Posts tagged ‘child abuse’

07/05/2013

Very short blog today. Mostly a question actually…

I have this idea, that maybe I should record videos of what I’m going through right now. Sort of show people what I’m coping with, what caused it, how it manifests, the stages I go through and how I finally end up dealing with it. Think of it as “This Girls Guide to Surviving PTSD Caused by a History of Childhood Sexual-Abuse.” I’m going through Hell right now, and I want it to be for something, but my getting better doesn’t feel like enough. I sort of feel like there should be something more at the end of all this than just having more peace with myself.

So the question is this, do you as my reader feel that this is something I should do? Straight question so please feel free to give a straight answer. All answers will be read, and replied to. I need to ask this now because for this to be valid if I do it I have to start pretty much today. These videos will be recorded, and dated. But not edited or uploaded for a while, until I feel able to cope with the seething mess of YouTube.

And with that I am off to town for a day with my best friend. Bye, bye.

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27/04/2013

Anxiety is not a reason to feel guilty.

When you’re going through a lot sometimes the smallest of things can make a huge difference, and I am going through a lot right now. My period of extreme physical ill-health rolls ever onward. But on top of that, as I mentioned in my last post, my past has finally caught up with me. I find myself struggling each and every day with immense anxiety, fear, and both flashbacks and panic-attacks triggered by the most random of things. You know, things like a guy whistling in a certain way, the smell of a certain brand of cigarettes, and the sight of a Ford frikkin Granada.

Now I’m a pretty smart cookie, even if I still don’t understand how time-zones work, but I keep finding myself falling in to the most insidious of traps laid by emotional health-issues, guilt. Of course being born, and bred in Ireland at the tail end of the rule of Catholicism over the Irish gave me a really excellent head-start in turning feeling guilt in to an art-form.  I can feel guilty over, well just about anything.

Watched a movie? Guilty because I didn’t walk the dogs instead, never mind that they’ve been walked already.

Lay awake all last night because my stomach hurt too much to sleep? Guilt because I slept late in the morning, or guilt over being a zombie for the day.

Guilt is silly, random, and not healthy. I mean don’t get me wrong, if you murder someone you better be experiencing feelings of guilt. But feeling guilty over not sleeping, or for kissing someone, or for enjoying a few hours of a computer game? Yeah that’s not only dumb, it’s just not healthy.

But when you’re physically or emotionally at the end of your tether, it’s all too easy to plunge in to truly unhealthy guilt. Guilt for not being 100%. Guilt for being a burden. Guilt for being bad company. For being grouchy. For not being the partner they deserve. For needing to be helped.

Yesterday morning I needed my Partner in Crime to wash my hair for me. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had in weeks. Sensual, and loving, and gentle, and just…wonderful. She did it for me because she knows I HATE washing my hair over the bath, and because she knew I’d spent the entire night awake, on the toilet. I just couldn’t do it for myself. And all day I felt utterly wracked with guilt because it was her doing it for me, not me for her. Because I needed to be helped, when I’m supposed to be the one…well anyway last night a friend posted this on her Facebook wall…

guilt

I’m not depressed, though Goddesses know I would be entitled to feel that way at this stage. I’m also not schizophrenic, I mean I’m pretty sure I’m not. But I sure as Hell am anxious, and that image is right. I shouldn’t feel guilt over anything I’ve done, I’ve done nothing wrong. I shouldn’t feel guilt over anything I’ve felt. And I shouldn’t feel guilty for needing help.

The simple truth is I’ve been too strong for my own good for far too long, and now when my body is at the lowest ebb it’s ever seen the emotional damage a childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood inflicted on me has finally caught up. And that’s nothing to feel guilty about either. The guilt won’t vanish overnight. Like the scars my heart carries, it will take time to find the causes, and root them out. But even recognising that I feel this way, and that I don’t need to, is a large step in the right direction.

And that’s the key to getting better. Taking each small step, one by one on the road to getting back to being me.

23/04/2013

So who exactly am I?

Lately this is a question that’s been on my mind, and for once thankfully it’s not a question which is related to my gender, after all I’ve already mostly answered “What am I?” pretty well. It’s a question that’s cropped up now, because I find myself going through a period of very intense emotional upheaval. I’ve spoken before of my history of childhood sexual abuse, well no matter how well you’ve dealt with it in the past, that sort of history is always waiting in the long grass for a chance to pop up, and at the very least make your life extraordinarily difficult. And that’s pretty much what it’s doing to me these days, it’s kind of hard to walk the dog for instance when you’re sitting with your head in your hands, sobbing through a truly enormous snot-bubble.

But it did lead me to wonder if we ever really know who we are.

I can give examples of who I am. Sort of personalised stereotypes to show who I am as a sort of “what I am”. But that just leaves me wondering which of them is the real me.

Some of your reading this know me by my real name. I write with a pen-name, though not to protect my secret identity from my evil arch-nemesis. You see the real me likes being a writer, likes the feeling of accomplishment when a piece is finished, loves dreaming up the stories and articles. But she doesn’t particularly like the process of writing. It involves far too much of things like punctuation, grammar, and hard work. No she would much rather do the daydreaming part, while she plays with her dogs, makes love to her partner, and plays Borderlands on her Xbox. To her writing or drawing are simply a way to be what she really likes being, a storyteller. So Amanda Harper was born, or created, or always existed but needed a chance to come forth…uh yeah, it all gets sort of meta here.

Basically Amanda Harper is a part of me, in the same way that I’m sure deep down Indiana Jones is an unexpressed part of Harrison Ford. She’s me but a different expression of me. If that makes sense.

And she’s not the only one.

There’s the me who was a Scout, who’s really good at map and compass navigation, and the sort of stuff that Bear Grylls would find fun. She took it all frightfully seriously, and did all sorts of advanced courses in everything.

Then there’s the me who was a moderately successful rock-climber for much of her teens and early twenties. Rock-climbing is, (like many sports) a manifestly silly pass time, (golf anyone?) and the me now sometimes finds herself a gibbering wreck at some of the risks I took. I wasn’t a stupid risk taker. I almost never climbed without proper safety equipment. I was careful to only stretch my skills to their limits, not for me the climbing 3 grades above my skill level and finding myself falling head first for a mouthful of gravel, or stones, or stunned climbing partner. No instead I usually put my safety line in the hands of the least reliable creature known to humanity, the teenage boy. You know the ones who can look at a blank wall and still find on it a reason to be distracted by an erection. Man, I should be dead.

And they’re far from alone.

Probably the most important one is the shield-bearer. The shield-bearer is the one who appeared when I was being raped. She was strong enough to fight, strong enough to not have her mind shredded, strong enough not to show weakness, while the rest of me huddled in a quiet corner of my mind, and did its best impression of a gibbering wreck.

The thing is that they’re not separate, or split personalities. They’re more like masks, pulled on when needed, so I can do what I needed to do.

Need to be fearless, the climber.

Need to be reliable, the scout.

Need to be badass, the shield-bearer.

Need to write a book, Amanda.

Need to beat Halo (again), geeky me.

But these days I find myself wondering sometimes which of them, if any, is the realest version me. They’re all real, they’re all me, but one of them must be more…me…I think that makes sense. And lately I’m starting to think that the hurt, frightened, crying 8 year-old girl in the wrong body. The one who was betrayed again and again, who was abuse body and mind. The one who still sits inside of me crying her heart out for herself, when she isn’t shaking in fear of the people she loves being hurt the same way she was. That one. I wonder if really she’s the realest me of all.

So who exactly am I?

I don’t know if I can answer that question. I don’t know if there is a singular answer. I guess there’s probably lots of versions of me, all facets of a hidden core personality. But I suppose I shouldn’t worry about it, maybe if I could answer it life wouldn’t be so much fun. I should probably just enjoy wearing all the masks that are all different and yet still all true to me.

Hmm, not a lot of sense in this article. Maybe I should try this again after I’ve healed.

15/09/2012

Being an Abuser Survivor – They’re both dead.

I found out last Wednesday that the last of my abusers had died.

I found out when my mother rang my Partner in Crime to let her know. She rang my PiC because my mom doesn’t really know me anymore, and wanted to know whether to tell me or not.

That thought actually showed a lot of good sense from my mom. Even though it’s almost 20 years since the last time my abusers touched me, they still have an immense impact on my day-to-day life. For twenty years I’ve sort of peeked around each corner to make sure they weren’t coming the other way. Where ever I am I do my best to make sure that not only do I sit where I can see the whole room, but also that my back is to a corner. I truly believe in fighting or fleeing from a highly defensive position, because of them.

What they did to me echoes in so much of what I do every day.

The first died about a decade ago of AIDS. You can not begin to imagine how many HIV tests I’ve had in the past 20 years. Even though I know I’m clear when I think about it I feel the almost overwhelming need to have myself tested again, just to make sure. But anyway, the first one died long ago, and when he did I felt nothing but relief. One less threat to me in the world, I even got to enjoy the compensation that his death was probably rather hard. Though probably not nearly hard enough.

The second? He died in his sleep. Bastard.

So you’d think I would feel relief. And I do, a lot of relief. I feel like I can breathe properly for the first time in my adult life. But, unfortunately, that’s not where what I feel ends. Not even close.

Being the victim of child sex abuse is a life sentence, with short of an early death, no chance of parole. And learning that they’ve both died has just reopened every single wound. All of them. They’ve never healed, it’s probable they never will. They just scab over a little, and I can sort of pretend they’re not there for a little while, until something new reopens them. Well this has not so much reopened them as ripped them apart. And when those wounds are open the memories come pouring out. And those are not the soft, vague memories of every day life. No, they’re the “Oh my Gods it’s being done to me again.” memories of the abuse victim. The memories that come with the complete set of sights, smells, sounds, and physical feelings. They come with other things too.

I’m having nightmares I haven’t had in years. Nightmares I’d hoped never to have to cope with again

I’m scared to leave my home again. I, 34-year-old Amanda, know they’re both gone, but try telling that to the 8-year-old version of me who’s hiding in her wardrobe.

I don’t feel like eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising, reading, or really anything else.

I’m forcing myself through the motions because I know if I do it for long enough I’ll come back out the other side. The only reason I know this will work for me is because I’ve done it before, many, many times before.

But I will get through this.However, contrary to what most people seem to believe, I will never get over it. It doesn’t work that way. You never get over it. You just fight through to the other side, and survive. Because that’s what even living well post-abuse is, survival, and survival is an ongoing day-to-day struggle. And in that unending struggle I do have one big advantage. I really, truly hate to lose. And I will not let those two creatures win.

And if there is an afterlife, you two fuckers better prepare yourselves. Cause sooner or later, I’m coming for ye. And I will be smiling when I do.

25/02/2012

Being an abuse survivor. Part 3. How it happened to me.

(The following article is written from a very a personal view-point, and should be read as such.)

These posts are taking more time to get up than I had expected, so I apologise for the delays. It turns out that for all their brevity they’re exceedingly difficult for me to write. That being the case your patience is much appreciated. Well anyway in my previous post I said that I would speak a little about how I believe I came to be in the sights of a pair of sexual predators.

I was first abused when I was 9ish (the precise age I was is very hazy to me, probably a good example of a mental self-defense mechanism in operation, but a pain in the arse when writing these articles.) But the grooming began a few years earlier. I’ll go into detail on how that was performed in a later post, but it’s sufficient for now that you understand that a child is rarely just picked up and abused. There’s usually a prolonged period of breaking the child down until they can be abused with minimal risk of them telling anyone.

There are three things which I believe contributed directly to my being targeted.

1: I am transgendered, and even at that young an age I was painfully, and I am told often visibly, uncomfortable in my own skin, and my own life.

2: I was bullied physically in school by older children. Despite always being tall, and strong for my age I was as a child extremely gentle. I preferred to avoid all confrontations when possible, worse I was very study minded. For example, I went into secondary school already knowing the entire science syllabus for the next two years by heart. So of course what a perfect target for school yard bullies. A fact that brought me to the attention of the teachers in my primary school, one of whom would be one of my abusers.

3: I came from a family which had moved towns three times in the previous five years. This meant that I had yet to make any close friends, or even learn how to make such friends, and so was almost always lonely.

Take those three facts from my life. Add to them a primary teacher with 30 years of experience in almost reading the thoughts of young children. And as it turns out 30 years experience of picking out just the right child to groom for future abuse. Take all that, and put them together, what do you have? The starting point for a ruined childhood, a shattered teenage years, and very nearly a life utterly destroyed.

In the next part I want to explain what grooming is in more detail, and show how it was performed to break me down until I felt more alone than ever before, or again.

Link to Part 1.

Link to Part 2.

04/02/2012

Being an abuse survivor. Part 2. It can happen to anyone.

(The following article is written from a very a personal view point, and should be read as such.)

The most horrifying part of being abused is how alone it makes you feel. You’re absolutely certain that you’re the only person in the world it’s happening to. What’s worse is that it’s happening to you because there’s something about you that makes you special, makes you cursed, in all the wrong sorts of ways.

I can so clearly remember feeling this way, back when I was being sexually abused. I was so certain that what was happening to me couldn’t possibly be happening to anyone else. The world simply could not be such a horrible place as to allow that. Of course this was back in the early to mid 90’s when the full horror of the sex abuse which we now know was, and possibly still is, rampant in Ireland had yet to be revealed. It was those revelations which would finally lifted the lid on one of the dirty little secrets of childhood sexual, and physical abuse.

It can happen to anyone.

While it’s more likely that a child from a deprived background will be targeted, in truth abusers don’t care. If a child can be groomed, can be brought to that place of loneliness, fear, and vulnerability where they will accept being abused, then the abuser will do so. Regardless of that child’s background. Over the years I’ve known child abuse survivors who came from wealthy families, I’ve known survivors who came from the most deprived of backgrounds, I’ve known survivors who have learning, and physical disabilities.

So again, it can happen to anyone. Station is no real defence.

Realising, and accepting this fact can be a key step in becoming a survivor, rather than simply living as a victim. Simply because it can be the step that strips away the illusion that you were cursed. It can be the first step in comprehending one simple fact. Abusers are opportunitistic predators. They will take any opportunity that might even possibly lead to their being able to feed their appetites. And you were unfortunate enough to be in the line of sight when something about you pinged their radar.

It can happen to anyone, because the dumb bad luck of being in a predators line of sight at the wrong moment, or often moments, quite simply obeys the laws of probability.

In the next part I’m going to go extremely personal, and delve into how I believe I came to be targeted by my childhood abusers.

Link to Part 1.

Link to Part 3

21/01/2012

Being an abuse survivor. Part 1. Admission.

I held off on writing this series of articles for a full year for many reasons. Because I wanted to be sure I would stick with my blog. Because I wanted to mature a little as a writer so I could do this subject justice. But mostly because I wasn’t ready yet. Well I am now.

I was abused as a child. Sexually by senior figures in the Irish Scouting community. Emotionally by my father. And physically in school.

There, that’s the admission made. But some of you have to be asking yourselves “Why is she writing this? It’s not like she has to.”

Actually I do. I feel there is a duty on those who succeeded in being survivors, not just victims, to pass on their stories, and what they’ve learned in becoming a survivor to those around them. A duty to pass on anything which might allow someone else to feel more peace with their own experiences. A duty to share information which might help a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a friend or anyone else to save a child from a youth spent in locked in a living hell.

But as with anything of this nature the first step is the admission.

This happened.

I am this.

I survived this.

I am a survivor.

Over the course of this series of articles I hope to share a little of what happened to me. How I didn’t cope with it back then. How I learned to cope with it over time. How I live with it now. I also intend to pop a few of the myths surrounding a history of abuse when it’s taken next to the future gender and sexuality of the victim. I hope to be able to give a sense of what to look for in young people, so that, perhaps, just perhaps, even one will be helped by my experiences. I have no idea how long this series will run. But I intend to put one up every 2nd Saturday from now until I’m finished.

Link to Part 2.

Link to Part 3.

14/07/2011

The Cloyne report – a few thoughts.

I delayed writing todays post until some of the dust could settle after yesterdays release of the report into child sex abuse in the Cloyne diocese.  This report is one, which has a great impact on me personally.  You see I grew up in that diocese.  I can be absolutely certain that I knew at least one of the priests it refers directly to.  And I believe, strongly believe that it may have missed something crucially important in their investigation.

So to start at the beginning.  While I grew up in the Cloyne diocese and attended a Catholic run school, I of course had massive exposure to the local priesthood and occasional exposure to Bishop Magee.  While the priests by in large were a less than memorable casting call of insignificant men, Bishop Magee seemed, to me at least, to be precisely what a bishop should be.  He seemed to be well read, erudite, incredibly intelligent, charming, compassionate and above all a man with a real connection to his flock.  Well as it turns out  I was mostly right.  Though you would have to remove compassionate and connected, while adding the descriptions cowardly and lying, to that list after yesterdays revelations.

I often think that most of the kids and teenagers in my hometown, had some idea that there was a lot of child abuse happening.  There were a lot of very, messed up young people around us.  But for myself I didn’t have some idea, I knew for certain.  After all I was being abused myself.

I’m not going to go into detail on what happened.  To be clear though, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me.  I changed me forever.  And despite my not being abused by a priest, it has cemented my thinking on this subject.  Why?  Well because one of my abusers was one of those specially chosen lay-people who are called on by the church in their locality to perform specific acts.  Acts such as presenting the Host to the faithful at Mass.

This is where I believe that the Cloyne report may well have missed something.  Not acts by priests but acts of abuse perpetrated by senior members of the laity covered up by abusive priests.

I’ll tell a little story to illustrate.

One of the men who abused me was a primary school teacher, a senior leader in what used to be the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and as I said a layperson who at Mass would give the Host to the congregation.  The latter being an act typically performed by a priest.  He was immensely well-regarded and respected in the local community.  He had also been actively abusing young boys for decades.

One Summer while on camp in West Cork with the scouts, he took myself and five other scouts out to set up some event for later in the day.  On the way back we all dropped by a former senior priest from my home town.  I remember that priest very well, you see he had the most beautiful, gentle and affectionate pedigree Dalmatian.  The dog was adored by most of the children in the town, the priest was widely suspected of interfering with children by the adults.  Over the course of an hour I saw a very close friendship between the man who was abusing me, and a priest whose true identity I am certain, absolutely certain is shrouded under a pseudonym in the Cloyne Report.

In the end the man who was abusing me was eventually caught when he raped a young boy with Down Syndrome, on the grounds of the primary school my brother and I were educated in and went on to serve prison time as a result.   I was never psychologically able to bring forward a case, but we’ll get to that another time.  But the day he was finally imprisoned I cried for hours with relief, you see up until that day I was scared to leave my home most of the time.  In case I would see him.

He was found guilty and imprisoned, during and after the court case, it was widely known that after a police investigation there were dozens of complaints against him.  There was absolutely no doubt as to his guilt.  And yet, during the case, the principal of the primary school, a Christian Brother, and at least one priest of the parish would go on to give testimony applauding his character.

What I fear most from the Cloyne report is not what is now known, it’s what may have been missed in the investigators, completely understandable, tunnel vision.  You see that day in West Cork I learned something important about human beings in general and pedophiles in particular.

Human beings create communities, it’s our great strength as a species.  However, as we all know well from the numberous reports of pedophile rings, they also form communities.  And those communities will usually go to extreme lengths, to protect their own.  So I sit here sickened by the acts of these men, these would be leaders of their faithful, and terrified by that prospect that these abusers may well have hidden the heinous acts of others like themselves, who were not men of the cloth.

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