My older brother called me on the weekend and we got together to watch his kid play in a sporting event.
All in all it went well. He made an effort to connect, I brought my wife, and we were on his home turf in a way (watching his kid play) so he felt comfortable and we had an activity to distract us.
At the end we were chatting and he casually asked if our father had died yet, in the same ‘I don’t care about the evil bastard’ way I might have. It must have cost him something to ask. I liked that he asked in the way he did. I told him I’d thought he’d be the one to tell me, but that no-one had told me so he probably was alive. My aunt, at least would let me know. I filled him in a bit on what I knew about what the other family were doing, which I know he appreciates.
It was very human, if you know what I mean, we had a reasonable connection.
He’s still apparently a perfectionist, and demanding on his sons for achievement, which he comes by honestly, since my mom put an enormous amount of pressure on him. If I ever get close enough to him to point it out, I’ll make the comparison, as I know that that pressure was something he told me was harmful when he was younger. Or I’ll leave well enough alone. He’s not without insight into his own stuff and must already know.
He’s a doctor, and he told me that he thinks someone must have been making some of the medical info about our father up, that he couldn’t have survived all the things we’d heard he’d had (.4 blood alcohol, flail lung, flesh eating disease, liver cancer, plus a recurrence of cancer) in combination. This makes sense to me, but I can’t imagine why they would make it up? Maybe to make us feel sorry and visit him on his deathbed? I said it seemed unbelievable to me too, especially after I’d looked up the average survival rates for each of these and calculated he should statistically been dead several times over. I said if it’s true, then I’m going to live to 150, so that’s all right. He said he thought at some point he’d get a funeral invitation and find out that way.
I told him I think that since mom’s still married to our father, the cops would notify her since she’s next of kin. He said he hoped she wouldn’t inherit his debts, and I said I thought they had a legal separation, so maybe not. My brother said that our other brother would probably inherit everything then, which was only fair since he was the one still in contact with the old bastard and I agreed. My younger brother would give it all to mom anyhow.
It was good to have a conversation like this with no pretense. I also got to be kind, to support him in rooting for his son, and to speak briefly with my nephew.
I should find out what the rules are for death notification. If my mom is legally separated, do the RCMP notify her or one of his other relatives when he dies? If someone knows, I hope you’ll leave a comment here.
The spiritual thing about this was that on Saturday, after I visited with him, I ran into a friend and got talking for some reason about my mom, she asked if I was back in touch, and I said no, she was dead to me. She already knew about the scars, so she got it.
Then on the Sunday I went swimming in the ocean with some friends. It was kind of impromptu, so we didn’t have bathing suits with us. In Canada it is legal for women to go topless anywhere that men can, so we swam topless to keep most of our clothes dry. It felt like a purification, to be swimming in salt water against my bare skin, not feeling at all ashamed of my less than slender, less than young body on a public beach.
Then the next day I get the call from my aunt about my mom. Interesting how it all came together. It’s kind of like when you finally let go of an ex girlfriend and flirt with someone new, and they sense it and call you up. People sense when the connections are severed, I think, energetically. If so, that’s good, because the connection with my mom does feel severed – when I said she is dead to me, I meant it. I wonder how this will affect how I read her letter.
My mom’s sister (who I like) called me this weekend to let me know that my mom has finally written a reply to my letter sent almost three years ago with, apparently, answers to my questions. The catch is, she feels it’s too private to send by mail (?) and would like to know how I want receive it. She is, of course, fishing to see me in person, something my aunt suggested (ie: my mom bring the letter in person and I read it in front of her, ick!) which is not going to happen.
By making my aunt, who is awaiting major surgery right now, the intermediary, my mom is once again in fine form for putting her needs above others.
To spare my aunt, who is a very nice person and who has been good to me, I did not go into a rant about how seeing me in the person was out of question for a woman who had not provided medical (or police) attention to her five year old daughter (me) with a severely torn vagina from rape and then lied to my face about it for 20 years, saying she didn’t know I’d been abused.
Instead, I expressed regret to my aunt that she was in the middle of this and suggested (to my aunt) that she let my mom know that if regular mail didn’t work then registered mail, courier or giving it to my brother to give to me would work.
My aunt also relayed that my mom “loves me and wants to have a relationship with me again”. She clearly is buying the bullshit, which since I also bought it for awhile, I’m not going to hold against her.
I’d rather eat dirt, frankly, than ‘have a relationship’ with my mother again. I do not ‘have relationships’ with people who think so little of me. I wonder if my younger brother has cut her off, nurturing and caretaking-wise, and she’s shopping around.
The problem is, that if I see her in person, I’m pretty thoroughly conditioned to mother her – offer her sympathy, help and advice I later (or immediately) resent. My mom must know this, that I’m much more ‘reasonable’ when I see her in person, which is why she wants it. So not seeing her at all is by far the best option for me.
I really hadn’t expected my mom to write back after the first few months, although I reminded her last year when she hand delivered a note, that the only communication I wanted from her was a written reply to my letter. This does of course give me a little time to plan how to read the letter I haven’t received yet. I’m thinking the good old standby of opening and reading it at my therapists office.
I am assuming by now that she knows (via my aunt or uncle) that I know the vaginal tearing was far to extensive for her not to have known about it when it happened. She no doubt has a way to justify or ignore that for herself. We’ll see if she responds to that directly in the letter or not. I expect this might be a bit of a doozy. If she essentially bails and only provides me with some of the info I asked for like giving me a couple of anecdotes of when he was creepy to other women, and perhaps some info on the layout of the house we lived in, topped off with another ‘no I didn’t know he was abusing you’, that would almost be easiest to deal with. If she gives me any real information, it might give me nightmares or flashbacks, but I can handle it. Mostly I am decent now at deconstructing her mind games, but just to be sure, I’ll be opening it at my therapists office, and maybe storing it at a friends until I get a chance to read it.
Makes me wonder if I really want to get into this right now… Although I know there’s no time like the present for dealing with abuse crap – putting it off isn’t a good idea. We’ll see how I am after this weekends session. I think I’ll probably have her work on my leg first and get to know her better, after that, we’ll see about the neck, even though my inner kid really wants that area of me to be healed.
I had an interesting experience having a massage today. I had a sore hip due to what my chiropractor says is a tight ‘IT band’. The massage therapist was doing various things to loosen this and I was asking her what might have caused it to get so tight.
Between the two of us we figured it is probably due to my sleeping position, which not coincidentally, is as different as possible from the one I was raped in. She asked if I was uncomfortable sleeping on my back and rather than lying I said calmly. “Yes, but not physically. Trauma. Emotional. But it’s a lot better now.” Typical stock survivor response, acknowledge the facts as calmly as possible, combined with reassuring the listener I’m not going to fall apart on them. However, I meant it. I *am* fine. She said that was good, and continued on.
Now some massage therapists get uncomfortable when you say things like this, but this one didn’t. A woman would know exactly what traumatic event would happen when a woman is on her back. There was not much more to be said.
Earlier in the session she’d been working on the back of my neck and I said, “oh, one thing I forgot. If you work on the front of my neck, please let me know first please.” She’d also accepted this well.
When it came time for her to work on the front of my neck she warned me and was gentle, asking what types of touch to avoid. She got it.
I asked her how my neck was. I’m curious. I have no idea how being strangled has affected my neck. She said something like it was very siezed up and tense. I said, well it makes sense, the soul and body are connected, and she agreed.
At the end of the session we agreed that my IT band and leg needed more work and so did my neck. I said, if we work on the neck it will need a session just for that, and I’ll probably cry. I’ll need to have my car nearby so I can go to it to calm down afterward. I told her I look after myself just fine, but that there is likely to be emotion connected to the tension. She was great. She told me that it happens all the time, that people often have feelings come up during or after sessions and she considers it an honour to help people clear. Her energy felt grounded and sincere.
On the way home in the car I sang my scar song about the abuse to clear some of the built up emotion from having my neck worked on. I had an inner child reaction which led to me going to bed curled up in a quilt for a few hours, after which I felt more clear.
I have booked a session for next weekend. I’m not sure if we’ll work on the neck or the leg. I’m proud of how matter of fact I was, and how well the interaction went. Unexpected. I’m used to being more guarded with health care folks, so they don’t treat me funny.
I’m looking forward to having body work done in a context that allows me to release the feeling. Not looking forward to cleaning up the reaction afterward, but hopefully if I can release fairly fully it’ll be more relief than triggering. One can hope.
The picture I chose to go with this post is of baby birds, who were rescued after their nest was blown out of a tree by the photographer. At first I rejected the picture, as it is not the strength and confidence I felt today. However, the vulnerability of the birds and their long necks resonates with the vulnerability I feel in my own neck and this situation. There are some very intense, fragile and wounded sensations locked away in my neck tissue and this picture owns that. Telling the truth, being as vulnerable and strong as I actually am is a far stronger and more courageous place to be in. [the photographer took down the photo I had linked to.]
This weeks post is a result of re-reading some an old comment I made on a website about childbirthing when you are a survivor. I’ve never birthed or raised a child, and don’t plan to. When I was younger, I had a strong aversion to the tearing that always happens during childbirth. I had some good ideas why this might be so, but of course didn’t have proof till I saw the scar tissue from the tearing I’d experienced during repeated vaginal rapes starting as a very young child.
The doula, a survivor herself, whose blog it was, responded to my comment by saying in part that women can give birth even with scar tissue, which of course was never the point.
It got me thinking about all the reasons I’ve chosen not to birth a child. You would think being a lesbian might be one of them, but it isn’treally. I know lots of same sex couples with children. We may have an awesome birth control method, but we can fairly easily get pregnant if we want to. Even the country and place I live in are liberal enough that my child wouldn’t experience much in the way of serious discrimination, no more than any other kid in a multicultural society does.
Then of course, there are the environmental reasons. By choosing not to have a child, I’m making the single largest environmental conservation action that I could make. Even with an extremely conserving and eco-friendly lifestyle, human beings just do way more harm than good to the planet, and there need to be less of us if the planet is going to continue to support life in the long run.
And there are the temperament reasons. I have trouble enough sleeping without the expected sleeplessness of early parenthood, and I am extremely unhappy and foggy without sleep. The thought of enduring this for years is almost inconceivable (no pun intended). I’m also a bit of a space cadet, what with all the PTSD, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a little being I might accidentally injure with my forgetfulness. I have recurring nightmares where I make some mistake that injures my baby.
But really the most compelling reason for not having children is that sociopathy is apparently mostly genetic. My father is a sociopath, and I can’t take the chance that I might birth and raise one. Screening for sperm donors doesn’t usually include screening for sociopathy either, so my kid could get a double genetic load with the wrong donor. Not an acceptable risk to me. If there was an in vitro blood test for sociopathic tendencies, and I learned my baby had them, I would abort. I’d feel bad about it, and I’d pray about it, but I’d do it. The risk of harm from just one sociopath over his or her lifetime is just too great.
For those of you who, like me, have a first order relative who is or was a sociopath/psychopath/has antisocial personality disorder, I respectfully suggest that you consider never passing this gene on.
If you are at risk for passing sociopathy on to your children and have already had or plan to have children, or if you raise a child who is at risk, here are some resources to spot and help overcome sociopathic tendencies in your children.
This is a rant about Father’s day. I know most of you reading are survivors, so you probably get where I’m coming from. I’m ranting here so I don’t do it on facebook, where many of my friends and in-laws are gushing about their good fathers living or dead.
Yes, I know a lot of people had nice fathers, intellectually. Mine was a sociopath who raped me, and it’s all I can do not to spout off when people go on about wishing everyone a happy fathers day, like they are assuming (and of course they are) that everyone had a father who had at least some good qualities and people could just suck it up and be nice on Father’s day.
My father raped me. He’s a sociopath. Rather than pretend otherwise, I’m going to politely shut up about him when the topic of father’s day comes up. If your friends do too, notice and change the topic, will you? Some fathers are like him, too many, frankly. The word ‘father’ itself doesn’t have the same associations for me that it must have for other people. In many of the incest survivor groups I was in, ‘father’ was so synonymous with ‘abuser’ so the words could be used interchangeably. This is literally our truth. Deal with it.
I’m not going to be such a killjoy as to squash all the nice incredibly privileged people who had good fathers, but hearing them gush on about it is a pain. I really wish they would have some tact and not assume that everyone celebrates Father’s day, and actually to stay the hell away from me about it.
Today I took the day off work (my hours are flexible) to have a ‘creativity day’. I had intended to practice my singing repertoire for my voice lesson tomorrow. I by early afternoon I hadn’t got to it yet, and couldn’t seem to. Finally I resorted to my journal.
It turns out my inner child got triggered by a funeral I went to this weekend for a coworker. His family were sincerely grieving and he was a genuinely good man. I cried a little too at the funeral and before, and supported one of my work-friends who was a lot closer to him and is in serious grief.
I thought emotionally, that was it for me that day, until today, when for some reason I just couldn’t make myself do what I’d planned to do with my day today, rehearse for my singing lesson tomorrow. Could not make myself do it. I was really resistant, like a tired toddler in a mall.
So I went through the usual suspects. Was I feeling shame? It was sort of like that but not exactly. An inner child thing? Bingo. I tried writing to her where I use my dominant hand and have her reply with my non-dominant hand, a technique for getting at unconscious stuff. From her responses, it turns out my inner kid was freaked out that I’d been talking trash about her daddy/abuser and was worried he’d come and attack her. I spent some time reassuring her that we were all right, that he didn’t care enough to come get us, and besides he already knows we told the police a long time ago and hasn’t done anything about it in all that time.
At this point my use of ‘we’ is freaking me out a little. Yes, my inner kid feels kind of like a different person, in that I only know how she is feeling by listening to my body and dialoguing with her. And yes, I am often surprised by what she says. So is she a separate personality? Perhaps, perhaps not. As far as I know, I don’t lose time to her, and my wife hasn’t noticed anything like that either. She’s ‘come out’ in therapy sessions, and I carefully think of her and describe her as my child self when that happens. I think I remember fully what gets said and done, but how would I know if I didn’t? I’ve never had a therapist label her as anything but my inner child. It’s not out of the question, but I haven’t had any compelling evidence so far. I’m kind of agnostic about the whole thing. I respond to her as a separate child because it works at getting through these emotional roadblocks, and often I get information and access to feelings I wouldn’t have otherwise. So dissociative yes, dissociative identity disorder probably no. She’s a part of me, stuck in that time, who holds information and feelings that for one reason or another aren’t yet integrated into conscious memory and awareness.
Back to my inner little girl. I decided that singing was not on for today and that she needed to feel safe, and mothered by me. I created sacred space (a Pagan thing, saying prayers that create a circular prayer area) and curled up with a blanket, which feels nurturing and safe, on the floor in my living room on a particularly nice carpet. I asked the Goddess and the God to protect me, and listened to what my inner kid had to say.
She was crying about my coworker and how he was good and dead and my dad/abuser is bad and not dead. I told her that our daddy is old and will die eventually, he must be over 70 now, and the most he could last is another 20 years, which of course is far too much. I told her that daddy is a heavy smoker and drinker, and that’s got to knock some life off of him, so surely it won’t be that long. She was worried he’d die and come get her spiritually, that he knows things that she thinks and would punish her, which is something I was afraid of as a child. She is mad and sad about my mother, who lied to us. I explained that even if he could come and haunt us, he wouldn’t because we just aren’t that important to him. He’s broken in the head and can’t love or care about anyone. I explained that she has me now to mother her, and I’ll always be with her, and that she also has the Goddess and God to love her.
The wording she uses is young, I’m not sure what age, but I just go with it and respond as if she is an external girl needing comfort and mothering. This connects me to the feelings, and they flow. I cry so hard and long that my dog comes and licks my face and offers me her belly to rub, then stands over me, looking solemn. Knowing she is there to guard me and watch for danger is comforting as well.
After the crying settles down she let me know that she wanted to go outside and get an ice cream. I decided to go with it, and went out and bought a nice big cone, and listened to an audiobook on my headphones while taking a walk to my favourite park. I framed it in my mind as nurturing her, being a good mommy to a child that had been scared and sad. The ice cream was delicious and the story felt like being read to as a child, something I loved. I spent time looking at the beautiful trees and walked home feeling a lot better.
Afterward, I feel more whole and could probably work on my music. When I was first healing I’d have a day like this where I was iether resisting, bargaining with or, eventually, comforting my inner kid a few times a week. Now it’s just once in a while, when something happens to trigger it. It’s a familiar process, and it works. So much of my resistance used to be her digging in her heels and forcing me to stop working and look after myself. I wonder how much of it still is?
I know some of you remember me. I was gifted and quiet, well behaved, used big words solemnly, like the bookworm I was and still am. When I first came to school at the age of 5, I cried easily, so much so that I earned a reputation as a crybaby. I don’t remember how you handled that. I remember cowering in the cloakroom, crying it out where no-one could see me, or waiting in the hallway till I calmed down. Even so, the school was a safer place to cry than home, even if I did not know to tell you why.
In the school yard, I avoided the rough games of my peers, and stayed with the trees and rocks behind the school, where it was quiet and beautiful. I would defend those places, even then, and went to the principal when some workmen were disturbing my play place, because I believed in your justice.
I believed in justice then and you did not fail me completely. Your school was a place, one place at least, where people were supposed to be fair.
Your school was a refuge to me. You could be counted on to listen to me and value me, a service I knew, later on, that I purchased with my intelligence and good behavour, as I saw it was not offered to everyone. I needed your help so desperately, I made sure to always be a good student, even when the other kids teased me for it.
For many years I was angry with you, my safe havens of foster parenthood, you who kept me safe during the day, that you could not have made me safe at night too. You never noticed the horrible harm being done to me at home, masked by my good behaviour at school, or if you did, nothing was done to rescue me from the monsters.
But really, you saved my life. By having a place, one place at least, where I could buy approval at not too high a price, where I was valued for being gifted, my words listened to and heard. You kept me from seeking attention from less benign sources, you gave me a place where I had worth, and I am so grateful.
I ask you, please, to look closer at the crybabies, the serious and studious ones, the little girls with too-solemn faces, the ones who are well behaved and not acting out. Sometimes we have horrible secrets to share, and do not even know we can seek help from you or that our parents would not be permitted to harm us if the right person knew about it.
Please be that right person for other children. I know we do not often give proof of the harm being done to us. We have no words for it, other than the ones the abusers give us. We have been tortured, sometimes from before we could talk, and the path to speaking of it is filled with monsters.
Please look closer, ask questions. I know you have many children to care about, but you could literally safe our lives. And if you cannot, please be kind to children like me. You are an oasis in a desert of pain and abandonment, and we need you desperately. You can save our lives. Some of you saved mine.
The yoga is great, but I found something even better. Just becoming aware of how often I clench the muscles of my sore, rape-injured body was a big first step. Now I’m learning to train my body not to do it.
It helps that it doesn’t hurt much any more. The clenching was a reaction to the pain. My guess is my smart child self figured out that clenching restricted blood flow, which dampened pain. It does do that, but now, years later when the wounds have mostly healed, the restricted blood flow causes damage and pain of it’s own.
The yoga increased blood flow thing worked so well at bringing the pain down, I’ve moved on to prevention. I’ve been sitting on a gentle heating pad, set on low, while watching TV with my honey. The constant gentle heat keeps reminding me to relax, and with that relaxation, I feel so much more grounded and safe, less on guard, which should be a paradox, but isn’t. The heat and a conscious decision to relax have allowed me to get familiar with the sensation of not-clenching, and helping me make it the dominant way my body is. I still clench, but not as much, and my vulva is a lot better.
It reminds me of training myself not to clench my jaw (TMJ) a few years ago. I’d do big yawns to loosen my jaw before bed and put heat on my jaw joint, consciously loosen the muscles and put them in a position where they weren’t as easy to clench, jaw hanging loosely. Over time, it gradually lessened, and although I don’t know if I never clench my jaw when I sleep, I no longer wake up with a sore jaw, and the dentist doesn’t mention it when I go.
I’m thinking this is advanced-survivor stuff. Perhaps ten years ago, unclenching my muscles would have brought flashbacks that would have seemed too daunting to embrace. Perhaps they are still working themselves to the surface, although perhaps not since I’ve remembered the injury I’m recovering from. Perhaps I couldn’t have done it before I saw the scars stretching across my vulva from the rapes. Knowing is always better than not knowing, no matter how hard it is.
A good friend of mine from my teens got in touch recently. I hadn’t seen her since the first year of university, or perhaps before. She asked me how my parents were. I realized she must not have heard, that I didn’t tell her back then, at the beginning of my healing. I wrote back that my parents had split up, and that I don’t see them, and asked how her parents were. There are many ways to tell, and which I use depends on my sense of balance between a strong certainty that I won’t lie about this any more against the need not to drive people away with awkwardness.
Complete and specific honesty is reserved for therapists, close friends and other survivors, who usually can take it without saying something stupid or hurtful or shrinking away from me, which is worse. This would be “My father is a sociopath and raped me starting when I was a preschooler. We lost touch after I reported him to the police. I recently found out my mother was actively complicit, so I don’t see her any more either.” Telling it this way is the best. It is a truth that prevents ever having to dance around the topic again. It allows my inside and my outside to be congruent and gives accurate context for things that may come up.
The other versions, for trusted non-survivors, are a lot less specific, such as “My parents were abusive and I don’t see them.” If the person accepts this, and leaves the topic alone, or says, ‘mine weren’t great iether’, we have a stronger friendship. If they say some rubbish about forgiveness or parents doing the best they can, I write them off.
If the person or situation isn’t important enough to get into it, I tell the truth, but not much of it. I will tell strangers and acquaintances partial truths such as “I don’t see my parents much” or “My mom is in X and my dad is in Y, they split up a few years ago.” A bland partial truth is usually enough to satisfy the question, and change the topic without lying.
I thought about telling my old friend more, but I decided to be more gentle. She knew my mother and father after all. This tragedy happened to people and in places that she is familiar with, that don’t have the distance they might otherwise have. She can read between the lines, and if she wants to know, she’ll ask. If she doesn’t, I have no need to tell her. Another thing that has loosened.
There are yoga postures which increase the blood flow to your pelvis. Do a google search on fertility and yoga and you’ll come up with a bunch of them. The one I’ve been doing is to lay on my side with my legs bent from the hip and skooge my butt up close to the wall, then allow my legs to go up the wall. All the blood from the legs drains down over the next several minutes. It’s called Viparita Karani. Here’s a link to a more detailed explanation of the pose: http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/1140
My vulva has been very sore the last several days. Over the years I’ve made several attempts to try and figure out what is wrong and fix it.
As you may know, I was raped repeatedly as a small child, and my vagina/vulva was injured. From the scars and my memories of the pain, I’d say it tore from vaginal vestibule (the opening) in two places right over to my clitoris. Just thinking about that makes me want to cross my legs.
When I was a young adult (18) I began having intercourse with my then boyfriend, who was about my age. I had what I thought at the time were horrible bladder infections and yeast infections, so bad that I’d have to sit in the bath in order to control the pain when I peed. The wrinkles in condoms would cause enough friction that I’d be very sore. During this time the doctor also found a sore he thought was herpes. He tested it and it was negative. I still don’t know what it was. I’ve had other sores since, but rarely. Gods only know what I would have been exposed to from my father, but I’ve gotten a full STD test panel and was negative for everything, which is a blessing.
I didn’t have the knowledge or assertiveness then that I have now. I went to the doctor a few times, but really they weren’t able to to resolve things so that they didn’t hurt. I researched all the usual helpful things:
I never did use scented stuff near the peach (scented pantiliners, soaps, lotions, douches etc… which are supposed to cause reactions.
I had a doctor tell me to douche with plain vinegar and water to kill the bad bacteria and then insert a slurry of yogurt and water to restore the good bacteria. Later the same doctor told me to put boric acid in gelatin capsules and insert one when I had symptoms.
I bought soft cloth menstrual pads instead of the rough paper ones.
I wore/wear only cotton underwear
I had another doctor tell me to use a blow dryer set on cool to dry my vulva after a shower or bath.
All of these things undoubtedly helped a bit, but don’t go all the way and it keeps coming back.
A few years later, having regular painful sex with another boyfriend, I went for several visits to my family doctor to see if I could clear it up once and for all. I told her I thought I had a persistent low grade yeast infection and vowed to keep going back again and again until it cleared up. She prescribed the anti-yeast vaginal suppositories, and I did that. A couple of weeks later, still sore. I went back. Puzzled, she tested me for diabetes and AIDS, which apparently both can cause recurrent yeast infections. Negative. I told her I was a survivor. She was very uncomfortable. I didn’t go back. She went on mat leave and I didn’t see her again.
A couple of years ago I went to a nurse practitioner (kind of like a super-powered nurse who does some of the things a doctor does) and told her about my little problem. I went in when the pain was pretty bad and she could see and feel the red, inflamed tissue. She told me she thought I had vascular damage from the rapes and pointed out my scars. She suggested putting cold packs on my vulva and tested me for infections (all negative). Then, after some promising and useful work, she gave up and suggested it might be psychosomatic. I don’t think it could be this persistent and steady if it is psychosomatic, and I’m generally not in a lot of denial about my abuse issues, so if it was really a body memory, you’d think I’d have processed it by now, I tend to not shy away from dealing with this kind of thing. I think that an injury for which I didn’t get medical attention plus vascular damage might be a more credible cause, frankly, so I’d like to find someone knowledgeable to look at that.
I did some research and found out about vulvadynia, which I’ve written about on this blog before. The main self-care strategy for this is mostly to rinse your vulva with water after peeing to prevent the urine from irritating the sensitive tissue. This has taken my pain down a few notches, particularly in the morning, but not completely.I also read that perhaps clenching the muscles in the area can cause reduced blood flow which causes pain. I’ve been paying attention to not doing this, so it’s not related to the current pain I’ve got.
I know when you hear hoofbeats, think horse not zebra, but given that I have a zebra kind of injury here, and the usual causes have already been ruled out, it’s time for a little digging.
I’m girding my loins (so to speak) to make another pass at trying to figure out what is going on here. I’m assuming I need some kind of specialist – but who? ob/gyn? midwife? . I googled “long term effects of vaginal injury” and got nothing. There’s a bit on STV’s in children but mostly for doctors on how to test for them following child sexual assault.
I just finished bringing my father / abuser’s file to the attention of the RCMP in connection with some murders of young women that have been happening in and around my home town during the time my family has lived there. I used an online tip form, because it seemed a lot easier to write out what I know than to be interviewed on the phone. I hate talking on the phone. I gave them my real name.
I did it because my vulva has been hurting all day, and it needed to be done. I spent an hour or more writing out all the facts I know of, looked into my files to check dates and it does seem possible he is the one murdering these young women. Either way, I didn’t say anything that they can’t verify themselves. I didn’t give them the full time-line, although it does look like there is a murder within a year of events that would have been stressful to him (getting interviewed by the police about raping me, his wife leaving him etc…) The first murder happened about a year after we moved there.
I sure hope that either they don’t contact me or at least that it’s not a bad experience if they do. I’m stronger now than I was then. Tips aren’t supposed to be a case all sewn up, they’re just information that might fit into the case. I have done all I can do, now.
I set up a twitter account for my SwordDanceWarrior identity and am posting my new blog posts plus a sort of ‘greatest hits’ from older posts on it. I wanted to encourage traffic to the blog, since I really like the discussion with other survivors via comments. If you tweet and wish to follow it, I’m at http://twitter.com/#!/SwordDanceWar
As I’ve written about before, my father is a sociopath, a person without empathy or conscience. I don’t mean this merely as an insult, but as a literal fact. This means that he has no internal limits on his behaviour.
As a result I have to wonder what else he’s done besides rape me so severely as a young child that I have scars from the tearing that stretch from one side of my vulva to the other.
Here’s what I know for sure. He ‘got fresh’ with my aunt, when she was 15, so badly that she badly scarred his leg by kicking it bloody. This was before I was born.
My abuser would say sexual and insulting things to women (including his sister in law) when drinking and told me about talking to young prostitutes. He liked to dominate people and to torture-tickle us kids until we couldn’t breath. He ‘repaired bicycles’ for young kids in our neighbourhood in our basement, a place where I was abused. He also took my brother and his friends camping and hiking a lot. One of those friends is now a recluse and probably an alcoholic. My older brother has suspicions he was abused, which probably explains why he stays away from me. It’s likely I’m a trigger for him.
He likes thrills. Drinking driving. Dangerous driving, swerving around the road to scare my mother. He likes scaring people. He scared my uncle with a shotgun once when they went hunting together. My uncle wouldn’t go hunting with him again.
The last thing is that someone is murdering young first nations women in the area around the town where I grew up. This has been going on for decades, the entire time my family has lived there, and given the racism of the area, has taken activism on behalf of the first nations communities in order to be made public and given some attention from law enforcement. The young women are picked up hitchhiking apparently, and after being sexually assaulted and murdered, they are dumped by the side of the road.
My father’s job provided for frequent road trips to local communities. Now that my mother has left him, he has no-one to see his behaviour. Even when my mother was home, he secured his silence about injuring me, so I think some suspicious behavour wouldn’t have made her report anything to the police. She refused to speak to the police when they questioned her about my assaults, so she may have more to hide than my assaults. He may have made her feel like an accomplice, which of course she was in my case, by hiding what he did.
My father is a racist, and mysogynist. I’ve heard him say bigoted things about first nations people (and gays, and women and…)
I took the timeline of the murders and tried to match it up with what I know of his whereabouts. What I have, matches. However, all I have for certain is data on his hospitalization and recovery period. If I asked around I could probably get some exact dates on when my aunts were there looking after him, when his surgeries were. Going back into the past, my mom and brothers and I often went in the summers to our grandparents place, leaving him alone to work. I could theoretically get all that data, if I was willing to talk to my mother or get my brother to talk to me.
The house where my father now lives by himself has a ‘cold room’ in the basement, intended for storing vegetables and such. It’s built of concrete block with a solid, insulated door. We used to store garden vegetables in it, but would be an ideal place to hold someone captive.
I reported my father/abuser to the RCMP about twenty years ago. I’ve written a fictionalized version of the experience here. They didn’t even take my report seriously enough to put in a child protection investigation to protect my younger brother. It was back-burnered so deep it took seven years and a political pressure for them to investigate, and even then they found enough to charge him. So they have the information about him, but I don’t know if they’d connect it. Canada has a sort of sex offender database, but although I reported him, and the crown was prepared to lay charges, it didn’t go to trial and so he wasn’t convicted, and I’ve read in the news that the police don’t have access to the database to go ‘fishing’.
I don’t know that my father is this serial killer. The police think now that it’s not a serial killer at all, but a group of unrelated murders, or at least that’s what they’re saying publicly. All I know is that he lives in the right town to have access to all the sites, he’s a sociopath, and he’s capable of it.
So here’s my quandary. I could call the anonymous police tipline and tell them what I know. However, the things I know pretty much disclose who I am, and aren’t terribly concrete. I really don’t want to be invalidated or seen as the girl who cries wolf. You folks know how seriously sexual abuse survivors are taken by the police. Even if he dies of the cancer or drinking driving or whatever, his house could be a crime scene and could give the families some closure. If he dies or the house is sold, that evidence is likely gone.
On the other hand, my father is a sociopath, a rapist of children and possibly a murderer and could easily find out where I live. Sociopaths are like hornets, best to avoid disturbing them if you want to be safe. Perhaps this is why my mother won’t give me any information against him, and why she barricaded her door and slept next to it on the floor for at least a year after she left him. I’ve felt safer knowing that I’ve reported to the police, and if I am killed he’d be prime suspect #1 and he knows that, but I am still afraid of him of course.
What I could use is some advice or reassurance from someone who works in law enforcement on whether this is worth speaking to the police about, and how to go about it – tip line or just call them. I don’t live anywhere near the city where my father lives, so I don’t even know who to go to about this.
Unlike my other posts, this isn’t written for survivors, but for their partners. Okay, I lied, it’s really written for survivors to give to their partners, and has both answers to frequently asked questions and some helpful tips. I’m mixing up the pronouns here, because a lot of this applies to both women and men, but some of it will apply mainly to partners of women sexual assault survivors.
I’ve strugged for 20 years to explain adequately to my partners how it is to be a child sexual assault survivor and what this means in a relationship. First off, it was because I didn’t know. I spent a long time figuring out how to identify what I was feeling and needing, and how to take care of my own self, and in the interim I gave a lot of mixed messages. Example: “I’m strong and independent but secretly want you to rescue me, but know that’s not a good idea, so when I feel needy I’m going to hide.”
If you love someone who was sexually assaulted as a child and don’t have related experience yourself, it’s going to be hard to get into their head and vice versa. Being abused makes it hard to have some of the illusions regular people have about the world, and this creates a kind of culture shock between survivors and non survivors.
Because of this, it’s really easy for even well-meaning non-survivors to have reactions and attitudes about survivors that are just not helpful. I had one boyfriend who told me, on seeing a cute picture of me as a child that “you were so cute that must be why your father loved you so much” Don’t say anything like this, he was an idiot and I dumped him. Two years of listening to me grieve and report my father to the police for rape and he says a dumb thing like that? Yikes. Some of my partners would kind of ‘go blank’ when I’d talk about anything abuse related because they didn’t want to ‘get me worked up’. Also not the best response.
My wife has had over ten years to get to know me, and she gets me as well as anyone ever has. Part of it is that she loves me and is a stellar human being, but the other part is I’ve gotten a lot more healed and better at explaining what I need and negotiating for it. I hope to share some of that with you to help you avoid some of the pain and misunderstandings my partners and I have experienced.
Here’s some common questions partners have.
1) Can’t my partner just stop focussing on what happened and get over it?
Post traumatic memories, flashbacks and all the other strange and emotional things that survivors do can’t be ‘forgotten’ or resolved with any quick fixes. Give up on that right now. Here’s something to read that hopefully will explain what it’s like to have PTSD and why that’s not possible. By trying to block your partner from getting into his or her feelings about the abuse, you’re just slowing down the process of working it through.
2) I find my partner’s emotional upheaval overwhelming and I can’t seem to fix it. How long is this going to go on?
About five years for the most intense part of healing, if she or he is in good quality therapy with a qualified therapist on a regular basis and not numbing out with substances. Then another five years or so where she or he will have bouts of intense focus on abuse healing followed by times when things are normal. After that the bouts of focus will happen from time to time, but not as often, usually triggered by a major life event like having a child, experiencing something traumatic as an adult, or the death of an abuser.
If your partner was abused by multiple people, in multiple interpersonal contexts, the healing will be slower and longer. For example, I was abused by my father, severely, but so far as I remember, by no one else. As a result, my friendships, relationships with strangers and colleagues, and general social relationships are relatively abuse-toxin free. I have a bit of an issue with older men who want to have authority over me, because that mirrors a father-daughter dynamic in some ways, but can tolerate it in contexts where it is necessary if I consent to it. If I had been abused by a relative, and a teacher and a boyfriend and a stranger, the result of that would be that there would be very few interpersonal situations that weren’t fraught with triggers. This is much harder and slower to recover from, even if the abuse in all of those contexts, overall was not as invasive, because so many types of relationships have been rendered unsafe until they are healed, and are a source of triggers.
Five to ten years sounds like a lot of time, I know, but the good news is that it is very likely that things will improve steadily and rapidly throughout this time for your partner. She or he may not ‘fix’ all the things you find most distressing first, but if she’s in effective therapy and feels safe there will be lots of movement. It’s kind of exciting, really. Your partner is most likely going to continue to grow and heal for the rest of their life. Why not do the same?
It also bears saying that your role is not to be the one who fixes your partner. Yes, you may be a safe haven she or he goes to, the person who is there to hold her when she has night fears, or spot when he has gone numb. This is invaluable, but your partner will also need both a good therapist and other survivors to talk to, even if she thinks you are the only one she can trust. You can do a lot just by being grounded yourself and present, but you’re too close to the action, so to speak, to be her only resource. This ideally will help with the overwhelm, because you can do what is manageable – be present, non-judgemental and love her/him. She or he survived horrors. Your survivor partner is a lot stronger than they look at times. If you are not sure what to say, this may also be helpful.
3) Am I ever going to have sex with my wife or husband again?
Survivors often need to take a break from sex. This is for any one of several reasons. The main one is when a survivor is having intrusive flashbacks (emotion, sight, sound or touch memory fragments) that, unfortunately can be set off by intimacy or sexual touch. They don’t have much control over this yet, and part of healing childhood sexual abuse is learning to process these memory fragments so they stop intruding. It takes awhile to learn this control, to be able to pull oneself into the present day. Some of it is practice, but mostly it’s work done in therapy to hook the memory fragments to one another so they can be put to rest.
When she or he is doing deep work on the abuse, those memory fragments can be close to the surface and harder to dismiss for a while. This means that even if your relationship started with a sex life that seemed to work, she may go through periods of time where she can no longer have sex with you or do certain kinds of sexual activities with you. If she or he has been numbing out emotionally in order to have sex with you without triggering memory fragments (as many survivors do before they start healing) and then learns to stop doing that (which is an essential part of healing) things are going to be really raw for awhile. It will take time to learn the skills to adjust to this new way of being. This could entail drawing back from sex for a bit until she or he has a handle on the intrusive memories again from the new numb-free perspective.
Other reasons for a sexual slowdown are that your partner may have a hard time feeling physical sensations, and be physically numb. It’s hard to enjoy sex or have an orgasm when you don’t feel the pleasure. Often she or he will be numb specifically in the parts of the body most often seen as sexual, because that’s where she or he was injured. These injuries may be physical ones (as in my case) or emotional ones. Having sex without pulling oneself back into the present and feeling safe (as your partner may have done before she or he started actively healing) just makes things worse.
You can expect to have a dry spell of a couple of years at some point with your partner, longer if she or he is not in therapy. I’m sorry. Think of it as if she has a broken pelvis and needs for it to heal thoroughly before getting back in the saddle.
4) What do I do if my partner has a flashback during sex?
First of all, learn to notice when this is happening and check in. Your partner might stop moving or participating, look ‘spacey’ or get quiet. It’s a really good idea to notice this as soon as possible and check in with her or him.
If you don’t get a firm ‘go ahead’ from your partner, stop what you’re doing and back off but stay available. Remind him or her where and when they are, and who they are with. For example, “Susan, it’s okay, you’re safe now. You’re here in our apartment with me. I’m right here. That bad stuff is all over now.” A general term like “that bad stuff is over” is a good idea rather than say “I’m not your grandfather” because you don’t actually know what she’s reacting to. It may have nothing to do with the abuser or abuse you know about, for example. She doesn’t need the additional triggering of being reminded of specifics, particularly if she has multiple abusers or trauma incidents. However, you can always ask what would be comforting for her (when she’s not triggered) for you to say.
If you check in with your partner early enough into a flashback, sometime your partner will be able to stop it before it gets going too far and continue, but most often this is a game over situation, sexually, but not as far as intimacy is concerned. Try and be really really graceful about it, as your partner is particularly vulnerable at these moments. Somebody put their sexual needs before hers in a really traumatic way, so you need to be nothing like the abuser. Handling this gracefully and building trustwill help prevent further flashbacks while having sex with you. If your partner can figure out what triggered the abuse memory fragment, then you two can modify what you’re doing to avoid triggering it again. She might then bring that trigger up in therapy, and by processing it there, calm it down.
Making love with a survivor who is fighting to get her sexual self back might look like taking a break in the middle for her to calm down, have a cry and reassure herself she’s safe, maybe tell you what she experienced, and then going back to making love. This can be a very intimate way to make love if you’re open to it. You may find that by being open to her vulnerability, it makes you feel safe to express your own, or that you enjoy being the one who gives her safe haven, and sees the fierce beauty of her courage.
5) How do I help my partner to keep me separate from the abuser in her or his mind?
Physical differences between you and your lovemaking environment and the situations where your partner was abused are very important. I cannot stress this enough. It makes a huge difference.
The place where you make love should smell and feel different from where she was abused. It should have radically different lighting, colours, sounds. If your partners abuser had a mustache, shave yours off. If drinking was involved in the abuse, never come to bed with alcohol on your breath. If she had to be quiet during the abuse, making a lot of noise might help keep her present. It will make your life together a lot easier. You and I and your partner know you are not her abuser, but her mind will be playing tricks on her, and the less it has to latch on to, the better.
6) How do we have the best sex possible with my survivor partner?
Make a written ‘safe sex’ list and stick to it. In this context safe means ‘no or low abuse triggers’. The survivor can make a list of things that are sure fire abuse triggers and things you can do that have no abuse gunk attached to them. These will be unique to each survivor. Group the list by level of safety. Green light items are things that never trigger flashbacks. Red light things will pretty much always trigger flashbacks. Yellow light things might be possible from time to time but the survivor should initiate them.
If there is a sexual act or practice on the red light list that you really really like, give up all hope of ever doing this thing with your survivor partner. She or he might give in and do it, but it will do serious harm to your relationship if she does, and will set you back a lot. You can make a green, yellow, red light list for yourself too. Put on it things you really like (green), things you aren’t that into but will do to please your partner or things you like less than the green things but still like (yellow), and things you pretty much never want to do (red). If some of your red light things match with your partner’s that’s great, neither of you have to do that thing again. Find all the mutual green light things you can and do them often, or things that are on your survivor partners green list and on your green or yellow list.
Be open to including in your lists activities and experiences that are sensual but not normally thought of as sexual. These will often be relatively trigger free and, especially when there is a dry spell going on, can help a lot to keep you connected physically and build body associations of pleasure and safety between you that can ground you in your lovemaking.
One last thing, respect your partners need for control. She or he might have only one way that works successfully to make love right now, and which needs to be a certain way in order to come off without flashbacks or tears. Respect that this is the reality now and go with it. I’m not going to promise anything, but chances are that if you stick to the green things and go easy on the yellow ones, some of the yellow will gradually become green and maybe even some of the red will become yellow. However, that will never happen if you rush, pressure or guilt your partner into it.
7) My partner is so spacey and forgetful. I don’t think she cares about my needs.
Okay, spacey and forgetful is a symptom of PTSD – it’s called dissociation. Your partner can no more stop being spacey at will than a person with their leg in a cast can tap dance. It will get better as they heal, but is not under conscious control. It’s not about you. Some things my spouse and I have done to handle my inevitable spaciness is to develop a system of reminders. If she needs me to do something, she sends me an email and I put it into my calendar at work where I will be nagged to do it. We have a nag board where requests can be written down, because I will forget or not hear sometimes when she talks to me. I also now put my purse and keys in one specific place all the time (takes awhile to learn to do this consistently) so I can find it.
8 ) What’s good about loving a childhood sexual assault survivor?
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Your survivor partner is a veteran and deserves the respect of one. As she or he becomes more healed, she or he will have a great capacity to hear and understand the pain and passion of others, and as she heals, an almost super-human bullshit detector. My wife values my compassion, and my willingness to do the hard things when they are necessary. Survivors make great activists, advisors and leaders. When the going gets tough, you want a healed survivor at your back.
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
I want to know if you can
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.
This video really sums it up. I wish I could just play it for people like the idiot guy I met who said “men are raped by women just as often as women are by men, they just don’t report it”. I was flabbergasted. Those of us who are survivors know what the impact is of being targeted for sexual coercion and violence.
This post is in response to the idea that some people have about the causes of people falling in love with someone of the same sex.
Many of you will be familiar with the false ‘theory’ that is ‘false memory syndrome’ made up by child molesters to discredit child sexual assault survivors who disclose abuse as adults. I think there are parallels here to the discussion about whether child sexual assault makes a person gay. The intent is the same, to reinforce through shame the message of “shut up about it” and “don’t trust your own truth”.
I’m a left brained, logical person who has studied child sexual assault academically. The scientific method works like this:
Person with relevant education has a theory
Person figures out a way to test the theory and does that.
Person discloses the results even if they don’t support the theory.
Other people with specialized knowledge in this area look over the results and give feedback on the methods used to get the results.
Person revises theory to fit results of their own research and others’ results.
Person tests theory again.
Other researchers come in and summarize the results of everyone’s research and publish ‘consensus papers’ which analyze what most of the studies agree on and where they don’t.
At no point (except #1) is there a place for personal prejudice in this process, provided people tell the truth about their methods and results, which is why it can be trusted. If bias does creep in, step #4 is designed to correct that.
Actual qualified researchers have done actual research testing various theories about the causes of homosexuality. You can bet your boots they tested out the theories based in prejudice. They haven’t been able to prove them correct. I find this a lot more compelling than the words of one or even a thousand people with a religious or philosophical prejudice.
Here is a link to an example of a credible summary of the research from a highly reputable source, the American Psychological Association, written for a general public audience.
Here’s a quote from it:
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal,
developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
Here is some more evidence-based information from another reputable source:
“[N]o specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse does not appear to be more prevalent in children who grow up to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, than in children who identify as heterosexual.”
These two organizations are not left or right wing lobby groups. They are about as mainstream as it gets. In order to be a psychiatrist in the US, I’m almost positive you have to be a member of the American Psychiatric Association, and the same goes for psychologists and the American Psychological Association. Both organizations have members from all stripes of the political and religious spectrum, but disregard those biases in favour of the evidence.
I think the sexual abuse I experienced made me vulnerable to not listening to my own authentic self, particularly around sexuality. When I was younger and less healed than I am now, I had relationships with men. They would be attracted to me, and I would feel flattered and go along with it. I really had no idea what I wanted at the time. I was better at figuring out what I didn’t want, which was to be mistreated, so thankfully all the guys I was with were kind and respectful. I cared about all of the men I was in relationship with, and loved most of them, but did not feel the kind of rightness and passion that I later felt for most of my women partners, including my wife.
Once I was better able to listen to my own self, I followed my heart and began having relationships with women, who I had been falling in love with since early adolescence. Once I started doing that, my own feelings and heart confirmed that this was right for me. If I had not been sexually abused, I believe I would have avoided the step of dating men completely, and started dating other girls when I first started dating in high school.
So yes, being abused does make people confused and uncertain about what they really want sexually and emotionally. We get cut off from our bodies and our own truth for awhile, and have to fight hard to get all that back. Like me, I think a lot of survivors experiment with partner types who are not their heart’s choice during the time of figuring all that out. I’m guessing even non-survivors do that, such as the women who are ‘gay in college’ as part of figuring out their adult sexuality and what works best for them. There is nothing wrong with experimenting. However, our actual orientation, whether we are straight, gay or bisexual, is underneath waiting for us to connect with it and embrace it.