I feel like I need a quiet place to sit down and reflect on all that has happened in the short (yet so very long) 25 years I’ve been here. The truth is, a quiet place doesn’t stop the bombardment of memories, the instinct to protect myself, to protect those around me, and to stop looking for clues of abuse and trauma in those I meet.
There are a lot of gaps in my childhood, most of which I’m thankful for, but there are moments that are so drastically burned into my memory that I cannot erase them no matter how hard I try or fight.
I remember the drugs – being locked out of the house, beating against the locked front door, screaming as loud as I possibly could for my mother to let me in, while inside there were people doing drugs. Locking me outside was their way of “protecting” me.
I remember fights, words so explicit I could only imagine what they meant. I remember fists meeting walls and flesh; I remember locking myself in my bedroom trying to keep myself out of reach from the drunken and drug-fueled rages my stepfather would fly into. I remember so vividly the pot full of spaghetti sauce flung against a dining room wall, splattered red, the pot lying sideways on the carpet…it looked like blood.
I remember my mom’s screams every night for a year, protesting his advances. I remember wanting to turn on the small radio next to my bed so that I didn’t have to hear it, knowing his rage if he heard it. If I cried, I knew I had to stop, otherwise he would surely give me something TO cry about. I remember my mom disappearing for days on drug binges, leaving me with him. I remember wanting to escape, to run away.
I remember him trying to rape me. I remember fighting him off and telling him that I would tell my grandmother. I remember him being almost too drugged to care. I remember running and locking myself in my bedroom and hiding while he beat on the door. I remember him coming into the bathroom while I was showering, sneaking peeks behind the curtain.
I remember being touched and molested by a boy in the same apartment complex who said that we were playing doctor. His brother molested one of my friends at the same time. I was seven years old.
I also remember the sounds of the ferris wheel, the smell of the funnel cakes and cotton candy, and the laughter of those walking around the LA County Fair, one of maybe a handful of “good” memories. He promised that he would protect me, that he would be a shoulder and a guiding light in my life, a support structure. He should have been. Instead he took the trust of an impressionable little girl and twisted it and abused it, just like he did to his wife.
He turned the parts of my childhood that should have been filled with sugarplum fairy tales and gum drop play scenes into nightmares. Nightmares of beatings, threats and scars. Scars that, while not visible, lie under the surface causing trust and emotional issues in that once 8-year-old child who has grown into a 24-year-old woman. I sat there as he told my mother matter-of-factly that he was going to blow up her car while I was in it. I stood up for my mom and told him that he wasn’t allowed to threaten her anymore and if he didn’t leave I was going to call the police. I was 8 years old.
I heard a few months ago that he died. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but I can only assume it is with the lifestyle that he lived.
My mom was afraid to tell me. She was afraid that I’d actually care, afraid that I may have actually cried at the news. To be completely honest, I was so incredibly relieved. No longer would I have to hope that some unexpected person or family would have to deal with the disaster that came along with him. Not another child would have to go through nearly being raped by him. Not another woman would be raped, beaten or threatened with murder. Not another little girl would have to spend a Halloween inside the house in her costume, peering out the front window at him screaming and yelling at her mom. Not another child would have to go through any of that, ever.
At the same time, I have to thank him for it. I’m not sure if I’d be the person I am today if those things hadn’t happened.
I hope he got what he deserved while he was in prison.
I remember living on the streets in my mom’s car. I remember sleeping on her friends’ couches, floors and empty bedrooms. I remember moving in with my grandparents, giving my mom yet another shot to get on her feet. I remember it not working, her disappearing for days, only to come home in the middle of the night strung out. I remember her moving out of the state with her disgusting, attempting-to-be-intimidating shell of a man who abused her emotionally, verbally and sexually. I remember telling a children’s lawyer that I wanted my grandparents to have custody of me and her willingly signing the papers. I was 9 years old.
I remember being trapped in a community pool bathroom – held against the cold tile wall. I hadn’t slept for days before this and was too weak to fight back, not able to scream loud enough. Not that the screams would have done any good – we were the only ones at the pool. I said no, I said stop, I said get off me, I said don’t do that, I said no. He didn’t care. He was older, a bad boy, a friend of a friend. I had already lost my virginity so I guess he thought he wouldn’t be taking much from me. I still cringe or turn around and swing when someone touches my back or grabs my shoulder. I was told he was murdered a year after, and I felt relief. I was 15 years old.
I try to find validation in every relationship. I try to fix the man that I’m with, try to make him see that he can be better than he is. I tell myself I deserved the shit I put myself through. It’s hard for me to trust people, to comprehend the way they function rather than the way that I function.
In two of my relationships, the men overstepped their boundaries and threw me into a completely defensive mode. I threw them into a wall. I question whether I am now becoming the abuser instead of taking the abuse, but then I feel that even though I did physical harm to them, I was put into a bad position and took the action necessary. I still don’t like being cornered or pinned against a wall with someone screaming in my face.
The doctors didn’t expect me to make it through the birth process, let alone actually live. But I lived. My whole life I’ve struggled so as not to become a statistic, not to follow in the footsteps of my mother – to beat the odds. I made it. I made it this far and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up now. I have a child on the way; I am nearly 5 months pregnant and it’s a girl. Now I get to try my hardest to protect her from all of the things that happened me.
I’m excited … and absolutely terrified at the same time.
At The Band we understand that sometimes, we need answers to questions that we can’t ask our friends and loved ones. Sometimes, we need to crowdsource an idea.
This is his question, and I’d love you guys to try to help him understand.
I am a man in my forties and I just saw a couple of my house guests who were probably in their twenties: a man and a woman.
The woman seemed stressed and uncomfortable (maybe it was the party?) and I observed her picking on her boyfriend for over an hour. I don’t mean beating or hitting him, I just mean she was emotionally abusive. She escalated her insults, mocked him, and made sure to push all of his buttons.
Until he backhanded her across the face.
After she was slapped, she was relaxed and visibly more calm, and more pleasant.
I cannot understand this kind of behavior; why would someone want to be abused?
The word rolled off my tongue and entered the heavy air in slow motion, “no.”
He was unbuttoning my shirt, and I put my hands up in resistance. He ignored them, pushing them away. There was a wickedly evil smile painted across his face, and he mumbled something under his breath.
I said it again, “No, please.”
He was determined; he shed my protective layer, and I felt even more uneasy. My hands were on his chest, pushing. I moved my legs so they would spill over the side of the couch. I was ready to get up, ready to leave, to pick up my clothes and turn my back on him. He grabbed at my thigh and placed his hand over my pelvis. A bolt of lightning ran through my body from the tip of my toes to the top of my skull. God, it hurt so damn bad.
No. Please no. No.
I squirmed, and he took that as a silent “yes.”
I shook my head, and I felt my mouth open. The words were foreign; they tasted bitter. I tried to spit them out. I had never begged in my life. Especially for something like the right to my own body.
My heart rate increased, and I felt like my lungs couldn’t get enough air. He forced me to touch him, stroke him, pleasure him.
There were tears running down my face as he stuck his hand down my pants.
“No,” I choked out.
He told me to shut up, and my chest constricted. I was trapped underneath his body. His thigh buried in my hip, hands working all over me, violating me as I hoped he’d stop.
After a while, I gave up. I stopped pushing away, stopped kicking, stopped fighting back. I only pleaded quietly, asking until my voice went hoarse. My body limp and that was the first time I truly felt like a corpse. In shock, my functioning ceased altogether.
He told me to be quiet once again; he slapped me, and I went red hot. My cheek burned. He yanked my leggings down; I heard the seams ripping and straining.
He set his face between my legs. His breath made me gasp, and he thought that was a good sign. I was shaking my head vigorously, convulsing. Broken sobs fell past my lips. Stop. Please stop. No.
He didn’t notice. Or he ignored it.
My body was trembling like an earthquake, and I was crying, pushing my fingers through his hair; I shoved his head away from me.
He was getting angry; I could see it in his face.
He grabbed my wrists, gripped them as if I was being taken into custody. In a way, I guess I was. Taken prisoner in my own body. I could feel the scream bubble up in my chest and throat, but no matter what I did, it wouldn’t come out.
He grinned, and I still despise that smile to this day. Going back to work, his tongue performed sins I couldn’t even think to voice.
“No,” I said. “Stop, please.”
I felt helpless and hopeless. I was stripped down, both literally and figuratively, and I was humiliated. I lost all respect for him.
I felt something pierce through my skin, into my veins. It traveled through my blood and made a home in my heart, rooting itself there. It spread into my muscles and tissues. It crawled into my bones and infected the marrow.
I was hollowed out, emptied. Stripped down until I was nothing but pieces of myself, just so he could put me back together how he wanted.
That was the first time. But it certainly wasn’t the last.
Where my family lives, there are very few people who know what transgender means, even though we are a sizeable city. Not even the doctors here knew what transgender meant until we explained.
Imagine having two transgender children in a community that is extremely conservative and evangelical. The schools are unwelcoming. The churches are unwelcoming. Most people reject the local LGBT individuals. The state legislature is actively pursuing bills that legalize discrimination against people like my children.
Given that the trans population is less than half a percent of my state’s population, the lack of awareness of trangender people is unsurprising.
Visibility of transgender people in the media is increasing, but not at a rate fast enough to make a dent in the general population. Here, where we live, at least, visibility occurs as the few LGBT people come out of the closet to their families, friends, coworkers, and ultimately to the community as a whole.
Being out in a conservative, Republican city and state is often dangerous. Add in any other minority characteristics and the danger to the individual increases exponentially.
My two wonderful teenage transgender sons have to navigate this world. It is terrifying to think of them in the school setting (so they are homeschooled), unbelievably frightening to think of them out there alone and out as they medically transition in the future.
Transgender visibility and awareness is vitally important. My kids were born into the wrong bodies. In the second trimester of my pregnancies, each of them were exposed to increased testosrerone, changing their brain structures to resemble male brains (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180524112351.htm).
Like sexual preferences, being transgender is not a choice. My sons, despite the identification at birth being female, are male. Because they are trans males, they are the lucky ones. They are less likely to be abused, less likely to be killed than trans females. They will, with testosterone, grow facial hair, increase their muscle mass and deepen their voices. They will enter into society with the stereotypical male look with ID cards that match their genders.
Most transgender people are not fortunate enough to have accepting families and doctors. Most struggle and suffer because of the extreme prejudices they face.
As allies to the LGBT community we can help change these struggles. We can make sure that all people are accepted and treated equally. Trans visibility is key, but without our speaking up for the community, for our friends and family members, change will be slow. We must make this a seismic change.
Yet, all of them have always been under my control. I just didnʻt know it.
All this time, I thought they had complete control of me, but the truth is, and has always been, that my demons for me, like yours for you, are ours to tame, name and obliterate (maim). Once they are tamed and named, they can no longer control you.
They can only be your bitches.
While this might seem very simple, I know it is anything but. I know that it is a demon son of a bitch to deal with the thoughts we think, and it is worse when the PTSD kicks in. I know, too, that people think you are pretending, but, I know that you cannot possibly pretend to be the thing that you have been fighting your whole life long – that thing that other people think and believe is your identity, or, sometimes, they think it is your mask.
It is the monster that no one thinks about becoming real in the lives of domestic violence survivors, and the irritating little mother fucker of a demon that likes to rear its head just when you thought you had the shitty little thing tamed. You find out quickly that these demons donʻt want to be tamed. They want to be what you want to be, which is free and wild. They want to be free to run wildly amok in the hallways of your memory, fucking with you until tears fall, and not only do others stop seeing the real you, even you stop seeing the person you always knew yourself to be.
My own demons like to play with me, they like to knock the fuck out of reality and truth, and they like to tell me that I’m not at all what others think me to be. My demons tell me all the time that I am not capable of doing things the right way, because I do things my way, and my demons like to remind me that I am not the prettiest, or the smartest, they tell me I am the most irritating person and that even the people who love me the most also and equally loathe me.
My own demons fight with me, argue the truth until there is nothing left of it, the proverbial pile of mindfuck particles left scattered around my psyche like some sort of diabolical confetti comprised of the memories that made me feel better, or made me feel awful, or made me think things that were not the truth, or made me believe that I was not ever in control of who I am…but that they were.
Then one day I figured out that those demons were askinʻ for it. They were literally, by right of their continuing to pop up in my life at the most inconvenient times, asking to be seen to, to be heard, to be told what to do and how to behave. They needed me to see to them, to stop feeding them the bullshit that, for so long, had made them sick and ugly and loathsome, and just completely miserable, and that kept me under their control.
Lots of times we do not see that we might be dealing with someone elseʻs demons, and ones that they show to us, and only us, for the purposes of healing them, through the power of love and truth all at one time.
Sometimes, the demons respond favorably, and other times, they fight back, wanting to live and be heard until they no longer have voice to scream at us with, or anger to flail through us with, or any other way of being or thinking that lives within us, because instead of letting them become like flying monkeys, we make them into the little fuckers who, no matter what, we have control of.
We canʻt see ourselves as anything but works in progress, and as such, sometimes we need to help those parts of who we are that are not that great. We need them to compare them to what we want to see, what is already there, and what just requires a little coaxing….
For the last five years, I’ve been lying to everyone; my parents, my children, social services, but most of all, myself.
My “courtship” with my husband lasted just three months before we became engaged. A year and a month after we met, I married him. I blindly ignored the warnings from my parents, my loved ones, and my own eyes. I thought I could change him. He would be better after the wedding, when all the stress was gone.
How wrong was I?
Within months of our marriage, what I saw scared me, but I decided to stay, thinking, “I can still change him. I can make him better!” I was so arrogant!
We had just conceived our first child when he sprained my arm. I told myself that it was an accident and justified it to everyone else.
His sister assaulted me when I was pregnant. He put me down in front of his parents. His mother assaulted me many times. They told me it was my fault. It was all my fault. Everything was always my fault.
What’s worse is that I genuinely believed them!
They threatened to take my baby away from me if I left. I was so scared of them, I stayed.
Now that WAS my fault! I should have left, but I didn’t!
He raped me the first time when our daughter was just five days old. I can still remember the searing agony that tore through my whole body as he did it! The tears and cuts burning with fire, my screams mingling with those of our daughter who was in the same room as us! That was my fault too apparently. After that, I had to have treatment for an erosion in the womb. That was also entirely my fault.
He was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Now he had something else to justify his treatment of me. He “needed” round the clock care, an excuse to stop me from working.
He moved me away from my parents to an isolated town and wouldn’t let me visit them. My parents still blame me for that, as if I had a choice!
After our second child was born, the abuse got worse and worse. I confided in my midwife about him raping me when our daughter was five days old. She and all the other midwives we saw made a point of reminding him that sex wasn’t allowed before my six week check. Normally a woman is signed off by the midwife within days of giving birth. They visited me for over a month to protect me. As soon as my six week check was over, the rape began again. This time almost every night and sometimes while I was asleep.
I haven’t slept for almost two years! I began to crave the oblivion of deep sleep, but I couldn’t because of the fear of what he would do to me while I slept. Twice he raped me anally because I had a period. If he wasn’t doing that, he would say things like, “I was hoping to have sex with you, but I can’t because you’re bleeding,” as if it were somehow my fault for being a woman.
That wasn’t the end of the emotional abuse. There was always shouting and yelling. The police were called. Social services were called twice. He isolated me more and more from our friends and would only let me go out with one of the children at a time.
He’d lock me in the house and “forget” to leave my key behind. Sometimes, he would move my keys, and when I wasn’t looking, would put them somewhere I’d already looked. I thought I was going mad!
When our son was five months old, we went on holiday with his family. While we were there, he dragged me out of the room by my legs in front of our daughter and threw me out into the rain with no shoes and no coat. When he finally let me in half an hour later, I had to sit in my wet clothes feeding our son, while his mother lectured me on how the whole thing was my fault.
A week later, I was rushed into hospital with chest pains. Everyone noticed the bruises and three people made separate calls to social services on my behalf. They sent two police officers out that night to check on the children and me. It was so humiliating! He would never let me speak to men because as far as he was concerned, I was cheating on him with every single man I spoke to.
While I was visiting my parents, he kissed another woman. I wish I’d left him then! But I listened to his sob story about how he was really going to change this time! He did change …for the worse.
In November 2012, his brother assaulted me. I had to go to hospital and was on crutches for six weeks because my sciatic nerve had gone into spasm. I lied in the hospital and said that I’d fallen in the kitchen. I was so scared that my children would be taken from me this time.Do you know how much sex hurts when you have sciatica? Especially when it’s rape.
In May 2013, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The doctor believes there is a link between Fibromyalgia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That was another excuse to isolate me further from everyone. I wasn’t allowed to do housework because I was “too ill.” I’d given up fighting him. I was so far into my shell, I couldn’t even care for our children.
He slowly crushed me to the point that I didn’t know any different.
We had a visit from our new health visitor. He told her that he was afraid of bathing our daughter because he was afraid of having sexual feelings for her. I was shocked and scared, but I didn’t know what to do! I should have left him there and then, but I couldn’t! I was paralyzed by five years of emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. He’d groomed me for this very eventuality so that I wouldn’t leave him!
The next day a social worker turned up with two police officers who seized all of our computer equipment. They told me that I needed to get the children out of the house. I replied that if they were going, I would be going too. They agreed.
My children have been protected by social services for three months now. I’ve ended the relationship and am seeking help for the abuse. Social services are being as helpful as they can be, but the health visitor thinks I should have left and should not have my children back. She thinks I’m a failure as a mother.
Maybe I am. I should have left. I should have sought help sooner. I have to live with that for the rest of my life. I obviously don’t deserve my children. Obviously love isn’t enough!