Thursday, January 11, 2007

Finally told: my sexual abuse story

Over twenty years ago I was physically, psychologically and sexually abused by four young men; over and over again. And I just wrote that sentence because this is a story no one wants to hear, and one which I don’t want to tell.

The summer I was to turn thirteen I was “kept” in a rural cabin by four males aged 16-19 for a period lasting somewhere between two weeks to just over three. I was twelve when it started and I was thirteen when it ended.

I wish this could be a traditional narrative, but my memory during that period isn’t complete. Only fragments exist. I’m thankful for that.

They liked to take away my glasses, because I was legally blind without them and I couldn’t tell what they were going to do; they liked me terrified. I remember being tied to the end of a bed, and at least one touching me, telling me what they were going to do to me. One of them had a knife, he always used to tell me he’d slit my throat while I slept. This time, as he touched me, I sobbed in terror; I couldn’t really see them, just blurs, but I could hear them breathing. This was toward the end. The leader got excited when he could turn innocence to terror. If I didn’t know what was going to happen, it would make it more fun, I guess. I had been verbally leading him away from things that did terrify me and pretending more fear than I had to get him sexually excited. I thought I was in control. Until he figured it out.

At first I prayed a lot. I believed that if I didn’t beg them, or start telling them anything I thought they wanted to hear, that God would save me. And every night, I would fail. I knew inside that God wasn’t saving me because I wasn’t good enough. He was watching, waiting for me to redeem myself. But I guess I never did.

Then I mentally ran away, leaving my body limp and as lifeless as possible behind. I just kept trying to “go away.” They could do what they wanted with my body if they would just leave the “me” alone. It wasn’t good enough. And they brought me back; with cold water.

They left once; they would come back at dark. I ran around, searching, trying to find some way to kill myself. I didn’t have much time. I was hysterical. I couldn’t think of anything. So I lay down, crying, and waited for them to return. I couldn’t figure out how to kill myself so I lay down and waited for them. I was well trained.

I am almost certain I eluded them once, squeezing into a crawlspace too small for them to follow. And I am as certain that I eventually returned, crawling back out because I didn’t know what else to do. I was scared. I was thirteen and believed, deep down, that someone, SOMEONE, would save me.

No one came. No one saved me. Eventually, they left. I didn’t survive. I didn’t do anything. They just weren’t interested in me anymore. I could hardly breathe with the combination of dread and overpowering fear that they would return. I STILL wake up with a whimpering scream thinking they have returned.

Back home, I put everything that happened during that time in a mental box and I closed the lid. I didn’t talk about it, I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t drink, or do drugs, or sleep around or enter the sex trade. I went to school; I worked hard and every so often I would try to die.

Years later, when I kept trying to drive Linda away and I didn’t know why, I opened the box. Like Pandora’s Box, it seemed like all the evil of the world was stored in there and it flew out into my life. There was anger and fear, desperation, despair and hurt. And there was a piece of me, who had been in that box, trapped forever in time with those four young men. If there is a hell, that is my hell.

This is a story no one wants to hear. I tried once when I was thirteen; but I must have been either incoherent or unbelievable. As for everyone else, it is not something people want to know about someone, not someone people work with, not someone people associate with, not even someone in your family. Just talking about it in our society means that thirteen year old girl was unclean and thus, there is “something wrong” with me. Danger!

But this time, society and ex-friends and ex-associates and even I am wrong: That twelve turning thirteen year old was not to blame, is not to blame, and should not be blamed by the desires and actions of four individuals. It wasn’t her fault. Did you hear me say that Linda? It wasn’t her fault. My church never spoke about sexual abuse; except to imply if not state that no “real Christians” ever got raped. God would save them.

God did not save me. And I have issues with authority figures....and bullies. So, that’s it. If there is a feminist lesson in my story, I missed it. I hate what happened to me. I hate that I have nightmares EVERY night. I hate that I will never be able to prosecute or find these men; I don’t even have their names. And I hate that it will happen to over a HUNDRED THOUSAND children this year. But I am glad that I have stopped my attempts to drive Linda away because deep down I was afraid she would know what a filthy little thing I am. Because I intentionally tried to find what language, attitude and body posture would placate or quickly interest and excite these young men in hopes that they would like me. And if they liked me, they might hurt me less. I felt that creating something which they would find acceptable, and which might end their interest in me quickly was better than waiting, at their control, to find out what form their “needs” would take. No, I was not a “good victim”, randomly raped at knifepoint but at times an enticing, if desperate, participant. How do you forgive that? And yet, it was not her fault.

I know that no one has the same experience or even the same emotional effects of a similar experience. And I don’t know what story another person has or how they are or are not dealing with it. My experience will continue to reverberate in my waking and sleeping life, probably for many years to come. It will affect how I interact with people, and how I see and treat myself. Yet, I opened the box to find the same thing that was left behind in Pandora’s Box once all the evils had fled. Hope. Hope that somehow, I will reclaim what they stole from me, and rebuild what they broke. Their biggest mistake was in not killing me. Because though it took me over twenty years, I just told my story. And that puts me one inch further away from them and one inch closer to a world in which one human being cannot do things like that to another; a world in which they will have no place.

21 comments:

kathz said...

I'm glad you've had the courage to write this because I think it will help other people who have had similar experiences.

I think you behaved as intelligently as you could when you tried to behave in a way that would get it all over more quickly - you needed it to be over so you acted as best you could to end it.

Of course it's not your fault. Of course it should never have happened. Of course, I hope the young men have been caught and stopped - and that may have happened because there were probably others. I hope they have learnt how wrong and evil their actions were - and have to live with that (I can think of no worse punishment).

The past may be part of what you are now - that's unavoidable - but it doesn't only give you nightmares. It also gives you a capacity for empathy with others and the strong desire to campaign on their behalf. You have used what happened to you to become a more effective campaigner. It hasn't stopped you from being a good and loving human being; you may even love more deeply because you have seen its opposite.

Nothing you did then was wrong.
You were not to blame.
You are a valuable human being.
You have friends.
You are loved.
You love.

Take care of yourself - and thanks for being the courageous and caring human being you are.

Sober @ Sundown said...

I am sorry that happened to you. Thank you for having the courage to share this experience with us.

Anonymous said...

I think that being able to enunciate something as clearly as you have shows how well you are dealing with it. It's an experience that will never go away and will never be a good experience, But to be able to bring order to your expression of something that awful?

You're doing well.

Anonymous said...

Why did you open the box again for us?

Anonymous said...

I honor and respect you for opening up to the reality of the horrendous tragedy that happened to you. As long as you left the box closed, the past had control. Now you are taking courageous steps to regain that great twelve year old who survived this madhouse. As you take more steps to clean away the debris, forgive them for what they did, you will gain control of the real you. That spunky kid who may have been physically blind is not emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. Believe in your natural gifts and that you can master you, your life and your present and future Think and feel the beauty of you, be positive in your confidence in your self. Your work is to heal yourself not to focus on them and the past. With forgiveness and belief you can be free of the terror they locked you into then and for these many years. Believe in knowing peace and harmony within you.

Anonymous said...

(in response to the previous Anonymous comment)

You don't have to forgive those beasts, Elizabeth. You can confront those memories, strengthen your relationships, correct aspects of your life, even open yourself to love many people for many different reasons ... and IF you want, you can forgive. But forgiveness is not required for healing. No one can expect you to forgive.

Hell, I hate them for what they did, and I'm not anywhere near the experience.

Wiccachicky said...

That is so terrible - but you are so brave for sharing this with the world. We are all here to support you. *hugs*

Denise said...

It moves me that you are sharing this, and that you endured such torture at the hands of humans who might be better classed as monsters. I am often struck by the horrifying number of people (particularly women) around me who have experienced sexual violence, especially coming from a family and society where it's treated as a dirty secret instead of a tradgedy to be prevented in the future. I am moved to act as more people share their stories with me, and I think it helps move others to action, too.

So thank you for sharing your story. You had your own reasons to post, but others are learning and getting inspiration from your honesty and courage.

Jim said...

No words of wisdom from me. The article just makes me care more about you and understnad you better.

Cap'n Dyke said...

I love ye an' was indeed more bravery than I've seen forever.

funchilde said...

i don't have any words. tears flirt at the edge of my eyes, both for how far you've come and because you had to be there in the first place.

much love,

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thank you for your comments - I have had 4 nights without nightmares - so I can't say what that means. I have found after putting this up that I felt lighter, because no matter how people responded, they couldn't do so without doing what no one had done for all that time - someone acknowledging what happened - a person can call me a whore if they want, but even doing that they are saying, "This happened to you - I don't like you because of it, but it happened." Maybe that saying is true - a burden shared is a burden halved.

Anonymous said...

ur so brave. im 12 and it scares me to think that theres people like that in the world.i take my hat off 2 u.

Anonymous said...

i cant believe that stuff like this happens around the world.
i am so bloody proud of you.

screw that other anonymous person.
you dont have to forgive them for anything.
they are animals.
im not going to forgive them and i havnt ever had an experience like this.

kudos for you. good effort

Anonymous said...

You were a kid against 4 young men, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You must change your purpose into a positive goal in order to gain control over your life again. Don't worry about the 4 rapists, when I find them I will destroy their souls.Take care and learn to love yourself.

Mike said...

I'm not sure what I should say, but I felt I needed to say something. So I guess I'll say this:
I hope posting your story has made you feel better and even though I don't know you, I don't think you're to blame for anything they did to you.

SUNSHINE said...

YOUR STORY GIVES ME HOPE. I KNOW THE PAIN OF SEXUAL ABUSE 2 WELL. THE BOX YOU SPEAK OFF,I 2 CARRY. FEW YEAR BACK I HAD TO FACE IT, WHEN IT OPEN THE HARD WAY. IT'S A LONG ROAD FILLED WITH ANGRY,ONE THAT I FIND MYSELF NOT HANDLING WELL. YOU HAVE AN AMZING COURAGE TO SHARE THIS. THANK-U,YOUR STORY SHOWS ME THAT THIS IS A STEPPING STONE TO HEALING. I HOPE SAME DAY I'LL SHARE MY STORY AS YOU HAVE.
THANK-U AGAIN 4 BEING A STRONGER PERSON.

angel said...

I was sexually abused by 6 guys. i was blindfoldedd. but, i could feel what they were doing.

Anonymous said...

yeah i know how this felt something liekt his has happened but no one knows and i no one who it is but i refus to tell anyone

Anonymous said...

Thank u for sharing, it helped me! it also happen to me by 2 men and i was 15, i am now 27. To make it so bad they lived down the street from me and they carefully planned the rape. My mom was a single parent and she had to work a lot. Many nights i will be home alone all night. They watch and realize i will be there all night so they broke in the house and raped me. One would make me do oral sex while the other one would penetrate me, and Then they would switch. The guys that did this were in their early twenties. They raped the girl across the street from me too. they went on the run and never caught.
It felt good to tell my story.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you!! I'm 13 now and I'm christian..... I believe that god loves you and helped you through that difficult time by helping you try and get it over with. God is the one who plans our future and everything happens for a reason... maybe thid happened to you to help someone else. God knows your troubles and he loves you. Trust him!
I will pray for you <3
God Bless xx