Karen at Mended Musings wrote a beautiful and brave post yesterday that I was honored to reblog at her request. As part of that reblog, I promised to write my own story of sexual abuse in a effort to shine even more light into the dark places that many, many MANY of us have and uncover those secrets that keep us sick and wondering what’s wrong with us.
There’s nothing wrong with us. In fact, when we’re brave and tell our stories, we move from victims to victors.
My maternal grandmother was my salvation as a child. I would go and visit her in the mountains of Western Maryland in the summers of my childhood. There, with her, I felt that I was loved. I was accepted. I could exhale. She was my biggest hero, my confidant, my true north.
She was also my pimp.
When I was about 11 years old, my grandmother got herself a boyfriend. He was about 20 years older, hideously ugly and smelled funny. Kind of a mixture of pipe tobacco and old person. I was happy she had a boyfriend but there was something, down deep…way deep in my little girl gut that made me want to stay as far away from him as possible.
Unfortunately, as a child, you don’t always get to do what you want to do…in fact, you do as you’re told. I’m not sure exactly when it started happening but suddenly I was being told to accompany this man on errands that left me alone in a high rise elevator with him. That’s when he began to insist that I give him a “kiss”. He would drag me to him (he was a BIG man), deep throat tongue kiss me and fondle me until the elevator reached the bottom floor.
Oh how I hated that fucking elevator.
At first I protested these little excursions without telling anyone why. I was tired. I didn’t feel well. I was sleepy. Any excuse not to have to get into that elevator or worse, go to his apartment and be alone with him. But when he started making my little sister come with us and started doing the same thing to her – I had to tell. I tried pushing her aside but apparently one was not enough, he wanted both of us.
So I told my mom who told me to, “Stay away from him.” Gee thanks mom, that was helpful.
I don’t remember how long the abuse lasted but I know it never progressed beyond kissing and fondling (although he tried to do other things but I always managed to not be alone with him too long) and that I was very happy when he finally died.
No one ever spoke about what happened. No one ever checked in with me to see if, after I was told to stay away from him, it stopped (it didn’t) and because of that, there was something inside me that made me ashamed…like somehow it was my fault. I thought maybe I did something to bring on the abuse and I felt very guilty that I couldn’t prevent it from happening to my sister – that I couldn’t protect her. I carried that around with me for years. Down deep – way deep.
I also told myself, over and over, “It was just kissing. Some touching. It really wasn’t a big deal…not really. Right?”
When I got older, I shared my story with other women, consistently downplaying the impact it had and insisting that my abuse simply didn’t measure up to what happened to other children. Lots of other children. I discovered that this happens a lot more than anyone knows. There are a lot of formerly little kids that are carrying this around in their souls…down deep…way deep.
It wasn’t until I got sober and started examining the very minutia of my life that it occurred to me that not only did my grandmother know, but that she actually may have offered me up as a sick kind of payment or sacrifice. See, it was common knowledge that she only claimed this guy as a boyfriend because he helped her with her bills and gave her money. Even at a young age I knew that was wrong but, because she was so important to me, I ignored my feelings about it and believed the excuses my mother made for her behavior. In fact I loved her so much there was no way my brain would let me believe that she knew and didn’t protect me. That maybe she didn’t love me as much as I loved her. That maybe she used me. I just couldn’t handle it and the abuse.
The brain has a way of hiding things that we can’t handle. We surpress and then, if and when we’re healthier, the brain releases the surpressed emotions so that we can process and deal with them. Let me give you an example. I have an aversion to Donald Duck Pineapple Orange juice so strong that even thinking about how it tastes make me profoundly uncomfortable. I know it’s some kind of surpressed event and I can’t be sure, but I’ll bet that one day I’ll connect this feeling with that man and what he did to my sister and I. Maybe I’m wrong and it will be something to do with my grandmother. Or maybe it’s completely unrelated – but it’s definitely surpressed and STRONG.
What I am sure of is that if I were to keep those things surpressed, or continue to tell myself that they were “no big deal” and minimize the impact, I would just get sicker and sicker until I imploded…
…or became a clinically depressed, slightly OCD, alcoholic control freak.
Or maybe that’s just me.
In any event, read Karen’s blog post again. Utilize the links and resources she provided. Talk about what happened. Rid yourself of the shame. Heal. Be the victor.
Thank you Karen for opening this discussion. For telling your story. For helping others.
For being victorious.