#MeToo

Recently, there have been many women speaking out about sexual assault, harassment, rape & abuse, in addition to many people criticizing how it can go unspoken for so long. As a survivor of sexual abuse, maybe I can shed some light onto this for the people that just don’t understand. Please know, I am not sharing this for sympathy of any sort. I believe God has used my experiences to shape me into who I am today, I am NOT a victim of sexual abuse, I AM a survivor & a fighter! Please do not reply with any “oh I’m so sorry…” I appreciate the sentiment, however, it feels like sympathy almost gives power back to my abusers. I prefer to fight back with education & awareness. Something I wouldn’t have without my history.

Ok, first of all, let’s not forget that it is in fact, a form of abuse. Just like many other forms of abuse & violence, sexual abuses (entailing all forms-rapes, harassments, assaults, molestations, forced pornography, forced prostitution…) this is a manipulation, a control, a power trip, a way to dominate a person that is “beneath” the perpetrator. And in case you were unaware of the stats surrounding this silent epidemic, 1 of 4 women & 1 in 6 men have faced some sort of inappropriate unwanted sexual assault. Look around you, how many people is that in your life?

In my first experience, I was in the third grade. My friend had a brother in high school. He molested me during a time when we were being silly third grade girls. I had zero understanding of what was happening. He didn’t threaten me, but he did shame me into feeling dirty. I didn’t feel I could ever share that experience with anyone. So I didn’t. As a child, I believed older people were to be respected & trusted. How was I to know that not all were worthy of such trust? How was I to know which to hand my trust over to safely? I was in the third grade. My creep alarm was not yet developed. So I sat on it, blocked it away from my memory until I was 16. However, even to this very day, if I hear my friend’s name, my mind goes straight to her brother & that night almost 40 years ago when he stole my ability to ever fully be that little girl with child-like innocence.

My second trip down this road was at the hands of my grandfather. No pun intended, as he used his hands to molest me. If you recall from previous posts, he was fairly bold about his attacks. He bought me gifts to lure me into submission, then using his grandfatherly authority, insisted it was our secret. This time robbing me of being able to trust the people that are put into a child’s life to nurture, teach, grow, love & develop them. I suppose he did a few of those, but through a very damaging process. He taught me not all adults are trustworthy. He forced me to grow up at the age of 10, because I had to turn my grandfather into Children’s Services. He developed me into a girl that still struggles with trust issues 35 years later.

My final example for the evening will be from when I was in high school. I had a job at a fast food restaurant. (I will not name it because at the time, the laws were just not there to protect employees like they are now.) At work, I had a male co-worker that was apparently “interested” in me. When I did not feel the same, he began to utilize tools of the restaurant to make sexual advances towards me. I would turn the corner & he would stick a utensil into my nether regions. We used pool noodles on the salad bar. He would use these to assault my backside. He trapped me up against the walls. Gropping became a part of my daily life. When I complained about it, my boss would reply with “what do you want me to do?” I was still a teenager. How was I to know what she should do?

Just so you understand, very few people know about 2 of these situations. I don’t walk around shouting “I WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED AND ABUSED!!!” Being sexually abused isn’t a badge of honor we wear. It’s a vehicle of shame, condemnation & manipulation over us. We aren’t eager to call people out for their behavior because it’s embarrassing that we were taken advantage of in such a demeaning manner. It’s almost every negative thing you could possibly do to another person in one swift life changing action.

Why does it take dozens of women to “out” a Hollywood mogul? Because his power trip is so large it’s terrifying to consider doing alone. Why is it that once it began, now many others are being brought up? It’s not because it’s being made up as they go along. It’s because bravery comes with the numbers. It’s because some of the experiences have been repressed due to PTSD. These people have not stayed silent just so they can make more money. But can you blame them for needing to stay in the business that does provide them income? Would you be able to walk away from your job & potentially never work in your field again? I couldn’t. Sure, switch fields. As a Jane Doe, like the rest of us, not hard to do. But as a celebrity, how do you suddenly look for work at Subway or driving a bus? It doesn’t work like that.

I am not saying there aren’t people out there that make false accusations. There certainly are those types of people. However, most people will not seek attention in this particular way. I venture to guess, most people would not be able to make up a believable story about a sexual assault experience & tell others about it without feeling a small inkling of the shame associated with it. So imagine the shame we feel trying to tell the real deal. Imagine living through the actual stories you are now hearing. Imagine sitting your family down & explaining what has happened. Picture being questioned by police & advocates trying to get justice for yourself. Unsuccessfully trying to “wash” off the shame & the disgusting feel of their skin touching yours in hundreds of showers. Being examined under bright white lights by strangers while you lie naked in the ER. Live through all of this and tell me that women make this stuff up.

So to my friends who have survived this rocky journey, I applaud your strength, your bravery, your courage, your determination. Your recovery is inspiring to so many others. Find your steady voice & continue to share yourself out of the darkness.

To those of you fortunate enough to have not walked this path, be kind to those that have. And if you can’t be kind, be quiet. The harsh judgment or criticism you speak so loudly is damaging to our healing. If I was your wife, daughter, sister, mother, best friend…would you believe for one second it was ok to speak so cruelly to me after what I have lived through? Would you ever allow another person to speak to those strong, surviving women in your life the way you are cruelly speaking towards these women you know nothing about?

Friends, love your journey. God has placed you on the road to recovery so you can be a light in the lives of others. It’s not always easy. In fact, some days it is downright hard. But you can do this. On the days you can’t, find a friend you trust, meet for coffee and unload.

I love you all.

Matilda Grace

I hope The Joyful Heart Foundation & A21 don’t mind me hijacking their photos to help get my point across.

#NoMore #JoyfulHeartFoundation #MeToo #SurvivorNotVictim #BeKindOrBeQuiet #MariskaHargitay #ChristineCaine #A21

Shame

Dictionary.com defines shame as:

            shame:[sheym]; noun

the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:

            “She was overcome with shame.”



How many times does that example sentence apply to each of us every day? For me, several. Thankfully I don’t keep track. I’d probably feel worse about myself if I did. I’d shame myself for feeling so shameful all the time. But the majority of my shame isn’t necessarily driven by my own behaviors, because frankly, I’m kind of nerdy. I work, church & work some more. I’m home most weekends & I definitely don’t do much throughout the week.

No, most of my shame is driven by the influencers of my past. My sexual abusive grandfather. My ex. My son. My mother. My adoptive father. Even my biological father.

For some reason, this type of shame reminds me of the poo throwing monkeys at the zoo. You know the ones. Behind glass. Mischievous grin. Just as you get up close, they launch a poop bomb at you that splatters all over the glass. You can tell by the look on their face how deeply they enjoyed the look on yours. And they start to work on a new poo bomb for the next unsuspecting sucker to walk up. Good thing we aren’t fully exposed to them or they would be the least viewed exhibit in the whole place.

Take for example my grandfather. He began molesting me when I was 10. He didn’t just start with inappropriate actions. He began by gifting me with things & treating me special. Lucky me.

On that side of the family, I had a summer cousin. During the school year he lived in Cali with his mom. For summer break, he stayed with his dad. My grandparents & my uncle all lived on one enormous piece of land with several houses. So when Scotty came home, I wanted to do everything he did. He had a mini dirt bike. So I wanted one. My grandfather made sure I had one that summer. Scotty & I zipped around that land like we owned it. We rode back deep into the woods & ate our picnic lunches (fluffer nutter sandwiches, chips & water). We swam in the pond. Basically, I was a lot less girly, because I did not want Scotty thinking I was a sissy getting in his way. I wanted to be cool enough for him to want to hang out with.

Occasionally, Scotty had other stuff to do so he wouldn’t be able to hang out.

That was when it began. Gradual touching. I was immediately uncomfortable with it. I began trying to avoid being alone with my grandfather. It was difficult though because it was just me, him & my grandmother. I remember asking my grandma to let me take her for a ride on my dirt bike. She said she was busy but to ask my grandfather. Surely, driving fast with the wind whipping through our hair as I steered this dangerous machine around the yard would be a safe place. No. It wasn’t. Surely innertubing in the pond with the whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins…) would be a safe place. No, not there either. He said to me “this is our little secret. Just between us. No one else gets to know about this.”

But I knew it was wrong. I don’t know how I knew but I did. The molestation continued for a while. Finally, I told my mom.

She flipped out.


As toxic for me as my mom is, she did have moments where she was solid. This was one. She never doubted or second guessed me. They put me in therapy immediately. Filed a report with CSB. Cut the entire family out of communication with him. My adopted dad met with him, offered him reunification if he sought counseling. He refused. I never saw him again except at a couple of funerals.

But what happened as a result of my declaration was not something any child should have to walk through. I was forced to testify against my grandfather to a panel of CSB workers to determine if there was enough evidence for charges. They determined there was not. Remember, “just” molestation so basically “just” heavy petting. My grandfather called me early on to tell me that everything would work out just fine. It didn’t. We didn’t get to go to family functions. So my younger sister screamed at me “YOU’VE RUINED OUR FAMILY!” Yup. I had. I had split it down the middle. 2 uncles broke away with us. My aunt’s family & my grandma standing by my grandfather.

That is quite a burden on a child. To be followed with years of silence among the family. His name & “the incident,” were taboo. No one discussed either. I walked around with the assumption that everyone felt the way my sister did. I remembered that he warned me not to tell. If I had listened, I would never have hurt so many people. My guilt turned to shame.

Ugly harmful burdensome shame.


As I grew up, I realized that, yes, I had split the family in half. But because I had, I had also saved most, hopefully all, of my younger cousins from enduring the same twisted fate with him. But the shame remained.

No one had ever told me I did the right thing. That I was brave. I understand that 35 years ago, sexual abuse wasn’t nearly as open a topic as it is now, so I don’t entirely blame my family for that. It is just where society was at that time. But for me, the shame remains.

Even today.

I’m not ashamed that I was abused. But that shame holds on in a way that warps my self worth. Probably because since that time, other people have heaped more shame on top of it & now it has become a mountain range of shame.


This past Friday night, I got to see one of my favorite speakers, Christine Caine, speak at a local church. She has a remarkable book titled “Unashamed.” (Read it. Now.) During her speaking engagement, she pulled out the Bible & referred to Genesis 2:25. She read it to the crowd.

“Adam & his wife were both naked & they felt no shame.”

She went on to explain that we were never created to feel shame. It says so right there in Genesis. We were never intended to be ashamed of who we are. Because, also according to the Bible, we are all created in the image of God. So regardless of our shape or size, we are in His image & we are perfect. Big nose, big boobs, tiny ears, big feet, bald…whatever we find imperfect on ourselves is still of God & He loves it-and us.  Many of the things we see within ourselves as flaws are actually gifts from God.

So if we weren’t created to feel shame, we need to work at pushing it away from our lives. Now, understand this. Shame & guilt are two different things. Guilt is conscience for bad behaviors. Shame tells us we are bad people (maybe for bad behaviors.) However, we are NOT the sum total of our choices. We have a past, we are not our past. Every second of every day we make decisions & we can completely turn our lives around in one second. Sure it may take longer than that to see the fruits, but the decisions we make can propel us towards a new life instantly.

Dr. Brene Brown has said “Guilt says I made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake.” See the difference? When we self talk from a place of shame, we feed that ugly beast within us more shame so he continues to grow & we continue to shrivel up.

The simple truth is that regardless of what we have done in our past, even our recent past of 2 minutes ago, we are still not the sum total of those choices. If they are bad, we obviously must face our consequences but that doesn’t require we stay on the bad choices path. Therefore, shame is a nasty lie we are told to keep us from fulfilling our God given destinies.

So, please bury this deep within your hearts: You are lovely, loveable, loved & there is no act you could do to separate yourself from the love of God. The shame you feel from your past is not from Him. 

Friends, love the uglies-yours. Work to recognize the shame lies inside & replace them with love truths.

Have a beautiful week.

Love,

Matilda.


My Earliest of Years

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Remember when I mentioned previously that I had been through plenty of complications in this life that I qualified as a blog writing survivor? Well, OK, not in those exact words but close enough.

I was thinking maybe it’s time to discuss some of those things.

Let’s start with something deep & complex with lots of crazy woven into the history of my life. MY PARENTS.

My biological parents were Seniors in high school when they began what we will call “dating” since I don’t know the exact details about their relationship.

My mother, Rita, was a transplant into this school her Junior year, I believe. My mom led me to believe that she was a bit wild, enjoyed herself at every opportunity. Since my grandparents were allegedly quite strict, I’m sure this resulted in many lies & much sneaking around.

My father, Randy, was also wild, though I doubt anyone would argue that point so we can just say it outright. He did drugs. Now, this was the early 70’s so things were much more laid back for some people during this time. But not my dad. His father, my grandfather, was also very strict. Not known, even today, for being affectionate, patient, compassionate, caring or loving towards anyone. I think he does love, but he is not going to tell us.

So my parents began “dating” sometime early in their Senior year. This is where it all gets fuzzy. Not because I’m on drugs but because neither really likes to discuss it, & both sides skip parts or tell different versions.

All I really know is, I was conceived.

In a Sunday School room.

On Christmas Eve.

I was born exactly 9 months to the day later. My dad says my mom was seeing several other guys around the same time. There wasn’t DNA testing back then, so the lab tests run to prove paternity were only blood types. So even at 43, he isn’t completely sure I belong to him. (Yes, I heard this in the not so distant past & hundreds of times over the years.) My mom does not completely differ here except the time line is less blurry & she seems to have no question about who she was “seeing” around my conception.

Now here you have 2 wild high school Seniors, pregnant, in the early 70’s, both having “experimented” with drugs at least prior to, possibly during, & probably after my life began. My father claims my mothers parents hated him. (HELLO!! Dad, did you miss the beginning of this story?!? Can you blame them?) But let’s remember that it takes two to tango.

Sometime while the parents of these two young, dumb kids were battling out the details of my life, my mom states that my dad’s pastor told her to have an abortion. What?!? He wanted me aborted? Dead? Never to exist?!  My mom states that she knew immediately I was going to save her life & she was always going to love me differently for that. Not more than my sisters, but with a different fondness. Not sure we see eye to eye there but that’s another day’s topic.

So Randy’s family shelled out some money to Rita’s family. I think I was worth $5000.00. So he could run. And run he did. All the way to Dallas. He gave up parental rights so I had no father at all. Oh don’t cry. He was still using drugs. He was drinking a lot. He was not father material. And Rita began seeing a new guy from their high school. Rick was a clean cut football player with 4 years promised to the US Army. He married Rita when I was 10 days shy of 2.

Rick was stationed in Panama for part of his time. That’s really the only place I remember ever hearing about. He was fortunate enough to escape Vietnam because by the time he was done with basic, the US was pulling out. Rick chose to adopt me. I don’t know how all of that went, I was a child. I don’t know if he was still enlisted or home or if I was 5 or 2 or 12. Just kidding. I was definitely not 12.

While Rick was gone, Rita & I spent time at her parents & his parents. We bounced back & forth. While at Rick’s parents, his father, my adopted grandfather, Louis, began sexually assaulting my mother. According to her, he threatened to kill her & me if she told anyone. (I’m barely 4 & my life has been threatened TWICE! Yikes!) So Rita kept that secret for quite a while. (Not so sure she’d appreciate it coming out now. But…this is my life story & it has a direct impact on me.)

Finally Rick returns to his little family. He gets a job with an uncle at a junk yard. Shut up. I ate. I had shelter. I had clothing. And a record player. I had a Sesame Street record. “Bert & Ernie Sing the Letter “L”” was one of the songs on it. I loved it. That song. Over. And over. And over. Rita said I would lay in the hallway & when the song was over I would gently flip the needle so it would just restart the song. “La-la-la-la-lightbulb, la-la-la-la-lamppost…” Yeah. I remember. 😊

By this point, I am 4, I can read. I can recite the alphabet frontwards & backwards. I start kindergarten. I had a brown dog named Linus. Just a mutt of a dog. I had friends next door. They were kinda strange, no very strange, when I look back. What were my parents thinking by letting me play with them?! Rita was pregnant & I was expecting a baby sister. One day, a man knocks on the door. He talks to my mom. When Rick comes home from work, he buries Linus in the backyard. That man at the door had hit him with his truck because he had gotten loose on the road. I remember sobbing at the window watching my dad bury my dog.

So… I think we will stop there for now. This is truly just my beginning. No wise words to part ways this time. Just a reminder that you are loved. Have a happy day & we will meet again soon.

 

How did I get here?

I suppose by now you are starting to understand a little bit about my background. I still look around at my life and ask myself “How did I get here??” What happened to me? So, to bring everyone up to speed on how I got “here” at this point in my life, I think I will quickly mention a few key points about myself. Maybe after I’m done, it will be more clear as to why I have been encouraged to create this blog. I genuinely hope that as I continue to draw these & other experiences out in more detail, people struggling with depression, anger or unforgiveness due to similar circumstances will begin to see how I continue to drag my butt out of bed each day. Maybe they will be given some hope, even some healing.

I was conceived on Christmas Eve, in a Sunday School room. My parents were never married, I wouldn’t even say they were in love. My biological father gave up his parental rights prior to my birth and moved halfway across the country. He came back when I was 10, and as long as it was convenient for him, I was his favorite hobby. If he had a date, or a family, well, he gets busy.

My mother married a man when I was almost 2 & he adopted me. He was a decent man, never made me feel as if I wasn’t his (unlike comments still being made by my biological father.). My mother is a borderline personality. If you don’t know what that is, consider yourself blessed. I will go more into this another day. Short version, she likes drama and is quite manipulative. My adopted father is co-dependent. I spent most of my life trying to please an unhappy mother and giving in to my father’s constant begging for peace.

In the 3rd grade, my friend’s brother molested me. I never told anyone this until high school and even now, just a select few. The summer between my 5th & 6th grade years, my adopted grandfather began molesting me. Yada, Yada, Yada… very little contact with him following this. Also, more in another post. But please hear me when I say, YES, these experiences impacted me greatly. However, allow me to SHOUT OUT from the rooftops, that I REFUSE to allow myself to be considered a victim. Sexual abuse is a horrible crime, and mine in comparison to many others was practically nothing. No, I’m not minimizing it, but others have gone through it on a much greater scale. I just will not allow those two disgusting men to take any more from me than they already have. I promise, we will discuss in greater depth another day.

I married a man at 21 that my mother loved. Yes, this was another attempt to please her. It didn’t work and I wanted to be dead. We divorced before our second anniversary and in 6 months I married “Mark.” We had dated previously, I was blindly in love and spent the next 16 years on an emotionally abusive roller coaster. I mentioned this relationship briefly in the Independence of a Simple Girl post. When he cheated on me, I left my husband, my son and my home. Long story, but it worked best for our son to remain in his home & I couldn’t afford it alone, so I left.

Mark and I tried having children of our own but I was unable to conceive. My lady parts were broken. After 7 years, we adopted a 4-year-old boy. I was over the moon crazy about this kid. Fast forward 12 years. “Dylan” became belligerent, manipulative, mean, dishonest and destructive. When I enforced the boundaries I had established for my home, he and his friends, robbed me, stole my laptop, TV, jewelry, numerous other items and then threatened my life. I had to get a restraining order that is in effect until he is 19.

The robbery happened on February 3, my best friend/boyfriend of 16 months shot himself with my brand new gun, first bullet ever fired from it, on February 20. I was there. I was under the influence of a full Xanax (remember, I usually only take half) and I had also had a drink. I was exhausted from no sleep in 17 days, being homeless because I couldn’t stay in my apartment after the robbery and Andrew had come to get me, taken me back to his place so I could sleep somewhere I felt safe in. We were discussing dinner plans, things we were going to do this summer, taking a quick trip to get away because my life had been so uprooted. He had 10 guns of his own, but mine was a revolver and he didn’t have one of those. He was playing with my gun. He asked me what I wanted for dinner. I flippantly said “whatever.” I turned around to dance to the music that was blaring. I heard the gun go off. I expected to see a hole in the wall. Instead, I saw his feet. He was on the ground. Bleeding. I called 911, I remember screaming that I loved him. That I needed him to stay with me. That I couldn’t do this alone. I begged God to make him ok. I prayed for him with all of my heart. The police came with the ambulance. I was trapped by an officer in his bedroom while they worked on him. I was put in the back of the cruiser and taken to the station for questioning. The next time I saw him was at his viewing.

That was almost 5 months ago. I cannot begin to describe the emptiness inside of me, because it is empty. Nothing is there to describe. I miss him more than words could ever say, more than the tears I still cry, and more than the minutes I lie awake every night. There is no word adequate enough to describe the physical pain I feel in my heart, the loneliness I feel from him leaving me, the fear I feel about trying to maneuver this life after all of this grief has turned me upside down. Wanna know how I keep going every day? Me too. I truly have no idea. I wish I had some wise words to walk you through your own pain. I don’t. I just know that each foot we put in front of the other will lead us to our future. A future I pray holds the happiness I have been missing for the last 40 years. A future I pray allows me to put Andrew’s memories on the front shelves of my mind, but the pain on the back, on top, where I can’t reach them to continue aching and crying over him every day. A future where the people I know that are also struggling to pull themselves out of bed each day, have finally reached a place of peace. A future where our worlds are no longer tilted and dangling us over the edge, but we walk safely within the confines of normalcy. Big dreams? Yes, I know. But I’m an eternal optimist because after 40 years of surviving, I have no other choice.

So again, why read my blog? No clue. But the above is true, honest and only the beginning.

Sending my love,

Matilda Grace