“I’m here.”

Reading through some of my old blog posts. I nolonger have my sweet Jess the importance of “I’m here ” is still fresh in my mind.

NOT MY SECRET...overcoming the shame of sexual abuse

My 16th year was incredibly hard. I was trying to move past terrible abuse. I had a guy friend that I was close to that year. One night he climbed in my bedroom window and slept on my floor. I have no idea why he came.  He was just…there. I wasn’t alone. I would wake up like a scared little kid and reach down and there he would be.  I don’t know what was going on in his life at the time but I imagine I was there for him too.  I’d wake up and say, ” Are you still here” and  he would reply, “I’m here. ” That has stuck with me my entire life. That sweet boy laying on my floor all night gave me this primitive feeling of security and I’m not sure I can put into words the gratitude I have towards him.  The man who…

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To validate.

Re blogging this post as it has video links I made discussing life with a muscle disease.

NOT MY SECRET...overcoming the shame of sexual abuse

You wouldn’t think that having a muscle disease and having a past of abuse would intertwine. But they do.

I had an appointment today. To leave the house with a muscle disease is complicated. I can’t drink too much because they I will have to pee. If I have to pee, then whoever is taking me to the appointment will then have to take me to the bathroom because I can’t open bathroom doors. I have to question the person driving me and make sure the aren’t a ….drive as fast to the stop sign then slam your breaks on driver….with the severity of my muscle disease and osteoporosis I break easily. Slamming on the breaks gives me days of agony. Once I get the driver situated and deprive myself of fluids then I need to make sure they can drop me off at the front door and open it…

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A tribute to Randy. A truly good man.

More about my cousin Randy after finding my biological cousins.

NOT MY SECRET...overcoming the shame of sexual abuse

imageI remember my first conversation with Randy.

I remember my last conversation with Randy.

Both were equally as loving and  emotional.

I started searching for my biological grandparents when I learned I had a rare muscle disease. I wanted to find if others in the family had the same diagnosis. I had documents that I faxed to Randy to prove I was who I said I was. He was my cousin and I was overjoyed in finding him. I sent a picture of myself. In our first conversation he said he knew right away when he saw my face that I was a Sternhill. In all of our conversations over the years he’d often say, ” You are definitely a Sternhill.”  We were both very emotional during that first converstation.  I was  a link and a connection to someone he loved very much, my biological grandmother, that he dearly loved…

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My Jewish family.

I just watched the documentary Prisoner Number A26188: Surviving Auschwitz. Whenever I watch any documentaries on the Holocaust,  I cry such tears of sorrow and almost throw up at the visuals and the graphic details of suffering. I have only watched a few and I have done this because I feel that some things must not be forgotten. In this documentary, the survivor spoke about the healing process and how there were no psychologists or psychiatrists to help. She had seen, witnessed, been a part of, torture and death and had noone to help her process this. I cannot even imagine. Here I have PTSD from being molested and I have had therapists help me and I am STILL struggling. These survivors had no one, and they had lost everything. 

If you have read in my previous blog posts, I have discussed my family that left me. I have not talked yet about the family that did not. So I will give a brief introduction to that part of my life. 

My father was adopted and raised by two Christian parents. He married my mother and my twin brother and I were raised in a Presbyterian church. After I was married and started having symptoms of the muscle disease, I asked my father if I could find his biological family. He gave me the information that he had on his birth mother. Through that I researched for months and finally found some phone numbers. I called one of the numbers that had the same last name as my biological grandmother. That person told me I had the wrong number because the Sylvia in the family had never had a child. I gave up for 10 more years. Then I called a different number.  The man that answered did not believe that I was who I said I was because apparently my biological grandmother, Sylvia, had never told anyone she had a child. She had passed away and so they couldn’t ask her. But I had all of her information, her signature, etc, so I faxed it to him with a picture of myself. Soon after I get a call from a cousin who was in shock that I exist! He said all he needed was to see my face and he KNEW. But he was in shock that my grandmother did in fact have a child. We had a very long tearful phone conversation. I had found my father’s biological family. Before I hung up the phone he said, ” You know we are Jewish right? And you are Jewish too!”After that we exchanged more pictures. I look just like them. Cousin Randy. I adored him so immensely. Words cannot express how much I adored him. We talked every day, then every week, then once a month for 10 years, until he recently passed away. This part of my family supported me, they knew the things that had happened, and did not stop supporting me. When my mother and her side of the family all left me, this family stayed. I learned about growing up Jewish, Yiddish, etc. I also learned that my great grandparents, after the Holocaust, brought over a family to the US. My daughter interviewed their daughter, Helen, for a class presentation on the Holocaust when she was in the 10th grade. Here is her interview:

If you cannot hear the sound, the interview was written out if you push the down arrow on the link. The parts in quotes are Helen’s words about what she learned from her parents during their experience in the concentration camp.

My daughter chose this topic on her own and felt very passionate about hearing first hand knowledge about what had happened and sharing it with others. We feel very blessed that Helen was able to share this to spread truth and awareness. I’ve watched it a few times and as I read Helen’s words I am brought back to tears every time. 

Shortly after connecting with all of my new found cousins, we did the genetic test 23 and me offers. We were all a match. I am 49% Ashkenzi Jew. And I am proud of it! I love how they love me. I love how they stand by me. Even though I could not meet my grandmother I have hundreds of her stories that the cousins have shared with me. They have said I am a lot like her and I must say that makes me smile. 

When I became a Chaplain I did so not as strictly a Christian Chaplain. A Chaplain prays for those of all religions. There is no discrimination or judgment. I prayed with, comforted, and loved, many Jewish, Christian, Native American, and many other family while I worked with Hospice. The stories of being Kosher that Randy taught me helped me respect and honor the Jewish families I was blessed to be with as their loved one passed away. I was raised Christian. I also have Jewish blood that is a part of me and I embrace that. 

Truths must be told. Stories need to be spoken. Perseverance of those in the concentration camps need to be remembered. The deaths need to not be forgotten. 

My blog is about truth. Breaking the silence of abuse. Talking about subjects that others have deemed unimportant or taboo. Unless we continue to speak, then those who wish to oppress us win, the perpetrators win, the criminals win. Our voices need to be heard. The Holocaust is one of those subjects. I rarely hear it spoken about. How is this so? We cannot forget the millions that were starved, tortured, and murdered under the regime of a terrorist and monster. Their stories need to be told. Their truths need to be spoken and remembered. Watch a documentary, or the one I listed above, listen to the words of Helen. Hear what others choose not to. They are hard words. Just like rape and molestation and the details are hard to hear but they need to be heard. They need to be heard because they need to be validated. I don’t know how to stop men like Hitler. I don’t know how to stop child molesters and rapists. All I know how to do is tell the truth. Stopping the silence in hopes that in revealing these truths we will get closer to justice. 

I am proud of my Jewish heritage. I am proud to be a part of a family that took me under their wing when they didn’t even know I existed and welcomed me. Unconditionally they have loved me. 

That is the other part of my family. The ones who didn’t leave. I’ve never met them. They live across the country. My heart knows their hearts. They are what family is supposed to be. 

The letter I wrote to my father 

Details could be triggering for sexual abuse survivors.I wrote a letter to my father about the abuse that I endured. I have changed every name in the letter except my own. I sent the letter to the people that I felt needed to know this truth. In doing so I was able to see other people’s truths as well. My family did not want to hear the truth. 
I wrote the letter with the absolute pure intention of telling exactly what happened to me. The letter has explicit details of abuse. These details needed to be spoken. 
I am sharing this because I do not want anyone to feel alone. I do not want anyone to feel ashamed. I do not want anyone to feel that they were the only one that endured such things. In some instances I limited the details because it was getting quite lengthy. 
I hope that by sharing my story it will reach someone that needs to know there is someone out there who knows how they feel. There is someone that has experienced what they did. There is someone that has done things that they were at one time ashamed of.
This is not my secret to keep. It is not my burden to carry. My family knew that I was abused but carried on in their lives as if I were not. Because of that I attempted suicide multiple times. I felt incredibly alone. As the years passed and I got married and had a child, they still discussed members of the ski team as if it were passing conversation. I needed to address this passive aggressive behavior. I needed them all to know the truth so I shared the letter to my father with other members of my family. After reading the letter, I received a lot of hate mail and then no one in my family spoke to me again. 
It is hard to share this.
It pained me to write it. It pains me still to reread the details and to share it with others.
BUT this letter will let other survivors know that I know how they may feel.
 And if you are a parent of an abused child perhaps it will allow you to see into their heart. My letter is also telling my father goodbye. When you have been abused, and I cannot stress ENOUGH, that if anyone continues to make you feel like a victim or does not validate you, you cannot continue that relationship as it is. I decided for myself I had to end the relationship. Each person has to decide what is best for them. After my father shook the hand of the man who abused me, I should have ended it then. I wasn’t strong enough yet. 
I say in the letter that i am “healed”. In the moment I wrote that letter, I felt healed. In a way some wounds were. healed. But that letter was only the first step in the healing process. My letter and the details of the abuse I endured is below:
Dad,
You have told me that you do not understand why I feel the way I do. I have explained it repeatedly. For years, in fact. And yet you still say you do not understand. You either are not listening, are not capable of understanding, or are just not willing to really fix what is broken. You are not there for me or my daughter. You have not ever been. You have been a constant disappointment in a time in my life where for the SECOND time I had hoped you could give support but you did not.
I am writing this not to open the doors to communication. Those WILL remain closed. I am writing you because I have a feeling if I start from the beginning then perhaps you will get a better picture of why I have responded to you in the way that I have. Why I am not giving you any more chances. Not that I think you need or deserve an explanation but I feel that in the long run it would be good for you to know the full truth. You need to see me as the survivor that I am.
Lets start from the beginning.
The beginning involves Dennis. I have heard since I was a child from both parents and everyone else,“If you only gave us more details then…..”, I still believe and will until the day that I die that you knowing that a man put his hands on your daughter against her will required no more details. It should have been enough for you to move heaven and earth to make her feel justice. Never the less I will explain to you now the details I did not tell you as a child and you will perhaps understand.( by the way they don’t make children do that now. They bring in a female and huge support system and help that child feel comfortable to tell the details. Noone did that for me therefore those details did not come out)
When I first started going to Dennis’ I was young. 11, 12,13,14,15. I would vacuum for him and help clean his house and then he would take me skiing. And teach me what I loved which was swivel skiing. ( I will interject now that I believe no parent in their right mind allows a female child to go to a man’s house alone at that age but you all did). He started fun. For many many months everything was fun. I would do some cleaning, we would go and ski. Then things slowly, very slowly started to change. I didn’t even notice them for a very long time. As an adult reading this you may think “ why wouldn’t you know better? why wouldn’t you know that was wrong?” But as a child, that is fully being manipulated, you just don’t know. As a child I had no idea about sexuality. I shouldn’t have. I should have been able to be a child. Dennis STOLE MY CHILDHOOD. So he started putting me in his lap. Every day. I had to sit in his lap. He always watched soap operas. So I had to sit in his lap to watch a whole one. Then I’d clean a little, then we’d ski. Then as I was washing dishes he started kissing my neck. Coming up behind me and hugging me and kissing my neck. I remember thinking that was odd and overly friendly but since he was you and mom’s friend and so highly regarded I figured I was misinterpreting or overreacting. Fast forward a year or so or more. A YEAR is a long time for a child to be slowly manipulated. Those kisses from behind turned to smashing me up against the sink while rubbing himself on me. Rubbing his hard penis against my back and sucking on my neck and squeezing me until I could barely breathe. I was 13. Those soap opera’s turned to porn. Those sitting in the laps turned into me being rubbed into his lap. and being shown porn magazines. I saw pornography as a CHILD. I had no idea what I was watching. He said it was good and I would be a porn star one day. Imagine what he was doing to me while he was watching porn. I had a penis, hard penis pressing against my butt on top of my clothes for an hour each and every single time. So at such a young age who is to know that is a hard penis. I surely didn’t . I didn’t know what it was. Then we went to bribery. If I wanted a new bathing suit I had to model it. So I did and he had to check every square inch of that bathing suit to make sure it fit correctly. I was 13. I had a mans hand on my vagina at age 13. But just checking my bathing suit ofcourse. And then he suggested I probably needed a massage. He ofcourse needed to shower first and then come sit on me with his towel while he sat on my back and I couldn’t get up. I had a man’s hands on my breasts, that I barely had at age 13. Sitting on my back watching porn on tv. Hmm you are thinking. Didn’t that set off alarms? Why did I even go back? Well all I can tell you is that fear crept in. He started warning me that no one would believe me. I shouldn’t tell anyone. He would blame me. He got an evil laugh at that point and that continued on. The evil laugh. So by the age of 14 I had felt a penis, had a man’s hand on my body under my clothing, had a man thrust himself on me, kiss me, sit on me and hold me down, show me porn, and the list can go on. Remember that went on for years. I tried to convince myself that everything he said was not true. He blamed me. Said I was pretty and I was available and I was so young. He scared me. I tried to stop going but he then came to the house and got me. He wouldn’t let me stop coming over. I was brainwashed. I was manipulated. I could not escape. When we went out of town on ski trips…All your fun memories…buford southcarolina…every time he found me. I was never safe from him. I was never protected.
Let us pause…a brief pause to when I was 13-14 and went to ski school at six flags. You guys dropped my brother and me off at six flags. Timmy was one of the instructors. We stayed there and slept there and guess what…Timmy did the same thing Dennis did. Same thing. I won’t go into all those details. I was too programed by then to fight or tell. So I just took it. My brother was sleeping right next to me. I recently contacted Timmy. We talked about it. He said it is his worse regret in life and something he would never forgive himself for. He wrote me a long letter. I forgave him. Note to self. Do not drop your kids off with people over night you DO NOT KNOW! and just assume because they are twins and they are together then they will be ok. Did not work out like that. I felt doomed. Doomed to be used by men forever. Doomed that I could never go anywhere without having a penis on me. Unfortunately there are pedophiles everywhere. And they are looking for the perfect victim. I was a quiet sweet girl. For a long time I thought it had to be me since it happened more than once. After talking to many other women over the years I realized sadly there are just a lot of bad men out there.
So getting home from that experience was devastatingly traumatizing. Oh but I didn’t get a break because Dennis was still there. But Yay, we were about to go on a trip to Costa Rica. Things would be awesome. I could not wait. Everyone had a wonderful time. My parents thought it was ok for me to go dancing with Juan someone they never knew or met in another country when I was not even 15 yet. Thankfully nothing happened. But guess what….something else did. I don’t remember his name.. that man molested me there in costa rica. Actually he forced me to play with his penis. How did he know he could do that? How did he know he could prey upon me? Because Dennis told him? No, no way, as my mother said “abusers never brag to other’s about what they did” Well Dennis DID!!!!!!!
So in recap I had felt a penis against my will in costa rica. Other things happened…showers….etc. I don’t feel like wasting too much time on those details in costa rica but three men showered with me and you were nowhere to be seen.. It was just another experience of abuse I endured. I often wondered where my parents were. Why they left me alone. I’ve heard back then it is what you did. That really is no consolation to me. Because I have since talked to friends about all these details. They protected their children. They said I should have been protected too. Excuses, always excuses for why the victim wasn’t protected.
I’m going to fast forward a moment to when I was 18 and then go back again to 15. When I was 18 I decided to take Dennis to court. Got an attorney on my own. He suggested I contact other members of the ski team that could testify for me. I contacted one. Frankie. Do you know what Frankie said? He KNEW what Dennis was doing. He said many people knew what Dennis was doing but Dennis made me out to be a slut and said that I wanted it. I was 14 or younger or older or all of the above. Not only did Frankie know about it he thought I wanted that attention. So Frankie and who knows who else COULD have protected me. But he chose not to. I could have been saved from years of ongoing abuse. But no one did a thing. I was so upset over this finding that I told the attorney I could not proceed. Soon after the statute of limitations ran out so court was out of the question.
Rewind to 15. I tried to kill myself. Many times. You guys know about one time. But there were many. I just was not successful. I was tormented with shame. With guilt. I did not want to live. I could not imagine a moment that the image of Dennis’ hands on my body or his hard penis pressing against me did not haunt my mind. Then I got a boyfriend. For some reason you and mom felt it was ok at 15 for me to go on a blind date with Fred who I ended up dating. I would go to Fred’s house for the weekends to get away from Dennis. Fred loved me and I learned more and more the magnitude of what Dennis and Frankie had done to me. So I dated Fred for a year. But being intimate was confusing and scary and it depressed me even more and more. I was driving home one night and wrecked my car into a tree. Tried to kill myself. You guys thought I fell asleep at the wheel. I didn’t. I wanted to die. I can’t remember when that was in my story but it happened at some point.The times and dates get a little confusing because abuse happened for so long. BUT I remember the car because I went to Indiana that summer and got back and you had bought me a new car. I went to Indiana. I got picked up at the airport by the head of the team, Justin at that point. He took me straight home to his house and had sex with me. I knew no other way. I had just turned 17. He was 25. Thought that was what I just had to do. I thought well he must love me. He must want me to be his girlfriend or something. And it seemed like everyone else did so why not. But then the next day he dumped me off at the ski house and said he did have a girlfriend and she was coming and I was not to tell a soul what he did. I didn’t even think he was a bad guy. I thought it was just what guys did. I got home to my new car that summer. And shortly after that I think was when I tried suicide again and you guys found out.A very sweet friend saved my life. Went to the hospital and all that.
I tried to tell you. I tried to tell you both that Dennis had done something bad to me. I remember the day I told you. It took months to get up the nerve. I told you he was a perverted man and had done bad things to me. You wanted details. It took everything in my life to get those words out. But that wasn’t enough. more more more. everyone wanted more.I had endured all my body could handle. Even speaking those words were the last bit of strength I could muster. I hoped your strength would take over and I could just be a child again. But I never was. My childhood was gone. And ended up I had to be strong again because nothing was going to be done about Dennis. Maybe more was needed for prosecution but no more was needed for my parents to do justice by their daughter. You knew he had done something to me. I told you. DCF was called and they sent an old man, which they would never do now bc I was too embarrassed to speak to him. So I was blamed “ well if you won’t give details we can’t do anything”. Bullshit. I just kept being victimized again and again. I have said it before and I will say it again. If my daughter uttered a word that anyone had made her uncomfortable their head would be on a platter. You KNEW something happened. You KNEW I tried to kill myself. BUT what did my parents do,. my parents then allowed my brother to go back to skiing with the same man who took my whole childhood. You will excuse that, because you make excuses for everything, that since you didn’t know everything how could you take that experience away from your son. He loved skiing. Your son’s happiness was more important than your daughter’s heart break. Mom told me my brother cried and cried please let me go back and ski. You allowed Dennis to come to our dock and get him. Do you know how it felt to watch my brother go ski with the man who did all those things to me. The first man to put his lips on your daughter was 50 years old! How does that make you feel? So I went to grant center to get well only to come home and sit on the dock and watch my brother ski with Dennis. How could I ever get well? How? As a parent you should have moved!!!!! I would have taken my daughter away. I would have done everything, anything! You did NOTHING> EVER!!!!
Image, God forbid anyone think the image of our family is tarnished. We must go on like nothing happened.
So then my only choice after dropping out of highschool , which I had to do since everyone knew I was in grant center after attempting suicide and that humiliation along with the molesting well that was too much . So I got a job at seaworld.
Did you ever take me there? Wonder where I stayed? I got a job two hours away and no one checked on me. You had your new life. You were looking after your step child, working, having your marriage. What happened to me????? You video taped the show. You came one day to video. But where did I stay. ??? I slept in my CAR!!!! The whole time I worked there I slept in my car. DAD did you hear me. I slept in my car. Until a sweet boat driver busted me a month later and let me sleep on his couch. Mom was dating someone then and my old room was full of boxes. Some weekends I would be too hot sleeping in my car and so I would come home and climb over all the boxes and sleep in my old bed.
Anyway, after quitting seaworld there was no place for me to stay. Mom’s boyfriend took over the house and was a hoarder, you were with your wife. So I started dating Tommy and moved in with him. I was 18. Moved in with Tommy because I just couldn’t stay in that house. Actually no one offered me a place to stay or live. Moving home didn’t seem an option. And staying at mom’s just meant I got to see Dennis and the ski club. So I lived with a guy at 18 which is when I got sick. You helped me some, took me to a few appointments. I think that is when I first got lyme disease. I had to work because I couldn’t afford to live with Tommy and be sick and I could barely function. So I had to work and I was so so sick. Things didn’t work out with Tommy. So I got the apartment. You sent me money to help me monthly. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly enough money. I could barely work. Lived in a crap hole apartment. I wanted to find a nice boyfriend. I met someone at a club . He seemed so nice. The next day he took me on a date.. He date raped me. I was 21. I cried the whole time. He told me it would be over soon.I will never forget those words. “It will be over soon”. I was paralyzed. Date rape is very different than being molested as a child. Very different. I don’t really want to go into all those details here. I was crying and he just kept saying it would be over soon. I was on my period actually. I had a tampon in. He said “Don’t you worry I will make it all fit!” I left and never saw him again. I can only imagine, or don’t want to imagine what or who these men have hurt since me. Oh and I am not the only one. I have had tons of counselors and tons of friends tell me countless stories of abuse. I could never get away from the men. I was branded it felt. Tarnished. Ruined. I was never really able to distinguish between what was safe and not safe and where to go and what to do. It was awful. But I was numb. The summer of when I was 22 I was still sick, working part time, going to school, and exhausted by life. I couldn’t pay my rent. You told me you had given me my monthly money and that was all you could give. I appreciated that money. I did. but I did not have money for rent. So guess what….my good friend at the time…Francis….he thought I was a virgin….Isn’t that hilarious…I laughed outloud thinking that he thought I was a virgin..He said he would pay me 500-800 for my virginity. Pay me for my virginity. You heard right!!!! I was hungry, broke, sick, and So I thought….Well I had already been molested and raped against my will /Why not get paid for it. So I let Francis have sex with me for a price. Paid my rent. He left the money on the bedside table. He tells people to tell me hello sometimes still. So I think I had reached my lowest point in my life. Sold myself, and had every ounce of life sucked from me.
I should have been living at home safely with one of my parents!
A year later I met my husband.
Let me recap for you. Dennis molested me, brainwashed me, manipulated me, forced me to watch pornographic videos and magazines when I was a CHILD. THEN I had the same thing happen at ski camp. Then the same thing happen in Indiana. ALL BEFORE I WAS 18 years old.Mostly before I was 14. My daughter is 18 years old. Looking at her now. It breaks my heart to know that because my parents did not protect me, watch over me, that so many things happened. You weren’t there. You were always busy. Your whole life you have been busy. It could have been prevented with a little bit of supervised parenting. But it was not. I got a tongue crammed down my throat by Frankie at six flags. I was a CHILD. I had a penis in my hand in costa rica. I was a CHILD! I had a man touch my vagina when I was a CHILD.
So then. years later after I was married. My mother sees you…my father…the man who never did ANYTHING when I was a child to Dennis and she sees you in a restaurant and you shake Dennis’ hand. I question you about this and you said you didn’t want to make a scene. So you shook his hand. Do you know the message you gave to Dennis. You told him you did not believe me. You told him it was Ok. You told ME that it was ok what he did. You broke my heart. And it will never ever be repaired by you. I will never forgive you for that. I have forgiven you for many things. But I will never forgive you for that.
You cannot undo that. You cannot undo anything that you DIDN”T do for me. But I met my husband. I had a baby. My life had changed. My life was perfect. I had a beautiful child and husband and my life was perfect. Lots of therapy I did ON MY OWN. Lots of healing, processing, chaplain work, work with ministers and pastors. Healing from the past. SO I thought I would leave the past in the past. I would allow you into my life and my daughter’s life because I wanted hope. I wanted a father. Then I got sick with this muscle disease. You saw me a few times a year, always late, sometimes forgot. I got mad. DIdn’t speak to you for a year. Was sick of you putting me second to your job and whatever else you found important. But then my daughter got sick. My daughter got sick and you never came. Oh you came a few times. But the promises. Once a month we will meet. Once a month we will do this or that. And nothing. I waited and nothing. Oh when you retire. Always one day. One day came and went.
My daughter is sick. I am sick. I am hurting. I am in terrible physical pain. And I still put her first. I take care of her every single need. Her every single want. 24/7. How could a parent be any different? You should have been over here every single week for the last 7 years helping me with laundry, dinner, bathing the dogs, giving me emotional and physical support. I do it for my daughter. And I am sick. My husband is more of a father in one 24 hour period than you have been in the last 10 years!
And why? I don’t care. I nolonger care about why you cannot follow through. Why you are so busy. Why you can only fit us in maybe once a month. Usually twice a year. I don’t care. You have proven to me that you will never change. You will never be the father I want or deserve. You were not when I went through my childhood tragedy and you are not now. You are and always have been absent.
I can only imagine where I would have been had I told my parents a man was perverted and touched me and my father went to his house and beat him up, put our house on the market, and moved us onto a different lake and started fresh. I would have felt validated, believed. worthy. I would have felt strong and loved. But I got NOTHING. My mother made one phone call to Dennis’ house. Big deal.
Noone held me on their chest and told me everything would be ok. Noone sat next to my bed when I was afraid to sleep because of the nightmares. No one welcomed me into a new home that was safe and away from the evil across the lake.
THAT is what I have been through. I was lost. I was truly lost. I could have been comforted and made to feel secure. I was not until I met my husband. My mother tried her best. I feel my mother tried to do everything that none else even tried. But she was only one person. I have continued therapy all these years on my own. My therapist suggested years ago that I cut all ties with you because you did not take responsibility or even acknowledge what I had been through and by continuing to disappointment me now was just a reminder of what a disappointment you were in the past.
I now agree. I nolonger want your promises. I nolonger want your excuses. I will not let you let my daughter down like you let me down. You already have.
I have moved forward. I am trying to get through lyme disease with me and my daughter. I have no time for disappointments.
In my mind I do not have a father. I have not had a father in a very long time.
I do not want to hear from you. I do not want your KIND of relationship. I do not want anything ever again. I never want to speak to you again.
I believe now you will not say the favorite words “ I don’t understand” Because if you don’t understand now then you are an idiot.
I will close with this. Recently I commented on facebook that I was upset that my brother visited someone in the hospital for like a week. It was a reminder that I am very alone and not supported at all by my “busy” family. I deleted it within an hour that I wrote it. I don’t want to hurt my brother by him seeing this or someone else. It was a moment of anger because. Oh my god guess what …I AM HUMAN!!!!! I am not perfect. I had a moment of anger. I deleted it. I think I deserve YEARS of anger. But I will not give any more of my life to my past and being angry and upset only gives more time to the abusers. Another family member called my mom to tell on me. She said that it was not LIKE me to say something like that. It was not LIKE me to be angry and to tarnish our family name. What if people think our family is not OK. What if people read that and thought that my brother or dad weren’t supporting me. What if?!!! In the last few years. Count how many times my family has come to help me. one hand right? Yes. Disgusting. Excluding my mother ofcourse.
I pray one day my brother and I will reconcile. My brother was raised by two parents who did not teach him loyalty. I feel so bad for him. He has a good heart. He is a good father. A good husband. He doesn’t know how to be a good brother because you didn’t teach him.
Well let me tell you this. I have every right to every emotion that I have. If I want to be angry I will be. I am entitled to my emotions and more. You are all used to this sweet precious submissive Bethany. When I stand up for myself I must be angry or not able to deal with the past or in need of an intervention or therapy and that is what you think. And that is your way to NEVER be accountable for anything. That is your way to always put everything back on me and never ever be accountable for the fact that you are a terrible father!
This Bethany is stronger than all of you put together. ALL OF YOU!!!! You don’t know me. I don’t care about our family image because unlike other members of this family I believe the heart and soul and God are the most important things and that an image is only what you are portraying for other people. It is not real. What it all is …a lie. All lies….Don’t want our image to be tarnished. You mean don’t want people to know that we aren’t perfect? Well we aren’t! Don’t want people to know my family has not supported or been there for me? They haven’t. Maybe if image wasn’t so important then my family would have rallied around me. Rioted! Boycotted that ski club. But no. I can’t even put one sentence on facebook without an outraged family member thinking I have gone crazy with anger. Well I haven’t gone crazy. With no help from you or anyone else I am surprisingly normal. I have raised a beautiful loving compassionate child. I am a good mother and a good wife. I know how to be a good friend and I have strong values and integrity and ALWAYS stand up for justice.
I am not Poor Bethany. I am not feel sorry for Bethany. This is how you all have always treated me. All of this family dynamic makes me sick. So consumed with what others think. Superficial. But no one has taken the time to deal with the matters that really should have been addressed long ago. And it is too late for that. I already dealt with them. I am only taking the time to tell you now so I can close fully the chapter on that book.
I am strong. I endured everything alone. Now I have a husband to help me endure this devastating health issue that my daughter and I have.
I have no shame. I do not live in the past. I do not feel obligated to put on a façade to make others feel better about themselves.
My family has failed me. That is the truth. Then they blame me. Then they are ashamed of me. Then they don’t even allow me to have emotions because it does not fit into their idea of what this family image should be.
The truth I am not ashamed to tell. I will keep no secrets. I will not keep anyone’s lies. I will not put on a charade to make everyone thing everything is perfect.
The family member calling my mother because she was mostly upset about me being angry and not sweet, and secondly because of IMAGE, makes me EMBARASSED to call my family my family. embarrassed. I have not tarnished my family. The day you shook dennis’ hand you tarnished it YOURSELF!!! The day you let my brother go back and ski with them YOU tarnished it!
My mother will say…oh Bethany don’t bring this up. Let’s not upset everyone…..because God forgive any of you are ever upset about the reality that has been my life. Hear it. Know it. Feel it. Your daughter was raped. Your daughter was molested. Your daughter sold herself for money. Your daughter was broken.Your daughter was alone. Never validated. always hushed. Never allowed to truly be who I am. BUT your daughter is healed. Since I was 23 years old I have been healed of all that was done to me. It is all of you that have not been healed. Maybe you are guilty. Maybe it is because you cannot let it go. I have no idea. You bring up the ski club and I am healed and YET I can never forget because SOMEONE in this family must always reminds me.
Well now you know…when you bring up the ski club….I just remember losing my childhood to a monster.
I was a victim of terrible crimes. I survived. I am a survivor. I will continue to be strong for my husband and my daughter.
I will not be manipulated or ignored or disappointed anymore by you or anyone else.
The past is in the past. You now know the details of it. I am entitled to every single emotion and I have a husband that validates these emotions.
He, and my child, and God…..They are all I need.
Please do not contact me again.

A reply from a child molester. 

This morning I was editing my book and reread the letter that I wrote to my father 2 years ago. The letter that caused my ENTIRE family to be outraged, send me nasty letters, and then disappear into the sunset never to be heard from again. The outrage was towards me, not for me. I thought about this long and hard this morning and became outraged myself. Outraged at the lack of outrage over the abuse I endured. Lack of outrage towards the abusers. If they were going to choose to be outraged, why be outraged at me? Why not be outraged over what happened TO me? I don’t visit this question often because I already know the answer. I reread my letter from a different perspective because time does change perspective. It was written from a raw wound, a beaten down spirit trying to rise, an abuse victim saying enough is enough. I thought I would have written it differently now since being without my family has given me time for introspection and reflection. But their choice to react in anger and blame solidifies why I wrote the letter in the first place. Deep down I knew that they didn’t truly love all of me. They loved what was convenient for them to accept. My letter to my father revealed their true identities. An entire group of people incapable of supporting an abuse survivor. In contrast:

I sent a message to the man who molested me when I was at a ski school as a little girl. I sent him the message on facebook back in 2011. I sent messages to the men who abused me that I could find via Facebook. I only got one reply, from the ski school instructor. It happened only once but I detailed in the message to him what he did and how it made me feel. Here is his reply:

“Bethany,

 I am so very sorry that I acted in such a way that you have described. I can only blame myself for such a terrible act.

There are many things that we all as adults have done in the past that we would do over, if we had the chance. What you have written is now my number one Regret.

 I wish I had used better judgment. Nothing I have done is as foul as you have described. I offer no excuse, for there is no valid reason to defend my action. I am truly ashamed.

 This letter that you wrote to me has driven a stake into my heart. I will never forget it.

I hope that somehow you can move on in your life by putting this behind you.

I will carry the burden of this appalling act. I will carry the pain of this.

 I wish there was some Magic in the world to free you of this chapter in your life.

I am sorry from the deepest part of my heart.”

I am sure different people will read into his reply in different ways. No matter how you read it, he chose to apologize. This is a pretty harsh contrast from my own family disowning me wouldn’t you say?  I have a child molester’s apology, and my own family can only reply in anger and blame. How outrageous is THAT!!!

I did not expect the reaction I got from my own family after I told them how I really felt and what I really went through growing up. In the two years since I have written it I have come to understand that their reaction is a reflection of their behavior all along, I just never saw it. 

We NEED outrage! Abuse victims/survivors NEED outrage! We need our family and friends and society to be outraged by abuse. My stepfather said point blank that no one wanted to hear the “nitty-gritty” details of the abuse I endured. His mentality is a mirror of most of society.  Which gives me great amounts of fury. Have you ever felt fury? It is a step above outrage. Fury is an all fire volcanic explosion. If an individual who was abused felt the wrath of full fury come down on the perpetrator then a small part of us would feel vindicated. A small part of us would feel validated, protected, heard, listened to, and a small part of us would feel justice. As much as I wish I never had to think about my family again, it is hard not to, because they represent society. Maybe when I start to see changes in societies reaction to abuse, my family will cross my mind less and less. For right now, they are a reminder of everything that is wrong. 

*Thank you to Serena Bradshaw’s post that brought awareness to this topic and allowed me to ponder and process my own feelings about the subject. She is a brilliant writer…check out her blog when you get a chance!

Fear saved my life. 

Trigger warning*

In therapy I was going through the night I was sexually assaulted 10 years ago.  We were trying to reframe the event and give me what I needed at that moment to feel safe again (very cool concept). I left that night, 10 years ago,  traumatized and never felt comfort after. I’ve been living in a state of trauma since. Living with PTSD, flashbacks, nightmares of that moment and childhood abuse memories it triggered. I needed to remember the exact moment where I knew something was not right during this therapy exercise . So I went through the scenario of walking in through the door of his garage and seeing him and I thought that the exact moment I knew something was wrong was when he instructed me to sit down. So we went through the therapy process of helping me through that moment…It wasn’t working. So we backtracked. Was that moment, the EXACT moment I knew something was wrong? So I walked through it again. In slow mo like watching a movie. I opened the door. I looked to the right, to the left, and I saw a gun leaning against the door frame. THAT was the moment. My brain discounted it. My brain just ignored it. My brain used an eraser on a a dry erase board and just wiped that off of the event. But that moment mattered. The very next moment, I saw his eyes. I really knew something was not quite right. But I kept entering the garage looking for my friend at which point he instructed me to sit down…It was too late by then. By the time I sat down and felt that sinking moment of despair, he already had me.

This post has nothing to do with regret. I absolutely could not have changed the things that happened in those moments on that night 10 years ago. Our brains are not conditioned to take in every single thing out of place, put it into an equation, and then act on it right in the moment. At that very moment I was thinking only of finding my friend. I was there to get my friend to come back to my house and help my dog who had been ripped up by another dog. I was crying because my dog was bloodied and injured. The only thing on my mind was my dog. So when I stepped into that garage, I saw the gun, and I saw his eyes, but none of that registered. They do now. My intuition remembered it now so it must have somewhere known it then. My intuition knew the moment that I had a signal that this was not going to end well. He had given other signals long before. But they caught me off guard and I dismissed them. My intuition…that point was moot…I entered that garage stuck in my own head and not aware at all of the many red flags that could have saved me from everything that happened. But like I said, this is not about regret, it is just about my current awareness of the situation as it unfolded back then. I will go through it moment by moment in therapy to heal the wounded parts of me. Going through it I will have revelations that I would like to share, like this one.

Therapy reminded me of a book my husband gave me a very long time ago. It was called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I wish I had finished his book all those years ago. I started reading it and it reminded me of the trauma I had been through, so I didn’t finish it. It can be very triggering but if you can make it through those parts, it has some valuable lessons. I wish I had read it 3 or 4 times. Not all trauma can be prevented obviously, but his book talks about warning signs that we dismiss. It talks about listening to your intuition and not being worried about what someone else may think about that choice. An example was an elevator and a woman getting on it when there is a man in it that she feels uncomfortable with (totally paraphrasing here, I read this 15 years ago). Women don’t want someone to think they are a bitch so they step on the elevator. Instead of listening to that feeling in the gut that was a warning, that feeling got dismissed so that some guy we will never meet again won’t judge us. When getting into that elevator could result in a rape. I need to reread the book obviously. But for some reason as I was in therapy I thought about this book. I thought, had my intuition been completely intact, I would have closed the door, not walked through it in that garage that night!

Abuse victims have their intuition stomped out. After a childhood of having my intuition irrelevant, I lost it. Over the years, I felt I had rekindled my intuition. I felt after I had a daughter of my own that my intuition to protect her would also be enough to protect me. I was wrong. I believe intuition is like a flower. It needs sun, water, and good soil. If you leave it in a dark closet, then it will die. Intuition needs to be fed daily with a conscious decision to listen to our voice. 

Intuition HAS to be listened to. That means you have to be aware. You have to be present. You have to strip away a person’s title, job, uniform, PHD, and never make an excuse for something your gut has told you is inappropriate. No one gets the green light of safety just because they are deemed an authority figure, a deacon in the church, or because they are the greatest uncle Jo on earth. You are not “safe” behind church doors. You are not “safe” alone with your favorite grandpa. When you think that a certain person or a certain place means you don’t have to have intuition then your guard is gone and there is no safety net. I am not saying church cannot be safe, or that your favorite uncle cannot be safe. I am saying you cannot assume it always will be if that means you are not listening to your intuition. 

3 years before I was assaulted, the same man looked at my 7 year old daughter with her new glasses and said she looked “sexy”. My 7 year old. Sexy. Somewhere in my brain I KNEW this was a red flag. But I completely dismissed it as habit from my own childhood. My own childhood confused my intuition. It is truly by the grace of God that nothing happened to my daughter at the hands of this man. So just like Gavin Debecker’s book….I stepped into the garage and instead of NOTICING and LISTENING to my intuition when I saw the gun and his eyes, I did not listen to that fear. I was numb. PTSD makes you numb. Makes you freeze. But what if it didn’t. Is it possible that an abuse victim can see the signs and in that moment avoid assault? I can’t go there for the past. I can’t change what happened to me. I can’t beat myself up for not noticing warning signs. Therapy just got me to thinking. What if, before the freeze moment, I were able to change the story. Ponderings from a PTSD individual desperate to never experience abuse again and prevent those numbing moments! I am not “what-if-ing” the past, I am “what-if-ing” the future.

In therapy, we changed that moment I stepped into the garage. I never stepped in. I opened the door and after seeing the gun and his eyes, I stepped back outside, closed the door, and a tornado swept him and his garage away. End of story! My body needed to feel an outcome that was different than what actually happened. So we changed the dialogue and the scene for my body so it could feel safe. It was a really cool therapy experience. 

I think all abuse survivors need their assailants to pay for this therapy! They just walk away and like this guy, literally sail away into the sunset. He should be paying for my weekly therapy sessions! Instead he is on his 100,000 dollar boat with his PhD and teaching students at the University of Florida. Yeah, that favorite Professor you have, he is NOT safe. He does NOT get the green light. No one does. He does not get a green light pass because of his title.

We cannot walk around in fear all the time can we? We cannot worry that around every corner there could be a pedophile  like my mother said…I mean, how could she know around every tree there could be a pedophile? Her defense. But this is not walking around in fear. This is about being aware, listening when there is fear, listening to your intuition, and in my mother’s case, using common sense not to send your 11 year old to clean her ski coaches house for him!!!!!! What a surprise. Was it? Was it such a surprise that a man who asked to have your little girl alone in his house, ended up molesting her? My mom thinks I blame her. I don’t.  There is a difference in blame and accountability. I ask her to be accountable. My childhood abuse WAS preventable. She just had to look for the signs, the signals. I wish she would have watched me around him. I wish she could have seen…but again, this is not about regret. I cannot change my mother’s inability to see an abusers signs or her inability to see her daughter’s suffering, or her choice to leave me when she heard the truth. I can just use this as lesson to other parents so that they may make better choices. 

You may have had abuse in the past. You may not have been able to control the situation or get out of the situation. I couldn’t when I was a little girl. I couldn’t when I was 35 years old in a garage with  a well known, well respected college professor. 

Back to the Gavin de Becker book and me being in the garage. After the initial moment of freeze, dissociation, numbing affect of the scenario, fear spoke to me and I listened. I missed the initial red flags and signals. BUT I knew I had to do what he said. I knew that I had to comply. Then I knew the moment I had to RUN. Fear paralyzed me. And fear was a gift because it saved me. I curse the after affects of PTSD and the fear that has no purpose. But in that moment in the garage, fear saved me. 

So if fear means you don’t hug your best friend’s husband, if intuition means you don’t hug uncle jo, if something in your gut tells you not to leave your little boy with the babysitter….LISTEN and ACT on that. If something about the plumber installing your dishwasher makes you uncomfortable, if the man in line behind you makes your hair stand up, if the person at your front door you hired to install your cabinets all of a sudden gives you a sinking feeling in your chest….LISTEN and ACT. You don’t owe them. You owe yourself. So many times we don’t have the opportunity to protect ourselves. But there are times in life when we absolutely can. Don’t drop your child’s off with the babysitter, walk outside away from the plumber, don’t open your door to the cabinet installer. You can say no. You can say no. You can say no. The world will not end. Their hurt feelings have no impact on what is really important. The signals that will keep you safe, listen to them. YES watch for predators around every tree and around every corner. Don’t live in fear but listen to the fear when it comes. Fear saved my life. It told me that this man in the garage would most likely kill me then kill himself. Fear told me to run at the perfect time. Or maybe that was God.