Tag Archive | molestation

Breaking My Silence

“Our silence is the abuser’s protection.” — Jodie Ortega

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. #SAAM

When I started down the path of sharing my own personal journey about my relationship with Domestic Violence, I was welcomed into a sisterhood of woman who had been in the same place as me.  Some even, who are still in the same place as me.  The more interaction I had with people regarding this issue, the more I wanted to know about the epidemic itself.  In all honesty, although I knew it was happening to others, I never once looked up any information about the statistical aspect of it.  Not until I started blogging.

Eventually, I landed on Twitter.  There too, I found many more avenues to follow.  Not only more people who were blogging on other sites, but also victim resources, shelters and government agencies, all sharing informative links and articles.  So, I did my homework.  I’m still doing my homework.  What I quickly learned is that the topic of Sexual Assault goes hand in hand with Physical Assault. Abuse is abuse. What I mean by that is that it all falls under one umbrella.

However, I always seem to find myself taking a step back from the topic.  I guess because to me, Sexual Assault just seems so much more graphic than being slapped around.  I always felt like I was tough enough to handle the physical stuff.  I could take it “like a man” so to speak.  It’s because over time I was conditioned to do so, in order to survive.  Although my abuser did attempt to rape me once over the span of all these years, it’s the one thing I don’t think I could’ve (mentally) survived.  And because it’s never happened to me, I feel that I am unable to relate on the same level with women who have survived it – mentally and physically.  That’s not to say I don’t support them because I do.  Because there’s rape and then there is sexual abuse and molestation.  And I fall under the molestation category.

What’s the difference?  Is there a difference?  There may or may not be.  I guess it all depends on how it’s perceived.  It’s all subjective.  I’d think each victim has their own outlook.  Bottom line is, an unwillingness to participate in any type of sexual act means the victim doesn’t ask for any of it to happen, which means it’s all Sexual Assault.

For me, coming out about my physically abusive marriage was already one secret too much.  Little did I realize, I was picking at the wall of the dam and eventually everything would overflow.  When asked to do a guest post on another blog, less than a month after I started blogging, it just came out.  In Aftermath of Abuse, I discussed my relationship with abuse at the hands of my husband, father and grandfather.  The latter was the perpetrator of my childhood molestation occurring at four years old.

“As luck would have it, he never penetrated me.  It was mainly fondling.  I remember several episodes after the first incident that he had me in his bed.  His “manhood” exposed and he guided my hand in stroking him.  In total, from memory, there could not have been more than five times that this had gone on.  And as I got older I actually forgot, blocked it out, suppressed it, whatever the experts say happen after events like this…is what must have happened.  I didn’t really think about it again until he passed away which was about 20 years after the fact.

When the memory came flooding back, I had told my mother and sister.  My mother questioned me as if she didn’t believe me.  She said, “he never watched you and your cousin at the same time.  I don’t think he even ever watched you alone.”  Guess what, apparently…he did.  Our family was very close growing up and so my grandfather was always around.  There was never a strained relationship with him.  More evidence (to my mother) that this could not be a true story.  I quickly dropped it.  I never spoke about it again with her so I don’t know if she ever truly accepted what I had said as true.  I let it go.  At the wake I leaned over his body and said, “I forgive you”.  I don’t know if that helped me in anyway but I felt like it was the right thing to do.

I also never spoke about this with my cousin.  So I don’t know if she recalls the same incident I do or whether or not there were other one on one incidents with her.  I do have my sneaking suspicions though.  After all…if we are a textbook case of the aftermath of sexual abuse then the evidence is clear – she went on to be involved with drugs and I became sexually promiscuous.”

The cousin I reference above is one and the same as discussed in Disconnected Reconnection.

The point of all of this is that we all handle things differently.  There is no cookie cutter abuse worksheet that makes every act the same.  Whether it’s physical, sexual, emotional, psychological., etc.  There are similar aspects to all of it because at the very essence of it all is controlling manipulation.  Our distinct personalities make up the other part of the difference because our reactions and coping mechanisms vary.

This amazing woman, Jodie Ortega, who I have come to know via Twitter  has just completely floored me.  As soon as I watched this video today, I stopped what I was doing to write this post.  The way she handles telling her story in front of an audience is a beautiful thing to watch.  She relates part of her words through rap dialogue which seems to ease you into the reality of what she’s saying.  She then breaks down numbers that are not your every day run of the mill statistics.  When she speaks of her experience with a cab driver, well…get a tissue.

Healing thrives in conversation.  Break your silence.

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Disconnected Reconnection

Domestic violence is a disgusting epidemic and I’m in awe of how many people are telling their stories.  It’s almost as if the stigma has been lifted.  Even though I know there are still multitudes that are living in silence, I pray their day to speak will come.  It is by far the most important part of our journey.  If you are one of the silent ones reading this…please, find someone you can trust…and tell them.  Even if it’s the only thing you can do at this moment – tell someone.

I had that chance.  And I stumbled.

I recently reconnected with my cousin who I hadn’t seen or spoken to in (too many) years.  I found her on Facebook and “friended” her to test the waters.  She had many issues over the years and I was a little unsure of just how reconnected I actually wanted to get.  We kept it strictly FB friendly over the next year or so and then she gave me her phone number and asked me to call.  I hesitated.  Actually, I ignored it.  I just wasn’t ready to talk to her, yet.

This was the cousin that had been molested alongside of me in our childhood by our grandfather (Aftermath of Abuse).  I didn’t know if she remembered and I wasn’t sure I was ready to speak about it with her.  She had a rough life riddled with everything from drug abuse to rape.  If she didn’t remember the molestation, I didn’t want to be the one to send her into a tailspin.  And honestly, I was not mentally ready myself.  If I allowed myself to go there with her, I didn’t know what else would follow.  Eventually though, I made the call.

I always believe everything happens for a reason.  You don’t have to be religious to believe that.  However, if you believe in God, at some point in your life you accept the fact that you are put in a certain place and time for a purpose that you are unaware of and have no control over.  There is a higher entity that brings you to this place in life.  At least, that’s how I look at it.

For me, it came after a strange trigger episode.  I had been listening to music from my childhood (music that directly related to my grandfather) and not for any specific reason.  It was just music that had not been heard in a long time and it was – a sound for sore ears.  After a few days of listening, I was in my dining room and caught a distinct whiff of my grandfather’s cologne.  It was at a time when no food was cooking, no candles were on, no one different was in the house.  No one was even in the dining room nor had they been for hours.  And the odor was in one spot.  If I turned my head to the left it was not there and if I turned the right, nothing.  It was very odd.

This not only came after days of listening to this music but also of me spending time with an aunt and cousins from that side of the family I don’t see often. Actually, almost never, and it was also after promising to call my cousin who I had been talking to on FB but still hadn’t done so.  It became overwhelming for me.  Too much all at once.  Everything just came together in such a way that I realized … now is the time.

So the next day, I called her.  We spoke.  We caught up.  Finally there was a lull in the conversation and I outright discussed what I remembered and asked her if she had any memory of it.  She said she didn’t but she was also unable to talk because her husband was nearby and she sounded a little frazzled, either at the conversation or whatever thoughts were going through her mind.  She hesitated for a moment and then said she’d been “messed up” (on drugs) for so long she probably wouldn’t be able to remember.

So I left it at that.  We spoke several times since that initial conversation and caught up on the insanity of her life and how she was in a good place now.  Clean and sober for five years.  I believed her.  I knew that the likelihood of a real 5 years straight – for her – was probably not a full 1826 days of sobriety but I didn’t judge.  I was never a drug user so I can’t begin to understand the difficulties of kicking the habit for good.

I was not nearly as forthcoming with stories of what I had been through in my life.  I wanted to be the listening ear for her.  I felt at the moment that was my place and what I needed to do.  It’s what she needed as well.  Our calls were good.  It felt good to reconnect.  She was so grateful that I was non-judgmental.  I was there for her because she was my cousin and she needed someone -family- to hear her.

In November, my cousin was murdered by her husband.  Compression asphyxiation.  She was strangled.  He crushed her windpipe.

When I had gotten the news, this was not yet known.  All I knew is that she never woke up in the morning.  I even called her husband and spoke to him.  He seemed just as one would expect, holding it together for their youngest son.  This was our first encounter and when talking to me he expressed his gratitude that there was someone in the family who gave a damn.  Due to her years of drug use, her mother, my aunt, for the most part disowned her.  None of the family spoke to her mostly because we didn’t know where she was.  Let’s just say, the family is fractured and dysfunction has had its way throughout the years.

Within days, I learned the truth about what really happened.  I was slightly stunned but not really shocked.  There was some part of me that thought something was amiss.  The news resulted in me and another cousin doing a lot of legwork, making phone calls and trying to piece stuff together.  Part of me went to that place in my head that thought if I had mentioned my story to her maybe she would have mentioned hers to me.  Maybe I could’ve helped her in some way and this would not have happened.

Now that a couple of months have passed, I’m able to understand that all of this was somehow meant for me.  Another reminder.  An eye opener.  A catalyst that told me to stay on course.  One that struck too close to home.  This was another reason I was unable to write for the past few months.  Even though people have reached out saying I was brave to tell my story and inspirational, in the days and weeks after my cousin’s death, I felt like a hypocrite hiding behind a screen telling my story to strangers and I couldn’t even help my own flesh and blood.

Truth be told – it bothers me.

The reason it affects me, I think, is because my family was more willing to believe her death was drug related than a “simple” domestic violence murder.  My family was more willing to believe she drowned herself in drugs over the years because she was a pathetic loser than a possible coping mechanism resulting from molestation at the hands of their father.  And still, I have not spoken up.  Not to them.  And I’m not sure why.

In the heat of the moment, I did spew out the details of what happened at the hands of my grandfather.  Something that put me at ease, physically.  I had come to terms with that situation years ago.  It was something that never really weighed on me, at least not consciously.  I had a fine relationship with my grandfather as I got older but those may have been times when what happened at the age of 5 was blocked out.  On his death bed, I forgave him and let go of all of it.  The memories resurfaced when I started this blog.

Lately, I’ve had an overpowering sensation of needing to tell my family.  Not so much those I am closest to, that I speak to on a somewhat daily basis.  But those I don’t speak to as often.  I’m not sure why.  I owe them nothing.  They haven’t been in my life for, well for almost the entire marriage.  Part of it was me pushing everyone out of my life so no one would know but now I feel more of a question as to – why didn’t they try?  Maybe if someone made the effort to be in my life this wouldn’t have gone on for as long?

I don’t really know what I’m feeling.  I can only go with my instincts and when I start getting these pangs of sharing it’s only a matter of time.  It’s been a year since I first shared my story with a few people I know in the real world and I haven’t regretted it.  Maybe I just picked the right people to tell.

When I was talking to my cousin, she had so much anguish bottled up I had told her to start writing.  I told her how healing it was.  That it would be something beneficial and therapeutic for her.  She asked me if I had done that.  Writing.  I told her I did.  I told her it truly soothes the soul.  And I implored her to do the same.  She asked me what I wrote about.  As soon as her words came out I felt sheer panic.  Questioning myself whether or not I should tell her right then and there.  It felt like a 5 minute pause and was probably only 5 seconds.  All I said was – this and that, things that have happened in my life.  She asked if it helped me.  I said … absolutely.  I immediately felt guilty for not telling her.  I thought to myself if she presses me for specifics I’m going to tell her.  But she didn’t.  The conversation continued on and there was no real opportunity to squeeze it in.

We all have a bad habit of thinking there is always tomorrow.  No matter the subject.  No matter the person we want to tell.  No matter the relationships we want to mend.  The truth is … and we all know the truth … tomorrow is not promised.  I will never have the chance to confide in my cousin.  To have her know she could feel safe in confiding in me.  Our reconnection was disconnected before either of us were ready.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Whenever possible …

Tell. Your. Story.

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To read from the beginning… #MyStory starts here.

31 Facts in 31 Days – Day 22

sexabuse

The chart above is one of the few I found that listed the youngest age of sexually assaulted children.  I couldn’t find anything younger than six, probably because children younger than that really don’t understand what is happening to them and so they don’t know that anything is wrong or that they should be telling someone what is going on.  Therefore, those cases go unreported.

Speaking for myself, I was about 4 or 5 when my grandfather decided to touch me.  I wrote about the situation less than two months after starting this blog, when I was asked to write a guest post on the blog Deliberate Donkey.  So I wrote about The Aftermath of Abuse.  It not only discussed the situation between my grandfather and I, but also on the physical abuse by my father and husband, and how it all ties into a neat little “textbook” bow.

This topic has come to the surface for me again over the last couple of weeks and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it is so I can discuss it again, here, once and for all and be done with it.

I don’t think it was something I really dwelled on.  I had a good relationship with my grandfather growing up, and although I always remember knowing it happened, I must have, at some point, suppressed it.  It would make sense wouldn’t it?  Otherwise how would I be able to get along with my grandfather?

Even now, I don’t really have any sort of hate towards him over it.  I’m not sure I ever did.  Maybe because it only happened a few times or maybe because there was no real physical sexual assault.  To add to it, I didn’t know it was wrong.  I didn’t know to tell my parents.  Back then we didn’t have conversations like today when we continuously remind our children that no one should touch their “private parts” and if anyone tried or asked them to touch theirs to tell us immediately. I think it was just a non-existent discussion in the 1970’s since everyone was just so trusting and carefree back then.  Maybe because my parents were young themselves they didn’t know to have that type of conversation with a young child.  Who knows.

Thankfully, discussions have changed since then.  However, sadly, cases of childhood sexual abuse have not stopped.

Statistics on Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can occur in or out of the home, and perpetrators can include parents, caregivers, other adults, or other children or youth.

In the United States, approximately 1 out of every 4 girls and 1 out of every 6 boys is sexually abused.

Approximately 60% of sexual abusers are known to the child but are not family members, such as family friends, babysitters, or neighbors.

Approximately 30% of sexual abusers are family members, such as fathers, mothers, brothers, uncles, or cousins.

Child sex abuse includes body contact, such as kissing and oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Sex abuse can also include “flashing” or showing private parts, forcing children to watch pornography, voyeurism (trying to look at a child’s naked body), pressuring children for sex, having sex in front of children, and exploiting children for pornography or prostitution.

Child abusers often do not use physical force but instead “groom” or use manipulative tactics, such as buying gifts, arranging special activities, exposing children to pornography, and roughhousing to keep a child engaged with and often confused about the abuser’s motives.

Behavioral changes are often the first signs of sexual abuse. These can include nervous or aggressive behavior toward adults, early and age-inappropriate sexual provocativeness, alcohol consumption and the use of other drugs. Boys are more likely than girls to act out or behave in aggressive and antisocial ways.

The consequences of child sexual abuse are wide-ranging and varied. They can include:

  • chronic depression
  • low self-esteem
  • sexual dysfunction
  • multiple personalities

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Fact Source: Random History

Fact Source: Women’s Issues

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To read from the beginning… #MyStory starts here.