March 27, 2015

I Have This Memory

I Have This Memory

 

I have this memory. It’s lasted for more than 40 years, and in all those years it hasn’t changed. The part that I remember is sharp, but what surrounds it is cloudy. I want to focus the lens on what happened before and especially what happened afterwards, but I just can’t.

I never told anyone about my sexual abuse until I was in my mid-30’s, when I told my mother.  I had two perpetrators as a little girl.  One was her boyfriend at the time.

Through the years I’d half attempted to find these people. I’d checked sex offender registries and used online searches. Once a year or so I looked them up, never to any avail.

They’ve haunted me for over 40 years.

This is one of my memories…

My little sister and I were with our father for the summer. As far as I remember, instead, he dropped us off with our two older teenage half-sisters, M.L. and S in a tiny travel trailer, parked in a hippie commune. It was in California in the early 70’s and I remember the sounds of Don McLean’s ‘Bye, Bye Miss American Pie’ strummed on the guitar and the smell of patchouli and weed floating in the air.

I was in a bunk bed. I don’t know if I was taking a nap, or if it was night. I’m not sure about my age, perhaps 9 or 10-years-old.

I Have This Memory

If an adult stood beside the bed, they could reach where I was.

He was standing there.

I’m not sure if it was before or after he took me to that private cove on the beach and raped me. I awoke with his hand under the blanket, exploring, touching. I remember freezing and not being able to move. I’m not sure if I was acting as if I was asleep, or if fear, shame or another emotion paralyzed me. Maybe I was afraid to make a noise because I didn’t want to awaken others. Then they would know how disgusting I was.

He didn’t look like a monster, nor did he reek creepiness. He wasn’t a dirty old man. And he wasn’t a stranger. I knew him. The family knew him.

He was the boyfriend of my eldest half-sister S. I don’t know how old he was, but I have recently learned that he was older than S.  He was old enough to have served in Vietnam. He was an adult. A grown man.

I remember other times with him, times when people were around. He always acted as if I was special, had paid attention to me. Had told me how pretty I was and asked if I would be his girlfriend. People laughed and thought it was so sweet and funny when he said that. He once gave me a scarf or a hat, I don’t remember which, but it made me feel so loved. I liked him. I may have even had a childish crush on him.

Pedophiles know which victims to target and groom.

Being desperate for attention and love, I was prime material.

There’s more to that time – that particular memory. I remember my half-sister S calling out to him, asking him what he was doing. I don’t know if she walked into the room, or if she was asleep in the bunk below and woke up. Nor do I remember what happened after that.

That’s it.

She spoke his name while he had his hand on my body.

My recent journey into healing has had me revisit my memories. And I have questions about that time, that particular memory. She spoke his name. Did she know what he was doing? Did she bother to find out? Did she care? Did she think it wasn’t a big deal? Did he lie to her and tell her he was tucking me in? What did she know?

I always wondered.

On my recent visit back to the States circumstances arose which triggered me in a big way, and which made me resume my search for my perpetrators.

I had the full name of my mother’s ex-boyfriend. I finally found him while I was there. I confronted him even, but that’s a story for another post.

Of my half-sister’s ex-boyfriend, I only knew his first name – Raul.

Raul was a grown man and I was around 10 at the time he raped me.  42 years have passed.

There’s this thing about pedophiles. Statistics show that they abuse approximately 250 children in their lifetimes.

Which means in the 42 years that have gone by since Raul raped me, he might have abused another 200 or so children.

God, Goddess, fucking hell and damn. That’s a lot of children.

I am devastated and haunted by this thought. If I had told someone and had him arrested, I might have saved all of those children. I assume and often think that those people are now like me – adults struggling through the after-effects of having been sexually abused.

Did any of them commit suicide? How many turned to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain? Did they develop eating disorders? Do they have relationship issues? Are they functional happy people or are they shells, just waiting for this life to end?

The  guilt is just another horrible thing I have to live with because of what he did to me.

If he’s still alive, and if I’m 52, maybe he’s 67 or a little older.  I think a man in his late 60’s to early 70’s could still be abusing.

I didn’t stop him then, but what if I can do something now?

I decided to take my search to a whole new level.

Easy enough, right? My half-sister must know his last name.

It had been years since I’d seen her or spoken to her. Possibly since around that time. Don’t ask me why. I’m not sure. I do know that she never liked me. She once told my mom when I was a baby that she would kill me if my mom left me with her.

I also hadn’t seen my other half-sister in that many years. I remember this half-sister, M.L., fondly. She had golden, long hair and a big smile. I felt that she always took care of me and cared deeply for me.

I Have This Memory

I had been in contact with M.L. by email for around 10 years, since I moved to South Africa, and I told her Raul abused me. When I went “home” recently to Florida for my sister Lisa’s wedding, M.L. and I decided to meet. It was wonderful seeing her. We spoke about her children and shared some memories. Before the end of the visit I asked if she knew Raul’s last name. I could tell she was uncomfortable and didn’t want to talk about it. I understand that. It’s a terrible thing to discuss and not many people are willing to. She said she didn’t, so I asked if she had her sister’s contact information. I would write and ask her. She must know. It was her boyfriend. M.L  became extremely agitated and told me not to contact her sister about it. She repeated it to me – ‘don’t bring this up with her!’.

Really? After all of these years I finally get to the point of needing to contact him, and M.L. says not to pursue it with her sister? Why is she so adamant about it?

It was easy enough to find her email address.

I wrote to her.

My therapist Stella recently asked me what I’d do if I found him. I do realize that confronting him might not help me. He probably will deny it.

What I fantasize about doing is what we all have heard about. I have a deep well of rage and I could unleash it in the worst way. However…he’s already had power over too much of my life – I can’t do something which will result in my spending the rest of my life in prison – allowing him that much more power.

However, I could do what these two brave women did in this blog post.  Report him. Even though it’s been over 40 years. Make a record of it. Perhaps other survivors will check for him, as I’ve done all these years. Perhaps a grandmother he wants to date will keep her grandchildren away from him. I don’t know. But I do not want to let it go.

My email to my half-sister “S” was brief. I told her that her ex-boyfriend Raul had sexually abused me and that I would like her help. Could she please give me his last name.

I didn’t hear from her.

I did, however, hear from my other half-sister, M.L. She demanded to know why I had written to her sister when she had told me not to. She said I’d hurt her, her sister and their mother!

What?

She said she was done with me, but not before I told her that it was no one’s business but my own. I was doing it for my healing. It was a terrible argument and she made it clear that she didn’t want to listen to me.

I hung up and felt raw. She had yelled at me. I had yelled back at her. We had only recently seen each other for the first time in over 40 years. She was done with me.

Not only that, but my father heard about it and phoned my sister asking what was I doing bringing up old stuff and what was wrong with me? (I also had seen my father for the first time in years this visit – also for another post).

Two thing I’ve learned on this healing journey is that not everybody feels the way I do about it, and a lot of people don’t realize that the effects can last a lifetime and can be devastating.

I’ve heard it all…’why do you always have to bring it up?’, ‘why do you have to live in the past?’, ‘that was a long time ago, why can’t you forget about it?’ and on and on.

Believe me…if it were as simple as just forgetting about it, I would.

What would elicit such an emotional response from M.L.? Why was she so angry? She refused to calmly speak to me, so I didn’t get answers.

I did however, write back to my half-sister S to ask again, if she’d give me Raul’s last name.

I never heard back from her.

Which makes me wonder so many things.

Is the memory so terrible to her that she can’t face it? Is she protecting him? Why? Did she know about it, as I often have wondered?

In actuality, I can’t imagine that she would have known and not done something about it. Even if she didn’t like me.

But her lack of response and the response from M.L. leaves me with so many questions.

It frustrates me that I might be able to do something – report him if anyone will listen after all of these years, and I can’t do it.

Much of my childhood is like a puzzle. I have some of the pieces, but there are holes. I know people who have some of the missing pieces, but they refuse to give them up. And knowing that only leaves me with more questions.

I don’t have to know all of the answers to heal.

But sometimes I feel that it would help.

 

I have this other memory…for another post.

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “I Have This Memory

  1. Rescuing Little L

    I’m so glad you have your Stella and are processing these memories. What can I say that it is tough, tough work and it will be worth it as you maneuver through it. Be gentle with yourself and know that there are many of us survivors standing by you, holding your hand as you go through this…

     
    Reply
    1. Deborah

      Thank you Rescuing Little L, thank you. I must say that I’m not really looking forward to processing the memories, but I understand that it has to be done. I said it below…I have an image of us all together – all survivors, helping each other through it, holding each other up when we need it. It must have felt that way at Dr. Bakari’s Safe Space Day. The knowing I’m not alone gives me strength.

       
      Reply
  2. Margie Wilson

    Powerful stuff this. I don’t know what one can do in these circumstances. They must have some guilt in this too. Perhaps even, they too were abused by this man. There’s an old Hawaiian mantra which you need to repeat which allows you to deal with your emotions when you have been harmed by someone. Belinda Joubert’s books ‘Angel Whispers’ and “Angel’s Sense” cover this mantra. It may help you to come to terms with it. But what happens when your perpetrator has died and you haven’t been able to confront him? That leads to another problem. I don’t know how you proceed after this, unless your therapist can help you overcome the feelings you still harbour towards this awful creature. But you are strong and I believe you will overcome all these things. Bless you!

     
    Reply
    1. Deborah

      Hi Margie,

      Thank you so much for caring, for writing and for following my blog. I’m going to see if I can find that Hawaiian mantra.

      Everything I read and hear says I don’t need to actually confront my abusers. That I can heal without it. Perhaps I’m not far enough along in my healing. I just feel that need so strongly right now, to confront. And in this case, to not just confront but perhaps to file something – do something – stop him.

      Thank you Margie, for believing in me. You always did. Thank you. Love, Debbie

       
      Reply
  3. Peggy

    Hi Debbie
    I don’t understand others reactions either. I can think of a million reasons why they won’t absorb the information but I can’t understand why they think they can love me and not really want to know or take it on board.
    I have been reading books on WW1 and I have been shocked to see that snipers were looked on as people to be avoided and hated after the war. The soldiers knew the snipers had saved their lives but regular citizens felt they were sneaky and evil. Also men with shell shock were considered cowards. After weeks, months, years in the trenches seeing all manner of horrors if they couldn’t cope with the memories they were shunned as cowards.
    It is all just selfish ignorance.
    And I guess I think the same of those who can not understand sexual abuse, or refuse to give it any importance even when it has happened to people in their family.
    Just keep doing what you are doing. Easy for me to say when I gave up years ago trying to make anyone in the family understand. I just ran to a far country and raised a family there without the attitudes of my family hanging over me. Now I refer to it occasionally with my sister, and my sons have an idea of what went wrong. My younger brother suffered with his own events in the home and the later reactions but he refuses to recognize that as anything…….how do you do that? He admitted things to me but no one else. So I get on about my life and try to put it all together in my own mind.
    I think I am an amazing survivor. But there have been consequences. I lost a son when he was 24… Was that because I was too busy trying to put my own life together to have supported him in the way he most needed?
    Some things will ever be known.
    I guess we just rejoice in the complete love of the few that know us best and love us. Obviously I have no answers and I send you my strength and support and wish it could help.
    Peggy

     
    Reply
    1. Deborah

      Peggy,

      Thank you for writing here. I agree – it’s difficult to accept that people say they love us but they can’t take on certain things about us. It feels so conditional.

      Oh, I can’t bear that those poor people who survived so much in the war were shunned and called cowards afterwards. I didn’t know that. Ignorance. That’s right. Selfish ignorance. I’m involved with an online support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and oh, the stories I hear about families – mothers who knew and ignored it…and worse.

      Some people just don’t know how terrible the after-effects are, that they can last a lifetime, that it’s not as simple as just getting over it or forgetting about it. Don’t they know if we could we would?

      I think you were right to give up trying to make the family understand. There comes a time when it’s not helpful. I understand why you would have gone to another country to raise a family. I was always running away. I mean, South Africa? :) Sometimes creating a family of choice is the way to go – gathering people around who love us unconditionally.

      It sounds like your younger brother is deep in denial. I think some people live their entire lives in that state. I don’t know how.

      Peggy, I remember when you lost your son. I remember. I don’t think you, as a mother, can go through something like that without the questions…what if, why didn’t I and on and on. I’m not a mother, but I think the best any of us can do is to try to put our own lives together the best we can, which is what you were doing. How can you have done better than that?

      And do you know what? Your strength and support does help me. As sad as knowing you went through sexual abuse and all of the dysfunction that comes with it makes me feel, it also makes me feel less alone.

      Sending you a hug,

      Debbie

       
      Reply

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