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.

 

 

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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.

 

Removing Labels

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One day back in middle school I was taking a test after lunch.  Loud silence in class as we focused on finding the correct answers to the questions.  Our desks were placed in several neat, straight rows facing our teacher who also sat behind his desk.  I was in the middle row directly in the middle of the class.  Not my first choice as I love to be unnoticeable and blend in the background.  Out of the corner of my eye I could tell my teacher was watching me.  I had been looking around at the other students in the class, but not because I was cheating – I was thinking.  I often do this to this very day.  I look around (although I’m not really seeing) while I figure things out in my head.

It must have occurred to me that my glancing around could look suspicious so I nervously turned my head to look at my teacher.  Yep, he was watching me so I immediately looked down at my paper once again.   For the next few minutes I only stared at my test but out of the corner of my eye I could see my teacher had his eyes firmly planted on me.  My fears were confirmed when I heard his voice say “hey stupid” (um okay).  I just sat there staring at my paper.  “Hey stupid” he said again out loud and I just continued to ignore him.  I mean why would I answer him when he was clearly insulting me?  One final time he said louder “HEY STUPID!”  Now he had everyone’s attention because most of the students were looking at him – including myself.  My heart beat loudly because I was the only one who knew he was talking to me! I didn’t know how long this would continue?  Would he finally call me out?  The next thing I knew the boy who sat behind me replied “What?”

The teacher just sat there and didn’t say anything.  I’m sure deciding if it was worth it to continue and let class know he really meant another stupid student.  I sat there just trying to complete my test and block out what was happening.  In the end he chose to move on and let the entire situation go.  I laughed about this memory for years.  I mean why would I acknowledge to him or the class that I was stupid?  If I responded that would show that I was claiming that title.  Even that young I wouldn’t allow someone to label me.

So why do I choose to label myself?
Self-appointed labels are the ones that feel impossible to let go.  Fear, anger and shame are powerful.  It’s almost like looking in a mirror at a carnival – everything is hideously distorted.  You walk away believing what you saw is the truth.

Why does it feel impossible for me to accept a compliment?  It is soooo uncomfortable.  The truth is it has been much easier to embrace the lies.  The negative and destructive whisperings in my mind made much more sense.   Felt familiar and safe.

It also held me captive.  (Read Behind the Walls)

It takes a lot of hard work and determination to remove these labels.  One by one they are starting to disappear.  It is then also my job to keep them off.  Sometimes the lies can be so subtle you don’t even know you’ve been duped.  I honestly believed that although I always wanted a daughter it was a good thing I never had one.  Why?  Because I believed I wouldn’t have bonded with her and even been cruel to her.  That my experiences with my mom would have passed down to my daughter.

On one of my trips to Africa an opportunity presented itself to adopt a little girl.  It happened out of the blue and I was shocked and happily surprised.  I didn’t even have to think about it – I was ready to do it.  The person who spoke to me had connections to get the ball rolling.  I called Robbie back home and he was in complete agreement and excited too.  That night fear gripped me like I never experienced in my life, and the thoughts that overtook my mind were overwhelming.

I spoke to someone (I trusted) that night about the entire situation including my deep-rooted fear.  This person helped me realize that I had swallowed huge lies about myself. Everything pointed to the person and mother I truly was – not the distorted image I had about myself.  Even the reason I traveled so far from home and was in another continent was to help children in need.  This revealed my heart towards children at home and all over the world.  Standing in that guest house that night in Malawi, Africa – I emancipated myself from the false truth I completely owned and embraced.   For the first time in my life I realized I wasn’t the person who could (or would) do those things to a daughter or any child for that matter.  It was liberating and brought me such deep peace.

Although the adoption never took place – the good news is the label never returned either.  Now on to the next…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing but the facts

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The truth is I was sexually abused throughout my childhood.

The truth is that I was told that I liked it and never to tell.

It forever changed my views on relationships and love.

I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t important enough to rescue and defend.

One day the thick wall of lies slowly started to crack.

The truth is shame and pain held me captive and in chains.

The treacherous path leading to freedom and wholeness appeared impossible.

The truth is the remains are difficult to completely overcome.

But what happens to you if you stop trying?

Not long ago a voice said to me “you know you can still press charges against your uncle”.  I took a deep breath and said “I know”.  I had created a million logical reasons in my head why I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it.   When I finally said it out loud to another person I realized it no longer made sense.

The truth is I was afraid.

According to the Department of Justice NSOPW (National Sex Offender Public Website): About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members.

Sex offenses represent under 1% of all arrests (cosm.org)

Less than 1%…

Almost a year ago I walked into the police station and spoke the truth.  Not my truth, or a version of the truth, but the pure truth.  Through trembling and tears I reported the uncounted illegal and immoral offenses forced upon me.

The truth is I honestly didn’t know if I’d survive that day.

But I did.

The fate of my case now lies in the hands of the district attorney, and I await the decision.  Will it move forward or die?  It’s been over 40 years and is now he said vs. she said. 

And he said he doesn’t remember anything.

I fear my case will become just another forgotten statistic.

Lies will never become the truth just like sweeping it under the rug will make it go away.

Almost a year has passed since I found the courage to stand up for myself and make a formal legal complaint.

Will anyone believe me?

Am I wasting my time?

Will my family judge me?

Will this just open old wounds?

The truth is the wounds have always been open.  I just learned how to live around them.  I’ve tried to anticipate how I will feel if the case doesn’t move forward.  Will I be crushed or devastated?  Would the entire process been worth a disappointing outcome?

My heart skipped a beat when it dawned on me we both would be notified if the case was dropped.  It was painful to know he would feel relief.  For a second I regretted my decision, but only because I didn’t want him to think he won.  Through tears I knew (no matter the outcome) I made the right decision.

A champion finally appeared and plead the case against my abuse.  Did the fact it happened such a long time ago make it any less wicked?  Any less criminal?  Lack of accountability in my family was a era that was about to come to an end.

The morning the official police report was filed against my uncle I caught a glimpse of my champion.  I was a ball of nerves and my stomach was in knots.  I walked into the bathroom of the police station as I waited for the detective, and there she was.

So many thoughts raced through my head and it was hard to keep up with them all.  I’ve always told my children the right thing to do is usually the hard thing to do.  I was living these words right now.  Tears filled my eyes and I looked directly in the mirror at myself.  The woman looking back at me looked worn out and tired.  Years of holding secrets and pain had done it.  Living through rejection after rejection by her parents and others did it.  Fear of what could or wouldn’t happen did it.

She just reached the point where she just had to leave this burden somewhere.  She couldn’t hold onto it one more day.  The journey to wholeness had brought her to this place but it couldn’t make her take the next step.  She had to do it.  As she stood there in fear and felt her haggard soul she knew the truth.  She was right where she needed to be.  Even if the district attorney didn’t move the case forward – she will.

I will continue to speak out and share my story.

I will continue to take steps to wash away the pain and shame.

I will ferociously pursue healing even when the path seems impossible.  (As it frequently does).

As I looked at myself in the mirror that day courage washed over my tired body.  I don’t know where it came from but it was long overdue.  My champion was there to help make it possible.  I finally understood she had never abandoned or betrayed me.  Yes,  today she didn’t look and feel her best and on the verge of tears but together we believed we would survive that day.

The truth is we did.