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03 August 2010 @ 06:25 pm
Of Truth and Lies  
I expect some arrows to come my way in relation to my memoir writing. I wasn't prepared for the collateral damage.

I get that people don't necessarily understand why I feel driven to write about the past. We live in a climate of "just let it go" and "move on." It's tempting to see the memoirist as obsessed about the past, a bitter person out for revenge.

If that's what my project were about, I wouldn't be writing. Really, I have moved on and revisiting this era of my life is painful and intensely unpleasant, more than I even imagined it would be.

If all I wanted to do was a hit piece on my ex, like the archetypal bitter ex-wife, I'd be done by now. What I'm doing is so much more complicated than that. I'm trying to demonstrate why battered women stay. I'm trying to encourage battered women of the future to leave sooner, and men who batter to get help for themselves.

To do so, I have to portray both myself and my ex-husband in all of our complexity, good and bad. I have to show my own low-self esteem and fear of abandonment. I have to show his moments of compassion, caring, and grief, in order to humanize him.

I am sure that for his adult children, it is hard to hear some of these things about a man who has always been very careful about the face he presents to the public and even to his children. I remember one of my daughter's half-siblings saw a picture I had of him from before I met him. He was extremely thin in this picture, and as I gave it to her I said, "He told me that he was doing a lot of speed back when this was taken."

Later I heard that she asked him about that and he said something like, "Not everything she says about me is true."

It's easy to dismiss accounts from ex-wives or ex-employees. They are supposed to be bitter and out to "get" the guy. Well, any of us might be exes someday. Will we automatically become liars?

One of the things I am bitter about is the molestation my daughter suffered when she visited her father one summer. I am bitter that it happened and just as bitter that he has never owned up to it, casting her as a liar to her half-siblings. I am sad that her sisters don't know how much she cared about their safety and well being. She braved seeing her father again as a teen so she could spend time with them and make sure they were safe. He was the last person in the world she ever wanted to see again--but she did it for them.

One sister told her: "He never did anything to us."

When my daughter told me this I replied, "Yes, because you told! You kept them safe by speaking out, by letting him know that kids will tell.

Someone once asked, "Well, if it only happened that once, and was so brief, I don't understand why it should affect her so much."

Yes, why is that? For anyone who hasn't been molested, by a parent, maybe it seems like you can just dust yourself off, avoid that person, and go on with your life. It's not like violent rape, after all.

No, incest has its own unique set of wounds. If you are violently raped by a stranger, that brings its own set of traumatic stress symptoms. If you are touched, even once, by a parent in a way you shouldn't be, it rocks your world in many ways that may not be obvious to others.

You worry that it will happen again. You worry that if you tell, you will lose whatever positive things you get from this parent and be forever rejected. You wish with all your heart that it didn't happen and things could go back to normal. You feel the intense shame of breaking one of our most serious taboos and wonder how your parent could have thought you wanted that. Did you look like you did? You have nightmares, you can't act normal around men (or women, if your abuser was a woman), who are now people to be feared. You can't trust people the way you did before. Anyone could have a monster beneath their skin. You can't trust your own instincts about people because you didn't see this coming. You can't forget it no matter how hard you try to bury it in your mind, and with the memory your skin crawls. You may become angry and hide the softer, more caring and vulnerable side of yourself, the side that couldn't protect you.

If the abuse is ongoing, life truly becomes a nightmare.

My daughter managed to avoid being abused again that summer by burying herself in the old couch they had and avoiding being alone with her dad. She tried to run away. She tried to tell me she needed to come home but her father was right there so she couldn't tell me why.

"It was like every day you have to stand in front of a firing squad and you expect to die, but they don't shoot you." My daughter explained as best she could the constant feeling of being on guard.

When she got home, she stormed into our apartment to the bedroom, shouting, "I'm never going back there!

I assured her I wouldn't make her go if she didn't want to and tried to find out why. She wasn't telling. I asked my son, and he didn't know either. A few months later, she finally told me. I was in shock.

I can understand how hard it is for those who know Mahasraya to wrap their minds around the idea that he molested his daughter. I had the same problem in spite of being abused by him! One thing didn't seem related to the other. But the truth of my daughter's story pierced my denial. The way she reluctantly told me, the halting, sad voice and the apparent hurt and shame on her face broke my heart. I independently verified one element of her story, that my friend's daughter woke up and cried and that gave my daughter the chance to pretend that she was waking up and to stretch and move away from his hand. My friend drove her up there and she was staying in a camper or something, I can't remember now. But it was close enough that her daughter's cry was heard. (My friend asked Mahasraya if he did this and he chose not to reply.)

We made the report to CPS. We discussed pressing charges but they said in cases with no physical evidence, involving two states (it took place in Oregon; we lived in California), it was unlikely that it would be prosecuted. So we made do with counseling and we searched for closure. My daughter's school problems intensified greatly and I spent the next few years trying to get her to school, get her to stay in school, and to help her learn. She had changed from an apparently caring but mischievous child to an angry child with a tough-girl facade. She was labeled "oppositional." She was fighting for her life, internally, and even mental health professionals couldn't see the vulnerability she buried so successfully. These days I see that soft side of her with her children, so I know it's still there.

I chose at that point to cooperate with the child support people. I had given them minimal cooperation previously, not wanting to cause ill will that might interfere with the relationship between the children and their father. Now I felt I had nothing to lose and Lord knows I needed some help paying for counseling and tutoring.

A judgment was made that he should pay $58.00 for child support. Our mutual friend told me that he fled to Hawaii to avoid paying it. Our kids deserved better than that.

I am angry about how my daughter has been treated. If Mahasraya has changed, if he has put these kinds of behaviors behind him, great, but if he's truly changed he will own up to his behavior with his family so they no longer brand their half sister a liar. Otherwise, he is the one living a lie.

One of my daughter's half siblings unfriended her on Facebook today. I had commented on some new pics of my granddaughter and perhaps that made her uncomfortable. Facebook can put you in close proximity with people you often would prefer not to be that close to. I get that. But I hope her sister will give her a break and talk to her in person about these issues rather than go silent. My daughter is not responsible for what I write (though she has given me permission to write about the molestation).
 
 
 
Life Is Change, Princessdangerpudding on August 4th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
As the daughter in a similar situation, reading your side of this is incredibly useful and in some ways healing for me. My mom isn't so great at expressing herself, especially around those issues, but her actions at the time and since were very similar to yours. It's helpful to have a window into something that might be similar to her internal processing around all of it, as I (eternally) deal with my side of it.

Thank you.
Tapatitapati on August 4th, 2010 02:12 am (UTC)
I think it is much like any injury to your child--they are the primary injured but there are many secondary wounds that we carry. Anything that hurts your child hurts you.

I am sorry that you both had to go through that. It's hell on earth.

I'm glad my account can serve some purpose besides venting and defending my daughter. :)
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on August 4th, 2010 02:24 am (UTC)
We live in a climate of "just let it go" and "move on."

Indeed. In panic disorder therapy we were encouraged to "develop the teflon mind". It's a great idea in theory, but in practice it just plain sucks, imho. (btw did I ever tell you that I found out my aversion to forgiveness stems from my adhd?? go figure!)

Later I heard that she asked him about that and he said something like, "Not everything she says about me is true."

Yes. David drilled it into Thomas and Tayler's heads that I would never tell them the truth about anything. I wonder sometimes if this is why I have so much trouble with Thomas now - and his mental disabilities compound that? Thank the gods Tayler grew up and figured out that his dad is often very wrong.

Someone once asked, "Well, if it only happened that once, and was so brief, I don't understand why it should affect her so much."

Statements like this shouldn't surprise me, but it did. Jeeze.

(though she has given me permission to write about the molestation)

Good!
Tapatitapati on August 4th, 2010 09:45 am (UTC)
That bit about it only happening once just floored me at the time. I mean, seriously?

This blog put a lot into perspective for me: http://svasti.wordpress.com/

This amazing young woman was beaten one night by someone she thought she knew and trusted. It's taken her the past five years to begin to recover from it. This struck me, reading her journey, because I am often hard on myself for having been so strongly affected for so many years by the abuse. Then here is this woman who is obviously bright and talented and normally highly functional, just knocked right down by one violent incident. It made me realize that because these things aren't NORMAL, OF COURSE they profoundly injure our body and our psyche! We shouldn't imagine that we'll be back to normal We are not likely to ever be normal again. We'll always have that scar, that jerk to attention at a trigger, that sensitivity to others who are wounded, that hole in our self esteem.

I realized that of course, being traumatized over and over and over, more times than I can count, took its toll on my body and mind.

But yes, just ONCE can blow a hole in your life and set it on a whole different course. And that few minutes? That seemed like a lifetime to a terrified 8 year old (yes she was just 8) far away from her mom for the first time, not knowing who to turn to for help.

I'm glad you're getting some help, Mari. I've been wondering how you were doing.
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on August 4th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
yeah I've tried to explain to people that there are things that you just never can get over and that the things that happened to me during my marriage will likely be with me the rest of my life no matter how much therapy and treatment i get. panic group therapist drilled it into our heads that ONE single trauma changes our brain chemistry forever - i hadn't known that but have researched since and it makes so much sense!

trauma is like depression. unless people have been there, they're clueless. because they just can't know.

i ramp up to 20mg prozac tomorrow.
Tapatitapati on August 4th, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
I think that over time we get better at living with the effects of our abuse, but those effects don't completely go away. I will say the PTSD symptoms gradually lightened up over the years.
danaewintersdanaewinters on August 4th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
I understand where you're coming from. That's one of the things I dislike about Facebook too - ever since my page got swarmed with family (some of which had been fairly estranged), I've been incredibly guarded on there. They don't know I'm bi, don't know of the acting roles I've done, and even those that do know of the more severe abuse in my past (rape, abuse, etc.) don't want to hear it - they want to will it away, like most people in our family were taught to do. I think it's incredibly brave that you continue to be so open about your past in the memoir...far more brave than I, who rely on the security blanket of LJ's anonymity to tell my story.
Tapatitapati on August 4th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I think that because I grew up in a family with so many secrets and so much hypocrisy, I developed a knee jerk reaction to secret-keeping. Sure, some secrets ought to be kept if they protect people and someone needs privacy to heal. I may not tell everything openly. But most things, for me, are just part of who I am and what I experienced. In the case of my ex, the shame is his, not mine. Those who don't want to hear about it can stop reading. :)

Most of my family is already not speaking to me. Oh well.