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

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.

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