One of the turning points in my recovery was the day I realized I was not a body with a soul. I was a soul with a body. I don’t know if this makes a big difference to any of my readers but for me it was as if a hundred pounds were lifted off my back. For so many years I had felt unclean, exactly as my dad wanted me to feel. I was filled with shame and could find no way back to my birth when I arrived whole and good and pure. What my father did to my body was heinous. But he could not touch my soul. That part of me was still intact. Through recovery I made my way back to my original self.
When I was in my mid-teens and my father had been molesting me since I was thirteen he told my mother and me he wanted to read a passage out of a book called Lolita. It was a current and highly controversial best seller about the affair between a middle-aged sexual pervert and a twelve-year-old girl. I sat next to my mom on the sofa as my father began to read. I held my body tight as he read aloud about the affair between Lolita and Humbert Humbert. As an adult, Humbert had developed a pedophilic fixation with girls aged 9–14, whom he refers to as ‘nymphets‘. Soon my body began trembling and tears rolled down my cheeks as I rocked back and forth holding my arms taught against my breast. My mom began crying too and kept repeating, “Stop, stop. I don’t want to hear anymore.” When my father got to the part where the protagonist Humbert makes it clear that the affair was the fault of Lolita, not him, my mom and I both became hysterical. My father closed the book and had us follow him into the bathroom. There he tore the book to shreds and flushed it down the toilet.
At the time I had no idea why my father felt it necessary to read parts of Lolita. I only know that as the years passed any mention of that book was enough to send me into hysterics and sobbing. While going through recovery I came to realize that my father was being his own Pontius Pilate, accomplishing two different purposes at the same time: he absolved himself from any blame and he made sure that I knew that I was the seducer, not him. At the time I was married to my third abuser. Whether by coincidence or pre-meditated, the night I realized the truth of what my father had done, my husband had begun reading out loud in a pedantic tone passages out of a book he had recently purchased called Lolita. It spiraled me into despair and jagged sobs. I had shared with him all the parts of my growing up including the Lolita incident. He had found one other way to control, manipulate and abuse me. While I am loathe to admit it, years after our divorce and my recovery I came to realize that the similarities between my husband and my father were eerie. That very fact forced more and more of the rooms in my mind that I had kept under lock and key to burst open. Shortly after our divorce, I wrote one of my many poems illustrating what was happening inside of me.
My attic is filled with fragments of time
That make up the essence of me.
Memories of love and friendship and joy
And some I don’t want to see.
Compartments I locked like a security guard
And watched so no entry was made.
Secrets of grief and stress that I chose,
And lessons whose dues I have paid.
The contents are rich with scraps of my soul
And chapters I waded on through.
With hidden remains of skeletons there
And puzzles without any clue.
Sometimes at night, when I’m tired and lost
And the doors are bursting their seams
All of the memories start screaming at me
From the depths of bottomless dreams.
Then the assault bursts forth, as the lock gives way
And pictures I’ve lost are reborn,
Drenching my heart and splashing my soul,
Leaving me weary and worn.
So I crawl up the stairs and open the door
And turn all the trunks on their side,
Tear open boxes rotted with age,
Spill everything trying to hide
Open the windows and look at the sun
And breathe in all I can find.
I remember it all, the essence of me
And savor my “attic in mind”.
I had connected with my soul and knew that never again could anyone hurt me. They could not touch that soul part of me that was still innocent and pure.
Perpetrators are able to get away with what they do for a number of reasons: children are not taught to have strong boundaries, parents are not vigilant about who they allow their child to be with, parents don’t believe their children when they come to them for help, too many parents are not aware that the majority of child sexual abusers are someone close to the family, a relative or friend. So if you ask Uncle Fred, who has a drinking problem and is too physical with your child, to babysit your three year old and don’t pay attention to the fearful look in your child’s eyes you are setting the stage for a child to be abused. We don’t have strong enough punishments meted out to perpetrators once they are caught. Too many are set free with a strong reprimand or a short prison sentence. Once they are released they start looking for another child to be victimized. Child sexual abusers cannot be rehabilitated.