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.

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.

Body Memories of Strangulation

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

[Abuse triggers]

Lately the big issue for me is strangulation.

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

Kind of a mistake, although maybe not.

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

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

Here are some immediate effects:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Domestic violence

    [possible triggers, ongoing domestic violence – not toward or from me]

    A good friend of mine’s husband threatened to kill her  a couple of weeks ago. She called the cops who hauled him off in handcuffs. They put a two month no contact order on him, which unfortunately expired yesterday, when she refused to give a statement and press charges, because she thought the two months would be long enough to get started on the divorce stuff, and didn’t realize it was contingent on her pressing charges. He was to be coming over tonight, to ‘talk’ to her and pick up the car. She was going to call us after he left. It’s 11 pm. She hasn’t called.

    We were over there earlier today and I gave her my cell phone because the last time he threatened to kill her he’d said that if she tried to call the police she’d be dead before they arrived. He’d tried to unplug the phone from the wall to prevent her.

    My mother took a very long time to leave my dad, and near the end, as she was working up the guts to leave, she’d tell me she was leaving and then wouldn’t do it. In the end, I finally couldn’t take the stress of waiting and being disappointed, waiting and being disappointed, and asked her to call me when she had left. She ended up writing me several months later, after she’d been out for about two months. My cutting her off seemed to form some sort of catalyst for her.

    I’m afraid of allowing myself to be pulled into that kind of pattern again, where I drop everything to help a woman who thinks that she can handle it. Handling it is getting the hell out with your kids, immediately, not trying to do it gracefully, or bargain with the situation, but just to get out of his control.

    My father is not someone to have in one’s life even a tiny bit, and this guy is a piece of work too. I officiated at their wedding. My friend told us her fiancee had threatened the life of their tenant, and the police had been called. Me and another friend told her we thought that made her then fiance unmarriageable. We were apparently right. He did some ‘anger management’ course and she went ahead with the wedding.

    I don’t blame her. I know enough about her childhood to know that people develop a sense that things are normal that really aren’t. I get it. I just don’t know how to support her. I have therapy tomorrow, so hopefully I can sort out how to be helpful, but still have boundaries. I sense quite a bit of mommy work tomorrow.

    I hope my friend is still alive tomorrow.

    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.

    Persevererence & Change2Mind video

    I did do my practice yesterday, and got a little farther into exercising my voice. I seem to do it best when my wife is around. She came home from an evening shift at work, and started practicing guitar, which gave me space to practice voice. I could hear her strumming in the other room and it felt safe to focus on what I was doing. Then she left to walk the dog and I noticed it was harder to concentrate. I’m learning a lot about this.

    I just watched a video about overcoming bias against people with mental health problems. I started bawling when I saw a pair of people wearing shirts. One was a guy with a shirt that said “post traumatic stress disorder”. The woman next to him had a shirt that said “battle buddy” . What a great thing to do – makes me want to have some kind of walk where everyone is wearing a shirt saying “incest survivor” “childhood sexual assault survivor” “better half” “battle buddy” “support spouse” etc…  Here’s the video: http://www.bringchange2mind.org/

    My grade 6 teacher was at a presentation I gave last week. I recognized a woman in the audience, but didn’t know who she was till I saw the sign-in sheet. I emailed her and she emailed me back, with a lovely description of what I’d been like as a 12 year old girl. She said she was glad I’d weathered the adolescence and early adulthood well, and I replied back that I’d had more to weather than most. I said she may have heard, since a few of my teachers were interviewed by the police, that I’d been rather seriously abused by my father. I said “I’m telling you this not to make a big deal of it, but I make a point of being open, as I think it helps prevent the silence in which child predators hide, and if that helps some kids, it’s worth any awkwardness.” and then I gave a few more chatty details about my life and ended thanking her for some things she’d said.

    I hope that was okay. No real impact on my life if it makes her feel awkward, she’ll just not reply. I’m seeing my younger brother for dinner tonight. He’s the one I have the least gunk with, so it should be nice.

    [Trigger warning to my ritual abuse survivor allies: If mentions of mainstream, benign Pagan/Wiccan spiritual practice are triggers for you, please go read something else now. ]

    I went to a public Hallows ceremony a few days ago, organized by some folks I  don’t see any more, as one or two are unpleasant to say the least. An ex-roommate we had to kick out for raging at me was there, but I managed to avoid her successfully. I did see several nice people I actually missed though, and connected with some gals that might want to have a women’s circle, so that was good. It was nice to have my wife there.

    Oh, the main thing about all that was, Hallows is a time when Wiccans think about our ancestors and make a ceremony of visiting them on the isle of the dead in trance to speak with them. We also  remember and recognize both loved ones who have died in the previous year and bless the babies born in the past year. It’s our new year. Blessing children at hallows/Samhain is where the practice of giving candy to children came from. It’s a way of blessing the new year through blessing the young ones. There was quite a long trance my grandmother was there when I got to the island. She led me to my other grandparents. I spent some time crying, telling them off, and then made them all promise they’d keep my father completely away from me after he dies, since they owe me for that. And then I asked for their blessings, which they each gave me.  They got why I was mad and didn’t take offence. Dead people are much more sensible about these things.

    Perseverence Practice – Day 4

    I was able to practice voice for longer last time, and it felt good. It’s amazing how alive I feel when I’m singing well. I still haven’t done the full routine, but I’m getting there. I had a long day today, and feel edgy and distracted. The last thing I want to do is put focussed energy into anything, or is it to be fully present? Anyhow, I haven’t done my voice practice yet today, but I will.

    _______________________________________________________

    3 1/2 hours later

    _______________________________________________________

    I just finished doing my voice workout. I didn’t do all the warmup stretches and really felt the increased tension in my neck and shoulders impacting my voice. I was sitting with my back to the door, and the door open and felt (still feel) a creepy sense that something low and black is slinking up behind me to grab my neck. Lovely being a trauma survivor isn’t it? 35 years later, when I try to focus completely on something I love, I get distracted by phantom abusers sneaking up on me. I hope that rat bastard’s cancer is really hurting him today.

    I have my period, which is always a trigger time for me, perhaps because of the blood and cramping, so that probably explains the ‘monstery’ – afraid and wary and haunted by phantoms – feeling I have. I’ve been curled up with my dog and the tv all evening, wanting some time to myself to curl up. I’m proud I did the practising despite feeling like a wounded bear, avoiding everything and everyone and eating a lot of something — fruit?  I still feel monstery, which usually means I’m angry. Ya think? I’ve been working on getting my sexuality back, which seems to be working, but bleeding this month is suddenly having a whole new resonance – reminding me viscerally of how I bled when I got those scars. I think that’s where the trigger is coming from.

    I will outlive him and dance on his grave.

    Inaction

    Photocredit: Swamibu
    Photocredit: Swamibu

    Why is it I can get so much done at work on a computer and the rest of my time I don’t live my life as exuberantly and richly as  I want to?

     

    It is almost a year since I found out my dad had been in the hospital with a cancer recurrence for three months. He’s still not dead.

    I’m in limbo.

    If there was an ethically, spiritually and legally palatable way of killing him, to get it over with, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    I’m tired of not living my life.

    My friend Kate said something that struck me (I’m paraphrasing here) – that her life could not be extraordinary enough to compensate for the horror of her childhood. I feel like I’ll never catch up. I’ll never be successful enough, famous enough, creative enough, happy enough. I’ll never have a good enough marriage, and active enough social life, do as much good in the world as I want to do, as I deserve to be part of.  That rings true.

    I know I wasn’t ritually abused, I only have one, maybe two perpetrators, and I’ve never been raped as an adult, except in that grey way so many women experience, where I gave in to sex I didn’t want to keep the peace with a boyfriend or two. As far as I know my identity is one intact piece. Things could be a lot worse, and I don’t have the denial most people have to prevent them from knowing that. Yes, I was raped as a small child, so violently that my perineum tore and so repeatedly over a decade that I can’t separate the instances. I know others have survived worse, but that was bad enough.

    If I can’t win, I give up. I’m in  some kind of weird holding pattern, only half living my life.

     

    Photocredit: Zachstern
    Photocredit: Zachstern

    Like surviving being torture-tickled by my dad, the only way to survive is to give up, to go limp and let him win.

     

    I have learned to fight, but  I like a sure thing. I hate suspense, I hate waiting, I am not patient. Waiting never resulted in good things in the past. I was never rescued, the abuse never didn’t happen because I waited silently or was a good girl and it won’t now. I see no value in patience.

    So if I can’t have it now, I don’t want it. I don’t have the patience to persevere with anything I really want or which makes me nervous. I am enormously productive, because I want it done yesterday, but I have a hell of a time practising an instrument or a physical skill or anything where I’m not assured of success.

     

    Photocredit: Jim Moran
    Photocredit: Jim Moran

    What does this all mean? I’m not special. 3 out of 5 women are sexually abused in childhood. I was perhaps abused a bit more intensely than some, but I’m actually within the range of normal. Horrifying that being raped by your father is relatively typical. More horrifying that more people don’t see it and fight it. I may be smart, I may be strong, but I’m not extraordinary. I’m starting to tell myself that I don’t have to be. I can live a life where I get nothing outstanding done and no-one remembers me when I’m gone and it won’t be any more unjust than it already that I was abused. I can’t redeem what happened to me. I need to stop trying. I need to see what my life is when I live it for me, not to make meaning of horror.

    It is so fucking wrong that so many men feel they can rape children and that so many of them get away with it. I want to scream and spit and rip things apart with the injustice of it. If there’s one thing being a survivor has given me is how important it is to speak truth to power and to take action to stop abusers. Failure to act destroys lives. Because they won’t stop unless we stop them.

    May we outlive them all, to dance upon their graves!

    Exercise

    I’m out of shape and overweight. I’ve lost over 20 pounds this year, mostly water I think, just by counting calories and exercising a little. I’ve got about 30 more to go till I’m at the top range of what the most generous charts say I should weight for my height. Lately, I’ve been exercising twice a week with some friends – we’re trying to get in shape and lose weight, with a little friendly competition built in. Normally I avoid that stuff like the plague, but it seemed right this time and so far it’s been okay.

    Whenever I get into exercising, or being sexually active on a regular basis, my emotions gets stormy. I get easily frustrated, moody and bitchy, like a bad case of PMS out of cycle.  Mostly I just want to be left alone and read a book for a long time, to still my body enough for it to go away. I’ve been exercising the past few weeks, and charged up by the ‘feminist vitamins’ of my trip I was happily surprised to not be experiencing my usual storminess.

    Well the holiday is over. Today I should have been working and I’ve spent almost all of it reading a novel, and being cranky with my wife (it’s her day off) to keep her away from me whenever she intrudes upon my funk.

    Craig’s death might have something to do with it – really does it matter I use his name since he’s dead and really only my family would know who he is? I don’t even know where his grave-site is, but dancing upon it is not appropriate, since I’m still not certain it was him. I don’t need to take power back from him, if I ever did,  his life seems to have done it for me, and his death, dying a homeless drunk is enough of any kind of revenge I might have needed.

    What comes up in me when I exercise is perhaps a body memory, a memory (oh now I start crying) of waiting around after the rapes for my body to feel better and my fear and adrenalin to pass. The frustration of being pinned down and helpless again, with no way to win, that comes up for me easily when I am doing something physically difficult and hard.

    So that’s it, a body memory of being defeated by my heavy, stench-coated, sweaty opponent. The frustration of struggle and pain and defeat. There is shame in it, shame I was not stronger, that I could not get out from under him, that I could not draw anyone in to help me, anyone that would be effective.

    My brother called to tell me about Craig’s death as he will one day likely tell me about my fathers’. I think I’d told him about Craig, and he knew the import of what he told me.

    Now I’m crying, properly, harder. Crying in grief relief that my brother did actually get it, did get that I’d want to be told.

    I don’t want to feel helpless anymore. Would learning to wrestle defeat this feeling of being vanquished? Not unless I won every time, I think, and I’m afraid of what I might do in the heat of it. I’m a big strong amazon of a woman, and not afraid to use it, but what would it feel like at last to defeat my father, knock him out with a roundhouse punch, throw him to the ground and hold him there struggling with a knife to his throat, to tie him up and strangle him as he did me? It would dirty me, I think, to use his methods to defeat him. Cancer and time will do it for me, with my victory no less welcome.

    I will be the Bear when I exercise, I will walk through this and remind myself that I am powerful, that I will never be a child raped and torn again. And when he dies I will be strong enough, fit enough to dance on his grave with physical strength and power to match that of my spirit.

    So mote it be.

    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.

    Calling the police

    We’ve called 911 twice today.

    Earlier tonight, I left my house to walk my dog up the street. I walked about half a block and saw a man walk toward me. I had a bad feeling about it and turned around and walked quickly back to the house and went inside. My wife and I left a couple of minutes later to walk the other dog together and that same man had entered our yard and was about 6 feet away on our front walk.

    My wife confronted him and turned him around. Having a big dog with us helped. We watched him try and go into other yards, and he tried to come back into ours. She turned him around again, and I yelled at him to back off. Then she called the police. The man went down the sidewalk a ways and then came back. The police came fairly quickly, found the man was inebriated and sent him on his way.

    We went inside and went to sleep.

    It’s 3:30 in the morning. I wake to a woman screaming. “Get out of my house!” she says. He swears at her and calls her a “punk bitch” and I hear them yell. She is very afraid and panicky, from the sound of her voice. She says something about “you threw me up against the wall”. I wake up, I try to wake my wife up but she’s sound asleep.

    I go upstairs and call 911 again. The officer on the line knows my name and asks for my birthdate. We’ve called before on other occasions. She has me stay on the line as the woman’s voice dies away and the man’s continues more faintly. I hear a crash. I stop hearing the woman’s voice. She asks me how long  I listened before I called. I tell her right away since it sounded so extreme. I think to myself “is she going to take this less seriously because it hasn’t happened for very long”. 

    I tell her there is a woman fleeing a battering spouse that lives in the next building, and that a couple of weeks ago I saw her with a black eye and wondered if he’d found her. She notes this in the file. I don’t know if anyone else has called yet about this family. I feel like I might not be taken seriously, because I’ve called before. She has me stay on the line and listen for awhile as the man goes on. She tells me if they scream up again to call 911 again.

    I’m sitting here at my computer, a few minutes later. I can’t get to sleep. I’m crying. Bad men still threaten women’s lives in the middle of the night, and in my neighbourhood I had to know about it regularly.  I hate this neighbourhood – how can I continue to live with this?!

    I hear some car noises out front and wonder if that is the police driving up or the man driving away.

    I’m still worried the police have me pegged as some sort of panicky neighbour, but really, if I was screaming loudly for an angry man to leave my house with panic in my voice, I’d want someone to help.  I’m worried that since this type of stuff happens so much, that people wouldn’t call.

    How can I go back to sleep?  We’ve talked about soundproofing our bedroom a bit so I wouldn’t be wakened when drunk people scream on the streets sometimes. It’s Friday night and a certain amount of yelling just happens in a densely populated, low income area.

    This house is what we could afford, and we’ve worked hard to make it nice. The garden, particularly is coming along.

    A car flares to a start and I wonder if it is the man getting away. Has he hurt the woman?  Is it okay for me to have called?

    I’d only called the police once in my life before I moved here, when a man was trying to break in next door at our old house, another ‘domestic dispute’. The man was trying to break down the door to get at the woman, who had moved to escape him. She eventually let him in, a few days later. Her landlord kicked her out because she kept allowing him around.

    I’m hearing a little yelling again and some crashes or slamming doors or something. I call 911 again since the woman is yelling “get away from me”. Have I done the right thing?

    The police dispatcher thinks the police officer has just pulled away, and is sending them back. The screaming of course stops now, and once again I second guess myself. Will the police think I am making this up?

    I know you survivors out there are thinking – “she’s worried they think she’s making it up because she’s a survivor. Even when things are extreme, she’s worried they won’t take her seriously, because they didn’t.”

    Yes, I make a point of calling when bad things are going on. I have to, in solidarity to that little girl, myself, that nobody called the police about.  Do I call unnecessarily? I don’t think so. This stuff needs to be stopped and we pay the police to do that.

    I’m trying to do my best to keep my neighbourhood and family safe.  I can’t stand this happening all the time.

    I don’t like laying in bed, listening to people screaming, wondering if I should call the police, if it’s bad enough to ask someone to come and make it stop.

    This, as my friend Butterfly would say, is why you shouldn’t fuck kids. This is also why I am so pissed off at men. Men need to stop using their fists to get what they want. They need to stop hitting and raping women, or pimping them, something I also see in this neighbourhood from time to time, although less so than I used to. Men need to get together and stop one another from using violence against women and children to get their way. Unlike Andrea Dworkin, who wants a day’s truce, a single day where no women are raped by men, I want it to stop.

    I haven’t heard sounds for about 10 minutes now, and there is a certain calm in the air that I think means whatever was going on is now over.

    I realize I feel like a kid, hiding in a closet, listening to her parents fighting. I chose this picture because it is hopeful. I like to imagine this father and child opposing more than just one kind of war.

    Reply

    My brother sent me quite a long reply this morning. He’s concerned that I haven’t ‘moved on’ after all this time and might still be in victim mode. He fully expected I had scar tissue and has always believed me (he didn’t at first) so it’s no news to him, although he did say it matters to him. He wanted me to understand that I could choose to move beyond the abuse and release my abusers power over my life.

    Non-survivors are pretty clueless aren’t they? Nobody ever tells someone with a physical injury that they just need to move on and forget the past so they can move forward if they point out they still have some pain or scars at time.

    His responses are typical and don’t upset me much. I’m just happy he’s willing to talk about it.

    I spent about an hour crafting a reply explaining about the cyclical nature of healing, the difference between dissociative memory and regular memory, the importance of integrating the pieces and the difference as I see it between being a victim and a survivor. And then took a page from Harriet Lerner the family systems therapist and decided to go minimal, warm and friendly. I thanked him for the thought he’d put into his response and said the following:

    Thanks for the thought you put into responding to my email.

    Don’t be concerned that I’m putting some energy into this right now. I’m well and happy and living a full and creative life, much like the survivor you describe and for many of the same reasons. Although bits of healing pop up from time to time and need looking after, in general this issue hasn’t gotten much attention in the past decade or so.

    With [abuser’s name] cancer recurrence last summer, I believe that he is likely to die in the next while, and the death of a parent makes a person wants to revisit and tie up some loose ends, which I’ve been doing. I have some gyne issues I’m trying to resolve, so the more thorough exam was part of that, and gave me the opportunity to ask about something I hadn’t had the opportunity to ask about before this.

    I’ll respond in a little more depth when I have the time to do it justice.

    I feel so mature and clever, responding this way,  like I stepped around a big hole. The long self-justifying explanation was only feeding the pattern of him seeing me as a victim, as someone who wasn’t in charge of her life and living it responsibly. At some point we’ll have that discussion, it’s not yet the time.

    Rage

    Anger is not my strong suit. And since my body stores my anger, the only way to keep the anger in my body is to hold my body still.

    Today, I am angry.

    I got sidetracked into writing letters to relatives, which brings me more into my head than my body, but needs doing as well.

    I guess it’s just enough to say I want to rend and destroy, stomp and tear and that my rage feels so big that I don’t know what to do with it all.

    It’s good my father doesn’t live in my town or it would be so tempting to drive over and rip him apart with my bare hands.

    That’s how mad I am.

    Email I just sent my brother

    Here’s the text of an email I just sent my brother. In my therapy session today, it came up that my father stole all my support from me by doing something so taboo, that I couldn’t talk about it or get support from anyone. We came up with the idea of telling my brothers and some key friends about the scar tissue so I could share the burden a bit. My older brother is kind of a good choice to start, since my relationship with him is already very distant, there isn’t much to lose if he doesn’t respond well.

    My brother is a medical professional, which is why I’m being fairly direct about the gyne exam stuff. I’m assuming that part of it won’t phase him, although who am I to know what is appropriate for this kind of thing?

     

    Dear [brother’s name]

    I was hoping to talk to you in person, but we haven’t connected.

    I’ve had some difficult news.

    I’m finding I need to share this information, so it’s not just me holding it. I’m hoping that it matters to you as my brother that this happened to me. It’s awkward and odd to tell you this in an email, I know, but would also be awkward and odd on the phone too, and I figure email lets us both save some face if you don’t want to speak with me about it.

    This matters, and I need to tell people who matter to me about it. You are welcome to share this information with [his wife’s name].

    I had a gyne exam a few weeks ago. I wanted to have more time to ask questions, so I booked an appointment with a nurse practitioner. Because we had more time, she was able to have me sit up, see what she was doing in a mirror, and I was able to ask her opinion on whether or not I have scar tissue resulting from being sexually assaulted as a young child. It turns out that I have a some scars and flaps of tissue indicating that my vagina had torn significantly and had healed without being stitched up. I also have some vascular damage in the area. I was able to see the scars and damage clearly. The nurse practitioner’s opinion that this was very old damage and was consistent with damage from a childhood assault. I haven’t given birth or had anything happen as an adult that would account for any kind of scars or damage.

    I’m absolutely furious. I remember the incident that caused this damage clearly, but given the nature of memory stored during trauma, it has been possible at times to be in denial about it. Having physical evidence is something I’m still adjusting to. It is helpful to have proof that I’ve been right in what I remember all along, but the reawakened anger at [abuser’s name] and grief for that little girl is at times overwhelming and I have very few people who know my history around me. I have a good therapist, but otherwise am quite isolated about this, as it’s not exactly a polite conversation topic.

    I know you and I haven’t been close in a long time, but I wanted you to know about this, and hope you can understand why I didn’t want to be alone with these facts. It would be a comfort to me to hear from you and know that you understood and perhaps even shared my anger and horror that even [shithead abuser’s name] could do something so heinous. I’ll understand if that’s not something either you or [your wife] wish to do, but I thought I’d ask.

    Aside from all this, in regular life I’m doing very well. My business is still thriving, [wife’s name] and the dogs are well, and we just had a very fun and social weekend here with friends. I’m still the resilient, strong and capable person I always am, so am not looking for any kind of big-brotherly rescue, just to begin to share the burden of terrible news in the hopes it will become lighter.

    Love,

    SwordDanceWarrior

    The Scars to Prove It

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

    —–

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

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

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

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

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

    _____

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

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

    ____

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

    ___

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

    Mothering her

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

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

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

    This is what I tell her now:

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

    In the wake of proof

    Photocredit: Yann!s
    Photocredit: Yann!s

    Knowing I have scar tissue has changed my life I think. It’s like an incontrovertable validation of what I’ve been saying all along. No longer can I doubt or go into denial about the accuracy of my memory. I know what happened and I was accurate all along. It is an immense relief.

    The other thing about it is I am more in touch with my own vagina, which is not so good on the one hand because I’m in mild discomfort most of the time. but is good because it allows me to be aware and take care of my body instead of just numbing that part of my body out. I think in the long run this is an incredibly good thing. It’s what I wanted, to have my body be my own, and to have no part of me belong to him any more out of my own fear to be in touch with horrors.

    I have written a separate letter to my mother to let her know about the scar tissue and ask that she write me and let me know what she remembers. I don’t know if I will send it. I should not be surprized she hasn’t written me yet: when given the opportunity my mother will always bail, will always avoid doing anything that makes her uncomfortable and this surely must overwhelm and horrify her.

    I want to tell my family “see, I have proof, you need to believe and support me now”, however, really, I doubt it will change anything with them for me. Denial is a powerful force. It is the societal denial that interests me most now. We have to start believing children and making it safe for them to tell.

    I have a therapy appointment on Monday and am looking forward to talking this over with my therapist. This changes everything for me, and I don’t know what to do next.

    I realize at some levels I have been depressed for awhile, a low level depression, really not sadness as much as a lack of happiness. I’ve been taking some vitamins, meditating and trying to get more sleep and it seems to be helping. Today I had two moments of happiness. I got a book from the library on singing – Anne Peckham’s Vocal Exercises for the Contemporary Singer. It has a guided warmup and then some more advanced exercises for sopranos. I’ve been doing the warmup exercises a few times a week and today was the first time I did the advanced exercises. It was exhilarating to sing in my high clear voice and to find the places where the voice rings and resonates. I had some advanced voice training about a decade ago, and had thought I’d lost that ability. Apparently not. Apparently all I needed was to warm up and work out my voice and it came back. I was singing for the joy of it and full of the joy of it like I haven’t in a long time.

    The second flash came as I was walking back from some errands, and passed by a park I like which has some tall beautiful trees. I looked over at one I particularly like and felt a flash of joy in the rich greens of the leaves against a clear blue sky and the peaceful park.

    Photocredit: Greekadman
    Photocredit: Greekadman

    I am emerging, like coming up from under a pool of cool water into a clear day.