Sunday, August 31, 2014

What little girls are made of; Speaking out

"My mama’s phone started ringin’ off the hook

I can hear her now sayin’ she ain’t gonna have it

Don’t matter how you feel, it only matters how you look

Go and fix your make up, girl, (...)

Run and hide your crazy (...)

'Cause I raised you better, gotta keep it together

Even when you fall apart


Wish I could be just a little less dramatic

Like a Kennedy when Camelot went down in flames

Leave it to me to be holdin’ the matches

When the fire trucks show up and there’s nobody else to blame"

When you grow up in an abusive home, there is a primary importance placed on keeping things behind closed doors and saving face by your abusers. You are taught this from such an early age, and in such subtle ways that you don't think about it; yet unconsciously you fear ever embarrassing your family or airing any dirty laundry. The outcome of a slip up could go from mild  consequences to much worse punishment from your abusers. 

I had a hard time with this. I was in many ways outspoken when I was younger, not enough to garner any attention to my abuse but enough to make people think I should behave better. I always got the impression they felt I was over emotional and dramatic. And as I have written before there is a system in place which determined that I should not be taken seriously. So when I acted out against some injustice it seemed I was always left holding the matches and no one else to blame.

This helped my abusers because because it looked like I was reacting to something when it looked to  others that there was nothing there. It also instilled in me that despite having very real reasons to, my doing so was a selfish dramatic display that was unnecessary. Writing this blog I can still feel like I am that angry, over dramatic little girl who should just keep things to herself because I am making an unnecessary scene and fool of myself. There is also still a very real fear of getting into trouble. Even though I am far away from my parents there is always a small part of me that still feels like they have super powers and could descend upon me in an instant to punish me for speaking out. 

This is why abuse often remains hidden and enclosed in silence. If I still have these fears as an adult can you imagine what it might be like to be a child in an abusive situation? If you speak out you are going to get in trouble, your parents might be taken away, or you are hurting your family.

The lie about hurting your family is strong one. My family in particular believes on some level that I have convinced myself in a delusional manner that I was abused and that the truth is by confronting them and drawing boundaries I am really being abusive and hurtful to them. Please see Dr. Henry Cloud & Townsend's book on Boundaries for myths about "boundaries hurting others". I think Vaarsuvius in particular has convinced themselves that I have a kind of disease that I caught and that it has nothing to do with the abusive home I grew up in or the way they parented me. I feel they think this is my disease I made up and convinced myself I have and they are just going to pat me on the head and humor me about it.  In fact I received a note in the mail that seemed to say as much (turns out you cannot block postal senders).

I flip between being terrified at breaking the silence to angry that the abuse happened. Recently it has been Vaarsuvius's actions that have compelled me to start speaking out. The more stories they spun about me for others the more I felt infuriated. I knew I couldn't convince any of the people they were telling their side to, but I didn't have to let theirs be the only side told. I could have a voice and not let them speak for me ever again. I could take away that power and stop the things they were saying from being the only isolated accounting of the abuse.

What finally really pushed me into speaking out further;  I found out I could not ask for any financial compensation for the abuse suffered. Some state laws have a statute of limitations and I could not sue. My abusers had left a substantial amount of damage in my life and yet they would be able to walk away with no consequences. I couldn't touch them. That broke me a little inside. I had always fantasized that I would have the law on my side, that I could have a dynamic team of lawyers who would seek justice for me while protecting me from the potential assault my family might launch. That's when I stopped caring as much about getting in trouble for talking about the abuse. What did I have to lose? My family has kept the truth tucked away in a vacuum of space and I wanted to change that. Silence is how abuse continues to thrive and I wanted to take away the nurturing environment. I also know that speaking out helps others speak out and allows us to dismantle the cultural taboo on the subject. Having a voice does not let my family keep me in a corner with no power and it allows me to seek justice on my terms and air all that dirty laundry they told me not to.

I plan on showing them here on out, even when I am still a little terrified, what little girls are truly made of.

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