Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Abandoning The Family

I am not built like a man in any way. Fact is, most third graders in America probably outweigh me.
Suffice to say I am a twig of a human being physically. This fact never stopped me from attempting to work like a man though. On my grandparents ranch I saddled my horse all by myself as early as I can remember. I got in the sorting pens amongst 300 plus pound weaning steers and heifers and herded them with the cowboys.  I  have had my share of herds turning on me in the pens and running me over.  I have had my share of being rammed by a full grown 2,000 lb cow up against a fence, the ground, and a truck door.
I have been stepped on, sat on, ran into, throw off of, and kicked by both horses and cattle more times than I can remember. However, even with all these "hazards of the job" I still found myself in love with horses and caring about the welfare of the cattle.
Nothing brought me more joy than the birth of a new calf or foal (baby cow or horse). I have witnessed this miracle literally hundreds of times in my short life and every time is still just as awe provoking as the last.

As I got older my grandmother turned over the responsibility of how the cattle were handled and worked to my father.
When Grandma was in charge we hired help to come out twice a year with horses and spend 3-4 days rounding up cattle. We would cut out the old cows who were beyond calving years, trade bulls to different pastures and take down all numbers for my grandma's records. We weaned, vaccinated, castrated, and de-horned 500-800 head of cattle in each round up.  I rode across the 1,000 acres jumping creeks, swimming on horse back across ponds, getting bush whacked by buck brush and headed off a stray cow as best as my horse and I could.
I perfected my riding skills on these huge round ups and learned a lot about cattle and horse psychology.
As mentioned earlier my grandmother handed over the responsibility of these rounds up to my father.
He decided we did not need as much help and our green broke (poorly trained or newly trained) horses were enough to bring in the herds. He made me learn how to do all the castrating of the young bull calves so they could be sold as steers to the meat market.
I learned how to knotch ears, give vaccines, burn off horns, castrate bulls, deliver calves and more. I learned how to do it all by myself.
I learned how to operate the hydraulic chute (a metal box that holds the cattle still to be worked on) and I ran it well.
I had 4 brothers and a sister around at the time to help but none of them knew the whole system the way I did.
One afternoon during one of our "family only" round ups there was a cow in the sorting pens. She needed to be brought through the chute and checked. She was not one of our shorter red  Limousine cattle (breed of cow). She was a much wider black Belgian cross. Basically, she was a big cow even for our chute and putting her through it was a risk.
On ranches it is a common practice to use shock sticks. They are a battery powered long stick that ranch hands use to "shock" a cow if they refuse to move or even at times get "stuck" in a corner.  Cattle are so deeply herd minded they act blind or really stupid when they are being chased or driven and they will go in circles or stand in corners acting like they can't even see the direction they are being pushed or herded towards. When this happens a "bite" or "shock" is usually used to bring them out of it. However, the shock stick is over used often and can drive cattle over fences and make them charge too.
This wide black cow had made it into the chute and while she was being worked on she laid down in the chute. Cattle sometimes collapse under stress in tight spaces and that is what happened with this cow. My father grabbed the shock stick and repeatedly shocked the cow to get her to jump up. This is a great example of how this stick is misused. Like a tazer on a human beings the over use of shocking can cause the heart to act up and causes great distress in the body.
The cow was bawling and my father grew more angry the more he shocked her and she refused to get up. He beat on her, twisted her tail and shocked her more.
I finally screamed. I remember jerking the stick from his hand and yelling at him to stop it.
His eyes were wild and furious. I saw him clench his jaw and stare at me thinking of what to do next.
I couldn't stop my mouth now. I spent all day riding hard, getting knocked around, kicked and more. Between getting hungry and begging my mother to come pick me up early so I could leave (for what I don't remember anymore) I was spent. My filter was off and I just remember emptying my guts of things I wanted to yell at him for a long time. I returned his "You're so stupid" right to his face and at the top of my lungs I just kept yelling. "YOU CAN'T DO THIS! SHE'S DOWN, SHE'S STUCK! NO AMOUNT OF SHOCKING HER WILL GET HER UP!" This was, I am pretty sure, the cleanest of what I said and the only thing that made sense coming out of my mouth. I remember telling him we had to widen the chute and kick out the bottom board to get her up. He refused to listen and grabbed a regular board and busted it across her nose. She bellowed deep, and blood ran from her nostrils. I saw her eyes in a panic.  More yelling and shouting took place and finally I kicked out the board myself. It was a miracle in a way. I am and was so tiny. The board was a actually a short heavy metal wall and with a cow laying up against it, getting it out should have been hard to say the least. I was furious and my adrenaline was up. After kicking out the board the cow jumped up and took several deep breaths and bellowed real deep again. Then I looked at my father and yelled "I TOLD YOU LARRY!" 
It was an unspoken rule in the house not to call him by his first name. I had just broken that rule and I had no remorse.
This final outburst of rebellion was too much for him. He had held his tongue in front of my siblings and knew he was wrong, but there was no way I was going to get away with this. He swung at me and I dodged it. He then rose his hand up in the air positioning it to back hand me to the ground. I was still on an adrenaline rush and my eyes met his. I stepped closer into the swing and said "DO IT!"
He was caught off guard and hesitated. I took another step towards him and then in a very calm deep voice I said "It will be your last time."
My brothers were all witnessing this act of defiance and waited in fear and expectation of his next move.
I don't know if they were hoping to jump on him if he hit me or, if they were just as shocked about my blatant disrespect as he was and thinking I deserved whatever happened next.
What happened next was so strange (compared to other times) but, I was so glad it happened.
My father clenched his jaw more and straightened his body and dropped his hand from the air. He then took his index finger and pointed it right in my face and started yelling "You're a disrespectful brat, you are not helping anyone here. Leave and abandon us like you always do!"
Tears were welling up in my eyes from all the stress and the ever dropping rush of adrenaline. I turned and lifted my head as I "abandoned" my family in the barn and met mom at the car. I had tears in my eyes and she knew there had been a "disagreement" she was angry at ME for being the cause and being a brat "just running away from your responsibilities" she said.
I said nothing all the way home and left the house in my own car as soon as I got cleaned up.

I did eventually leave the family and "abandoned" them. It would take a couple more years before I cut them out of my life completely. I hold no regrets about this decision.

Monday, September 23, 2013

You Disgust Me. - Verbal Abuse

"You disgust me!"

Words from my father.

He said these words during an argument. It started out with me being late getting home from church of all places. Wednesdays were my one guaranteed escape from home each week. I was a member of the youth group worship team. I sang in the band and loved being with my youth group.
It's strange looking back. I was so odd and goofy. I was the home schooled, plain looking, awkward acting girl. I thought everyone there was my friend and I was completely clueless when one of the "cool girls" would ignore me or attempt to make fun of me.
I didn't know any better. Maybe this was a mercy from God for my already ridiculously low self esteem.

Growing up I always dressed very plain. My clothes were all hand me downs, worn out, outdated and sometimes just downright sad looking.  I dressed in rockies jeans, cowgirl boots and wore my hair  down to my waist. I usually pulled it up in a pony tail or wrapped it around in a bun that grew lager and larger each year. In the summer I wore t-shirts with the same jeans and boots and in the winter I wore frumpy sweaters and a jacket on top of it all.
I had big thin rimmed glasses. I was a poster child for sad looking nerd girls everywhere.
When I joined my youth group I learned how to dress more like a girl. I learned how to wear jewelry, sneakers, high heels, make up (which mostly consisted of lip gloss and blush). I was transforming in every way.
My father hated this. He hated my exposure to "worldly" vanities that "poisoned" even the youth group.  He hated my longing to be around my peers.  He hated that I was a social butterfly even for the awkward ignorant mess I was. He was proud of the fact I could sing but, he hated that it was not under his direction and tutelage.
 It was a constant battle between us about my involvement at church and neglecting home chores and family loyalty. He enjoyed finding ways to stop me from going on youth trips and outings. I was allowed my Wednesdays out of the house but, I was to be home by 9:30 and call if I was to be even a minute late. I believe this was the only the reason I was allowed out. It presented a golden opportunity to ground me or deal any punishment he felt.

I had signed up to go on a trip with the youth group and go ski for spring break.
An adult in the church had volunteered to sponsor my way and I had even saved money to have for meals and extra things. I did have to pay part of the fee for the trip and it was already done. My father had paid it and I was going. I was going, until this night anyway.
I was late getting home. I was just over 10 minutes late and this had been my 3rd week in a row being late at all. Upon opening the front door I saw both of my parents sitting in the living room, waiting for me. There was no escaping past them. It was Wednesday and I was just a week from the ski-trip.
My mother started with something about how I was acting irresponsible and this was my 3rd strike.
My father sat in the corner with this hands together and his index fingers sticking up resting on his mustache. He was glaring at me just waiting for the perfect moment to strike with harsh words to cut me to the core.
I explained to my mother that worship lasted late after service and that the buses to take kids home had barely left before me. I told her to call my youth pastor and ask. She continued to tell me it did not matter because nothing I was saying made any sense. They both argued with me and accused me of staying late and talking to boys in the parking lot in the dark.
They said I was causing the church a lot of trouble by doing this and if someone got hurt for any reason it was my fault. The church would have a liability issue (my father was an insurance man... everything was a liability issue) because of me and my being irresponsible and disobedient.
 Things escalated, there was yelling, accusations, tears (from me, while my father laughed) and then finally these words from my father "You just always have to be so belligerent and stupid! You disgust me!"
I was speechless... I knew I made him mad all the time and being called stupid was not new... "belligerent" was just his fancy Christian was of saying I was a pain in the ass. Truth be told I always felt he thought I was disgusting but, something about hearing him actually say it pained me deeply.
With that, I left the room.
I put on my pajamas, cried and then I was called back into the living room.
At first I just stayed in my room with my sister who was ignoring what was going on.
Then a knock on my bedroom came and one of my brother's yelled "Mom and Dad want you back in the living room NOW!" I got up and slowly made my way back to the living room with my head down.
I stood in the threshold that separated the living room from the kitchen. I crossed my arms and leaned up against the frame and asked "What?" (with all the charm of a teenager in full on angst and shut down mode.) "Sit down on the couch." My father directed with authority and sarcasm.
He took at deep breath and said "You just keep breaking the rules, you're always the one who has to break the rules and make everything harder for everybody. You're too stubborn." I didn't bother to stand up for myself and try to plead innocent anymore... their minds were made up. I was guilty and disgusting. He continued "I have decided as your father that you are not going on any trips and you're grounded for a month, you will not be going anywhere. Especially on some youth trip escapade. You can't be trusted." Naturally this sparked a rage within me and I glared at him with a fire in my eyes. He knew he had me and just to let me know he could manipulate me any way he wanted he said "Pepper, I love you."  with sarcasm, and evil pouring from his mouth, the words made me sick. To this day I do not know how I did not fly up off that couch and snap.
I just broke down and cried more. I had no words, no fight, no will. He found me disgusting and telling me he loved me was just a power play. Who could love disgusting? He never said he loved unless there was a fight. He had no apology for telling me I was disgusting, because it was true.
 This time of my father telling me he loved me, was one of less than five times in my life he ever said these words to me. 
It was silent and after what seemed an hour of silence I mustered up the words "Can I go now?"
I was dismissed and went to my room.  I spent the night in tears and kept trying to think of ways I could possibly win back my freedom. "You're so stupid Pepper, you don't think, you just act like a foolish idiot and that's how you end up like this because you're stupid!" I told myself.
I hated myself and my anger shifted from my father on to me.
I managed to work extra hard at chores and win back my previous privilege of going to youth but,  there was no chance of me ever getting to go on a youth trip. I was stupid, irresponsible and untrustworthy.

I will never forget my youth pastor coming up to me the following week in youth group and hugging me and telling me he was "so sorry". I was shocked and didn't know how to respond to this gesture. Why was he sorry? I was the stupid screw up. He was the first person (besides my grandma nanny) to cultivate my singing abilities and took me under his wing. I had let him down in my mind.

This was just one of the MANY episodes with my father tearing me apart verbally.

Abuse disgusts me.

Friday, September 20, 2013

That First Time

As suvivors, many of us remember "the first time."
I am not talking about our first (for some if ever) consenting, romantic, true love making time.
I am talking of the first time we were attacked, penetrated, violated and used.

I barely remember it. I know it was done by a finger. At least that is the first time I can recall with such detail. I remember the pain in my vagina for days after. I remember it burned to pee. I also remember I was less that 4 years old. The first time I remember most was a time my brother coaxed me to his room after I had gotten out of the bath tub. This wasn't new for him to do. It was a game, sometimes he had a treat other times he just wanted trick me into coming in his room so he could smack me.  If I called out to tattle it was my fault for being in his room.
This time however he told me to close the door behind me. I was only wearing underpants and my towel. He told me to lay down. I obeyed, he started taking off my underpants.  This brother 13ish years old (oldest brother and only half sibling) had changed my diaper before and had seen all my "parts" so it really did not register with me that he was demanding anything inappropriate of me, at least not up to this point when he removed my underpants. I started to sit up, though I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the squirmy toddler in me, maybe I was uncomfortable and was trying to protest without words. He shushed me and told me to lay down and swore he wouldn't hurt me. This was always a warning phrase. "I swear I'm not gonna hurt you." It really meant "Oh yeah, I am definitely going to hurt you but, it will be an 'accident' and you won't die."

The next thing I know my vagina is being brutally penetrated by his index finger and he is leveraging it with great pressure in an attempt to stretch out my vaginal opening. I wince in pain and try not to cry even though the lump in my throat is nearly choking me. I start shaking my head side to side to cope with this great pain in my private parts and not make to much noise to avoid being punched or getting in trouble with mom and dad. 
 Finally, it was more than I could bare I started crying and whining "it hurts." He quickly pushes his finger in deeper and down harder and then exits my vagina. 
He shushes me more and uses my underpants to wipe off his finger and tell me to get dressed and not to tell or he will kill me in my sleep. 
I ran to the bathroom, naked. I felt like I had pee and that my guts were going to fall out my private parts. 
I sat on the toilet crying for a few minutes and couldn't pee. I gave up and blew my now runny nose from crying and went to my room to put on my pajamas.
For days my private parts burned and I fussed about taking a bath. It was written off as me being a brat and nothing more. My oldest brother had gone back to his father's for the week and all was forgotten. My mother was either pregnant or busy with yet another new baby it seemed all the time. Before school age it was always my older brother (not the abusing half brother) and my sister (13mo younger than me). We were the "3 big kids" we took care of ourselves and each other. My older brother poured milk or juice for me and my sister because he was oldest (of the 3) and steady. I poured cereal and pretty much did everything for my sister. Dress her, help her put her shoes on the right foot etc. We had our own little world during weekdays. On weekends our half brother came to visit it was hell. We all wanted his attention and approval. The boys shared a room and I recall hearing a lot of thumps and thuds at night.

My brother continued molesting and instrumentally raping me. The memories and nightmares haunt me. There are times I remember in great detail, and times that are a blur. 
I remember he used rubber spatulas and repeated his previous practice of enlarging my vaginal opening with penetration and pressure. Once he even used a batman figurine (and no one understood why I was never a fan). 
That and the penguin freaked me out in the movie.
I've written in a previous blog about him forcing me to sip his urine from an Easter egg shell. 
He loved drawing me in with attention and gifts (candy, cheap coin machine toys etc.) and then inflicting some kind of horrible pain.
I also have expressed in a previous blog about how this early sexual abuse wasn't always painful. Sometimes it tickled, or I felt nothing at all. I struggled for years with guilt, shame and fear that should have never been put on me. 

He forced me to lick the bottom of his shoe once (which he had stepped in dog crap with earlier that day) just to humiliate me in front of my siblings. 
He loved that. He loved making me feel like he was about to finally accept me into his circle and then tear me down. 
I wanted his approval so badly, and had  no idea how out of balance and wrong these "expirements" were.  This was the beginning of abuse in my life. From three years old and on I was abused in different ways. 
 I look back on it all today with anger and even sadness. I know my brother was being sexually abused but, I no longer accept it as an excuse. My brother swears that he has no recollection but, I can no longer buy this lie. My parents tried to convince me that they had no clue but, they told on themselves time again with comments made after they allegedly found out. They failed to protect me because they failed to care about me. They failed to care about me because they failed to be parents. Being parents would require they act like human beings and not abusive monsters or neglectful ignorant ones.
My first time should have never happened. Today, for the first time I am completely over it. I am also completely over everyone who was once a part of my life that abused me or turned a blind eye to my abuse.
Welcome to a whole new kind of "first time." 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Forgive and Forget

The question is asked so often.

How do we forgive and forget?
This is the most overused and misunderstood religious and non-religious statement used on victims.
It is not even biblical.
Jesus Himself acknowledges the challenge of forgiving.

“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”                                              
                                                                                                             Mark 2:7-11 NLT
There are no scriptures to even support forgetting.
This phrase "Forgive and forget" sounds great (Or does it?) but, it lacks acknowledging the human aspect that makes forgetting, impossible.

 I have gone back and forth with this battle of forgiving and forgetting. 
The truth, I don't think it is healthy for me to forget in the way people want me too.
I cannot forget the abuse, the rapes, the nightmares, the depression and so on.
Even if I COULD forget it... and believe me I want too, I wouldn't. Knowing what happened, remembering it all, drives me. Sometimes it drives me crazy but, mostly it drives me to be proactive for and with other survivors.  
The only time "forgetting" is referenced in regard to anything like forgiveness (and it's not at all referencing forgiveness btw) is when Paul speaks in Philippians. 

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
                                                                                                     Philippians 3:12-16

I do not think Paul is speaking about "Forgive and Forget" I believe he is talking about so much more.
He is forgetting life as he knew it before Christ. He is forgetting things that have tried to hold him down or back. He is not making a fool of himself and forgetting the abuses he endured at the hands of men. He is forgetting any anger etc. he had about it. He is forgetting any forgiveness he withheld from it. That is my personal opinion but, go read it for yourself. Paul admits he has not achieved perfection or arrived. Rather he speaks about shifting his focus to the future and pressing on. He is not speaking about forgive and forget, just his life in general.
It is a misconception that forgiveness is a "ONE AND DONE" deal. It is a process, like healing. It is for YOU not the one you're forgiving. Forgiveness is for everyone... from God, through Jesus yes, even abusers. Is it my job as a Christian to forgive my abusers? No.
It's between God and them if they get forgiveness or not.
I choose instead to focus on my forgiveness with God.
I do not let the momentarily satisfying thoughts of revenge and anger control me or keep me from my forgiveness from God. Instead I trust He keeps me and will continue to do so.
Forgetting is not what it seems. I do not believe it means to forget the transgression against you. I do believe it means to forget the anger and misery that tries to own you. Forget, means to cause your abuser, attacker, monster, nightmare etc.... to lose power over you with the damage they inflicted on you. I believe it means to forget life as you knew it as a victim. I believe it is important to forgive yes, but I won't forget the scars or deeds.
I will however process my anger through forgiveness and forget it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Abnormal Anger

It is not that my anger is abnormal in that it is not natural to feel the degree or amount of anger I feel right now. I am not an angry person but, when I get angry it's a full blown righteous fury.  It is however abnormal in the fact that a human should ever have to be angry for the reason I am. 
They, (my relatives, parents, and siblings) are all friends with my rapist on facebook, TO THIS DAY!
How do I know?
I trolled and looked. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, maybe a sign they missed me. Something that told me, I was wrong about them being the self righteous morons they really are.
In my search for a lie, I found a truth that hurt me deeply.
To this day, after everything they are all still in contact with my last rapist. Why didn't I expect that?

When I told them about my brother they covered it up and he was invited to all the family events like nothing ever happened. I however couldn't even be looked at or spoken to by my father.
My father, who by the way is a coward and abuser as well.
My father whom I can count on one hand how many times in my life he said he loved me and each time was after a big fight.
My father who never loved me for who I was, instead only because of the fact I was his daughter and, that "love" diminished the more he realized I was slipping away from his overbearing controlling ways.

My mother believed that because of what my brother had done to me, I would always make bad decisions and never recover from the damage done to me.... I was broken in her eyes.
This woman who gave birth to me and claimed she had prayed with church elders for me before my birth, she chose a rapist over me. First her son, then her husband's cousin. I guess her choosing an abusive husband over her kids (in both of her marriages) I should have known better. I guess rapists aren't broken, just their victims.  I guess it is important to protect rapists from the wrath of their broken victims.
How could you mom?

I can bet NONE of my five brothers has any clue what happened to me in Tulsa and even if they knew, they couldn't believe it. That would be far too risky to have an opinion about something that did not align with dearest mother and father, no matter how true it was.
My brothers are all Yes men, they would never ask me about any of it. I wish I could tell them but, it wouldn't matter now. If they had wanted to know the truth they could have called. They could have emailed. Shoot, they could have trolled on any of the mainstream social media sites like I did when I found out they were friends with a rapist.
The last time I heard from one of my brothers he did invite me to his wedding. It was a peace offering in his mind...a way of letting me know that even though I was the prodigal he was reaching out to me. (A picture I knew my parents painted for him.) When I tried to share the truth with him about how our parents chose a rapist over me his response was "You shouldn't let a so-called rapist keep you from your family and from letting your son have grandparents."
Our conversation dropped off and I haven't heard from him since.
I hope I never do either.
He didn't believe me, or that would not have been his reaction.
I tried to tell myself he just didn't understand, that he was just so excited about getting married. The truth is the lack of his attempts to stay in contact with me after that day... it proves he doesn't believe me.

I grew up in a big family and all of my siblings and I were close, I used to think that anyway. The truth is, the only time we banded together was when we were in mutiny with our parents for something. My sister was the favorite. She was daddy's girl and my brothers liked her better because she was stronger than me and calmer too.
I was (and still am) a twig. I had too many opinions and stubbornness to boot. Even though I was not a daddy's girl, I wasn't exactly my mothers best friend either.
She once told me that, I was the girl she hated in school. She had no idea how she could have raised such a child.
The girl she hated in school was the pretty, popular, good at anything she wanted to attempt.... girl.
Which is funny because, I was never that girl... I was homeschooled, nerdy and clueless about my sad clumsy awkwardness. I was literally too stupid to know when other girls were hating on me or pitying me and why. I didn't fit in but, I didn't have time to really care either. I had things I wanted to pursue. Like singing, modeling, riding and training horses, running my grandparents ranch and more.

 I still suffer so much loss because of what all my abusers (and family) did to me.
I barely sing now, I haven't been around a horse in years, I'll never walk the runway like I once did and I will never see my grandparents ranch again.

Enough about the loss. It's been painful but, not because I lost my family or these dreams I had. The painful truth is the realization that I never had a family. Family does not pick rapists over their children. Family does not cover up the transgression of one sibling against another.
As for my other dreams well, I am dreaming bigger now and I have support in pursuing them.
With my real family. 

I am so angry today. They chose a rapist over me... they gave and continue to give me the finger, because I told the truth! Why do I care? It's just facebook and it's just my relatives who chose to make it clear I was no longer welcome in the family. 
Trust me, I don't WANT to care... but, I do. 
If they wanted to hide this "friendship" with my rapist it could have been done easily. They chose to add this monster as a friend after UN-friending him when the truth came out a few years ago. They chose to make a public proclamation they choose him over me.
I just wanted so bad for them to lie, to hide it, to tell me they loved me and everything was "honky-dory" between us all.  I wanted this so badly and instead I got a truth that crushed me.

In the search for a lie that will make you feel better, you will find a truth so painful it will break you.

That, is how I feel today.