Ungentle Histories

The dam broke. Something roared to the surface, something whispered in corners, I felt as if all the air was being sucked out of the room and I wanted to pick something up and just beat someone with it. Instead, I decided to write another entry to Broken Chains.

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In my industry, we have a saying, “close hold”. It means things that are not revealed, instead they are held closely to the chest. I have always treated some of my history as ‘close hold’; it is mine and mine alone. I will hint at it, throw pebbles into passive lake waters to watch the ripple affect but my entire adult life I have treated some parts as dark secrets, as was demanded of me. This ‘close hold’ in large part has been a tribute to those who never deserved the gift of my silence. The other part has been the lesson learned so many years ago, I have simply been unable to let it go the lesson of shame and fear.

It was told nearly 45 years ago, one who should have loved me should have protected me, should have taught me to speak truth, that one chose instead to do no such thing. Their choice was too fling me into a vortex; an emotional black hole demanding my silence because the alternative was somehow their shame. Worse even than this would be the loss of love from the person I loved most in the world, I was convinced if I spoke up I would be spurned, found forever wanting. They convinced me, I was not believable. That even if I was to scream my pain and hurt, I would be rebuffed. No one would believe me, no matter what I said because I was nothing more than a  …….

Slut

Liar

Whore

These were the words thrown at an eleven-year-old child. Words of power. Words of rage. Words burned into a soul still unformed and willing to believe. Words that fell like the Blacksmiths Pein on the soft Anvil that was my young and untrained heart. Words that would set my feet on a path for years to come. Convinced of my lack I would unwind what little of my ego remained and offer my heart and my body to anyone who would validate my conviction of valueless. Unable to fight back, I would accept the brutality even at times welcome it as it corroborated what I knew about myself, what I had been told; that I was less than and undeserving of love or care.

All this, all the brutality. All the loss because my mother wanted to preserve her standing. She failed an eleven-year-old-child who had been gang raped. She failed to report. She failed even to tell that child’s father. She demanded that child’s silence and even blamed that child for the brutality of that rape. That child was me, she failed me and miserably so.

I knew who raped me, I knew all their names. I knew who stood by and watched, laughing as it happened. I knew who held my legs, I knew who held my arms. I knew who tripped me. I knew who tore my clothing off. I knew which of them touched me and which of them had intercourse with me. I knew which one of them took my virginity, laughing when he realized he had done so. I would have to attend school with my rapists for two years. Because no action was taken against them, there was no repercussion for their actions I was emotionally and physically brutalized by my classmates. Teachers heard the story of my rape but believed I was a voluntary participant in my own pitiless and inhumane violation, my introduction into the world of sex. Slut was something whispered in the halls as I walked by, not for something I did but for what was done to me and what my mother failed to do.

My heart was damaged, my core was broken and I retreated to an internal life, one that I don’t believe I have ever quite stopped living in. My pragmatism is my strength and my defense. My views on forgiveness were formed in 1968, though I couldn’t have defined them as clearly as I can today they haven’t changed very much since that time.

Life journeys are odd things. What set my feet on the path I have trod was a random act of cruelty forty-five years ago. So many of my choices since that time, so much of how I saw the world for so many years tie directly back to that single terrible and fateful day. I didn’t think I would ever tell this story, but Steubenville, has brought the memory raging to the forefront. My heart breaks for this young girl, for the terrible and heartbreaking future she faces as she begins to rebuild her life.

My brother has said to me my mother did what she thought was best at the time, I will never accept this answer no person with a heart does what she did to a child thinking it was best for that child. We were both adopted but our experiences were very different. I have always wondered why, I don’t think we will ever know now.

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness, and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.

Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

Our life is always deeper than we know, is always more divine than it seems, and hence we are able to survive degradation’s and despairs which otherwise must engulf us.

William James (1842 – 1910),  pioneering American psychologist and philosopher

Deeds survive the doers.

Horace Mann (1796 – 1859)

Oppression can only survive through silence.

Carmen de Monteflores

Comments

  1. “So many of my choices since that time, so much of how I saw the world for so many years tie directly back to that single terrible and fateful day.”

    Albeit the circumstances, I’m glad JB reblogged this. Stories like these cannot be told enough. I hang my own head in shame for humanity when I read them. I wish more folk knew and understood the reverberating damage and psychosis of rape… it never ends.

    As for your mother, who “wanted to preserve her standing”, I over stand the resentment you’ve probably built over the years. Mothers are supposed to defend their daughters; when they don’t, it is almost unforgivable.

    Sending love and light, again.

    • She passed in February, I was the only one in the room. For so many years I tried to forgive her, I couldn’t and it started there. It is a terrible world we create sometimes, between mothers and daughters, yet we have come so far. We have opened the door, we can stand up and say, ‘this happened to me, I am not ashamed.’ Yet, sometimes, sometimes still I remember the words and they paint me with the same shame.

      Thank you my dear friend. Your kindness, it is always so welcome.

  2. Jueseppi B. says:

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat™.

  3. Val, this was a very difficult read. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you felt then and the pain of having had to live with this memory all these years. It is strange how much pain parents can afflict, knowingly and unknowingly, on the children they supposedly love and are suppose to protect. My mother failed to protect me from an abusive stepfather. I made many excuses for her over the years as to why she let it happen. It wasn’t until I began therapy as an adult that I learned I had a right to be angry and hurt as my mother failed to protect me, and every child should be protected by their parents. Thanks for sharing this very intimate and horrific experience. It is a reminder to all of us that one of the most important roles of being a parent is to protect our children.

    • My understanding of her grew over the years, I understand her history as well as my own. Her history made her, it created her fury and made me her target. Inherently I always knew though, she had a choice and thus I also knew I had a right to my own fury at her. How I expressed it, that was entirely different. Unfortunately I was my own target for far to many years, fortunately my own children were never my targets.

      Yes, we have that obligation, to protect and defend.

      • She always had a choice. Believe that, Valentine. This isn’t to enrage you, as much as it is to empower you in your understanding of this dynamic. This was a tough lesson that I had to learn on behalf of my own mother while in therapy. I had to deal with my own baggage, as did she. My empathy for her couldn’t be so great that I discounted the fact that she DID in fact have a choice. Sending a bit more love and light. 🙂

        • It does not enrage. I do not discount her choice in the matter. My choice to disconnect from her for nearly thirty years, caused problems between me and my brother and still I stayed true to my truth.

          What she did in this and other choices destroyed me for years. She was unkind, ungentle. I do not discount her choice in the matter.

          Thanks for all the love and all the light.

  4. Valentine, such a harrowing, beautifully written account of your feelings. You are brave to share such a personal story and you are brave to give a voice to those who can’t. Thank you for sharing such a personal post.

    • I think I am not brave at all, I think instead I simply could remain silent no longer. It grows worse Monica, the culture of rape and blaming the victim. More of us, those that remained silent have to stand up and say this is not right. I don’t think it is brave, it is simply necessary.

  5. This is a horrible account—you are so brave in facing it in order to share it with readers!

  6. Someone posted this on Facebook today. It is a must watch.

    Everytime I hear that saying “they did what they thought was best at the time” it enrages me. I hear it over and over,the “excuse”, the “justification”. There is none. Instinctively human beings know right from wrong. It is the role of a parent to protect their young. Your mother’s response is probably more brutal than the rape. I couldn’t imagine the anger, betrayal and loneliness you felt. You are a true survivor Valentine.

  7. Val, any words I could give cannot express the feelings I have, for I feel your wound and hurt and it leaves me feeling hollow.. Your courage in speaking your feelings as I have mentioned before Val is commendable, not just in your own personal experience of such horrors, but in making others aware..
    I had to look up this case on the net, as living in the UK I was not aware…
    No child, no woman should be subject to such violation and yet this world continues to turn with so much injustice still to be addressed…

    The woman that adopted you should have protected you, instead she failed you on so many levels…

    I know only too well how words can cut deeper than any knife also, leaving hidden scars that take much longer to heal than any physical wound…
    Val……. I so admire and send you my love….. as I feel my own tears spill… for you, and for all who are abused……
    Love Sue x

    • Isn’t it strange Sue, this is a story I have told in part but mostly kept to myself. I don’t know why, I just have always mostly kept it. Oddly in all these years, I have forgotten most of my boyfriends, their names and faces. Those men who didn’t mean much, who didn’t stay long or didn’t leave an impression worth remembering. But I remember all of them, even after all this time, I remember their names and their faces. I still know them. They are why I would never attend a school reunion, ever. Some of them might be there. I would not, ever want to see them again, not today not as an adult not as the person I am today.

      I don’t hate them. I don’t think about them every day, not even every month. But at least once a year I think of them. When something like Stuebenville happens, I think of them. Other things act as a trigger and I think of them. I don’t think of my mother, I think of them. I don’t care if they think of me. I don’t care if they regret their actions. I don’t care if they got God, I don’t care if they are dead or alive. I only care what they started with their one single senseless act of violation.

      You are right, none of us not a child or woman should have to live with this violation. We must stand up and demand it change, not in some nebulous future but now.

      Thank you, for your care and love. It is so welcome and meaningful.

      • Val you always can count on my care and love.. Strange isn’t it how people we will never meet, enter our lives and leave a lasting imprint… You Val with your opening wounds have also opened up that place within my own heart that has great respect for another and how they have managed their pain…
        ~Much love
        Sue

  8. The cruelty of mothers who are not really mothers is legendary but true… my stepmother would even ask me if I told people she was like the wicked stepmother in Snow-white…
    You know that all your sisters feel for you – for the pain of the past – and admire your courage in becoming the person you are now.
    The physical and emotional pain of brutality and betrayal are hard to overcome, and you have done so,
    In the words of the blessing:,may you be free from suffering, and may you come home to your completeness

    • Valerie, I love that blessing, it is lovely. Thank you.

      The relationship between mothers and daughters is strange and complex. Certainly the one between me and my second mother could fill books. I don’t know that I will ever understand the choices she made even understanding she had her own demons, her own history. I try hard to put myself in her shoes, even doing this though it is difficult for me to see myself making her choices and doing so much harm.

      My past, well it is rich with pain yet it is the foundation of me. Strange the writing of the “Making of Me”, gave me the strength to write this one. Strange, how one paved the way for the other.

  9. I have two girls and would have guarded them even if it harmed me to my death. They are precious to me and they know they can safely bring their children into our home without fear. I cannot understand the situation you describe as I have not seen such evil at close hand. But trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who has been violated to such an extent I understand even rage is not sufficient to compensate for that violation. My human tendency would be to find revenge in an extreme way. So I’m surprised that a person who has undergone such violation could find a way to step aside from natural anger and move on without doing harm to a society that looked the other way. You have my deep admiration.

    • Ian, there are times even today when that is also my human tendency. Do not mistake me, there are days when I read terrible stories and am reminded and think to myself, I hope that person that offender is harmed in some terrible way.

      But, my life can only be lived if there is peace in my heart. I can only be at peace if I am able to find a way to turn what was terrible into a way to do good, a way to hopefully stop others from being hurt as I was. Part of this is telling the stories of my life, opening the doors so others understand these stories are real, they happen and they shouldn’t. More importantly that we can stop them by standing up and speaking out. Finally, for the victims, that we can recover we don’t have to accept the judgment of others.

      I think Ian most parents are like you. I pray this is true. Your girls are fortunate in you.

      • I have just had a visit from my daughter and her children from the US. What a joy it was to see them grow in a safe environment in which they can see before them pure and undefiled love. My grand children live in quite a different world to the one I grew up in and there are enormous dangers to their well being. They have the privilege of looking at the good and the bad from within this protective environment and making decisions that are not forced on them by events such as those you describe so well.

  10. Words can never hurt you? Bullshit! Words can hurt worse than a punch or kick. I don’t want to patronize you, Val. But, as much as you’ve endured in your life, I feel inspired by your strength and indomitable spirit. I hope others read your words and feel the same.

    • Bullshit is right, if no other lesson is ever learned that one is terrible and important. Our children are damaged every day by the what we and others say to them. We send them into the world with egos unprepared for the world that is cruel and menacing.

      Thank you Alejandro. I don’t feel patronized, I hope I can live a life that offers hope.

  11. ‘Like’ is not the correct button to push here. This, I did, to show my support.
    I agree with you, your mother should not have reacted in the way she did. At that time, this kind of news put shame on the whole family and at that time, it was believed, a girl got what she asked for. All unturths of course. however. On the other hand, the fact that the news was out in the school enviornment proves it was no longer a secret. I don’t know what else to say. No child should be left to fend for herself in an unkind world. This is a difficult subject for me.

    • It is a difficult subject for anyone. I kept this one out of the public eye for 45 years. Despite my having long since dealt with most of the fallout, I kept it. I suspect because I still felt the shame she piled on my head. Steubenville though, will it just punched a hole in me, in my heart and the last vestige of my willingness to remain silent. All of us, every last one of us must be willing to say no more. No more victimizing the victim. No more silence.

      Yes, I get what she did was very common. Yes, I get she had her own demons to chase. But truly it was only ever a secret from my father, he did not learn this one until long after they were divorced, until I was well into my forties.

      You are right no child should be left in harms way to fend for themselves. But honestly, we should leave no child, no teen, no woman without protection.

  12. I admire your courage in telling your story, and, I’m glad that you did. I think our most recent presidential election showed that there are still some really weird thoughts about rape out there. Steubenville is just another example that we still have a long way to go. I get the idea that there are those who might (and a few who have) cried rape, falsely, in oder to …whatever it was they were trying to do. But, the actions of a few should never determine the how we react to this crime. It’s horrible. It many ways it seems worse than murder, because the victim is left alive, to have the memories of that crime permanently in their mind.

    I applaud your sharing, because like any story, the more it’s told, the more people can learn from the story.

    I think the thing that has always enraged me about these kinds of stories, is that somehow it’s the woman who is not to be believed. We take a man at his word that he didn’t rape, but we question a woman who says she was. The man always seems to become the victim in the story.

    I’m sorry that you had to go through such an experience, but, it seems, from some of the comments that you’ve made, that while you’ll never forget it, you’ve accepted that it happened, and have tried to move forward in the best ways you’ve been able.

    Here’s an eHug all the way from Denver.

    • You are right John, rape has been cried falsely before. This false cry though can never change the truth, never change the reality of how many women and young girls are raped every year. How many rapes go unreported, mostly because of how we treat the victims.

      I accept what can never be changed. I embrace who I have become because of the life I have lived. I am at peace with the results.

      Thank you for the hug, the always help.

  13. I have read this a couple of times and cannot find a single nicety to add here for your stepmother for she is flawed in every single approach to motherhood, how could she stand by and do nothing, not even report such a vile and sickening crime against a child of eleven years old, it is heart wrenching to even try contemplating your inner sorrows, the pain of not being heard, not being able to speak out and worse, how the perpetrators were allowed to continue, even gloat at their sickening acts against you.

    Cruelness against a child is bad enough but this is just incomprehensible, I don’t know what your stepmother was thinking of when she turned her back on you like this, her pathetic stance on what is right and her appalling betrayal is nauseating, it defies everything that I believe in and whatever her thoughts were she should have stood by your side, comforted and loved you, not made you suffer at the hands of your violators, this I cannot forgive, it is disgraceful and cowardly.

    You have lived with these terrible demons inside of you, but I am pleased that you have been able to speak out, to face those ghastly crimes against you and still be such a positive and truly lovely woman that you are today, your stepmother failed you terribly Val but you have risen above the hurt and your optimism of life is in fact outstanding.

    Be very well my great friend

    Andro xxxx

  14. Val, I am in awe of your spirit and how it has led you from hell to a place where you speak out and deny the “rights” of those so brutal they really have no rights of their own. So they take them from others.
    This situation (yours and the many others of the same ugliness) do make me want to hide and run and cover my head so I won’t have to see what my species holds valuable. And yet, that is the very thing that will give power to the brutal abusers. So, like Red, I promise to not be silent. To speak out and act when I see any forms of this. Would that our voices will make strong those who have had all their humanity stripped from them! Bless you, Val.

    🙂

    • Believe me, there are times when like you I want to run and hide also. Yes, there are times when I want to shutter my windows, lock my doors and say, “enough, no more.”

      But, it can never be enough, we can never stop speaking out. We, each of us owe it to the victims, today and tomorrow to change the outcome. If enough of us stand up and say no more, just maybe we will start changing the world.

      Thank you my friend.

  15. My heart has ached for that young girl in Steubenville as it has for you as I read this.

    • So did mine, when I first read the story and I thought, “surely this won’t stand.” I stayed silent, I couldn’t bring myself to speak but I followed the story, almost in mourning for the young girl and her family each time some new outrage, re-victimizing her emerged.

      Then the trial, in Family Court no less.
      Then the pittance of a finding, a judgement as if they had masturbated behind the school lockers. Might as well have been a slap on the wrist and missing the Homecoming game.

      I weep for her. I no longer weep for me, I simply kept the story locked away until now.

  16. It pains me to read this–for you and the horrific event(s) that happened to you, and for every girl out there who faces the same. I hope you can find peace.

    • I found peace many years ago, truly I did. Last year, because I told one of the Advocates with the group I work with I even started working in the Juvenile Sex Offender Victim Impact program. Yes, telling that story and what it means even this many years later, but what it meant then also.

      I found peace but it wasn’t easy. It was broken dreams. It was rocky roads. It was terrible because that one act set everything else in motion.

      Maybe life would have been entirely different, but you know then I wouldn’t be me. Despite it all, I am okay with the outcome.

  17. I cannot be silent. I can be angry. I can be outraged. I can be comforting. I can be an active listener. I cannot be silent. I do judge her as wrong at a human level before anyone can raise the level to mother. I weep for the past unjustified and rejoice in the power you derived from its survival.

    I love you.

    • I no longer judge her, I will never understand her because I understand in my heart despite great hurt we still can choose. But I no longer judge. It was the only way I could find peace.

      I am forever grateful for your listening, I hope you know. I love you also.

      • I am already starting a fund for hearing aids, so I will not have to hold a funnel when we are sitting on the porch with tequila sunrises. xxx

  18. Val, your experience is heart wrenching and your strength is awe inspiring. Peace to you.

    • It was so long ago Honie, most days it is as if it wasn’t me. But it was. Even today, maybe especially on days like this I remember, mourn and think, “this is simply not right, not fair and well, just fucking wrong (sorry).”

      It is forty-five years and nothing has changed. It is forty-five years and there are still young girls being victimized twice, once by the azzhat(s) that rape them and then by those who stand back and do nothing.

  19. I can’t bring myself to tick “Like” —- just know that I’ve read your story and grieve for that young girl and offer my friendship to the woman you are now.

    Peace and healing, Eric

    • Thank you Eric, I do understand the issue of ticking ‘like’ under some circumstances. I grieve for her also sometimes. Then I think, she is part of me and just as I wrote the making of me and said “Rape made me”. I also said it no longer defined me, no longer held me captive to its fury.

      Stuebenville, the actions of those young boys, the action of those who watched, the actions of those who later blamed the victim and the media who even now lionize the offenders brought this roaring to the surface. I never thought to tell this story, though I have hinted at it in previous posts.

      Thank you for continuing to read, though I know sometimes my writing can be raw.

      Val

  20. This is the kind of pain which never leaves you some brush it under work for a while but it is a canvas on which rest of the life is painted.
    For a kid their parents are ultimate protectors and to go tough such traumatic event and not have any support and be taunted and scarred further by words
    Val. I dunno know how to say anything
    healing cos it won’t

    i can just pray and hope you be embraced with nothing but love and warmth from family and strangers.

    • Soma, thank you. It is because of the strength I have found in standing up and speaking out I know, I just know it is possible to change the world. It is because there are people like you, with your loving heart, I know we can change hearts.

      XX

  21. I think this all makes me want to do a lot more than spit. There is nothing OK with any of this except for the fact you are brave enough to share it. And perhaps with more talk and less silencing, this bullshit will stop happening with such ferocity and mourning of lost “promising futures” of the assholes to seem to get away with it all. This is just another example of your incredible bravery. I am sorry this was your life, and I am thankful for your strength because you share it. You are a rock and my inspiration.

    Lots of Love always ~

    • As I said to Elyse, I never intended to share this story though I have talked about it in other posts I have never so fully exposed the story or myself. This story, this single point in time was the start of everything and the end of my childhood, forever. I could never go back.

      Thank you my friend, I want it to stop also. I want little boys to learn about respect and love. I want little girls to learn about self-love, respect and authenticity. I want the system to learn the victim is not at fault, ever.

      XXX

  22. Oh Val, I’m at a loss for words, just like RLB. What a horrible crime multiplied over and over by your mother’s inaction and the acceptance (and likely back-slapping “you’re the man” treatment your attackers got). My heart goes out to you and to the poor young girl whose life will, also, never be the same. And whose pain, is also being negated in favor of her “poor attackers” who had such “promising futures.” It makes me want to spit.

    • I had never planned or thought to tell this story, ever until I watched Steubenville and the coverage. I had always thought to keep this one locked away. It was the beginning, how it all started. Until Steubenville I thought I could keep this one buried. I could just say, there was a time, but not the whole terrible thing.

      Until Steubenville.

      What the fuck is wrong with us?

  23. After thinking a thousand useless words of condolence, and another thousand of admiration for your courage, all I am left with is a nagging question. I wonder if things would have been different, had you not been an adopted child. And a girl.

    • Certainly my adoption was part of the issue between my mother and I. Not though I think for the reasons you might believe. She was so terribly damaged by her own inner demons, I have told some of her story in this series. Should she have been allowed to adopt? No, probably not. Yet, she was and frankly I doubt her inner demons would have been discovered even today. I think it took the two of us, our unique personalities to bring out the worst in her. I don’t excuse her in this, only explain it.

      As to being a girl, yes that was certainly part of it from the relationship between she and I. Her relationship with my brother was different, though not healthy still different.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Yesterday I struggled, all day in fact I struggled. My emotions raged and I didn’t want to do what I had committed to, truthfully I wanted to pick up the phone and call my friend and say, ‘Hell no, I am not making that drive and standing up to tell that story’. […]

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