Surfing Piplines

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Seems like not so long ago we ushered in the new year, had Easter egg hunts , applied sunscreen, attended barbeques and passed out candy to all the excited trick-o-treater’s.  We blinked and Thanksgiving is suddenly knocking at our front doors.  Creating grocery lists, spending time with families and strategizing on the many “can’t live without” deals happening on black Friday (which is now charcoal Thursday).

Last January I mentioned to a very dear friend that 2017 would be my year.  A time for significant breakthrough and change.  At the time I said those words I felt like something deep inside me was attempting to rise up and see the light of day.  Almost like a baby chick hatching from an egg.  First you see cracks appear on the outer shell – slowly at first – then as the cracks continue to grow it loosens the solid structure holding the small bird inside it.  This fragile creature reaches the point where the shell is no longer needed and attempts to escape.  To what exactly?  I don’t think the baby bird really knows but at this point is solely focused on breaking free.

My firm commitment to therapy and trusting and leaning on my support system was crucial to making this happen.  I’ve done both before but never at the same time.  Up to this point in my life I hadn’t jumped 100% in to recovery and healing.  I was a working wife and mom to 3 young boys so my focus was needed in other areas.  In terms of overcoming my childhood abuse – I did what I could when I could.  Now my role and responsibilities had changed.  While I miss running children to baseball games, guitar lessons and helping with homework (okay maybe not the homework part) – now was the time I could finally focus on battling my demons.

So I began to take good hard look at the ways I spent my time and money.  Would these things get me closer to my goal?  What did I need to give up or shift to a different area?  In a way it felt strange and wrong to place so much energy and focus on myself.  Part of the reason is because I’m a mom.  Our entire purpose is to nurture and care for our family and sometimes along the way we get lost.  The other part has to do with my abuse.  You see my sexual abuse began when I was only 4 years old and lasted for eight years.  My physical and emotion abuse lasted even longer.  The message I learned is that my well-being and feelings were not important – I wasn’t important.

Attempting to erase these lies now as an adult for the most part feels like standing on a beach facing a tsunami.  As a child you try to shield yourself from the large, destructive wave of pain and torment.  Hold on for dear life and pray you don’t drown.  When your body finally washes up on the shore you just find yourself inching and crawling back to higher ground.  As relieved as you are to have survived it – you can never forget and will always feel like it’s hovering over you.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am not a push over.  I have deep convictions and will fight for my children or causes that I feel deeply about.  Those who know me see that I speak my mind and I’m passionate about helping others to overcome injustice.  Just not so much for myself.  I was completely rattled and speechless when I finally realized it.  It was truly a wake up call for me.   I learned that my internal (and external) scars were like petroglyphs (prehistoric rock carvings) that told the story of who I am.  Except it never dawned on me it was mere fiction.  

There is an internal struggle that takes place inside me before heading to therapy.  Almost every time.  I can think of a million reasons why I shouldn’t go.  It’s close to Arizona State University so the traffic sometimes is overwhelming.  The funny thing is I always leave my sessions different from when I arrived – with hope.   To be completely honest I thought I would be further along in my recovery but so much has happened this year:

  • I had zero communication with my parents who lived in Texas
  • I was in the middle of the sexual abuse case I had filed against my uncle
  • My father’s brother (different uncle) was diagnosed with late stage cancer and did not survive
  • Six weeks later my father unexpectedly passed away
  • My mom moved back to Arizona and for a while into my home
  • I learned that the District Attorney would not pursue the case due to lack of evidence

When I spoke the words “this is my year” I had no clue what I was saying.  In January I thought my blog in November 2017 would tell a different story.  I believed I would share how I bravely stood before giant demons with my slingshot and a rock and slayed them all.  I can’t say that just yet.  It’s still a work in process and my commitment to it (to myself) brings me closer to that day.

So far the waves of 2017 have attempted to swallow me whole.  I couldn’t have guessed what was in store for me, and maybe that was a good thing.  I learned that this time instead of hoping to not drown I’ve taught myself how to surf.  I’ve fallen off my board many times but I refuse to let the massive movement of water win.  So I wait.  When I see the swell forming I begin to paddle and swim and prepare for the right moment.

I don’t know how long it will take or how old I will be but I WILL BE HEALED.  I WILL BE RESTORED and one day become a master surfer of monster pipelines.  Until then I will continue to prepare for the battle that lies ahead.  Water isn’t solid and powerful waves can’t last forever – the same goes for my abuse scars.  One day my dream will become reality and I will be free and whole – and I don’t just want it for me.  It’s my hope that I will look around and see others attempting to ride the waves with me.  Slaying our giant demons together.

 

 

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The F Word

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Oops I said it again!

It felt soooo great in the moment but sometimes I would eventually regret it.  Ugh!  This is what happens to me when I decide to go with my emotions!  Although sometimes even when I don’t.  Honestly I think this word means different things to everyone.  It is probably the most misunderstood and entirely overused word known to mankind.

I don’t judge if you’re a person who blurts it out in the moment or if it’s thrown out there a hundred times a day.  It’s a personal choice.  I’ve realized what happens AFTER the word has been uttered is what truly counts.


It was Saturday morning and everyone was still sleeping.  It was a brand new day and the sun was about to show its face.  I was lying in bed – wide awake – and my mind working overtime.  I turned my head and looked over at Robbie who was completely knocked out.  I wished I was in the same physical and mental state, but I knew it just wasn’t going to happen.  So I made my way to the family room and curled up on the sofa.  My mind and heart were racing and fluttering and I was a bundle of nerves.  Today was THE day.  Would I actually go through with it?  Did I have the strength and courage?  Could I figure out a legitimate reason to back out ?  Oh my god why did I ever agree to do this?  

A few weeks prior Robbie and I were on a weekend get-a-way when my phone rang.  It was early Sunday morning and I was asleep in bed.  My children are adults but that doesn’t change anything.  I jumped for my phone in case it was an emergency and they needed me.  I looked and saw my mom’s name on the screen and answered the phone.

“Good morning Bita”

Groggily I replied “Good morning”

“What are you doing?”  She asked.

“It’s 6:30am – I’m sleeping”

“Oh, I’m sorry.  Should I call you back?”

I was annoyed now because I realized it wasn’t an emergency.  “No, what’s up?”

“Well your dad and I were wondering if you were open to meeting with your uncle?”

I sat straight up in bed.  She didn’t have to say which uncle – I knew.

“What?”  Now I was completely confused and wide awake.

“Well your dad and I were thinking it might help you if you met with him face-to-face.”

It was the last thing I ever expected her to say to me.  “Um I don’t know”

My parents rarely (if ever) spoke of my abuse or my uncle.  The times we did it never EVER went well.  When I say never went well – I mean N-E-V-E-R!  So their idea to now meet with my sexual abuser completely flabbergasted me.  They also offered for this meeting to take place in their home.  I literally froze and truly didn’t know how to respond.  When my voice returned I said I would talk to Robbie and call her back.

“No way.”  Robbie said when I shared their reason for the call.

“What do you mean no way?”

“Exactly what it sounds like – there is no way you are going to meet with that scum bag.”  He said in a firm tone.

“Okay listen to me.  I’m not saying I want to do it but I want to talk about it.”  I understood his response but I was honestly a little surprised too.

“What do you think he is going to say to you?”  He asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Here’s the thing.  It has nothing to do with what he has to say.  It is more about what I need to say to HIM.”  I looked into his eyes trying to implore him to grasp my intention.

“What are you going to say to him?” He was curious now.

“To tell you the truth – I’m not sure.”  Throughout the years there was so much I wanted to say.  In fact I had asked for my uncle’s address several times so I could write him a letter.  At that time he was in prison and I needed to let him know how he destroyed my life.  I also needed him to know that I had survived – more than survived.  In spite of the way he used and abused my body and mind – he didn’t win.  My father flat-out refused to give it to me.  I wasn’t close enough with any of my relatives to ask them.  So at the time I had no choice but to let it go.  Now after all this time the opportunity suddenly presented itself and I didn’t know what I would do.

In the end Robbie supported my decision to meet with my abuser.  He made it clear that he would be with me and I told him I didn’t want it any other way.  I needed him.  So waking up that Saturday morning I was a complete mess.  Could I actually muster the courage to face this monster?  After all these years of desperately trying to forget the horror – could I now face it?  Would those haunting evil memories become too much to bear?  I was terrified.

We walked in my parents home and he sat waiting on the couch.  To my surprise my dad’s sister and her husband were there too.  I walked in with my heart beating out of my chest and said hello to everyone except him.  Robbie and I sat on the love seat across the room.  I looked up at him and he was looking at me.  Just seeing his face made my skin crawl.  The tension was thick in the room and the silence was deafening.

My mom finally spoke and said “Bita do you want to start?”

“No” was all I said.

So for the next few minutes I heard a litany of excuses of why he did those things to me.  He failed at his sad and futile attempt at taking accountability and showing remorse.  I don’t know what I expected but this missed the mark by several hundred miles.

He ended it by saying  two words I waited my entire life to hear  “I’m sorry”.

I sat there quietly taking it all in.  I had imagined this scene countless times in my head and now here it was in front of me.  It didn’t feel real.  I finally heard him admit to my parents, my husband and to my relatives his crimes.  It was now finally out in the open.  The endless arguments between my parents and I over it.  The lifetime of hurt and pain.  The ongoing intimacy and trust struggles due to the abuse.   I had inherited a lifetime of insecurities and self-loathing because of him.   It had now come full circle – the years of abuse took place in my parent’s home and now was exposed there too.

He looked old and haggard and pathetic sitting in front of me.  All the things I wanted to say to him in the past just didn’t feel right in this moment.  For years I deeply desired him to burn in hell – now that no longer existed.  Please don’t get me wrong – I was still angry and wounded and desired justice.  I was just in a different place now.  All my life he represented a huge, powerful , evil figure that instilled so much fear in me.  Staring at him now he looked pitiful and small.  So I shared what his abuse did to me – how it never went away.  It was something I carried all my life and affected every relationship I ever had.  How he marred my relationship with my husband and how I hated him for it.

But I also told him that wasn’t the end of my story.  As horrible as my life began I was damn sure it would end differently for me.  I described how I’ve clawed, scratched and fought to climb out of the deep well of my abuse.  How it has always been a challenge but through the help of God, husband and children I was going to make it.  I told him I didn’t know if he was honest when he told his story of finding Jesus and wanting to change.  If it were true he still had a long road ahead of him.  Then I said:

“I could never forget what you did to me, and to tell you the truth I don’t want to forget.  Not because I still want you to burn in hell.  It really has nothing to do with you or me.  I’ve now reached a place where I’m okay with what happened to me.  I’ve made peace with it.  The commitment and effort it’s taken to get to this place in my life made me a stronger person.”   I explained how many others I have met who have also been sexually abused.  Here in the United States and in Africa.  How I’ve shared my story and let them know their past does not define them.  There is healing and freedom for them too.  I looked him in the eyes and spoke the word (in my opinion) that is widely misunderstood in situations like this:

“I choose to forgive you.”

Although he never responded and honestly there really wasn’t anything I wanted to needed him say to me.  I had done it.  I finally had the opportunity to look my monster in the eyes and take my power back.  It wasn’t the exquisitely written scene that takes place in the movies, but it was a moment that was long overdue.

Forgiveness isn’t easy.  I must also confess it is something I struggle with to this very day.  Believe me I know the definition of forgiveness and what the bible says about it.  I know bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  I know it isn’t a feeling but rather a decision.  I’ve exhausted the topic, and knowing it can be much different from living it.

I remember walking away from that meeting feeling several tons lighter.  I was proud of myself for facing him and speaking my truth.  I didn’t regret using the F word that day – it was true – I chose forgiveness.  You see I was ready to move forward.   But just because the decision is made and you walk through the door of forgiveness – it doesn’t mean it’s over.

Three years later (while in a different step of healing) I walked into the Tempe Police Department and pressed formal charges against this uncle.  It took over a year to finally be notified if the DA would take the case to trial.  It was a very long year.  Part of the hold up was due to my uncle dodging detective visits and attempted phone calls to be interviewed.  In the end I received a letter informing me the DA chose to not pursue the case.  My heart dropped.  As much as I tried to prepare myself for this outcome it was like a slap in my face.  It took me a couple of weeks to recover from the disappointment but I did.

I also called the DA to find out what more they needed to make the decision pursue the case.  It was a very interesting conversation.  I was told that in fact, the detective did speak to my uncle about my claims.  He stated that he did not remember anything.  When asked about meeting with me in my parents home he said “I just said whatever they wanted to hear.”  He denied everything.  I wasn’t surprised but I gotta tell you it did hurt.  Believe me when I tell you the other F word popped right into my head.  Just because I had chosen to forgive once didn’t mean it was easy to choose it again.  I didn’t know if I had it in me.

I’m not perfect.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life and probably will continue to do so.  I’ve been forgiven many many times.  The real honest raw answer is that forgiveness wasn’t easy the second time around.  It took me a bit to process everything but I did get there.  Although this time he didn’t ask me I did forgive him once again.  This doesn’t make me special in any way – I just want to be free.

Forgive and forget is a very common saying we like to throw around.  I think a better saying is forgive and remember.  Here’s why:  forgiveness isn’t always an easy choice. At times it seems impossible to release the enormous wrongdoings against you.  Choosing forgiveness is a courageous act.  It’s great to be reminded of the times that you offered grace and mercy to another person.  Especially when they’re insincere or unapologetic.  In doing what doesn’t feel right or makes sense can bring you lasting peace, freedom and pure joy.

 

Speak out

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“I’m telling you right now, get in here,” Weinstein allegedly says in the nearly two-minute recording. “I’m gonna take a shower, you sit there and have a drink.”

Gutierrez, clearly uncomfortable, continually rebuffs him and eventually references him touching her inappropriately without her permission a day earlier.

“No, yesterday was kind of aggressive for me,” she says. “I need to know a person to be touched. I don’t want to be touched.”

After a bit more back-and-forth, she asks “why yesterday you touch my breast?” — to which Weinstein replies, “Oh please, I’m sorry, just come on in. I’m used to that.”   

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/hear-harvey-weinstein-caught-tape-sexual-accuser-article-1.3553473

This is a small portion of a shocking audio recording captured during a NYPD sting operation between 65 -year-old Hollywood filmmaker, Harvey Weinstein and 22-year-old model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.  Weinstein repeatedly attempts to bully Gutierrez into his hotel room, but she makes it clear she wants no part of it.  This story has exploded everywhere and I have been watching the minute-by-minute updates along with millions of others.

Day after day more alleged victims have continued to come forward.  It’s at the point where it feels so overwhelmingly shocking and unreal.  That this could have happened to so many for so long?  How does someone actually get away with it for years?  These women tell the same stories of unwanted advances, inappropriate touching, and even rape.  Reporters, actresses, assistants and the list goes on and on and on.  How and why did so many women remain silent?

Watching these stories unfold I suddenly become anxious and my stomach is queasy.  I know exactly why it took so long for them to speak out.  You see “my Weinsteins” weren’t Hollywood moguls but rather family members.  The one thing they had in common with Harvey is that they were older and held all the power.  They were sexual predators who looked for every opportunity to satisfy their depraved desires.  I was a child and didn’t know I had a voice.  Even if I had spoken out who would’ve heard me?

I don’t know how long sexual abuse has existed in my family but I wasn’t the first casualty.  It still exists to this very day.  When I finally escaped my brutal horror I ran hard and vowed to never ever look back.  As a survivor I was so relived to be free of the constant groping, touching and mental games that I immediately locked those memories in a deeply dug vault.  I did my best to pretend it did not exist and tried my best to move forward.  I can honestly say that I thought it worked for a while but I only fooled myself.

Now I see that to be truly healed you have to go back and face the past.  The lies must be exposed for the truth to set you free.  In my attempt to protect myself for years I cut myself off from so many relatives.  Now I’ve learned of many others who were powerless victims too, and my heart truly breaks.  What causes me deep pain is that these relatives – these predators – were never held accountable.  No one in my family ever stopped them.  No one said “this isn’t okay” or “stay away from family gatherings” or “our children are more important” or “I’m calling the police.” 

No these disgusting people were allowed to continue to perpetuate their sick crimes over and over for decades.  There were four relatives who were sexual predators in my life.  My grandfather, aunt and cousin one-by-one finally passed away.  My uncle still lives and recently fathered another child.  There are relatives who offer him financial support – and even worse access to their children and grandchildren.

I do not judge why it’s taken these women so long to speak out against Harvey Weinstein.  You see it took me over 30 years to have the courage to file a police report against my final living abuser.  I was trembling and petrified the day I walked into the Tempe Police Department.  I honestly didn’t know if I’d survive that day.  Would anyone believe me?  Would it make a difference? 

As a society – as a family- as individuals – we must protect our children, our friends, our neighbors – even strangers.  We must hold sexual predators and those who keep their secrets accountable.  The days of looking the other way must end.

WE MUST SPEAK OUT!

It starts with you and it starts with me.

 

 

Time to Breathe

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Perspective has saved me from many stressful or intense situations in my life.  Things happen unexpectedly that can cause fear, anger, and confusion.  “Why me?” or “why now?”  A tailspin of emotions that can trigger negative outcomes if you allow it.  Maybe the better question is “what now?”  The summer before my Sophomore year my family moved to a small Texas town of five thousand.  I went from attending one of the largest schools in Arizona to a very small christian school in Texas.  The entire 7th through 12th grades fit into one classroom, and it was tough adjustment on so many levels.  Did I mention at my mom was now my teacher at my school?!  I didn’t like the changes on every level but instead of fighting it – I accepted it.  It was the price I paid to be a thousand miles away from the people who sexually abused me.   So I didn’t complain and made new friends and even decided to try new things.  I joined the cross-country team, and the local 4-H club and even took extra classes in school.  I was determined to get ahead of my class requirements and coast through my senior year.

I fully embraced my new life and decided to make a new start.  I had squeaked by my freshman year of high school.  I completely rebelled against any kind of school work, studying or anything that had to do with academics.    I should have completely failed the entire year, but I would ace my finals and pass all my classes with a very low D.  Although I was against the to move to Texas I also wanted to escape.  A chance to walk away from my past and painful memories and become someone new.  An opportunity to bury my former existence and create a new identity.  Living in a small town meant fewer distractions and so I focused on my new future.  I had little control of my life but recognized I could apply myself in school and become an excellent student.

So I did.

I enjoyed looking through catalogs of class options.  I packed my class schedule as far as it would stretch.  A majority of my time was spent reading, studying and taking tests. I repeated most of my freshman classes to raise my GPA.  My goal was to work hard to coast through my senior year.  Each high score and earned credits fueled my desire to continue to excel.   The curriculum at my new school was self-paced so I began to crank out the work for the next two years.  I loved it.  At the end of my junior year I was awarded with the highest GPA and Perseverance Award.  It was the first time I was ever recognized academically for my hard work.  My nose was stuck in books for so long that I was surprised to hear my name called that night.  It was proof my life in Arizona was slowly starting to fade away.

Imagine my surprise when the summer before my senior year I learned we were now moving to Dallas?  I was completely floored.  I had finally adapted to living in a small town, new school, new church, new life.  Let me tell you it wasn’t easy but I had done it and actually liked it.   So now here we go again!  Packing our bags and heading north to the City of Dallas.  As much as I missed living close to shopping malls, movie theaters and chain restaurants I didn’t want to go.  I was upset to uproot once again and leave my newfound life now that I was finally settled and in place.  How many more times would I have to do this?  I didn’t know.  I asked my parents if I could stay to finish my senior year and continue to live with my aunt.  I had already asked her and she had agreed.  They firmly said no but I was allowed to stay behind until school started in the Fall.  It wasn’t the answer I hoped for but it was something – and so I agreed.

I waited until the last possible minute to go to Dallas.  The thought of starting over was overwhelming to me.  The christian school I transferred to was much larger and I discovered their credit requirements was more.  My heart sank deep into the pit of my stomach.  This meant I could kiss my easy-breezy senior year goodbye!  I was pissed! Even with a full schedule I was still one health credit short.  Are you fricken serious?!  All that hard work and now it felt like it was all for nothing!  I wanted to scream but I couldn’t so I just pushed all those feelings down deep.  This introverted loner now had to try to acclimate to her new surroundings and attempt to make new friends – all while trying to fulfill the credit requirements.  I went from coasting my way through my final year of high school to wondering if I’d graduate on time.

I couldn’t see back then my abuse was beginning to scab over.  Which was now possible because the sexual abuse had completely stopped.  No more unexpected visits from my aunt or uncle at my home.  Or unwanted advances from other family members at family gatherings.  That era had ended and I had survived it.  Sadly it was far from over, but I just didn’t know it yet.  My sexual abuse started when I five so I had to wait until I matured to completely grasp what actually happened to me.  For eight years the abuse was such a regular and normal part of my life.  It is still surreal today to think about everything that happened actually took place.

I now have a four-year old grandson who has such a free-spirit and beautiful soul.  I appreciate his humor and his sweet innocence.  My deep love and adoration for him came from a place I never knew existed until he was born.   There are moments that brings tears to my eyes when I look at this precious boy.  I think about my little girl at the same age.  She didn’t know the pain, misery and torment that would soon appear only a year later. So young, innocent and unprepared for where life would take her.

I underestimated how strong and powerful abuse can envelop and possess you.  It only hands out life sentences and so you have to fight like hell for freedom.    Now one year and one thousand miles away from the horrors – life now felt manageable .  All I desired was to forget the past but it’s impossible.  Running will never heal you.  The next few years in Dallas would become a pivotal and important time in my life.  God heard my cry and gave me a gift – I became an average teenager living an average life.  Although compared to my life before this was WAY above average for me.  I embraced my new school and was given extraordinary friends.  I flourished in school and played on the volleyball and basketball teams too.  I quit trying to forget the past or work hard on becoming someone new.   I was happy.

The next few years changed me in ways I could never fully explain with mere words.  My new life was antibiotic to the deep wounds in my broken heart and body .   As I now look back on that time I can see things were aligning themselves and equipping me for the longer battle ahead.  It’s where I first began to heal and grow.  Hope for the impossible began to sprout and I finally felt safe.  I discovered I could drop my defenses and just breathe.

So I did.

Oh and by the way I graduated on time too 😉

Time to Breathe

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Perspective has saved me from many stressful or intense situations in my life.  Things happen unexpectedly that can cause fear, anger, and confusion.  “Why me?” or “why now?”  A tailspin of emotions that can trigger negative outcomes if you allow it.  Maybe the better question is “what now?”  The summer before my Sophomore year my family moved to a small Texas town of five thousand.  I went from attending one of the largest schools in Arizona to a very small christian school in Texas.  The entire 7th through 12th grades fit into one classroom, and it was tough adjustment on so many levels.  Did I mention at my mom was now my teacher at my school?!  I didn’t like the changes on every level but instead of fighting it – I accepted it.  It was the price I paid to be a thousand miles away from the people who sexually abused me.   So I didn’t complain and made new friends and even decided to try new things.  I joined the cross-country team, and the local 4-H club and even took extra classes in school.  I was determined to get ahead of my class requirements and coast through my senior year.

I fully embraced my new life and decided to make a new start.  I had squeaked by my freshman year of high school.  I completely rebelled against any kind of school work, studying or anything that had to do with academics.    I should have completely failed the entire year, but I would ace my finals and pass all my classes with a very low D.  Although I was against the to move to Texas I also wanted to escape.  A chance to walk away from my past and painful memories and become someone new.  An opportunity to bury my former existence and create a new identity.  Living in a small town meant fewer distractions and so I focused on my new future.  I had little control of my life but recognized I could apply myself in school and become an excellent student.

So I did.

I enjoyed looking through catalogs of class options.  I packed my class schedule as far as it would stretch.  A majority of my time was spent reading, studying and taking tests. I repeated most of my freshman classes to raise my GPA.  My goal was to work hard to coast through my senior year.  Each high score and earned credits fueled my desire to continue to excel.   The curriculum at my new school was self-paced so I began to crank out the work for the next two years.  I loved it.  At the end of my junior year I was awarded with the highest GPA and Perseverance Award.  It was the first time I was ever recognized academically for my hard work.  My nose was stuck in books for so long that I was surprised to hear my name called that night.  It was proof my life in Arizona was slowly starting to fade away.

Imagine my surprise when the summer before my senior year I learned we were now moving to Dallas?  I was completely floored.  I had finally adapted to living in a small town, new school, new church, new life.  Let me tell you it wasn’t easy but I had done it and actually liked it.   So now here we go again!  Packing our bags and heading north to the City of Dallas.  As much as I missed living close to shopping malls, movie theaters and chain restaurants I didn’t want to go.  I was upset to uproot once again and leave my newfound life now that I was finally settled and in place.  How many more times would I have to do this?  I didn’t know.  I asked my parents if I could stay to finish my senior year and continue to live with my aunt.  I had already asked her and she had agreed.  They firmly said no but I was allowed to stay behind until school started in the Fall.  It wasn’t the answer I hoped for but it was something – and so I agreed.

I waited until the last possible minute to go to Dallas.  The thought of starting over was overwhelming to me.  The christian school I transferred to was much larger and I discovered their credit requirements was more.  My heart sank deep into the pit of my stomach.  This meant I could kiss my easy-breezy senior year goodbye!  I was pissed! Even with a full schedule I was still one health credit short.  Are you fricken serious?!  All that hard work and now it felt like it was all for nothing!  I wanted to scream but I couldn’t so I just pushed all those feelings down deep.  This introverted loner now had to try to acclimate to her new surroundings and attempt to make new friends – all while trying to fulfill the credit requirements.  I went from coasting my way through my final year of high school to wondering if I’d graduate on time.

I couldn’t see back then my abuse was beginning to scab over.  Which was now possible because the sexual abuse had completely stopped.  No more unexpected visits from my aunt or uncle at my home.  Or unwanted advances from other family members at family gatherings.  That era had ended and I had survived it.  Sadly it was far from over, but I just didn’t know it yet.  My sexual abuse started when I five so I had to wait until I matured to completely grasp what actually happened to me.  For eight years the abuse was such a regular and normal part of my life.  It is still surreal today when I think about everything that happened took place.

I now have a four-year old grandson who has such a free-spirit and beautiful soul.  I appreciate his humor and his sweet innocence.  My deep love and adoration for him came from a place I never knew existed until he was born.   There are moments that brings tears to my eyes when I look at this precious boy.  I think about my little girl at the same age.  She didn’t know the pain, misery and torment that would soon appear only a year later. So young, innocent and unprepared for where life would take her.

I underestimated how strong and powerful abuse can envelope and possess you.  It only hands out life sentences and so you have to fight like hell for freedom.    Now one year and one thousand miles away from the horrors – life now felt manageable .  All I desired was to forget the past but it’s impossible.  Running will never heal you.  The next few years in Dallas would become a pivotal and important time in my life.  God heard my cry and gave me a gift – I became an average teenager living an average life.  Although compared to my life before this was WAY above average for me.  I embraced my new school and was given extraordinary friends.  I flourished in school and played on the volleyball and basketball teams too.  I quit trying to forget the past or work hard on becoming someone new.   I was happy.

The next few years changed me in ways I could never fully explain with mere words.  My new life was antibiotic to the deep wounds in my broken heart and body .   As I now look back on that time I can see things were aligning themselves and equipping me for the longer battle that was soon to come.  It’s where I first began to heal and grow.  Hope for the impossible began to sprout and I finally felt safe.  I discovered I could drop my defenses and just breathe.

So I did.

Oh and by the way I graduated on time too 😉

 

 

 

Saturday

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I stood in the kitchen with the phone receiver on my ear.  My aunt called looking for my mom who wasn’t home.  The phone was attached to the wall directly across from the sink and next to the side door that led outside.  We primarily used this door entering and exiting our house.  Our front door felt more like a prop and rarely used except by door-to-door solicitors.

“When will she be home?”  she asked.

“I don’t know – soon I think.”  I was guessing.

“Why do you sound like that?”  She asked in a curious tone.

“I don’t know.”

“Noooo, something’s wrong.  You can tell me.”  She was right – something was wrong but I was hesitant to tell her.

“It’s nothing.” 

“You can tell me.  You sound upset and I only want to help.” 

I guess part of me wanted to believe it was true.   Keeping secrets is an essential ingredient of abuse which I also shared with this aunt.  As awful as some of my experiences were with her it also created a false sense of closeness.  A perverted intimacy that at times confused me.  As wrong as our interactions felt I wondered if it came from a place of love?  My naivete drove me to believe that somehow this woman cared about me.  I very much feared her, but in this moment I had no one else to turn to for support.  My mom had very high expectations of me.  When I didn’t meet those expectations I would be punished.  The problem was she constantly changed the rules without telling me.

It was Saturday and I had spent the entire day at the library working on a research paper with friends.  It had been difficult to convince her to let me go.  She thought it was an excuse to be out of the house and play.  I promised her I would be gathering information and writing notes all day.  Typically I’d walk to the library with friends after school for a few hours before going home.  This time I was behind on my paper and Saturday seemed like the perfect day to get everything done.  Plus time with friends was always a good thing too.

I loved everything about the library.  The smell – the books – the quiet – everything.  In the center of it a descending curved path led to a downstairs level.  It was open and you could see directly down from the main floor to the tables, magazines and newspapers racks.  This area always intrigued me for some reason.  So I first used the card catalog to find where the books were located, and then carried them downstairs.   I picked a table and spread out my materials and eagerly hunted for data.  It was the era before copiers were commonplace so that meant I had to write down everything in a notebook.

This place always brought peace to my life.  From the moment I walked in I was a different person living a different life.  It wasn’t complicated and it never offered pain, and made me feel smart and important.  It opened my mind and always taught me something new.  I could hang out all day and never be bored.  I sat for hours and filled pages of my notebook with information.  So the remaining time I could spend with my friends. We’d talk (sometimes too loudly) and explore different areas of the library.  This may sound boring to you but for me it brought a lot of joy.

Fifteen minutes before it was time to go home I went back to clean up my work station and returned the books back to the shelves.  I said goodbye to my friends and went outside to wait for my mom.  Not long after I saw our truck pull into the parking lot and waved so she could find me.  On the way home she asked how it went and I was pleased to tell her I got all the research done.

Immediately I sensed something was wrong so I didn’t try to communicate much more.  It felt thick and tense all the way home.   We pulled up in driveway but before I could open the door she said “wait”.  I instantly froze.

“Let me see your notes.”  she said

I pulled out my notebook and handed it to her.  She flipped through the pages and and looked at me.

“Who wrote these notes?”

Puzzled I said “I did.”

“No you didn’t.”

“Yes I did.”  Now I was panicked.

“Bita, I’m not stupid – this is not your handwriting.”  As she held up a page in the notebook for me to see.

Dumbfounded is the best word to describe this entire exchange and I wasn’t sure how to move forward.  If I continued to defend myself I could be punished for arguing with her.  If I remained quiet it would look as if I was caught red-handed.  Every scenario led to the same conclusion and there was simply no way out.

“Mom, I promise I wrote these notes.  If it doesn’t look like my handwriting it’s just because I wrote very fast.”  The truth was I rushed trying to finish to have enough time to spend with my friends.  I just kept that part to myself.

She searched my face for a moment and I didn’t move one inch.  In a tight, slow and angry voice she said “Tell me which one of your friend’s wrote these notes for you.”  I crumbled inside realizing nothing would convice her I was telling the truth.

I could feel tears forming in my eyes and in almost a whisper said “I wrote them.”  

She tightened the grip she had on my notebook and began to beat me with it.  I attempted to shield my face and head from the blows and spiral metal spine.  It wasn’t a belt or a hanger but it managed to do its job.  We were sitting very close to each other and as much as I wanted to pull the handle to open the door and jump out – I remained in my spot.  Between smacks I heard the words: stupid, lazy and liar and how I would not be trusted again.  All the wonderful feelings my time in the library offered were dissolved in a matter of minutes.  In that moment I wished I had never ever gone to the library.

She got out of the truck and walked into the house and I just sat there feeling utterly defeated.  I thought about how much effort it took to convince her to let me go to the library.  Now I looked at it with regret and sadness.  I picked up the notebook and walked into the house where my parents were arguing so I went to my room.   When things seemed to quiet down I made my way to the kitchen.  The atmosphere also felt lighter and discovered my mom wasn’t home.  I was filling a glass with water at the sink when the phone rang….

Come on it will make you feel better to get it off your chest.”  She persisted.

Everything inside me screamed DON’T DO IT but I didn’t listen.  “My mom is angry because she thinks I lied about something.”

“Oh” she said in a voice that feigned concern.

She continued to ask questions and I foolishly answered every single one.  I remember how it felt so good to talk about it and even was encouraged a little bit.  I later watched television with my brother and sister, ate dinner and then went to bed.

I was dead asleep when it began.  The light abruptly turned on and I was awakened to sharp stinging pain.  My mom was standing over me screaming “what did you say?” “how dare you talk about me!” “you’re a liar!” as she whipped me with my dad’s belt.  My entire body in shock as my brain struggled to process what was happening.  I was trapped on my bed so I curled up into a ball.  I quickly realized my aunt back stabbed me so I kept my big mouth shut and didn’t attempt to explain.  After what felt like forever my dad walked in and grabbed the belt from her hand.  Furious her retribution was forced to abruptly end continued screaming while my sister sobbed in her bed.

In a second attempt to shut down the situation my dad removed my mom from our room. He then turned off the light and closed the door.  My little sister had witnessed the entire outburst and was now an emotional wreck.  I did my best to comfort and reassure her that everything would be okay.  I smoothed her hair and patted her back until I heard her breathing change.  I went back to my bed and assessed my wounds and very relieved she missed my face.  This meant I could disguise any belt marks with clothing and not miss any school.

I could feel my body starting to swell and threw the blankets to the floor.  Each painful welt was a reminder of how much I hated my mother.  I wanted nothing more than to will myself to disappear.  I hated my aunt for tricking me into confiding in her, and judged myself for falling for it.  My foolishness allowed my sister to be terrorized in her sleep.   Most of all I hated that I felt alone and unloved.

Once the tears stopped and the million thoughts in my head finally found a place to settle – I fell asleep.



KNOW THE SIGNS!

Do you know the signs of child abuse and neglect?

What would you do if you believed a child was in danger?

Who would you contact?

If you suspect a child is in danger please see the emergency contact information and also signs of abuse located on the “WAYS TO HELP” page in this blog.  

Thank you! ~B

 

My Red Knee-high Socks

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I hit the ground with a loud thud and smacked my head on the hard dirt under me.  I was out of breath with my heart beating overtime.  I had just flown off the back of a dirt bike and was shaken and in shock.  I felt something heavy and hot on me, and lifted my head to look down at my body.  The muffler of the dirt bike was now directly across my leg.  I screamed out in pain with tears streaming down my face.  My uncle who was driving the bike stood over me and tried to pull it off me.  My eyes became the size of plates when I noticed the muffler had burned my calf and had now melted in my flesh.  If he continued to lift the bike completely off me it would take my skin with it.  I was terrified when I realized what had to happen,  but the pain was intense and there was no other option.

“Close your eyes”  he said and I took a deep breath and quickly closed my eyes tight.  He yanked the bike to a complete standing position, and in the process separated the hot metal from the base of my calf muscle.  Although I could no longer feel the heavy heat I could still feel the pain.  I opened my eyes and saw a bloody mess and could smell burnt flesh.  I began to shake and cry uncontrollably.  My two other cousins that rode on another dirt bike looked scared and stood quietly watching the entire scene.

My uncle scooped me up and began to carry me home.  The entire way he begged me to stop crying and repeatedly told me I was okay.  He expressed he was counting on me not to get him into trouble.  He didn’t mean to hurt me and would fix up my leg when we returned to my house.  I don’t know how but I stopped crying and wiped my face with my shirt.  His fear became my fear.  We stood in the backyard and looked down at my leg.  There was just no disguising something terrible had just happened.  I mean how do you hide the large leg wound and all that blood?

Through the backyard we entered the sliding glass door that opened to the living room.  As casually as we could we made our way down the hall.  He told me to wait in the bathroom and closed the door as he went to my bedroom.  A minute later he opened the door and locked it.  He held a pair of knee-high red wool socks in his hand and looked a little relieved.  The thick socks would be his salvation.  They would somewhat camouflage my injury and no one would know what happened to me.  It was our secret.  It was one of many we kept between us for many years.  It never seemed odd or even wrong – it was natural.  It was also the middle of summer and scorching hot outside.  Who in their right mind would wear wintery warm knee high socks?  Why didn’t my parents question it?  Or anyone for that matter?  But no one did.   I was a child and went along with what was told to me and suffered in silence.

It was painful to walk so I sat quietly on the couch in attempt to keep the blood from seeping through my sock.  I tried to not think about my burned, throbbing leg.  My uncle found the right moment and slipped out of the house without a word to anyone.  A few of my cousins asked me if I was alright and I just nodded my head.  I hadn’t noticed until later that I had a second wound on the bottom of my knee.  So I pulled the sock even higher.  I tried to mentally block out the pain, but I wasn’t successful.

Later that evening after everyone had gone home it was time to take a bath.  I went into the bathroom and began to remove my socks.  It was then I learned that once the blood stopped flowing it dried the sock to the wound.  I sat there for a while not knowing what to do.  Once again I closed my eyes and ripped the sock off the wound.  Tears began to form in the corner of my eyes.  It never occurred to me to go to my parents for help and tell them what happened.  Although I was in misery and afraid I told myself I was okay.  I believed it was my job to protect my uncle, and I never thought twice about it.

I couldn’t wear those red socks forever so the next day my parents discovered my injury. It caught them off guard and instantly became angry that I didn’t tell them sooner.  They cleaned my wounds, applied ointment and wrapped it to keep it clean.  They were upset I had been taken on a motorcycle ride without their permission – especially in light of the accident.  As angry and upset as they appeared to be they never confronted my uncle about it.  Why?  I don’t know.   I didn’t realize that this was one of many other instances that reinforced my value to others and myself.  The lack of confrontation or even outrage for placing their child in danger spoke volumes.  Their silence to my uncle only reinforced my silence about this situation and the years of abuse too.

Other lies were burned into my heart and soul but I was too young to understand it at the time.  Suppressing fear and pain became a regular part of my life and I viewed myself as unimportant.  I wasn’t worth defending and/or my needs didn’t matter.  Even now I catch myself from falling into this trap from time to time.  The physical scars lasted for almost 40 years, but have now almost completely faded away.  The emotional scars I discovered did the most damage to me, and covering things up only brought more pain.  The good news is that each step forward brings truth and healing.  There are times when it is okay to cry and times when you need to speak up.  It is important to surround yourself with people who hurt when you hurt and love and cherish you.

My ugly scars also became a reminder to me of just how far I have come.  I am not that same terrified little girl who felt unloved and invisible.  I am a person who is learning to love, accept and embrace every part of herself.  To be honest there are days that I’m tired of the fight and dealing with the past.  My alternative is to just give up but in my heart I know this isn’t an option.  This is just a part of the process in fighting for freedom for your body, mind and spirit.  So I will continue to push forward until every single abuse-printed scar no longer exists.