Childhood Sexual Abuse Part Three

For me and for anyone who knows or loves someone who was sexually abused, this may be the most important part of the sharing my experience on this topic.

There was no support, validation or comfort, it was just an experience to be hidden from the world because it became my mother’s shameful burden. To this day, I can remember telling my mother about two abuse situations while she was giving me a bath and for the life of me, I can’t remember the words I used or any reaction on her part. That doesn’t mean there was no reaction, it just means that it was so minimal that I, as a young child, never saw it. My mother tells me that she protected me by not allowing the baby-sitter or the neighborhood boy to have access to me or my siblings but was that enough? She says back then people didn’t talk about “such things” and certainly didn’t take legal action. But she never even told my father. Never, ever.

I love my mother. She has made a lot of mistakes and bad choices in her life that I know came from her growing up in an alcoholic home with a pedophile father. As they say, shit rolls downhill. All my life, I have tried to force her to tell me why she did things she did because her actions or in-actions have had a huge impact on who I am or am not. She is only now that she is 84, forcing herself to give me answers. She has given me permission to ask her anything I need because she doesn’t want to leave me with questions. Unfortunately, my blocking out painful experiences is also my mother’s way of coping so  while she knows things happened with her father, she cannot recall the details. Like mother, like daughter. She has gone through her whole life blaming everything bad that happened to her on alcohol. Her father had alcoholism, her life changed when she, my dad and their friends started to drink and she was affected by alcoholism and all the mistakes that go with the release that alcohol gives from inhibitions and pain.

I believe that my mother hid my molestation because she was afraid that her secret knowledge about her father would come out. She loved her father so deeply that she sacrificed her children’s well-being for that love. She said we never showed signs of his having molested us without even realizing what she was saying. What I heard was that she knew what he was but she believed he never did it to us. She remembers him being drunk and french kissing her goodnight and her saying to him, “You are not my daddy!” Coincidentally, one time the words “You are not my daddy!” came out of my mouth as an adult. I think I might have been angry with my dad at the time but he was no where around.  I remember being shocked and confused that I would say such a thing. Mom’s sister told her that their father molested her but my mother wouldn’t listen. When you put someone on a pedestal, they can’t stay up there and you often can’t let yourself see them fall. She tells me that she knows something happened to her but she has blocked it out. I have encouraged my mother so many times to seek counseling but she is so filled with shame that she just can’t.

When I worked for a police department, I was filing and came across a card that told me that my grandfather had been arrested for child molestation. My grandfather was dead at the time and I guess I had a need to totally remove his existence. I went to the evidence technician who is responsible for criminal reports and let him know of the death so he could remove the record, which was standard. Lest you think that the entire history was removed, no, it wouldn’t be as the records were put onto microfiche at that time. In fact, that is why I couldn’t read the actual report on the incident, it was on microfiche in storage. I am not a rule breaker but I would have looked up that report if I could have. The evidence tech asked me if this man was a relative and I told him that he was my grandfather. I have never forgotten that he looked at me kindly and said, “We can pick our friends but we can’t pick our relatives.” and told me that he would take care of it. Since that time, I have learned from my mother that my father actually bailed my grandfather out of jail. She says they believed that the young girl was lying. Reading between the lines, it is easy to see that my mother couldn’t have believed the girl was lying. Another child sacrificed. My aunt was very angry that the judge dismissed the charges though she probably kept this to herself until she told me. My father’s naivete has often frustrated me but not more so than in this instance. However, my mother hid so much from him. Once when I told my parents that I was very uncomfortable around the husband of a family friend, my father told me that he knew the guy would never do anything to my father’s children. So Dad, he would molest his stepchildren but not your children? Wake up and smell the coffee! I was actually hurt that he would not proclaim to stay away from the man in order to help me feel more comfortable. Naive or lacking courage? The man ended up shooting his wife and stepson. You can read about it in my post “Tragic Endings”.

My grandfather molested my cousin, sister and me and we never told anyone. My not telling about me was understandable, I blocked out the details, but my cousin and my sister told me about it happening to them. I was the oldest girl grandchild so chances are that I had the experiences prior to theirs. The three of us talked about why we didn’t tell anyone and we all agreed it was that we didn’t want to hurt our parents who had so much love for this man, a love we all resented. If we couldn’t tell how could I expect my mother to tell. She and I have had several very honest conversations about this and while her answer has hurt me, it was extremely honest. She says she would never have taken action because she would not have wanted to split up her family. I don’t think she is alone in that, after all, isn’t that why my sister, cousin and I didn’t tell. She says not only did she love her father but her mother was a woman with no education, means of support and had 5 children. It strikes me that she said her mother had 5 children which says to me that she was not talking about my molestation but hers. However, she made it clear that she would not have told anyone had she known about me and my sister. She was not the exception, she was the rule during those times. If we look the other way, it didn’t happen. I was hurt when my mother made her admission to me and told her that it was her responsibility to protect her children, we weren’t capable of protecting ourselves. A few days later, she called me and told me that she was haunted by what she said and that she would answer any questions I had. Oddly enough, after that it was difficult to want to bring the subject up. It was like I finally had what I needed, her acknowledgement that she was wrong not to protect me. However, we have talked about it since and while she knows she was wrong, she still contends that she would not have split up her family. I have to accept that because nothing is ever going to change it but it is hers to live with. So my dad died never knowing the family secret. He never knew why I pursued therapy, he never thought I needed it. He didn’t know that my continuous talking, talking, talking and difficulty not filling the silence were symptoms of a person with a painful secret.

There was no education when the abuse took place. People were truly ignorant, willfully so. I don’t mean they were ignorant of the fact that it took place, they were ignorant in the fact that it would matter. There was no courage when it came to emotional situations. It was easier for a man to kick his daughter out of the house for having sex than it was to try to understand why she had sex. It was easier to turn her away than to listen or talk with her. I know of several situations even within my own extended family where the child was blamed for being molested. The thinking was that the child brought it on herself by being promiscuous. So much easier to sacrifice you own family than to have the courage to confront. A child cannot be held responsible for an adult’s actions. If a child is promiscuous, there is a reason in my opinion. The word “incest” is abhorrent to most of us. Its creepy that a relative would have sex with their child relative. However, when I was in therapy, I attended Incest Survivor meetings and incest was considered to be the term used in relation to any adult who is responsible for a child and betrays the trust of the child. If a child is dependent on an adult, he/she she has to place their trust in that adult so the child doesn’t usually have a choice in what happens between the child and the adult. I can tell you that I have been to several different genres of support meetings and I would have to say that the people in the Incest Survivor meetings appeared to have been the most damaged emotionally and mentally. There is so much shame, anger and sexual acting out. Each person thinks another pers0n’s experience is worse than their own but they are all horrendous because they were so very betrayed by someone who they were supposed to be able to trust to take care of them.

I can’t help but wonder how different my life would be if my mother had the courage to step up. What if my dad had known? Would he have had the courage to fight for me? Sadly I doubt it. My brother was angry with me for telling him about my grandfather because my grandfather was his idol. He didn’t say that he didn’t believe it, just that he didn’t want to know about it. Can I judge him? No, I can be angry but I cannot judge him. Our whole lives have been complicated by the dysfunction that has passed itself down but the one thing I know is that we survived. In spite of all the dysfunction my siblings and I lived through, we all survived and have gone on to live productive lives. The odd thing is that I attribute that to the love and support of our parents. No matter how crazy things got, the three of us hung on to the knowledge that our parents loved us and wanted the best for us. When my mother was in a downward spiral, she was still our anchor because dad was the supporter and she was took care of the children. She took on all the burden to protect him from worry and responsibility and his children were shortchanged.

We somehow knew that we had to hang in there until our parents grew up enough to come back to us. Because in our very early years, we had a good, solid family and it stayed with us. My mother said to me recently, “I always wanted to be a good mother.” and I was able to tell her that in some very important ways, she was. Even during the chaos, when we made mistakes our parents didn’t punish, they talked and we actually listened. They always let us have our say and if they felt we were right, they would concede. We were rewarded for honesty by having our parents let that be enough to convince them that we were aware of our misdeeds. We were never shamed.  We have all had our trials but we have our own families and we try to do our best for them.

 

 

 

 

Childhood Sexual Abuse – Part One

I binge watched Dr. Phil last night and there were two shows about false accusations. One was a stepdaughter who is lies compulsively and  accused her stepfather of molesting her and one was a woman who accused her child’s father of physical and sexual abuse. How someone can fabricate something so serious and that will adversely affect a person’s life for the rest of their life, is beyond me.

As a survivor, I wish that those women could understand what an insult it is to those of us who truly experienced sexual abuse. My innocence was stolen from me. I never remember not knowing about sex. Imagine that as a 4 or 5 year old or perhaps younger, I knew that my parents had sex and what it entailed. I knew because I had an older boy orchestrate   intercourse between me and my brother when we were approximately 5 and 6. That is a secret I never thought I would write about. But my hope is that it will free me from the shame and anger. About the same time, a girl who went to our church was babysitting my brother and I and she molested me and him, though separately. And then there was my grandfather… I have blocked the details of all but the encounter involving my brother and remember only up to the actual acts. I did tell my mother about all but my grandfather but we have both blocked out the details of those conversations.

Back then, no one talked about it and no legal action was taken which is why so many women and men are coming forward later in life. I believe it was as rampant then as it is now, it was just kept quiet. Alcoholism can be a contributing factor. I heard a saying once, “Scratch and alcoholic and you will find a pedophile.” I am certainly not saying that all alcoholics are pedophiles just that they often go hand in hand.  Which is the contributing factor?  Do pedophiles become alcoholics or do alcoholics become pedophiles?

I have to wonder how someone can see a child as an object rather than an innocent human being. How can a man or woman see their own child as an object to fulfill their deviant desires? How can they believe that because it is their child, they are a possession to be used for pleasure? Then there are those parents who prostitute their children for drug money. Although sometimes it seems that suspicion has gotten out of hand, thank God that abuse is coming to light. Although the internet has encouraged blatant child objectification, it is also exposing the perpetrators.

More and more school teachers are being arrested for child molestation. I have a theory on that issue. Teachers are most often hired straight out of college so they are about 21 or 22 years old. The senior students can be as old as 20 so there isn’t that much age difference, hence the attraction. That, of course, doesn’t excuse the teacher or the student crossing the line but I don’t believe that young teachers should be hired to teach high school. Now when it comes to the older teachers and the garbage they are orchestrating, I am still shocked when it comes to light. Though even when I was in high school there were rumors about gay teachers and students, true or false.

Something of which I became aware when I worked at a police department was that many women will sacrifice their children for the sake of having a man in their lives. Sexual abuse by a boyfriend or husband would be reported and the mother would take the word of the man over her child. Why? Because they were desperate, as many women are, to have a man in their lives. I believe they knew the child was telling the truth but didn’t want to give up the man. Throughout history, we women have been pressured by society, especially our mothers, to get married and have children. It was an embarrassment to our parents if we weren’t  married by a certain age. Being that there were more women than men, there was a scramble to find and hold onto a guy, any guy. Or was/is it hormones driving the desperation? I don’t know but I have seen situations where we women couldn’t see the forest for the trees as evidenced by my last post. The atrocities in the news about the abuse of children by stepfathers and boyfriends make me wonder when we women will wake up. Not to leave the men out of this topic, there are men who look the other way as well, however, statistics show more sexual abuse by men than women.

I want to encourage all survivors of childhood sexual abuse to realize that it wasn’t our fault, we were not objects and to have been used as such was the product of a sick mind. Maybe it felt good and maybe that’s why we block memories perhaps out of some sense of guilt. However, we were children who didn’t understand that it was just a sensation, one we couldn’t control. There was a gained awareness of our body’s sexual reaction to stimuli and that may have added the guilt feelings. We may have even began to seek out stimuli or become promiscuous to duplicate that feeling. We didn’t understand that we were exposed to these sensations before we were equipped with the emotional maturity and knowledge for making responsible decisions regarding our actions.

Though this post started out in disgust for false accusations of sexual abuse, I would like to make the following suggestions based on personal experience and what I have observed. I do not hold myself out as an authority, these are just suggestions:

  • Parents listen to your children when they tell you of inappropriateness.
  • We are not equipped to judge the truth because we are most often guided by our emotions where our children are concerned so get your child counseling by professionals who can get to the truth and they will take action or advise you where to go from there.Be advised that they are bound by law to report their findings to law enforcement if evidence of impropriety is discovered.
  • Watch your children for signs but don’t interrogate, have calm conversations so that your child feels comfortable and non-threatened talking to you.
  • Support them no matter what! You don’t have to approve of what they do and they should know that but they need to know that they have someone in their corner unconditionally.
  • Be honest with them about your feelings, let them know that you are angry about what happened to them but don’t show bitterness.
  • Tell them that the two of you will get through this together, step by step.
  • Don’t rush the process.

Your child’s ability to heal will depend upon your reaction.

Emil

     Emil was my maternal grandfather for whom I feel nothing but pity. He was an alcoholic and a pedophile and I wish I could totally discount him, but I cannot. He was, after all, my mother’s beloved father. Is love blind or do we only see what we need to see?

My grandfather was born in 1900, the year one of the worst storms in history all but wiped out Galveston Island. As this was before hurricanes were named, it has always been referred to as “The 1900 Storm” or “The Great Storm”. Galveston Island is located approximately 50 miles from the town of Alief where my grandfather was born. Could it be a coincidence that his birth and a severe hurricane occurred simultaneously? Could it have been an omen?

Devastation of Galveston Island, Texas

September 8, 1900, hurricane. Texas State Library photo

Historical map with Bohemia proper outlined in pink, Moravia in yellow, and Habsburg Silesia in orange.
Historical map with Bohemia proper outlined in pink, Moravia in yellow, and Habsburg Silesia in orange.

Emil’s family immigrated from Bohemia, now Czechoslavakia. My grandmother, Anna, always told me to never marry a”Bohunk” (slang for Bohemian) and though she never gave me a reason, I think even as a young girl I understood. I don’t have much information on timing but at some point, Grandpa followed his brothers to Galveston Island when they went there to work for the newspaper (he took a job but I cannot recall what it was.) In Galveston, he met Anna and no one still living seems to know how they met or anything about their early marriage. One of Anna’s sisters did often say that my grandmother got pregnant “every time Emil hung his pants on her bedpost”.

Emil and Anna were always poor and lived in a small house with 2 bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was a passageway to the bathroom from the living and remaining bedroom areas so it was the kind of house referred as a “shotgun” house. The house was on stilts, typical of Galveston homes, in order to prevent high water damage. They had five children, all of whom they raised in the little house. In later years he and my uncle had a shrimping business and were very close.

I never felt any love or affection for my grandfather, he just was. I never felt any animosity toward him either because sometimes a child’s mind has a way of protecting them from the truth. Most of the childhoodmemories I have of him are pretty mundane even though we were around him quite a bit. What I remember follows

  • He told me to hold a spoon full of sugar in my mouth to get rid of hiccups.
  • When he passed gas, he said he stepped on a frog.
  • He had rabbits and Beagles, the rabbits became dinner.
  • He once let the grand-kids ride on the running board of his truck and my grandmother yelled at him for it.
  • He helped my father work on cars and other projects.
  • He would sit me on his lap and bite my cheek. I have read that cheek biting is something that pedophiles do for whatever reason.
  • He called me “Pat”, a name for which I have an intense dislike to this day. When people call me “Pat” or ask if I am called “Pat”, there is an unreasonable anger that wells up in me and I have to work to keep it from showing in my tone of voice.

As the story is told, my grandfather lost his mother at an early age and his father never remarried. My great-grandfather was rumored to have been a bit of a tyrant. Two of grandpa’s sisters, in my mother’s opinion, were distant and introverted. Family lore has it that my great-grandfather physically abused my grandfather and Mom suspects that he molested at least some of his daughters. One of my grandfather’s sisters ended up in a mental health facility as a result of a “nervous breakdown”. My mother’s observation of her grandfather is that he was stoic and unfriendly though she was around him very little..

One of my grandfather’s sisters was a constant in my life. She was a very strong and independent woman having the opposite personality from her two sisters. My great-aunt called my grandfather “Brother” and he called her by her last name, “Fenack”. My uncles called her “Aunt Fenack” but the rest of us called her “Aunt Louise”. I asked my mother why Aunt Louise was so different from her sisters and my mother said she thought it was because Aunt Louise married “up” meaning that she married “money”. I’m not sure what happened with her husband since I never met him and never asked. Aunt Louise raised her granddaughter after her daughter was shot and killed by her daughter’s husband who ended up in prison. Aunt Louise was very strict with her granddaughter, parenting possibly learned from her father or possibly because she was afraid her granddaughter would follow in her daughter’s footsteps. Aunt Louise late, late in life married my grandmother’s brother when they were in their 80’s. Aunt Louise had Colin Cancer and would not marry him until after her cancer surgery. When she was cancer-free, they married but the cancer came back. They were in their 90″s and his family had to remove him from the home he and Aunt Louise shared and take him to live with them. Aunt Louise and Uncle Johnny had opposite medical needs; she had to have the house hot and he could not tolerate the heat. Aunt Louise eventually died of colon cancer.

See Continuation in “Emil” Part Two

Picture Credits:

September 8, 1900, hurricane. Texas State Library photo

Description: Historical map of Bohemia (Bohemia proper – pink, Moravia – yellow, Austrian/Bohemian Silesia – orange), Source: German Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon, 1892, Author: Photo made by User:SebastianBreier,  License: Public Domain, because copyright expired

Description: Hotel Galvez and Spa, A Wyndham Grand Hotel, http://www.wyndham.com/property/GLSHG/Images/18122_x1.jpg.