” A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power.”

12 Apr

When I was 7 or 8, I was molested by my neighbour, a near quadriplegic, and his helper. This went on, as I remember it, for the duration of a summer, maybe longer, until I finally refused to go over there ever again.

The details of the abuse are unimportant-they are listed in various other places on this site, and are not much different from the stories many women carry.

What’s important to me today is explaining what the life left looked like. It’s National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, and I want to tell this part of my story. It always feels like a dream, like a story I made up. But the consequences of that summer have lingered.

For a very long time, I wouldn’t admit to myself what had happened. I knew what did. The images would replay in my head at night, or at other times when I should have been innocently discovering my body on my own. I’d have dreams about being abused by factory lines of robots, my body privy to anything, tied down and unable to move. Dreams that my body did not belong to me.

My body became a foreign organism, something I didn’t understand, something that didn’t work.

I told no one. He never told me not to, or rather, I don’t remember hearing those very words, but the implication was there. I had done something bad. No one would believe me. My parents had enough going on.

He lived right next door, his helped across the street. In truth, I think I was frightened of what could happen if I did tell.

So I told no one, and grew into a woman’s body too fast, and was lost within it.

In a way, I’m happy that I was unattractive, strange looking and just fucked up at 13 or 14. I didn’t have a chance to make those mistakes that girls usually make. The opportunity just wasn’t there. Unless you count the 19 year old I dated at 14, who was (obviously) after only one thing.

I finally admitted, out loud to someone that I had been abused when I was 16. A relative stranger. We were walking to the liquor store or some one’s house from a party, and she started talking about her own abuse. At first I whispered. She stopped and waited for me to finish speaking, asked me to speak louder.

I said I had never told a soul, except her now. She told me it would get better.

In a way, she was right. Once I was able to get the words out, the admit to someone my harsh dirty secret, it didn’t feel so bad. It didn’t feel like a rotten dream I was trying to put to bed. It felt real. It still felt fucking horrible, but it existed in someone else’s life now. My hatred for cherries, my discomfort around the disabled, it was real, and not just something frivolous on my part. She made it real. Breaking my silence made it real.

It didn’t make being touched any easier. I still dislike having anyone touch me, some days even my own husband. The right sequence of events can trigger a massive panic attack, except I can’t run away because my body never learned how, instead willing to lie there and accept what’s coming. When threatened, my body lays down to die instead of fighting. I wonder how much of my proclivities in terms of submission are truly mine, and how much is a product of being abused by two much older men.

This isn’t an easy post to write. I’m sitting here, my chest tightening, wanting to stop. But I won’t. I have never truly dealt with being abused. I have tried to, and have had nearly ever therapist or shrink blow me off since “it doesn’t seem that bad”. Becoming nauseous sometimes when touched-isn’t that “that bad”? Being unable many days to even kiss my husband, isn’t that “that bad”? Feeling like I should just suck it up, it wasn’t that bad, is that “that bad?”

It was a long time ago. The one bastard who did this to me, the cripple, he is long dead, and I sang a fervent joyous song in my heart when my father invited me to the funeral. The other still lives across from my father, helps him occasionally. The thought of that man seeing my small naked body as he talks to my father sickens me, and I hope that he sees those images as regret. I rather doubt it.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve been “home” once in 7 years. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear to see that man, I can’t bear to see that house, that yard, that place. That place where a chunk of my innocence was lost, was buried. The place that stole my love for cockleshells and cherries and birds.

I am still mad as hell, and would love to burn that place to the ground. I’m madder now knowing, looking at my daughters and understanding exactly what I lost. But I am freed somewhat from the shackles of that sick old man by using my voice, and refusing the silence he smothered me with.

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29 Responses to “” A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power.””

  1. Nat April 12, 2008 at 9:12 am #

    Still waiting for the man who abused me to die. After only 15 months of jail time, I feel his death is the only thing that will make me feel like I’m “free” again. Free to live my life without fear of running into him (even though technically he’s not allowed to come near me… he still tries)

  2. thordora April 12, 2008 at 9:29 am #

    Death was a great relief. I remember running into him my last year of high school, and vacillating between sheer blinding hatred and a return to that little girl. I fucking HATED it, and managed to squeak out “stay the FUCK away from me” from between my teeth before I ran to my house.

    Letting go of that hold on me has meant a lot.

  3. Marcy April 12, 2008 at 9:50 am #

    Good for you, shouting out. It’s not your shame, it’s theirs.

  4. Mrs. Chicken April 12, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    Brave and immensely powerful, Thor. And it is immense, this thing that happened to you. That you survived is a testament to your strength and desire to live.

    I am in awe.

  5. daisybones April 12, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    @ Nat, I’m waiting for my mother’s rapist to die. The fact that she died so young only makes the wait worse. He is spitefully, unfairly ancient.

    Thordora, I’m proud of you. This is brave and beautiful. I really belive that our generation is the one that has let loose a primal scream, that has finally said NO and our daughters will have less abuse because of that- I really, really think that is true.

    Have you seen the Sexography project? You could join and edit this with a link to it. It’s a charity for RAINN.

    Love you.

  6. anonymous April 12, 2008 at 11:06 am #

    This is such a brave post, Thor. It helps A LOT to know we’re not alone.

    I’m posting as anonymous because my family does not know that my father abused me. He was murdered when I was sixteen, and became an instant hero in everyone’s eyes. Except mine. My mom and siblings do not understand why I don’t worship him as they do. I struggle, wondering if I should tell them. It would let me “off the hook” for my attitude toward him, but why ruin their memories?

    Thanks for this post, and for sharing your story, and for allowing me to share mine.

  7. flutter April 12, 2008 at 2:07 pm #

    I am so proud of you for this post. I would encourage you to find a therapist that specializes in sexual assault. Your pain is nothing to be tossed aside. It matters, you matter. This matters.

    I have been through something, not similar but with the same consequences. Your courage is worth celebrating.

  8. OnlyDogsPlease April 12, 2008 at 4:06 pm #

    Never believe those that say it “isn’t that bad”, including yourself.

    I can’t imagine how painful the memories must be. I can’t even begin to fathom how horrid the reality is. Sexual abuse is such a hateful crime, especially against the innocent. You are brave to write your feelings.

  9. Eden April 12, 2008 at 5:19 pm #

    I think this was one of your most amazing essays (which is saying a lot). If you’d like me to repost it on my blog w/ credit for the Sexography RAINN fundraiser, say the word. It might raise some dough. In any case, I’ll be pointing people here.

  10. thordora April 12, 2008 at 6:34 pm #

    Please, repost-I couldn’t be bothered to sign up this morning.

    And thank you, all of you. I find no courage in speaking of this, feel no bravery. Just a quiet satisfaction in moving yet another thing out of my heart.

  11. Mad Hatter April 12, 2008 at 8:14 pm #

    Thank you, Thor, for saying it and for writing it. I have so much respect for women like you and Flutter who refuse to be silenced b/c silence can seem such a (false) safe haven.

  12. Bon April 12, 2008 at 10:20 pm #

    “quiet satisfaction in moving yet another thing out of my heart”…this, and the post itself, are fabulous. voice and agency wrested from the shame that silences.

    thank you, Thor. and the docs who’ve minimized it? sigh.

  13. radical mama April 12, 2008 at 10:46 pm #

    I know you don’t often feel courageous, but you so are. Your will completely amazes me. *hugs*

    Does your father know about what happened?

  14. Amie April 13, 2008 at 3:48 am #

    It is quite an honour that you choose to share such details with us, your readers. I’ll agree with the things others have already said above, its nice to know we’re not alone.
    The doctors who have tossed aside your pain really deserve to lose their jobs.

  15. Missy April 13, 2008 at 7:53 am #

    Thor, thanks for posting this.
    I know these “cause of the month” things can seem stupid at times, but this one really needs a lot of talk. There are still SO MANY people out there with ideas like–you asked for it, it’s biological and they can’t help it, and that classic “it doesn’t seem that bad.”
    Thanks for being brave and talking about it.
    For those of us who aren’t brave enough.

  16. Carin April 13, 2008 at 10:28 am #

    Argargarg the therapists who said it wasn’t that bad should be shot! Losing their jobs would be letting them off easy! I cannot believe multiple therapists dared to say something so horribly, well, wrong! Wasn’t that bad! Bristle bristle screeeeeam!

    I hope this post helps you, and any others who don’t have the gust to speak out. Grr I’m still mad that therapists said it wasn’t that bad. I beg their friggin pardon! *screams again*

  17. thordora April 13, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    I’ve never really told my father. I told him once when he was drunk, but of course he didn’t remember.

    At this point, it’s a pain I can spare him. He doesn’t need to know.

  18. sweetsalty kate April 13, 2008 at 7:40 pm #

    Not easy to write but you did it so gracefully, so powerfully. I’m in awe too. This is important work, healing, ownership.

  19. BPD in OKC April 13, 2008 at 8:42 pm #

    Thank you for being so brave. Telling your story takes courage.

  20. Eden April 13, 2008 at 9:24 pm #

    This comment was posted at my site:

    “I am still mad as hell, and would love to burn that place to the ground. I’m madder now knowing, looking at my daughters and understanding exactly what I lost.”

    yes, yes… omg yes. this is why i decided so very long ago i’d never have kids. it wouldn’t happen to her, and i’m afraid i’d be mad at her too. i’ve always been mad about it. i was a quietly mad little girl, the scariest kind because you never knew when it was coming.

    no one knew about it till i was 18, and it was a shrink. it didn’t help. i didn’t tell anyone i knew till i was 28. it did. but i think it wasn’t till i was 38 that i put it to bed.

  21. Carly April 14, 2008 at 12:34 am #

    First of all, I want to commend you for writing something that was so incredibly hard to write. I could feel the emotion in your words, and while it was hard to read when feeling that pain, it seems as though it helped to put it down and publish it. You’re very brave. Keep on going, too… the more you say it and the more you find support from your peers, the more it helps your healing (or it did mine – you may find differently, but I feel like silence is counterproductive…)

  22. marcelarhodus April 14, 2008 at 2:55 am #

    we need to do everything we can to protect little lives from being changed like yours was. You are a brave soul and a survivor, and the courage you let us see is one that appeals to the best in us and inspires us to move and do more.
    While I was reading all I could think is how I wanted to give that little girl a hug and protect her. I cannot protect her, but I can send you a hug.

  23. Cori April 14, 2008 at 8:30 am #

    Brave post, Thor. Beautiful job.

    I was molested by the teenage son of one of my mom’s friends from age 8-12. I developed a raging eating disorder in my early teens as a consequence, but have been well for a long time now. In my therapy for the eating issues, I addressed the abuse. It was hard, but necessary. The docs who have been minimizing your issues should be ashamed of themselves.

    Hugs. Always here if you need to talk/vent!

  24. thordora April 14, 2008 at 8:38 am #

    I’m fairly confident that my weight, and my eating issues, are linked to a need to be unattractive. I’d REALLY like to get past that.

    Thank you for sharing Cori. We always think we’re alone, then it turns out that sadly, we aren’t.

  25. bromac April 14, 2008 at 9:52 am #

    I’m very sorry for your pain and I, too, am in awe of your courage in the face of such vile behavior.

  26. Cori April 14, 2008 at 4:01 pm #

    For me, the (not) eating was about self-deprivation and worthlessness. However, all eating disorders are very common amongst those who’ve been sexually abused because they are about controlling your body and others’ perceptions of it. In therapy, the goal (for me) was to regain control without being self-destructive. It took a long time and I had to learn some new coping mechanisms. I was 20 before I really “got well”. Old habits die hard, but self-awareness doesn’t.

  27. foop April 15, 2008 at 8:00 pm #

    I honor your survival and your courage and your affirmation of life.

    Wishing you peace, sistergirl.

  28. Lisa b April 21, 2008 at 9:43 pm #

    Powerful post.
    I am sick that anyone has minimized the effects of your abuse.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Shattering silence « So anyway… - April 13, 2008

    […] Shattering silence Jump to Comments Reprinted with permission, to benefit RAINN via the Sexography Project A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power […]

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