Posts tagged ‘sexual abuse’

23/06/2014

For me it was when I was 4…

…then again at 7, but first time first. We lived in a huge mobile home in a field owned by my grandparents in pretty much the most isolated part of mainland Ireland. It was…okay I guess. I don’t really remember much apart from the dogs. Everybody had a dog. My grandparents had a border collie named Candy, my grand-aunt a border collie named, I don’t remember that makes me sad, I loved that dog. Anyway I had a border collie mix named Charlie, who I found out this year was put down the day we left; he went mad when I went away, and after nearly killing my uncle as they drove home from the train station my uncle was forced to drown my lovely 2-year-old dog so he wouldn’t end up crashing the car. I get it, but I hate it. It says a lot that that dog is still my 2nd clearest memory of Mayo, and that I still miss him 30 years later.

I say second strongest memory because my strongest memory is the time I told my Mom that I was a girl. I can remember standing in the tiny kitchen with her, watching her make scones, and then blurting it out. I was 4, I was already trying to read, already had had so many nightmares that they’d stopped scaring me, and I already knew something had gone horribly wrong with me. My body felt like a loaner. It felt like a stop gap while my real body was being finished. It didn’t feel like it was mine. Oh and it was already becoming sick, I started to have the bowel problems that have plagued my entire life since in those 2 short years in Mayo. But, time to focus on what’s important here; the gender.

So I’d told my Mom I was a girl. You know who liked dogs, and calves, and guns, and building random things, and hid all the time (like a soldier) with my dog in the tall grass at the edges of the field, you know, a girl…with a penis. And her response was…

…nothing.

No response. None at all. Now the fact that my Mom has absolutely memory of this at all makes me think that she actually didn’t hear me. Mom is a very quiet woman, but she’s a noisy baker, so it’s likely that she didn’t. But tell that to a 4-year-old who’s just told her Mom that penis and boy-play-stuff aside, she’s a girl. Yeah it all got put in a small box, locked up tight, and fucked down the deepest darkest part of my psyche. And there it stayed ’til I was 7.

7 was a big year for me. I started Primary School, I had my First Communion…ugh, got my first watch, discovered Virginia Madsen, and got molested for the first time.

The last part would be the part that’s pertinent here. You see I hadn’t had any sexual awakening at that stage. None, at, all. I was a blank sexual state, on a blank gender slate, all balanced on an already geeky as hell slate. So it probably shouldn’t be surprising to me that having my sexual nature activated in just about the worst way possible, against my will, and far too early for me would have a secondary effect. Yup my boxed up gender hit a trampoline somewhere down that deep dark hole, and then it bounced back up into the light of day, walloping me in the teeth, and adding immeasurably to my misery.

I told my Mom again, and again she doesn’t remember this. I don’t remember her response, I don’t even remember if there was a response. But whatever happened when I told her it was almost 2 decades before I would tell her again, this time making sure it stuck. In the mean time I hid who I was. I hid what was being done to me all the time. Well really I hid everything that makes me me.

This is all by way of sharing my early experience of my own gender. Why?

Because the video below shows how to (mostly, and even where she got it wrong it’s totally understandable) get it right if your child ever comes to you with something similar. But how to get it right is summed up best in these words…

Pay attention to what they say, and don’t dismiss it. They know themselves in a way you never will.

http://vimeo.com/user27600859/howtobeagirl

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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.

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.

16/07/2011

A few more thoughts on the clerical abuse of children in Ireland.

I’m worried that something fundamental has been missed in all the dust from both the Cloyne Report and all the previous reports into clerical abuse in Ireland.  These bishops, who took direction to pervert the course of Irish justice, did so on the orders of the ruling head of a foreign nation. Think about that, they ignored Irish law, the law of the nation they supposedly claim citizenship of.  Surely that is an act tantamount to being treasonous. A direct betrayal of the nation and people of Ireland, at the behest of a foreign power.

That being the case perhaps that, is the route to take with non-pedophile leaders within Ireland’s church. Simply strip them of their  Irish citizenship and expel them back to their master in the Vatican city. After seizing any, and all goods belonging to them personally for redistribution to those who their acts have directly harmed.

In addition why have we not officially rebuked the Vatican? Surely a just response to their interference with the internal affairs of another sovereign nation would be to cut all diplomatic ties for a set period of time.  Then if necessary forcibly remove them and their mouth pieces from all positions of authority in our nations system of education?

As for the pedophile priests themselves and in fact all pedophiles, life sentences, life meaning life.  Pedophilia is not a curable illness, they do not get cured. There are cases in the U.S. of convicted pedophiles who have been chemically castrated, self injecting with testosterone to get around their treatment.  That being so they should on conviction be held indefinitely, in a facility capable of keeping them separated from all children, for the rest of their natural lives.

There are those who would say this is an extreme and cruel punishment, well let me say as an abuse survivor, it is not.  Child abuse is murder.  Plain and simple.  The person that child was, the person they might have been is killed over the course of one abusive act.  They will never again be the same.  The person they become will never feel whole and will never be truly okay ever again.  It is the most heinous act that can be perpetrated upon a child.  Actual murder would be almost kind in comparison, at least their suffering is done, but the abuse survivor never stops hurting.  It will often be the first and the last thing they think of each day.  It will prey on their minds, fill them with fear and dread when they go to any location, where they might conceivably see their abuser.  Often they will never lead fulfilling adult lives, often the most normal and natural parts of life, will have been soured and destroyed for them.  And worse still their families will usually suffer the after effects with them.

Every time there is a new revelation about the clerical sex abuse of young children, there is talk about recompense, but little is done beyond a weakly worded letter to the Vatican.  A letter which the Vatican then promptly ignores.  If Ireland wants to be seen as a truly civilised, modern nation, then surely we should be seen to act to protect our children and where justified avenge those who have been failed in the past.  That is what a mature nation should do, protect the young.  While making it clear to the entire world, and any who would shelter those who abuse our children, that if you harm our youths, we won’t respond with a letter.  Instead we will as one united nation, respond in a legally defined way, that will amount to a complete disaster, brought down upon your representatives who perform or cover up any such act.

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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