Abuse, Incest, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape

A Survivor’s Perspective on a Pedophile’s Skill to Manipulate and Lie – Part 1

I often think of ways to protect my little girl from falling victim to someone like my grandfather and struggle with how to proceed with this task. I have had the conversation with her on the topic of inappropriate touching from anyone including family members because though I remember my father having that conversation with me, it did not help. It did not help because the warning was only towards strangers and not family members. If I had received a warning that family members too can hurt you, I think I would have said something.

During a therapy session, when I was discussing the subject of what to say to my daughter (now and as she gets older), my therapist mentioned some things I could say to her and one thing was regarding “the feeling of being uncomfortable”. Then I realized that the feeling of being uncomfortable did not occur for me until two years after my grandfather began to molest me. You see, as much as it is difficult to say this, it is the truth. The truth is, between the ages of 8 and 10.5 years old, none of his touching felt uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, I remember it feeling good. I was very comfortable. So even if someone had told me that the “uncomfortable feeling” was an indicator of something being wrong, it would not have applied to me. My grandfather groomed me and groomed me well. He paid very close attention to me and everything that was happening to me and around me.

I watched my grandfather manipulate everyone by lying and being his charming self. I knew he was fooling everyone but I thought he was doing it in order to maintain the relationship that we had going. At no point did it even cross my mind that he was manipulating and lying to me. I truly believed that I was his favourite and that I was special. He told me those very words each time he got the chance to. So after hearing those words so often, I really believed it. Not to mention that the touching would proceed the “nice compliments”, always. He never told me nice things if the touching was not going to happen. But that was a problem for me because each time my grandfather saw me and did NOT touch me, I became very upset. I thought I did something to make him angry with me. Little did I know that he would not touch me because there were no opportunities for him to do it without being caught. It was so confusing to me because there were several times where he would touch me when people were in the same room. This was how he convinced me that all he was doing was “okay”.

He fooled my parents so much; he used them and their weaknesses to get to me. My parents were immigrants and so was my grandfather. When he arrived in Canada, he became one our main caregivers. It was convenient to have him come over every Saturday to watch us while my parents went out to run errands. Saturday was the only day that they could go shopping for the week and get other things done. He knew they appreciated the help and so he would always volunteer to come to our home to care for us. So he did not have to work hard to gain the trust of my parents.

Once the trust was there, he began to develop a unique relationship with me. He would work on gaining my trust. He did this by observing how my parents would deal with me and then find a way to convince me that they did not love me as much as he did; that he was the only one who paid attention to me. My grandfather gave me attention by appearing interested in things that I did. He asked me a lot of questions and made me feel that he cared about me and my well being. When I was little my weakness was money. I learned that people with money received lots of attention and made you popular around your friends. I would ask my grandfather for money (other than the money he would give me, my brother and sister) and he would it give me….no questions asked. However, when he did ask me what I needed the money for, I would lie…of course. I did not know then, but I was manipulating him to get things I needed because I knew he would. I also knew how much he loved me and that he would do anything to keeps things that way. My grandfather made sure that I would keep things he did with me a secret, because I did not want to lose the great treatment he was giving me. I mean, what kid would not want to a have someone who catered to their every need. I had so much to lose or at least that is what I thought.

My grandfather had a few personalities and I think I must have been one of the few people to see them all. He was a mean bastard! He ill treated my grandmother all the time. I loved my grandmother and could not understand why he was so mean to her. I watched him be nice to all his neighbours and friends. He would give a helping hand to  anyone who needed him. He actually became the landlord or “go to” person in his apartment building that was a little community for seniors. The man was very charming when he wanted to be; but turn around and raise his voice to my humble grandmother and would call her names and belittled her in front of us (my brother and sister). Even though it bothered me to see him treating her like that, I did not worry because my grandmother and I would have conversations about how much worse he use to be. So what I observed was actually good as far as my grandmother was concerned. I became very angry later on in life when I learned from my father that he was abused by my grandfather as a young man. He physically, emotionally and mentally abused my father. I remember that my grandfather would call my dad any time he needed help with something. He would also tell my dad to bring us along for a visit. My dad was always doing favours for his father and it never seemed to be enough. I now know that it was my dad’s way of trying to get his father’s approval. So sad. I saw first hand the evil, the charming and the sick man that my grandfather was.

Earlier, I stated that for the first two and a half years I did not feel uncomfortable when my grandfather would molest me but there did come a time when things did begin to feel weird and uncomfortable. However, by then it was too late; he had me in his clutches and was not about to let go. It was 1983 and my parents were in their bedroom with my sister packing suitcases to take a trip to Jamaica. My sister was born here in Toronto and this would be her first visit to the island. My grandfather came by to get instructions for the next two weeks because he and my grandmother were going to stay at our place to care for my brother and I. Yes, that is right. Two weeks of being alone with my grandfather; I will share with you how he manipuatlated the circumstance to make sure that we were alone together. But that day when my parents were in their bedroom, he walked me across the living room floor held my little face in his hand, he bent down to give me a kiss and for the first time stuck his tongue in my mouth and told me that I was growing nicely and he kissed me like that because I am a big girl now…….that was the first time I felt uncomfortable and grossed out…… (to be continued

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Abuse, Incest, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape

DWELLING vs. SHARING

Ahhhh, I can breath again. I have been paying close attention to my emotions lately in connection to my trauma. I have realized how much better if feel when I write or speak about the trauma and it almost caused me some confusion; however, being the “thinker” that I am, I took time to process the “why does it feel better” question. I attended my weekly therapy session yesterday and it always feels better when I am done.

I am a Life Coach, so processing my thoughts and actions are important to me; after all, we all should practice what we preach (you should try it some time). I can see that there is a very thin line to walk when one is trying to navigate their way through the effects of trauma. On one hand, sharing experiences can be very liberating and on the other hand it can be suppressing. So how do survivors go about distinguishing what side of the line we are walking?

Ask yourself this: “am I sharing or dwelling”? If you are dwelling on the trauma then you will constantly find yourself living in past. You will make your choices based on what happened to you; you will feel depressed after speaking of your ordeal; you will seek sympathy and pity; you will promote your own self-pity and you will feel as if your life is going “nowhere fast”. You are a victim. If you are sharing your story then you will find yourself moving forward, away from making poor choices; you will take steps to improve your circumstances even when you do not feel like it; you will feel a sense of relief or freedom after sharing parts of your trauma; you find yourself looking forward to your future and seek no sympathy or pity from others and you will learn to live with the symptoms of your trauma while being at peace with it. You are a survivor. I am not completely at peace with my trauma yet but it is my goal; and I will continue to work on it until……until my peace no longer is disturbed by it.

Here is how I see or envision my experience with healing: each time I share parts of my experience, the poison that is within me is being released. The more I share, the more poison I get rid of. When I dwell on my experience and do not speak or write about it, I will internalize it and lock the poison inside of me. That poison will eventually make me sick and lead me to walk in darkness until death. I will continue to release the poison making room for my light to shine.

What side of that thin line are you walking on?

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Abuse, Incest, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape

Ouch! That One Hurts….again and again.

When will it end? When will the memories stop coming? How? How do I get through one day where I am not constantly reminded of the horrible crime that was forced upon me? “Get over it”; this is what I try to tell myself but to no avail. I know it must be difficult for others to understand why, after 24 years, would I still want to even talk about my abuse. I do not enjoy sharing my story, I wish I did not have such a story to tell. I do not like the lack of control that I have over the thoughts that creep into my mind. I do not like the fact that washing my dishes trigger memories of my abuse because my grandfather would approach me from behind to hug me, while slowly slipping his hand down my shirt through the collar. When I told my grandfather to stop touching me, I was washing the dishes and never forgot the look of terror on his face because for the first time in 6 years I actually said “no”. I do not like that I am triggered every day by activities that should be normal or enjoyable. Taking a shower should be a simple task, yet no one would know that stepping in a bathtub is a process for me. I literally have to be consciously aware of how I stand under the shower. If I turn to face the shower and the water hits my breasts, I become numb instantly. Why is this a trigger? While my grandfather was touching me, I would go numb and find something to focus on until he was done. In the first two years he did a great deal of touching and feeling; my breasts were his first choice of touch. I have tried so hard to expose myself and face the shower but find out quickly that it was a mistake. Its a mistake because the numbness sets in and stays there for a day or two. It is the worst feeling ever. It is the feeling that prompts me to try to “feel” again. So I find myself eating late at night as a form of comfort; or I wrap myself in my blanket and want to stay there until the numbness goes away.

I wish I could stop talking about this; I wish it would go away; I wish I did not have to work so hard at feeling better. I wish I could enjoy my little girl without having the fear of that she is in some form of danger when she is around any male figure. Two years from now when my daughter turns 8 years old, it will be a trigger because that was the age I was when my ordeal began. So here I am two years prior, preparing myself for what might hit me two years from now. My birthday was on January the 6th and my grandfather’s birthday is on the 8th. I have never been able to enjoy my birthday without thinking about his birthday as well. I think about how much he would use our birthdays as a way to convince me that “we were meant to be close”. I spent so much time with my grandfather doing regular everyday things that everyday I am haunted by something that reminds me of him.

In my last post, I talked about Dylan Farrow who was triggered by the idea that her father was going to receive a lifetime achievement award. Every time she sees his face on t.v., she is triggered; and it gets worse when you have to watch everyone talk about him like “he’s the cat’s meow” it irritates her because she knows who he really is. He gets to live and move on while she struggles to live a normal life everyday. It reminds me of being at my grandfather’s funeral listening to people talk about him. Everything was said except the truth; that he was a pedophile who preyed on young girls and got away with every time he violated them. He died and my family buried the truth with him. But I cannot bury it because as long as I am alive the pain will be alive. I have accepted that since the pain and hurt does not go away, I must learn to live with it, manage it and not allow it to destroy me. It is like having a disease and finding out that there is no cure….you take care of yourself and do whatever it takes to be better.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is very real and when you have it, others tend to feel that it becomes an excuse to be the way you are. I use to hear about this disorder and think nothing of it. I thought it only affected soldiers who went to war. When I began to show signs of PTSD, I went in denial for a couple of years but then the symptoms kept getting worse and I could not deny it anymore. I did not want to be “that girl”; I did not want to be weak or show weakness. But when you feel that you are loosing your mind and that you would sooner “off yourself” than to continue in this nightmare, it is time to get help. So I attend therapy every week and I share my journey towards healing. Sharing my story and the process of healing helps me to feel better. I imagine Dylan Farrow wants to feel better too. But more importantly, we just want to be heard. Yes, it may seem as if we are throwing a tantrum, but for some reason no one heard our cries for help when we were kids; so forgive us for crying and asking for help as adults. So the next time you find yourself saying “ouch!”, tell yourself to “get over it” and see how well that works for you.

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Abuse, Incest, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape

WE MUST STOP HIDING

Its been a long while since I have written in my blog and there was a good reason for it; at least that is what I thought. My intention for writing my blog was to share my story freely for the first time. I knew it would stir emotions in my family, and so it did. I watched my family react to my “coming out” like a bunch of chickens running around with their heads cut off. Everyone was suddenly communicating with each other on social media, trying their hardest to calm the situation. But as usual, when my grandfather’s issue of being a pedophile arises, everyone talks about it until I “shut up”; then it dies, unit I bring it up again. I knew if I stopped making entries in my blog, everyone would slowly crawl back into their corners and hope that it stays that way. However, the real reason that I quit writing in my blog was this: I did communicate with a few family members and was told that the elders were concerned that my grandmother is very sick and (as if I need another burden on my mind) news of the abuse arising again may just kill her. So as you can imagine, I decided to shut up once again. The thought of being responsible for the possible death of my grandmother was to much to bare. Besides, everyone is quiet again, continuing to live their lives. Me, well….I am still dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, trying not to think about how invisible I am to my family…I tried really hard to go away, I really did. BUT THIS MORNING I WAS SENT A LINK TO READ AN ARTICLE THAT WAS PRINTED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES. IT WAS ABOUT DYLAN FARROW AND HER ABUSE BY HER FATHER WOODY ALLEN.

After reading her letter, I was inspired. 20 years later, and she too has PTSD. 20 years later and she too feels the need to share her story again with the world. 20 years later and she still has questions that will never be answered. 20 years later and she wonders why the adults in her life did nothing to support her once the abuse was revealed. 20 years later and she cannot look at a toy train without being re-traumatized over and over again, a feeling I know too well. And to think that some people want her to shut up and go away; yet we cannot go away. We cannot go away because our trauma does not go away. The feeling of numbness does not go away when we are constantly triggered by things that remind us of our sick relationship with our abuser. The fears that arise when we are parenting our children, does not go away. The battle of being in a state of peace against remaining in a state of anger, does not go away. The horrible memories and flashbacks do not go away. We do not choose to dwell on the issue, the issue dwells with us. It takes on a life of its own and we have to learn how to live with this life and care for it….be with it….move with it. We cannot pack it away; it goes where ever we go. The issue follows us to work or to school. It follows us to the bathroom and our bedroom. It follows us to the grocery store, so much so that I have walked out of a grocery store because a man resembled my grandfather and I could not stand to be in a room with someone who even looks like him.

As a survivor of incest, the word “family” becomes a trigger because it was “family” that violated us; so our concept of “family” and what that means is very twisted. It is twisted because what happened to us is twisted. And when your family does nothing to support your healing…..that is twisted even more. The adults are the ones who cover the pedophile; the adults are the ones who decide to press charges or not, usually because the victims are too young to make such a decision. Yet it is the victims who must become survivors. We survive by working very hard to live. We survive in absence of support by the ones who claim to love us the most. We survive because we want to help others…….come out of the darkness.

It is in sharing our stories that we heal, grow and help others. THANK YOU DYLAN FARROW, THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME TO STOP HIDING. I am not going away and I will not shut up; nor will I be blamed for any circumstance or situation that takes place due to my speaking out. I will not carry that guilt. I am sorry for the pain that my story may cause but Dylan Farrow showed me that while some may feel pain, others will be inspired. It feels great to know that others are dealing with similar situations. It feels great because the feeling of loneliness becomes too familiar. I know every feeling that Dylan Farrow is feeling and I stand with her because it is what I would want for myself. I was very inspired by her letter to continue sharing my story…and that, I will surely do.

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Abuse, Incest, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape

My Battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When I gave birth to my daughter in 2007, it was a blessing; more of a blessing than I was willing to see at that time. I already had two boys and my daughter being born on Thanksgiving day, gave me lots to be grateful for. I now know that God sent her to me to assist me with my healing. She became and remains, my biggest trigger. With my boys, it was so different. I always had flashbacks and many symptoms of abuse, but they were manageable; I could always just ignore them and they would go away. I had accepted that this was going to be a part of my life, and I was okay with that. However, after my daughter’s birth, my symptoms began to get worse and increase with intensity.

I convinced myself that it was probably hormonal influences and that it would eventually get better; I was wrong. My symptoms grew and grew. One day when I was changing my daughters diaper, I made a comment regarding her genital area “looking so cute” and in that moment I would be changed forever. It was that moment where I was reminded that “abusers sometimes become abusers themselves”, so I cannot have the luxury of making such comments towards my daughter. It was the moment where I wondered how my grandfather could have looked at me and decided to “play with me” after bathing me. Maybe he touched me once by accident and “let it go”, and justified it to himself. It was the moment I wondered “how will I know, how will I know if I violated her”? My inability to answer that question made me promise to never make a comment about my daughter’s body again. It was the moment I became afraid; afraid of touching her, afraid of even looking at her with adoration. Afraid that someone would be “keeping an eye on me”. I literally became afraid of everything because I am her mother; I have to take care of her physically, mentally and emotionally. How was I going to do this and keep my own sanity?

For the next three years I tried my best to help myself. After all, I spend all my time giving advice to others as a Life Coach, surely I could help myself. It took a great deal of time for me to see that my way was not working. I was suffering in silence and developed high blood preasure that landed me in the ICU in critical condition. Things just began to go downhill but I refused to let this destroy me. I knew in my heart that my medical issues were somewhat connected to my abuse issues. So I began to seek help for myself and it took another two years before I was told that I was experiencing PTSD symptoms and another year before it was officially assessed by a psychiatrist, that I was diagnosed as having sever Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In my next post I will share what occurs when you have this dis-ease and how it affects your everyday life. But it will not be an easy thing to read because it’s not pretty. I am now having buried memories resurface, and the memories are now giving me answers to questions about myself that I have always wondered. So in a way I am getting to know “me” better; it just sucks that this is how it has to happen. I wish there were other ways to find myself but there isn’t. The only way to deal with this, is to learn what you can from it and face it head on. It also sucks when you have little support behind you. But I realize that no one knows what is happening and no one ever asks. So, I thought I would take the first step and see what happens.

……….to be continued

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Abuse, Incest, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape

INVISIBLE…..The Conclusion

I became a mother at the age of 16 and moved out on my own before my 19th birthday. I was grateful for my parents’ support while I lived at home with my son. My mother took care of her first grandson as if he were her own; I never had to worry about him. Now that I was on my own, being invisible was not sufficient enough to carry me through; I needed to take control. I needed to be in control; control of everything and everyone around me. This was my way of being and feeling safe. Now that I look back with some wisdom, I realize that I was not in control at all. What I thought was control, was really manipulation. I was taking action and making choices out of fear. I was very smart and resourceful, so I could always figure things out; even if that meant manipulating my way through situations. I did whatever it took to get my own way. I wasn’t just good at it, I was one of the best.

I saw firsthand how my grandfather manipulated everyone through his issues of control. But I could not see how he was doing it to me. He would call our home and pretend that he wanted something and my siblings and I would take turns saying hello. When he talked with me, he would ask me to come by his place instead of playing with my friends. He would also ask my brother to come over to help him with something and bring me (sometimes my sister too) with him. My grandfather used money to lure me and it worked; I always had money because of him. He would tell me to save some of it but to spend most of it. He said if I saved too much of it, my parents would want to know where I got it from, then I would have to tell the secret that he gave me money because he loved me more and I was his favorite. Well, that’s what I thought at the time. I learned how to lie and manipulate from my grandfather.

I was never invisible to my grandfather, he always gave me attention. So when that attention ceased to be, no one ever made me feel wanted again. No one ever “saw” me or “looked” at me the same. I was not special anymore, I was invisible. My family was frozen with shame. I felt like they stopped seeing me too. My family meant the world to me and if they couldn’t see me, then no one else would either.

What I was not prepared for was the discovery that in becoming invisible to others, I became invisible to my own self. I could not see myself anymore; I could not find myself anywhere; I was lost. I lost myself. In 2002 I walked away from my job for the sole purpose to find myself; 11 years later, I think I found her hiding in a closet. Writing my story, is me coming out.

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Abuse, Incest, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape

INVISIBLE Part 1

When I discovered that my relationship with my grandfather was wrong, I stopped feeling special and began to feel a sense of invisibility. This feeling did not occur immediately, but rather, grew on me slowly then gradually bled out into all aspect of my life. When you feel invisible for long periods of time, you become accustom to it. However, I did not see this until I began to look into the darkness that was eating away at my soul.

As a young girl, I could never look into the eyes of others. I would look away, look down or at something. I also know how to control the “fine tuning” of my eyes; so if I needed to look into someone’s eyes, I would make my vision go out of focus to blur away their face. My grandfather would look me straight in the eyes when he was with me; but I remember always looking passed him or at a spot in the ceiling and sometimes close my eyes. I would be there with him but somehow make myself disappear. I mean I was there but most of the time I couldn’t feel anything or I wouldn’t let myself feel. This is probably the reason children are able to block out memories; we spend so much time blocking out our physical pain, that blocking out memories seemed quite natural.

When I would walk into a room, I would zoom in on something or a spot in the room, then walk in that direction. I was so devastated to find out that my grandfather was commiting a crime against me. I would think back at how he touched me while being in a room full of people. I could not make myself believe that no one ever saw us; it was as if we were invisible. Now as an adult, I try to make myself invisible. I can walk on to public transit and look not one person in the face. I take a book, and read until I get to my destination. Everyone became invisible to me, so in my mind, I was there alone.

In my mind, I was not worthy of my family’s love and support. In my mind, being loved meant getting hurt. In my mind, feeling special meant getting hurt. In my mind, I needed to make sure that I was not going to allow myself to be hurt again. In my mind, what you see, is what you get. If you could not see me, then you could not get me. My living room is always dark; I never open my curtains. I feel too exposed when when they are open. I feel like someone is watching me all the time, so I make sure that will not happen.

When feeling invisible becomes too overwhelming, I will find myself sitting in the dark, crying, sometimes for what seems like hours. It is the type of crying that has no definition. I can never pinpoint why the tears would come, but they did and kept flowing; making it difficult to stop myself. I would cry until I could not feel anymore…I became numb. This numbness would prevail for a couple of days; then I would wait…and wait….and wait, because I knew it was only a matter of time before it happened all over again.

There were times where I become obsessed with being alone. I love being alone; it makes me feel safe. I never become bored; being bored is not an option. As far as I am concerned, being alone is time for celebration. There are times where I do not wish to hear sounds or be touched by anyone, including my own children. When I cannot find solitude, I become irritated, moody, impulsive and angry. It makes me want to disappear; and when I cannot disappear, I do whatever it takes to feel better.

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