Saturday, 28 September 2013
26 Male Survivors Of Sexual Assault Quoting The People Who Attacked Them
Saturday, 21 September 2013
Talk PANTS and help keep your child safe from abuse
The Underwear Rule is a simple way that parents can help keep children safe from abuse.
We know talking with your child about private parts can seem difficult, but you can have simple conversations about keeping safewithout using scary words or mentioning sex.
We've developed PANTS as an easy way to teach children that their body belongs to them and to talk to a trusted adult if they ever feel scared or upset.
We've also created a child-friendly guide and other useful advice that can make talking to your child easier.
Learn the Underwear Rule and you've got it covered
PANTS is an easy way for you to explain to your child the key elements of the Underwear Rule:
Privates are private
Be clear with your child that parts of their body covered by underwear are private. No one should ask your child to touch or look at parts of their body covered by underwear.
If anyone tries to touch their private parts, tell your child to say "no" and to tell an adult they trust about what has happened.
In some situations, people - family members at bathtime, or doctors and nurses - may need to touch your child's private parts.
Explain that this is OK, but that those people should always explain why, and ask your child if it's OK first.
Always remember your body belongs to you
Let your child know their body belongs to them, and no one else.
It can be helpful to talk about the difference between good touch and bad touch:
Good touch is helpful or comforting like a hug from someone you love.Bad touch is being touched in a way that that makes you feel uncomfortable.
No one has the right to make them do anything with their body that makes them feel uncomfortable. And if anyone tries, tell your child they have the right to say no.
This can be a good time to remind your child that they can always talk to you about anything which worries or upsets them.
No means no
Make sure your child understands that they have the right to say "no" to unwanted touch - even to a family member or someone they know or love.
This shows that they're in control of their body and their feelings should be respected.
If a child feels confident to say no to their own family, they are more likely to say no to others.
Talk about secrets that upset you
Your child needs to feel able to speak up about a secret that’s worrying them and confident that saying something won’t get them into trouble.
To help them feel clear and comfortable about what to share and when, explain the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ secrets.
- make you feel worried, uneasy, sad or frightened
- may be asked to be kept in exchange for something
- bad secrets often have no end time.
- can be nice things like surprise parties or presents for someone else
- will usually be shared in the end
It's important that your child knows the difference because 'secrets' are often an abusers greatest weapon in stopping a child from telling anybody about abuse.
Phrases like "it's our little secret" are their way of making a child feel worried, or scared to tell someone what is happening to them.
Speak up, someone can help
Tell your child that if they ever feel sad, anxious or frightened they should talk to an adult they trust.
A trusted adult doesn't have to be a family member. It can also be:
- a teacher
- a grandparent, uncle or aunty
- a friend's parent, or
Whoever they feel most comfortable talking to, reassure your child this adult will listen, and can help stop whatever is making them upset.
The more your child is aware of all the people they can turn to, the more likely they are to tell someone as
soon as they have a worry.
Remind your child that whatever the problem, it's not their fault and they will never get into trouble for speaking up.
Find this and much more HERE
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
It's been some time since I wrote much worth reading.. I have some new poetry which I shall release when I am ready.
Over the past few months I have kept myself busy, mostly in the garden. I am out of therapy (9 weeks and counting!), and have been trying to find my place in this life.
Much has happened this year in and around my life. There have been several high profile abuse cases come to light. I do believe in "innocent until proven guilty" in most instances but some cases have sickened me. I hope celebrity status does not protect the guilty..
The only thing that really stands out is that survivors of sexual abuse seem more able and willing to come forward. I hope this trend continues. There is so much support available now than there was even a few short years ago, especially online. Much more work needs to be done not only in preventing abuse in the first place, but also in making sure that the victims feel able to report the perpetrators without fear of recrimination or of being made out to be liars.
There may well be some people who report false abuse, of lying to get attention and making someone else's life a misery. I have been accused of such. I speak the truth and care not what so called family or friends think. The most important thing I have learnt is that I was NOT to blame for what happened to me. I could NOT have stopped it and I certainly did NOT encourage or welcome it.
It's been Thirty months since my breakdown in Turkey. Thirty months since I lay on the floor rocking back and forth saying I couldn't cope with life anymore. Thirty months since I stood on the outside balcony and seriously considered jumping off the forty foot high platform. I am still here, more complete, more at peace than ever before in my adult life.
I intend to go back to Turkey soon and lay to rest those bad memories too. The holiday itself will be a welcome change! I have many friends out there and it will be a pleasure to see them again.
I am a strong believer in karma.. What goes around, comes around. Sometimes this process can be snail paced, other times like a whirlwind. Sometimes it needs a shove. I have suffered much injustice and pain brought about by the actions of others in the past. I think I shall have to whisper in the ear of lady fate and stir up a few whirlwinds of my own.
Life as a victim was painful and debilitating. Life as a survivor was also often painful, but brought cleansing and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Life "beyond survivor" was uplifting, educational and empowering.
Now it's time to spread my wings. I've been testing them for some time. Now I believe and trust in their strength and endurance.
This blog has been neglected over the past months. I shall do more regular, but eclectic updates in future.
The heart of this blog is, and always will be, the journey to becoming Beyond Survivor. During that journey I have "met" some truly amazing and inspiring people. Many of them have shared their own words here. I hope that will continue. Life needs variety.
We have a long way to go before the war against child abuse is won. We are winning more battles however. We will also lose some. My goal remains the same, a world where the innocent are protected and the guilty are punished. A world where truth prevails and lies exposed. A safer world for the children of tomorrow.
As for me personally.. I have learnt a great deal, not only about myself, but also about those individuals who inhabited my world for quite some time. It's almost 2 years since I had to shut my business down. That loss combined with the loss of my business in Turkey hit me slap bang in the middle of a very difficult period (as regular subscribers to my blog and twitter feed will understand).
I've had a lot of time to reflect on events. By remaining quietly "losing the plot" I had chance to re-evaluate the people and circumstances involved. I've always been fairly "shy and retiring", especially as I've trusted very few people to see me, as me. I've come to several conclusions, some of which I shall share here.
From an early age I was manipulated. Being a pawn was second nature to me. Being "used" was a state I came to expect and maybe even crave at times. I believe I almost had a "kick me" tattoo on my forehead.. (if you get my meaning?) I think I was an easy target for the many people who used and manipulated me in my later adulthood. I was too trusting, too eager to please. I also had times of thinking myself more capable of things than I actually was, a state I now see was encouraged. I wanted a quiet life, to be left alone, to just exist. However, part of me wanted to be important, to succeed, to prove the doubters wrong.
I've been ambitious from my late teens. I worked like a dog to get myself a better position in life. I put up with bullying, with years without holidays or even a full weekend break. I devoted myself to becoming a success. I made lots of money for my then employer, millions in fact.
I wanted the rags to riches fairy tale. I had it too, unfortunately.. I made something of myself. Three businesses, four homes, big cars and a fancy lifestyle. Did it make me happy? NO..
It was nice, but the price was very high. The hours and the stress combined with the return of childhood memories sent me screaming into the night. I lost pretty much everything.
It's funny.. When you are able to give you are popular but when you are in need you are forgotten. Time has enabled me to "see the woods for the trees" whereas in the past I could not.
None of us have an infinite time on this planet. We should do our utmost to find inner happiness, to look within rather than look out wards and crave. I've found my peace, as I wrote earlier.. I've also found the strength to stand tall, to fight for myself.
I see the bigger picture now. I see who was true, who was false. I see that I have the strength, the time and the resources to do something about it too.
I'm looking forward to it.
Watch this space!
Saturday, 14 September 2013
Please welcome Chrissie to The Wounded Warrior Blog.
Chrissie sent me this piece some time ago but due to circumstances out of my control it is only now I have been able to post it here for her.
Born and raised in Southwestern Virginia, Chrissie Anderson Peters received stories from those around her from a young age. Many of those stories serve as the frames or foundations of what she writes today.
A 1989 graduate of Tazewell High School, Chrissie received her BA from Henry College (1993) and her Masters of Science in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee (2002).
Always an avid reader, Chrissie began writing in fourth grade. After college she continued collecting writing ideas, although she did not write much for several years. Her dedication to writing rekindled in 2005 when she took a Creative Writing course at Northeast State Community College, where she works as a librarian. She has received accolades in several contests, as well as being accepted at the Hindman Settlement School’s Appalachian Writers Workshop (2010-2012).
Chrissie and her husband Russ reside in Bristol, Tennessee, with their feline children. Dog Days and Dragonflies is her first full-length publication.
Contact her here www.CAPWrites.com
or Via email TheWriteWayToGo@gmail.com
and Twitter @WriteWayToGo
Call It Paradise
There I am again, that same dream. I am in Carl’s friend’s dorm room, over in Hillman Hall. There’s a Janet Jackson video playing silently in the background, the newest video from her Rhythm Nation album in October 1989. It’s the one where they’re all in army-like mode. The video in its odd black-and-white taping adds to the surreal nature of everything else that happened that night.
Nothing happened the way that it was supposed to. The fact that I went to Hillman to go to a party up on the third floor with Gabe Wilson, but I somehow ended up with some guy named Carl in his friend’s room on the first floor. The fact that I’d only had alcohol once before in my life – the previous weekend at a Homecoming party up on Treasure Mountain, delivered with discretion by a good friend with no ulterior motives – and then tonight I’d just taken up the challenge to drink this Bacardi 151 (“It’s like Bacardi times ten,” Carl’s friend had laughed) and shot it back like it was nothing, because it tasted like nothing, until I tried to stand up and then the world started spinning like a tilt-a-whirl that I couldn’t make stop. The fact that Gabe came looking for me and Carl and his friend told me to be very quiet, like we were playing some sort of game, and I’d gone along with it, not really because I thought it would be fun, but because I don’t think I could even talk. The fact that Gabe, God bless his sweet soul, then tried climbing into the room through the window from outside, short little Gabe, and something inside me thought I was still on the third floor and I thought, “Oh, God, he’s gonna fall off the ledge and kill himself and it’ll all be my fault,” and I gasped really loudly and sucked air in until I nearly passed out, completely falling out of my chair and falling onto the lower bunk of the two beds in the dorm room where all of this took place, and hitting my head on the painted cinder block wall and thinking, “Wow, I’ll bet that hurt,” yet not feeling a thing. The fact that I kept seeing that video and thinking how militant it was, how completely unromantic the song was even though the music wasn’t even audible, how unlike my lifelong expectations for my first time this was all going to be. Because I knew somehow that we were going to have sex, this Carl guy and me. He kept kissing me, caressing me. Yet I felt none of it. I kept wondering how it could possibly happen this way. I hadn’t necessarily been saving my virginity for someone “special,” but God, I at least wanted to be present in body for it, you know?
Then I see myself lying down on the bed. I’m wearing that pretty blue sweater with the delicate little white hearts on it and a pair of blue jeans. I love that sweater. It actually looks good on me. I’m eighteen years old and don’t have the most positive body image in the world. Hell, what eighteen-year-old girl does? Especially one who has been fat her whole life? I weighed ninety-nine pounds in third grade. When I had my physical done the summer before starting college, the doctor who did mine felt my breasts and proclaimed, “You’d never know if you had breast cancer or not, your breasts are so lumpy!” That’s exactly what a girl who has never even been felt up wants to hear, you know? No self-esteem. I have a pretty enough face, I think, though I won’t go anywhere without make-up. Or without styling my long, spiral-permed brown hair – and teasing the front way up (remember, it’s the late 80’s and the higher the hair, the closer you are to God). But the rest of me… The rest of me, I’ve never been so sure about. And I could never ask my mother. We don’t talk about sex. Or anything remotely sexual in nature – which is ironic, now that I think of it. The first record she ever bought for me, when I was probably around four or five years old, was by the British band Hot Chocolate and was called “You Sexy Thing.” Flash forward to early 1985, a typical Saturday when I’m cleaning house while blasting music on the stereo, listening to the latest album by another British band, Duran Duran. “Save A Prayer” finishes playing and my mother lifts the needle from the record and asks, “Do you know what that song is about?” Well, let me think here… The lyrics go: Some people call it a one-night stand/ But we can call it Paradise… I smile in the dreamy way that all thirteen-year-old girls smile when smitten by lust and answer, “Yeah, isn’t it cool?” But that was just a thirteen-year-old girl in lust with five hot guys from the UK, not a drunk, first-semester college girl who can’t even feel her limbs, trying to figure out what the hell is happening and how to have an active role in it.
I’m suddenly aware of Carl fumbling with the zipper on my jeans. Holy crap, this is really going to happen! I remember going to the movies with Bobby Dunford and swatting his hands to try to make him watch A Fish Called Wanda. I knew Bobby Dunford and I liked Bobby Dunford. He never asked me out again. I know almost nothing about this Carl guy except that I think he said he was a football player. Yes, he must be a football player; he’s wearing his room key on a shoe string around his neck like all the football players do. Why do they do that? Don’t they know how stupid it makes them look?
One hand slides up under my sweater, cupping my doctor-proclaimed lumpy breasts, groping them eagerly, while his other hand begins working its way into my unzipped jeans. I squeeze my eyes shut. Then I’m acutely aware of his erection pushing against my backside, through my jeans. Why can I feel that, but not my legs? I try to move. Maybe I can get up and leave. But I still can’t feel my legs. My arms, too, feel as heavy and useless as lead. And my mouth won’t work – no voice comes out. Maybe some mumbles or indiscernible noises, but who knows what this guy is taking any of that to mean? I definitely feel his fingers make their way inside my panties. I have to do something. I must do something. Something. Something. Anything…
And I’m awake. That is where I wake up every single night. I wake up at that point in the dream, crying. On the nights when my beautiful party-hearty roommate Martha Lee is there, she comes over to my bed and asks if I’m okay. As though I am still paralyzed, stuck in the dream, I shake my head, no voice coming out through my sobs.
I honestly don’t remember the sex. I just know that it happened. I know for a few reasons. I know because Carl’s friend completely went off when Carl snuck me out of the room to take me back over to my own dorm – because I’d “fucked up his sheets.” I remember looking back and thinking, “Dear God, someone must be bleeding to death.” Maybe I was hallucinating; maybe in that intoxicated state everything seemed more intense than it actually was. I really don’t know. I just remember thinking that whoever was bleeding like that surely needed medical attention. Carl, being the gentleman that he was, walked me to my car, which was actually parked in the Chapel parking lot, near my dorm. Never mind that he had a car right there in the parking lot behind the building where we had been. Besides, the fresh air would help me sober up faster. I remember that I had to pee. I had to pee desperately. I didn’t care where. At this point, was dignity really at stake? So I lowered my jeans and panties and peed against a weeping willow that stood next to the Duck Pond. I remember thinking something along the lines of “Weeping willow, cry for me, ‘cos I just don’t have the strength right now!” But I’m still not sure if I was lamenting or joking when I thought it.
Carl took my car keys, unlocked the door for me, put me in the passenger seat, got in and drove me around for a while. I have no idea where or for how long. After the drive, he found a parking spot behind my dorm, MaWa, and walked me to the main door of the building. No goodbye kiss or anything like that. He handed my keys back and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I looked at the entrance to the building, thinking it simultaneously seemed like the open jaws of a monster and a landing pad to home, a feeling that I would have hundreds more times in my four years at Emory & Henry, for various reasons. I took a deep breath and tried my best to look sober as I walked through the main door. In case you have never tried to look sober, here is something you should know: the more sober you try to look, the drunker you obviously appear to everyone else in the world. As this was my first time being drunk, however, I didn’t realize this very important rule of the universe yet.
When I walked in, there sat a resident advisor and the Residence Director of Women. I must have looked like hell. Both of them stopped the game of cards they were playing and stared at me, just short of having their jaws drop open. The resident advisor spoke first. “Are you okay, Chelsea?”
Stay cool. Stay calm. “I’m fine.” I answered a little more shakily than I would have liked, but I got it out without breaking down.
Then the Residence Director of Women spoke. “If you need to talk or anything –”
“I’m fine, thanks. Just tired.” And so it was set. The tough act was on. The mask was placed. And denial had set in that anything “wrong” had happened at all. I was the one who had made a bad decision and I would now deal with those consequences. Whatever the hell that might mean.
I took the elevator to the fourth floor and walked all the way to the end of the hall, and then to the end of the “short-L” where my room was. I never locked my door, something I was glad for tonight, this morning, whatever it was by now. My answering machine was blinking. Gabe had left a message sometime after midnight asking if I was okay. How could I ever hope to explain any of this to him? I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Not ever.
I started to undress, but caught my reflection in the floor-length mirror and lost control of my emotions. With my sweater half-on and half-off, I just stood there sobbing. I didn’t want to see my reflection and thanked God when my vision became so blurry that I could no longer see any part of who I was. I didn’t know this new person standing there and she didn’t know me. She was not the same person who had waited for Simon LeBon to whisk her away to that promised Paradise of “Save A Prayer” that he sang about when she was thirteen; she was some girl who had just had sex with a guy she barely knew – while she was drunk – and all she knew for sure was that there was nothing Paradisiacal about the place she was standing in right now.
About five minutes later, once I’d flung myself down on the bed, glad that Martha Lee was gone for the weekend and that I didn’t have to explain anything to her, my stomach began churning. I still hadn’t managed to get into my pajamas completely, just into the bottoms. I knew what was coming next. The shame of what had happened was not to be enough. No, God was going to punish me righteously. I ran down the hall to the bathrooms, barged into a stall, and hurled like I had never hurled before. The acidic taste of the Bacardi 151 filled my mouth, my nostrils, and flew like projectile missiles from my face. I hugged the toilet with what strength I had regained in my upper extremities. “Really, God?” I wanted to shout. “Is all of this necessary, too?” I looked down at that gorgeous blue sweater with the little white hearts on it. Puke covered the front. How appropriate, I remember thinking. It’s just like me. Stained. I’ll never love it again, either.
By the time I left the bathroom, I was too weak to walk. I literally crawled back to my room. I took off the sweater and balled it up, throwing it into the corner, as far away from my view and range of smell as I could. I’d wash it when I had more strength. Or maybe I’d throw it away; if only I could do the same to myself…
Martha Lee and another friend woke me up when they got back around 4:00 on Sunday afternoon. I still felt like hell. I described the tremendous headache, the vomiting, the “wanting to crawl somewhere and die” feelings. Martha Lee grinned and surmised, “This is your first hangover, isn’t it?” I wanted to be sarcastic with her, but realized that she was the most worldly person I knew and that I probably needed to be nice to her, that I might need to ask her questions about some of this at some point. So I simply answered yes.
“Where was the party? Were there hot guys there?” Her eyes brightened as she pummeled me with questions.
I told her about the party and skipped as many details as possible about the rest, saying only that I ended up drinking with some guy and that we ended up having sex. Her eyes got wide, as did the other friend’s. Then she smiled really big. “Chelsea Anderson – got drunk and had sex?” It was like it was some miraculous thing, like one of the Seven Signs or something. “What’s his name?”
“Carl,” I answered. “No clue what his last name is. Football player.”
On a campus of fewer than 1000 students, the two of them figured out who he was pretty quickly. “He’s in my comp class,” the friend volunteered. I pretended to follow their chitchat, but I honestly didn’t care.
I was relieved when 4:45 rolled around and it was time to get ready to go to the cafeteria for dinner. Little did I know that mealtime would never be the same for me again.
My head still pounded and I felt like I was looking at the world through something other than my own contact lenses. Nothing felt right. Nothing looked right. Things sounded different. I felt like everyone was watching me. And maybe they were. I looked around, suddenly not sure of what Carl or his friend even looked like. Less than twenty-four hours had passed and I was either already blocking it out or forgetting it. Either way, I was kinda thankful for the memory lapse. However, it took me all of five minutes in the cafeteria to realize that, just because I hadn’t made it to brunch that day, certainly did not mean that stories from the night before hadn’t made it on my behalf in living color.
I got the blandest thing to eat that I possibly could – cereal. As I stood there waiting for the milk to come out of the dispenser, a guy walked up and touched me on the shoulder. I jumped. “Hey,” he said quietly. “It’s me, Carl.”
“Oh, yeah, hi,” I mumbled.
“I didn’t see you at brunch,” he said nonchalantly, as he got a glass of milk.
“No, I wasn’t much feeling up to coming over here. And I was working on some homework,” I lied, not wanting him to think that I was in any way inconvenienced by anything that had transpired the night before.
“Well, I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I’ll see you around.”
And that was it. I’ll see you around. Which I totally understood. I’ve done my part. I’ve checked on you. You’re alive. You’re okay. We’re finished here.
I went to my usual table in the back corner and sat down with my friends, all of whom were careful about asking how I was, how my weekend had been, what I had done last night, etc. It was like seeing the proverbial elephant in the room, only the elephant was me. Or rather, what I’d done. Everyone knew, or knew some part of it, and probably wanted to know more. They were waiting to see if I would tell more or if they were going to need to pry it out of me, or if they would have to wait for tidbits from somewhere else. I offered nothing of substance. It had been my stupidity and I would deal with it. I wasn’t ready to share it with the world just yet, even if the world was more than eager to hear about it.
After downing my second bowl of cereal, I took my tray up to dump it. I took my usual route, not even realizing that it would take me by the table where Carl and his friends sat. Maybe I should go a different way. Why, though? For Pete’s sake, we’re all adults here. Judging from the snickers, guffaws, and stifled laughter, I gave the friends too much credit. Well, fuck them; I was an adult. I wasn’t changing my life just because they were immature cretins!
The dream started that night. It didn’t get very far before I forced myself to wake up. I didn’t want to remember. Remembering was going to be bad. Remembering was going to be some kind of ugly that I was not yet prepared to face. I refused to go back to sleep. I couldn’t take the chance of ending up there again.
To say that the next few weeks were long ones would be an understatement. One day the week after it all transpired, I stopped in at the student health center on campus, or as we called it back in the day, the Infirmary. It had been four days and I was still bleeding. I didn’t know if that was normal or not; I had no frame of reference and was not about to ask Martha Lee. Donna, the nurse, took me back into her office and closed the door. I’ll never forget how nice and unobtrusively she dealt with the entire situation. “Was this your first time?” I set my jaw hard to keep all of my emotions in check and nodded my head. “Did your boyfriend use a condom?” Again I nodded my head, but inside, I set off into panic mode. My boyfriend – what a joke! Had he used a condom? I had no clue! How was I supposed to figure out that piece of the puzzle? My mind whirled around all of the horrible things that could result from the absence of a condom while sweet Donna was trying to explain to me that I had probably just torn some and that, if I continued bleeding, I should probably go to a doctor, just to be on the safe side. I must have had that deer-in-headlights look as I thanked her and started to leave, though, because she stopped me with just a gentle touch to my arm. “Was there alcohol involved? Chelsea, was the sex consensual?”
Words spilled out quickly. “No, I consented.” No turning back now. “It was stupid on my part, but I knew what I was doing.” I thought I saw her shake her head as I left, but I didn’t turn back to see for sure.
The next day, I called Carl and asked if he had worn a condom. He acted for all the world like my phone call had inconvenienced him to no end. How dare I even bother him with such petty matters. Of course he had worn a condom. What kind of idiot did I think he was? Why had I gone to the Infirmary? I didn’t tell them I was drunk, did I? No, Carl, I wanted to say. I just told them I was stupid…
When rumors fly on a small campus, it’s a special kind of hell for the person or people caught up in the tales. Friends delicately began asking me questions about the things they were hearing. One night when I was working switchboard, my friend Harold was working sign-in, a thankless, mindless task where guys were required to leave a license, ID, or keys and sign-in to indicate which young lady they were going to visit (her name, room number and phone extension). During a few moments of quiet for both of us, he looked at me with a grave expression and said, “Are you doing okay?”
By now, it had been a couple of weeks. I was getting pretty good at dealing with this particular question on the outside. I had actually just about perfected my response. “Oh, Harold, I’m fine. It was a crazy night. I got way too drunk, had sex with someone I didn’t know, and life goes on, you know?” I could even say it with a painted-on smile by this point.
But Harold didn’t buy it. “You can call it what you want to, but you were raped.”
My eyes darted around the vicinity, praying no one else had heard what he said. I glared at him. “No, Harold, you didn’t hear what I said.”
“I heard what you said. And I heard what Carl’s friend said. And none of it really matters because what they did was wrong. They intentionally got you drunk and then Carl took advantage of you. In Virginia, that is rape. Plain and simple.”
I wanted to reach across the switchboard box and slap Harold. I wanted to shake him hard and tell him no! I wanted to tell him that he couldn’t talk about it that way, like it was just that way. Then what he had said registered. I heard what Carl’s friend said. “His friend is talking about it?”
“All over the place, Chelsea. All about how he had to change the sheets after you guys finished, about –”
I held up my hand for him to stop. I really didn’t want to hear any more. They really were talking about me. And they really were laughing at me in the cafeteria. At every single meal. It didn’t matter what I said. It didn’t matter how I tried to handle what had happened, internally or externally. Perception was going to go against me completely. I had been lying to everyone. Including myself. And all for absolutely nothing.
Harold was talking again. I had missed the first part of it, but he had pulled his chair closer, so that our conversation was not being broadcast all over the second-floor lounge of MaWa. “I know that it can’t be an easy thing to deal with. And I know it sounds weird, but if you want a friend to go with you to talk to someone, I’ll go with you. You need to report this. To someone.”
I blinked unresponsively and looked past Harold, shaking my head. “No, the time for that is past. I can’t go back there now.” And I really didn’t believe I could. Plus the fact remained that I honestly did not want to.
I began skipping more and more meals. It wasn’t worth the daily walk of shame that I had to endure in going anywhere near Carl’s circle of friends in the cafeteria. I even skipped classes occasionally and didn’t go out as much on the weekends. The dream was becoming more and more intense each time I had it, so I slept less and less. I realized one day that I had truly hit rock bottom. Not eating, not sleeping, constantly lying about major facets of my existence… These were not healthy behaviors. On the nights when I did accidentally doze off, I would wake up thrashing under the covers or making horrific noises that woke up Martha Lee, who, in turn, would rush to my bed to wake me up and make sure I was okay. Yes, even Martha Lee, party girl extraordinaire knew that something was amiss. “Chelsea, you need to talk to someone. This has been going on since you had sex with that Carl guy. I don’t like the stories I’ve heard and you need to do something.”
I needed to do something. Something. That was the problem. The one thing that I wanted to do was to die. I wanted it all to end. I’m not saying that I wanted to kill myself, though; that is an entirely different feeling and I have, at different times in my life, felt that way, too. But I just wanted everything to cease. If things couldn’t cease, then I wanted them to somehow go back to a way that they had (I also realized), never truly been.
I spent the entirety of that day, literally, curled up in a ball in the closet of our dorm room. Something had to change that day. I had gone as low as I could go. And the way I saw it, I had two choices from which to go on: I could either stay curled up in that ball and give up or I could start rebuilding and I could rebuild in such a way that I could become the person I had always wanted to be. I didn’t have to be that insecure eighteen-year-old with a negative body image, always doubting herself and every decision that she made. I didn’t have to be trapped any longer because that other shell was beyond broken down – it was irreparable and a new abode needed to be created for a new me. I might have given away a part of me that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still look for Paradise!
Building a new you can be fun, but it also isn’t easy, especially when the “you” that you’re attempting to create is an ideal that the poet in you likens to a phoenix rising from the ashes of a former self. The fun part, though, is that you get to try out totally new things, kinda like buying a new wardrobe after a substantial weight loss. Let’s see how this feels when I try it on; maybe this color will work out better than that last one. There are boundaries, but you don’t know what they are until you reach them. Each day is a new adventure in exploring who you are becoming, in who you really are. And that is more exciting than words can accurately describe!
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of days, though, when you hit a snag in the building process, or when the proposed blueprint doesn’t suffer a setback or two. A dinner or two when the guffawing of his friends doesn’t just set your teeth on edge and you want to do something horrible to each and every one of them, when you want to stand up on a table in the middle of the cafeteria and tell your side of the story, even if it was your own stupidity that landed you in that situation…
Day by day, though, I felt better; I felt stronger. I reveled in who I was becoming. I welcomed her and was likewise welcomed by her. I had never known self-acceptance like this before. The people who knew me and loved me didn’t care what Carl and his cronies spread around campus. My friends embraced me and made sure I wasn’t in a situation like that again, just like the new me did – no drinking with strangers, no wandering off from the group. What had happened was bad, but I did learn a lot from it. Lessons learned the hard way tend to stick best, I guess.
The semester wound down. The Saturday night of finals, just a week or so before Christmas, snow fell in our little world nestled deep in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. And at Emory & Henry, that meant one thing: sledding on the golf course! Well, to be perfectly fair, it also meant a substantial amount of drinking and general socializing. Still needing to study for an exam or two, and needing to wrap my last few gifts for friends at school, as well as family members at home, I decided to hang out in the dorm, but to leave my door standing open and enjoy the holiday chaos up and down the hallway. Two friends, Brian and Donnie, stopped by, their cheeks and noses red with “holiday merriment” (and likely some high-quality bourbon), and I invited them in. No sooner had they sat down than my telephone rang. I picked up in my usual manner. “Yeah?”
At the other end, there was a slight pause and then the sound of static, like a tape recorder starting up. And then a male voice, obviously on a tape recorder of some sort, announced, “This is one of Carl’s friends and I’m just wondering if you’re really as cheap as he says you are.”
I threw the phone down, as though it had suddenly turned into a serpent in my hand. I turned quickly and ran from the room, my entire world suddenly skewed and falling apart, the ground was peeling away beneath my feet. I fell in the hall and pulled myself up against the wall. How dare them! How could they do this to me after weeks and weeks of me not giving a damn and showing them and the rest of the world that I didn’t care anymore, that they couldn’t hurt me anymore, that I was stronger than anything that they could throw my way? I sat there sobbing, rocking back and forth with my knees pulled tight against my chest, Brian and Donnie now beside me asking what had just happened. Before anyone else could get a chance to see me that way, they helped me to my feet and took me back into my room, closing the door. Brian reached into my refrigerator and pulled out a Mountain Dew, handed it to me, and asked again what happened. I finally pulled myself together enough to tell them about the voice on the other end of the phone. Although I’d never discussed what had happened on that October night with either of these guys, I could tell that they, too, had heard the stories.
“Did you recognize the voice?”
I really didn’t know any of Carl’s friends personally, but I had heard enough of the jeers for long enough that I was fairly certain of the voice. But I couldn’t prove anything. Brian and Donnie, though, were friends in the truest sense of the word – and drunk red necks, to boot – who were not about to let someone treat one of their friends that way. They made their way back to Hillman, going room to room searching for a tape recorder, but never found one.
I sat there the rest of the night, watching the phone in terror, as though it were a living, breathing organism, capable of harming me. Watching the phone gave way to nodding off, and the dream was back again, more vivid, more in-depth. I started to remember something important. Then the phone woke me up. I couldn’t decide which was worse – the phone ringing or the dream. So I just sat there in silence, looking at it. The clock on the wall read 12:30. It was daylight outside. The answering machine kicked on; I held my breath and waited. “Hey, it’s Lynne. Are you going to brunch?”
I grabbed the phone and made up an excuse not to go. “I’m trying to pack up stuff so I can get out of here right after my two exams tomorrow. I’m just ready to get the hell out of Dodge, you know,” I tried to be breezy.
“I heard about your phone call last night.”
“How the hell did you hear about that?”
“Donnie’s dating Cassie. I saw her in the bathroom this morning and she told me about it. Don’t let them tear you down again, Chelsea. You’ve come too far. This semester is almost over. See it through.”
She was right. I owed it to my new self to do that much. The foundation of the person I had become was strong enough to handle the test; I felt certain of that, but I needed to walk into that cafeteria and prove it. I had to face down the cowards who had pulled the phone prank to let them know that they did not have the upper hand in this or any other matter that involved me. Not today, not ever again.
The first night of Christmas break, I lie alone in my own bed, back home in Tazewell. It is cold in my room, like it always is in winter. There is frost on the windows and I scratch my initials onto the glass, CIA. Home doesn’t feel much like home tonight, though. This new me cannot seem to settle down here; the old me wasn’t happy here, so I don’t know why I thought the new version could thrive here at all. But this bedroom is still mine, it is still me; it is still my hideaway and safe place. The posters of Duran Duran have been replaced by some other rock band, probably a couple of rock bands since the Fab Five plastered the walls. But I close my eyes and remember that time. I still have the same boom-box. I still sleep on the same pillows in the same Holly Hobbie pillow cases (although I keep another pillow case over those now). I am at peace in this one room and I drift off to sleep in the one place where I know that nothing bad in the world can or will happen to me…
I’m suddenly aware of Carl fumbling with the zipper on my jeans. Yes, the dream. Again. One hand slides up under my sweater, cupping my doctor-proclaimed lumpy breasts, groping them eagerly, while his other hand begins working its way into my unzipped jeans. I squeeze my eyes shut. Then I’m acutely aware of his erection pushing against my backside, through my jeans. Why can I feel that, but not my legs? I try to move. Maybe I can get up and leave. But I still can’t feel my legs. My arms, too, feel as heavy and useless as lead. And my mouth won’t work – no voice comes out. Maybe some mumbles or indiscernible noises, but who knows what this guy is taking any of that to mean? I definitely feel his fingers make their way inside my panties. I have to do something. I must do something. Something. Something. Anything… And in one final attempt to do anything, I see myself in that dorm room in Hillman. As if in an out-of-body experience, I see the inebriated me who cannot feel my body somehow manage to turn over onto my stomach and I hear myself utter one word and one word alone: “No!” And then I see Carl flip me onto my back as though I am nothing but a rag doll and everything goes pitch black.
But it is enough. I know what really happened. I know what I have not allowed myself to remember for two long months. I know that Harold was right and that my gut was right and that I have lied to myself and to everyone else. And while I’m not sure what in God’s name I am to do with any of that, I know that I am free from it. I know that I am terrified, but liberated. And even though I know that I will not report it, because I will not put myself through it over and over again – for I am now finished with it and this dream is forbidden to keep me awake any more nights – I will call Carl when I get back to campus after Christmas break. I will call him and tell him that I finally remembered and I will ask him what gave him the right to do what he did, what gave him the right to rape me. And when he tells me that it is my fault because I kissed him, I will ask him what kind of twisted son of a bitch he is. But I will not hate him because hating him will mean that he wins. And no one will ever have that power over me again.
Dog Days and Dragonflies, by Chrissie Anderson Peters
- Paperback: 154 pages
- Publisher: CAP Publishing (June 8, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0985257407
- ISBN-13: 978-0985257408
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces
Wednesday, 11 September 2013
Love Is a Drug; Co-Dependency and Survivors
The word 'love' is synonymous with many things. Compassion, kindness, mother-love, friendship, romance; all those 'nice' associations. However it can also bring up images of heartbreak, pain, betrayal, loss and other painful emotions that don't feel very loving at all. Love is a multi-faceted word. For those who have survived childhood abuse, the ways the word 'love' can be used as a form of control and emotional dependency is often all too fresh in our minds. Even after years of therapy, support and managing to build a successful life in other ways, our romantic and sexual relationships can still be suffering from misconceptions of what 'love' really is. We've all heard the old adage 'if it hurts, it isn't love' but sadly, particularly when it comes to romantic attachments, we believe the exact opposite, often judging the depth of our emotions by how jealous wefeel over them, how bereft when they are not there, and how despairing we become should the relationship falter or end. Of course unhealthy relationships are not just perpetuated by abuse survivors; cultural and media depictions of love and romance make this is a common association for us all, but for those with a background of fractured relationships and/or sexual abuse it is perhaps particularly potent.
Love as Co-Dependency
A co-dependent relationship is often described as one where partners feel they 'need' each other as opposed to love each other, and interactions may be abusive, unhealthy and destructive. This can range from couples trapped in the cycle of domestic abuse, to the man who is overcome by jealousy every time his partner goes out without him or vice versa, and to those who feel they are weak on their own and 'can't live without each other. There are usually severe control issues present in a co-dependent relationship, usually manifesting as one partner overtly controlling the actions and behaviour of the other. Substance abuse by one or both partners is common in co-dependent relationships. Given that our adult relationships often mirror the effects of treatment received in childhood, it is hardly surprising that survivors of sexual abuse are particularly prone to the trap of co-dependent relationships. Although it is usually assumed that the male co-dependent partner (in a heterosexual relationship) will be the abusive or controlling one, this is not always the case. Particularly with male survivors of sexual abuse, unresolved shame issues and victimisation patterns mean they are often just as likely to be at the receiving end of domestic abuse. Co-dependent relationships consist of a complex web of unhealthy interactions between a couple who will often profess to 'love' each other deeply.
Love as a Drug
Sexual abuse survivors are often at risk of substance abuse issues, and for many 'love' in the guise of an unhealthy romantic relationship can become the drug of choice. The emotional and mental effects of a destructive relationship pattern are in fact similar to the effects of heroin and other drugs. Feelings of euphoria followed by feelings of despair, aggressiveness and changes in eating and sleeping patterns are characteristic of most addictions, whether that addiction be to a substance, person or feeling. Addictions are believed to be linked to the production of dopamine in the brain, and a co-dependent relationship can have a similar effect on the release of dopamine to drugs and alcohol. So, in a very real sense, people in co-dependent relationships really are 'addicted' to each other.
Surviving and Finding Real Love
For sexual abuse survivors it is paramount that support and any recovery programmes are in place before embarking on a serious romantic relationship and ongoing counselling can help both partners be aware of and resolve any unhealthy patterns that may arise as the relationship is formed and continues. There is no need to 'give up on love' but rather to redefine our perceptions and expectations of what a healthy relationship entails. As we have seen the ups and downs of a destructive relationship can be chemically addictive, but when we are in recovery from this we can begin to value a calmer, kinder version of love, so that the very wordregains it's literal meaning. 'Love' is not and should never be synonymous with 'abuse' and one of the ways in which we know we are no longer just survivors but 'thrivers' is when we can allow real love into our lives.
Many thanks to Lisa Nelson for her article.
Lisa in her own words
"After graduating in Art and Design, I began working with an advertising agency before motherhood got in the way. Now I work from home as a freelance writer and cover topics as diverse as the latest exhibitions, reviews of art, books and music, self-help articles for beginners and also a topic close to my heart. Personal experience and work with the Coalition Against Drug Abuse has taught me how useful art and literature can be in helping both addicts and the victims of addiction, so when possible, I write on this positive message, though I know not everyone shares it."
If you would like to get in touch with Lisa please email me and II can pass your messages on.