Category Archives: family

Anniversaries – Honoring Strength and Courage

Holidays were a crap shoot in my family and the memories of the bad ones make up a number of abuse anniversaries for me which seems to be true for many, many sexual abuse survivors.

The holidays of my early childhood were wonderful. I loved everything about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both holidays were filled with relatives, games, reminiscing, and the best dinners ever.

Over time though, aunts, uncles, and cousins visited less often and we went to see them less too. Nobody wanted to be around my abusive mother anymore. She had survived abuse herself but never sought help and as an adult had gradually slipped into alternating roles as narcissistic victim and perpetrator of physical and emotional abuse.

As older siblings left the house, my mother’s abuse of my remaining brother and myself became more violent, and it was compounded by the abuse we inflicted on each other as we directed our inner pain and anger outward.

The happiness of any holiday at that point in my life revolved around my mother and the wild card of whether or not she would become emotionally and physically abusive. The excitement and happiness were still there, but the question was, would it last the day? Sometimes it did and that was wonderful, but many times it didn’t.

On one of those bad holidays, my brother was subjected to especially violent abuse. It was Christmas 1988, and it certainly was an awful one. My brother had been having serious behavioral problems and was strange and less himself that fall. He had attempted to sexually assault me but I fought him off and I didn’t say a word out of fear of my mother and what she would do to him, and what he would do to me in return.

On the day after Christmas that year, my life changed forever when my brother sexually terrorized and abused me while he was in the midst of an acute psychotic episode. My mother’s abuse had broken his mind and through that breaking I was set on my own path of self destruction, fragmenting of self, and mental illness.

I used to mark December 26th with tears and anger, or drugs and other self destruction. Then, I started marking it by releasing those feelings in a symbolic way. Now, I notice the day and remember what happened to me and the things that followed, but I also remember the inner strength I developed in order to survive that childhood and come out the other side to a place where I am on a path of healing, surrounded by people who love me and help me on my way.

I have been fortunate to be able to work through a lot of my abuse and make a certain amount of peace with it. Through that work, my holidays have become about new traditions that reflect my true self both past and present, and of honoring the precious, strong and lovable person I have always been. Whether my holidays are good or bad, that truth about myself will always be there.

Amy

By Joel Moore, author of www.perpetuallyhealing.com

It was my wife’s birthday last week. I am so very grateful for her. If it wasn’t for her endless patience and love toward me I wouldn’t be alive today. Three years ago I took her aside into our bedroom while she was preparing our Sunday dinner. “Amy,” I said as I closed the door behind me. There was nervousness and fear in my voice, “I think I was, Ummmm” I paused, if I said the next few words would she love me? Would she still want to be with me? Would she believe me when I didn’t even believe me? I wanted to turn around and not say anything. Perhaps its just something made up, a way to manipulate or create chaos out of calm. If I could just turn around and not speak the next two words. Perhaps the scalding thunderbolt of the first recovered memory would fade into the distance of illusion and nightmarish fantasy.

I was frozen in place, as if my feet were nailed to the floor. She looked at me with those beautiful soft azure and golden eyes, anticipating, yet already knowing, what I was going to say next. I regretted calling her away from the kitchen. It felt as if a puppeteer’s hand had violently thrust itself through my spine and I became a mannequin to inevitability. My mouth opened and sound emerged without my permission.

“I think I was sexually abused,” I finally finished my sentence.

She took a long moment to process what I had just said, those kind eyes never wavering. I backed up a half step expecting her to slap my face and call me a liar. Her next words to a divorce lawyer. Or any number of disbelieving scenarios ran through my whirling mind. Yet, what she had to say next was just as devastating.

“I suspected all along, Do you know who did this to you?”

She believed me. Her words were like healing salve on my burning skin. With that one simple sentence she told me that I was going to be ok, that I would survive this; it was going to get better. Over the next three years she has been my anchor among the tempest of recovering memories, raging emotions, and deep unending grieving. She has given wisdom when I needed it. She has given me encouragement, love, and support when others have called me a liar, a monster, or a perpetrator upon my own children. At the same time she has pushed me when all I wanted to do was wallow in self pity and cry.

The last three years she has listened to me tell the same story over and over again, each time she has always had the right thing to say to comfort my mournful soul. She has said things like:

I am so sorry this happened, what can I do to help?

I believe you.

This sucks, I wish I could do something to make you feel better.

He had no right to do that. You are justified to feel angry about it.

Why are you accepting his shame? Put that shame back onto him.

Where are you right now? Come back to me.

Did you write today?

It is worth it, You can do it.

You aren’t breathing, Slow down and refocus your breath.

Go meditate.

Go get a beer and come back when you are calm.

Come here, you need a hug.

I like new husband better.

Be angry at him, not me.

These are a few words out of the many I have heard over the past few years as I have begun to become the man she sees when she looks at me. As a result of her inspiration and patience I am becoming a whole person, capable of emotions other than anger or deep sadness. She has inspired me to be better, to seek help when I was unable to find a solution on my own.

On First Days and Having the “Stranger Talk”

By Shawna Ervin

Later this week I’ll drop off both of my kids at preschool. For the first time. My son will go to pre-kindergarten, my daughter to preschool. She’s not even three yet, kids backpacks school (3) but has been begging to go. So, I’ll send her. Next week. I’ll pack a lunch, walk her into her class, hug her and then walk out of the building. Alone.

How did I get here? What happened to my daughter, her small body and hair that stuck straight up? What happened to my baby boy, his bald head and large toothless smile? When did these babies and toddlers grow into preschoolers?

I’ll drop them off and say goodbye, as I’ve been slowly doing ever since they’ve been a part of our family. Part of parenting is the constant juggling between hanging on and letting go. Often I wonder if I’m strong enough to either hang on or let go. I’m strong enough for one moment at a time.

As I think about walking out of that preschool for the first time not holding a small hand, I am anxious. I am excited. I can hardly wait to have three hours all to myself – twice a week. I am worried about my little boy and little girl. Are they ready for this? Am I?

Before they go I know we need to update our talk about strangers and sexual abuse. Oh, help. Will I be triggered when I look into my kids’ trusting, wide eyes and start this talk? Will I be able to keep my composure? Will I have the right words to tell them about safe and unsafe people, about good touches and bad touches? I don’t know. But I do know this is one conversation that needs to happen.

Because I needed someone to tell me this. bike school (3)Because my kids need me to tell them, to be prepared and aware, to know I am here to protect, to listen, even when they think maybe they shouldn’t say something. I hope they never have to come to me to tell me about a bad touch, a dangerous situation or about a friend who is scared or hurt. But they need to know.  Being prepared is worth the pain of this conversation, for all of us. So I will tell them.