“Abuse manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love. Her innocent feelings are belittled or mocked and she learns to ignore her feelings. She can’t afford to feel the full range of feelings in her body while she’s being abused—pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. So she short-circuits them and goes numb. For many children, any expression of feelings, even a single tear, is cause for more severe abuse. Again, the only recourse is to shut down. Feelings go underground.”
― Laura Davis, Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse
They say love is blind...
They say love is blind...
There was a beautiful old white house in Texas. It is in my mind any way. In my mind I'm still 9 years old. The house had big windows and glass door knobs. Mom told me it had been the governor's home. It was the nicest home we had ever lived in. Even though in reality it was just an average middle class home in Texas. Middle class was a pretty big deal for us as I'm sure you can imagine by now. This is the house I lived in when I was sent off to the little church that taught me about Jesus. The open grass yard surrounding it is where I would sit, and talk to Him.
My mom had a new boyfriend. He moved in with his sons. They had been together for a while secretly. Children are not as blind as adults like to think they are. They may not know what cheating is, but they know when something is not right. Don't get me wrong, I don't exactly blame my mother for stepping outside of her marriage. She felt trapped. She had been abused, and she was scared to leave.
All the same reasons most women give that suffer through domestic abuse. She also did something else that many women who've dealt with abuse throughout their entire life.
She found love in another monster.
This particular monster had us fooled very well for a good while. They seemed to be happy together while everything was secret. They met with other friends and I’d play with whichever kids were around at the time. I wish my memory was better. I've vowed not to ask my mother any questions while writing this book, I want it all to be straight from my memories, but I do wish I could remember the names. There are just so many blanks.
The strange thing about my blank spots is that I only seem to have forgotten the normal things that happened. Some of my more important awakening moments are just those very moments. I don't remember anything before or after, no time, no age. I don't know his full name. I don't know his children's names. I only remember what he looked like 25 some odd years ago. I remember what he did. I remember all of those things very clearly.
Once he moved in things slowly became less fun and games. They would fight at times and mom seemed to shift back to her anxious ways. He was very good at random kindness that would make you believe that he had just had a bad day or something before, when he was angry or mean. I had become so used to the stress in my mother that I didn't even know it was supposed to be different. She just wanted me to fall in line so that he wouldn't get upset. She was the same when dad was around. No one ever sees it coming when abusive types flip from the nice guy to the monster.
If a child grows up in the woods,
eating with bare hands is not savage;
it’s how it’s done.
I had always been quiet. I wasn't one to get excited and start rambling the way my daughter does. I was raised to keep to myself. I enjoyed playing outside in the trees and with the animals and my mother was happy to let me. I suppose that made it harder to tell when my world really shattered. I had been poor, I had lived with two parents that spit fire at each other, I had been scared and was prone to vivid nightmares. I tell myself all of these things as I think back on those times, because it's no ones fault but his. I think the life that I had already had is what shaped the way these next sentences are written.
I don't have to get into the details to make my point on how he hurt me. He became physically abusive and disguised it as discipline. When there was no one home but us, which didn't happen too often thankfully, he would make me touch him. He didn't touch me, I think it made it ok in his mind. I thank God that he didn't. I've read stories so close to mine that ended so differently. Many of the children are raped, or killed. It happens to them for years before anything ever takes them from their prison, if it ever comes.
I knew that what he was doing couldn't be right. It was supposed to be a secret, but mom always told me,
"We don't keep secrets, not from each other",
so, it had to be wrong. I was scared of what was going to happen if I told anyone but I wanted someone to come take us away so badly, the way they did my friend a few years back. I wanted to be saved. His boys were almost just as terrible as he was, they would hit be and touch me in ways too close to assault. Not that I understood as well as I do know of course. All I could think of was going back to my grandmothers.
I walked up to her and just looked at her, she asked me if something was wrong, the same way I've asked my own children a hundred times. This time I shook my head yes. I don't think I ever actually said it. She asked me question after question and it lead straight to her worst fears. After that the image flashes to me sitting in the back of the car again. The boys were with me. The car was lightly packed and I was looking at my reflection in the glass window. Those boys had no idea what was going to happen next. I did. I knew this part pretty well.
I was sent to the car with my things before he was home...while I may have been safe I was so afraid for my mother...
There was a terrible bang against the door. I saw the house shake and suddenly I wasn't so sure of the next part. What if he hurt her? What if he killed her and then he came for me? The church was across the street. If I kept my eyes on the house I’d see him coming and I could run to that church. I’d make it. Another crash, and I'm holding the handle now. I’m scared, sitting up as tall as I can to see over the front seats. Then it's over. She comes out of the front door, its quiet. I never saw him again. I don't know how we left or what happened with the boys, all I knew was that it was over.
I think God used that horrible experience with my friend in Tennessee as a way to prepare me for a monster I'd meet in the near future. Over my life I've collected many testimonies to His work. This time I used my friend as courage to free us both from someone who may have destroyed us. While I had new cracks, I was not broken. I had seen my mother fight for me. I had seen her win. Things didn't go the way many people will say it should have, but this happened in another time. This wasn't the time of movements like #MeToo or #believesurvivors.
This was the early 90s, in the south no less.
For years I never spoke of what happened to anyone. I really never saw a need for anyone to know. I do think however that the event is important to my story. It was a strong factor in the things that I began to desire very strongly. I wanted love, but I also wanted protection, and truth. I wanted a real family. I wanted a real dad.
A lot of days I still do.