Choosing to forgive my abusers
I have never made a secret about my abuse as a child, it is nothing I have to be ashamed of, despite my upbringing of secrecy. Please don't misunderstand me, there were plenty of years that I felt shame and humiliation for the things I went through. Times I believed that it was my fault, if I didn't bloom so early, if my boobs weren't so big, if I didn't this, or hadn't that. I spent so much time replaying the abuse in my head and in some instances still dealing with it in my everyday long into adulthood. Mine began when I was very young and bounced through various family members, family friends and the longest one being my stepdad. There is where the issue lies for my extended family. They do not understand how I could still refer to him as my stepdad, they do not fathom why mom chose his money over my safety. They have anger and long held resentment. For the longest time I felt as if they failed to protect me. That no one really gave a shit about what was happening, I mean why should they, my own mom covered it up for years, even after he had served time and was put on probation. She told therapists she was angry at me because I would go fishing with him or to the lake in the summer to swim. But what no one seems to understand is those moments he was actually being a father and nothing more. Something I desperately needed in my life.
My father walked out on my mom and me when I was 10, my sisters had him in their lives until they graduated high school , a couple got married and had kids.He was there for the major milestones in their lives, but not for mine. He was gone and he was not coming back. When I was 16, I tried to go live with him and his wife in Texas. My mom withdrew me from school and shipped me to him, mind you I had spent a year in a mental hospital where my stepfathers abuse of me had been revealed. When I got out my mom made the choice to stay with him, her logic was this way she KNEW he wouldn't touch any other girl, his continued behaviors towards me she ignored. She became active in a group called Parents United, a support group for abusers and their spouses. I can remember her making friends with 2 other couples in the group. Both women, like my mom, chose to stay with their spouses, despite their abuse of their daughters. Both women, like my mom were in their second marriage, overweight, under educated, and as I would learn victims from childhood themselves. Needless to say the girls and I also became friends and the similarity in their stories and mine was uncanny, like me their mom's would often say, " Well you do this, you do that, he is a man what did you think he was going to do?"
She spent her days and nights giving these women comfort while continuing to make we, the victims the guilty parties. Their friendships brought together already fragile girls in the presence of men who had already committed one offense of sexual abuse, it was like a pedophile's dream scenario. One my mother and her friends kept feeding, then if the men would do something out of the way, or make a comment THEY felt was inappropriate they would gang up on them like a pack of wolves. But when they tried to be the father figures we needed it was even worse. Then we both became recipients of the abuse of the mothers. The slurs about us being young and vibrant with all the curves, how we seduced them and nothing would have happened. It was a vicious, life altering cycle for me and I am sure those other girls.
When I went to live with my father I was certain it would work because he knew I had been in the hospital for over a year. He knew I had attempted suicide, he knew that a neighbor man had molested me and it went to court and because of the man's age and health he was basically given a slap on the wrist and told to not speak to me. Did I mention we lived in an affluent military neighborhood at the time?? The homes were large and overbearing much like the military men who purchased them. My stepfather was a retired
commander, as was the neighbor who also abused me. It started as a simple case of me trying to help an elderly man who was unable to fulfill simple tasks such as taking out his trash and running to the grocery store. It turned into much more, and everyone thought he was the sweet old man around the corner. It was funny , mom believed about him, but she denied my stepdad doing anything for years up to that point. Anyway my father failed me. I stayed a month before they sent me back and I was devastated. So I was left to cling to the moments that my step dad was actually being a father. With no strings attached. I had to cling to normal to survive the abnormal times.
Even now my sister is angry. But she wasn't in my shoes. I was angry for years. Till I found out my father never knew the truth about my hospital stay, my mother told him it was because I was skipping school. That's it. I spent a year in a mental hospital for truancy. I was 33 when I realized my father never knew the truth of the whole thing. By that time I was married to my husband and had 3 kids, a lot of whiskey under a bridge and coulda shoulda wouldas. My husband was the first person to defend me when my step dad overstepped his bounds when I was pregnant with my second child. He caught me alone in the house making a piece of toast and cornered me, his hands reaching around my frame and grabbing my breasts that had grown beyond anything I thought was possible. Even now I can feel the bile in my throat and the cold grip of nausea wash over me. I could not move. I held my breath and closed my eyes and suddenly I was 10 again and no place to run. This was the first and last time he was ever brave enough to touch me in that manner when I was awake, his abuses always happened when everyone was sleeping, I would awaken to him in my room touching me and doing other things. I would pretend to be asleep and roll over to curl into a ball but it never stopped him, he would just find another way in, he knew I was awake, he would whisper things that I won't say here. I would squinch my eyes shut and pray something would rustle and he would be gone out of fear of getting caught. But this moment was brazen and bold and daring of someone to walk in. The sound of the back door and my oldest son laughing led him to jump away and back to his chair and left me a shaking mess. When my husband walked in I was ready to leave, my hands and body shaking, I could not speak other than to say we needed to go. Once in the car he refused to leave, something in him told him not to. When I finally released the secret of what had happened he stormed into the house and all hell broke loose. My mother, my stepfather had nothing to do but sit in silence. Although her call later to admonish me for revealing our secret left me shaking once more and him on the phone telling her she was pitiful and pathetic and as my husband he had a right to know.
I forgave them both. I had to. Had I not I could not have taken care of my mom in her last years of life. I also probably would not have known the extent of abuse she had suffered throughout her life, with the same words spoken to her. What happens in this house stays in this house it is no one else's business it is just the way men are. But it isn't. I know that now. I also know that my mother staying was as good as telling my stepfather to do what he wished as long as the money kept coming. Would she have intentionally hurt me, not in a million years, and she realized that in her last years. That her choice was wrong. That she was as much my abuser as my real abusers were in her negating the abuse and leaving me in reach of him. Her constant harassment of both of us led us to a warped relationship, where when he tried to be just a father she accused and harassed, when he was doing more she never said a word.
Forgiveness was not for them. It was for me, for my children, for my sanity. I spent my life trying to change me, to not have the big neon
sign that said abuse me, that said slut, whore, seductress. Her words made my sexual growth and experiences all dirty, all nasty, all leaving me feeling used and useless. I had to break that belief. I had to turn her own hate and self loathing against her. I had to put a mirror in her face and show her that my proclivities or desires were only dirty because she thought they were, when what I endured was far dirtier, and was propelled by her inability to defend me because no one had ever defended her. My hatred for her turned into compassion, because she was only doing what she knew, what she had endured herself. Just as I was doing the same. I was blaming my abuse on my weight, on my self esteem, on the self defeating thoughts I had. Just as she was responsible for her own healing I was responsible for mine.
Don't get me wrong I still have my moments, but they are farther and fewer between. I will probably never get my sisters to understand, because they have not been where I have. Nor would I wish them to be. We each had our own hells to survive. They got the mom who was bipolar before it was called anything with black rages and jealousy for her lost youth that was seen in her daughters. While I had my share of those moments with her, the anger, the black rage and the violence they settled much more when she and my Dad split. She never forgave herself. Her anger at her own abuse and her failure to protect her own ate away at her and in the end her angry moments were more about self abuse than anything else. I think her anger and rage was what ate away at her mind and memory. Someone cannot live with that kind of hurt and anger and not be affected by it after time. I chose to live better. To do more to heal and be more than another victim. It started with forgiveness.