weeks one summer after a bad heart break, when I bicycled across town to the beach. I would walk down the stone stairway to the beach from the forest and see a large bed of flowers. Always, every day, one would be gazing it’s petalled face directly at me and I would feel comforted, that there was one being in the world that was looking for me, that saw me. I would walk to the beach and lay on my towel in the sun and let the heat soothe me, till I felt warm and comforted. I would then walk into the ocean and immerse myself, letting the salt water wash my father out of me, wash the psychic and emotional grime from my body and soul. Then I would dry myself in the sun for awhile and immerse myself again, purified by sun and salt and water, fire and earth and water and air.

My Mother now is the trees that surround my house and street. She is in the Crone waiting to accept and transform the dead and dying in the large compost bin I have in my yard. She is my grandmother’s piano, the labrynth-patterned rug I was married on in my living room. My Mother is always with me.

My Mother is my own strong Self who holds me when I face the worst of what happened to me, my self-mother in my therapy sessions who reminds me I am safe, and urges me to do the right thing, to speak truth, to be loyal to myself, to face the grief and pain and let it flow through me and from me.

This woman who insists she is my mother, is no longer my Mother.

She has been replaced.

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