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Rule #2 of Child Abuse:

Rule #2 of Child Abuse:

It's Everywhere and Nowhere

I thought my mother was just strict. Sometimes deep down I knew she was overreacting but you can't think that for too long. It'll take hold and you might just find yourself saying it to her. Out loud. And it wouldn't make anything better. No one saw you. No one stepped out to help. 

My mother has undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Most of those with NPD are undiagnosed. They do not accept the fact that they need help. People with NPD use those around them. They use them for emotional validation. They are vampires. They suck their prey until there is nothing left, until the other person is as messed up as they are. My mother kept going back to her parents, trying to build a relationship, trying to get an apology or a reason. She tried to get them to love her, to get us to love them.

We were a good family. Four girls. Smart. Athletic. Well-behaved. Decently good looking. But we were living in a cycle of constant abuse and didn't even know it. My mother would never abuse her children!! She was abused. There was no way she would hit her children with a belt. 

Child abuse is everywhere. 

Child abuse isn't relegated to back alleys and broken limbs. Child abuse isn't perpetrated solely by any class, race, religion, or creed. There is evil in people, evil that doesn't care about sides. Your neighbor drives a nice car, his lawn is mowed, his wife goes to weekly yoga, their children play in the yard. But facades aren't like marble temples, they don't need to last forever. They just have to stand up to the passing interest of outsiders. Because we want to think that nice church going families don't have secrets. 

Child abuse is nowhere. 

I saw an advertisement recently. A child holding onto an adult's hand. The child was smiling. But at a lower level, 45 inches to be precise, the child was bruised and battered and magically 911 and a little blurb appeared entreating the child to ask for help. I would never have called. I wasn't bruised. Not on the outside. I wasn't that little kid. I did well in school. My mother just blew up...a lot. She was the one in power. I thought she knew what she was doing and where the line was. That's why child abuse is nowhere. No one looks for anything but bruises and bleeding and broken bones. If they look at all. 

There's a giant bedazzled blue ribbon on the side of the Colorado State Capitol. There are blue pinwheels all over the entrance to the Denver Zoo. But what do they do? Pretty decorations for school children to ooh and ahh over? They are the trappings of a culture that must publicly acknowledge that it's "that time of the year" without taking any responsibility. They mean nothing and they do nothing and they help no one. 

After all, my mother flew the blue flag too. 

Part 3 Coming Friday

Rule #1 of Child Abuse: It Never Looks Like it Should

Rule #1 of Child Abuse: It Never Looks Like it Should

Rule #1: It Never Looks Like it Should

My Mother: Flyer of the Blue Flag

In the mid 1960s a little girl was born. From outside the family looked normal. The father was career Air Force and the mother did a good impression of a stay-at-home mom. A dark secret lay hidden under a blanket of Catholicism and disinformation. It was a secret that Air Force counsellors passed over when the children came back from the hospital with one too many broken bones. 

My mother told it to me when I was eleven. It was supposed to be this 'coming of age' trip where I learned the truth about her past and my own body. It was horrifying listening to her memories of her childhood. What she spoke about scared me. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Her mothers tacit acceptance of the situation. 

Only when I was much older did I realize the extent of the trauma inflicted. I thought of a scared eleven-year-old girl forced to bear burdens that should have sat on an adult’s shoulders. I was sorry for her. I cried for hours for her, for the loss of her innocence and for the pain. She smiled as I cried. 

She was the victim of child abuse. My mother waved the blue flag, the blue ribbon. After all, April is child abuse prevention month. I thought the blue ribbon meant something to her. It meant that she survived and got out. But our family too held a dark secret. So secret my father didn't even know. 

All the time she flew the blue flag and drove around town with it waving in the wind, tied to the antenna of her car, she was abusing her own children. Oh, but she was smart. There weren't any trips to the emergency room. We did well in school. We were well behaved. But we were tortured. She knew how to buck the system that deserted her.

We never knew when she might blow up. We never knew when the time was ripe for one of her rages. We were always on high alert. It happened once while working on the ranch, she nearly dislocated my hip with the tractor she was driving.

We were terrified. But we loved her. She could be nice and good when it suited her and you wanted to please her, wanted to be good so the pain and suffering would be end. So we could all be happy. 

Part 2 Coming Wednesday