CW: Non-consensual physical contact, emotional abuse.
It could begin over anything. Sometimes it was over some youthful indiscretion on my part. Sometimes, my dad would even be laughing and joking one minute, and the next minute it was as if a switch had flipped and he was full of anger. Other times he would just hit the door in a foul mood and I couldn’t get away fast enough.
I’d get a verbal beating – I was selfish, lazy, didn’t appreciate what I’d been given. Didn’t pull my weight in the family. This was peppered with a lot of how lucky I was to have such fantastic parents who worked their fingers to the bone to provide the things I wasn’t properly thankful for. I was clearly a disappointment, and the disdain and resentment would drip from his voice.
He’d often use his 6-foot-five-inch size to intimidate and scare me during these times. He’d make sudden movements – snatch a hat off my head for example – that made it VERY clear that this could turn to physical violence at any moment. He only followed through on that once, but once was enough.
My mother would often join in on this barrage, tag-teaming him and adding to the general “Why can’t you just be the kid we wanted? Why do you have to be so WRONG???”
You see, my dad was the king of our household. A classic narcissist with an adoring wife who waited on him hand and foot, took his beatings and looked the other way when there were other women.
From the beginning she used me as either a pawn or a scapegoat. She’d use me as a reason for him not to go out, and when that didn’t work it was my fault.
And god help me if I ever tried to talk back or share my side of any of this. They were classic gaslighters – either flat out denying that things I’d witnessed had ever happened, or insisting it was all my fault to begin with.
How They Took Away My Consent
But like any other narcissist, my dad wanted adoration. And it didn’t matter that he’d just verbally beaten the self-esteem right out of me a half hour ago, if he passed me somewhere in the house he’d hug me (Just a hug, it wasn’t sexual) and say “I love you.”
And I had absolutely no choice but reciprocate. Because if I acted upset or rejected this overture in any way, the whole verbal assault thing would start up again.
Enter My Teen Years
The first time it happened was in I think 8th grade. I was a typical 80’s latchkey kid, so I had a few hours to myself after school before my parents came home. One day a good friend stopped by with another friend of his. I was not remotely interested in this person, but apparently he was in me. He cornered me and looked down my shirt to inform me that I was “coming out of” my ill-fitting bra. Next thing I knew he had me against the wall and began kissing me.
That was my first kiss. And it was 100% non-consensual.
But this kid (I can’t even remember his name now) had no idea of this. I’d been well trained – I had no right to say no. Instead, I froze and went along with it. He came back alone the next day because I couldn’t figure out how to tell him not to and took things even further. I had no idea how to stop this, how to say I didn’t want this. He had my shirt off, hands down my pants, and even put a bigass hickey on my neck.
I only held onto my virginity that day because I noticed the time and said my parents would be home soon. I only kept him from coming back for more by making up a fake boyfriend – I even had a friends older brother call to tell him to leave me alone.
It was weeks before I could watch any kind of sex scene on TV without feeling physically sick.
Having been denied his ultimate goal, the boy went back to school and made up one of the most perverted stories imaginable about our encounter. I was painted as a freak as he claimed to have used multiple household objects on me – even silverware. It was the talk of the school.
I was absolutely devastated. So I told my mom. And when she asked what he was saying about me, I told her.
And she erupted with laughter. Like, big belly-laugh, laugh till you cry kind of laughter.
As my teen years went by, this “I don’t want to but don’t know how to say no” thing happened repeatedly. I mean, not every time – I did have a consensual “friend with benefits.” But mostly, I just didn’t have the backbone to say no.
Enter The Church
A few days back I wrote about an article that outlines how childhood abuse becomes self abuse.
A single traumatic event during childhood can cause lifelong problems in adults if not properly treated. Children simply don’t have the life experience or the cognitive ability to understand that the pain they experience isn’t somehow their fault.
And when the message they receive from parents, over the course of an entire childhood is, “whatever you’re thinking is wrong, and you don’t have the right to defend yourself,” you’re pretty much grooming that child for future abuse.
That’s exactly what happened to me. Only I didn’t find an abusive boyfriend to come and rule my life per se… I joined an abusive church. One with a very authoritarian leader and a strict set of rules for me to follow.
Over time I spent so much effort trying to live up to the person they wanted me to be (because just like with my parents, the real me wasn’t acceptable) that I lost sight of who I am.
They took ME away from me.
It may take the rest of my life, but now that I’m free from both of them – parents and church – the real me is all there’s gonna be. Love me, hate me, I really don’t care.
Nothing is more important than owning your SELF. Remember that.