Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why I wrote it

You may be wondering why I chose to write about something as personal and painful as sexual molestation. The most truthful answer as to why I wrote it, why I write anything of any substance, is that it was inside me and wanted out. So I just sat down and listened and wrote. I’m not driving this train, I’m just along for the ride. But there are more reasons.

First, let me say that I'm sure it was more painful to read than it was for me to write. It’s old news to me. At this point I'm so familiar with the story that there is simply no charge left for me. I've talked about it, cried about it, journaled about it, dealt with pieces of it here and there over the years, until one day I realized I didn't feel anything about it other than an overriding sense of peace. But before I waked away from it, it felt important to me to pull it all together into a cohesive narrative. While what happened that summer was an ugly truth to look at, and one my father eventually chose to turn away from, it was still my truth. If I walked away from it, all that would be left of that particular part of my history would be tucked away in the yellowed files of some backroom in the Contra Costa County District Attorney's office and a handful of scrawled notes in therapists' offices in towns scattered across the country. I wanted to gather the pieces together and hold them up to the light and say, “Yes, this happened. This is a part of who I am, and it's okay. I'm okay.”

To retrieve my story it felt right to go back and experience it again through the eyes of my child self. While doing this connected me with the horror of the experience, it also re-connected me with the very visceral love of the earth I felt then. I truly felt transported back and it was gratifying to feel again that deep sense of delight and wonder in the riches of the outdoors.

I say I was eight when this happened but I may have been nine. I can't remember exactly. I tried to find records on the internet but had no luck. I thought I would find something under his name, as he had additional criminal records beyond this, but I didn't find anything. I didn't spend a lot of time on it. I know that when my case was investigated it was discovered that there were other young girls he was molesting. So my brother's disclosure liberated more than just me. I also know that he didn't stay in prison long because I got a call from the District Attorney's office when I was a young teen. Apparently he was out and at it again and they wanted to know if I would come back and testify in this other trial, in an effort to bolster their case. I agreed, but secretly I was terrified. I didn't want to have to go into a courtroom and see this man. The case apparently settled out of court and I was spared that confrontation, if indeed it would have actually occurred (in retrospect, they probably would not put a young girl through such a face-to-face meeting).

Also, this is far more common that we'd like to admit. So many women I know have been molested and so few talk about it. Statistics show that 1 in every 3 to 4 girls has been molested. Less than 10% of them ever report it. Did you get that? Do you want me to repeat it? Less than 10% of them ever report it. Boys report far less than girls. There is a shame associated with molestation and a sense that it should not be talked about. There is nothing shameful about it. Women are afraid that if they talk about it they will upset their parents/break up the family/make people uncomfortable, etc. But why do the women who are victims of brutality bear this responsibility? Why do we carry this weight? Raping another person is shameful. Molestation is shameful. Coercion and manipulation are shameful. Being overpowered and forced to do something against our will is not. This is a backwards equation. It’s okay to talk about, even if it makes others uncomfortable. They will get over it. Talking about it will help us heal.

A note about forgiveness. When I say I reached a point of forgiveness I'm referring to myself and my father, and not to the gardener. I don't understand the Christian concept of forgiveness of those who have committed atrocities. That is nonsensical to me. I don't think it's my place to forgive him. That's his karma, his burden, assuming he carries a burden, which is a big assumption. Rather, I feel nothing when I think of him. No anger, no fear. That is a gift. He no longer has the power to take from me any emotional energy.

Incidentally, I’ve read a couple of thought provoking posts lately on the subject of pedophilia. A friend put up a link to a post by Jen McCreight (yes, she of Boobquake fame) that discussed whether pedophilia should be classified as a biological sexuality that one has no choice over, much like heterosexuality or homosexuality. The argument being, if I understood it correctly, that it may be biologically “normal” for some people to be sexually attracted to children and should be classified as a form of sexuality. As I read through the comments on the post I was surprised to find that her readers were taking this question very seriously and discussing psychological theories of behaviorism and quoting various texts and authorities in the field. Every now and then someone would chime in with “are you fucking kidding me?!” and they would be roundly chastised for their immature response. I didn’t quite get all of this until I remembered that she is a grad student in Sociology and many of her readers probably are as well. It seems to me that such dispassionate and uber-serious treatment of the ridiculous is the sort of thing one finds at the intersection of two such experience-poor disciplines as youth and academia. Then again, I’m probably biased.

The lovely Michelle (Warsaw Mommy), who is a Canadian expat living in Poland, posted earlier today on her mixed feelings about the Polish government’s new requirement that all convicted pedophiles be chemically castrated. Is this a human rights violation or just desserts? She posed this question to her readers. My favorite response was Badger’s, who wanted to know if the law applied to Catholic priests. Honestly, I don’t know the answer to this (her question, not his). I do know that if something like this happened to one of my kids, I would consider castration the kindest of consequences. I also posed the question that if someone chooses to take away the basic rights of a child to physical and emotional safety through the act of rape, are they still entitled to their own rights? Or have they forfeited them? Food for thought anyway. Consider this: The average child molester will molest 50 girls before being caught and convicted and will commit at least 280 sexual crimes in his lifetime. Feel free to contribute to the conversation on her blog.

Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to convey that while we all face tragedies in our lives that severely try our spirits, they are not insurmountable. Healing can be hard work and it can take time, sometimes years upon years. But no one has the power to dictate the path of our lives but us. We may mistakenly give away that power, but at any time we can take it back. If you are female and you are reading this, there is a 30% chance that you have been molested or raped. This can really, really fuck with your concept of yourself as a sexual person and as a spouse/partner. But sexuality in and of itself is benign. It can be coercive and brutal, and it can also be loving and fun and satisfying and healing. It all depends on who is involved. You have the power to choose what it’s going to be for you. If you’ve spent a lot of years mired in fear or shame over something that happened in the past, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s all part of the journey. But starting today, why not retrieve the lost pieces of your own story and start taking back your power?


Thank you to everyone who wrote me, both privately and in the comment section, to share your support and your own stories. xoxo


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31 comments:

  1. it's your calling to write about it. in fact, that you write about it shows how well you have dealt with this tragedy in your life. tragedies have the power to create beautiful places within us, just as they have the power to destroy us. so many victims of sexual abuse end up drug users and ten-dollar prostitutes, dead at an early age. it's sad but true. those who have made the journey to emotional health have a calling to speak about it, maybe not everyday, but when the calls comes.
    bravo. you are nothing short of fabulous and definition of strength.

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  2. Amen to the previous commenter. I admire your strength and your wisdom.

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  3. I'm still speechless, but at least I've stopped swearing. Even the explanation of the post is powerful. You are everything that he is not.

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  4. It seems weird to read that and not comment.
    Needless to say, you inspire me each and every day and with each and every post.
    I count myself lucky to know you.

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  5. I can certainly relate to the urge to just write it all out, has proved a great help to me in working through the loss of my parents and my own family story.

    Less than 10% ever reporting really is a very stark statistic but the courage and sheer strength you've shown in writing about your experiences gives me real hope that many more people that have suffered such appalling abuse can regain their own power and find a way to heal.

    Bless you.

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  6. @ Magicdarts, I know! It's appalling to me too, but I believe it because I personally know several women for whom this is the case. Know very few, in fact, who have told anyone other than a few friends about what's happened to them. Sad, sad, sad. Which is why I want to talk about it, even if it makes people uncomfortable. We need to get used to hearing about this so others are not so afraid to talk.

    @ Ed, thanks, love your thoughts on tragedy/beauty. xo

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  7. It's so often someone we know, or who knows our family. As a child, the thoughts of how it will tear a family apart, a street apart, neighbours apart is very scary, almost more so than the abuse. To tell someone else of your own volition is to make yourself vulnerable, to not being believed, to being thought of a bringing it upon yourself, especially when it happens more than once. I'm glad you've found peace about this. I hope everyone that's been violated so can find that same quiet, regardless of how they come by it.

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  8. @ Watershedd, I agree, everyone has to decide what's best within the dynamics of their own families. That may not always involve a family confrontation. But I still think they can't bear these secrets alone.

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  9. Dear Wanderlust
    Thank you for sharing. By doing so you have no doubt helped many people. You have opened eyes and you have opened hearts.
    Best wishes.
    Hugs and support
    Leanne

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  10. xxxxx I love this : I’m not driving this train, I’m just along for the ride.

    So bloody true. Good on you for taking back the reins. x Bern x

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  11. Yours was a hard post to read. I admit, I started reading, then closed the window. I returned later, and found it haunting, chilling, and emotional. I'm glad it has no power over you.

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  12. "I’m not driving this train, I’m just along for the ride."

    Oh how I understand this. Sometimes, things need out.

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  13. I am just in awe of your strength. Keep writing your truths, beautiful Kristin.XO

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  14. I love your refreshing perspective. Like a squirt of fresh lemon on a too-rich crab cake that bring all the flavors back into balance.

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  15. Kristin, Thank-you! Your beautiful, powerful writing about such a sensitive subject is a precious gift to your readers. Your strong spirit brings light and hope to many, myself included. Merci Beaucoup!

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  16. You know, not many people have that link between the "feeling" world and the "thinking" world.
    You're very lucky to have the ability to express all those aches in the soul into real thoughts and words. It seems once you are able to do that, they can follow an escape route out of your being and away into the ether.
    And along the way, I think you can help others recognize something in themselves that they don't have the tools to wrestle to the ground.

    (good onya)

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  17. Darling, I studied the 'paedo-sexual' movement at uni. Another reason I wanted out of that degree. Sickening.

    Here's where I confess- I read your post, not wanting to. I cried. i waited for the part where you said it was just well-written fiction. the rawness of it, out there- I as worried about you being hurt. Silly woman I am ;)

    What a strong, eloquent, brave person who are Kristin, with the soul of an artist, a writer, a storyteller. I'm honoured to call you a e-friend.

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  18. When I was 10 my mom was raped, stabbed and left for dead on the bed I hid under by an intruder who was never caught. In the space of a week we moved 300 miles away from my home, my friends, and the innocence of my childhood.
    I have a very close and some say enviable relationship with my parents and yet we have never. talked about. IT. Your post made me pick up the phone and start a long conversation with the strongest person I know. My protector. My supporter. My sounding board.
    I listened. And listened more. And cried for what was lost.
    And gained.
    I am aware; as your daughter is. I listen to my gut. I trust my fear.
    And I will not be a victim.

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  19. @ Kate, wow. WOW. I am so sorry for what you and your family have been through. How terrifying. I'm glad you have someone you can talk to and I'm glad you have the wisdom to trust your instincts. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I wish you much love and healing. xx

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  20. I read your previous post hoping for the disclaimer at the end to declare it fiction. I made a superfluous comment because I felt that I had to say something.

    10% if far, far too little. In a just world, none would need to report, because none would have had their innocence taken from them like that in the first place. Unfortunately, that world is fiction.

    A relative of mine was molested by a member of her own family when she was young. She struggled with it, and against other members of her family who refused to believe that it would have happened. The only reason I know of it is because of an overheard conversation.

    I'm sad to say that she died before any justice could be realised, or anyone held accountable. I hope that your story helps people to realise that some truths shouldn't be left unsaid.

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  21. Oh Kristin, written so beautifully and honestly.
    I remember sitting with a group of 12 friends when I was 18. 8 of those 12 had been sexually abused that I knew of. That I knew of! At the time I was struggling through my own torment and like you, years later, after I had seen my own justice done, the perpetrator committed again and I was asked to appear at the trial as a witness. The case was dropped. I think this lack of justice and corrective punishment explains why 10% report.
    I thank you so much for writing and writing so well and I'm in awe of your strength xx

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  22. Thank you for writing this xx

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  23. 1 in every 3 to 4 girls at first seems like someone must have got their stats wrong - and yet I believe it. It was only a few years ago when a group of my childhood friends got talking and I was positively shocked to hear that so many of them had experienced some sort of sexual abuse.

    I wanted to say to you that your bravery in writing this is to be celebrated but then it seemed impossible to speak of celebration in reagrds to your experience.

    But then I went back to your writing...

    "..no one has the power to dictate the path of our lives but us. We may mistakenly give away that power, but at any time we can take it back."

    Congratulations in taking your power back - this seems worth celebrating to me xo

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  24. Chick - my dad is a respected psychologist and has long said - "castrate the fuckers, they think it's normal and look at everyone they fuck up whilst we all debate human rights"

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  25. I'm not sure how and when I found your blog, but I am absolutely glad that I did. I really appreciate this post. I'm glad you can write about it with peace and with distance.

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  26. @ MomZombie, thanks for your nice comment. I tried to find a link back to your blog but could not. If you stop back, feel free to leave a link so I can find you.

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  27. I too am in awe of your strength and tenacity. I know so many friends who have been sexually 'abused' or molested not by strangers but family members ... btw have you seen the Teddy tour (facebook).
    It is astounding the % ...yes it may be higher.
    Many never got to trial or justice but they are still strong and beautiful women.
    I wish it wasn't you or them but it is 'good' you have spoken out and perhaps given someone else the courage to not feel the shame anymore.

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  28. Hi Trish, thanks for your comment. I've not heard of the Teddy tour. I'll have to check into that. And yes, the numbers amaze me. It's so sad.

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  29. I am yet again, utterly floored by the beauty of your writing. You have such a natural gift to communicate, to tell a story. From everything that i have read in the past 6 months, your writing most aches to be published. It is beautifully descriptive, words flow from the page and it is an honour to read.
    Milk doesn't often get gushy.

    M2Mx

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  30. @M2M, thank you so much. I wish you were a publisher! xo

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