i got several messages similar to this about that post, but i never replied (i am so terrible about timely replies). so thank you and everyone else who sent me a message…that post was definitely up there in the top five most difficult that I’ve written for this blog, but I am so glad I did it, because of responses like this. ♥
[trigger warning: sexual abuse, incest, doctors]
A few months back, I had a checkup at my doctor’s. It was the first time since I’d started college over four years ago.
As happens at a lot of large hospitals/HMOs, most of the work was done by med students and trainees, not the actual attending physician. I got a young doctor who looked and acted exactly like Dr. Coop (Peter Facinelli) on “Nurse Jackie”, except less abrasive.
Doctors make me anxious; for obvious reasons, I hate being stared at and poked and prodded and being naked in front of a stranger. But sometimes survivors have that little string of defiance in the back of their head, and they ride it through a tough situation. I did okay.
When the doctor asked me if I was still in school, I was honest. “No, I’m taking time off of school. I’m working on some personal stuff right now…I was sexually abused by my brother when I was a kid.”
The doctor skipped a beat for a second, and then he regained his composure. I could tell that he wasn’t a survivor, and my revelation had made him uncomfortable. He tried to avoid meeting my eyes.
I think he realized then how difficult it was for me to strip naked in front of a stranger. (For several days before that appointment, I had run through the situation over and over again in my head.) Eventually, he replied with something like, “that’s really brave of you, to be so open and willing to deal with what happened to you. I admire that”. He was a good doctor. Most people, in that sort of situation, would have no idea what to say, but he quickly recovered.
Survivors make people uncomfortable. The very existence, the mere presence of our problems makes non-survivors incredibly nervous. I’ve seen it over and over again when, after revealing what happened to me, people look away, or look down, or shift in their seats.
Most people tend to see sexual abuse as this bogeyman that exists only in mythical form, like a fairytale you tell your kids to get them to behave. They dont like to believe that something so fucked up and awful could really exist. But the monster in the dark does exist, and those left behind— us survivors— are real, too.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I were extra gutsy and made a shirt that said, “I was raped and abused”, then wore it as I went about my daily life. In the past, I have told myself that it’s a bad idea, that I would feel unsafe and exposed doing so. But now, I wonder if I only feel unsafe with that idea because of how much more uncomfortable it would be for everyone around me.
At this point, I’m used to it. I’m used to being a survivor— at least, as comfortable as I could be considering all the years of fucked up memories. I’ve dealt with this for most of my life, whereas other people haven’t. For a lot of non-survivors, the truth of my childhood would be one of only a handful of moments when they were actually aware of such problems, if ever.
It’s like when you’re in the middle of a meeting or a class, and that one huge wasp flies into the room and starts circling heads, refusing to go away— people can’t help but stare at impending doom. Some will subconsciously hold their breaths and stay as still as possible to reduce unwanted attention. Others will laugh, or cough, or fidget as they fail to focus on the lecture. And some just sit there, not knowing what to do, as they stare into a void and pretend they don’t exist.
That’s what we do to other people— I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s there. With just a few words, I could mentally and emotionally vacate a room. I want to laugh at the concept of having this reluctant power, but it’s more sobering and melancholy than anything.
Survivors are symbols of impending doom, of collapse in society and the bursting of safe little bubbles. We are the harbinger of discomfort. We make people aware of how fragile their tiny lives really are.
[content warning: suicide, abusive relationships, rape]
I’ve put off writing this post for awhile because I’m ashamed of myself.
If you follow my other tumblr blog, you probably know that I am single now. I have been since last December.
You see, for the last two years, I have been in an abusive relationship.
There are far too many things to talk about in one post, but quickly summarized: she hit me on one occasion, raped me multiple times, distanced me from my friends and family, monitored my phone and email, and said over and over again that i would not be able to survive without her. She’s also accused me of being a rapist when the moment in question was 100% consensual, and she is telling people i forced her into having an abortion even though we had both discussed/agreed on it beforehand, and it was a life-saving necessity for her.
I don’t know who this person is anymore. I thought I did. Now I have no idea if even one thing she told me was true, or if it was all a bunch of lies meant to manipulate me into staying.
I loved this person. I still do. I think I love them more than I have ever loved anyone before; but then that begs the question— what kind of person does it make it me if the most love I’ve ever given was for someone so monstrously horrible? I don’t know what that means.
Part of me is relieved; I am capable of love, even if it was for the wrong person. Because being able to love isn’t something that all people have built into them— so many of us are afraid that we can’t. Now I know that I can, and that is such a gift. It’s one of the few good things that came out of this.
Another part of me hates myself. I’m pissed off at myself for getting hurt again, in this terrible way that no one deserves (though I feel I did). I promised I’d never let someone do that to me again. I made this promise because I thought I could keep it— I thought I knew all the signs of evil, all the shapes and methods of carrying it out. I was very wrong. There are different types of evil, and this kind, like the kind that hurt me the first time, through my brother, entrapped me in a way that I failed to predict.
And maybe I’m also angry at myself because part of me wanted to love and be loved so badly that I started to desire hurt. I wanted someone to hurt me and abuse me, and I stayed even when so many signs pointed to it being a toxic and dangerous situation, because I am a person who is desperate for love. I’m a fucked up, messed up person.
Things were rough for a few months. I had a few weeks when I really wanted to just give up and die. I’m a bit better now, but it’s going to be awhile before I can be okay. I’m not sure if I even know what “okay” is, of if I’ve ever been there.
[serious trigger warning: sexual abuse, rape, incest, very graphic description]
the morning after i was raped
i slept in, like every morning
until i became an afternoon. the sun shone
my tiny corpse-body, casting
no shadow, bleaching my hands
and toes and the dead corners
between my legs
into a single white. i still smelled
like him— like family
and incense and ginger, formed
shapes with my mouth for words
i did not know yet. i had to
pee, so i walked through the doorway
where he had me in his mouth, like swallowing
a dead rat. i felt it claw
up through my gut, severing all the smooth curves
between the bladder and my dot of time
his saliva had invaded— an ink splotch
branching its way into each moment
before and after today. then i was empty,
and i stumbled back to bed, still aching
like my cum that wouldn’t come out
because his teeth scraped the edges,
still aching, and i slept
until i became tomorrow.
[tw: child sexual abuse, incest, pedophilia, internet predators— some graphic detail]
You know how on “To Catch a Predator”, there’s always those people from those advocacy groups who go online and pose as teenagers or kids to lure unsuspecting pedophiles?
I used to be one of those people. Except I wasn’t a part of any group.
I did it because I liked it. As recently as two years ago, I would go onto chatrooms and pretend to be a teenage girl. I would talk to older men and send them fake pictures and get them to masturbate for me. I loved it. I got off on it.
This is what my brother did for much of the time he abused me— he installed RealVNC on my computer and kept watch over my activities. A few weeks ago, I saw that familiar logo and I freaked out over it. I couldn’t breathe or speak, only hide under the covers and cry. Sometimes my brother would send me messages over IM, or images of child porn or other porn. Other times, he would just message me and ask what i was doing, or if I was “up to no good”. He did this for years. I lived like this for years.
Long after the abuse stopped, I continued abusing myself by going onto these chatrooms to find strangers. I even made up a entire persona— her name was Rebecca Stands, she was fifteen, from a medium-sized town in Texas, and she liked soccer. She was tall for her age and other kids always made fun of her for it. She had recently been dumped by her first boyfriend and was scared about her first year at high school. Sometimes she wrote stories, little stories about ideas she had in her head, but she didn’t like to share them, because they were often about painful things and she didn’t want to worry other people. Her Myspace name was “becca.stands.tall”, with some hearts and other flourishes. I even added people from her high school, and made blog posts about how lonely she was. Her email was bbgurl98 or 99, I can’t remember. She laughed too loudly and was hurt too easily.
She liked to act strong, but on the inside, she was just a scared little girl, like any girl that age.
In these lonely spaces, I became that person. Men, sometimes decades older than fifteen year old Rebecca, would send me pictures of themselves, of their disgusting hands around their disgusting cocks, and ask me what i was wearing. Most of the time I’d say, “not much, its rly hot here, u?” I made up stories about masturbation and how Becca felt it was weird or she’d never really tried it, giving these strangers all the paths in to more and more sexual situations.
I liked these creepy men giving me attention. I liked being victimized and re-victimized, over and over again, just like my brother had done to me. I fucked myself to it. If I didn’t have a rational brain telling me not to, I would be doing it right now, because even talking about it still excites me.
That’s how fucked up and damaged I am. This is one of the reasons why I hate myself so much.
Becca Stands never died or went away completely. She’s still in me, and I am still her. I’m still that disgusting, messed up person on the inside.
I am still Rebecca Stands.
I have a friend who is polyamorous. i don’t think it’s for me, but learning about it from her is fascinating.
There are a few advantages to having multiple partners:
This all sounded fine to me, but i had one major concern:
“How do you not run out of love?”
The answer was simple: “You don’t.”
I had no idea this was even a possibility. Everyone else, I’d assumed, was just like me— they have finite amounts of love and affection, and if they aren’t careful about how they distribute that energy, they will eventually run out. When it’s all gone, they crash and can’t fully function around other people.
The truth is, people who are not survivors of abuse or other trauma almost never worry about this. Because although love is not an infinite resource for them— or anyone— they have so much capacity for it that they rarely approach that limit. It might happen every once in awhile— during the death of a loved one, in the middle of finals week, or after a terrible breakup— but never during an average, ordinary day.
What’s even more surprising is that these people don’t even see love as a resource. Because they never approach that limit, because they never feel an absence, they don’t recognize it as a measurable concept. They just do it. It’s not something to “give away” or that other people “take” from you— it’s just energy that flows in and out, as natural as the rising and falling tides of the ocean. These people see their affection as a vast ocean, while survivors see it as a lake in the middle of a never-ending drought.
The idea that I could have this near-limitless source of energy inside me is terrifying. It scares me because the more I open myself up to other people, the more I can be hurt. Every attempt to reach another person is an opportunity to be hurt…but it’s also a chance to be loved in return.
It used to be that I could clearly measure my risk in the number of conversations or hugs or words spoken in a day. But now maybe, if I want to express love for someone, i could just do it. It’s not giving or taking, it’s expression, or something else that I can’t quite understand yet. I’m not sure where it comes out of, but it feels right.
My love does not have to be finite.
[trigger warning: sexual abuse, violence, some graphic descriptions]
i want to be the kind of poet
whose photo falls in the celestial dictionary
of poets beside the entry for “bitter”;
not bitter like bukowski life-is-so-hard
-me-now bitter; not the bitterness that melted away
when Sharon Olds finally heard her father utter,
out of a habit that never existed, the answer “i love
you too” in response to the question, “how are you?”;
not bitter like the millions of ancestral graves Joseph Bruchac carries
on his back like tombstone-motes of light, no—
not that kind of bitterness. i am still searching for the sweetness
buried inside my black tea when i awake
from a dream of his hands and lips
twisting a snake around my throat. i am still
digging up the dirt beneath my fingernails
from masturbation sessions that always end
in the sensation of his face, watching, always watching.
i am still looking for the revenge Dorothy wrote for me, shared
through her frosted eyes across a spontaneous gift— an ale8
she no longer wanted; like that she gifted her soul
again and again, through books that burn with love
for those of us who can never escape. i want that
bitterness settled in my bones, the desire
to murder nestled beside the desire to hold. i want
that frigid january snap that only twirls from frozen clouds
meeting warmth they cannot ever return to.
yes, i would like that heat
from being too cold. yes,
i would like that very much.
[trigger warning: child sexual abuse, incest, graphic descriptions]
my childhood is best described
as a series of averted gazes
looking away, into books and out windows
or eyes closed, staring into nothing
if i don’t see you, you can’t hurt me
falling asleep as i touched myself
the way you wanted me to, slowly
my hands angled unnaturally away
for you to make out every crevice
and corner of my terrible shame
if i look away, you won’t exist
so i spent high school drooling on classroom desks
pretending the thing between my legs
was never attached to me, never real
only an object i once knew the shape,
the curve, and dimensions of, like you
as forgotten as my wants and needs
the ones i repeat endlessly when no one can see me
existing only as ghosts do
at the ends of their temporal lifespans
no one can hear me
no one can see me
i can disappear when i want to
[trigger warning: child sexual abuse, incest, sharp objects]
back when i was still dating katie, there was this one day when i went to the boone square minimall in berea (a really big thrift store) and bought a pocket knife. when i was younger i always felt very nervous around knives, particularly if i helped my mom with cooking. but i was feeling kind of brave and i wanted something to protect myself with if i ever had to walk around campus late at night on my own.
katie thought it was kind of weird but i liked it. i started carrying that thing with me every day. it was actually kind of a scary knife, like almost three inches. enough to really hurt someone if i needed to. enough to twist inside someone’s guts if i wanted.
there was a time when i came home— i think for winter break— and somehow i ended up in my brother’s car. i think we were on the way to some family gathering with my (now former) step family. i had that knife with me then, and i touched it in my pocket the entire time. i had this feeling of urgency, like maybe i would have to use it. would have to defend myself. maybe even attack pre-emptyively, before he attacked me. i never had to.
sexual abuse does weird things to a family. things like sitting in your brother’s car at a stop sign a block from your home trying not to shake from wondering if he would try something fucked up like kiss you or touch you or just breathe on you or say the wrong word and push that knife into his own eye. it puts a knife in your pocket for months and months, your hand running over it in class, during a choir concert, on the walk back to your apartment after dark, and even as you sit in your underwear doing homework in bed. it puts that knife there until you have worked the lever and clasp so many times that it finally breaks apart because it’s a cheap thing, and you have to throw it away. it does that to you.
i don’t know why this memory suddenly came back to me.
eventually i did get a new pocket knife, but it wasn’t the same. i don’t carry it around anymore. it just sits in my bedroom collecting dust.
sorry, but sexual abuse is a political issue, no matter how you look at it. edit: it’s not that i want books to like, get all preachy and say “go lobby and write letters to your senator!” It’s that I want my books to make this issue visible, not an afterthought.
also, uh— i know how repressed memories work, because i’ve dealt with them myself? so shut the fuck up yourself, thanks