Saturday, June 4, 2011

How do I help?

I was asked: "I do wonder, what would be the appropriate action to take if I see similiar signals in dc or their friends as they get older? If I suspect something is happening do I go to the teacher? That didn't work for your friend's mom. Principal? CPS?"

I think that question is my life's quest.  I feel absolutely entitled to rail at my family for not protecting me.  I was raped over and over again as a small child.  No part of that is my fault.  It is the fault of the people who sent me into life threatening situations and abandoned me.  I am an extreme case, and I'm aware of that.  Now.  I wasn't aware of that before.  Whenever I hinted at my story people would say, "Oh me too!"  They don't say that any more.  Now I'm hearing, "I had stuff happen... but nothing like yours."  It's isolating.  I feel increasingly like a freak.  My paranoia is (hopefully almost done) peaking.

What do I wish people had done?  I wish that me telling this story now was so far outside of everyone's lives that it felt like science fiction.  And it kind of does.  It kind of does because of how many different things went wrong--the intensity is the issue.  Everyone has bad things happen.  If I had one story to tell about this one thing this one time... most of my stories are not actually that severe.

It's that I'm not done telling them.  It's that I have memories in my head that I have never spoken of.  I do not have words for them yet.  They are feelings in my body.  Violations that just about severed my body from my soul.  And that doesn't mean they were more violent or physical.  They are the scars I have emotionally from being made to believe from the time I was born that I deserve to have my father hold a gun to my head and rape me.  That is what people like me deserve.  I am an extreme case because of the degree to which I believed that was true.  But I got out.

What do I wish people had done?  I wish that all of the individual people who knew I was being molested would have done anything possible to bring attention to my life.  If the teacher refuses to intervene, call the principal.  If the principal refuses to intervene, call the police.  Make. Some. Fucking. Noise.

And for god's sake, if someone has a bad day and says, "I want to kill my kids" do not call the police "just in case" because what you are doing is abdicating responsibility.  You are saying, "I think what you said is bad, but I don't know if you will actually do anything bad or not so I'm going to threaten you with this Big Scary force and make you shut up.  That way if you do something bad I won't have to feel responsible for not acting."  It's a cop out and a waste of resources.  Just about every parent has times when they feel rage, overwhelming frustration, and has violent ideation.  I'm not glorying in this.  I don't think it is a good thing.  I think it is a serious problem that has to be addressed.

If you see someone acting out like that, I believe that communities should get involved.  It should not be shrugged off.  Do not start gossiping.  Fuck gossip.  If you are genuinely worried, get involved with the kids and/or the parent.  It may mean you have to make space in your life by giving up things you would rather do.  I really don't care.  There is no way that the police can adequately protect all of the children who are being harmed.  Do you know what helps?  Not being isolated.  Not be stuck in that house with the crazy all day and all night.  Offer to babysit.  Yes, babysitting that child will be a nightmare.

You are going to have to be careful because your first responsibility in life is your own children.  At this point one of my life goals is to add on to this house in a few years and once my girls are well into their teen years we will start fostering.  I have wanted to foster since I was in the system.

Do.Not.Risk.Your.Children.  I'm not saying that.  But there are ways to integrate abused children that does not put them at risk of aggressing and does not put your children at risk of being a victim.  It's complicated though.  I'm asking people to learn how to speak honestly about very hard things.  And you have to learn how to do it without shaming or silencing people who have been hurt pretty badly.  Little kids who have been abused can act like wild animals if challenged.

Educate yourself on what danger signs actually are.  Get to know the kids who go to school with your children.  Learn their personalities so that if something changes, you can say to the teacher, "Have you noticed a change in Betsy?"  Ask the teacher if she knows what is going on.  Be pushy.  No really.  Get over this idea that you don't interfere in other peoples lives.  I'm not saying be an asshole.  But be persistent.

But don't over react either.  It's a balancing act.  It's very hard.  Ok.  I'm not saying that anyone has to feel like they are required to troll the neighborhood looking for children.  But if your friends have kids?  Don't let them fall of your radar.  Include those kids in gatherings.  Even if you think you know your friends and you love them and trust them.  Act like the kids are real people who are worthy of attention.  Every child will benefit.  If you know that someone you like, or even love is hurting their child?  Speak up.  I'm serious.  Don't dither.  Don't be an asshole, but do it.

I'm not saying micromanage everyone else's parenting.  You don't have to like everyone on the planet.  Some personality types clash.  That's not what I'm talking about.  Let me knock that strawman off the pole.  I'm talking about actual abuse.

Everyone has bad days and people shouldn't be crucified for them.  But even good people can slip.  Even good people can become monsters.  I have monsters in my head.  I could very very easily be an abuser.  And no one would ever know.  Because if I did that, I would listen to all of the advice that is thrown at me from everywhere in the world and I would shut up.  As long as I am holding myself publicly accountable I know I won't slip.  Too many people would catch me.  I need that safety net.  I need to *know* that people give a shit about my kids.  Because let's be clear here, it's not about me.  I was brought up and trained to hurt people.  That is what the grown ups do in my family.  Even if we don't actively abuse our children sexually ourselves, we are supposed to think of ourselves as weak and powerless.  We are supposed to believe that we have no power or control over our lives.  We are supposed to think that things just happen to us.  We are not supposed to examine our own choices.

Fuck that noise.  I don't really care if the things I admit here are embarrassing to me.  I don't care if it worries people and makes them wonder about calling the police.  What I care about is keeping my children safe.  And yes, I have to write on the internet to do that.  I don't know any other way of building that safety net for my children.  I grew up alone and isolated.  I am weird and touchy.  I'm quirky.  I don't do very well with a wide variety of personality types.  I'm just not comfortable around them and I get angry instinctively.  I don't want to teach my daughter that.  So I invite people back to my house instead.

I invite people who are very different.  We have friends who are very different from me but they all have one thing in common.  They love me and they love my kids.  They are choosing to be invested in watching my children grow.  They are ensuring that my children are safe.  They watch me.  They watch my kids.  And the only reason they continue to know that it is important to do so is because I write about how very hard this is for me.  If I stop writing, people will no longer know how hard this is for me.  They will stop making the extra effort to come see my kids.  My kids will have to depend on *just me* to monitor my behavior.  I wouldn't have had kids if I believed I lacked the self control to raise them.  But man I like backup plans.

I have contingency plans for everything in my life.  What do I want people to do?  I want people to learn how to look at their lives in a more objective way and evaluate how they are creating the same situations over and over again.  I'm not saying that everything is their fault.  But lack of planning creates a lot of problems.  If you recognize your patterns you can make plans well in advance for how to change them.  It's pretty much impossible for me to improvise how to change my patterns.  I can't.  I have to preplan or I'm screwed.

Right now I am a weird creepy shut in because until I had children I believed that being sexually assaulted as a small child was my fault.  I don't think I understood that I wasn't responsible.  I didn't see how weak and powerless I was.  And right there, I had to go back and capitalize all of those I's in this paragraph.  I always capitalize I.  It's absolutely ingrained in my touch typing.  Maybe.

Right now I am parenting three kids all day every day.  Two are perfect, wonderful, shining examples of a healthy childhood.  The other was horrifyingly abused and she wants to lash out at everyone else because it is just not fair that she hurts so much.  Why do I always have to be the one who hurts?  Why me?  I don't want to be the vessel for this pain.  It is too much.   And I'm angry.  Oh my god I'm angry.  My mother knew he was a monster and she violated court documents to send me to him.

And I'm doing it.  I'm parenting all three of these kids.  Sometimes that means that when the hurting child needs attention I arrange for help with the other two.  That's how you balance everyones needs.  I can't give up on this hurting child.  Everyone else already did.  I'm the last one standing.  If I give up on her too, there is no way through this.


  1. Look at le Marquis de Sade, look at the inquisitors in Spain. evil, systematic evil, is not as weird as we wish it would be. It is infrequent, particularly when there isn't an outside force pushing people to express the evil within, but it is not unique.

    What happened with you, near as I can figure, is that you were born to two evil people. Not crazy. Not misguided. Not damaged. Evil. And you aren't. And you're getting farther from evil with each passing day (including the bad ones). And that's amazing. No. That's hard work. What's amazing is that you never were evil. Maybe that's why it's been possible for you to pull away while your sister got worse?

    Okay, clearly it's too late for me.

  2. i like your concept of parenting yourself. it's true that you are responsible for caring for yourself, meeting your needs, and that's important. i wish i could see things that way sometimes.

    "What do I wish people had done? I wish that all of the individual people who knew I was being molested would have done anything possible to bring attention to my life. If the teacher refuses to intervene, call the principal. If the principal refuses to intervene, call the police. Make. Some. Fucking. Noise."
    i really appreciate this, because there were several points in my life when i became aware of someone being abused and either didn't do anything, or i tried but it didn't go anywhere and i gave up way too easily. i appreciate being told what to do next time, because sadly, there almost certainly will be a next time. i've been told (by another adult who survived abuse at the hands of multiple caregivers over a long period of time) that there is nothing anyone can do, and i don't want to believe that. so thank you for letting me see it another way.