Sunday, August 26, 2007

Breaking The Silence---Incest May Be A Part Of My Life Series---Part 4

Warning: Reading the following series may be injurious to your peace of mind. They are intended to be. Without knowledge, we cannot prevent child abuse from happening. Go beyond this point at your own risk. Join me for the painful, frightening, emotional, freeing journey.


Breaking the silence is the most frightening, courageous, freeing thing that a survivor can do for themselves. This is where recovery can begin.

Breaking the silence is the most frightening thing that I have ever done.
For so many years, I kept this really big secret inside of me. I was afraid to tell anyone, afraid that if you knew the real me, you would see how bad I was, how tarnished I was, how ashamed I felt. I believed that I couldn't let anyone know the real me. I thought that there had to be something inherently bad in me for me to keep attracting men who would abuse me in this way. I thought, "Why can't I be good enough or smart enough to stop the incest?" I even thought that God didn't care or He would stop the abuse. Even God did nothing so I must really be bad. These were my constant thoughts.

Finally, when I was seventeen years old, I reach a maturity level where I knew that I was older than my dad - emotionally and intellectually. I knew he was the child and I was the adult. He no longer had any hold over me. His threats meant nothing to me. By this time, I knew he would never tell anyone.

Not everyone is as blessed as I was to finally be able to say, "NO" to the abuse. Eleven more years of living with the silence went by before I had the courage to tell anyone.



Breaking the silence is the most courageous thing that I have ever done.
My younger sister shared with me that she had been fondled by our dad starting when she was about five years old. She and I were spending some time together driving to a small store near her house when she told me this. I, then, told her about the sexual abuse that happened to me as a child.

My sister was the very first person that I ever told about the incest. I was twenty-eight years old and she was twenty-five. I still didn't have the courage to tell my husband of eight years. A few weeks later, my sister came to visit us. In front of my husband, she said something about the incest. My husband immediately demanded to know what she was talking about.

Because of my sister's comment, I was forced into telling my husband. Without my sister making her comments, I don't know when I would have gotten the courage to tell my husband. You see, I was still afraid of what he would think if he knew. I loved this man so much that I was terrified of losing him so I had not shared the depth of my woundedness with him before this time.

Once I saw my husband's reaction, then I had the courage to start being more open about the incest with my sister and my husband. I was still many years away from really beginning to work on my incest issues and to admit how much the abuse was still affecting my marriage and my life.

I had successfully opened the doors of communication between myself and two other people that I cared about. To open that door took more courage than I knew that I possessed at the time.

I was thirty-eight years old when I found an Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) group in Hot Springs, Arkansas where we had moved to a few months earlier. January 1989 was when I finally broke my silence in a big way.

To me, the alcoholism and the incest in my family were so intertwined that I didn't know how to separate the issues. So I went to ACA meetings, and a few months later, to Al-Anon meetings. When I went to these meetings (4-5 a week for several years), I talked and talked and talked about incest and alcoholism interchangably.

I know that some people got tired of me talking about the incest. How do I know? At one meeting a woman and her boyfriend told me to stop talking about my incest all of the time. I went home hurt. I thought about what they had said and then I got angry. I went back to the next meeting and told them that if they had a problem with me talking about my incest issues then it was their problem, not mine. I later came to realize that the woman was an incest survivor herself who had not addressed her issues with her father. For me, my emotions and words were like a dam breaking. Once I started to talk, I didn't stop for several years. My meetings were a safe place for me to work on my incest issues. I will forever be grateful to those ACA and Al-Anon people who taught me about recovery and gave me hope. I truly believe that they saved my life, my sanity and my marriage. It was several years later before I went into counseling.

My dad was an alcoholic who wasn't always drunk when he molested me. Drunk or sober, he was still an alcoholic. Because he was sober, as much as he was drunk, when he molested me, I never blamed the abuse on the alcohol. I have seen many people get stuck in the blaming stage of recovery and when they do, then recovery stops at that point. You have to give up blaming to move forward. In the beginning, it is easy to channel all of your anger, no, make that rage, into blaming the people responsible for abusing you and the people who ignored the abuse. You can even get angry at yourself for being abused, for allowing it to happen. Forgiveness doesn't come instantly, or just because you want it to. For me, forgiveness didn't come for years. (I wrote an earlier article called Forgiveness, Done In Layers at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/06/forgiveness-done-in-layers.html and another article called Happy Father's Day, Daddy at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2007/06/happy-fathers-day-daddy.html . Both of these articles deal with forgiveness.)

Writing this series of articles on my blog is another way that I have chosen to break the silence. Again, I have had to be courageous and to allow myself to be vulnerable to reach out to others who may need encouragement and may need to know that they are not alone. You can break the silence of abuse and become a better person for making the effort.



Breaking the silence has been the most freeing thing that I have ever done.
Breaking the silence has allowed me the freedom of releasing the internal pressure that keeping such a secret can cause. Breaking the silence sometimes allows you to discover things about yourself that you didn't know. Breaking the silence can bring forth memories that you have forgotten.

I have memories of the sexual abuse starting when I was eleven years old. I suspect that the incest started years before that. Why do I think that when I don't have any concrete memories?

In 1992, I had been going to ACA, Al-Anon and open Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings for three years. The Alano Club, a social gathering place for Al-Anon, AA and ACA members, celebrated their 10 year anniversary. The AA group who organized the event asked me to be one of their guest speakers. I agreed. My ACA sponsor would not let me refuse. I had never told my story in its entirity to anyone, including myself, so I brought a small tape recorder along and recorded my talk. I listened to it at home. Next I listened to it with my Incest Survivor Counseling Group. I was shocked at what I heard myself say.

In my talk, I stated that I remembered an image of myself when I was three years old. I was sitting in church with my maternal grandmother. I remember hearing the Assembly of God Preacher talking about the sin of adultry. I knew what he was talking about. Remember, I was only three years old. At three years old, I knew what adultry was. I remember calling myself an adultress, in my mind. Until I gave that talk that day, I had forgotten that day when I was three and called myself an adultress. (Yes, I know, technically, I wasn't an adultress since I wasn't married. In my three year old mind, I was an adultress.) Why would I call myself an adultress? How would a three year old even know what that was? Conclusion: Sexual abuse was probably already happening to me. Remember, this was in the 1950's. We didn't learn about sex on TV or in the movies like the kids do today. Do I have any proof? No. Does that mean it didn't happen? I have my answer. Accept it or not, as you see fit. I don't care.

When I was in my first counseling group, I did some art work, some drawings for the group and a series of paintings that I did on my own and shared with the group. My counselor said that the art work was not what an eleven year old would do. He said they were the work of an eight or nine year old. Another clue? Possibly. So there are clues that seem to say that my years of silence started long before the age of eleven. Can you imagine the pressure that builds up in a person carrying around this kind of secret, especially if you are a child without the coping tools that most adults use. Breaking the silence has given me the freedom to release the internal pressure that keeping a horrible secret causes.

Breaking the silence has given me the freedom of expression without having to continue the lies of secrecy. I truly have the freedom to be the real me who is loved and loving and no longer being shamed into silence. The feelings of guilt and shame are no longer a burden being carried around in what a friend of mine calls my "grief belly". Each time that I have released certain areas of incest issues, I have lost weight, especially in the belly area. I know that when my incest issues are no longer an issue then I will no longer have a weight issue. I will no longer need the extra weight of protection that I carry around my waist and hips.

I now have the freedom of feeling joy and pleasure in my life and in my body. I can feel and express joy about who I am and about how very far I have come. I have the freedom that only comes from truly loving myself as I am. I have the freedom that comes from accepting myself as a whole person that I have grown into. Yes, the incest has had a major impact upon my life and the incest is not who I am. I am free from the stigma of incest.



Breaking the silence has allowed me the freedom to access all of my emotions and to reconnect with all of my body and my self. Accessing and reconnecting with my self has been a lengthy, painful, sometimes joyful process. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Why am I breaking the silence again through this blog? To reach out to others to let you know that life is worth living. You can release all of the pain and tears that you have silently held inside for all of these years.



Breaking the silence is the most frightening , courageous, freeing thing that I have ever done. If I can do it and survive, so can you. I invite you to break the silence.

13 comments:

klm said...

awesome series Patricia,

Very insightful - I can not imagine what it must have been like. I can not imagine how it would have felt. I can't imagine...

The biggest clue for the insidious nature of the abuse came for me when I read that you didn't tell your sister until you were in your late 20s...

I just can't imagine... because it says so much about the huge amount of blame and responsibility you must have taken on as a child for this happening to you.

Why should the abused be afraid to speak up, be afraid to stand up, be afraid at all...?

You are an inspiration.

Much joy,
kl

Patricia Singleton said...

K-L, thank you for your kind words. Revisiting all of this has been worth it because of the reactions that I have gotten from my readers. I don't know how long this series will go on. It is writing itself. So much of my early life was lived in silence and lies. Maybe that is why honesty is so important to me today. My husband taught me to laugh and to love. My children taught me another form of love, one that I never experienced as a child. As a parent, I can't understand the way my parent's minds worked. Last night I revisited a Louise Hay book that was instrumental in my healing and learning to finally forgive. I will be doing an article about that at some later date. What she reminded me of was that my parents didn't have the tools to give love to me because they didn't love themselves. Have a glorious day.

Geoff said...

Hi Patricia,

As I've mentioned to you, for years I dated an incest survivor. Something you said here is an echo of what she once told me: "My Dad still react to everything like he's a 17-year-old." he was in late 40s at the time.

It was a sad thing, both that she could see it ... and that he couldn't.

Her mother also refused to accept what had happened. I never met her father, which is probably lucky for him, but even though her mother was always nice to me, I always had the underlying urge to yell: "What is wrong with you? Can't you see what this has done to the people you love? Why don't you step up?"

In the end, I never felt like it was my place to be the one to initiate that sort of thing. I still get a little upset with myself, too. Because someone should have done it. And I truly loved her at that time.

Reading your posts helps to think that, wherever she may be now, that she is gaining strength and getting through things better than before.

I admire your courage.

Best,
Geoff

Patricia Singleton said...

Geoff, thanks, it is for people like you and your X-girlfriend that I decided to do this series. It was not an easy decision to make to go back into all of this. I used to think the pain would never end. It does get better but not without a lot of work. I have had a few people over the years, usually ministers, tell me that all I had to do was to forgive. All that did was to give me another reason to beat myself up with shame because I couldn't do it that easy. I have been blessed that I had the opportunity when I was finally ready to forgive my dad the year before he died. That doesn't mean that I don't still sometimes get angry with him.
When I told my husband, he was so angry with my dad. He and I had to do a lot of talking before I could convince him not to do go punch my dad out. At the time, it would not have helped anything. It was also about that time that I made the decision that I didn't want my dad in my life because my children would not be safe around him. My husband was wise enough to let it be my decision.
Thanks for your continued encouragement. It means the world to me.

Patricia Singleton said...

K-L Masina has accepted this article into her Carnival of Truth #8 found at http://www.klmasina.co.nz/2007/09/18/carnival-of-truth-8/. Each of the articles in the Carnival are well worth checking out.

Patricia Singleton said...

I am honored to have this article accepted into the Carnival Against Child Abuse Christmas 2007 Edition hosted by Megan Bayliss found at

http://imaginif.com.au/~ima33724/blog/2007/12/14/carnival-against-child-abuse-christmas-2007-edition

Check out the informative articles in this Carnival.

Marj aka Thriver said...

I firmly believe that breaking the silence leads to breaking the cycle. Thanks, Patricia! Thanks, also, for participating in the December edition of the BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE.

Patricia Singleton said...

Marj, thanks for giving me the opportunity to share in something that helps others to grow and to heal.

Patricia Singleton said...

This article has been included in the Carnival Against Sexual Violence 39 hosted by abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open found at http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com/2008/01/carnival-against-sexual-violence-39.html

Fred said...

Patricia,

Your courage to break the silence and provide testimony will help all who have been victimized by incest. You never cease to inspire.

Love & light,
Fred

Patricia Singleton said...

Fred, thank you. I appreciate the work that you do with your blog as well.

Bobbi Aubin said...

Patricia, Thank You for Breaking The Silence! I Broke The Silence in my 30's, because I could not live knowing my brother was still out there hurting other people and the fact he and his wife had had a daughter and that scared the crap out of me! I didn't want others to suffer the way I did as a child/teenager. I have done tremendous therapy surrounding the incest, right up to three years of Inner Child work. I thought I had it all figured out until last night, when I spoke of it to my girlfriend. (new relationship). I did not know the impact it would have on my psychy today. Whoa! I felt the need to share with her b/c she is very dominat (sexually) and I didn't want to get triggered. Well, after that conversation, she held me and told me she really cared about me and will support me in any way, shape or form. She too shared about friends she grew up with in Newfoundland that were being molested and how she wants to go back and tell them she is sorry for not being able to stop the perps (however I told her it wasn't her fault, they were 12 at the time)... Anyhow, Thank You for allowing us into your healing, I guess it's a lifelong journey huh....
I made sure I raised my daughter (she's 23 now) in a way that allowed me to break that cycle of abuse (both my parents were incested as children, and can speak out and up when I bear witness to others who have suffered at the hands of these monsters..
Thanks
Bobbi

Patricia Singleton said...

Bobbi, You are very welcome. I am glad to share my healing journey so that other survivors know they are not alone. Congratulations on breaking the cycle of abuse in your own family. Glad that your girlfriend is able and willing to support you.