Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Very Moment

Excerpt from a book I just finished entitled "The Light Within":
"The restraints or limitations that trials place on our lives and the pain, mental anguish, or heartaches that accompany them can sometimes last throughout our entire lives. We know that God has power eventually to deliver us out of bondage and totally free us from our trials, but we know he also has great compassion and mercy for us in the midst of our suffering:'I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.' (Mosiah 24:14)"

When I was a young pre-teen, enduring regular sexual abuse, I knew that God was often with me. I had many deep and precious spiritual experiences, even when I was in the midst of my bondage. I never blamed God for what was happening. I knew, had a testimony, that God was never the author of sin. He was never responsible for a child being sexually abused. He was never responsible for murder and untimely death. He wasn't responsible for war or any other hideous action taken by man. He gave all of us the gift of free agency, free will. If a person chooses to use this free agency to destroy, to sin, God cannot stop him. That would be in direct contradiction to his gift of letting us make our own choices. If he did force us to act righteously and destroy us if we performed evil, that would be Satan's plan. The fact that innocence is often abused, molested, or decimated is one of the prices we pay in order for everyone to have the freedom to choose. This was an innate knowledge within me, even as a child, and I never found myself shaking my fist at God screaming, "why?" I knew the Lord wanted my abuse to end. I knew he wept with me and gave me moments of overwhelming comfort and compassion. Even in the moments of waking to find my brother-in-law's hands pulling down my covers and slither across my tender flesh like hungry serpents, I knew God wanted me to use this experience in the future. He would help me turn this evil into something precious.

There were even times when I felt the Spirit prompt me to tell someone what was happening. I clearly remember sitting in my family's living room, alone, rehearsing telling my parents. I whispered to the chair across from me that Mike was molesting me, imagining my mom sitting there. I whispered this shameful news many different ways, trying to find the least embarrassing way. I wanted to force myself to just do it. But each time I found myself wanting to blurt out this information, my heart raced, my hands shook, and a feeling of nausea overwhelmed me. I felt intense shame. I felt dirty and soiled. I would remember my abuser's words, that if I ever told anyone, I would ruin the family. I would ruin everyone's lives, including the lives of his little children, whom I loved dearly. The years of mind games and the memory of the shameful acts he performed on me silenced my tongue. My psyche was damaged and no matter how much prompting I felt from the Spirit or the outrage of my own soul, I was too brainwashed and fragile to overcome my forced vow of silence. Even so, I knew God was with me. Looking back, I can see that during that most harrowing time of my life, I felt the Spirit's presence more than ever before or ever since. He loved me and would not abandon me, even if he couldn't stop the abuse.

Reading that passage from The Light Within has helped me be more kind to myself. I often get frustrated with myself for still having moments of intense heartache and mental anguish. I need not be frustrated with myself or feel myself weak for feeling those things. As it says in that quote, there are some limitations with trials that may last a lifetime. Of course! Of course, I will have those moments for the rest of my life, and that's ok. It doesn't mean that I'm not righteous or forgiving. It means I'm human and am living with the effects of childhood abuse. I was abused during a very formative time in my life and I have been betrayed and mishandled by most of my family. I will always mourn that, just as I would always mourn if someone I loved dearly died. The important thing is that they are just small moments. They do not constitute the whole of my life now. Most of my life is spent in the joy I have found in marrying a loving and loyal husband, of being blessed with 4 children, and in pursuing my passions and talents. My life is not spent in obsessing about the pain and abuse. Of course I hate that I continue to live with post-traumatic stress disorder, but just as person who has lost a limb learns to work around that challenge, so must I and I have and will continue to do so.

I have also learned that in those moments of weakness, those moments of pain, when my legs buckle under the heartache and tears spill like waterfalls from my eyes and I feel that I cannot endure and I cry out to my Heavenly Father, those are the very moments when the Spirit whispers to my soul that I am loved and am of great worth. Those are the very moments when the Lord takes the burdens which are upon my shoulders so that I can no longer feel them on my back. It's the very moment my anguish is transformed into overwhelming peace.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tiny Soldier

It was Christmas eve. I was a young 22 year old mom with an 18 month old toddler, my first baby. It was the first Christmas in which she was susceptible to the excitement of the season. Her father and I passed on the mythology and magic of Santa. It was my favorite holiday. The magic of it all always turned me into a little girl, memories of staying up all night with anticipation and joy filling my stomach with butterflies.

You see, as a young girl most weeks did not pass without my brother-in-law taking advantage of my innocence. I lived this secret, sick life of being forced to watch pornography, being forced to touch a grown man's body, and being touched by unwanted hands. This secret life was my shame and tied my normal life up in knots. I lived in a constant state of fear, a heightened state of fight or flight that often left me immobilized. Like a soldier on the battlefield, I walked carefully and in full alertness, knowing that at any moment I could be attacked.

But then there was Christmas. It was the last completely innocent part of my life. Christmas eve was the one night left in the year when I didn't fear that my brother-in-law's searching, hungry hands would startle me awake. The one night left that I didn't go to sleep with knots of fear enveloping my insides. Christmas was my bliss, and for me, it truly was magic. It was the only day I could just be a kid again. Even as an adult, I became that deliriously happy child again at Christmas. So when I had a child of my own, the magic of Christmas multiplied in my mind. Another innocent child to share in my arrested development that occurred every December 24th through the 25th.

We lived only 40 minutes away from my parents and the plan was that we'd bring our first-born child, our excited toddler, and spend the night at my parents' house. I wanted to share this with my parents. I knew they'd love to see a small child awake on Christmas morning and run toward their pile of gifts. It had been a long time since they'd seen their own tiny children do the same.

"Dad," I said into the phone, with my heart beating rapidly, "you're going to make sure Mike isn't going to be there, aren't you?" My sister, despite knowing of the sexual abuse her husband perpetrated on me, decided to save her marriage. She was desperate that everyone should forget about what happened and welcome her husband back as if nothing had happened, but my sister's desire to live in denial did not interest me. I needed to know that my Christmas would retain its innocence and not be marred by being forced to interact with that man.

"Yes, don't worry, Alyson. I'll make sure Mike won't be here," my dad answered.

"Ok," I said with trepidation. I decided to let go of my fear and to just enjoy my Christmas with my family. I didn't want to think about my brother-in-law and didn't want the flashbacks to start again.

On Christmas eve, Russ and I loaded our sweet, little daughter into her car seat. We turned up the Christmas music on the car stereo and I regaled my little girl with stories of Christmas magic and excitement. I wanted her to feel the same high I did as a child as I anticipated Santa's visit and presents being magically lit by sparkling Christmas tree lights.

We pulled into my parents' driveway. I saw my sister's van, but wasn't concerned. I knew that she planned to come with her children, but my dad had guaranteed that Mike wouldn't be there, so I wasn't concerned. The three of us stepped into my parents' home. As I looked around, my heart jumped into my throat and I couldn't swallow it back down. I felt as if I might choke on what my eyes saw, but mind said was impossible. There was Mike. Sitting on the living room sofa. Laughing and talking with others. There was the man that made my childhood a living hell. The man who turned me into a tiny soldier, fighting a secret, disgusting battle, that left me with a lifetime of flashbacks. I broke out of my frozen position and ran down the hall to my parents' bedroom. There was my father, sleeping, and I yelled, "you said he wouldn't be here!"

I ran back down the hall, took hold of my husband, who was holding our little girl, and we quickly escaped, buckling our girl back into her car seat. Her look of confusion and sadness sank my heart. I now regretted those moments of building her Christmas excitement. This would not be the Christmas I had dreamed of with my first toddler. My dad was running toward our car.

"Ok, why don't you guys drive around for awhile, and I'll get rid of him. Call me and I can tell you when you can come back."

"We don't have a cell phone!"

"Just call at a payphone. Give me about 20 minutes."

We left without another word. Tears began to streak through my carefully done makeup and all the fear, anger, and confusion I had ever felt swept over me in an intense tsunami of emotion. But we did as we were told. We drove around town for 20 minutes. Our daughter was now crying and desperately wanted to be let out, to see her cousins, and celebrate Christmas, as was every little girl's right.

I picked up the dirty phone at the dark AM/PM gas station that was near my parents' home, and called home. My dad picked up. "He's not gone yet."

"What? You told me you'd get rid of him! Why won't he leave?"

"Well, your sister won't let him leave."

"Excuse me? My sister won't let him leave! Does she not know what he did to me?"

"Now Alyson, you've got to understand. There are kids involved here. Mike's kids did nothing wrong. She doesn't want to have to explain to them why their dad has to leave. It's not fair to them. She wants to have her complete family here."

My chest began to heave with pain at the injustice and rejection. "Are you kidding me? It's not fair to them? What about me? What about my screaming baby in the car? We are being forced to drive aimlessly around on Christmas eve!"

"Give me another 30 minutes. She just wants Mike here to open gifts with his kids."

"Seriously? So we are stuck out on a cold, dark night with no place to go while he gets to open gifts with my family! We have to miss everything!"

"Just give me some time, Alyson. You've got to understand."

"Yeah, I understand that you made me promise and now we're stuck out here!" I slammed the phone down as I began to tremble. My whole family, all my siblings and their kids were there, knowing what was going on, knowing that we were rejected. No one wanted to stand up to my sister. No one wanted to do the right thing and stand up for me, the victim of extensive childhood abuse.

That dark Christmas eve, spent driving to nowhere continued. I wept. My baby wept. And my husband was angry. Several times we stopped at a sad and lonely gas station to call home, only to be rejected again. Only to be told how it wasn't fair to my sister and the kids to ask Mike to leave. My sense of worth plummeted. I didn't matter; not compared to them. Those kids were more important than me. My sister was more important than me. My role in the family was now to suck it up, get over it, and bring the family back together.

Finally, after two hours of driving around on a night that had started out so promising, so full of hope, we were told that it was now ok to come back. It was after 10 o'clock at night. I walked into my parents' home, my face swollen with spent tears. No one acknowledged my obvious pain. My sisters-in-law and brothers, my mother acted as if nothing had happened. We heard Merry Christmas from some, but mostly they had a hard time even making eye contact with me. I saw the wrapping paper strewn about the floor and the Christmas goodies gobbled up, evidence of the celebration I had missed. As I tried to lift my own spirits and save what was left of my Christmas eve, I saw that my brothers and their wives and kids were packing up. They were leaving. No one cared to stay to help me recover, to help my daughter recover. They just wanted to go, to flee. They just wanted to leave to their in-laws, to continue their own celebrations. I was abandoned. I felt small and insignificant.

Christmas would never be the same for me again. That tiny soldier inside me was now back on duty 365 days a year.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Twisted Laws

I'll make this post short. I just felt I needed to post some of my feelings because of the routes I've been pursuing recently in seeking justice. Today I am feeling extreme frustration and disgust at the idea that there is even such a thing as a statute of limitations for sex crimes. Why? This is putting rape and the sexual abuse of a child in the same category as stealing a car or smoking pot! Who decided that that such disgusting acts of humiliation, domination, and control should be in that category? There is no other crime that creates more damage to an individual than to force them into an intimate sexual act, especially if the individual is a child! The only thing I can compare sex crimes to is murder and there is no statute of limitations for murder!

It is simply incomprehensible to me why it was decided that if enough time passes than a rapist or pedophile can get off scot free. Don't they understand the nature of sexual abuse? Don't they understand that a child has been forced through humilation and fear to keep the abuse silent? Then once we come out from behind that fear and finally feel the courage to speak our horrorific truth, it is too late for the abuser to be punished? Someone explain this to me!

Not only is the statute bad for the victims, it is bad for society! A perverse, sick individual who gets their sexual gratification from touching a child or raping a random woman on the street NEEDS to be locked away! These people are not just magically "cured". In fact, the opposite is usually true. They progressively need to do more and more depraved acts in order to be gratified. They live in a disgusting fantasy world, a perversion, that is almost impossible to overcome. No time limit should keep that kind of person from being imprisoned! We not only need justice for the victim, but we also need to protect the rest of the world from this person.

It seems as though the criminal law in California probably won't prosecute the man who took me for 7 years of my childhood and forced me to do unspeakable things. The man who humilated me, used me, and created debiltating anxiety disorders in me (not to mention the horrorifying memories) may not face any criminial charges.

All I have to say is if my last option is a civil lawsuit, I have no reservations about hauling that pervert into court! I have no reservations about alerting the media of this issue if needs be. I have no more guilt about protecting his children from his acts (that is his problem)! I have no more guilt that he is a prominent business owner and this could be damaging to him (that is his problem)! You reap what you sow, and his sins and crimes of the past cannot just be buried. They are not forgotten. And I do not give up easily.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Strongest Souls

"Pain breaks the shell that encloses our understanding." - Kahlil Gibran


We have been through a record-breaking winter in Connecticut. Snow falls and falls and has rarely stopped. Locals tell us they've never seen a winter like it before, and I believe them as I see news reports of roof rakes selling out before a shipment even arrives and images of collapsed roofs play on the television screen nightly. Connecticut building codes were not made for this amount of snow.

It has been a harsh and difficult winter. And has been the most beautiful winter I have ever seen here as well. Our snow usually melts for long periods between storms. So most of the winter is brown and dead until another storm comes in and coats the earth in a sheet of sparkling snow. It is magical, but then it melts and we're back to the bare ugliness of winter. This winter there has been no brown, dead earth exposed. There is always a glittering sheet of white. It has been scary at times, but always stunning. I have found myself driving through my wooded streets, with my mouth wide open at the beauty of this unrelenting winter.

In all of life, I think symbolically and philosophically, and this winter has reminded me of my own life. I ran across the Gibron quote above and it fit with my thoughts of this winter and of my own struggles. We must go through harshness, pain, and difficulty to get to the stunning beauty of understanding.

I have seen this over and over in my life. Pain and sometimes unbearable heartache has given me an understanding that I wouldn't trade for anything. Yet with all that I've been through and all of the wisdom that has come from everything, I still struggle to get through each new hurdle. I easily become overwhelmed and my first response to any major difficulty is initially a feeling of I give up! I'm am too weak to endure anymore and I can't overcome another obstacle. Sometimes I am so emotionally overwhelmed that I shut down and have to push my obstacle to the side for a time. Sometimes I engage in numbing activities, just so I don't have to think about it. I wish I could say that I'm always courageous and strong when faced with such things, but I am weak still. Even when I know what direction I need to go and what must be done, I still sometimes must push the problem from my mind for awhile as I psychologically try to survive so that I can be a present mom to my four kids and get the necessities of life accomplished. It is a hard thing to admit, especially since I know from hard-earned experience that I have gained amazing depths of understanding and growth from enduring and dealing with incredibly painful experiences.

And so this is where I am. I am at a crossroads. I have known that I must make my abuser legally responsible for the deep-seeded damage he has done to my mind and to my spirit. Criminally or civilly, he needs to be held accountable, and since he's never come forward to take responsibility on his own, the issue must be forced by me. I have avoided thinking about it too much over the holidays. I've understandably pushed the issue aside to enjoy the holidays with my family, but I know I have also just been avoiding the problem. Now is the time and I must make myself strong to endure and come out the other side with a richness to my life that was never before known.

"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars." - Khalil Gibran