Monday, March 26, 2012

Memories Of A 19-year-old Incest Survivor

My dad was too much of a dictator who never wanted his kids to be out from under his influence to voice the words, "Do what I say or get out." His words were, "Do what I say or else." The "or else" was left to the imagination. My biggest fear was that "or else" meant a beating or death. In my family of origin, getting out was not an option that we were offered. My dad would have been happy if none of us ever left home.  I would have left home at 17 when I graduated from high school but my parents wouldn't sign for me to go into the Air Force like I wanted to. I couldn't sign up on my own until I was 21 years old. By then, my life had already taken a different path.

So instead of leaving home and going into the Air Force, at 17, I lived at home and rode back and forth every day with my mother to go to a small junior college for the next two years. My mom would drop me off at 7:30 a.m. on her way to work. After classes ended for the day, a friend would drop me off at the place that my mom worked where I would sit in the car and wait until she got off work.  Near the end of my second year, I applied for student loans at the four year college of my choice and as soon as I received confirmation of the loans, I started making plans to leave home.

I had no place to go but I knew that my mental state was so bad that if I didn't leave soon, I would have had a mental breakdown.  I also knew this was my first and only chance to escape my dad's control. He was not going to willingly release me from his control. I had to take drastic steps and run away, even though I was considered an adult at 18 years old.  I ran away at the age of 19, the day after my last tests at the junior college.

Before moving on, I want to revisit my first dates at 19 while I was still living at home. My first date was with a boy that I met at the junior college. I had known this boy since we first met in the 8th grade but my family moved when I was in the 10th grade to another town. I met this boy again in my freshman year of college. We would sit and talk in the student union during breaks between classes. The second year, he asked me out. He came to my home and met my parents before our date.  He and my dad instantly hated each other. They recognised each other as dictators and controllers.  I was allowed to go on that date where I submitted to being sexually abused that night. I wasn't asked if I wanted to be sexual. I didn't say no. I didn't say anything, just like when I was being sexually abused by my dad. I didn't know that I had the right to say no. It just wasn't a choice that I even considered. I had been groomed well by my dad. Even though this boy hurt me physically, I didn't make a sound of any kind just like I had silently endured the sexual abuse of my dad for 6 years. I thought in order for either of them to love me, I had to give in to their sexual demands whether I wanted to or not.

I think that I went on 3 or 4 more dates with this boy but I never asked my dad for permission after the first time. I knew that he would have said no. I had a girlfriend at college who let me come and stay the night with her after the dates with this boy. I don't think my parents ever knew about the other dates. I never told them.

On my first date, this boyfriend took me to his younger sister's house and asked her to give me some of her clothes to wear because he didn't like the pants suit that I had put together for our date.  I was so proud of that pants suit but he didn't like it. I thought I was "in love" because he talked to me and paid attention to me. I couldn't see that in many ways, he was like my dad, holding in rage and wanting someone weaker that he could hurt and control. He made the statement to me, on that first date, that he should just take me away from my dad. I thought it was an odd statement, but I didn't realize that it wasn't about me.  It was about them, not me.  They both thought that they owned me, as a possession, not as a person.  Both wanted to chain me to them and never let me go. 

Only by the grace of God, did that boyfriend not ask me to marry him.  I would have said yes and become a battered wife. On our dates, he never hit me but he did sexual things that he shouldn't have. I was too afraid to say no. He never once asked me to have sex with him. He just assumed that I would go along with whatever it was that he wanted to do and I did because of the incest.  I didn't know what was normal, especially dating normals.  I had never been allowed to say no so I didn't even think about saying no.

Just before I did leave home at 19, God put a lady in my life who gave me a place to live and helped me get my first job until I went off to my 3rd year of college. That lady saved my life. I will put a link to a post that I wrote back in 2007 about this lady at the end of this article.

I knew that if I didn't take the chance to leave right then that I would never have gotten out from under my dad's control. Walking out that door, knowing that I wasn't going back, was the most frightening, most courageous thing that I have ever done in my life.  My dad never intended for any of his children to get out from under his control.  A year or so later, my sister ran away too. I don't know the story of my brother leaving home.  I will have to ask him the next time that we talk.  My sister wasn't as lucky as I was.  She did fall for another abuser - one that verbally and physically beat her for years before she finally walked out.

I had two other dates before I met my husband.  Both of them, unknown to me at the time, were probably well on their way to becoming alcoholics.  I saw one on Facebook in the past few years and he is divorced and totally alone with no responsibilites of family (his words) now.  I thank God that I didn't get in deeper than a few dates with him. 

Until we learn otherwise, we tend to repeat in our adult relationships what we saw and learned from our parents and our relationships with them. Because of my low self-worth from the incest, I could just as easily have married into an abusive relationship like my sister. Thank God that I didn't.  If not for the lady that God put into my life that took me in for those few months before I went away to a four year college, when I left home, I could have easily fallen prey to some sexual predator or gotten into prostitution to feed and clothe myself when I got desperate enough. Instead my life has taken a much different road to where I am today with a kind, generous, stubborn husband of 39 years. (Can't have you thinking he is perfect, he isn't, but neither am I.)  There are so many possibilities that could have lead a different life than the one that I have today if I had never learned that it is okay to say no and to know that I have value other than as a sex object for some man. I grew to realize that sex does not equal love. I have been truly blessed by the many people who have come into my life since I was that 19-year-old incest survivor. Thank you to all of you.

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Colleen said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. You are very courageous. A lot of people do not realize that abuse survivors can easily be abused even as we go into adulthood. We do not know we can say no. We become that little girl again and are unable to defend ourselves. I too was blessed to meet and to marry a man who has respected and loved me for almost 33 years. I thank God for him everyday.

Patricia Singleton said...

Colleen, you are very welcome. That little girl does go on living inside of us and sometimes derails our attempts to have a normal life. She is the fearful one who is afraid of moving forward. I have been blessed by my husband's love and support.

Noelle Picara said...

Really inspiring - thank you so much for sharing your story!

Patricia Singleton said...

Noelle, thank you and you are very welcome.

celesteka said...

Patricia, thank you for taking the time and courage to share your life with us. I feel so connected to you and so loved. You are making such a positive difference in my life. I also had several encounters with addicts and abusive people before I married who I thought was SAFE. It took yrs for me to understand how UNSAFE I was, staying with him.
I am also with a supportive and stubborn husband now and I know God placed him in my life at the exact moment I needed him. I am learning from him to hold myself accountable. For the first time in my life I am faithful and feel good about myself.
Thank you for being here. HUGS

Patricia Singleton said...

Celesteka, you are very welcome. I am glad that I can help. I feel the connection too. Learning to hold ourselves accountable for what is ours is healthy and shows how much we have grown. Hugs to you too. Take care of yourself right now and let the rest of the world take care of itself. Knowing what we are not responsible for is just as healing.