Submitted by: White Female, aged 44, Johannesburg South Africa

Survival!
I have survived emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
I have gone on to have a wonderful marriage, three beautiful children and have a very fulfilling sex life.
I have found forgiveness and even empathy.

But the one thing I have really struggled with is breaking the silence. I don’t want the whole world to know the real me.

I don’t want people looking at me and thinking – “poor you”. I don’t want sympathy or pity. I have survived all of this without turning to alcohol or drugs (unlike some of my siblings) and whiIe I am not immune to the pain, hurt and anger the abuse has caused – and there have been real and major consequences in my life – I’m doing the best I can to lead a “normal” life.

(Partially) breaking my silence
There are many of us out there with this secret. This is my attempt to make a stand, to use my story to support other victims and to show the world what happens behind the veil of secrecy.
My earliest recollection of my childhood is 5 years of age. I was standing in the nursery school playground and watching my mother drive down the road. The image is imprinted in my mind. It is so clear that it could in fact have been yesterday. Other memories, however, are sketchy and confusing, and try as I might, I just cannot access that folder, and at the age of 44, I know it’s because I don’t want to.
The file has been opened once, and that was under hypnosis, so I know that there is stuff in there and I have been told what is in there, but still I can’t access it. I will not allow the gory details in my life, I will not allow it to surface, I will not allow it to destroy and haunt my life.
I have received therapy and I have been helped (or have I?), but even the therapy sessions are sketchy and vague. I have a photographic memory, and my close family will tell you that I remember everything, forget nothing, and can describe the setting, time and date in graphic detail, of almost any event in my life. But there are clearly thing my mind has opted to conceal from me.
This in itself haunts me because sometimes I wonder if it really happened or if I am just crazy. I have only ever told one person, and the reaction cut so deep, so very deep that I vowed never speak of it again.
So why the silence? Over the years I have discovered that I was not alone. My best friend and her sister have been very open and honest about the sexual abuse that they have suffered and sitting there listening tore my heart apart, yet I did not utter a word about my own.

Farm life

My grandparents were staunch Afrikaans, bible reading, church going Christians

. They were hard working farmers and good upstanding citizens (where I was witness to horrific, unspeakable racial hatred and abuse – but that’s a different story). During school holidays my brother (who is three years older than me) and I would go to the farm.
My grandparents slept in the same room, but in separate beds. Each night before sleep time we would lay in bed with them. My brother with my grandmother, and me with my grandfather. I remember very very clearly how he touched me and how it hurt at times. This in the same room as my grandmother???????? And then the strangest thing would happen. We would swap sides and my brother would be with my grandfather and I with my grandmother. My grandmother never touched me, she hated me. I was the “rooi neck, kaffir boetie” (red neck – nigger lover) which is how she often referred to me in conversation with her friends.
I don’t remember ever saying anything to stop him, not even “ouch” or “its hurting”. I don’t even remember us going to our own beds. What I do remember though is that

at dusk every day while we were there I would have a sickening feeling in my stomach and dread the darkness of night.

My grandfather died when I was about 11 years old. I can’t tell you much about him; I cannot even conjure up an image of him in my mind. The only time I do see an image of him is when I recall some of the horrific acts that I had witnessed on the farm, (like him beating one of his workers with a sjambok (long whip), or the day he set his dogs on an African woman and they ripped her ear off.
My grandmother on the other hand, I see very very clearly. I see this horrible, miserable woman that treated me like dirt. My grandmother, a nurse, was cleaning the wound of the woman who had her ear ripped off. I was stroking the woman’s hand to comfort her, or maybe comfort myself. She hit me and called me the “rooi neck kaffir boetie”. (Red necked nigger lover)
Brotherhood
The earliest recollection of my brother touching me was in grade 2 which would make me about 6 or 7 years old. (Writing this sucks, tears are streaming and I’m shaking as though I’m freezing, and I don’t really know why. I’m writing this in the hope that if I can reach one person, its worth it.)
My brother was a very aggressive person, and beat up on me nearly every day.

The only time he did not beat me, was when I gave myself to him.

I know I prostituted myself to avoid another beating. Its hard to endure a beating from both your brother and your mother every day of your life.
When I was about 11, my mom was doing the laundry one weekend, and we were all sitting near her. She asked me about the blood in my underwear, and I said I did not know. She asked if it happened every month, and I said no. Her response was “Well maybe I should take you to the doctor and ask him about this.” My brother turned a strange grey colour, and the next time he tried to touch me I told him that I would tell my mother the truth about the blood. My brother never touched me again.
A shattered heart
I had my first child at the age of 20, and I viewed the world very differently once I was a mother.

I wanted to be different to my mother, I wanted to protect my child at all costs, and not allow anybody to abuse him, physically, emotionally or sexually.

My brother and I got into an argument when I was about 22 and he beat me up again. My eldest sister (I have three, who are 17 years, 15 years and 12 years older than me) was there, and did nothing. It was a friend of hers who stepped up and defended me. This time I was not going to let it go. I reported the assault to the police, who were not very sympathetic and kept saying “He is your brother!” Just exactly what the f**k did they mean by that????? Did they think he had the right to do that? Did they think that it was not worthy to be reported? Did I deserve it??? This is still back in apartheid days when a woman was nothing and a man had more rights.
With the support of friends, I went for the medical examination and called in sick at work because I did not want them to see my face which was sporting a black eye, swollen nose and cut lip. The amount of hair that I lost during the assault filled the old bank bag that they used for coins. My middle sister, who I had a close relationship with, phoned to ask me not to pursue the case. We had a huge argument on the phone, and it was then that I blurted out that I had been sexually abused by my brother. There was a deafening silence on the other side. And then I said “Oupa (grandpa) abused me too!” Her response, – “Well don’t think you are special, he did that to all of us!” It was that moment that my heart shattered into little pieces. You knew, you all knew what he was doing to me! Nobody made any effort to protect me! At the time that he was violating me, my sisters were married and were adults – and they did nothing to protect me? Is that not abuse in itself??????

If you do nothing, I believe you are as guilty as the abuser. To this day, I am unable to find forgiveness for the people who turned a blind eye.

I have been through it a million times in my mind, and I understand the fear, the feeling of helplessness, but I can find a million things they could have done, even anonymously, so I just don’t get it.

In the long run
My sisters comment has done more damage to my life than the sexual and physical abuse that I endured. This comment also helped me, because it motivated me to seek professional help. I also promised myself that I would never ever ever turn a blind eye to abuse! This comment and the abuse that I suffered has defined me, every part of my life, and especially my parenting.
I feel that nobody loved me enough to protect me. I have always asked myself how my sisters who endured physical abuse from my mother never intervened or took me away from her. I know its complicated and difficult, but somebody could have done something.
At some point in my therapy when dealing with my brother, it dawned on me that he could well have been abused sexually by my grandfather as well. My heart broke for him. And then I remembered something about our priest, who suddenly stopped coming to our home and disappeared from our church. I asked my mother about this, and she said that they had found a letter from him to my brother. This supposed Man of God regularly took the altar boys sailing for the weekend. I don’t know what really transpired, my family are very big secret keepers. What I do know is that my father gave him a good beating and reported him to the bishop. The haunting thing is that nothing probably happened to him, he moved to a new parish and just continued abusing young boys.
I can’t hate my brother for what he did – other than the physical abuse. He was probably sexually abused as well, by my grandfather and the family priest. And then I wondered about my mother – was she abused? I have to say that I think she was. I cannot ask her. Not one of my sisters have ever ever spoken to me about it. My middle sister who broke my heart, has just pretended that we never had the conversation.
My sexual abuse was not of a violent nature, and although I was told to keep it “our secret”, I was never really threatened into keeping quiet. So why did I keep quiet all these years?
Why did everybody else keep quiet? Are we conditioned to turn a blind eye to this? Are we conditioned that this is taboo? Is it because of the shame? Is this just normal behavior?
How does somebody turn a blind eye?

The “Inner Child”
I can ask that question. I have every right to ask that.

The abuse that I suffered during my childhood has defined who I am today

, and I made that realization this week when after 12 years of marriage I finally shared some of my memories of the physical abuse with my husband, primarily because I am struggling with some things, now that I am a mother.
When my children play, they screech and scream. To the average person it might be normal, but to me it is reminiscent of my brothers and my screams when we were being beaten with a piece of hosepipe or bicycle chain. I cannot explain what goes on in my body when I hear this. I want to curl up into a little ball. I am terrified that our neighbours will call the police. I know our childhood neighbors heard our screams; the children often spoke about it at school. Yet nobody did anything.
Sometimes my son will say “You don’t love me”. I suppose this is normal behaviour when kids feel like being a brat, but all I heard from my mother was that if she could have had her life over she would “never have had children, because they are horrible.” I know what it is like to feel unloved.
I never sat on my mother’s lap, she never read to me, or sang to me, or played with me, I never felt loved. I felt loved by my father, but not my mother. I try my best to give my children everything that I did not get from her, and I reckon I get it right 90% of the time. There is no physical punishment in our house, although I do yell a lot, but I make sure that I give lots of hugs and kisses, play games with them, help them with homework, and give them lots of praise. I have wonderful children.
Another big trigger for me is when my kids start squabbling. It takes me back to my brother beating me. They never get physical with each other. When my daughter was little and she bit my son, someone told him to either bite her back, or hit her. I was mortified and was very firm in telling both my son and this stupid, stupid woman that this will not be tolerated in my home. I have taught my son to manage his anger and to walk away when his sister drives him crazy.
The thing that I really struggle with the most, is that I have a really hard time playing with my children. I play board games with them, I will push them on a swing or throw a ball and I have even been on the trampoline with them, but that is really it. I avoid it, mostly because the squeal and screech sounds they make when they are having fun make me quiver inside.
I read loads of parenting books and articles and I recently went on a positive parenting course. The facilitator was talking about the importance of playing with our children. Clearly my face said it all. She suggested I find my inner child! This is the moment it went pear shaped and I began shaking and tears began streaming. I excused myself, and have not been back.
It’s not the first time I react this way. If I see an article on the “inner child” I skip to the next one. I will never never never allow the inner child to surface! I just can’t. Its an unhappy, badly bruised, heart sore child that is now in a safe place where nobody can hurt her. I will protect her at all costs!
Perhaps you may feel that I am avoiding healing by keeping her safe from the world, but I have healed and I have been through the therapy where I was surrounded by a ring of fire to keep me safe and was allowed to bring one person in with me to keep me safe and to help me confront those who hurt me.
On another level I admit that I won’t allow her out because I don’t want to go through all that again and yes I am scared of the chaos that will ensue if she is allowed out. I take care of her of her now and she is safe! I wear a mask every single day of my life giving the impression that this never happened and only three people and I know about it. Its my way of dealing with it. Its my way of surviving it. Its the only way I know how to cope. I will not let it destroy my life, even though it has a massive impact on my life.
How it defines me

Bunny rabbits and nightgowns
I know that people are sometime perplexed and confused by things I do as an adult, even my husband sometimes thinks I am over reacting or maybe just plain crazy. When I see a bunny in the park being terrorised by children, I see nobody telling these children to stop, the parents are either chatting or ignoring it and nobody is doing anything!!!! Well, to hell with that, I will protect it – I have issues with the fact that nobody protected me – I will protect others – even the bunny! So I get up and I very firmly tell these children to leave the bunny alone.
My best friend (who I love dearly), who is a trauma councellor, and my husband sometimes make snide comments along the lines of “there she goes, saving the world again”. This really makes me angry. I never say anything to them, but what I want to say is “Well what the f**k are you doing?” Are they really ok to watch children do this? I wanted to ask my friend what she was going to do if the bunny died. Was she then going to offer trauma counselling? Its not just a bunny! Its is a living breathing creature with feelings and a heartbeat but no voice to scream out. If some human was terrorising a child like that would you turn a blind eye too? No creature deserves to be hurt or traumatised just the same as no human deserves to be. As adult human beings we have a duty to protect every living creature (including spiders – as much as I am terrified of them).
A similar event occurred when I was in Cape Town with some friends. We heard a woman screaming. We all looked out of the window and here was a woman with something about the size of a tea towel around her waist and no shirt to speak of. A jogger stopped to help her, and we were all just looking out the window. This woman was hysterical, and using language I have only heard about. We all immediately suspected that she had been raped. The comments ranged from “poor woman” to “well they drink like fish and then this happens” to “she is probably a prostitute”. It was about 5pm and it was cold, there was actually snow on the mountain.
I moved to take her something to keep her warm and covered and I certainly I did not expect these woman around me, my supposed friends, to tell me not to do it. They told me I was crazy and putting myself in danger. If that was me I would want somebody to help me cover up, rather than having the entire neighborhood staring at my tits. So I grabbed my gown and slippers and marched down the driveway. I suspect that I was walking with purpose, because I was angry, so maybe I intimidated her a little and she swore at me like you can’t believe. She did not know my mother but called her all sorts of things. When I handed her the gown and slippers, the tears flowed and I could see the thanks in her eyes and she covered herself very very quickly.
When police arrived I dont know if they told her to return my stuff or if it was her choice, but she started taking them off and pointed to us. I went off again walking down the driveway with serious purpose. The policeman handed me the slippers. I tell him I don’t want them and she may have them. She walks forward and holds my hand and says “dankie madam” (thank you madam – In South Africa ‘madam’ is a term used to denote superiority). I’m not your f**king Madam! We are so alike, in various ways, but we are alike. The tears are steaming down my face and all I want to do is take her in my arms and hold her, I can’t do this because I am a little terrified at what she will do. Has anybody ever held her, has anybody ever made her feel loved, has anybody ever protected her or shown her any kindness? (this woman had appeared to be homeless) The hardships and hurts that she has endured in her lifetime, I suspect are ten times worse than mine, and she is probably looking at me and thinking this woman is so lucky that she has never had pain like mine. No I have not had the same pain as her, but we share a pain, mine is hidden and she is “bare” to the entire community, but the pain is still pain!
My friends thought (and probably still think) that I am crazy. “You will never get the gown and slippers back” seemed to be the only important thing to them. I wanted to scream and shout and say “I DON’T GIVE A F**K ABOUT A STUPID PAIR OF SLIPPERS OR F**KING GOWN”. Those are stupid materialistic things that can be replaced. You cannot replace your feelings, you cannot undo rape, and you cannot undo hurt or abuse! Seriously!
I could not take her pain away, I could not give her dignity back, I could not help her keep warm, but I did help her keep what little dignity she had left and I kept her warm. I know that she is grateful and thankful, and that’s all I need.
And there have been many, many other similar occasions. I have asked therapists and counselllors and even questioned God as to why I am placed in these situations. I have seen a man beating up a woman in a parking lot, she was screaming for help and everybody just stood by and watched. I have witnessed a pharmacist holding a woman by the throat and marching her out of his shop, and everybody just watched despite the woman saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t hurt me”. I have seen a blind friend’s wife take a brick and smash his music equipment and then hit him in the face with an iron rod that he could not see coming.
People think I’m crazy because I don’t think of the possible danger. Something inside me snaps in these situations and I just react, and after that the spectators get a serious piece of my mind, and trust me, its not pretty. I don’t have time to be an observer, I don’t have time to analyse the situation, I don’t have time to think, I need to just do something! If I don’t, I believe I am as guilty as the abuser. One explanation from a therapist is that I am not alone in this kind of behaviour, and that I just see things differently and react differently, but the big issue is that I have a major major issue with the spectators! Yes it is about the abuse and the abuser, but my inability to forgive those who knew about my abuse and did nothing is the reason behind my crazy behaviour. I know why I do it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Crazy or not, I will still do it. I despise abusers and bullies! Actually that’s not right, I love bullies! I love taking them on and cutting them down to size.
I got a call from my eldest sister once to ask me not to attend a family gathering because my brother had beaten his wife! They did not want me there because they knew that I would not shut up and that I would probably call the police. Beautiful, f**king beautiful! They were more concerned about the scene I would create than the actual bruises and broken nose my sister-in-law had. I do not get it. Can you honestly look at a person whose husband has beaten her and still have a fun day with family around the pool and braai (barbeque)? Is your soul really that void of emotion, empathy and compassion????????????????????? He beat her up regularly, and then at some point it got too much for her and she called the police. They arrested him and put him in jail for a night. My sisters unashamedly tell me what a horrible bitch this woman is and that its all her fault that he got raped in jail. That experience must have been horrible, and I don’t jump for joy at hearing what happened to him, but WTF?????? She had no right having him arrested? She had no right to do something to stop him abusing her? Not once did I ever hear those f**king bitches (my sisters) show any compassion for our sister-in-law. Keep your hands to yourself and you won’t end up in Jail.

Most recently, I saw a teacher bulling a 9 year old child in her class, not my child, just some total stranger that I was assisting with reading. There was no way I was going to keep quiet.
I sometimes wish I was not so passionate. I sometimes wish I could be a duck and let the water slide off my back. I sometimes wish I had blinkers. Its not easy being me sometimes. I hate these situations and the range of emotions that come with them. Each one haunts me for weeks after and as hard as I try, I just can’t change. Why why why can’t I be normal? What is normal?
I will do everything I can to protect my children, yet I know that even this may not be enough. And no-one is safe in my path, no-one. Not my husband, not my mother, not uncles and aunts and definitely not teachers. I trust no-one!

I can pick a pedophile out in a room.

I promise you I can. I have met people through friends and family and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I can’t stand the person. And for some strange reason, these people will do stupid things like touch my children, or call them off to a corner to have a chat. I was not welcome in my sister’s home for a year because I told a particular f**ker NOT TO TOUCH MY CHILD. A year later she called me to tell me how this fool had shoved his tongue down her daughter’s mouth and since he was no longer welcome in her house I was invited to visit. And then there was the time a 16 year old boy told me he would babysit my children for free anytime! He was even encouraging my 9 year old to tell us we needed a weekend away and he would look after them. I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT HIS INTENTIONS WERE!!!! I just had a feeling about this child. It turned out that he unblocked my sons play station and told him how to access porn. I caught my child, and then discovered that my child took a photo of another child’s penis. My child was wrong – there is no dispute – but there is also no mistaking that these events occurred right after any visit with the 16 year old and his family.
All of this is such a mind f**k for me that over holidays or weekends sometimes my kids want to watch a movie together and my daughter often asks if she can sleep in her brother’s room. I don’t know if this is normal, but to me, it scares the shit out of me. Most times I say no, but there have been a few occasions where I have said yes. Imagine the scene, every 20 minutes or so I get up and creep up to the bedroom door on my tip toes so that no one can hear me. I swear I don’t even breathe! I have even crawled in on my hands and knees to peer into the room to check on them. Its really not worth even agreeing to let them sleep in the same bed, because I can’t sleep!!!!! So its just not allowed at all. I feel like a horrible mother!!!!! Do I not trust my own son?????? This kills me!!!!! How do ever ever get over this shit?
No uncles or nephews or male friends are allowed to babysit. I did break the rule once and let my nephew look after them because I had no option and the kids wanted him rather than my mom. Its not that he did anything to deserve my distrust, but I am just distrusting. He arrived late and he had had a couple of drinks. I threw my toys and cancelled my plans. I know, it was not the right way to deal with it, but I could not leave my kids. I feel bad because I picked a fight for a stupid reason, but what should I rather have done – blurted out all this crap?
I went away once and left my children with my husband. Unfortunately my husband drinks way too much on occasion. I called repeatedly and there was no answer. I knew he was drunk! I cannot explain the fear that gripped me! Would he do something to my children in his drunken state? In my heart I know he would not, and I’m ashamed to admit that I thought this, but knowing my story maybe you would understand. I was terrified that somebody would break in (this was a common occurrence in our neighborhood) and he would not be in a state to defend my babies. What if they raped my children. I know normal people don’t think like this, but I’m not normal. I feel horrible that I did not trust my own husband and the father of my children!!!!! I don’t know how to change these feelings!!!! I hate them, I hate being distrusting!!!!!!! I don’t know how to change!!!!!
I called my best friend very late that night in a total state and asked to her to please go and fetch my children. I know that she probably thought I was crazy and did not understand why I wanted her to do this, and I can’t blame her because she did not know my past. Being the amazing person she is, she took my babies and kept them safe. In the morning I boarded the first plane back home to my babies.
My husband and I had the hugest fight the next day and I blurted out the absolute fear that I had and I know he thought that I was crazy and he probably thought that I was the biggest bitch in the world! I can’t blame him, he does not know the truth.
I feel terrible about keeping the horrors of my life from my husband, but how do you share this with someone, especially your husband? This very week, after 12 years of marriage I shared a little – just a little of the physical abuse with him and how it affects and impacts my parenting. Exposing myself has left me feeling very vulnerable, almost naked in a room full of strangers.
I don’t think I ever can tell him everything.
I survived – not unscathed, but I survived it. It has defined who I am and affects every part of my life. It influences every emotion, every thought, every action and every reaction.
(Editorial note: This submission was minimally edited to retain the integrity of the writers account. The writer has since shared this account with her husband who has proven himself to be the loving and supportive man she always knew he was)

The Un-Raped Victim

Tags

,

As a trauma counsellor, and one who works in the most vulnerable communities, I suppose it’s no accident that I often deal with people in their darkest hour. Heartbreak, tragedy, guilt, fear, regret…. these are the sorts of things I deal with, even before I have had my second cup of coffee. I may sound quite glib, cynical perhaps, but trust me that would be the furthest from the truth…

In psych 101 students are taught that we must show empathy not sympathy; connect with the client but not become personal, gain their trust but not become invested in the outcome. I understand the logic behind the concept of  ‘professional detachment’ – it’s for the sanity of the counsellor –  and usually I do faily well at maintaining the elusive balance. But sometimes, just once in a while, like a rare celestial event, I watch helplessly as my boundaries collapse under the pressure of one more unimaginable horror of the human experience.

Such was my experience many months ago. In the course of my regular occupation as a consultant in the social development sector I often find myself working with youth. On a seemingly average day a young woman approached me and requested a counselling session. The request was unforseen, and my schedule was full, but the look of distraught on the young woman’s face motivated me to re-arrange my day. She waited patiently as I went about my business and it was three hours later that I finally manged to sit down with her.

Most clients take a while to allow themselves release of their emotions, and for native African people it may take several sessions before they have gained enough trust in a counsellor to cry in front of them. This young (native African) woman burst into tears at almost the same moment that I shut the door.

“I can see that you are very upset”, I say.

“My friend was raped on saturday, last of last week”. (that would mean two saturdays ago) “She went to the tap early and a man who is a friend of her brother came to her and asked to use her phone. When she went to find it he followed her into her shack and forced himself”.

A part of me thinks “Okay, rape. I can handle this. I know this territory.” And a small but egotistical part of my mind settles into a cocky, self-assured ‘rape-crises’ line of counselling.

Please don’t beat me up for saying this, but as much as we absolutely want to treat every single client with a fresh eye and mind, and give them the “both you and your situation are completely unique” treatment, after several hundred hours of experience we tend to develop mental categories and rely on them for tried and tested counselling input. Think of it as the place we keep the answers to the frequenty asked questions. This apparently easy mental filing system can be a good counsellors undoing. It really is a very bad idea.

It didnt take much prodding for the rest of this young woman’s story to come tumbling out. Her best friend had been raped two weeks prior, and I was soon to discover, another had been raped several weeks before that.

It turned out that of the group of five young women who had been close friends since high school, four had been raped over a period of roughly two years. The lucky exception sat before me.

“Okay,” I’m thinking, “I can handle multiple-rape. Clearly this girl is terrified for her safety hence her extreme state of upset. No problem – I have  a head chock-full of reference material for this.

I was still sitting pretty in my own arrogance when I heard a sentence that confused me completely.

“What’s wrong with me? Am I ugly? Why dont they want me?”

I sat in silence for a while after this sentence was spoken. I didn’t want to seem like a dim-witted fool, so I waited for her to explain her meaning. Long seconds pass.  Clearly she intended asking me a series of questions to which she desired an actual series of answers.

I jump to it and go digging around in my FAQ box for answers…..aaaannnnnnd come up with nothing! Counsellors and therapists of all kinds are gifted at looking serene while desperately processing information and searching their brains for the most suitable follow-up statement or question.

It dawns on me that this wide eyed, vulnerable girl, barely out of school is asking me to explain to her why she alone among her friends has not been raped. I am not taking about survivors guilt here. I am talking about a girl who believed that rape was a normal part of the growing-up experience and that she in some way, was unworthy of this ‘right of passage’. I was completely and utterly at a loss for words.

“What do you believe?” I ask her. The answer reveals a story like none I had ever heard before. This young woman’s experience of life is that all, if not most, women will be raped. All her friends, aunts and her mother had endured this experience. Conventional wisdon dictates that you don’t fight against it, instead you just expect it, and when it has happened you must be grateful that it is over.

I spent a long time with this girl – well over an hour, patiently taking her false beliefs, examining each one and trying to reframe reality in order to show her that she is the lucky survivor, not the victim of these circumstances. Sadly, I dont think I ever fully got through to her and I think I understand why. If this girl were to accept that she was not the victim it would do much more to alienate her from her family and friends than it would do to restore her sense of safety. She lived in a world where she was the odd one out. I came to understand that she saw herself as one with a disability, that caused her to stand out, and face rejection. The women around her functioned within an entrenched pattern of victimhood, and possibly symptoms of rape-trauma. This would have immediate and profound effects on their interactions with each other – something my young client could not participate in. She stood as an outsider to her own circle of intimacy, and this brought her immeasurable pain.

We ended the session, neither feeling that much could be done. To this day she averts her eyes when we ocassionally pass each other in the hallway. She seems… smaller, somehow withered.  She seems, for lack of a better expression,  ashamed of her status as the un-raped.

[SOME DETAILS HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITIES OF PEOPLE CONCERNED]

 

A selfish calling…… and World Peace.

Tags

, , ,

In electing to follow the course of my Purpose I have had to confront myself with a number of interesting and difficult introspective questions. Now I am not one to shy away from a little internal trench-work but since I work in the space of trauma and sexual abuse some of the things I find lurking in my own heart and mind can be downright disconcerting.

A little while ago I worked as a volunteer at a South African organization that raises funds and awareness for paediatric oncology (childhood cancer). During the orientation our facilitator, who was also the volunteer manager, asked us each in turn to explain why we would want to be volunteers in this environment. I listened patiently as each volunteer spoke about her desire to give back to society and care for helpless children. It sounded like those horrid Miss World speeches where everyone wants world peace… in truth it was all quite nauseating. I understood then, as I do now, that no person undertakes a ‘self-sacrificing’ act of ‘giving’ without first wanting something for themselves. Dont get me wrong though- I fully appreciate and respect people who participate in voluntary or even paid community care and development work. I thank God for them. But it would be quite cool if people had the courage to be honest about their motives. Prior to signing up I had made very sure that I fully understood my own motives. I knew that I wasn’t sitting in that orientation group to save little children or ease their suffering.That may have been a by-product of my involvement but I was there to face cancer on my own terms.

In October of 1999 my mother died from being hit by a bus. Actually it was leukemia, but it may just as well have been a bus. She was diagnosed a scant 3 weeks before her death, giving none of us any time to process and absorb the possibilities. The timing was damned inconvenient too. I was in the middle of the final exams for my degree and its no easy feat to write exams and look after two siblings while your beloved mom lies in the hospital dying. But such as it was, we were all shocked and totally unprepared.

Cancer had taken my precious mother, our only available parent, our breadwinner (althought it wasn’t much bread), my best friend.. and left in her place an impenetrable darkness; an empty void. For two full years thereafter I was incapable of feeling anything but guilt and disgust at my own inability to save her.

So there I was in the year 2007, having worked up the sheer guts to volunteer in a cancer unit so that I could have a chance to meet my old enemy and make peace with my loss. Its inevitable that one will face death when you work in an environment where people are fighting for their lives. When a young child looses that fight it is devastating to the family and has an impact on the staff too. My first experience of death in the CHOC unit as it was called, was that of a beautiful young girl, aged 13. I learned of her death on a friday morning as my shift began. I managed to hold my composure, until I arrived home to discover that my children had accidently killed our pet bird while trying to return it to its cage. I detonated.

My outburst of grief could have circum-navigated the globe, loud as it was. I crawled under the covers of my bed and remained there all weekend. A number of months later, I lost another of the patients in my care. She was  lovely, dainty little thing aged 11. This time I cried for 1 whole day. Several more months passed when a third little girl, whom I had grown attached to, died after a failed bone marrow transplant. On this occasion I shed a few tears and left the hospital with a heavy heart.  Other’s came and went, several never made it back home and all the while I learned that cancer is not my enemy. Cancer had given me opportunities to connect with fearful fathers and distraught mothers, to tell funny stories and bake cookies with kids who had no real compunction of the gravity of their situations. Cancer had given me an opportunity to give joy and comfort, in equal measure to the sorrow that it had previously left me with. I had joined the organization to face my enemy and to strike a bargain with God –  ‘Dear God, if I devote x-amount of time to this volunteer work could I buy an absolution for my family? Could I have a gaurantee that I would not loose another member of my family to cancer?’ In the beginning I didnt really care so much about the children or their families – I just wanted to preserve my own. Yet as time passed and I had the great and mystical experience of spending time with those who were dying I learned a great lesson – death is not our enemy. Cancer had brought many families closer than they had ever been. I saw parents fully see and appreciate their children in brand new ways. I saw and appreciated my own children in a way I hadn’t, couldn’t, before my experiences in the CHOC unit.

I now face a similar journey of introspection in the context of my work with sexual abuse. “Why”, I ask myself, “are you doing this”?  You are not doing this to save the world. What are you getting out of this?”

Being an adult suvivor of sexual child abuse does something to the way you look at the world. Let me rephase that – having some person infiltrate your circle of safety and voilate your sacred innocence- does something to the way you look at the world. Its sort of the way the smell and bad taste of an expired bit of food lingers in your mouth for hours after you have bitten into it – and makes you want to vomit each time it sneaks up on you.  For those who have been molested a vague but similiar taint of gross-ness tends to turn up in every relationship and will be most pronounced in their significant personal relationships. This after-effect shows up as a deficient parenting ability, sexual – functioning disorder, eating disorder or gambling problem, commitment issues, this list goes on. A tragic side effect of being an abused person is that statistically (and sometimes factually) children of abuse survivors have a much higher than average chance of being sexually abused themselves. I am not refering to these kids being abused by their survivor-parents. I am talking about predation by a stranger or person known to the family. The reasons for this are varied and complex, but suffice it to say that on some level (a fair portion of)  survivor parents seem incapable of protecting their children. This is one of the most destructive ways in which that gross after-taste shows up. It is not really something I believe these parents can be punished for, since their defense mechnisms make it all but impossible for them to see,  but I do believe they are accountable for it.

If you believe the (extremely conservative) South African statistics 1 in 3 female and 1 in 5 male children will have been molested by the age of 16. the same stats report that less than 1 percent of these will result in a criminal conviction. [ At present South African society is experiencing an unprecedented increase in the rape and murder of young children. Just a few days ago in Johannesburg a four year old girl was raped and murdered by her 23 year old uncle. Her body was found stashed under a bed]. By my calculations there are hundreds of thousands of adults in SA who have never had any kind of justice for what they have suffered and just as many who have never told a single soul about their experiences. I believe that those hundreds of thousands of survivors represent the, as yet, unmobilized force that will be required to bring the apparent freedom with which predators cruise our streets to a swift and absolute end. Child abuse cannot be fought and conquered by the police or justice system alone. The battle front is not on the sidewalk or in the classroom. The battlefront is in your living room, your backyard, your house…right under your nose. The sexual abuse of children seldom involves a screaming Jodie Foster type rape scene. Its much, much more insidious.

There is no way we can win the war against sexual abuse unless and until the current legions of survivors are given a clear path to speak out and regain the personal power that is rightfully theirs.  I see it as my Purpose to find this silent army and take them to war. I believe that these survivors, if given the platform and guidance, can prove themselves the most protective and alert parents on the planet.These people know what predators look like and they are by far the best people to help other parents know what to look out for. Someone just has to wake them up to the possibilities…..

…..So back to the question of what I am getting out of this. Well, clearly I am not here to save the world, or even to create world peace….. I am getting to be the guy (or girl, rather) who works on the frontlines sharpening swords, making certain that every blade will find its target and strike clean and true. I want the raw satisfaction of knowing that every child I help to save will forever be blissfully unaware of their own salvation. I want to be in the position of power of every parent who can sleep knowing that their child is safe. I guess, in truth I really want to save myself and if I can meet others on the road and free them with my sharpened blade so much the better.

Guideline to submitting your contribution

Tags

An overview of the site and requirements for submitting a contribution

The blog is a platform for Survivors of Sexual Child Abuse to tell their story, perhaps for the first time. The main objective is to break the silence that demands survivors be immersed in shame, guilt and embarrassment.  Tragically childhood sexual abuse is much more common than the general public believe, and the more the experiences of victims are brought to light the more society, parents, religious organizations, schools and families  will be compelled to admit that they cannot “ignore it and hope it will go away”. Furthermore abuse of this nature contaminates a multitude of aspects of life including relationships, sexual health, parenting ability, personal presentation and others. This forum allows for victims to begin, or continue the next level of their healing by being open and truthful, thus banishing the need for secrecy, and allowing them to find the help they need.

Scarlett Voices does not wish to be a platform for slander. We respect the requirements of the law and our ethical practices dictate that we do not name any person, whether victim or perpetrator on our site. We furthermore will not entertain efforts to reveal the possible identity of any person through indirect means eg The Minister at St Benedicts on Church Street in Welkom during 1972.

The blog is open to any member of the public who wishes to tell of their own personal experiences.

We understand that many health workers may wish to contribute the story of a client, but this would be both unethical and unlawful. Please remember that the internet is a public place. Consider this while you prepare your contribution.

Scarlett Voices is managed and maintained by a qualified trauma counsellor who specializes in sexual abuse trauma. She is a survivor of sexual abuse along with her mother, two sisters, several cousins and at least one aunt. For further information about the site administrator please send an email to tk@icon.co.za.

Please ensure that your submission meets with the following criteria:

1)      The story must be your own personal experience

2)      Please do not name any person’s real name in your story (including your own) or provide other information that may reveal their identity

3)      Your submission will be subject to editing to ensure that the content is not presented in a salacious manner, and that it does not reveal the identities of those involved

4)      Keep each submission to less than 1000 words

5)      Do not use any foul language or submit overly explicit content

Include with your submission:

Your real first name only (no surname), age, telephone number and email address. These are ONLY for our own records and will not ever be published.

Information for publication:

Your age or (age range) and location at the time of the abuse, and your race (example:  12, Cape Town, Coloured). – As a heading this will help you identify your own post.

Your current age and location

The relationship of the abuser to you (neighbour, friend, cousin)

The contribution of 1000 words or less

FAQ

How do I know the stories are real?

Each writer submits their story based on the criteria contained in this document. Due to the nature of the material and confidentiality issues we have no way of vetting the truthfulness or accuracy of any story we post. We hope that people act in good faith. Our suggestion is that you concentrate on presenting your own story as truthfully as possible, and trust that others will do the same.

How can I write my story so that it doesn’t seem like porn?

We understand that not everyone is a good writer or comfortable writing such sensitive material. We suggest that you write the story from the perspective of your emotions rather than the precise bodily activities that they originate from. Allow the readers to fill in the blanks on their own but provide enough information, in such a tone as to be sure that people don’t expect you to entertain them. For further guidance read several of the stories that have been previously published to get a better idea of suitable tone and language use.

How do I know that your blog does not attract the attention of paedophiles looking for a thrill?

Sadly, we cannot guarantee that this will not happen. We do, however our best to guard against it do.

-          The type of language and the tone of the stories will either encourage or dissuade the sexually perverted. Bear this in mind when you write your own contributions. Overly explicit or sexualized material will be edited or go unpublished.

-          We are investigating available options for working with the SAPS to track and trace possible predators / paedophiles

What will my story / information be used for?

The stories accumulated on this blog are used primarily for the purpose of providing a safe community in which survivors will know that they are not alone no matter how unlikely their experiences may seem. Information provided such as ages, race and location are used to map a geographical spread of incidents across various regions of South Africa and the world for research purposes.

Can I remove my post after is has been posted?

Sure. Drop us an email with your name, date of post and the email address from which it was sent and we will delete it within 48 hours.

Can I invite my family or partner to read my post?

As the blog is a public forum you may invite whomever you would like to read your post. While this may be a more accessible way to share your experiences with your significant others please do note that this blog does not in any way replace the valuable services of a reputable counsellor / psychologist / social worker.

My question is not listed here. What should I do?

Send an email with your question to tk@icon.co.za or visit https://www.facebook.com/PhoenixTraumaRecovery

I died at the age of twelve…while my mother did the laundry.

Where does one start to write a story that encapsulates the entire meaning of your life? When so many lives intersect and overlap it feels like a ball of wool so entangled that search as you may, it seems unlikely that you will ever find the starting point.

A wise person once told me that if you are stuck give up your thoughts of where to move, and just move! Any direction will do, and once you have momentum you will be able to change direction. But for starters just take a single step.

So I begin this story with a memory so clear it could have happened this morning. This is my single step.

She stands in the dappled sunlight by the open bedroom window; a huge pile of fresh laundry is heaped on the floor beside the bed. The woman, deeply intent on making headway with the laundry doesn’t notice her daughter standing in the doorway. The child anxiously waits for her mother to notice her, half hoping she doesn’t. The girl twitches, fiddling with her fingers. Her heart is racing with fear for what her confession will unfold. After a minute that seemed like hours, the mother looks up and smiles. She is radiant- this woman. Slim and beautiful. Her brown, unruly, shoulder length hair curls  up around her face like whisps of cotton candy.

‘Mommy’, says the girl who at the age of twelve is still childlike; respectful.

 “Hmmm…’, comes the reply.

“Last night  he came to my room”.  The words slice the air between the women like an arctic gale. The mother freezes, her hand in mid-air, a half folded shirt held tightly to her chest.

‘He carried me out of my bed and put me in his bed.”

The words are falling out now, rushing over each other, desperate to be spoken.

‘He pushed my head under the blanket. He had no pants on”

 

The mother takes a deep breath and seems to hold it for a long while. She exhales slowly.

“Then what happened?” she asks.

“I told him I would scream if he didn’t let me go to my bed. I pushed him. I ran back to my room”.  

The woman resumes her folding with unearthly calm. After a long pause filled only by the gentle rustle of laundry the mother makes a single devastating statement.

 “I know exactly how you feel”.

She picks up another item of clothing, trousers this time, and continues folding. The girl waits a few moments but her mother has nothing to add. She walks away slowly, confusion and disbelief churning her thoughts into mud.

To this day I recall the exact moment when I saw my mother understand what I had just told her, and simultaneously choose to forget. I saw the curtains come down and the lights go out. Over the next few years I would wach my mother enter a slow decline and tetter on the brink of madness before the full meaning of her statement became apparent to me. At the age of 12, standing in that bedroom doorway I had no idea that I would pick up the torch of suffering and embark on a journey to find the truth.

“I know exactly what you mean…”  

Dear God, I hope that is not what I think it is..

 

Permission to speak….

Tags

Hello and welcome to this blog – a platform for people, like me, who have sufferred silently and shamefully. It is a tragedy that there sufficient numbers of adult survivors of sexual child abuse to warrant the necessity for such a blog, but such is the truth of the world we live in. This blog is not designed to be a voice for those who engage in hate speech against their abusers or abusive people in general. Instead it is a place where people who have been sexually abused and who still carry their mental, emotional, spiritual and sexual scars can find comfort in knowing that they are absolutely not alone. My further hope, and encouragement to my readers is the following: if you have never told your story and you feel that it is time that you own your healing I encourage you to send me an email, with your story and I will post it here on your behalf (anonymously if you wish). 

The worst part of being the victim of sexual abuse is that you learn to hide it. Whether or not you have told your family or your partner, in order to carry on as an adult with some semblance of nomality we all learn to hide the pain and mask the damage that has been caused. But in truth, the impact of sexual abuse will ripple throughout your life in ways you are not even aware of. The best way to contain these after-shocks is to face the very thing we survivors spend our entire lives burying under various forms of self medication or destructive behaviour. I hope that you will find this blog useful in your journey to total healing.

I cannot give you permission to address the truth of your experiences and neither can anyone else. This is a permission only you can withhold from, or grant to, yourself. My wish for you is that you will find that you are much stronger and more capable that you have ever imagined.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers