Not Talking About Childhood Abuse

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I don’t want to talk about being abused because of the way it makes me feel when I talk about it.  But unless I do, I suffer. There are strange things that come out of my unconscious. Suppressed feelings. Things that come to my attention from weird accidents, body reactions that I can’t explain, numbness and  inappropriate actions/behaviors/words that seem to come out of nowhere.

When I was younger, teens and twenties, I didn’t want people to know how damaged I was from what happened to me, so I hid it. Then as I grew older I thought, I should tell some of them, but not everybody I met. Just people I thought should know why I was acting like I did. Those people could benefit from explanation.

Now I tell people when I want them to know me, people who seem compassionate, loving, sensitive and genuinely interested in me.

The rest I tell through writing.

Through writing I also add to all the other voices of people who have been abused like me. Who are bravely telling their stories. Through writing and speaking publicly. As a collective we can start a movement to eradicate Childhood Sexual Abuse as a experience children have.

But the pain of losing my husband has brought up unresolved pain from CSA to the surface.

It makes me think of Rod Stewart singing

I can tell by your eyes that you’ve probably been cryin’ forever
And the stars in the sky don’t mean nothin’ to you, they’re a mirror
I don’t want to talk about it, how you broke my heart
If I stay here just a little bit longer
If I stay here, won’t you listen to my heart, whoa, my heart?

Now I am back to not wanting to talk about it,

But its still on my mind.

And it still poisons my life.

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How do you know what is lying is when your a Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivor

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Since I grew up in the company of dishonest, evasive and lying people, I have an ongoing fascination with honesty. When you’re a incest survivor it’s hard to know what is real and what is not. We often become suspicious, distrustful or gullible. Our shit detector becomes clouded. I am looking for better ways to stay honest in my dealings with others. So when I run across a blog entry that talks about the reasons why and how to stay honest I perk up. #5 in the following article is a doozy.

25 Things People in Healthy Relationships Don’t Do  by Mark and Angel Hack Life

http://www.marcandangel.com/2014/06/25/25-things-people-in-healthy-relationships-dont-do/

They don’t keep secrets. – Trust is the foundation of a relationship, and when trust is broken it takes time and willingness on the part of both people involved to repair it and heal.  All too often, I’ll hear a coaching client say something like, “I didn’t tell her but I didn’t lie about it, either.”  This statement is a contradiction, as omissions are lies.  If you’re covering up your tracks in any way, it’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and trust in the relationship is broken.  Speak the truth, no matter what the consequences.  Being honest is the only way to be at peace with yourself and others.

Even though Mark and Angel write their blog for the average reader, I find their advice and comments to be true for Childhood sexual abuse survivors too. Especially when it comes to areas such as truthfulness, honesty, being in healthy relationships and communication. All areas where we need clarity and open communication.

When I was a child, I believed my life depended on keeping Jacks secrets.  I thought he would kill me, or leave my mom, or my mom would leave me with him.  He depended on me to keep his secrets. Things he didn’t want to admit to anyone or for anyone to know. They were horrible and hurtful. And he lied to everyone either by denying, evading, hiding or lying to someones face. All are forms of dishonesty.

After living my life hiding the truth of my experiences from the people who I wanted to love, I have seen how it inhibits what goes on in my own relationships. Once I hold something back it’s not long before everything gets stopped up. Emotional constipation. Then it’s just a matter of time before the relationship goes bad. I can’t live in an intimate relationship when I evade being known to the other person. But I didn’t have any role models to show what a loving relationship was like. I never saw anyone who really talked to each other.  I learned how to do it. I learned just like plenty of other people do, I watched others ho were in loving relationships. I practiced and made mistakes with the people I love and loved. I kept trying.

 

My FAQ page

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1. Who I am to be writing this blog? I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor who was abandoned before birth by my biological father, raised by my mother, who then married a man who subjected me to sexual abuse from the time I was 4 until I was 17. I told a Grandparent who rescued me when I turned 17. Later, in my adult life I married 2 times, one that ended in divorce after 12 years and the other was ended by his death from undiagnosed brain cancer after 20 years. I was lucky enough to have a son during my first marriage. I graduated from college with Masters Degree in Counseling.

2. Why do I write about such awful stuff? Because I am tired of keeping shameful secrets that have done nothing but damage to me and the relationships I am in or have been in.

3. Its in the past, why bring it up now? It still bites my butt. The damage didn’t go away just because he quit sexually abusing me. It makes me act weird when its not appropriate and stresses me out. I still have nightmares, and am not honest about my feelings.

4. Who raped you? My stepfather primarily.

5. Were you the only child in the family? No, I was the oldest, but then my mother went on to have 5 children with him.  They all swear that he didn’t do anything to anyone else. I don’t believe that to be true. Then in my later adult years I found out my biological father has three other children. But we have never met. Plus my stepfather had children that were not claimed by him.

6. What did your Mom say when you told her? She wanted to know if there was anybody who could verify what I had said? Now we work very hard to overcome the damage he did in our relationship.

7. What did your Dad say first time after you told on him? Why did you tell your mom, now she is upset and your in trouble.

8. Did it mess you up your whole life? Yes is so many ways. But I was also able to experience other sources of joy and goodness. Along with the normal ups and downs of life.

9. Do you hate men? Sometimes I have in the past.  But I have had some great men in my life who loved me, my grandpa, my first and second husbands along with my son. And now my grandson.

10. I understand what happened to you! No you don’t, even if you were sexually abused too, there is no way you can fully understand. The reason I say this is because when certain things happened they were unique to the timing in my life, situations and how old I was a the time. Along with this is the frailty that comes from particular life transitions we all go through.

11. Do you have rape fantasies now? Not for sexually gratification, but I am plagued by the fear that someone can still rape me. Its not like there is insurance that prevents it from ever happening again in our lives.

12. Are you crazy? Sometimes. I do have Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is pretty inactive right now. I have heard it said we as childhood sexual abuse survivors also deal with a Betrayal Syndrome.

13. Are you a dyke, prostitute or whore? Um, that’s a hard one, cause they all sound like something you wouldn’t want to be called.  I suppose in many ways they could all be true..

14. How do most people act towards you when you tell them what happened?  Most people feel sorry for me and I hate it.  But then their have been so many people who are kinder than I would have believed possible. There are really kind and loving people in the world.  Along with some who never think about it again. Or talk about it again. Or talk about it at all.

15. Why don’t you dress more like a girl? When I was younger I was told the reason why he did what he did was cause I was beautiful. Now I know he did it cause he wanted to and no one stopped him. But I still don’t want to attract to much attention to my gender just in case. Turns out plenty of people still think the way he did.

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Why I wanted to change my name.

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Today I talked with a sexual abuse survivor and in the course of our discussion, a particularly interesting point came up. This person wanted to change their last name. From their current name to their birth name.

This child had lived a rough life with their birth parents. After repeated warnings, the state terminated the parental rights. With that action on behalf of the child moved them into a foster care, and then had been formally adopted. At first everything was great so they were happy to change their birth name and take on the adopted families last name.  Then after time went by, this same child was sexually abused by the adoptive father. Now that they are no longer living with the adoptive family, safe from the clutches of the abusive parent.  Understandably they want to get away from the perpetrator. They want to put the past behind them. Just want to leave it behind and start new. Now they are  living with a new family, but want to know how their biological parents are doing.

I mention this because something similar happened to me. When I moved out of the house where I had been living with the perpetrator of my own sexual abuse, I wanted the same thing. Get it behind me. Move out and move on. Everything that reminded me of him or connected with him I cut  those ties. I abandoned the rest of my family. I changed my name back to my birth name, (though I wasn’t adopted). Moved out of state,  I decided to ignore the pain and wounding, and  pretend nothing bad happened. Which did work for a while, as long as there wasn’t any reminders of him.

Through out school I wrote his name as if it were my birth name. At first it felt like it scalded me and I hated it. The perpetrator of sexual abuse for my childhood, my mothers husband. But over the years there were other things I had to avoid to survive, it ended up in the useless memory pile. Since there was no father listed on my birth certificate, legally I had to have something.   I ended up with a constant reminder that I was his to do with as he liked. Even though others talked about him to me. They thought everything was okay, so they acted as if  I was supposed to be happy he wanted me. When I knew there were shameful things I was involved with because I was an illegitimate child. No other man wanted me, no father claimed me. I was supposed to be happy and grateful.  I was marked and reminded of it everything someone called my full name at school, or I wrote it on homework.  Even though the first year of school, kindergarten, I started out as Kimberly Coleman somewhere along the line, my Mom wanted me to start signing my name Kim Taylor. She had a new name through marriage and wanted me to have a fresh start too.

When I was able to move away, the first thing I did, I changed back to a Coleman.

To me, it felt like taking off dirty, stinky clothes, clothes that I had been in for to long. I was glad to get them off of me.  To get clean and wear the clothes I wanted. That hadn’t been touched by him.

Feeling cherished helps to overcome abuse

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Recently, I watched a re-broadcast of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are?. Kim Cattrell, the central figure in this episode helped to resolve the mystery of  Kim’s grandfather, who had abandoned his wife and three children in 1938-39. He just left, one day and  no one ever heard from him again. With a little help from the people of Ancestry, she discovered that he had moved not far away, married another woman , fathered 4 more children before he uprooted his second family and immigrated to another country. After he lived a good long life, he died,  never acknowledged or divorced  his first wife, nor his 3 children conceived in the first marriage.  According to the broadcast, there was no indication to the 2nd wife there had ever been a first wife.  If he felt it, he never showed any signs of remorse or regret. After the mystery was resolved, Kim went back home and the episode ended. For me it left me aching.

Why this episode is to haunting to me is the parallels between Kim Cattrell’s family story of abandonment and my own fathers abandonment before my birth.  My father just walked away. I wonder what it would have been like to have had a father who cherished me. That is one ache I am not sure can ever go away.

The difference is, I have developed enough emotional skills to cope with the sense of not being valuable enough to claim. Low self-worth, I can work with, building self-esteem, a sense of competence, yes, I can work with them and not feel them drown me like before. And more importantly, I have felt cherished at times in my life, but not by my father.  I savor those memories like nothing else.

  What does it feel like to be cherished? I looked it up in the dictionary, cause I wasn’t sure exactly what the verbage would be.  Here is what I found online.

transitive verb

  1. to hold dear; feel or show love for: to cherish one’s family
  2. to take good care of; protect; foster: to cherish one’s rights
  3. to cling to the idea or feeling of: to cherish a hope
  To me, it’s a feeling  like I had when I was little girl and my Aunt Teresa brushed my hair. She never pulled it or yanked out the tangles, even when it freshly washed and the most tangled. Some times, when I was at my Grandma’s house she wanted to play Beautician, so she would wash my hair as I hung my head over into the bathtub.  Then wrap my head in the towel, and find a place where she could sit me down to start work on my hair. Sometimes on the living room floor, she on the couch behind me, or rarely, she would sit me on a kitchen chair, stand behind me, and unwrap the towel.
  I couldn’t see what she was doing so I closed my eyes.
  She would always start at the ends, working  her way up the length of my hair, untangling the tangles (this is before detangling creme rinses were available) and only then move up another inch closer to my scalp.  After it dried, she would try to put a little bit of Dippity Do on her fingertips and then smooth it onto my hair to prevent the flyaways.  When she brushed my hair, I knew she loved me. It felt like a great tenderness that she showed me.  Now I can say it almost felt like we were in church together. For me it was doubly important because it helped me have the emotional resilience to survive the brutality I experienced at home.

The first time I told someone about the sexual abuse,

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Technically, I didn’t tell as much as I admitted it to another human being. I think there is a difference. I told later on in the evening, right after I admitted it, but here is how it all came out one night. 

 I had  just turned 17, and met  Tony at  The Freewill Baptist Church in Vandalia. He was nice, a little bit older than me by two or three years, he played guitar, lived at home and drove his mother’s car.  Basically he was at a stage where he looking for his place in life.  Our dating consisted of being at church, eating dinner after church at his parents, visiting other churches and once I remember we went to the North Star Drive In.

One night after church, he was dropping me at my house. We were sitting in the car, when he asked me if there was something going on between my dad and me. He said” Your  Dad doesn’t  act like other Dad’s of girls I have dated in the past, he acts like he is  jealous, like he’s your  boyfriend. He’s not like any Dad I have ever met before. Is there something going on?”

I froze. I stopped breathing briefly.

I nodded and admitted “Yes, there was something going on.”   We both digested what I had admitted.  The first thought I had, what seeped into my frozen brain, was the question “What have I done? I am going to get in so much trouble. “I wanted to tell him more but nothing would come out.  

 “Does your Mom know?” Tony asked.

 “No”, I didn’t think she did. (Cause, Jack was adamant about making sure I didn’t tell, that’s how I knew for sure).

 He told me “You have to tell your Mom, she needs to know. You have to tell her tonight.”

What I wanted was to die, but based on past experience, that wasn’t going to happen. Next best would be Tony would tell her, but I felt sure he wasn’t going to do that for me. I remember hearing him say, something about me needing to find someone who would help me.  I got out of the car, went inside to face the telling. I thought I would die. My guts were twisting all around. There was this sense of doom, just on the edge of happening. That sick feeling as you realize your about to fall. Hard, and there was nothing to do but go with it.  Even though  I thought I had experienced  the worst life had to offer to children, things could surprise me by showing me something else was  possible.  I had to face something I would regret.

 Mom was gone, probably at work.  Jack, no where to be seen. I sat down on the couch trying to figure out how I was going to tell Mom, when Jack came in the front door.  He had been out drinking with his friends while he was supposed to be home watching his children. But he really just wanted to go back out and was relieved that I was there so he could leave again. He didn’t want to look too eager for it, so he yelled at us for not being in bed. Actually we were all okay with him leaving again; it was easier with him gone.  Told me to get the rest of the kids in bed, while he was going to go out cause he couldn’t stand it being in such a noisy, messy house. When he got back, we had all better be in the bed, asleep.  Or we would all pay for it. He stomped out of the house, leaving me to get everyone settled in. My youngest sister was only a few months old so she was the easiest. Later, Connie and Scott followed suit, and then Jackie, who usually fought the hardest about doing anything. Then I went back to the couch.

I couldn’t understand what happened in Tony’s car.  How was this going to happen? Me telling Mom what had been going on for years.

 It didn’t seem that long before Mom came home bringing unclaimed pizza from work.

I waited until she settled in then said I needed to talk to her. She got a drink and headed outdoors to the back yard. She was probably glad for the cooler breeze after being in front of pizza ovens all night. Truth is, it was probably fitting that we sat in the back yard, in lawn chairs only partially lit up from the kitchen light shining out the back door. I worried about her seeing my face.

After I sat down, I waited a moment, and blurted out,  ”Dad and I have been sleeping together”  as if I had been a consenting adult. I looked at my feet, since it was the only thing I could clearly see.  After a bit, she asked did anyone know what had happened. Nothing else, no details, no “oh no’s”, nothing remarkable. Just “Does anyone else know? I want to make sure your not lying”.

“Yes, Uncle Brian, Uncle Barry”, I left out Uncle Vic, thinking he wouldn’t have told her the truth anyhow.  She got up and left the chair, left me sitting in the back yard, wondering what I should do.  After a while, I just went to bed.

Journal prompts for sexual abuse survivors

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It’s not easy when we try to write about our experiences of being sexually abused as a child. Getting it down and out on paper is the important thing. What happened to us was a private hell, getting it on paper gets the poison out of our bodies and psyches.

1.  Can I write about a feeling that gets in the way of my happiness?

2.  What are some lies I was told about myself?

3.  Was I told I participated willingly?

4.  How did I seek attention when I was a child?

5.  How did I handle conflict?

6.  What do I need today?

7.  What do I feel today?

8.  How can I speak up?

9. What I am struggling with today is…?