Thursday, June 26, 2008

What Doesn't Kill You, Wounds For Life

A fantastic line borrowed from a song by Strange Advance, and so apropos.

I was sexually abused when I was young. I had the hardest time talking about this, admitting it, to anyone for a very long time. I was ashamed, humiliated, and just plain grossed-out. I mean, the "ewww!!" factor is pretty high when discussing most things sexual anyway, and if it's perverse or deviant, then even more so. I think this is part of what's wrong with American culture, an inability to be open and honest about things that make us uncomfortable, but I digress. I will say that an atmosphere of secrecy and denial, much like the current administration, allows evil to flourish.

I was abused by two men over the course of about ten years, from age five to about fifteen, when I was finally old enough to protect myself, make myself unavailable. I wasn't the only victim of these men. I'm pretty sure there were at least four others girls, possibly boys too, and the numbers could be much, much, higher, since these men were respected in the community, traveled internationally, and lived long lives. They had access to dozens, maybe hundreds, of children. I didn't do anything about the situation even after I was an adult, which might have contributed to my little brother's suicide, but I'll never know.

It's taken a long time to try and come to terms with what happened to me. For the most part, I tried not to think about it, to put it behind me and just live my life, but some things are not so easily gotten over. For the longest time, I didn't even think about the fact that I probably wasn't the only one, until I started to research and discovered that pedophiles typically have more than one victim, and that the profile of a serial abuser is a white, religious male. The publicity surrounding the scandals in the Catholic church helped, made me realize that it was more common than anyone wanted to admit, made me feel less ashamed and less alone. I didn't want to think of myself as wounded, because I so desperately wanted to be "normal," to have a happy, fabulous life, and so I denied the past. But as Faulkner said, "The past isn't dead, it isn't even passed."

I don't know if Mom was aware of what happened, she says she wasn't, that she had no idea, but who lets a grown man, a boyfriend, bathe with her five year old daughter? Someone, a friend of a friend, she'd known for weeks, maybe months at the time, not years. Of course, time of association doesn't really mean anything, abuse typically happens at the hands of a friend or family member. The spectre of the shadowy stranger, of "Chester the Molester" lurking around playgrounds simply isn't reality. And pedophiles recognize vulnerable children, seek out circumstances where their activities will go unnoticed or ignored. It's a hunter-prey situation, and the fact that my mother was tag-teamed by two men she trusted mitigates her culpability, at least in my mind. She doesn't go unpunished, though. I know part of my reticence to have children stems from my childhood. You were a bad mother, so no grandchildren for you!

Experiences shape you, mold your perceptions, and so effect future decisions. My stripping and Internet modeling, my desire to act, my passive-aggressive tendencies, I'm sure much of it comes from the lessons I was taught. I'm trying hard to create new patterns, new behaviors, new ways of being, but the past is sticky and old ruts are familiar if loathed. I can't, won't, let my future be dictated by the perversity and sickness of two fucked up old men, both dead now. I may be wounded, but I'm strong, and I can live with the scars.

4 comments:

Pants said...

When my abuser died I thought I would be relieved, never to have to see him at another family function...it really messed me up. I never got the chance to tell him how what he did to me messed me up. Not that it would have done any good. I've found it an enormous help to reach out and help other survivors. I'm not currently working at a rape crisis center but really enjoyed doing so in the past.

Susan said...

At the risk of saying something that might sound trite ... all I can say is ... Its hard for me to even imagine J.

And your last sentence made me want to say ...Rock on girlfriend !

I'm wondering if the paranoia at our borders could delay the arrival of "la" shoe box. I think it's a possibility. I do hope you like the 13 things and that they make you smile. xo, S, Winn & Les Chats

Lisa said...

That's really horrible stuff. You are absolutely right about how common it is. I am VERY careful about allowing anyone access to my girls. I have a very short list of approved people because I am determined that no one is going to mess with them.

I think the reason that this is so concerning for me is because so many of my friends suffered sexual abuse in childhood.

You're right about secrets. They are bad and they allow bad things to continue.

anya said...

You're a strong woman. We all believe we are defined by what happened in our past and most experts tell us that. Susan turned me on to Eckert Tolley's books and in his latest he has a different take. That your past is all noise in your head, directing you, yes...but it is not YOU. It's a hard pill to swallow at first, but plodding ahead, carefully reading, I began to see how if I could truly believe and live his concept, it would empower me beyond my deepest dreams. I'm not saying I'm there yet. And my issues are not at all of the magnitude of yours....mine are that I have been married for 40 years since I was 19 to a man who just decided to leave me when I'm 60. Am I that person that I was for 40 years? Did it define me to the point that I can't be anyone else?

You might like to check out the book....I know you read Susan's blog when she was talking about it a lot.