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Showing posts with label CSA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CSA. Show all posts

Friday, May 21, 2021

Controlling your life starts with controlling you

You know sometimes you start a blog post about an idea that hits you that you can relate to and before you know it, it becomes deeply personal to the point of being a little vulnerable.  But, here goes.  As a CSA (childhood sexual abuse) survivor who was raised in a dysfunctional home with alcoholism and domestic violence, I became aware at a young age of idea of powerlessness and the idea of having any control over anything was ridiculous to me.   Add to that the fact that our house looked run down and just not generally presentable, that I wore worn clothes to school, that I was bullied and that I never felt like I fit in and then you can see even more clearly why I would feel that way.

Had someone said control starts with you, I would have laughed at them.  The idea of 'being in control' would have sounded utterly absurd to me.   As previously mentioned, I didn't have control over what I could wear or what eat, the home in which I live in and its state of repair or disrepair.   In my house, I didn't have control over the dysfunction--the yelling, the screaming, in some cases the domestic violence.  On my person, I didn't have control over the sexual abuse that happened to me and the bullying in the neighborhood and at school.   So, to me the idea to me that I controlled anything would have met with like a "yeah, right" type stare.  Before I go on, I just want to state that I'm not focused on what I "didn't have" but am setting up a point.   I do realize that I am still fortunate in some ways living in the wealthiest country in the world.   But, I digress.  I didn't realize it then, but I realize these days that in some ways I had much more control than I understood. 

Let's move forward into my adulthood.   I was always the 'peacemaker' which in some ways is another way of saying "approval seeker" or "people pleaser".   I had started that role in my childhood and played that role in my adult life too.  It didn't help that I developed a moderate to severe anxiety condition as a 17 year old and as such sought calm as a result.  In any case,  this desire for approval (or better yet to not be disliked) led me to not properly stand up for myself.   I didn't stand up for myself as a kid and as a young adult I continued this pattern.  In some ways, I let those closest to me continued to control me by using my need for approval and my need not to be disliked or unwanted.   So, in some ways to me it felt like a progression from my childhood with the manipulation and being controlled that was part of needing acceptance.

--

Despite having the sense of 'powerlessness' in my early years and my earlier adulthood,  I believe I gradually have awakened to a different view or perspective of control (or power).  I used to be view power or control as:

  • Something that is given or allowed.  
  • Something we have to grab aggressively to gain.
  • Necessarily involve or interact with that which is outside out.
I've seen the results of a child who had everything taken from him.  This child ended up being a bully.  He felt like he needed to try to control others to gain control himself.  Instead of realizing that he was just a kid and as such his authority was limited, he felt like he needed be pushy with adults to get his way and he needed to demand that he get to do what or get he wanted when he wanted.   When he felt his 'authority' being challenged he would get belligerent.  When he felt like what he had was at risk, even if that wasn't the case, he felt the need to make proactive threats.  In short, he was relying on trying to control others, being aggressive to get and 'keep' power, and blatantly involving outside forces.  As you might imagine this didn't work out well for him.   If anything he pushed others away, he tended to not get what he wanted in the long run and in many ways lost some of the control or power he had had.  In short, he represented the downfall of viewing power the way I had.


As I've grown and matured, I've come to realize that power or control can be:
  • That which we can implicitly gain or earn.
  • That which we can find within ourselves.
  • It isn't necessarily something we are given or allowed, but what we own.

As a teen, when my parents divorced, I was my dad's helper.  He wasn't very good at the 'bachelor' thing.  I had somewhat taken over cooking near the end of my parent's marriage as my mom spent a lot of time out trying to escape her unhappiness.  My dad noted this and when they got divorced, I had 'earned' the role of cooking and shopping.  For someone who didn't feel like he had any control that is pretty significant.  I had gained my dad's trust in 'taking care of' the house in some ways.

While I've had to push back on family and friends who I felt took me for granted or in some cases took advantage and had to assert control.  I've come to realize that control also comes is not necessarily asserting power externally.  For this young person I'd met, he often didn't think his behaviors through.  He was captive to his emotions.  In other words, he wasn't even in control of himself.   Often times, control is as simple as making a decision not to let your emotions rule and ruin your day as well as cause conflict.  In other words, control in your life is to put yourself in the best position to succeed.  When I trained over the summer running during high school, I exhibited control.  Running was never easy, especially by myself.  But, in order to perform well, I would have to do that which was not comfortable.  In a sense, I made a conscience decision to control my actions and in the process exert control over my own future (performance).  In short, control here is a conscience decision to what I needed to and try to avoid doing things which were harmful to me.

When my daughter's mom was pregnant with her, often I didn't feel like I was given the respect or taken as seriously as I should have been.  I had wondered exactly how I would the "parenting authority".  In time, I came to realize it does not have to be something that I would given.  Such as voters give to the winning candidate for public office.  Nor does it have to be something allowed, like my parents letting me hang out with my friends.  What I realized in time was this little person, my infant daughter was learning something profound.  In her own infant (and then toddler way), she sensed that her parents were taking care of her, were meeting her needs,  we being supportive of her.   We didn't really ask for permission so much as we accepted the role of parents.   We owned our responsibility.  In her own way our baby/infant daughter had learned that she should mind us as she 'knew' that we were there to meet her needs.  So, we owned the role and therefore the power or authority that comes with it. 

--

So, what is my takeaways?
  • When someone in your life tries to control you, to a large degree the control over you is what you allow or tolerate from them.
  • Control doesn't need to be something achieved via threats over others.  It is best achieved or earned by doing the right things for the right reason and therefore gaining authority or power with that role. 
  • You can't control how people treat you, but you can control your response.  You can influence your outcomes positively with control of yourself.

Anyway, just another perspective on control when others in position of power raise endless sum of money trying to essentially 'buy' it.   In many regards we are more free than those who seek to gain power.  

Thanks for reading and I hope you took something from it.

Sincerely,
Rich



Friday, January 10, 2020

#MeAsWell, Part 2 - Trauma: The Wild West of Emotions

Paraphrasing what a counselor once said to me: Trauma doesn't necessarily occur when the incident or event happen, it is when you become aware of or start processing it.  His point was that someone can have a traumatizing experience, but the trauma or the impact isn't necessarily immediate.  What follows includes a deeply personal story and if you aren't ready for that, I don't blame you for stopping here. Anyway, I think for a CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) survivor, trauma occurs when he or she realizes how wrong and how violated they were.  CSA can occur when an adult or much older kid wins the trust of a young child and groom them in the process, eventually leading to SA.


A groomer can
  • Being a 'good listener' aka 'being there'.
  • Showing 'empathy'.
  • Be seemingly nice and generous.
This gives the CSA survivor trust in their predator who might then
  • Rubbing on a back
  • Patting a leg
  • Putting hand(s) on shoulder(s) 
  • Intense tickling 
As trust is won and the survivor gets used to the 'warm' physical touch, a predator may
  • Show too much affection such as forced kissing
  • Touch/fondle in inappropriate places
  • Engage in sexual abuse at varying levels.
Unfortunately, this wasn't just a theory for me.  In my blog post, #MeAsWell: For What It's Worth, I go into my own experiences with CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) at the hands of at least two males, one of whom was a church camp counselor. I didn't immediately recognize what was happening even when the groomer(s) took it to from a little inappropriate to an unquestionable violation of my person.  As puberty was descending on me it all started to dawn on me.  I had been sexually abused and the ignorance of my youngest years about what was happening gave way over time to many emotions/cognitions:
  • Confusion: Why did I allow it to happen?  Why did I tolerate it? Did I 'secretly like it'?  I've over time come to the understanding that I didn't:
    • Ask for it.  It was forced upon me.  Not always necessarily physically, but often after by what I realize now emotional blackmail.
    • Appreciate what was happening.  I was nowhere near puberty when it started. So, I realize that (and this disgusts me saying this) any positive feelings from the grooming and inappropriate touch early on were mistaken feelings of acceptance.  That is, if he is comfortable 'touching'*** me and being this close then that must me I be likable.  Little kids value and crave acceptance and I was no different.  Clearly my young child psyche was telling me I wasn't getting appropriate type and level of acceptance where I needed it.  Therefore, when a predator threw 'acceptance' at me, disguised as 'caring', I was unfortunately taken in by it.  Mistaking inappropriate attention for acceptance.
  • Feelings of Weakness/Shame/How could I have let it happen?  Unfortunately, 20/20 hindsight can be brutal
    • As a teenager and beyond I thought to myself how could I let myself be violated like that, especially by other guys.
    • Why didn't I stand up for myself and how the hell could I not have realized it was wrong.  In other words, deep shame.
  • Anger
    • How dare someone use me like that, looking out for themselves. (I believe this is one reason I despise idiot drivers who risk my safety for their own impatience).
    • That someone was able to turn my vulnerability on me and take advantage of me.
    • That I wasn't protected by those who were supposed to be my guardians.
  • Deep distrust
    • Those who purported to have cared about me, really didn't and they were looking out for their own 'fulfillment' (at my expense).  One was in a position of 'religious' leader.
      • It's a pretty easy step step to default distrust of intentions (even subconsciously) if those who were supposed to 'care' about you proved to have deeply selfish, sick and harmful motives.
    • Those who were supposed to be keeping me safe, let me down. So, I have to look out for myself.
      • I realize to some degree now, the world was a more trusting world back then.  Priest/teacher/Hollywood producer/etc. type scandals were not in the news. 
      • Things like this weren't spoken of.  So, parents I think in some ways were 'groomed' to not be able to appreciate and handle these type situations.
      • If there is already dysfunction in the house, it can be distracting from a primary purpose of parents to keep the household (including kids) safe.
  • Disgust
    • I am disgusted by some behaviors now that I might have just overlooked.  Obviously, seeing a grown-up be 'too friendly' with a kid is one of them.
    • In some ways, I am deeply put off by arrogant behavior.  I'm almost in a way disgusted by their behavior.
    • I have struggled at times in my life being comfortable around older men, especially if I sense anything 'off' about them.
  • Anxiety 
    • I'm not going to delve into this one.  I think this one is obvious and it is really in some ways an extension/logical conclusion of all the other feelings/cognitions.
  • Powerlessness
    • I was pressured, bullied, cajoled, and even though I didn't necessarily always realize it at the time, threatened in other's pursuit of their unhealthy/wrong satisfaction/needs.
    • I've heard from other CSA and/or SA survivors that their feelings of powerlessness can get in the way of intimacy.  In other words, if you felt powerless in an area which you should have felt safe--your personhood--that it is hard to give up control or power in that area.  In other words, that's an area which we'd tend to default to trying to 'get back' control.  
      • Seeking control can take the form of 'frigidness'.  This means, I won't allow you or anyone into my intimate space.
      • Seeking control can take the form of promiscuity.  This means, I am taking back control or at leverage of my intimacy for my advantage as opposed to that of others.
*** I mean more than touch but you know, not an easy thing to share with the world.


In this blog post, I am focusing on CSA because that's the one I'm most personally familiar with (being a survivor of it).  However, I'm aware that other traumas can cause a wide range of emotions.  The murder/death of someone close or the sudden and acute health problems are just a couple.  

I refer this this as "The Wild West of Emotions" as we think of the Wild West as being:
  • Tending to be intense
  • Often unpredictable in timing and intensity
  • Raw, especially emotionally.
  • Untamed
I think my own personal list demonstrates this.  I'm sure many others who have experienced significant traumas can relate.  To whomever reads this, I hope you gain a little insight or unfortunately if necessary can relate.  In any case, as always feel free to take what you can use from my post.

Thanks,
Rich

* A personal note.  I think my late brother was a CSA survivor.  Unfortunately, I believe effects of this haunted him in some ways for the rest of his life and help lead to his early passing.  RIP Bill.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The 3-Legged Stool: Difficulty in Shaking off Narcissists

I was discussing with my wife recently about why I believe abuse survivors can have a harder time shaking off encounters with a narcissists, specifically those who attempt to control or and/or use belligerence to dominate.  For her it, the solution was to simply ignore the person.  In other words, if the person gives you 'unwanted advice', tries to 'suggest' (aka TELL) you what to do or some attempt at shaming, you either a) humor them or b) just totally ignore them or blow them off.  In other words, don't let them have any 'real estate in your head'.

Now anyone who has ever has ever 'survived' dealing with narcissists, especially those in a position of power over them and/or present in their childhood, probably knows what I am talking about.

In many cases ignoring or humoring them is very sound advice. This is especially true IMHO where their interaction with you doesn't undermine your authority in an appreciable way.  In other words, some things just aren't worth getting riled up over risking a fight.  However, I believe to someone who is an abuse/attack survivor, might find it hard to 'let it go' so to speak.

Her argument was that her dad could be a dominant personality and she was able to stand up for myself.   I understand her point and was struggling to find a way to help her understand.  I tried to find a way to answer why I react more passionately and get more upset when I am completely disrespected or controlled.  I finally stumbled upon an idea.   A table or stool with three legs is harder to collapse or flip over than those with fewer.  That is to say the more destructive factors you've had in your life, the less likely it is that you'll be able to 'let it go'.

Consider it this way:
  • When we think of a stool, we think of a handy product which can be used to hold us up when are reaching to get something we need.   Imagine the stool instead of holding us up, is used to hold up our baggage up and 'in place'.   Is that really a stool we'd want or is that a stool we'd want to see collapsed?
  • We know a 3-legged stool or table is more sturdy or stable than those with fewer legs.  From what I can see, abuse survivors don't just have 'abuse' in play.  From personal experience, observations and talking with others, people who are ultimately abused are often vulnerable to abuse because of other factors--overbearing parents/adults in their formative years and bullying for example.


Anyway, here are three legs of the stool which holds up inability to shake off encounters with narcissists in adulthood:
* Overbearing parent or other authoritative adult figure during childhood.
* Bullying (verbal or menacing)
* Attack/abuse

Now, these three legs or factors aren't necessarily exclusive.  That is to say the same person or persons can supply more than one leg of the stool.  That is to say, a bully can also be an abuser/attacker and that the overbearing parent or adult can be the bully who abuses or attacks for example.

We hear all the time, back in the day if I talked back like that, my mom/dad would have beaten me.  Sometimes the speaker might say how his/her voice was overrode by his/her parent, but that he or she eventually found his or her voice.   As a parent myself, I have found that I sometimes have to be assertive and override voices of a child/children.  Now, taken to the extreme that can be damaging and compel a kid to shut down or fear authority.  I do believe in most cases kids do gain a measure of a voice (and sometimes 'too much'), but I digress.  Like a one-legged stool/table, they can learn to easily push aside disrespect/lack of control later in life.  That is to say, the baggage associated with 'not having a voice', if others negative factors aren't in play, can thrown off more easily in adulthood. As people of my generation understood, that's part of growing up.

Add the factor of being bullied in your formative years.  Not only are you trying to seek their voice among adults in your life, but you are also trying to fend off those who would challenge their well-being and/or peace of mind.  With authoritative adults in a child's life, we typically think that the adult figure has the child's interests in mind.  In the case of a bully, for whatever reason, the bully typically doesn't tend to factor in the child's interest.  For whatever reason, they bully feels that it is okay to pick on his or her target.  Sometimes they don't care, but sometimes they can attempt to justify their behavior.  They might claim that they are helping a kid learn how to deal.   They might also that their 'victim' deserved it.  Whatever their reasoning their behavior it can reinforce the inability of a child to shake off disrespectful (or controlling behavior) later in life.  If you are so used to dealing with this sort of behavior, even minor 'bullying' in your adulthood can seem like more of the same (and hence hard to shake off).  Like adding a second leg, it can strengthen the stool or table which holds up the anger, frustration and/or resentment which results from facing 'bullying' behavior later in life.  A stool with two legs has some degree of stability, but is still by its nature can be collapsed relatively easily.

As with a stool/table, once you add a third leg (or factor), the stool becomes very steady and very sturdy.  In other words, it will tend to stay upright and not collapsed unless you apply a great deal of force to it.  A person who has dealt with an overbearing adult may have had to 'justify' their voice.  A person who has dealt with a bully may have had to create or find a space for their voice.  But a youngster who has been abused or attacked, especially sexually, has had to recover from their voice being stolen outright from them.  It's bad enough having to justify your voice or find a place to exercise it safely, but like the third leg of the stool, having your voice stolen from you, reinforces the anger, frustration and/or resentment.  A response to narcissist behavior in later life isn't simply ignoring attempt it.  It is using whatever tools you have at your resource to make sure your voice isn't stolen again.  Anger, frustration, resentment and the like can be seen as tools to be deployed to ensure you he or she who could hold you down and crush or steal your voice is not given that opportunity.  It isn't simply being annoyed that you are being 'bullied'. Nor is it 'stepping away' and finding a place where your voice is safe.  To a survivor of abuse and/or an attack, there is a sense that the one who would control, disrespect you and/or otherwise bully you must be guarded against and in some cases be shut down.  In other words, sometimes you need to bare your teeth, build a wall or counterattack to make sure their threat to you is neutralized.

To someone who has just dealt with strict parents and maybe some bullying, but has never had to face the insecurity of abuse, a severe reaction to a narcissist can look like an overreaction.  That is to say intense anger, frustration, resentment, etc. can look like an overreaction to a when dealing with a narcissist.  I've dealt with the all three--CSA (childhood sexual abuse), bullying and an overbearing/controlling parent.  As an adult, I've come to understand situations better than I did as a kid.  However, I still am more inclined to, like a cat, arch my back, when I feel under threat or attack, 'hiss' and keep a wary eye open.  

Hopefully, this gives more perspective on why some people can let attempts at abusive/controlling/bullying behavior slide, where others cannot.  The more negative experiences you have had to deal with in life, the more likely you are to see are to see 'more of the same' when it comes to dealing with narcissists.   It isn't just dealing with a jerk, it is dealing with someone who is a threat to your serenity (or at least it can feel like it).

Anyway, I'm tired when writing this, so hopefully, it does make some sense.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Rich


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

#MeAsWell: For What It's Worth


I have always had an interest in human nature.  I've always been fascinated in what makes people tick.   For whatever reason, I was a very sensitive kid and am a sensitive adult--which can lead to understanding or being able to read people/situations, but it also can lead to getting hurt more easily.  But, I digress.   I took an interest specifically in human nature as it relates to codependence and addiction as both hit close to home.  I've experienced addiction and/or codependence, from multiple perspectives--firsthand, as a survivor and as an observer.  So, I figured I could understand and intelligently talk about the subject matter.  Maybe a little bit of hubris, but you talk about what you are confident talking about.


Many of my blog posts are insights from watching others and the world around me.   However, some are from personal experiences--a few of which are deeply personal.  Anyway, when I do decide to share insight from (deep) personal experience, I do with it the goal of helping others. I hope they can  use what I share to relate to, identify with or gain knowledge from what a lifetime of experience has taught me.   I am not one who is prone to 'brag' about or verbally vomit my life story on Facebook  or other social media. So, I when I share deeply personal experiences, it is mostly with the hope that it is benefiting others.  Perhaps to a degree, sharing can give me a fuller opportunity to process or even heal a little bit, but I do sincerely hope I can help others.

What I am about to write as you might imagine has weighed on me for a lifetime and I've shared bit and pieces with those closest to me that I trust.  However, I haven't openly shared it for public consumption or even necessarily fully.

So, what are we talking about?  Good question.  I figured one day after my parents were gone, I'd write about my experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).  I mean my experiences at the time and the effect it has had since. This as you might imagine is not an easy subject for me to write.  My intent is not to throw anyone under the bus or to humiliate or shame anyone living or dead.  For this reason, I didn't tell this story publicly until after both of my parents were gone.  Furthermore, there are some details I will leave out.

Why now? 


  • My parents are gone.
  • I feel it's part of the healing process.
  • The #MeToo movement has helped reduce the stigma of sexual abuse.
  • I want people to realize or not to forget that #MeToo is not or should not be limited to one type of abuse/circumstance.  It happens across all types of gender and age bounaries.
  • Why not, if I can help others relate, understand or become aware of warning signs (before or after abuse), then my unfortunate experiences will not have been in vain.

---


Let's start with what I do know:
  • My dad struggled with demons of alcohol and probably abuse too, sexual and otherwise.  I was shocked a few years before he died when discussing the subject with him, he said to me, "Well how do you think I learned?"   Wow.   
  • My mom struggled with codependence.  She just had always wanted to be accepted and loved and sometimes was a bit obvious with it.
  • My mom was a stay-at-home mom at least until I was a teen.
  • My dad was a workaholic and spent a lot of time when he wasn't working drowning his demons with alcohol.  I'm sure there was probably more to the story, but you know, not everything is told.
  • My parents raised six kids with my dad being gone a lot and my mom being the one had to deal with six kids.
  • Home life was dysfunctional.
  • There was not enough money (at least left after demon drowning) to attend to our basic needs such as decent clothing, not to say anything of our wants.
  • I was bullied as a child.
  • Let's be charitable our house growing up was neglected.
  • I remember my dad having girly magazines from as long as I remember.

I will not speak for others in my family who may have suffered abuse as well with the exception of my late brother where he talked a little bit to me about it.  I am not one to gossip, nor is it my right to speculate or write on the subject matter for others.  I speak only for myself.  That being said as you will read, I have reason to suspect that others in the family were harmed.


Against the backdrop of a dysfunction family, parents with their own issues, my emotional needs not being met and being shunned at school, it is easy to see that I was an at-risk youth.   There were two people that I was aware of that sexually abused me as a child.  One I will not speak about directly, but let's just say I was it was an older adolescent whom I looked up to and whom was likely abused himself.   The second one was an adult, a 'church camp counselor'.  Some of my older siblings went to a church camp which my church at that time participated in.  They had met this guy named Rick (and yes that's his actual name).  He's the reason when I am called 'Rick", I cringe and hate it.

I don't know the precise point in time, but from what I can piece together, they had met this guy during the summer after I was 8, though it could have been the one before I was 8.  Anyway, this guy was associate with another church in our area (as I found out later) and somehow had weaseled his way into getting to be a camp counselor for the boys.  Anyway, some of my older siblings had mentioned about this guy and how he seemed like a nice guy and all.  Well, as I would later figure out predators tend to be attuned to at risk kids/families.  Anyway, Rick weaseled his way into my family first through older siblings and then getting the okay to spend time with us by my parents.  It is easy to question, "Where were my parents?" but I realize that this situation occurred long before the 'priest' sexual abuse and similar scandals surfaced.  This was a time in which we could leave our front door unlocked and even open without having to worry about being attacked.   In other words, a simpler world, a world in which having a having an adult male mentor aka Big Brother, especially one who professed to have good Christian values was seen as a unmitigated positive. 

So, Rick came to spend time with us, really he seemed to take special interest in the boys in my family and pretty well ignored the girls.  Perhaps should have been red flag number one, I don't know.  So, my dad worked a lot and had issues with the bottle and all that came with it.  My mom had her hands full with six kids. So, having someone to help was probably considered a blessing.  From my perspective as a kid, I was getting picked on at school, I felt shunned because I presented as poor and coming from a family with issues, I had few friends, didn't get the good dad time and felt like I couldn't bring anyone over do to a neglected house.  So, to me, I was grateful to have an adult willing to listen to me, who seemed to understand me and seemed to like me and be nice.

  Anyway, I don't know when it started, but I would guess between 8 and 9, he started grooming me.  I don't remember the sequence of events exactly, but if I had to guess based on my knowledge of what grooming is, he probably first talked to me and made me feel important, touched me on my shoulder or something 'harmless', rubbed my back, or eventually reached my privates--I'm still disgusted by saying this.  Let's just say, he probably 'got something out of it' if you know what I mean.  This happened at my parents house and and at a later point, why he was gracious enough to invite me over to his place.  I remember this continued until some time after puberty.  Some kids get sex education or spoken knowledge from their parents, some get it from a film at school, unfortunately, I was treated with this education first hand with a predator.  To this day, I am still humiliated by this.  Let's just say there is a word that people use to discuss 'sexual self-love' and he involved me in that and showed me things.  To this day, I cringe at the word and idea.  I don't know what if anything else more invasive happened than what I have mentioned.  Near the end of his time in my life, three things of note happened:
  • My late older brother Bill, God rest his soul, was treating Rick like a jerk (at least that's what I thought at the time).  I understood later and Bill told me later he was putting it all together and that he was upset because he wasn't sure what all Rick had done to him.  In hindsight, Bill was protecting us and I suspect his intervention helped lead to Rick backing out of the picture.
  • In the process of a call with Rick one time, he said more or less that he could called Child Protective Services (or whatever it was called then) on my parents and have us kids removed from our parents.  I don't remember him saying to hush about what had happened, but that would be the implication.  Obviously, I know now that a man preying on children probably wouldn't want to draw attention to himself that way, but back then it was a threat that I didn't understand.  Why was Rick saying that? 
  • When I was a freshman in high school I got a call from a 'long lost friend'.  His call was about as welcome as wetting the bed a couple years after I thought it ended.  Maybe that was a reason I had a problem with bedwetting, who know?  Anyway. I handed over the phone to a sibling and said, "Could you deal with this?"  That was the last time I heard from him.

The incidents with the older adolescent stopped when I was 17.   They seem to start around near the time that Rick had weaseled my life and were similar in level.  Let's just say, when I was 17, I was sleeping one time and came to find myself starting to be used a certain way that has the initials for Billy Joel.  I was too intimidated to stand up for myself and pretended to be asleep.  That was the last time I was taken advantage of, and definitely by a guy.

I will leave it at that.  I wasn't 'prison raped' to the best of my knowledge, but obviously just short of that.


--

I told my story above, as much as it made me cringe, because I felt it was time. Over time I've put it together and realize the long-term impact it has had.  So, it is time to share that from my perspective.  In no particular order:

  1. I was sexualized very early.  I didn't have the luxury of normal self-discovery, but it was forced on me.   As you might imagine this led to problems in my teens and into my adulthood.  It has led to unhealthy relationships and mistakes in and out of relationships.  It has led to an excess focus in my life upon sexuality.
  2. I got approval when as a kid, "I allowed myself to be used".   For a long time I saw myself as allowing sexual misconduct. In other word, Rich if you had been stronger, you would have put a stop to it.  But, they don't call it the 'age of consent' for no reason.  Kids, especially, but not limited to preteens are not expected to have the wisdom, judgment or power (physical or emotional) to make those kind of determinations or be able to be able fight back against those who would take advantage of them.
  3. My sense of my orientation was messed up.  I think to some degree over the years, this has probably led me to 'prove' myself.  After all, I didn't 'stop' same sex predators from taking advantage of me, so maybe I was 'okay' with it.  I'm not here to judge or condemn others for their orientation or lifestyle, so don't get my wrong. However, a kid shouldn't have those issues thrown in their face, especially without consent.   However, I realize now that my questions about my own orientation were totally unfounded. 
  4. I was concerned that perhaps I'd could turn into into that which I fell victim to.  I think there is a tendency (or at least there was) for people to presume that childhood sexual abuse survivor (CSA) will be at high risk of becoming a perpetrator themselves.   I was oversexualized very early and a teenager and probably gave off those vibes in spades.  I felt dirty, naughty, 'perverted', etc.  I realized when I was in my early to mid 20s and was around kids, especially my young niece, and felt nothing but love and wanting to protect her, that my fears  were totally unfounded.  If anything, I came to realize what happened to me made me more likely to a) never want a kid to be harmed, b) be aware of what harms kids, and c) never want to be remotely perceived as being anything but appropriate.  When I was dating someone and she told her mom about what happened to me.  She expressed that her mom was concerned that kids who are abused turn out to be abusers.  I felt victimized again.  Not only was I abused as a child but I was portrayed as a potential predator that way.   It felt like a huge slap in my face and disregard for what I'd learned from being a survivor of CSA.
  5. Major, major, major, I can't stress how much I mean major distrust of people, especially males.  I was 'taught' at an early age that people act like they like you, but end up only liking you for what you can do for them or what they can 'get' from you.  Getting bullied as a kid and having an 'old school', deal with it, often insensitive male role model didn't help. However, from what I know now, my dad was only following the example he was set (and probably was abused himself).  Anyway to this day, if I sense a male is seriously trying to take advantage of me in any way or trying to negatively affect my life, I get POed.  I can accept and forgive a lot.  Even if they would never be able to find out that I  privately forgave them, I forgave those whom hurt me sexually as a I child.  However, my biggest pet peeve is arrogance, especially from a male, when it is utilized to 'get something' or take advantage of myself or my loved ones.  That's a hard thing for me to swallow.  I'd hate to be a future boyfriend of my daughter who thinks I will tolerate that for a moment.
  6. I find it hard to give up control--including affection.  Unfortunately for my wife, I cringe often when she gives me a friendly rub on the arm or something like that.  The loss of control in such a personal area of one's life as a kid, can fuel a need to 'control' that area in later life.  That's a hard thing to fully recover from.  It is second nature her to show positive attention that way and unfortunately, sometime I have to remind her that that can be uncomfortable for me. 
  7. My self-blame for what was done to me, unfortunately made me susceptible to always blaming myself for my failures (or what I saw as my failures).  It's proper to take blame for a failures when they actually are things you really shouldn't have done or for those things which you really should have been more cautious about.  But, beating yourself up for being too different personality-wise than someone your dating, for example, is a sign of being way too critical of yourself.
  8. Generalized anxiety disorder.  Anyway, who has this knows this can at times be debilitating.  I used to have occasional panic attacks as late teen/early adult.  Confidence and experience have led to me being able to overcome those, but not the generalized anxiety.

Some of these things, I put to rest, like questions about orientation or the risk of me becoming like those hurt me.  Other things I have made progress with including self-blame. But, some things like giving up control, I still struggle with.


I guess the takeaway I have to give from my own CSA survivor experience and to some degree from that of others that I have known:


Beware of the signs of a predator:
  • If a grownup takes what feels like an inordinate amount of interest in your kids, beware.  I'm not talking about someone who loves kids.  I'm talking about someone who tries TOO hard to relate to them and seems TOO eager to try to gain their acceptance.  That could be a huge red flag.  I believe this is usually a you'll know it when you see it sort of thing.  In other words, don't accuse in your mind anyone who gives kids positive attention, but if it seems way off, there is a good chance that it is.  While, it is important not to make accusations or suggestions lightly, it is also important not to dismiss them because 'it couldn't happen' or 'he or she isn't the type'.
  • If someone, especially a grown-up seems too willing to be too affectionate with them, beware.  I'm not talking about a pat on the head or a quick warm hug.  I'm talking about more drawn out and more methodical or more blatantly obvious affection.  Once again, this is an area in which it is important not to make accusations or suggestions lightly or blow affection out of proportion--especially when the giver is a close relative.   However, it is just as important not to automatically dismiss out of hand either.  A parent or caregiver who is open-minded, I believe can usually differentiate on what is 'too much affection' as given by another towards their kid.
  • If someone, especially, a grownup seems to want to spend too much time with them, especially alone time, beware.  This can be true for those whom they are related too (formally or not), but it can also be true with a relative stranger as well.  I remember in my own situation, Rick, when he was in his 'predator zone', would tend to only want one of us immediately around.  I didn't put it together at the time, but it makes sense now.

Be aware of the signs of CSA.
  • A kid is unnaturally inappropriate.  I'm not talking goofy giggly talk of preteens of silly immature talk of kids hitting puberty or locker room talk of boys wanting to fit in.  I'm talking where you sense a child is way too focused on sexuality.   This doesn't mean automatically they have been sexualized early, but it can be a HUGE red flag. 
  • If a kid shuts down or their behavior suddenly changes.  In other words, they seem to be in protective mode or they seem darker in personality than usual.  This can include their seeming complete disinterest or even distaste for dating.
  • A kid spends too much time trying to be private or trying to keep everything private from parents and others.  Kids need their space to figure themselves out and they need their space to develop healthy relationships.  However, CSA can cause kids to become more curious at an early age.  A huge boundary has been crossed with CSA and therefore, crossing other boundaries such as porn and early sexual involvement with other kids probably isn't as taboo for them that it should be.  They know it's 'taboo', but they also have been taught on some level that boundaries are flexible anyway.  To get over this conflict, kids they can resort to hiding their 'taboo' behavior.  A sign of this can be an excessive need for privacy and to 'hide' their behavior from parents.

Be aware of the long-term affects
  • Distrust of others, especially of, but not necessarily limited to those in authority.  After all, CSA is usually, but not always perpetrated by an authority figure who should have been trustworthy.
  • Sexual dysfunction.   Either too sexual or completely closed off sexually.
  • Relationship problems including mistaking sex for love.  After a CSA survivor was 'taught' that positive attention that way means that they are loved or appreciated.
  • Disregard for consequences of their actions at times.  This can include legal consequences, but I'm not specifically meaning that.  The concept is a huge barrier was blown through early on, often without consequences for the one(s) who did it.  This can send a message that barriers are a speed limit sign.  That is something should be followed, but which is largely ignored by many, if not most people.  After all, their own boundaries have not been respected, so what do boundaries matter anyway  In my own life, it took getting older, having a child and my brother Bill's suicide to bring me to maturity in some ways. 
  • Long-term anxiety (if not dealt with early).
  • Self-doubt.  Why did I allow this to happen.


The best thing we can do as parents is to be engaged with our children.  We can't always protect them but at least if we are engaged, we give them a better chance of being protected.  The better we know our kids, the better we can protect them or become aware more quickly if they are in danger or have been harmed.

I hope and pray my story has been helpful to at least a handful of people who may have read this.

Thanks, for spending your team reading part of my life's story and what it taught me.

-- Rich

* Why did I put #MeAsWell?  I think the whole #MeToo thing has been politicized too much and I'm not interested in making a political statement.  I'm not bashing #MeToo as there is so much bravery in #MeToo.  I just wanted to go a different route.

* I picked this song because, while it doesn't speak of CSA, the sense I get with this song is a loss of innocence of a generation.  Obviously, I can relate.