One of the subject matters that shows up under my searches the most is “signs of abuse”. This is a complicated subject. I’ll start by illustrating what it was like for me. My father raped me when I was thirteen. Prior to that I was happy, confident, sassy, fun loving, close to my father since he had delivered me when I was born and there was no doubt I was his favorite. I thought he was the smartest, best looking, kindest most wonderful father in the world. I even asked him one time why he wasn’t President of the United States. It made perfect sense to me since I had him on such a pedestal.
Then he came into my bedroom one night where I slept on the bottom bunk and raped me. My younger sister slept on the top bunk and my baby sister, who was three years old, slept in a crib next to our bed. That night changed everything in my family. From the next morning on, I trembled a lot, especially my right hand. I cried easily. I was severely depressed and became terrified of my father. I no longer wanted to go to bed because I knew something bad was going to happen in that bedroom. I no longer was confident. I became hyper-vigilant. I began thinking I was homely. I had crooked teeth and, although they hadn’t bothered me before, I now put my hand in front of my face whenever I talked. I cried a lot. I wrote poetry to hide my pain. But I didn’t know why I was in pain or what had happened. I only knew I felt damaged; life was dark and foreboding. A dark cloud covered me, like a heavy blanket I couldn’t throw off.
My mother had discovered what was going on. She had my father drag me out of bed one night so she could interrogate me. I refused to answer her questions. I didn’t know what had happened. I didn’t know where babies came from. I thought you bought them at a hospital. That’s where we’d gotten Jeanne. So I had no answers to tell her what was “going on in that bedroom at night.” She had my father get a belt and beat me until I could no longer take the pain and I told her it wasn’t Daddy’s fault, it was my fault. I still had no idea what I was confessing to. The beating stopped.
My mother began staying in bed, crying hour after hour. My father found another job in a city more than an hour’s drive away and began coming home only on weekends. My mother didn’t fix our breakfast anymore. She put Marine Corps blankets on our windows. When I came home from school to our darkened house, she had me bathe her as I would a child. She had me shave her legs. All of this while she lay in bed and sobbed piteously.
My baby sister began wetting the bed and she could no longer talk except in a baby prattle that no one understood but me. She did this until she was ten. By then my mother had died of cancer. Cancer was only the weapon. Grief turned inward was the cause. My younger sister became sullen and uncommunicative. She grew up to be a severely neurotic woman who was afraid to try anything new, a woman who was suicidal and bi-polar. My two brothers refused to have anything to do with me. They too were suicidal as adults; a neighborhood police officer had sexually abused one of them when he was a teenager. We used to play cards, sing while Dad played the piano, play nighttime games together, listen to Gangbusters and the Lone Ranger on the radio at night while we ate popcorn. Now we walked like zombies, round shouldered and hunched over, trying to raise ourselves.
As I said in my memoir, “My family life reminded me of a camp of mutilated and injured soldiers from some obsolete war, indescribable in its agony. All the figures were shadowy and disoriented, as if only half-alive and that half living in a well of misery. We moved in and out of our days appearing to wait for some catastrophic happening, all of us knowing that once it did, we were ill prepared to handle it.”
Out of this story (which I am pleased to say had a happy ending), we glean the signs of child sexual abuse. If you are beginning recovery, the first thing you need to do is gather evidence. The profile of a child sexual abuse victim can include these symptoms but are not all-inclusive:
· people pleasing and rescuing at an early age,
· excessive need to control,
· obsessive, compulsive behavior,
· low self-esteem,
· weak boundaries,
· unhealthy choices
· neurotic tendencies,
· addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, food and/or relationships,
· eating disorders,
· chronic illness,
· manic-depressive behavior,
· severe depression.
If you are plagued with any of these, please get into recovery. Start by ordering the book, Repair Your Life. There is a book page on my website regarding it with a link to amazon.com which sells them fairly cheaply. Start working that program. I would also suggest checking our website under Chapter Locations to see if we have a Lamplighter Chapter near you that you can join. Call your operator to find the nearest 12-step program near you. I recommend Co-Dependents Anonymous but if you have a problem with alcohol then Alcoholic Anonymous should be your choice. These programs really work. Give them six meetings. By then something magical happens. You realize you are in the right place. If you work the REPAIR program and a 12-step program with it, and work them honestly and diligently, you will one day have a sign on your desk as I did that says, If I had known life was going to turn out this good, I would have started it sooner.
Good luck and contact me at Margie@the Lamplighters.org if you need help.
Our website is at http://www.thelamplighters.org.