I’ve always believed God was real. My earliest childhood memory involved me speaking directly to him. It was more like pleading and begging to be saved from the creatures in my room. No one seemed to know they were there but me and I never told a soul. These terrifying shadows only made themselves known in the dark. I couldn’t see them at first but then slowly the outline of their odd shapes began to appear. I tried to not look at them because then they wouldn’t exist right? Inevitably my curiosity would get best of me and I’d have to look. Fear would immediately grip my 4 year old heart when I saw the grotesque creatures spread out all over my walls and ceiling. Paralyzed with fear I couldn’t look away or even close my eyes. All I could ever do is tightly grip the sheets around me and pray they wouldn’t move, but unfortunately they always did…
Sleeping soundly in my bed I awoke suddenly to sounds coming from the kitchen. I opened my eyes to see a sliver of light shining through the bottom of my bedroom door. The banging of cabinets opening and closing over and over again. Shortly thereafter the savory smell of food sizzling in frying pans made its way to my nose through the door. It was my mom’s 3am ritual of preparing food for my dad. He was a foreman in the swimming pool business. Living in Arizona meant that if you didn’t want to die of heat exhaustion you had to (as my parents would say) get up in the madrugada (early morning). His job was very labor intensive so it was crucial for his crew to “beat the heat” although I’m sure they were still very hot. To get through the work day he needed plenty of water, food and a good work hat to protect him from the sun’s rays.
I now wonder if this 3am routine hadn’t taken place would I have altogether avoided the unwanted creepy visitors? Maybe I would’ve slept through it all and been saved by the bright morning sun. Maybe my innocent and happy childhood dreams would have been left intact. That’s what could have filled my mind and memories for decades to come. Instead of the over sized sci-fi spider-like creatures that tormented me in my bedroom almost every night. If so, I could have been free of the terror I felt every morning as a young child.
Where did they come from? Why did I imagine such things as a child? Had I seen something like it in a movie? Or hear others talk about it? How does this happen to a four year old? I don’t know.
What I can tell you is that I know now these creatures were very much real, and not just a figment of a child’s imagination.
All children are born with desire to be loved and nurtured. They need to be helped with everything. To be fed, to be changed, to be bathed, and even to be given a nap. They are at our mercy for everything. What you teach them is right is what they will believe. They won’t know any different for many years to come.
At a very young age I was taught about the bonds of family. Such strong feelings of loyalty and respect when discussing this topic. A deep sense of security in knowing (whether by blood or marriage) that we were all a part of la familia. Even as a child I can remember the sense of belonging just felt right and good.
Family gatherings for weddings, funerals, or the holidays were times to be cherished. Some of my best memories were gathering at a home for food and fun. Barbecues and bonfires while music played in the backyard. Spending time talking and playing with my cousins for hours. We’d sometimes fight but mainly laugh for hours on end. Usually we would beg our parents for a sleep over so that the fun could continue through the night into the next day. Such special memories I wouldn’t trade for the biggest stockpile of gold that’s buried deep in Manhattan. Or so I’d like to think….
I can’t tell you when or how it first happened but our loving family alliance was compromised and endangered. Like a fatal disease I’m guessing it was slow growing and unnoticeable at first. It began to seep into every area of our family disguised as a loyal and loving family member. Maybe they had true affection and intentions at one point, but the moment arrived when they made the choice to wreak havoc and destruction.
Sometimes cancer starts with changes in one cell or small group of cells in the body. As it continues to grow can eventually form a tumor where the cancer then takes over and (if left untreated for too long) eventually can lead to an altered life or even death.
In my case my parents trusted several family members and brought them into our home. They sexually and emotionally abused me for years. I was such a young child when it started that I didn’t realize it was wrong at first. In fact, I remember being flattered they paid attention to me and even tried to please them. When I began to understand something wasn’t right I became confused. Why? Because they were still accepted family members that my parents embraced fully and openly.
I negligently learned these wrong interactions were right. No one came out and said the words but actions spoke louder. Over and over again. So I was a young girl placed in compromising situations with an uncle, an aunt, a step-grandfather and cousin who were never held accountable.
You may be thinking “well maybe if you had told your parents things would’ve been different?” Believe me I thought the same thing for a long time – until I finally told them.
And nothing happened.
Their lack of help and support spoke volumes to my heart and soul. To watch them disregard my pain and keep their arms open wide to these people ruined me. It was hard to recover from it but I happy to say it was possible. I don’t share such tragic and personal stuff to bash my mom and dad. I do love them. I’m just not responsible to hold their secrets – that’s how all this mess started.
My mission is to share with anyone who listens is that families are a wonderful gift and blessing. It can also be your worst nightmare. I look back now at those creatures I saw in my bedroom in the dark. Was it a warning or foreshadowing of things to come? I was tormented by monsters in my home and in my bed for over eight years. They hid their actions in the dark when no one was looking. I kept this secret for a long long time because I was afraid to speak up.
I am not that same confused little girl.
I now understand right and wrong
healthy family bonds
According to Rainn.org: Out of the yearly 63,000 sexual abuse cases substantiated, or found strong evidence, by Child Protective Services (CPS), the perpetrator was most often the parent:
- 80% of perpetrators were a parent
- 6% were other relatives
- 4% were unmarried partners of a parent
What does this tell us? Very rarely are children attacked by passing strangers. It is people that we know and love who have been given access to our children. Just because we carry the same last name or blood does not guarantee our children are safe. It does not mean these adults have well meaning intentions.
I discovered years later that I was not the only child in my family who was abused. It is well known in our family. In fact my last living abuser still is welcomed in homes of some relatives today. There were other people in the family who were outraged by these acts against our children.
Sadly not enough.
We need to stand up and speak out and protect our children. It is possible to make it difficult for these dangerous individuals to harm anyone else. We know them! We can hold them accountable and warn others! There is still time to cut out the cancer and change our family inheritance.
Please don’t hide your head in the sand believing it can’t happen in your family. Open your eyes and ears – trust your gut instinct enough to investigate. When I became a mother I never wanted my sons to wake up to nightmares in the dark. I wanted them to have a chance at full life free from torment. The reality was I knew I couldn’t protect them from every single thing life would try to throw at them. I did, however, do my damnedest to keep their childhood dreams innocent, happy and safe as long as possible.
Imagine if cancer had spread throughout most of your body? Terrible thought isn’t it? What if the doctor said with treatment there was a 90% chance of survival? How would you respond? Fight or choose to submit to the disease? With those great odds why would you ever allow it to kill you?
We can win the fight against child abuse – we are all related to a majority of people perpetuating it. It is possible to protect our children – change their future – and heal our family legacies.