Part II: Flashback to the horror years
By Julie . . . The path of my life was set before I was born. My mother married a convicted rapist who was either unable or unwilling to stop his behavior. For the first twelve years of my life, all I knew was physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; pain; and fear — fear from moment to moment, from day to day. My father was an alcoholic with a violent temper, someone I saw as evil. I don’t have a single memory of happy times in our family.
This is one of the few childhood pictures I have, and when I look into the eyes of that baby, I cannot help but wonder on what exact day she was lost. For lost she was, lost from whom she was meant to be, from whom God intended her to be before the abuse took away her voice, took away her sense of safety, robbed her of a childhood, ripped away a chance to learn about self-care or boundaries or to develop any sense of identity.
I hated any time spent around my father because the repercussions were all too predictable. Regardless of my sin, be it picking green apples before they were ripe or going down to the pond to catch polliwogs, he would break a stick over me. This set a pattern in my life that no matter what, I would always do everything in my power to never step one foot to the right or left of center, to never do anything that could be construed as wrong.
As much as I feared my father’s wrath, I feared something else more. Those were the times my mother was gone in the daytime and my father was home with me; those were the nights, with my mother and siblings in rooms all around us, that he came to my bed or called me to his. And his call was not a request that could be refused. The memories of those times are filled with pain and horror, but more than the pain, more than the fear was the fact that I could not cry out. Not only could I not afford to make him angry with me, but I also could not let my sister know what awful thing he was doing to me. I learned to cry silently.
Life was filled with never knowing when the police would come pounding on our door in the middle of the night and take my father away in handcuffs. We were never told the truth as to why he was being taken away. It was many years before I figured out that the reason was for crimes similar to what was happening at home. To this day I fear anyone in authority and constantly worry I might have done something wrong that I don’t even know about.
My mother always insisted that we go to jail to visit my father. I hated that. I can still hear the clanging of the bar doors as we passed from one section of the jail to another. We were frisked, and I felt like everyone knew that I was the bad person there – not my father but me. I was sure everyone knew that I was nothing but filth and someone they could do horrible things to. The sexual, mental, physical, and verbal abuse convinced me that I was the problem, that not only was I was not good enough but that I was bad and somehow deserved the abuse I received. The sinful acts of my father invaded my world and defined who I was. Many future years were filled with trying to figure out how I could be ‘good’ or at least good enough. If I wasn’t good enough for my parents to love, how could I be good enough for anyone? For myself? For God?
Read Part III — It’s all up to me — Sat. July 3