Phase IV con’t: The Result of Submission to Abuse; A cultural prerequisite for Inclusion

The problem with abuse is that when it has consumed your experience, you cannot identify it. There is nothing to compare it to. As a girl becomes a woman, society censors the honest discussions she needs to properly prepare herself for the inevitably imposed sexualization of her physical development of secondary sex characteristics. As a result, she is often left with little guidance. Her foundational socialization practices remain her only defense.

In most of the world cultures those formative years are set in black and white thinking, virtuousness that can only be achieved through chastity, or, promiscuity in the whore who wants sex all the time. There is no understanding of the sexual nature most women have, because we are all viewed and judged from a lens out of touch with the feminine experience.  Women who have accepted the imposed roles of chastity or promiscuity can be found fighting for the right to choose one of the two polar extremes as if they embody choice!

As long as we try to define our experience from within an imposed male structure, we will continue to ostracize some, if not most, of our sisters. The polar perspective that has been imposed on female sexuality will continue to limit the discussion and options offered for girls coming of age because those of us who have suffered continue to remain silent.

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ACT I: Making a name for oneself through victimizing girls coming of age

I attended an overcrowded high school where all the corridors teemed with more bodies than they could accommodate. Students were slammed into each other amid the blur of body parts… but inevitably they would find me.

“I hear that you get real juicy” one upperclassman breathed in my face as he slammed me into the wall and groped my chest, “will you sit on my face?”

Two guys joined him as I looked down at the floor. My stomach lurched forward as if I was going to throw up. My heart pounded as the two encouraged the first to continue his assault.

ACT II: Alienation of Female Victims through judgmental female peers

At swim team practice the girls would talk in corners of the dressing room, looking my way and laughing.

I dressed alone.

ACT III: Parental Neglect

Eric would come over and rape me in one room while my parents sat in the next.

At his home, his mother would come by the room as Eric was taking off my clothes, “Don’t take advantage.” One time. There was no other intervention.

ACT IV: Fear of pregnancy

ALONE in terror.

ACT V: The Inevitable

It had been almost 3 months since I had last bled. I was taken to the University of Pennsylvania to see why I had stopped bleeding. I prayed for some terrible life threatening disease.

My adoptive mother decided to call the family doctor, Dr. Feld. He called the house and I was put on the phone with him. “Did you have sex with this boy,” he asked me.

I was horrified.

“Did he put his fingers inside you? Did he cum?”

I was so ashamed. I got off the phone traumatized.

The word came the day of cheerleader try-outs. I was picked up by my adoptive mother…

“See you later Amy” the other girls called to me.

“They seem to like you, “my mother said to me in almost disbelief.

When we got home, my adoptive mother and father brought me upstairs, “You are pregnant,” my adoptive mother told me in disgust.

“YOU SLUT,” my adoptive father yelled at me as he paced the hall.

“Kneel and pray for forgiveness,” my adoptive mother told me.

I was told that I was to have an abortion. No discussion on the topic despite the fact that I distinctly remember having a conversation with my adoptive mother arguing my preference for an anti-abortion stance. This abortion was about her and keeping this revelation was to be the family secret.

“You should be grateful that Dr. Percell is going to do this,” she told me, “this is the kind of procedure that could make him lose his license.”

We drove to the hospital in silence. I was admitted and examined by an overly eager intern. “She doesn’t look much like 14,” he said to my adoptive mother who said nothing.

That afternoon I was discharged to see Dr. Letterman, a psychiatrist. I was entering psychoanalytic treatment that would last 6 years, for 5 days a week. During that time, she never asked me if I was raped, or discussed what would constitute sexual abuse, instead, she would tell me that I did not have the intelligence to become a physician, and that I was a slut.

After the abortion, Dr. Percell and my parents decided that I should be on the pill. There was NO discussion about the complications of hormonal treatment, the lack of medical history that we had of my biological family.  Stopping my fertility was just as forced as my sexual experience with Eric had been. Again, I complied.

Now it would be open season on my body. Anyone could do whatever they wanted without consequences.

After returning home I found out that the family friend who had spent time trying to watch me shower knew about the abortion.

PULL YOURSELF UP BY YOUR BOOTSTRAPS? I would have to spend the next 20 years unlearning the poison that was force fed me during the first 20.

 

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Phase IV: The Intersection where Predator meets Prey

victim

I don’t mean to be a problem but…. At the age of 14 ALL my night terrors were created. The images that revisit in my head are a problem for me. The flashbacks are so vivid and they intrude with such force, that I am always breathless.

The first kiss was more teeth then lips. The force with which he pressed his mouth on mine was so hard that I was bruised for several days afterward.

“You turn me on,” he told me, “only prudes will not relieve the guys they excite. It hurts. Nice girls don’t leave guys with blue balls.”

The time we spent together he spent teaching me how to pleasure him and him alone. If I hesitated, he would tell me not to be a prude. He couldn’t be with a prude.

I would panic at those words….

My training to succumb to those kinds of threats have been completed…“Why can’t you be more like your sister,” my parents would tell me, “she is so well behaved, so good at school. I think it would be best if we just sent you to reform school. Then maybe you would learn just how good you have it.”

“Eric I am not a prude, am I?” I asked him.

Inevitably those times I would be indoctrinated into another method to pleasure him. As if I had to prove my worth to him. He never used his words. He demanded my body to meet his needs, regardless of the pain that it caused me. I never winced. I never moved. I obeyed regardless of the fear that took residence in my heart. I couldn’t be abandoned or rejected yet again!

Phase III: The Maturation of Girls: The Cultural Grooming of Sex Objects

ACT I:

It was the worst time of my visit with my adoptive grandparents; the time to say “good-bye”. My grandfather would “catch” my sister and myself in his legs and then draw us to him demanding a hug and a kiss. It felt creepy to me. The more creped out I was the more glee appeared on his face.

“What is wrong with you” I would hear from the numerous family onlookers, “kiss your grandfather goodbye. We are not leaving until you do.”

Horrified, I relented and he would draw me to his body pressing it against his. I could smell his body odor, and quickened breath as he pulled my head towards his mouth.  Then he would lick my face…

“No boyfriend will ever kiss you as good as that,” he would coo in my ear.

Despite the fact I was mortified and confused; the family would laugh it off…

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ACT II

I remember running downstairs… “The boys across the street are watching me dress,” I frantically told my adoptive mother.

“Boys will be boys” she responded.

ACT III

There was one “family friend” who sickened me the way my grandfather did. He would often leave pornographic magazines around for my sister and I to find. He made sexual comments about women’s bodies in our presence in a manner that suggested his vivid sexual fantasies of women other than his wife.

“You know,” he told my father one day in my presence, “that making love to your wife is like taking a walk in your own backyard?” A very repulsed look took shape on his face.

One day when we were visiting his shore home, I began being aware of his interest in attempting to watch me shower outside from the upstairs balcony.

I began being afraid to go to my parents when they called me and he and his wife were visiting. They  often would come to get together for dinner and drinks. I would be in my nightgown and robe.

“Amy…. Can you please come and say goodnight?”

“Not tonight Mom,” I would plead.

“Get down here and be civil to our friends,” she would call back up at me.

I would walk downstairs holding the nightgown close to my legs.

“Give me a kiss.”

I would lean over and inevitably the nightgown would bellow out just enough to give glimpse to my developing chest. My face would get beet red as I watched HIM strain to look down my nightgown.

ACT IV: Covert Incest

My adoptive father began keeping a stash of his own pornography. He started watching starlets who used their sexuality to titillate men. One night, he, my mother and I sat as Raquel Welch jiggled around the stage.

“Why can’t you be built like that?” he asked my mother.

I became indignant. “Why would you let him talk to you like that,” I asked her.

“He chose me didn’t he?”

“But he is fantasizing about someone else?! How can you feel good when clearly you are just not good enough?”

She said nothing.

My father enjoyed my discomfort and began making more and more sexual comments about me… “You will have plenty of boyfriends, you are pretty enough. You just don’t have much of a body.”

He started walking in on me while I was dressing and would not respond when I knocked on his door and he was undressed. It got so bad; I started having nightmares about it.

THE EPILOGUE: Understanding GROOMING 101

I was made to feel ashamed of my desire to say “NO” and was very clearly forced to titillate the fantasies of men!!!

Only one professional made the connection many years after the fact…“I don’t understand,” I told her, “WHY didn’t anyone protect me?”

“I think your adoptive mother was a victim of incest,” she told me matter-of-factly.

Phase II: School Bullying… Becoming an Outcast

I don’t mean to be a problem… but it seemed that I was. My existence, begun in such a starkly different way than other kids, in a place where “difference” breeds contempt, and tolerance is given to ONLY those who comply with being a carbon copy of the kid sitting next to them. Where was there a place for me?

The story of my adoption failed to yield comfort so my adoptive parents invested in a book, “The Chosen Baby”. The idea that I was “selected” placed a significant burden on me that I was much too young to appreciate. I had to be perfect…. That was how people became “chosen”. It was a tall order whose very words created expectations in my new family as well as it did with me. I was genetically different. My needs would be different. My adoptive family EXPECTED me to fit in as if the adoption never happened. That was a set up. One that neither my adoptive family nor I could foresee.  Differences between me and the biological daughter they birthed a year and a half after my adoption just accentuated my difference.

 

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ACT I:

It was 3rd grade when my secret got out.  The anxiety that had been created in me about my adoption spilled over and I looked for solace in ANYONE who would feign understanding. 

“Your mother never wanted you,” a blond haired classmate of mine screamed at me from across the lunchroom table, “she threw you out with the trash.”

I held back the tears.

ACT II:

“Time to line up” our teacher yelled at my classmates.

“Ewww,” several of them shouted, pushing each other away from the place behind me, “she has cooties!”

I stood silently, numbed by the insult.

ACT III:

As I approached the school grounds, a male classmate of mine walked up to me…  “We don’t want anyone like you in our school,” he told me sternly as he punched me in the stomach.

I slumped over, the breath leaving me, with tears streaming down my face.

ACT IV:

A neighbor watched as the antics took place on the playground (and did nothing to stop it). She went to my adoptive parents and let them know of the amount of bullying I was enduring…  I was sent to a psychiatrist.

“What would you do, “ I asked him as I sipped the tea he brought me, nibbled on the crackers and  commenced to draw on the blackboard in front of me, “if a little girl walked from door to door…” I drew a door and linked it with a chalk path, to another and another. “And she came to your door and asked you to take care of her because no one wanted her, would you?”

PHASE I: The Imposed Taboo of Illegitimacy… Selling babies to the Highest Bidder

I don’t mean to be a problem but….

I always felt it is interesting that our culture insists on imposing restraints on human behavior and function that seem to put us at odds  with our bodies. Our children are reaching sexual maturity earlier and earlier, yet, our society has become more and more complex, placing artificial value with currency as the means to acquire goods and services for everyday needs. Inflation and the devaluation of the dollar, along with the hording of wealth by the upper 1% has meant that it takes longer and longer to acquire the monetary stability to ensure the proper care of the next generation….

So, young girls go on the pill to limit their fertility so that they remain available for male sexual appetites without consequence. When they are caught pregnant before establishing legitimacy through marriage, both mothers and children are punished through poverty, their extended families often feeling the economic hardship and stigma along with them.

For some families, those with more assets and financial reserves, the hardship of “unwanted pregnancies” is forced squarely on the shoulders of the women who choose to carry their children to term. In my day, before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, that meant being sent away to birth alone in a “home for unwed mothers”. That is where my life began…

In December of 1960, my mother became pregnant.  My father was in his junior at West Point and my mother was a pre-med student at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. My maternal grandfather was Superintendent of Reading schools and had been appointed by the Kennedy administration to help in the implementation of Special Education services across the country. My mother’s condition was not welcomed. She was sent away in shame, as many young women were at that time, to give birth in secret at the Florence Crittenton home for unwed mothers in Wilmington, Delaware. There she was kept on a strict diet, her belly swelling with a white baby that ultimately would receive top dollar for the Lutheran Children’s Services.

Shortly after reuniting with her at the age of 20, my biological mother relayed to me this story… “The girls would often sneak out to the local convenience store to buy candy and treats.” She took a breath as if the very utterance sucked the air out of her lungs. “One day I was coming out of the store when two little boys glanced my way, laughed and then spit on me,” the tears began welling up in her eyes. As she continued her voice broke with the effort to hold back the rage of emotion trying to release from the back of her throat, “There I was, a pre-med student with a 150 IQ.” Again there was a long inhalation, as if breathing itself had become painful. “They spit on me… because I was pregnant.” The tears began to flow freely.

My birthmother breast fed me the first three days of my life and then handed me over to a social worker who placed me in my adoptive parents’ home two days later.

The panic attacks started when I was about a year and a half and were triggered by the story of my adoption. Somewhere in my body I knew I had suffered a significant loss; her voice, her smell, and the taste of breast milk. All of that knowledge had been imprinted on my body. There were no words at that time because the information was received in a pre-verbal state…. The violent temper tantrums I began having, writhing in agony, were met with beatings. The foundation needed to misunderstand and misjudge who I was and who I could be had already begun!!!

Trauma, American Style: The Socialization of Indifference

Much like the 1970’s show of a similar name, this expose will consist of multiple vignettes, a new one each week. Each will give insight into the way traumatic events insidiously leave their mark, alone and then as a culminating repertoire of experience. They are REAL life events that begin to tell a story of the making of a victim of trauma.

Many of you may find these stories disturbing. The fact is that trauma is an experience that links us all. Whether it reaches diagnostic criteria becomes irrelevant when events like these have the power to color the perception of ourselves and the world around us.

Many of you have dissociated yourself from the traumatic experiences of your life… “I am like a duck,” you tell yourself and others, “I just let those things roll off my back.”

Then you begin to take notice as the emotions spill over, your body seemingly too small to contain the amount of feelings that you have pushed down into its depths…. Standing on the sidelines of the Memorial Day parade you find yourself choking up, the tears streaming down your face. On another occasion while watching a television program you find yourself welling up with anger, and begin screaming at the television.  Sitting at the dinner table you experience a growing knot that you feel in your stomach every time you watch and listen to your son chew his food.

Each one of these REACTIONS tells a story… not about what you are witnessing, but about YOUR life story. Each one of these moments consists of emotional learning that is non-verbal. These are events that have NOT been explored and so therefore remain submerged until you come face to face with similar situations. Then old feelings begin to rise in the new situations that you find yourself….

We are living vicariously in this culture. Removed from the emotional connection to our own lives, we re-experience the spillover of our lives in the feelings generated through the observation of “others”. We react to “others” by projecting our own life issues onto them… Overcome with the emotion that we buried, we use our station of privilege; of parent, or, of “professional” to judge those in a subservient position and often comment about how they SHOULD think, feel, act, and behave. Given our place of privilege we then can act as we wish, often mirroring the patterns of behavior that we victimized us in the first place, and that through denial, we failed to learn.

I don’t mean to be a problem but…..

 

I don’t mean to be a problem but….

I start every statement I make with this caveat. I have learned to do this over years of coming to  understand the broad implications of every day social interactions to the larger concepts of culture and community.

There was a time not long ago that my utterances would reward me with a smack across my face or an inevitable departure of my intended target, in the early days, my adoptive father.

“You know you are crazy,” he would say as he turned on his heels to walk out of the room.

Frantic to be heard I would chase him, tears streaming down my face. I was the family scapegoat! I was forced to spend 5 days a week in psychoanalysis and, little to my knowledge, would be forced to do it for 7 years of my life. I was the family’s holder of secrets and pathology. I was the one that was silenced by being trivialized. I was never given respectful attention because the conclusions that I was making about life were strikingly different than the people around me who felt interrupted by my presence.

Every interaction I had that trivialized my experience, labeled me as “crazy”, insisted that I was the problem, caused great turmoil in me and I was forced to retreat inside myself to decipher the meaning of my plight. It was clear that there would be no relief in relationships.

Despite my wish to isolate and withdrawal from the toxic evaluations being made of my thoughts and understanding of my own experience, I was forced to interact daily with a whole horde of people invested on keeping me silenced by the imposed shame of ridicule, harassment, labeling and abuse. In fact, it was the very nature of my thought processes and desire to be heard that seemed to justify the mistreatment by family and “professionals” alike.

I have a lot to say. I have been silenced too long. My perspective is unique and maybe disturbing. It is said that great genius can only follow chaos. From my vantage point, there is no greater time for the creation of chaos then now. I don’t mean to be a problem, but….Image