TRIGGER WARNING: assault, abuse, rape culture, #metoo.
April is child abuse awareness month. I don’t need to say in what ways I was abused, because in all reality, it doesn’t matter. I was abused. End of story. The details are for me to disclose when I want to, not for you to decide if I really was abused or not or if my parents “meant well”. I lived there. You didn’t. I am discussing various types of abuse here, so you might be able to figure stuff out based on this and previous blog posts. That’s okay. But I’m trying to keep this particular post vague in order to help people relate.
That said, here is a handy dandy list of NOT helpful things to say to me! Note, this may be different for other child abuse survivors. This is helpful to ME.
DO NOT SAY:
“Well, I was spanked and I turned out fine. Why aren’t you fine?” You didn’t live my life. Spanking is a very controversial topic, and I request that on this specific post you don’t debate it. I did not turn out fine. End of story. Don’t say that to this child abuse survivor, mmkay? (Seriously, do NOT turn this into a spanking debate. That is a firm boundary. I have a very strong opinion on it and others do, too. DO. NOT. DEBATE. THAT. HERE. AT. ALL. Any comments on Facebook about it will be swiftly deleted.)
“Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.” It was. You didn’t live it. The end.
“I’m sure your parents LOVE you!” They sure did a crappy job of proving it. Doesn’t help to hear that when I have PTSD.
“Well, my parents did XYZ to me, too, and I don’t have PTSD.” That’s nice. I do. I’m glad you had a different childhood than I did (seriously! that isn’t snarky!) but I have PTSD as a result of mine. It isn’t helpful for me to hear “well, I don’t have PTSD” because then my brain warps into bad places and it just isn’t good.
“Don’t you think they meant well?” Sure. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. Doesn’t matter. I was abused.
“But all parents love their children.” Nope.
“They had their own “mental illnesses”. I have an alphabet soup of mental health bullcrap. I don’t abuse people. NEXT.
“That was over twenty years ago that XYZ happened. Why aren’t you over it?” Didn’t know my trauma had a deadline.
“I’m sorry that happened to you.” This is one I’m iffy on. I prefer the wording “I’m sorry someone did that to you” because it takes all the internalized blame off myself. Saying “that happened” makes it sound like it was something out of someone’s control. Someone had control. It wasn’t me. Someone did it to me. It didn’t just “happen”.
“Well, at least emotional abuse doesn’t leave scars.” I have no polite words for that one. And I’m trying to keep this post PG rated to make it more shareable. But… you know the whole “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” I believe that’s bullcrap. I also believe there is no form of abuse without an emotional counterpart because of how abuse plays with your very mind and innermost thoughts. So, there IS no ‘just’ emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is the very core OF abuse.
“Did you ask you ask them why they treated you that way?” Um, no? And get abused further? I was hurt once. Their side of the story? Yeah, they lost their right to that when they chose to abuse me. They don’t get to tell their story.
“Put yourself in their shoes.” No, wear our shoes. WHY do we only challenge people to wear the abusers shoes, but not the victim’s shoes? Ask yourself this question. Seriously, why? Why is it never “walk in the child’s shoes”?
“I don’t know how you turned out so normal.” Well, okay? Normal is only a video game difficulty setting… I’ve jokingly said it, but things I say in jest and things people say to me are two different things. I wince so hard at this one.
“But you denied xyz abuse for years! YOU’RE LYING!” No, I was trying to protect my abusers. It’s pretty common. I have psych records saying that even though I denied it, it was strongly suspected. But that shouldn’t even matter.
I am a child abuse survivor.
Do not say these things to me.
I have made it no secret that I was a victim of child abuse. (Each link is a different post, for the record. Feels weird linking myself, but I’m not writing everything back out) And it sucks. There’s no easy way to say it. It sucks. And it’s defined so much of who I am.
I’ve read people say that they wish they were the person they were before their abuse. They grieve that person. But it’s not something I can do. I don’t know who I was before I was abused. I don’t know who I could have been. Would I still be a feisty, smartass Hufflepuff? Would I still be loyal and protective of my friends? Part of me thinks the hell I lived through is what made me want to protect others so much (and now I am thinking of Kingdom Hearts…cuz my friends are my power, so I protect them blah blah blah)
While part of me wishes to all hell I hadn’t been abused, would I be a voice for abused children if I hadn’t? Would I be trying like hell to make a difference? I don’t know. And that’s so complicated. The same thing that makes me suicidal, the same thing that haunts my memories… my nightmares, my flashbacks… is my same fighting force. The same thing that propels me and keeps me going. The same thing that is my lifeblood. It’s keeping me alive and making me want to die all in one. And it’s such a weird feeling.
All at once, what haunts me is what fuels me. What holds me back is what propels me forward. And that’s just how it is going to be.
As a disabled, autistic person the odds were staggeringly high for me to be a victim of abuse. I am the one in five. I have been physically, sexually, emotionally, and spiritually abused. It is just how it is. I’m finally safe, at age twenty nine.
Many of my friends have also been abused. And I’ve heard so many of them say that because I’ve been abused “more” or because they’ve “only” been emotionally abused, it wasn’t that bad. Here’s the thing: there is no just for abuse. Abuse is abuse. Full stop. End of story.
It’s easy for us to say things weren’t so bad. It’s easy for us to say that our abusd was deserved. I know that time after time, I’ve told myself. God, there are still nights where I tell myself that. That I deserved it. But it’s simply not true.
I bet none of my friends who say they were “just” emotionally abused would turn and say it to a friend. There would tell them their experiences are real and valid. But yet it’s so much harder when it comes to ourselves.
I’ve been emotionally and verbally abused by my former PCA.
I was abused in all kinds of ways from my family of origin.
I’ve been spiritually abused by the church.
Each one led to my PTSD. Wanna know something? I got the PTSD dx based solely on my emotional abuse history. Before I told anyone about the other stuff. While I suspect I actually have complex PTSD, that is another story.
If you have been abused, you have been abused. There is no only. There is no just. You were abused. You didn’t deserve it. Nothing you did could have made a difference. It is on them – your abusers. Not you.
If you were abused, in any way, you are allowed to say so. You are permitted to have feelings. It’s okay to say that you had a traumatic upbringing. Because there is no just when it comes to abuse.
To my father,
No one really tell you how to grieve an estranged parent. No one tells you what it’s like when the man who is half the reason you’re alive is dead, but you hadn’t spoken to him for nine years prior.
Your death was sudden. You were dead for several days before I knew. My exact response was more or less “well, that happened.” For the graveside memorial, I was asked to share my favorite memory of you. I decided that it likely wasn’t best to respond with “the phone call that you kicked the bucket.” I was reminded of the time in tenth grade when I was getting testing done – I was asked to name just one good thing about my dad. I gave him a blank look. I couldn’t. I couldn’t come up with one good thing.
There are few people the world is better without. Like Anne Frank, I truly believe there is good in everyone. But I can’t find the good in my father. Not when after I moved 750 miles away, I had you banned from my college campus. Not when I was an adult and safe, I lived in fear of you finding my phone number. His death ended those worries…but they still exist. It’s illogical. You’re dead. You’re gone.
But it’s 6:30 am and I’m awake because I can’t sleep. I’m awake because my mind is plagued of memories of all the stuff you did. I lied for years. I hid the abuse for years. I didn’t tell anyone what you did for me for literally decades. Even though my medical records state that even though I denied those forms of abuse, it was suspected.
Some days I think there isn’t one good thing about you. But then I remember.
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!” Labyrinth
I’m alive (cue “Unbreakable, they alive dammit, it’s a miracle”). I will rise above. You may have torn me down. You may have beat me. You may have raped me. But I’m alive and you are not. I still have time to make something of my life. You have lost the chance.
You lost the chance to see who I became. I became a loyal and compassionate Hufflepuff. I became a fiesty and sarcastic cynic. I’m still an introvert. I never graduated college. But I became an advocate and an activist. I’m becoming the person I needed when I was little.
Your death sealed the end of our relationship. It’s over. Done. It never was and it is finalized. You are gone.
Now if only I can convince my brain of what I just wrote. If only I can believe it in my heart. I know I will someday. I just hope someday comes soon. Because, you have no power over me. I have my strong will. I have my friends. I soared over the obstacles.
Your daughter no longer.
Facebook asks me what’s on my mind. It’s kinda creepy, really. It also always thinks I’m at target or out getting waffle fries. Which neither are inaccurate if we are being totally truthful.
But the problem is? I don’t know how to say what’s on my mind.
You’re such an eloquent writer. But Nora! Just type or say the thing.
That’s the problem.
You see, the word are trapped. The emotions are trapped. The feelings are trapped.
It’s like alphabet soup and just a bunch of letters swirling around. Sometimes I can scoop out a random word but it isn’t very helpful or relevant.
I have so many secrets. Oh, everyone has secrets.
But this is stuff I’ve not told everyone.
Stuff I’ve not even dared write out. Because I’m scared to be faced with it.
It can’t be that bad.
Well no, but it’s not that good either.
It’s trapped. I want to speak the words. To type the words. To free myself from the words. But I don’t know how. I’m stuck. I’m trapped. And I’m scared.
I don’t like feeling like this. The words. The thoughts. The feelings are terrifying. I want it out. I so badly want to be free of this hell I’ve been trapped in for decades.
I act like the good person I know I have to be.
I have been told how smart and capable and resilient I am.
And so I stay trapped in my head.
Locked in my own body.
And it’s terrifying.
I’ve written out what happened before. My childhood. My past. Some of it.
But there’s so much more.
A few eyes have seen it.
But not many.
And I’m scared.
I have so many thoughts that are still trapped. So much stuff I haven’t dealt with.
So many nightmares. So many flashbacks.
And I want to move forward.
I want things to change.
But they can’t.
Because the words are trapped and I can’t pull them out.
I’m just not smart enough to fix this one.
I usually don’t trigger warn, but this needs it, my friends. Child abuse, sexual abuse. I am utterly fucking terrified to hit submit. I am utterly afraid to post this. I kept quiet for years. I didn’t speak for years. I denied it for years. But it’s time to speak out. Perhaps this will bring healing. Perhaps this will bring peace. Perhaps I will regret posting this. It’s time to be vulnerable and it’s time to no longer be silent.
How many times as a kid, did we chant “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” What bullshit. It’s 100% not true. Words hurt. Words sting. Words cause trauma. Words carry a stigma and words can cut into your soul like daggers.
I am a victim of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is very real. Emotional abuse hurts and is just a real as physical, sexual, or any other form of abuse. For me, emotional abuse was the worst form. Why? People often don’t believe it’s real. They believe that my father sexually abused me. They believe that he physically hurt me. But so often, they don’t believe the words.
But it’s his voice I hear in my head at night.
It’s him telling me I’m stupid. I’m dumb. I’m never enough. I’ll never graduate college.
It’s the emotional abuse from my PCA that haunts me. Being told I’m lazy. That I just need to believe more. That if I just tried harder, I could do it.
This is emotional abuse.
I always had my basic needs met, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t neglected. My father never told me he loved me. My father told me that if I didn’t stop crying, he’d give me something to cry about. My father told me all sorts of horrible things. Were they true? Fuck no. But when you hear those horrid words, day in and day out, you internalize them. They become a part of you. And you slowly start to believe it.
You know, logically, that it’s not true. That you’re not stupid. That you’re beautiful. That you are worthy of love and acceptance. But because it isn’t what you were told, you wrestle with it. Any type of compliment? You’re waiting for the “yet…” “but..” “we’ll see.”
This is the affect emotional abuse has.
It’s taking your voice. Literally.
You’re afraid to speak.
Because what if it happens again?
You’re afraid to breathe.
Because what if it happens again?
You learn things, you know.
You learn to stay silent.
You learn the right scripts. The right words. You learn what to say and you learn how to shut yourself inside yourself. You learn how to cope, but not how to live. You learn how to survive, but not how to thrive.
This is emotional abuse.
I have a really old LiveJournal. It’s from back when you still have to be referred to join. I also have (multiple) really old Xangas. And a few open diary/teenopendiary which thank GOD do not exist anymore. This is kind of a trigger warning for child abuse, so, please tread carefully. This is mostly me doing some dumping of various sorts – I don’t know that I even expect anyone to read it. If you actually do, hugs and good thoughts are welcome. This was hard. If you want the good stuff, go to the end where I gave the asshole a piece of my mind.
Some of the stuff made me cry. Like, I actually wrote that? It’s out there? Parts of my childhood abuse are that well chronicled? Me talking about getting yelled at for making a mistake that caused my father to reboot the computer. I found this entry and I was so heartbroken at junior year, overdramatic me. This is from when I was 17.
“Got it? I quit life. I’m sick of it. I asked Dad to call the doctor, so
I can get my meds, right? He throws a fit, becaue he doesn’t think I
have a problem and need them..then asks if I think I do. Now, the ones
they had me on worked like CRAP. But now I don’t have any…and I’ve
noticed in the few weeks since I’ve been off…I’ve been more down.”
Why do I always have to suffer? And the other day, I just wanted my
daddy to notice me. I showed him my new pretty bracelet, but he was too
busy playing fucking neopets. Yes, I just cussed. Live with it. I was
so hurt, that a DAMN WEBSITE was more important then his own daughter.
It’s all he does! He literally RUNS down the isle at church as soon as
it’s done, and I have to struggle to keep up with him. Why does he go
so fast? Because he wants to come home and screw around on the computer
before work. We hurry to leave after Wednesdays. And I hate it. I wish
i’d NEVER told him about neopets, I’m sick of hearing him whine when I
get good stuff, and he doesn’t. I’m sick of him bragging when he does
good. I’m sick of it being the only thing we hvae in common to talk
about. I’M SICK OF IT. I made the biggest mistake of my LIFE when I
told him about that site. I just want to slap him and tell him it’s NOT
REAL, and that hey, I’m real. And all I wanted was some attention..for
him to notice the bracelet I’d spent time making, and I just wanted him
to acknowledge me. I just wanted him to see me. What the hell is he
going to do? I’m going to be GONE in a year and a half. And I can’t say
I’m upset about it. I’m looking foreward to it. I’m to the point where
the further away I get from home, the better.”
And yet, I was gone before that. Oh, I got emails. The blackmail emails. Cruel, cruel posts.
“This was the year that you were to get something (for Chirstmas) of your grandmother’s that she would have wanted you to have, but no. Jim and I will sell it. Also, my will said you were to get the imported china that dad brought back from Japan at then end of WW!!-but that is now changed. Jim and I will sell sell it.”
“Just to let you know-You and and your mother had many choices as to what to do. You both chose to take the road that would cost the most problems for me. Giving you the comuter finalizes my agreement with the police department. I am now forced to pay for slightly over year for something that I do not have, and all because of the phone call your mother made-instead of any other choices available. This whole thing was cost me dearly, $$ and more. But tell your mother that it is not it is not over until the fat lady sings, and she has not yet sung.” (What did I do? I turned him into the police for possessing child pornography. And by the way, my mother did not make the phone call. I. FUCKING. DID. And like 18 year old me was going to confront him!? I did do other things, douchebag. I went to my youth pastor and the senior pastor of the church, who tried to convince me not to turn his sorry ass in and instead ‘confront’ him. HELL NO).
I am sorry, but I am done. I have done everthing in my power to contine to communicate with you, but it is you, not me, who has shut off everything. Again, if you cannot communicate with me, I feel I have no other choice than to discontinue your insurance coverage.” Why did I shut off everything, oh yeah, you’re a fucking child abuser.
Oh, and then there is the time at age 20 I finally epically lost my shit at him and gave the asshat a piece of my mind. This is the email, and this is my response. The check was some insurance bullshit.
I cannot send a check out until next week, and WILL do so then.
Just to let you know, I do NOT remember any check for this amount, but to avoid problems, will send it anyway. I have asked, repeatedly, to see you, but get denied every time. You do not, and cannot possiblly have a Dr appointment every day. And, almost every mail I receive from you seems to be a request for money.
I don’t know what happened–it cannot be just what happened over the computer. You were my very best friend, and I felt, before you left here, I could confide in you just about anything. There are still things I wish I could talk to you about. But e-mails are not the place.
I love you very much, but things just can’t go on the way they are now.
I am asking you one more time–can I PLEASE just have a time when we can meet one on one–just for lunch? Any day–any time–up to your to set the time. I am still off on both Tues and Wen.
“Thank you for sending the checks.
No, I do not have an appointment every day. However, since Mom is off on Tuesdays, I normally have them on Tuesdays. Wednesdays I’m in class all day. So neither day works for me, sorry. I barely have the strength lately to hang out with my friends, I’ve only seen one of my friends this entire summer. Between school, doctors, and homework (and getting ready to transfer next year) I doubt if I’ll even have time to hang out with them at that. I’m sorry. I also cannot make plans very far in advance, as I never know when I AM going to have an appointment. I am lucky enough to be able to attend class each week, nonetheless make outside plans.
“Best friend”, eh? You sure have funny ways of showing it.
You said in an earlier email I was not the daughter you knew. You are correct. I am not the daughter you knew. I am no longer your victim – I am no longer your punching bag to push around. I am no longer the person you forced me to be. I am stronger, I am wiser. You put your earthly possessions over me. Therefore, you lost me. It’s not my fault. YOU made the choices. YOU have to suffer the consequences.
While I lived with you, you never cared about how I was doing. You would throw fits when Mom asked you to take me to my doctor’s appointments. You didn’t care about my eighteenth or nineteenth birthdays. You’d whine and throw fits whenever I asked you to do anything for me. Why the change? Why do you care about my health now? You never gave a rat’s behind before. So why now? Why the sudden burst of compassion?
No. Things cannot go on the way they are now. I am sick of you pushing me around, trying to force me and guilt me into meeting with you. I’m sorry. I cannot. Besides, what would we talk about if we met for lunch? You only care about one person – you and what makes YOU look good. You’re not interested in my life. You never cared in the past. Why should you care now? Have you realized what you’ve lost? Have you realized what you’ve done?
I’m sorry if every email seems like a request for money. However, when you were married to my mother, all you cared about was HER money. All you care about is money, and making sure you have the money to buy your beer and your potato chips. You never cared if I had the money to buy my medications, the money to buy things I needed for school, the money to pay for gas to take me to my doctor’s appointments. You couldn’t be arsed to care. So why care now?
Yes. It is more than the computer. I’m glad you finally realized that. I have finally seen your true colours. It’s the way you treated my brothers. It’s the way you treated my mother while you were married to her. It’s the way you treated me. I am not your toy to play with. It’s your utter hypocrisy – acting one way in public, and another behind closed doors.
You truly don’t care about me. Case in point. When you were in a car accident, and unhurt, you got pissed at me because I didn’t say anything. I’m sorry if I hurt you in that, but you have hurt me in the same ways. I’ve told you I’ve been transferred by lifesquad from the doctor’s office to the hospital – nothing. I’ve told you of my multiple sprains – nothing.
You pay no attention to my emails. I told you in an email I’d sprained my ankle. Your reply? You wanted to take me to play mini golf, out to a movie, and a Chinese buffet. All of which is awfully hard to do with a sprained ankle.
You say I am not the daughter you knew. You are not the father I knew. The father I knew would never disrespect his mother. You know, my Christmas present in 2005? Where you told me you were going to sell something that Dixie would of wanted me to have? I thought you truly cared – but I guess I was wrong. Sometimes we are blinded by the people we care about the most, and the same is true of you. I realized that the “love” you claimed you had for me was just an act. You’d throw fits when I’d ask you to do simple things like take me into town to get my glasses. To get my TB test read. The father I thought I knew would never do that – and that is when I started seeing your true colours.
Whenever something goes wrong in your life, you expect me to show pity, compassion. Fine. I can understand that. However, when something goes wrong in my life – I get nothing. I’m not saying I want your sympathy, I’m not saying I want your pity. However, you can’t expect me to care if you don’t.
You have hurt me in more ways then you will ever realize. Not just by the computer, but by a combination of things. Your choices led us to where we are now. I’m sorry.”