If you are ripped open, some people will condemn you for bleeding. If you are beaten and battered, some will despise your scars. If you speak of your injuries in an attempt to heal, empower yourself, or inspire others, you will most likely be attacked all over again and then cast into the garbage dump.
Bottom line: If you admit to being a victim, you will be victimized for your victimization. And that is why those who suffer domestic abuse and/or any kind of sexual, emotional, or physical abuse often remain silent or don’t admit to their wounds for many years.
It’s been a rough week. The first eight days of every month are particularly hard because those are the days of the month (five and a half years ago) that I had to sit at the hospital with my unconscious son, hoping and praying he would survive and then accepting the horrifying truth that he would not.
Also, a poem I wrote five years ago (copied below), to explain the depths of my grief over the death of my son, suddenly came to the attention of my friends again this past week. In the poem I speak of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse that occurred during my childhood. I never expected the pain this new discussion would bring me. And while it distresses me greatly to speak of the reaction I received, I believe it’s important to share.
An older sister of mine attacked me for my words. She not only took offense that I accused my father of emotional abuse, and physical abuse toward my siblings and my mother, but she assumed I had also accused him of sexual mistreatment. I had not, but even if I had, her behavior was shocking to me.
My sister began to make excuses for my father: He was sick. We all do stupid things. Without him I would never have had life. He worked and fed us. We can’t blame our parents all our lives for our problems. Some people have it rougher than I do. God gave me four children–“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” she said. (Some of these were written by her the next day.)
And, adding to my suffering, my sister stated that, while I have lost only one child, another sister has lost three. I suppose that means I’m to be grateful that I have lost only one child, and be ashamed of my grief.
A friend recently posted that her grown daughter has lived a long distance from her for eleven years. Another mother commented that it never gets any easier. We can all understand, and sympathize. But my son has been gone five and a half years and I can’t go visit him. I have no hope that he will ever “move” back home. And, yes, it never gets easier.
But people expect grievers to move on. Otherwise they are accused of being stuck in grief. That’s an unrealistic expectation.
And it’s unrealistic to expect a child or even an adult to hide injustices forever. I was sixty years old when I finally revealed the violence that stained my childhood, leaving me to suffer severe PTSD today.
Although my sister denied it twice, she read my painful words the day I wrote them five years ago. (I have our conversation in Messenger.) She was gentle and kind at that time. She asked whether she knew the perpetrator of the sexual abuse. I refused to answer, telling her I didn’t want to talk about it. She admitted that my younger sister’s confession of sexual molestation was probably true. (My younger sister told her story several years ago, but my sisters refused to believe her and she finally recanted.)
But I guess kindness and understanding of the anguish that springs from sorrow and abuse can last only so long. This time my sister’s reaction, as stated, was totally different. After ranting for a while on my poem’s thread, she deleted most of her cruel comments and went out to garner the support of my other two older sisters.
The next morning, along with deleting me from her Facebook friends list, my sister made a proclamation on her Facebook page, signed by her and my oldest sister, that “all of what [Tina] wrote is not true.” When my nephew told her he had heard the same stories from his mother (he and my niece had stated the same the previous day) and asked her which of my accusations weren’t true, my sister argued with him for a while, refusing to answer his question, and then deleted the entire thread. (I have it all.)
This second discussion was when I realized my sister thought I was accusing our father of sexual abuse. She totally misunderstood my poem and placed my father in places in the poem where I had not referred to him.
But, as I said, even if that’s what I had been saying, my sister’s reaction was hurtful. She declared that she had never read the poem until this past week, yet she didn’t come to me for an explanation. She didn’t offer compassion for my pain. Instead, she chose to gossip about me to our siblings and bring them in to cast upon me their own accusations. Her focus was to defend my father, who has been dead fifty years, rather than support her suffering sister.
My third older sister said that I had slept with her as a child so no sexual abuse happened to me. As if nighttime or a bed is required for sexual abuse to occur. The first sister stated that our mother never left us alone. As if it takes a lot of time for sexual violence to take place. Everybody has to go to the toilet. And when the toilet is outside, as it was at my house, it takes a while. Sexual exploitation can transpire in a fleeting moment.
It is scary to talk about horrible events of our childhood. I am reeling from that discovery. And I’m here to tell you that if you speak out, you will be further assaulted, and possibly shunned. I found that out the hard way.
And this was my family. People who were supposed to care for me no matter what. People who should always have my back. People whom I firmly believed truly loved me and had my best interests at heart.
Worst of all, this further pain was thrown at me on my page containing a heartfelt poem that I had written for my precious son. That is the deepest cut of all. If my own family could do this to me, imagine what strangers are capable of doing to the victims of abuse and loss.
But, please, if you can, speak up! When and how you can, tell your story. Broadcast it far and wide. It may help you heal and it might strengthen the heart of someone else who has suffered as you have.
So show your scars. Bleed on everybody’s carpet. Make a big enough mess that somebody will have to see it and help you deal with it. It’s time.
Tina Rae Collins
November 7, 2017
(Thanks to Joe Perrott for the cartoon!)
I was sexually abused as a child,
At least twice that I can remember for sure.
I woke up one night to find my dad trying to smother my mom with a pillow,
And heard him say, “I’d have killed you if them young’uns hadn’t woke up.”
He turned over the kitchen table after Mommy filled it with food one Christmas.
He shot a bullet up through the ceiling one night while we were upstairs sleeping.
I saw him throw my baby sister against the wall.
I watched him pin down another sister, his knees resting on her thighs as he held her hands so she couldn’t fight back.
I was there when he put a cigarette out on my mom’s leg.
I came home from school at lunch to find her clothes torn off her.
And sometimes, as we would be going to bed, he would say,
“If y’all knew what I was going to do tonight, you wouldn’t go to sleep.”
My dad died when I was fifteen.
The one time I got up the nerve to go up to the casket, my left arm went completely numb.
I dreamt of him often–a wild-eyed man in a blue suit coming out of his coffin and chasing me to do me harm.
My mom was always sick with asthma.
When I was about thirteen I recall hearing her moaning as she tried to draw a breath,
“Young’uns, behave. I’m going to leave you.”
She finally died when I was twenty-eight, leaving me an orphan.
She saw only one of my four children.
I still miss her to this day.
The man I loved and married left me five days before Christmas,
With four children between the ages of four and twelve–
In the head of a holler,
In a two-bedroom trailer,
With no flushing toilet,
And no money,
On a dirt road that was dust in the summer and mud in the winter
(And me with no car anyway),
When I was sick with a rare form of pneumonia.
I’ve been cast aside and considered worthy of hell for my religious views–
Not for the way I live my life;
Not for anything I can fix;
For my beliefs that I can’t change.
But I have fought hard all my life,
And I have survived.
I’ve even thrived.
I was valedictorian of my grade school class,
Valedictorian of my high school class,
Salutatorian of my college class, winning the English award.
I have written books.
I have produced and starred in a cable TV show.
I homeschooled my four children.
I am, today, working toward a PhD in Biblical Studies.
I am strong;
I am a survivor.
I pick myself up and I move on and
I never let the bastards grind me down!
But this time–
Well, this time God gave me a mountain.
He took my baby boy.
And no fear,
No castigation or condemnation or any other crap that anybody in this world can lay on me
Can touch this.
Or even come close.
I am finally broken.
Tina Rae Collins