The Silence That Kills

The silence demanded from a child after she is sexually attacked by someone within the family system is where the most harm comes, not from the sexual attacks. A child can recuperate from those with love, help and protection from any further attacks.

It is the silence most children are forced to bear to keep the family safe from shame which kills, figuratively and literally. The family’s shame is too great, greater than the survival of the child. This mistaken belief, that all must be kept quiet to keep the family’s name and unit together needs to radically change to save our children.

Society would not approve, and that must reverse. We as a society must face that this crime occurs and occurs at an alarming rate within families; one of every four girls and one in every six boys.

Forced into silence at an early age, containing horrors that traumatize, a child grows into adulthood mute only knowing how to please others. She is sensitized to the feelings of others not knowing her own or even if she has a right to have them.

It is a constant effort to go down deep and access what is really there because it is still very much a mystery to me. I remind myself daily that I have the freedom and the right to have my own thoughts, views and feelings.

I could have healed and moved on from the sexual attacks when a child. My belief is that an entire family can heal and move on. But only if the attacks are brought to light along with one(s) committing them.

The child should never be alone with the attacker again. All in the family have the freedom to talk about it and to show anger toward the attacker but compassion for the child. Family and individual therapy must be provided.

Compassion for the child must supersede all else. Others are taught to love her even more and protect her from further damage. Then they are taught to work to forgive the attacker(s) but to never forget and always remain vigilant. 

It was the silence demanded that took away everything I had. My body was taken, and from that I could recuperate, it was the silence that took everything else.

Note: I name all childhood sexual abuse as attacks even though the crimes are usually committed manipulatively and quietly. Each one is a heinous, serious assault on a child’s mind, body and spirit.

The Presence of Now

“There go all the good people,” mom said, a bitter triteness in her voice as we drove by the church on Sunday.

Quietly gazing out the window as a teen, my longing to be one of them made me stare believing that we were not. Going to church made you good. But I already knew I was not at age 8.

I still feel it to my core and work daily to grow from a place of shame to a connectedness within where truth, beauty and peace lay waiting. That means letting go of all ties to the origin group I was born into. To others it is called family. To me it is toxic, pulling me down with wishes that only wound me further.

It is time to move on…

Becoming Visible

photo by patricia

Stevie, my one younger brother, emails rarely and does so in group form adding my name to the list with the other three remaining siblings including Tom. It has always bothered me as Tom is the worst offender due to the psychological abuse suffered after his crime which has never stopped even throughout adulthood. Family members seem used to his covert comments about me. 

An email came yesterday, innocent enough. Though I love to hear from Stevie, being in a list with Tom causes my inner core to fracture. It takes the rest of the day to feel restored. In the night after waking in the dark, sleep would not return. It is time to let Stevie know that including me in his group email causes pain and why.

I have been inclined to keep my thoughts to myself because I don’t want to add pain to Stevie’s life after the loss of his daughter four years ago. Becoming visible is very hard— crossing the taboo line that sexual abuse draws.  I dare to cross it, over, and over again. I must. If I don’t stand up for myself, who will? And Stevie is an adult who can handle hearing my preference and why. 

Hi Stevie,

I’d like to be left off emails that include Tom. It brings up a lot of bad memories that interfere with sleeping. He is the worst offender of all four due to the way I was treated all the years after he sexually abused me. I was only 9 when he crept up in the night and committed the crime. He was home from college. You were on the other end of the couch as we had been allowed to fall asleep watching the Christmas tree.

The way he treated me since that shattering moment harmed me more than all I have endured and suffered. He caused great damage that could not resolve because he never apologized or took responsibility. Even in middle age sitting at my table right here, he made remarks to you about how dumb I was when buying this house.

I sat as if invisible while he made the usual sly, cutting remarks and no one thought anything about it. It seemed OK to belittle me. And that is what he has done, albeit slyly, since I was a child… snickered cruel remarks that made me look bad.  

He is not safe for me. He has never shown sorrow for his crime or actions. To be in a group email that includes him causes deep pain as if I still don’t exist because all I went through is not being acknowledged.

Thank you Stevie,

Patricia

CONTENTMENT

“Don’t say anything negative,” I quip to Samuel laying down several green tomatoes from the garden. “I’m frying them the healthy way.”

He is quiet with a quizzical expression then walks away. Later he fills up his plate three times munching happily while watching his show.

Contentment enfolds me with warmth and coziness. There are no emergencies, and with my quirky brain an emergency is ever present. There are no relationships that need dire attention though there is always work to do on them. Everything is alright.

That’s not boredom, it is pure contentment. With the camera hanging from my neck the hammock by the butterfly bush beckons. It is so close to the blossoms there ought to be a few good shots. Today’s visitor is yellow.

Contentment is not something familiar after a life of adrenaline pumps several times daily. Cherishing it while also questioning it, the evenness needs reaffirming. It is OK. This is OK, accepting that it is also ever fleeting. Take it for now and basque in it. 

You don’t need great ups then downs. Like the cat lying in the triangle of sun sprawled out like a long furry rope, then moving with the sun to the doorway to soak up the sunshiny luxury again, you too can follow the sun and move with it.  

Watching the sun rise, then late in the day go down while sipping iced tea with fresh picked mint, the rocker on the porch creaks and I’m settled. Where once there was restless, deep cavernous loneliness, there is now centeredness and contentment.

Something very important inside has connected. When the hide tide with waves takes me to hurricane seas there is a sure way back home, an internal place of peace, contentment and joy. Now to master it even during the storms… 

 

AGAINST THE WIND

The little girl sexually abused. She knows loneliness far before any other child, a loneliness that scrapes and claws from the inside out. A loneliness she runs from in countless ways, as many ways as there are children abused.

A little girl sexually abused now woman. She remains alone in a way no other knows and she is unable to describe it because others wouldn’t understand. Her ways of running have become more destructive because the pain and horror of what she endured was kept inside her. Her family bade it that way.

Her family bids it that way in her womanhood too, her middle age, her retirement years, and to her deathbed no one steps up to wrap her tight and say, “I am sorry.”

The ones that knew and kept silent shun her. She is shunned in subtle ways, not outright, but seedy and cowardly, like the attacker. Acting supportive like cake icing, others in the so called family really exert an undertow of control instead of true love and support. Each looks after themselves. Each interact with the attacker(s) as if nothing happened. No one wants to hear or know different.

She cries alone abandoned. It has been made to look as if she has not been abandoned. She has been… all along she has been.

It was easier to control her in childhood, to keep the secrets of what her attacker(s) had done. If out in the open it would shame them. They knew and did nothing. Or they didn’t know, but know now but nothing changes because the shame still causes them to re-victimize the woman still terrorized into silence. If I speak I will be abandoned.

That truth remains and it feels terrifying. No one will admit that this control is being exerted and no proof can be provided because each is as manipulative, hurtful, and subversive as the attacker(s) they interact with.

The one who suffered the horrors in silence knows. She knows, and she also knows she cannot talk, not now, not ever. She can never be herself around the ‘family of origin.’ She never could, could she? Once attacked, once silenced, the child she was, the woman she became, hid so far away she will never show herself to those she once called family unless it’s safe.

It never becomes safe because the shackles and chains of silence still restrain her. Her beauty goes unnoticed, worse put down. Whatever tactics it takes to silence her are tightened down until the blood of defeat flows. Your dignity or your silence?

Her only relief is to stay present in the life she has built with those not threatened by her past. Those who truly love wholly with no reserve or feelings of selfishness of what her truths might do their fallacies.   

No one came to her then. No one comes to her now. The sadness like an undertow in everyday life threatens to steal all that she has built, all that she loves. The rage of injustice can drown her. She must chart her course and not lose sight of her soul. Against the winds she will find all that she needs because she already has it anyway.

Sail steady…

Food of Life

photos by patricia

Get to the root causes of why you overeat. Yes. Feed this body so it works properly.

What about the psyche, emotions, and the soul that searches for something never found? These crucial parts still crave satisfaction and wholeness.

I eat anxiety. I eat to feel better about the little girl lost, unloved and unprotected who to this day struggles with self-esteem and so much more. It is a desire and basic need that will forever go wanting because no one can go back and make it right…or safe.

At 64 I am only just learning to be kind to myself. That is key. Yet the constant challenges of confronting that harsh voice inside remains and needs work daily questioning its validity.

Food soothes. Food quiets the voice. But then another voice booms even louder, “You are fat, you are bad!” but it is one I’m used to from the age of 8 when food numbed the horrors. I go in circles and circles.

Keep at it, keep trying.

Waking to the birds, the humidity is thick. Taking coffee to the patio, bare feet against the cool cement, the nesting mourning dove calls hauntingly and sweetly back to her mate sipping water at the birdbath. They are on nest two. At this rate they will have three families by summer’s end. A tranquility descends into my being.

Each day a mystery. Will you feel fear, or be OK? Tame the beast of impermanence. Each day a challenge wrestling with thoughts, turning them around, finding the peace restlessly craved; a quietness in the soul that when found allows textures to be felt, scents to be absorbed, and moments to be full…

ANXIETY

photos by patricia

Anxiety spills from my pores quicker than blood. I mop it up with food and push it down, food that becomes tasteless and only quantity matters, enough of it until the quickened pulse and throbbing nerves are still.

It is a constant work feeding this body as it needs rather than feeding the tormented psyche that expects dread and doom at any moment. Each step, even in the quiet meadow, there can be danger lurking… A lion, goblin, or hooded monster? Just who do you think is behind that bush or around the corner?

The brothers of my childhood lie waiting.

A hole was torn into my bedrock of being, one that cannot be fused with strong bone. Up through the crack gurgles demons and terror. It cannot be stopped, it is always there waiting…