Phase V, ACT III: The Warehousing of the Elderly

ACT III: The Warehousing of the Elderly

The screams coming from the room were deafening. As I walked down the hallway toward the sound, I could feel my pulse quicken, my breath coming in short gasps, my palms sweating.

The male nurse must have seen the panicked expression on my face as he tried to catch up… “What’s the matter,” he asked me as if oblivious to the screeches and moans coming from down the hallway.

“What is going on in there?” I asked him.

“Oh, that is just Helen,” he said rather flatly, “She is old and believes that everyone is hurting her.” He turned abruptly on his heels and scampered away as if to nullify my concerns.

I couldn’t believe the callousness in his voice. Regardless of his lack of regard, and dismissing attitude, I rounded the open door and entered the room.

There she was…. slightly propped up on on her right side supported from behind by a long pillow, facing away from the door. She had a bony, tiny frame whose thin, frail skin bore red abrasions over her exposed protruding left scapula that had escaped the confines of the hospital gown carelessly thrown over her. She startled at the sound of my entrance and retracted, her already curled up appendages seemed to pull up closer, as she let out a horrifying scream..

“Mrs. Medlar,” I said to her as soothingly as I could, “My name is Nanaymie and I am the new charge nurse here on the 3rd floor”.

Her neck, as frozen as her bent appendages, strained to move and her eyes looked up at me in terror.

“Honey, I don’t want to hurt you.” I touched her lightly and felt her flinch. I removed the gown to expose the large bed sore over the end of her spine.

The nurse manager entered the room, “Just do the dressing change,” she told me loudly above the wails coming from the frail and writhing frame lying in front of us, “you can’t get involved with her issues. You just don’t have the time.”

“What happened to her?” I asked imploringly, in a vain effort to understand the foundation of the fear being evidenced.

“Helen was the wife of a man who spent most of his time beating her. Now that she is old, she can’t understand the physical pain that she is in and everything we do to help is torture”.

While that might have explained the mental status, it did not even begin to illuminate how this woman’s physical needs had been severely neglected as evidenced by immobile, bent limbs and bed sores that eviscerated healthy skin and tissue to reach the bony prominences over which they lay. Mrs. Medlar was in a perpetual fetal position, a metaphor for her imprisonment in a body that had been ignored, a mind haunted by a lifetime of trauma, warehoused in a nursing home where her caregivers “frankly don’t give a damn”.

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Phase V, Act II: Nursing Training at the Expense of Those who cannot Object

ACT II: Nursing Training at the Expense of Those who cannot Object

I had reentered the Nursing program at Rutgers University after a 7 year hiatus, being traumatized by being placed in a position to protect the life of a young mother in my Maternity rotation. Since that time, I had moved to Vermont , owned a restaurant and had my first of three children that I chose to birth at home. Abandoned by the father of my child, I returned to South Jersey to finish my training….

“I want you all to come into this room here,” the instructor called to the nursing students from the door of a room down the hall where an elderly man lay whose breathing was raspy and audible from the location of the central desk.

All 8 of us filed in the brightly lit room to find an old man propped up on pillows to facilitate his visibly difficult breathing…

“We are going to sink a nasogastric tube. We have been given the go ahead to do so,” she triumphantly blurted out.

The old man barely moved, seemed in and out of consciousness, and completely unaware of what was going to happen.

“Who wants to try?” the instructor asked us.

I was barely aware of the student who volunteered and proceeded to wash up and don her gloves. The instructor’s voice faded as I focused in on the raspy breathing body lying in front of us. He was a portly man sitting at a 45 degree angle just barely aware of his surroundings, though he seemed mildly distressed at the accumulation of bodies standing around his bed. His eyes opened and flickered briefly and then closed again.

“This is Mr. Salinas,” Dr. Romeo told us, and without a moment hesitation cranking the bed to almost a full seated position,” Mr Salinas, we are going to be inserting a nasogastric tube so that you get some nutrients that you need.”

She turned and addressed the nursing student by her side, “Now lubricate the tip of the tubing and insert it into his nose.”

Everyone leaned forward to get a better view as the man seemed to jump at the sensation of the foreign object entering his left nostril. As soon as the tube past into his throat, the gagging began. His face quickly turned red with the added strain to breathe.

“Swallow” the instructor yelled to the gagging, frightened, semi-conscious man in front of her, “swallow!”

I could feel the fear well up in me as I watched the scene in horror. Everyone else around me seemed oblivious to the sheer terror being felt by the struggling form in front of them. It felt like an eternity…

“Well done,” the instructor said to the student as she beamed with pride at the successful placement of the nasogastric tube.

At what cost, I wondered to myself as I followed the entourage as they left the room. I looked back to see the color return to the man’s face and wondered how many more procedures he would be forced to endure “for his own good.”

Phase IV: When the Nightmare refuses to end

I was fresh out of the hospital. My insides were raw from where they scraped the life out of my womb. Eric was home after attending the YMCA Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale. I went to see him when he got home. I was dying inside, looking for reassurance after my ordeal but was sworn to secrecy.

“We will be pressing statutory rape charges,” my father told me, “I don’t want him becoming all the wiser.” It was an idle threat. My parents were not interested in justice for me. They were more interested in keeping the image of the well to do family. They were willing to sacrifice me to do so…

The first thing Eric did was splay me out and plunge inside me. The pain was excruciating. Then, he promptly broke up with me.

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The Jersey Shore

It was the summer after my nightmare and all of a sudden I was commanding a lot of attention down on the beach. From what I heard, I was considered “the piece on the beach” or was so dubbed by the head lifeguard, JR.

ACT I : The “friend” who demanded more…

Two boys who I would later identify as Fredrick and his brother Andrew were walking by one evening as my best friend and I sat on the front porch talking.

“Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you have ever seen,” he asked his brother pointing at me.

As always, I was left speechless. I had spent my formative years hearing how fat I was, how unwanted I was, how stupid I was. I was left unprepared for compliments, especially those of a manipulative quality. He spent that night smooth talking and ingratiating himself.  Unbeknownst to me the contract that I was entering with him would extract more from me than I had left to give.

Fredrick would grope me on the beach, would pull my bikini top off as I entered the shower. His kisses, much like Eric were all teeth. I was always bruised.

The upstairs tenant of our beach home would watch from her window… “You know,” she told me, “only a tramp gets herself in situations like that.”

“Do you like me,” I would ask Fredrick.

“Yes,” he replied matter-of-factly, “you are a friend.”

“Friends don’t do to each other what you are doing to me,” I told him.

“Oh yes they do,” he told me, “when they are special friends.”

“You and Monica are friends,” I told him. (Monica was an overweight relative of Jerry and the boys that made up the Rufenach family).

“She is NOT that kind of friend.”

I felt so confused.

ACT II: The invitation

Jerry told me that he wanted to spend time with me. He entered a home across the street from his family home.

“Come in,” he said, “I am waiting for you.”

I stood outside with the other young people who often congregated in front of their home feeling out of place.

As I entered the front door to the dark home, I heard him call to me, “I am back here.”

I wandered through the darkness to a dimly lit room where I found him lying under the sheets of a sofa bed. “If I told you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me,” he taunted me.

I started to shiver. I don’t remember what happened after that….

ACT III: Nowhere to hide and seek refuge

One night I wanted to take a walk on the beach. On my way back up the dunes to head home I was met by three of the local boys. “Take off your clothes,” they told me.

“I just want to go home,” I told them.

“You don’t get to go home until you strip for us,” the biggest of them told me.

The light from the street illuminated them from behind. I tried to make out their faces but was having difficulty processing information clearly. Suddenly I noticed that I was shivering uncontrollably.  I don’t remember how I got home.

ACT IV:  A date on the dunes

“Come take a walk with me,” Jerry said to me.

I hesitated.

“Come on,” he said as he held out his hand.

We walked together down the dune, past the place where I had lost my virginity to Eric the September before. I shuddered at the memory of him on top of me as I implored him to stop.

I came to as Jerry pulled me toward a quiet place in between the dunes and forced me down on the sand….

Not again….

ACT V:  Hand off to the brothers and cousins

I walked briskly by the Rufenach home on my way to the beach…  The normal assembly of boys and girls were mulling about…

“My cousin Steve would like to go up on the dunes with you, “Jerry called out at me.

I tried to ignore him…

“He really has it bad for you… “Jerry yelled as I continued to pick up my pace past them. Steve leered at me as if to accentuate the point.

It wasn’t long after that night that JB, the youngest of the Rufenach crew approached me. He was only 7 at the time.

It had been a glorious day and I had spent a good deal of it in the water bodysurfing. I was sitting watching the sky turn its evening hue.

JB walked up to me as if he was on a mission. “Can I ask you something?” he asked me.

“Sure,” I replied.

“Would you let me feel you up?”

I know that my expression had to show my shock and disdain for this request.  “JB, I am so much older than you. Don’t you have interest in girls your own age?”

“But big cows give milk,” he told me straight faced, “little ones don’t!”

VI: Set up for….

I was visiting the Rufenachs watching television with Monica and some of the boys. We were drinking something. I don’t remember anything else…

I came to as I was walking toward the upstairs door to the beach. I have NO idea what happened to me.

As a result: I stopped going to Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Now I avoid the east coast altogether.

 

 

 

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.

 

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?”