When I was a little girl I assumed that once I grew up I would fall in love with a very nice man who loved me deeply and who would cherish me. I was certain that I would be happily married for 56 years. After all, that was how long my maternal grandma and grandpa were married and I knew he loved her still many years after she died. I knew that because I went to stay with him one summer and heard him talking to her as he was getting ready for bed. I saw my mom and dad many times playful and loving with each other and one day wanted that for me.
As a young girl, one cold November night my plans were interrupted. My father entered my bedroom and systematically destroyed the me that I was becoming. From that time on, I lived in fear and anguish until I ran away from home at the age of 18. I took with me an entirely different set of rules and expectations from the naïve child I had once been, by-products of what my father had done that had the potential to damage me forever. I wanted desperately to be loved and accepted only now I had imprinted in my psyche new beliefs. They included: I was homely and willing to accept anyone who wanted to be with me no matter what kind of problems they brought with them, I wasn’t sure I wanted children as they might turn out homely like me, the only value I had was in my sexuality and the worst one of all, I was no good and unclean and therefore deserved little of value. I knew this last part was true as that’s how my father always referred to me since I had been thirteen years of age.
What heavy baggage this was for a young girl to carry with her as she entered adulthood. Then there were the subliminal messages: It’s okay to sleep with a married man, using your sexuality to gain love was okay, the more sex you got the better you felt about yourself and others of varying shades of untruth. I had literally been programed to acquire a belief system at an early age that wasn’t mine. It was only destined to bring me more shame, something I had been piling into my memory bank since that dreadful night when my innocence was ruptured and lost forever.
So I did the only thing that seemed right to me at the time. I married the first man I kissed, the first man who said he loved me. Something inside of me knew that, as he was an alcoholic, I was putting my neck in a noose, but I had been burying truths for so many years what was one more. I became addicted to sex, hence the birth of four children in three years. When a friend of my husband raped me I began having an affair with him. What did it matter? I was so filled with shame already. In my twisted and tortuous mind getting raped was in some way tied to that cold November night when I was thirteen and the father I loved more than anyone in the world raped me. It meant acceptance. It meant this is all I deserved.
When that marriage broke up I married someone old enough to be my father. I didn’t love him but he loved me and that’s what counted. He too was an alcoholic but what did that matter. He was willing to take care of me and waiting for someone to rescue me (which is very common for child sexual abuse victims) was another part of my belief system. Only this one didn’t rescue me. He took my still fragile innocence and damaged it further through cheating on me, beating me up and living in bars. My shame increased. If he cheated on me and spent all his time in the bars I must be even more no good and unclean than I thought I was.
Eventually that marriage too fell apart. No wonder. I was so tired of being with someone I couldn’t trust. Now began twelve years of single life. They were filled with too much sex, affairs with married men, too much partying, too many abusive relationships. All of these only accented my low self-esteem and piled more and more shame into that part of me that was no longer innocent.
When the only good guy who had ever loved me came along I was too damaged to recognize that I deserved him. When he died of cancer a year after we became engaged, that too was surely my fault. Finally entered the worst abuser I had ever known. He wasn’t an alcoholic but he was sadistic, a sex addict and I became seriously addicted to not only him but the games he played. All of this prompted me to get into recovery.
You might be asking yourselves, Why is she once again subjecting us to her dreary past? Because in my dreary past are hidden so many clues to puzzles, so many threads followed that unlock all the secrets to getting well. Today, if you know someone who is in a domestic violence situation, someone who sleeps around, someone who can’t stay faithful, rather than earning your contempt think about what must have happened to them when they were younger.
I believe that we are all born innocent and good. If we, as an adult, turn out to be not so innocent and good, more times than not, it is the result of being victimized at some time in our youth. Our bodies don’t automatically crave sex. There isn’t a “sex” gene that we inherited from one of our parents. A reason exists behind the destructive behavior that promiscuity and infidelity brings. I am convinced that when we are born we are pure; we are uncorrupted. No stain of infidelity or promiscuity lies on our soul. We are not liars or cheats. We don’t steal or treat others in a cruel manner. These qualities are a direct result of being violated. We don’t even know how to lie or cheat, to be cruel or lacking in trust. We have to be taught. Rodgers and Hammerstein, that great combination of song writing genius, wrote a song in the fifties with lyrics that went partially like this:
You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your deal little ear, You’ve got to be carefully taught.
How very true. But we can also be taught to love, to be courageous, to be honest and strong charactered. This is what most of us strive for. And, if in our childhood, we ran into the iron fist of child abuse, we can re-teach ourselves to be all that we want to be. We can REPAIR the damage.