I’ve started a new blog! Check out what I’m up to and how I’m progressing at http://gleaningthefields.com I will also continue to post and crosspost here. Leah and I wanted this blog to be a safe place for women of faith to turn to when dealing with the devastation of sexual abuse, and we will continue to maintain this blog as a jumping off point for anyone researching this subject. Thareading all who have reached out to us. Please let us know if you are interested in guest posting, or linking up to us to share your own journey.
Crosspost from Ruth: http://gleaningthefields.com/2012/04/04/forgive-part-one/
Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
- Portia Nelson
My three youngest boys were physically and sexually abused for a long time. The two youngest, most likely from infancy. We found out that one of the ways their perpetrator insured compliance was by threatening them with a knife. As a result the two younger ones seem to think that to insure they get their way, or to ensure their safety, they must resort to violence. We have put together a safety plan for them to use whenever and wherever they may feel threatened. Keep in mind that “threatened” can be as insignificant as annoyed, all the way through bullied, to being violated. My boys don’t seem to be able to distinguish the difference.
There are seven steps, like seven days of the weeks, increasing in the amount of force needed to ensure protection.
1. Say “stop”
This is where it starts. Someone is annoying them, they have the right to say “stop.” This is where it would be appropriate for them to say how they feel, if the situation calls for it.
2. Ignore, or walk away
If the person doesn’t stop, they can choose to ignore them, or simply walk away, as long as the person offending them isn’t being dangerous.
3. Get help
If the person continues to annoy them, or won’t leave them alone, then, they are allowed to seek help from authorities or other grown-ups.
4. Run to get help
Running to get help is allowed of they are scared, or the person is starting to be insistent or get aggressive. I found it interesting that my boys objected and said they are not allowed to run indoors. I had to make it very clear that they are allowed as long as they feel they are in danger or have followed the above steps. They should always run TOWARDS help instead of away from it. Like towards school, neighbors, police, Church, parents, etc.
5. Scream for help
Again, I got objections to this, but I repeated the above.
6. Fight to get away
Interestingly, fighting seems to be their first instinct, even before saying stop. I gave them permission to fight if they are doing it to get away, are in danger and/or have already tried the steps above.
7. Tell, tell, tell
We have abolished secrets in our family. Nothing good comes from secrets. The boys are to tell of the incident to anyone and everyone until they are believed and protected. They know they must never be silent regarding their fears and worries. They have a right to be validated, believed and protected.
Now I choose to continue to be a mother, even though my children are tougher than I ever imagined. Even though I didn’t choose to have them victimized, nor did I choose to have them be born with disabilities. I choose to be their mother, and continue to nurture them as much as is humanly possible. I do not choose to do this because I’m afraid of going to hell if I don’t (indeed, there are days I can’t imagine hell being much worse than what I’m currently in), nor because it is my duty, not because I worry that no one else will want them, not because society tells me to, or even because I feel guilt and regret that their abuse occurred under my own roof. I choose to be my children’s mother, because I love them. I have choices. I refuse to be a victim. I choose them.
The following is a quote from the article, “Setting Personal Boundaries” “We always have a choice. The choices may seem to be awful – but in reality, allowing ourselves to buy into the illusion that we are trapped will have worse consequences in the long run. It may seem ridiculous to suggest that a parent can abandon or give a child up for adoption – but owning our choices no matter how outrageous is a step in owning responsibility for being co-creators in our life. If we are blaming and being the victim we will never be happy.”
The lack of structure of “spring break” can be oppressive. Children who are severely emotionally disturbed need structure. Children with neurological deficits need structure. Coop them all up together in a small house with little to do and the fireworks go flying!
I was able to secure a sitter for the younger boys and decided to treat myself and go paint with friends. (I used to be an artist before all this mess ground career to a near halt.) I
got a ride from a good friend, she is a young mom of a six and four-year-old. She brought the kids with her, and we descended on the studio of a fellow artist and friend with enthusiasm and vigor. We painted for a good five hours. My friend’s children interrupted her two or three times after about three and a half hours of playing nicely together. Their interruptions were so tame in comparison to cacophony my own children create. On the ride home (about 30 min.) her angelic children chatted quietly in the back seat with us and each other. I was amazed! No crying, fighting, tantrums! No blood, no foul, they didn’t even make a mess!! I’ve known these kiddos for several years, they are the epitome of normalcy and the functional family. They are happy and well adjusted. They get tired, sometimes fight and cry and pout, but on such a mild undisruptive level, that I hardly pick them up on my radar. They seem right on target developmentally.
The experience really made me think, why are my kids so different?? I have two that are in the autism spectrum, three in the ADD spectrum, all with sensory and develop motor coordination deficits (that means they are loud and often clumsy), three are aggressive, all are impulsive, throw in a little dyslexia and learning disabilities, equals none of my four beloved boys are very successful socially, or particularly easy to raise. Why is it that four out of four came out with neurological deficits? Statistically, that is unlikely. While I thought I understood the negative effects of the three younger’s long-term, severe abuse, I couldn’t understand why all of them have organic disabilities. I believe there is a familial genetic component, but all of them? One, two, or maybe even three out of four is much more likely than 100%?? The fourth paragraph of this article hit me in the face, “The damage impacts the child’s social skills, impulsivity, and aggression.” I can’t think of any other words better describe the boys’ behavioral problems.
The effects of trauma and stress are so real, they caused permanent brain damage! It’s sad and scary, but it’s also so validating. There is good reason my boys are different. Now if we could just figure out how to healthily cope and provide appropriate accommodations and supports for their often invisible disabilities. Would it be easier if they were missing limbs?
There have been a few books that have really helped me understand my journey to healing. I don’t believe in quick fixes, or free lunches, or get-rich-quick schemes. I believe in the law of he harvest, we reap what we sow. Yes, I’ve seen miracles, and I believe in miracles and gifts from God–the atonement being in the forefront. But most of us humans have to do things the ordinary, slow, hard, way. We cant and really mustn’t expect to get through the journey of mortality without some bumps and scratches along the way. Some of us get by with little scratches here and there. Others end up in ICU fighting for their lives (figuratively speaking but this can also be quite literally). The interesting thing is that often those with mere scratches feel the pain just as intensely and the ones in ICU! In fact, those in the intensive care unit are spared pain because they have the benefit of loss on consciousness, pain medication, and a dedicated team of professionals fighting for healing right along with them. Those with bumps, bruises, and often some invisible hurts are left to “man up” and continue to put one foot in front of another without the cheering squad.
I didn’t think I had a problem with forgiving myself when my therapist handed me this book. Logically, I know that I did the best I knew how–in fact, part of me knows that I’ve endured rather well. I am not completely without self esteem. Most of the time I know I have value and purpose. Most of the time I know that I’m loved, and forgiven. But I was surprised at what I learned from this book. I recommend it for anyone who isn’t perfect, and knows it. My only complaint is that it is written for an LDS audience and its message is truly applicable to anyone of faith. Just reading the introduction was validating and therapeutic. If you are not LDS, just gloss over the the strange jargon, the message is true and really helps shed common misperceptions that Christians in particular beat themselves with. Better yet, it offers solutions and exercises in clearing up your thinking. Instead of promising complete healing the author seeks to give more healing, more comfort, less disfunction and fear. Realistic solutions for real people, with real problems, who are just doing the best they can with what they have.
My therapist says that she helps people suffering from trauma by teaching them how to live in the “here and now”. It’s a technique that often helps me get through the day. But there are times that backtracking also helps….
Tory has been having problems sexually acting out. The dog seems to be triggering much of his inappropriate behavior and I am finding myself peeling him off of Skippy and the dog on a regular basis. It’s exhausting on so many levels, and for a change, I’d rather not dwell on it.
Instead, let’s go over Thanksgiving. Yes, that can be an unpleasant subject as well, but in a rare breath of mercy we managed to have a successful one. A few days before we finally got a date for Fred’s surgery to remove the cavernous malformation in his brain. I have become so skeptical that I have been very slow in announcing this turn of events. How many times have I been made to believe and let down later? OK, I promised we wouldn’t go there….back to Thanksgiving: no family, no friends, no expectations, no cooking marathons. Just our dysfunctional family of six plus bulldog and chicken flock. We cooked leisurely throughout the day, just the staples, nothing special. We used many of the ingredients dropped off to us by our “secret admirers”. The table was also set with many of their gifts and the boys noted it. We all felt loved. We said a prayer of thanksgiving and ate. The little boys, as usual, ate very little. They have so many food aversions that Skippy is basically eating only bread and mayo….but they both liked the refrigerator rolls that Boe and I have been making since our very early married years–a recipe from a loving friend.
Then three days at home with no school or structure for the boys–a sure recipe for disaster. We let them play Wii Just dance, enjoyed the left-overs, stayed up watching TV with the older boys. I even spent a few hours painting with them. But Tory’s anger rages were still just barely under the surface. I decided to do the unthinkable. A winter family activity. We bundled up the lot and took them sledding amongst weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (the grown-ups because of the cold, the kids because “why does he get a better sled than I do?”). We even bundled up the bulldog, poor beast.
The fresh air, and exercise reminded me that there is a whole world outside my doors. It was too cold to stay outside for very long, but it was long enough, and it was a blessing. Everyone had a great time, even Bill, who generally avoids physical exertion at any cost.
As we walked home, I was reminded of why I love to paint. The light, low on the horizon cast such a spell of profuse, and intense colors–signs that spring will come….someday. Bill was recollecting a movie or story he had heard about a pioneer family crossing the plains to the Salt Lake valley. One of their children died on the way and the family buried her in the snow. But after trekking a few more miles the mom remembered that she had received a blessing stating she would reach the valley with all her children alive. The family turned around, dug the child up, warmed her by the fire, and she revived. True story? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look it up. But it really doesn’t matter, because it brought back something to my mind that is true.
We found out that Fairbanks had sexually abused our boys in May of 2010. I’ll never forget those first days, the next morning. We had a talk with all the boys, told them that Fairbanks had told us, that is was OK for them to tell us too. We told them we would never have secrets again in our family. It was obvious from Tory’s behavior that we were getting too close to the truth. He told us of what happened to his “cousin” instead of telling us what happened to him. He didn’t know the right words, he just knew that they were “grown up” things, we left it at that. Boe offered all of them a priesthood blessing. I find it interesting that when Boe layed his hands on Tory, I knew what he would say.
When Tory was very young, not even two years old, he burned himself by reaching for a hot cup of tea. The insulated pajamas he was wearing made the burns even more severe and we ended up at the emergency room with the doctors contemplating having him medivac to a burn unit out-of-state. Our home teacher stopped at the hospital and he and Boe gave Tory a blessing. They blessed him that he would heal, and not a scar would be left behind. It took years, but indeed, Tory did heal, and there is absolutely not a trace of a scar on him from this incident.
Now at eight years old, here was Tory again, under the loving hands of his father, receiving a blessing from his Father in Heaven. Again he was told he would heal, and no scar would be left behind. Skippy was given a similar promise.
The skeptic in me (do we notice a pattern here?) said, not all scars are visible; the Lords time is not our own time; and healing does not always come in this life. But I could not ignore the meaning and intent behind the words. They gave me hope. Then the realities of raising children who have been severely physically and sexually abused by a trusted relative struck…one thing after another. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! No time to think, just putting out fires….and Fred’s brain lesion, and hospitalizations, and suicide threats, loss of work, police, accidents, loss of income, restraining orders, feces and urine, broken system, judgement, more, more, more….and I forgot. I forgot the blessing. Boe forgot too. He couldn’t even remember when I reminded him. But Bill’s story reminded me, and I held on to the words….I held on to them while pulling Tory on the sled and watching the sun hang low on the frozen horizon…. without a scar! Somehow, someway, we were going to get through.
Fred and Bill were not given the same blessing, indeed, the rest of us will certainly bear heavy scars from this fiasco. But Tory and Skippy will not. Not from this. And that’s enough to get through another day.
Four days and counting with no fits. So while it isn’t “someday,” by any means, it’s definitely better.
Sometimes I wonder how or why it is that some families get through virtually unscathed, others are completely lost to the battle. Are my kids more difficult because of their trauma? Or were they just born that way? Or is it really me that is difficult and just not getting the lessons given to me?It’s rather difficult to tell.
We found a surgeon for Fred. It’s such a relief that it has me spooked. I’ve become so used to catastrophe, that I don’t know what di do with good news. I dare say, it is even uncomfortable to be hopeful.
My therapist says I may be suffering from compassion fatigue…..Ya think?!
Someday, I will write, “Wow, today was a great day! I went through the whole day without thinking about our trauma!” But today is not someday.
This time last year Fred started disclosing to his therapist, Fairbanks was still in Fairbanks, Tory refused to ever take off his jacket. this time last year Boe was recovering from from the accident at work, and recovering from surgery….he was still officially employed, and we had money in our savings account, 401K,and a pension. Bill had just been diagnosed with autism. We had just been told by a neuropsychologist that Fred would most likely not be able to ever live independently due to his increased mood instability. Skippy was diagnosed ADHD and visual motor deficits. Tory was diagnosed with dyspraxia (is there a reason med professionals don’t feel inclined to speak English??). And the whole lot of us were welcomed to the PTSD family (post traumatic stress disorder). What do the labels matter? In some ways, they were a relief…the effects from our trauma were real, they could be given a name. In other ways, the diagnosis were frightening….the effects of the trauma were real, they had a name, and there was no clear cut course of action for treatment. Worst of all? The effects were now permanent…in the books….we were officially stamped BROKEN!
A year later, big news here…..we are still broken. I spent two hours trying to calm Tory’s growing violent outbursts as he screamed a me at the top of his lungs, “why did you have to do foster care?!” Why indeed does anyone invite in a predator into their place of refuge? The answer is simple…. I didn’t know……
A year later and our savings are spent, the 401K is also gone. Neither one of us have a job. Our therapy bill could rival the national debt.
A year later…where is the progress? No wonder so few disclose sexual abuse, in some ways it is easier to just stuff it….baby steps…inching forward….digging with a spoon the grave…somehow we must burry this grief…no buried treasure this year….
We have a secret admirer! At least that is what the little boys call them. They stop by every night dropping off thanksgiving goodies. Since they seem to want to remain anonymous, we have discouraged the boys in catching them in their act. But how do we say thank you? Tory left a note on the door, I hope they find it.
We also have a dog! Does that count as progress?? He is a gentle soul…unless You are a chicken…or a moose. Emmy is getting used to the chickens, though he is so bewildered that they are not for his culinary enjoyment. Today the Mama moose and calf came back….could they be the same who trampled Opal? they went straight to the rabbit pen that now lies deathly silent beneath this horrid snow…Flopsy has gone too now, died peacefully in one of his many underground tunnels…he used to belong to Fairbanks…. The moose bedded down behind the aha sanded rabbit pen and our brave bulldog did what that good breed was bred to do…he went ballistic! He barked by the window all afternoon, running to and fro from window to window leaving little drool marks on the glass. some would find this annoying, but not this broken bunch! We cheered him on, petted and rewarded him. Good Dog, Emmy, you get that bad, bad moose! On it went all afternoon. And the moose left!! who teaches dogs how to be dogs? Isn’t it amazing they know how to be dogs? For that matter, who teaches chickens how to be chickens? Our mama hen does such a good job being a Mama, yet she herself was raised by humans…so how did she know what to do with her babies? She did lose a few eggs, in the chicken world, they would be called quitters, because they gave up trying to hatch. It wasn’t the hen’s fault, somehow she knew that if she helped them out of their shells they would never have the strength to survive. So she let them struggle on, and three hatched and are strong and feisty…. there is strength in the struggle….I heard that in church, once and thought of it as I disposed of the “quitters”. We must continue our own struggle as well…LOL, at least we are already broken…hopefully emerging from the shell won’t take too much more time…..baby steps……