Identify the Victim, Identify the Perpetrator

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According to my stepfather, he was the victim of my sexual abuse. In his way of thinking, he wasn’t responsible for what happened between us.

He said over and over to me “See how much you want me Kimmy”, “See what you make my dick do Sissy” and “I can’t help myself, Sissy, you are so beautiful.” To him, I wanted him. He would do things to make sure I was sexually excited and then tell me ” See how much you want me?”

Because he had said things like this to me for years, I thought it was my idea to have sex with him. This was one of the reasons I felt guilty when I told, I thought I was telling on myself.

It was the summer of 1975 when I told Mom Jack and I had been sleeping together. I sat in a folding lawn chair in the backyard. My body felt heavy like I wasn’t going to be strong enough to hold myself up. I felt it everywhere. I was breathing shallowly, feeling slightly dizzy from the lack of oxygen.

When I said, “Jack and I had been sleeping together”… (wrong I know now). I remember thinking I would be in so much trouble because I had wanted to do all those bad things. Somehow at the age of 4, I had the idea to have oral sex with a grown man, somehow, it was my idea, I felt like I was telling on myself for having done something wrong.

It was disastrous telling her, she responded by asking was there anyone else who knew. I said yes, my uncles, cause Jack had tried to get them to have sex with me. So she left to talk to them about what happened. That was it. No nothing else.

Later Jack came home and asked where she was. He told me to get the kids in bed, so I climbed in bed with my little sisters, while the boys got in bed in their room.

We all fell asleep. Later I woke up with Jack and Mom arguing in the kitchen, Mom saying “why would she say something like that?”

He responded with I don’t know, maybe she didn’t want to do the dishes anymore.

They were back and forth for the longest time while I drifted off again. There was a little bit of hurt when he said what I had told was being reduced to something so petty as not wanting to do dishes.

Later, he complained to me about how I had upset my Mom and gotten him in trouble.

So when I look back on this I realize that I thought I was the problem, I caused him to do what he had done for years. It took years for me to correct my own thinking. I didn’t cause him to do anything, He did it. He was the perpetrator, he was the criminal, I was a child, I know now how I had to distort my own thinking in an effort to cope with the things he did to me and how I tried to make sense of it in my young child mind.

And recovery takes so long because there is so much sorting out to be done. Because I was so young, I didn’t have a basis for what was wrong or right. And my whole childhood was built around those lies he told me.

Now I can identify that I am the victim, he was the perpetrator of a series of crimes. Not just to me, but my whole family.

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Recently a friend died who experienced childhood sexual abuse.

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She never told anyone in her family about what happened when her uncle sexually assaulted her at the age of 10. She went to her grave thinking she was protecting her family by not disclosing what happened.

It reminds me of all the women I have known who were sexually violated as children by family members. There are too many.   Most of them wouldn’t tell another soul what happened.

This particular friend said she was going to get over it, that it somehow didn’t really hurt her as much when she was young, As a middle-aged adult she understood exactly how it hurt her and it was too much to bear at times. The damage to her ability to trust others, to love deeply, to accomplish things in her life.  She wanted to feel healthy and whole and trusting.

But she (and to some degree all of the people who are sexually violated) don’t feel much of anything good.  She felt so conflicted.  She wished she had told what happened when it happened, but since it had been so long ago, she felt it wouldn’t do any good at all, just cause trouble.  She felt so isolated, because she didn’t and wouldn’t tell.

I think about the people who I have known in my life who physically survived. Emotionally didn’t make it through.  It breaks my heart to know so many who didn’t survive at all.  It occurs to me there is little hope in stopping childhood sexual abuse except to tell. Until the people who haven’t experienced it are on our side. Until they can see that the numbers of survivors is bigger than we think. That the damage is persistent and life long.

Not one person alone can make this happen, but if enough children who grow into adults tell what happened to them as children, then we can do something about it. It’s by telling what we experienced and who did it that we can stop it. It helps us get over feeling powerless. It is how we can do something about it.

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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Just a small update

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In January, I wrote about my husband having a stroke on December 23.  After he spent 6 days in a local hospital, 4 which were in intensive care, we went home to prescriptions, therapy, follow up appointments and our everyday life. We pretended everything was the same, except that it wasn’t.   For him, everything was a challenge to prove that nothing was different with him, or wrong or even going on. Bill couldn’t remember things very well. His walking was a bit worse and his personality continued to change. And, well, things were definitely worse. But somewhat manageable.

Bill went back to work, I stayed home and worried.

A month later,  on January 23, I talked to Bill while he was at work. He sounded disoriented, incoherent, and something was clearly wrong,  I was afraid he was having another stroke, so we went back to the hospital. This time things were different.  Even though he acted a bit similar, there were differences which became more apparent after his admittance to the hospital. This time the Dr. changed the type of his test, to a MRI, with contrast.  This MRI showed us the ugly truth of what was really going on  in his head. Even though they weren’t sure what it was they could see on the MRI, they knew it wasn’t a stroke, since it was so big.  Less than 48 hours we were in a different hospital seeing a  neurosurgeon. Now we faced decisions we never expected to ever deal with. Once the Dr. showed us the unknown mass was a  tumor. He went on to explain what he thought the tumor was, he recommended  surgery as soon as possible to give my husband more time. He said the tumor was a 5.6 x 6  centimeter growth. Too large to remove safely to save his life, but  it would help give him more time. We filled out the Advanced Health Directive. Talked about the risk of surgery. We both knew he didn’t have much time.

Bill and I disagreed, he wanted the surgery, I did not.

Ultimately, I gave in. It was his body.

He had a craniotomy January 30, to remove the temporal brain tumor.  Made it through the surgery just fine on that Wednesday morning. By Friday we were in a different room on the Neuro floor, with a diagnosis of  brain  cancer,  and newly assigned Oncologist,Radiologists along with new appointments.

Then sent home Saturday morning, February 2. We didn’t do much, he got to  take a bath, sleep in his own bed. He didn’t really have much to say.  I was terrified.

Sunday morning.  Easy, regular, except he had the bald head and large question mark shaped incision on the side of his head.  He left the kitchen table, where he had been on the computer, said he needed to go to the bathroom. After a few minutes, he came out looking pale, holding the side of his head, saying his head hurt really bad. He went straight to his favorite blue chair,  sat down and continued to hold the side of his head.  I could see the incision was swollen larger than it had ever been. I ran for the kitchen, grabbed an ice pack  from the freezer, put the ice pack on his head, ran back for the phone to call an ambulance. When I came back to the living room while talking to the EMS dispatcher he lost consciousness.  He was sitting in his favorite blue chair.

Once the ambulance came, we discussed the plan to take him back to the hospital where he was operated on. I gave them the Advanced Directive saying  his surgeon was at DePaul, take him there. Called friends and headed back to the hospital we had just left yesterday. It was a long horrible night, he never regained consciousness.

Later when I found his birth certificate and I noticed he died in the same hospital he had been born in.

I have started thinking of myself as a widow. But its June now.