Rule #4: You Can Help and You Should

So you finally figured out you were abused…

Its been eight years since I left home. I stayed longer than I would have liked but when you grow up in a small town and rent prices are more than you can afford while working part-time to pay for school—there aren’t the opportunities.

Its been a year since I realized I was abused. A year since, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, reared its ugly head at long last. It explained my mother. It inserted reason into an insane situation. Since that day I’ve spoken to three outsiders about what my sisters and I were tormented with at home. 

I was left with a hole of pain and grief. I have my own daughter. A box of perfection tied up with a pink bow. All of a sudden I was the survivor of child abuse. Only it didn’t feel as though I was a survivor. It felt like it had only just stopped. It felt like yesterday that I worried whether she’d buy food for lunch or whether I’d be left stranded 30 miles from home or if I’d pass out while she was giving one of her three hour lectures.

We were conditioned, my sisters and I, to believe that this was normal. We were told that other parents were lax and that being locked outside with only a spigot to drink from and no food was normal. After all, a mother does get tired looking after four young girls, she needs time to watch soap operas. I thought all moms were volatile, happy with you one moment and then screaming their heads off the next. The thought everyone was punished the same way. I thought everyone was treated the same way. I thought it was normal to fly off the handle when a cheap figurine on a precarious shelf finally fell and broke. Only they weren’t. I knew this…I’m sure I did. I’m sure I knew that what was happening wasn’t right. But what use was it to buck the system when there’s no escape?

I watched a film about female spies during WWII a little while ago. During the interrogation of a French spy, the Nazi officer makes him kneel on a square wooden dowel, a 1 inch by 1 inch piece. It sounds innocuous but I almost threw up. My mother did the same. Only it was our kitchen floor with its deep groves. Forced to kneel there for an hour (at least)…its terribly difficult to walk afterwards. My sister and I leaned on each other, pulling each other up, hobbling back to our rooms once she decided we were “free to go.” Nazis…and my mother…and children.

I have nightmares that she kidnaps my daughter. I dread even seeing her. I can’t think straight. My mouth goes dry. I want to rail against her and force an explanation from her. I wish we still exiled people like the Ancient Greeks did. 

But mostly I want to forget. I want to purge her from my mind and cast her from my thoughts and tread no longer the sad paths of my youth. I want to be mentally free as I am physically. 

I am reaching towards that goal little by little every day. I try to accept that it happened and I couldn’t do anything about it then. I try to let go of my need for explanations. I try to live in the beautiful moments with my family, because when I am strong and making strides, making my passions a reality, she fades away. What she did fades away. 

I never thought I was strong. I pitted that little girl and I wept for her. But some days it’s her that holds me and whispers that if she could get through those years, then I owe it to her to live well now. 

So, yes, I am a survivor of child abuse. But that isn’t who I am. 

I’m me.

You can help. The way to stop child abuse doesn’t have anything to do with blue pinwheels at a zoo or a shiny gigantic ribbon on the side of a state capitol. Child abuse prevention is about relationships with children, its about love. Love does conquer all. And even if you never “rescue” anyone, you are doing a service beyond count or measure. Invest in a child. Invest in talking to the people around you. Stand up for other people’s rights instead of always worrying about your own.