No More Monsters

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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

loyalty

healthy family bonds

love

safety

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alternate Ending

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Rose is dressed in her white long nightgown and slowly walks towards the stern of the boat. The sky is black and she is deep in thought.  When she finally reaches it immediately grabs hold of the rail and steps up on the first rung with her bare foot.  The wind is slightly moving and her beautifully messy white hair whips around her face.  She looks out at the ocean below and she is reminded she has been here before.  A time long ago when she debated jumping from a much larger boat and while remembering this she smiles.

The camera pulls back to see Brock (Titanic’s treasure hunter) and Lizzy (Rose’s granddaughter) having a conversation nearby.  Suddenly Lizzy looks up and sees her grandmother standing at the end of boat and fears for her safety.  Brock and Lizzy call after Rose and run to her.  A conversation ensues and then Rose finally reveals she’s had the “Heart of the Ocean” the entire time.  She holds it up ready to toss it in the ocean where she believes it belongs.  Brock panics and begs her to allow him to hold it in his hand even if it’s just for a moment.  She lowers it into his grasp where he stares in awe of the magnificent and brilliant diamond.  In the end Rose tosses it into the ocean while Brock watches with a jittery laugh while his search crew thinks they’ve all lost it!

Wait what?!!

I’ve watched the 1997 movie Titanic a thousand times and this is not how the movie ends.  Surprisingly there IS an alternate ending to mega box office hit film.  I will attach a You Tube link (scroll to the bottom) of the Soul Sparks tab of this blog where you can watch it for yourself. While I enjoyed viewing it I must say that I can understand why they opted for the other ending.  It was the right choice.

There have been many times in my life I’ve wished for alternate endings.  A chance for things to be different – to be made right.  Currently at the top of my list is the death of my father.  The phone call I received after dinner on April 7, 2017 will forever be engraved in mind and soul.  The news of his sudden death permanently solidified our separation on earth. Even a year later it’s hard to accept the fact that it’s over.  I wish so much that a lot of things could’ve been different between us, but that wasn’t the ending that was written.

Thinking back to the beginning our our relationship I realize it was built on a shaky foundation.  Love existed but danger did too.  You see we had inherited so many secrets and lies.  The desecration of our family slowly seeped into every area and hindered my relationship with my dad.  In case you’re wondering he never hurt me sexually or physically in any way or at any time.  He did, however, look the other way.  He refused to stand up for me and many times blamed me, and this caused even more pain.

“No no I don’t want to hear it – that was a long time ago so just get over it”. 

His words stung and immediately a tidal wave of emotions crashed all over me.

“How can you say that?”  I said in a tone that made me feel vulnerable and weak and I hated myself for it.

With a slight snicker he replied “Your problem is that you won’t give it God.”

Anger, sadness, disgust and disbelief became so powerful inside that I felt like it would swallow me whole.  His disregard to my safety and well-being was a huge chasm in our relationship.  Although this pattern repeated itself many times throughout the years he was still my father and I loved him.

He firmly believed that family was everything and you never ever went against them. Ironically it was also what divided our trust and confidence and hindered the bond between us.  He also had a loving and funny side too.  I loved our walks to the park and barbecues in the backyard.  Or how he would sing “La Mananitas” to me each year on my birthday.  My dad was the first person who told me that I could be anything in life – something I have tried to instill in my own children.

Here’s the thing- a lot of child abuse is perpetrated by family members.  In my case it was very much true.  A report is made every 10 seconds, but I think about how many more cases go unreported.  Why?  Maybe other families share my father’s view on family and choose to deny and remain silent.  It is possible to change family history and eradicate child abuse.  No more secrets – misplaced loyalty – or willingness to look the other way.

So many families hold terrible secrets that continue to be passed down from generation to generation.  It’s incredulous to think how long these sick acts go unquestioned or stopped because it’s family.  Our children are worth stepping out of our comfort zone. They are worth our love and protection.  It is possible to establish a strong sense of family without continuing to sacrifice our children.  It’s time for change, healing and most of all an alternate ending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth

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It was a sunny afternoon and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. What made the day even more wonderful is that it was wasn’t hot – not even slightly hot. The weather was absolutely perfect. My brother, sister and I had just arrived at a neighborhood park. There was a mini-carnival in full swing and lots of people walking around. At first I smelled the deep fried foods and popcorn being sold, and could hear loud music and voices in the air. As we approached the entrance I felt excitement build inside me for the fun that was within reach. I smiled knowing the $20 bill in my back pocket would help make it happen.

We quickly discovered our ideas of fun looked different so we decided to meet up in one hour. We each walked in a different direction with cash burning a hole in our pockets. I walked around studying each ride, game and food booth. I needed to make the right decision on how I would spend my limited funds. Just like the weather my choices had to be perfect – or so I made myself believe. I walked around for the second time when I saw it. I’m not sure how I had missed it the first time around. Off to the side was open booth with a woman sitting at a small table. She was dressed in dark colors and also had dark hair. As I walked towards her I noticed the heavy, black makeup around her eyes and it intrigued me.

As I stood in front of her I instantly became shy and didn’t say anything. She looked at me and said “would you like me to tell you your fortune?” I nodded my head and sat down. My heart was beating fast and I nervously looked up at her face. She was so mysterious and I wondered if she truly had a gift?   Was she real or merely playing a part?  I know fortune tellers are supposed to be fun but this was serious for me. I was a kid, I was desperate and needed answers. Even more than that I needed hope.

“What would you like to ask me.” She said.

I needed serious answers but needed to test her first.

“Have my parents ever lied to me?” I asked.

I was still in elementary school but I already knew the answer. In fact I had just recently learned the truth. My parents used and sold drugs and I HATED it. There were regular parties in our home, visitors randomly stopping by too. Hell even our family vacations revolved around picking up drugs in bulk. It was wrong and it scared me. I slowly also learned that this lifestyle made my parents physically and emotionally unavailable. Due to this fact I was an easy target for sexual abuse.

It had been happening for many years now and I hadn’t told a soul. Why? Because I was related to my abusers. At first I told myself I didn’t want to reveal the truth because it would hurt my father. Then I realized it was because I didn’t trust my parents. What would they say? Or do? Would they believe me? Would they make it stop?

So if this carnival fortune teller was legitimate- then maybe she could give me the answer that would help change my circumstances. Maybe my moments of peace and happiness wouldn’t end when I walked through my front door. I crossed my fingers under the table as I anxiously waited for her answer.

Please be real I thought.

“No your parents have never lied to you.” She said with such certainty and my heart dropped. I knew in this moment she was a fake and couldn’t see the past, present or the future.

I had accidentally overheard a conversation between my parents when they thought I was sleeping. They had promised me a few months earlier that they would stop drugs altogether- using and selling. They tried to keep that promise but were now back to doing both and hiding it from me. I remember listening to their conversation and feeling utterly betrayed and alone. I wanted to cry and scream out loud all at once but I remained still and silent pretending I was asleep.

I truly believe this fortune teller had the best intentions when she lied to me. I bet she thought her answer was helping our family. The truth is her lie only compounded my parent’s secret and I couldn’t escape my evil horrors. So I thanked her and sadly walked away.

My abuse continued another 4 years.

Lies even in the simplest form causes a lot of damage and destruction. As long as they exist things won’t ever get better. What I’ve learned is that truth can be painful but will bring change and eventually healing. I also now don’t need a fortune teller to give me hope – God did that for me and continues to do so everyday.  In the beginning hope seemed impossible but truth helped usher it into reality.  Uttering truth can be scary and overwhelming and difficult.  Living in truth, however, is very powerful (and necessary) for lasting peace, happiness and a fulfilled life.

Keep out of Reach of Children

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Warning labels have been around for a long time.  Posted on signs or product labels in effort to keep us safe.  They are everywhere.  Just take a look on cigarette packs, toys, and cleaning products.  McDonald’s was even forced to add a “Caution: hot contents” warning on their disposable drink cups.  I mean wouldn’t you be surprised to discover that coffee is traditionally served hot?!  Crazy huh?  The truth is that someone actually filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s for serious burns on her thighs, buttocks, groin and genital areas from their coffee.  In court it was revealed that this fast food chain brewed their coffee with heat so high as it caused 3rd degree burns within 1 – 7 seconds.  McDonald’s had been made aware for years that hundreds of customers had been severely hurt but refused to adjust the temperature. (www.caoc.org/?pg=facts)

I remember hearing about the lawsuit in the news and completely judging it.  I truly saw it as someone being “sue happy” and trying to make a quick buck.  I was surprised to learn the injured/disfigured plaintiff originally asked for $20,000 to cover medical expenses and lost income.  McDonald’s position was the customer was partially at fault and offered her $800.  It was revealed that according to the company operations manual it was required the temperature be made at a dangerous degree.  McDonald’s admitted it had known of the serious risk for more than a decade.  The number of burns were minuscule compared to the number of cups of coffee sold so they didn’t take it seriously.  In the end the fast-food chain could not explain why they didn’t adjust the coffee temperature to safe levels and why they didn’t warn customers of the risk.

So after the facts were presented it was clear this wasn’t a frivolous lawsuit.  It was overwhelmingly clear McDonald’s was liable and negligent.  In attempt to send a message to the large corporation for their gross disregard of customer safety, the jury awarded the plaintiff $2.7 million.

Message received.

Now everywhere you look you can find written caution signs for: choking, electrocution, suffocation and much, much more.

So where are the warning labels protecting children from abuse?

Who do we easily and automatically give others access to our children?  In my case it wasn’t acquaintances or strangers but family.  Relatives were automatically trusted to be around young family members.   These dangerous people were allowed babysit my brother, sister and I, take me places in their car, and even sleep with me in my bed.  Did my parents ever suspect something was wrong?  Or were they like McDonald’s and just chose to ignore it?

In 2014, state agencies found and estimated 702,000 victims of child mistreatment – this would pack 10 modern football stadiums! Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator.  (childhelp.org/statistics)

Another child advocacy organization reported the people investigated for abuse were: 51% relative of the child, 39% parent, and 10% known, not family. (www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/media-kit/national-statistics-child-abuse)

I believe it is possible to end these high statistics but we all have to change.  In my family the history of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect runs deep.  I was abused in all these ways by my uncle, step-grandfather, aunt, cousin, mother and father.  As awful as the truth is we can’t hide or run from it.  All that will do is allow future generations inherit the bloody scars of secrets, pain and misery.

We all have a part to play in ending this type of dangerous legacy.  Are we willing to speak the truth in the hopes of protecting our children?  Would you be willing to exclude known or suspected pedophiles to family events?  Or would that feel disloyal?  Could you muster the courage to call the police and report crimes placed against your nieces and nephews?  Even if was perpetuated by your brother, father or aunt?

It only took 1 -7 seconds for the McDonald’s customer to have 3rd degree burns on her body from the coffee.  I can honestly attest that wounds and scars from childhood abuse are much more painful and will disfigure your mind, heart and soul.

My last living sexual abuser still refuses to take accountability for his actions.  I’ve been told time and time again that he has given his life over to Jesus and is a different person.  I truly wish this was the case.  I mean even if it were true does that mean all remaining consequences just disappear?  Does that mean he is now safe to be around young family members?  Or any children at all?  There are people in our family that desperately want to believe it is so.  It is this kind of thinking and response and keeps the child abuse statistics high.

Speaking the truth, calling the police, and even writing this blog is not disrespectful and wrong.  In fact it is just the opposite.  There are too many families living in secrets, lies, denial and codependency.  Year after year, generation after generation it begins to blur and feel natural to look the other way.  There is a reason for the saying: The truth will set you free.   Setting something free means it first must be in bondage.

We need the courage to dig up those deeply buried keys and place them in the old rusty locks to rescue future descendants.  Just as I prejudged the plaintiff who filed the case against McDonald’s before knowing the facts.  We need to stop criticizing and shunning those who were too young to understand or stop the crimes committed against them.

If it were possible I would erase the many of years of sexual abuse, the beatings, slaps and decades of yelling and screaming.  I’m still learning how my abuse disfigured my thinking and responses in so many ways.  How it has prevented me from trusting and bonding with others, and most of all loving myself.  I’m grateful my story didn’t end  when my abuse stopped.  In spite of my rough start I’ve had a wonderful life.  Many challenges along the way but I’m grateful for the life I’ve lived so far.

Now that I’m older, healthier, and in a happier place I desire to become to others what I needed when I was younger.   My hope as you read my story it opens your eyes to realize there are children who need help.  Sometimes the ones you least expect.  Maybe my story doesn’t exist in your family (and I sincerely hope this is the case).  But what if you discovered it does?  April is Childhood Prevention Month which is a great opportunity to talk about how to identify and end maltreatment of precious children.

Speaking out is the first step!

Breakthrough

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Chaos erupted in a Michigan courtroom that highlighted high emotions during a three week hearing for gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to abusing 10 girls but is accused by more than 250 others.

The father of three girls who say they were molested by Nassar “lost control” during a sentencing hearing Friday, charged at the defendant and was wrestled to the floor by sheriff’s deputies.

“Let me have that son of a bitch,” the father, Randall Margraves, shouted after he lunged at the table where Nassar was sitting. “Give me one minute with that bastard!” Margraves later apologized for the outburst, and the judge let him go without any punishment or charges, but not before making his feelings clear to the courtroom.

“I can only hope that when the day comes that Larry Nassar has ended his days on this earth that he will be escorted to one of the deepest, darkest, hottest pits in hell there is.”

I sat frozen watching the entire scene unfold.  It was heart wrenching watching the father explain to the judge that he was there to support his daughters.  Only to be emotionally blindsided by the words spoken in their letters to the judge.  They hadn’t allowed him to read their statements prior to that moment.  My eyes welled up with tears as I couldn’t fathom the pain and suffering this family shared in this moment.

Situations like these always triggers me.  It sparks abusive memories which can include moments of being touched or helplessness or fear.  The big ball of anguish and misery I fight to keep locked up has now been given the key to rear its ugly head.  The abuse takes advantage of the opportunity and demands complete control over every inch of my existence.

How?  Through depression, anger, restlessness, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness and more. It brings a deep desire to withdraw from others and the world around you.  It can cause you to have a short fuse when speaking to others.  It is difficult to see situations clearly or make rational decisions – or any decision for that matter. 

Sadly I admit I’ve cocooned myself (countless times) under layers of blankets in my bed hiding from the rest of the world.  I created a false sense of security and comfort that made it almost impossible to ever want to leave it.  The soothing escape of my king size bed was still no match for feeling insignificant and desiring to altogether disappear.

Some of you may understand how triggers can lead to isolation but it doesn’t have to stay that way.  Years of counseling, prayer, building a support system and plain ol’ fighting back has helped me.  Every time I desire to run to my cocoon I choose to stay away from my bedroom.  Believe me it isn’t easy, but I find something else to do.  When I’m triggered I now take a moment to find a place of peace and then fill my head and heart with other things.  It isn’t full-proof but it definitely helps.  Now I walk to edge of the pit but I don’t fall in it.

Watching this family struggling to deal with years of sexual abuse, broken trust and betrayal – I’m triggered.  I’m immediately saddened when I realize that I wish Mr. Margraves was my father.  Or more accurately my father had been like Mr. Margraves.  Watching him lunge towards Nassar trying with every ounce of his being to attempt to grab hold of him.

The father explained to the judge how painful it was listening to the words his girls spoke.  How angry and devastated he was to learn what this doctor did to his children.  He begged the judge to give him just 5 minutes alone with him – one minute even. As parents we hurt when our children hurt and there isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for them.  Right?

Children should be heard and believed, and the truth should never be swept under the rug.  They should never hear words like “just get over it” or “you’re making a big deal out of it”.  Or even worse – watch as they continue to be in relationship with the very people repeatedly abused you.

I mean the thing is after many years my parents finally heard and believed me.  They just refused to defend me.  It isn’t as if they didn’t know how – I watched them throughout the years defend all the wrong people.  Even until the end of my father’s life he defended his decision to never defend me.

It is important for children to be heard and believed AND defended.

Something happens inside them when they know someone will speak up when they don’t have a voice.  Watching someone take action for them and demand justice.  They say two wrongs don’t make a right, but I’m not gonna lie it felt good watching Mr. Margraves try to pulverize Dr. Nassar.

I think part of the reason I spent so much time hiding under my covers is because I felt the shame and pain of worthlessness.  I tried to cut myself off from the world but I was actually hiding from myself.  One day I gathered the courage to crawl out of my cocoon to finally allow my wings to sprout.  You see that’s what a caterpillar does when it transforms.  At first I looked at my isolation as my safe haven, but later learned it couldn’t heal me.

Just as there are many stages in a caterpillar changing into a butterfly – so is the same in healing (more important FREEDOM).  Once my wings began to take shape so did my thinking.  I realized that as much as I desired and needed to have my parents defend me it wasn’t ever going to happen.  So I had a choice to make:  either continue my familiar trips in and out of the cocoon or do something different.

Attempt to shed my old skin and the labels that attached itself to it: Damaged, Weak, Unlovable, Undefendable.

Some days are good and other days are difficult on this journey towards freedom.  What happened to me wasn’t my fault.  It was more than one person should ever have to endure – especially a little girl.  I didn’t ask for it – or like it -or get what was coming to me.   And although the abuse was all-consuming it never defined me.  Once I refused to return to isolation I could see the truth:

I’m lovable and strong and resilient and treasured AND I am defendable.

So I did…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.