THE CASE OF THE THREE-YEAR-OLD-ADULTRESS
Patricia C. Singleton
"I learned a new word today. That word is adultress---that word is me. I am sitting in church with my grandma and I am three years old.
Today I added a new word to my vocabulary. That word is fornicator---that word is not me. I am sitting in an Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting and I am forty years old.
This year, I am eleven years old. I haven't started to develop into a young woman yet, but it will happen later this year. My periods will start; I will develop breasts; I will grow hair under my arms; and I will grow hair on my pubic area. Before any of this happens, I will become an incest victim.
I don't have any memories of sexual abuse happening before the age of eleven. I remember a weekend of repeatedly being raped by an uncle. I remember the pain, the tears, the pleas for him to stop, the fear and the silence. I remember the sense of betrayal that I felt. I remember wondering what was wrong with me that I had caused him to do this to me. What I don't remember is any blood. This was my first time. I was a virgin.
A few months later, I started working on weekends helping my Daddy at the dairy barn. The first night we had to go to the hay barn to get hay down for the cows to eat the next day. I followed Daddy up the ladder to the loft. He turned his flashlight off. He told me to pull down my pants and to lay across a bale of hay. We were in total darkness. I was scared and disgusted. I knew, without being told, what was going to happen, again. The incest continued to happen an average of two times a week for the next six years. I have many memories from this period of my life---memories that, as an adult, I consciously tried to forget.
Until three years ago, I thought that I had a full memory of the years that the incest was happening. I went to visit an aunt who is a year older than I am. My aunt lives in Dallas, TX. My husband took our children to the Book Depository Museum from which Lee Harvey Oswalt was supposed to have shot President John Kennedy. When my husband walked into my aunt's house, he and our children were talking about the Museum. My husband asked my aunt and I where we were the day the President was shot in 1963. I said that I was in my 7th grade science class. My aunt looked at me and said that she and my grandmother were living with my family at that time. I looked at her and asked her to repeat what she had just said. I was shocked. I remember several times when we were children that she and my grandmother lived with us. I have absolutely no memory of them living with us at that time. I was confused and very frightened. If I didn't remember this, what else did I not remember?
My memories, or lack of those memories, remains a mystery to me. The pieces of the puzzle are slowly falling into place. Three years ago, because of some paintings that I did, a counselor told me that I was probably as young as eight or nine years old when the incest began. Two months ago, while I was sitting in my Incest Survivor Group listening to someone else talking, I suddenly heard a child's voice inside my head. She shouted, "Something happened when you were seven years old!" I still don't know what happened, but I believe my feelings that tell me that something of importance did happen.
Three weeks ago, I told my story for the first time. My story was told to a mixed group of men and women from several different recovery groups. Because I wanted to hear my own story, I taped it. I knew I wouldn't remember half of what I said to the group. I listened to the tape twice alone at home. The third time I played the tape was for my Incest Survivor Group and one of my counselors. Because this was a safe environment, I was able to hear a sentence that I hadn't heard myself say before. What I said was that at a very young age, I had labeled myself as an adultress. As I heard myself say this on the tape, a picture from my past came to mind. I was sitting in church with my grandmother listening to the preacher talk about adultery. I was three years old when I first labeled myself as an adultress. The sexual abuse was already happening in order for me to attach the label of adultress to myself. I don't have any memories of this happening, but why would a three-year-old attach that label to herself unless, in her own mind, it fit the circumstances she was living in?
Two weeks ago, at an ACA meeting, I was talking about labeling myself an adultress at the age of three. A person in the group pointed out that I wasn't married so I couldn't be an adultree at the age of three. That person said the label should have been fornicator instead of adultress.
The Webster's Encyclopedia of Dictionaries gives the two following definitions:
"Adultery---violation of the marriage vows."
"Fornication---sexual intercourse between unmarried persons."
As an Incest Survivor, I am not guilty of being an adultress or a fornicator. I was forced into a sexual relationship that was not of my choosing. I was the victim. I am now a Survivor who refuses to believe the lies she was told as a child. I know that I was not a three-year-old-adultress.
I was a victim of the adults in my life. As an adult, instead of punishing myself for something that was never my fault, I can celebrate each day of my life. I have the new found freedom to experience joy, laughter, and serenity. I can now allow myself to experience all of my emotions, including my fear and anger. As a Survivor, I am learning to take care of myself. As I grow in strength and become more open to life, more memories may surface.
I am learning what courage is. Courage is being afraid and doing the work anyway. Dealing with the pain, fear and anger of recovery takes courage. I don't know where this story will end for me. I do know I am willing to make the journey because in the end, I will be a better person.
Also, by sharing my story with you, I may give you the awareness that the adults in my life didn't have. If you can do something to prevent a child being abused, please do it. A child may not be able to ask for help. They are often afraid to say anything if they have already been betrayed by an adult that they trusted. As an adult, don't be afraid to get involved. If you think something is wrong, please ask the child. As a child, I couldn't tell anyone what my dad was doing. I didn't think anyone would believe me. I often prayed that some caring adult would ask me if something was wrong. Then I could break the code of silence that I was taught by my abusers. Don't ignore the signs of abuse. Protect our children."
Even back in 1991, I knew that I would some day be writing about my abuse in order to help others. This past week, 5 of my email subscribers unsubscribed while I gained at least that many or more new subscribers through the feed readers. I am always sad to see any of my readers leave. I am always pleased to see new readers come along. Thank you to both for joining in on my journey, even if it is for just a short time.
I know that what I am writing about is difficult to read. Without breaking the silence of abuse, nothing and nobody changes. Holding it all inside, silently suffering keeps you a victim. Sharing with others makes this burden easier to bear until it turns itself around and becomes a blessing. You may ask, how does incest become a blessing? The blessing comes from the strength and compassion that I have today that I might not would have if not for my experiences of the past.