Thursday, November 24, 2011

Opening The Box ~ Not Enough, Yet

My reflections are grave at this point.  Recently I have come to recognize the extent of denial I allowed myself to accept in order to recover up to this point.   But now, admitting what was done to protect me was NOT in the best interest of my child also forces me to accept the action that separated me from my abuser wasn't enough!  I do understand that publicity of the tragedy of my life at 16 would have added unfathomable criticism to tremendous injury.  But want lie beneath the decision, truly?  Survival of the family? Obviously, not. Survival of the victims... maybe.
Some where in my recollections, my Mom shared some things she did at the time to help her decide what the right thing to do would be.  She met with two small town medical doctors who blew off her inquiries with 'Aw, don't worry about it.  It happens all the time'.  Her shock to the responses was apparent . She never dreamed she would hear what these men said when she made the appointments to discuss the incest discovery.  I imagine her level of disbelief was as unfathomable as my own when I heard her say those words to me.  
Trigger... flashback...
David Fowler, 'Why do we need a bill like this?  This only happens in poor families,' said matter-of-factly to one of my attorneys in the early Tennessee legislative session of 1996 in reference to my bill before the legislature that would extend the statute of limitations for child abuse survivors to 35 in his home state.
How have I rationalized and desensitized myself to the thought that anything short of criminal punishment is all right?  My fire WAS just smoldering, but NOT today.  My fire is blazing.  I am prompted to action: letters to Senators, House Representatives and other advocates.  Is it time to mandate at the federal level, NO statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse for all states?  Is that possible?  Around 35 years of age is when victims of child sexual abuse start to understand the depth and breadth of the damage done and only then, can they start to heal from the trauma.  
One letter already sent.  Another e-mail sent just a few minutes ago.  I'm scared, yes.  But, if I don't speak out, I'm letting the perpetrators win.
I fell into a pattern of excusing the abuser, what ever the situation ~ how twisted is that? I have to consciously  recognize how I allow people to stomp on me, take advantage of me, squish me out like I'm not important. My self worth isn't listed among their priorities, therefore, what is important to me doesn't warrant even my own time and attention.  How do you get that back?
By doing this... plummeting to depths of depression into the most horrific memories to arise strong enough to battle.
Challenging what, you might ask? Some laws of this land. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Scarlet Letter ~ A For Abuse

A friend of mine asked me if I had started my blog yet, and I said 'Yes'. She asked how come I hadn't shared the site with her and my immediate answer spouted 'embarassed and ashamed'. 'Of what?' she asked. 'How the hell I ended up where I was that night I went to jail.' I responded.
She quoted my previous entry 'that's what it took for you'. Clearly, a comrade who had traveled a parallel path. Then she said, 'this is for you, right?' 'The blog is. Right', I answered. 'Then don't worry about what other people think' she chimed with an attitude she had picked up from her own treacherous, hell-filled past.
My scarlet letter - the intense feeling that surely someone could SEE something was wrong with me, that I had been damaged... much like the scarlet letter sewn to the bodice of Hester Prynne's dress, an uppercase "A".  Hawthorne's  The Scarlet Letter "A" symbolizes her sin of adultery for everyone to see.
I carried a similar badge of shame and embarrassment only my "A" stood for ABUSE.  Hester Prynne's attempts to break free of  her past is similar to the path I walked then.  She is shunned by society and I grew up with extreme sense of estrangement from the human race.  I felt so different, it seemed I would never fit in anywhere.  I had to keep friendships at arms length; too close and my secret could be revealed and then, there would be all kinds of hell to pay.
I remember once I was shocked to hear a friend say to me, "you're so closed and aloof most of the time.  I really don't know you at all".  Apparently, I didn't let anyone close to me.  It's the only way I felt safe.  The abuse was a tremendous betrayal of trust and I couldn't bear going through the loss of stability and love again.  Distance afforded me that safety net.  More on this later.
No longer a badge of shame and embarrassment, but a badge of courage signifying perseverance and strength.  Marked forever, but not defeated.  I do not wear my badge proudly for no one should suffer child sexual abuse.  I no longer have to hide the trauma.  It did make me who I am today.  And I am proud to have survived!

Friday, November 4, 2011

21 Gun Salute ~ Amazing Grace

I must admit coming back here and recalling this memory on paper has been tremendously difficult.  I realize I've been silent for a bit, but that's the reason ~ I couldn't bring myself to write what follows. 
I recently attended a memorial service of an acquaintance and relived moments of the day my own father was buried.  
The sound of music flowed through the doorway like a magic carpet floating slowly, wafting silently into the pew filled viewing room.  Bagpipes projecting 'Amazing Grace' startled me.  I was unprepared for the tears that followed...  For forty-five minutes, steady droplets escaped uncontrollably from the outer edges of my eyes to be captured by tissue-holding hands.  I tried desperately to stop, but could not.  Why now, why today?
Please don't take me back there... to his funeral long ago.  I am reminded of the turmoil I felt that far ago day.  Go, don't go!  Go. Don't Go. Not realizing I had options, choices that I could make that were good for me, healthy choices, I went.  The obligation stood fore front and pushed me onward that day.  Scurrying to the graveside, peering at the casket, gently stepping into the place allotted for me, I stood and listened as the music soared, loyal supporter of the military man who fought for 'freedom' for me and my country. The man who fought in two wars: Vietnam and Korea.  The man who moved in and out of lives according to orders he received.  Gone almost as much as he was present.    Mistaken by the honor guard as the flag recipient for this veteran, I redirected a symbol of my imprisonment to his second wife sitting 3 chairs from me. 
I was conditioned to obey when he lived.  I was conditioned to go places I did not want to go and do things I did not want to do.  His conditioning would impact my life long after he was gone.  A part of me needed to be at my Dad's funeral.  The rest of me wanted to make sure he was dead; to confirm he would not hurt ANYONE ever again.
When the first round of gunfire blasted into the summer air, my body jolted as bullets catapulted from the seven rifles pointed skyward.  I turned to see a formal line of soldiers awaiting their command 'Ready, Aim, Fire' again and then again, one last final time.  A twenty-one gun salute ~ that's what this soldier received.  Burial in a veteran's cemetery with honors with the American flag flying high... 
While I sat listening to childhood stories of a mother's love for a daughter, there was no 21 gun salute, yet I felt as if I were standing in the sun watching my father's graveside burial in a time decades ago.
Looking back, I understand how important it was for me to face this monster one last time.  I shudder now thinking of the power his corpse seemed to hold on me that afternoon when I went alone to view what others would witness later that evening.  An overpowering compulsion overtook me.  I took a picture of his lifeless, medal adorned uniform encased body in the casket before me.  How morbid is that?  Not sure what that was about with the exception that I had proof he was dead.  Gone forever.  Never to harm again.

How can one love and hate so much, in a single moment?  This conundrum never dies for a survivor betrayed by someone you trust. We'll leave this for another day.

In the future I hope to be able to listen to 'Amazing Grace' and not break down from the physical reminders that flared unexpectedly just a week ago.  I'll know where it is coming from and, hopefully, I will remember to self-affirm, that is not what rules my life now.  And I am thankful.