Scars


History is a funny thing.  You can ignore it, work round it, forget it.  But in little subversive ways, it always comes back to bite you.

It is not a well-known fact that I was sexually abused as a child.  I had lovely parents and a very dark secret.  A relative of my mother’s started abusing me at a very young age.  It is my second childhood memory.  The first being of looking at a light in my parent’s apartment.  When I recalled it years later and described it to my Mom, she went pale, as I was six months old when we moved out of that flat and there are no photos of the light fitting.

So the first time I remember I being abused I was probably only just speaking.  It continued until I was 10 years old and started looking womanly.  Many abused children hit puberty early.  I am not going to dwell on the detail, suffice to say it defined my childhood and very nearly defined my entire life.  It took falling in love for the first time to bring everything to a head and the scar I have on my left wrist is testimony to the ill-fated attempt I made to end the confusion in my head and to leech out the dirt I felt inside.

Having failed to kill myself (so useless, I could not even manage that successfully) and not keen to try past two very painful slashes, I then reached out for help and managed to land myself the most inept, incompetent rape counsellor probably in the whole of the continent, if not the whole wide world.  Not only did she insist I feel sorry for my abuser but she also insisted I go public.  I could not do neither.

Sorry was the last thing I felt for him (I wanted to kill him).  Going public would have meant hurting beyond repair my parents who trusted this man and his wife, who in fact made them our legal guardians (oh boy did I breathe I sigh of relief when I turned 18 and insisted my parents change their wills so that my brother and sister would be under my care, which bless them, they did).  Quite simply, my parents would never, ever have forgiven themselves.

When I was young, I was known in the community we lived in as the “cling-film kid”, so carefully did my parents watch out for me.  I was not allowed to accept lifts (even from neighbours), talk to strangers, walk anywhere by myself (including to our local school, something that became a bone of contention and only when I was 11 was I allowed to walk home from school).  Nor was I allowed to ride my bicycle out past the small block.  There was no way on earth my parents, who had sent me off for weekends with this man and his wife, ever, ever going to get over, through or round this.

So I realised it was down to me.  I had to learn how to be normal.  It was hard.  By the time I was 12, my parents knew I was street smart and I could go to town on my own and actually had a great deal of freedom.  I never let them down.  But I had a whole other life that no-one would ever have suspected.  Attracted to danger, dangerous men and a lifestyle years from my own, I fitted in on the edges and nowhere suitable.  Years of keeping secrets made it easy for me to lie, to invent sleepovers, pyjama parties, lifts back home with schoolfriends’ parents.  Only once did my mother catch me out wearing makeup and I made the excuse that everyone wore makeup at the party, a typical teenage whinge.

Sensing my difference, kids at school avoided me.  I became outwardly tough but watched them closely for clues on how to behave, how to interact, how to laugh, how to just be.

Just aware enough to know that sex was going to be an issue, I threw myself into it, determined to know how to be normal, instead of a victim.  I was dirty already and there was nothing anyone could do to make me dirtier.

I had the example of my parents in terms of adult relationships but I never managed to have a successful teenage relationship.  My love interests were always older than me, wilder than me and in most cases mad, bad and dangerous to know.  However I was also incredibly lucky.  Only one of them ever harmed me intentionally and one became my saving grace.

By the time I had finished high school, I had pretty much learned how to behave, how to look, how not to attract attention, how to attract attention when I wanted it, instead of having it foisted on me.

I could give love and receive love in an emotional and sexual sense but I bore scars that I kept hidden.  As a young girl, I yearned for freedom to make my own decisions, follow my own path.  I wanted to run and run until I had outrun myself and make a better life for myself, become a better me.

By and large, I have done that.  I never did tell my parents and the asshole himself was a great help and support to my Mom when my Dad died and again to my Mom when she was dying, teaching me that not all evil people are completely hopeless of heart (although he did manage to slip his hand down the back of my skirt whilst my mother lay dying in the room next door).

I also did not want people to judge me against my history, be able to say “oh she does that, because you know … “.  I wanted no-one’s pity (I still can’t bear the thought) and I did not want to be the subject of anyone’s gossip.  I still don’t.

I did tell my siblings, something given our fractured relationship, that was incredibly hard to do and made even harder by my sister, who, at the time was annoyed with me and put all sorts of barriers in front of meeting up.  I eventually gave her an ultimatum, told her I had something important to tell them and it was up to her to decide whether to hear it or not.  When the occasion came, I opened my mouth to speak and found I could not.  I cried instead and in between choking and talking, finally got it out.

They both had daughters and whilst I was able to keep both my sister and brother safe during their childhood, I could not keep their daughters safe.  I was living overseas – too far away to be a threat and way too old by that time to be an alternative lure.

It is a secret I have shared with very few people and in truth, only in the past few years has it been possible to talk about, openly and calmly.  But deep down inside, scars remain.  Inside me somewhere is still that little girl who yearned for the bright lights and the big city, who chose excitement and danger over security and love.

And now, I realise, I have to guard against her.  Because although she is the cornerstone of my compassion (I cannot bear cruelty, cannot and will not walk past it, ever), she is also the source of what makes me again and again, attracted to risk and danger; who, when life is good and things are calm, can go out and take risks beyond imagining

Nowadays there are so many good reasons to court danger, do the unthinkable, to reach out to what is perceived to be untouchable, to right wrongs and to work outside of what is agreed to be lawful.  But I also recognise in doing so, I quell the itch in my soul

I have to accept that I will always have an edge to my heart, that I will always be attracted to jeopardy and that in trying to put horrible things right, I am not only seeking justice for all those who have been harmed, but also satisfying a nasty little part of me which cries out again and again for me to walk a tightrope and risk everything for the sheer, awful thrill of surviving it.

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About titflasher

Writer, blogger, animal activist, people activist, dream-catcher maker, mommy to 9 cats and a roving band of foxes ... Blog name comes from my father's suggestion for the title of my autobiography ... after my mother's and my awful habit of flashing whenever the security police took our photo in the dark old days of apartheid South Africa. I love nature, including creepy crawlies and people, find life fascinating and frustrating and have two terrible weaknesses - nictotine and animals in distress ... can't abide the latter situation and can't give up the former. I'm Pagan but not anti-Christian, funny but quite serious, light-hearted but can be annoying. I am warm-hearted until someone p*sses on me too much, then I get soggy and even. Feel free to link me but all the words on these pages is copyrighted, so copy it and take the credit and I will find you and slap you upside the head, hard. The blog is probably best read via category as there is loads on here already, and I just got started :-)
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32 Responses to Scars

  1. 3am Wisdom says:

    This is an exceptional piece of writing, TF. And I am not just saying that because the content touches me and saddens me. I am saying it because you took me somewhere with your words. I respect you so much for this piece. xx

  2. Lizanne says:

    Hey TF,

    You have turned into one truly awesome woman, and the way you unselfishly give back to living beings is a huge inspiration to all. There were so many of us sexually abuse at school and yet if we all knew that about each other, life could have been so different !!!!

    I am eternally gratefull that the bastard that messed with me was killed 2 years ago, I believe he was caught in the act with a child.

    Thanks for making a difference in my life TF.
    Xx

    • titflasher says:

      Lizanne I so wish we had known this about each other. You are right – it might have made the world of difference. I thought you guys were normal and I was the weird one. Yes I am glad he is dead too. And although I should not say this, I am glad he was murdered. I hope he got to feel a little of the fear he gave to you all before he died. I truly do not believe people like him should be allowed to live their lives in peace.

      Thank you for opening up to me when you did that time ago – it has helped me be a bit more open now. I find you just as awesome! So thank you for being part of the courage that brought me here.

      xx

  3. SimoneGoodfellow says:

    Pity? I give you pride 🙂 You are such a lovely lady and I am so proud of how you have gained the strength to share this. Love xxxxxxxx

  4. Pandora says:

    Nothing useful to say, but I did want to send empathy and hugs. It was brave of you to write this hun; I know how hard facing up to this kind of past can be.

    I rather think you’re the winner in this equation 🙂

    *hugs*

    Pan x

    • titflasher says:

      Thank you Pan. You were also a factor in this. You and others write so bravely about your scars, how could I keep on being evasive about mine? I am not sure about “winner”, I am happy with “survivor”. Hugs right back atcha xx

  5. Kate White says:

    Darling Sam, I want to say something like props for finding the internal space to put this out there. Not easy, obviously.
    I’ve been watching Numb3rs -a little late on that scene – but there’s an episode where Charlie’s trying to figure out what motivated a notorious bank robber to go after a score where the chances of success were undeniably remote and the probability of death so high.

    Charlie talks about how we’re all hard-wired with certain strategies, attitudes etc to risk vs reward — uses the analogy of mice in a field looking for food. If they were only after the reward they should spread out equally, but out at the edge of the field where the foliage isn’t as dense you’re an easy target for owls. It’s only the desperate and/or daring mice who go there in search of food -where risk far outweighs reward.

    So, A. boy can these bastards screw w our risk-assessment strategies(!), and B. that part of yourself you called ‘nasty’ for chasing the thrill is also aware that staying ‘home’ with the rest of the crew isn’t a free ride, and that sometimes risk is its own reward.

    (shrug) It’s intelligent, adaptive behaviour -by my Tao at least.

    p.s. not denying potentially compulsive aspects to said drive but find it v understandable and entirely within moral compass of what I know to be true of you i.e. ain’t nothin’ wrong with where your heart’s at.

    xxx

    • titflasher says:

      My dear Kate (god that makes me sound like a maiden aunt). Thank you, I hadn’t thought about it like that, at all. That makes me feel a lot better :-). Can you tell that, by recognising the behaviour, I recognise that I am still affected and whilst i completely believe I am right to do so in the most philanthropic (is that a word?) sense, in its more destructive sense, I hate beyond measure the fact that my behaviour might be a product of abuse. If I am going to be a risk-taker, I would rather I did it because I enjoyed the hell out of it, than did it with the sneaky suspicious that I might just be programmed (or have programmed myself) that way. xxxx

      • Kate says:

        1st – Do you enjoy the hell out of it anyway?
        I ask because it makes me smile to do so, and because you’re an adult now with the full range of choice that imples. Sooo, as a teenager it was probably reactive decision-making, ‘programmed’ if you like. Though honestly all teenagers are programmed (evolutionarily, at the v least) to test the boundaries of risk. In that sense it was more or less healthy, if unconscious, therefore more dangerous, more likely to perpetuate abusive mind-loops within you/your environ.

        2nd – Being that you now recognise the behaviour this tells me it isn’t controlling you so much. In 10 years you could have taken on any number of programs to deal with the abuse. That part of you that likes taking risks, my guess, if I had to guess, was always there, would’ve (maybe did?) crop up in other ways (it’s a fight, flight, freeze thang. abusers don’t program which of those we rely on. trauma can change them up a bit, but not all that significantly). Also ‘cling-film kid’ says a lot about what risk just was too. Hrm, yeah, abuse rarely happens in a vacuum. Power, our own power, can seem both dependably dark and terrifyingly bright but that’s all down other paths…

        Your behaviour was, is, the product of YOUR internal coping/adjustment mechanisms. Did some of those mechanisms arise or alter their course because of abuse? Of course, but don’t let that take away from a lifetime of choices that have made all the difference – as you said. Not just in your life, but in the lives of your siblings and their children, your friends, the people you care for, about, even the people you may have harmed, not to mention the animals you’ve saved (I could go on here…).

        You wanted to make your own path. In this you have been successful. Few people can honestly say they made a childhood dream into the goddamn honest truth.

        Then again, I don’t think a bit of hate now and again is such a bad thing to feel. It’s maybe even healing, in its own way. (No need to hate-on hate ‘eh. Smile.)

      • titflasher says:

        Ah Kate, for all the myriad of reasons I love and admire you, this post just added one more. Am off to bed shortly but am going to ruminate on this (because it is important) and respond tomorrow. Thank you xxxx

  6. warriet says:

    Well done! I hope that other victims out there are emboldened by your word to face their own demons 🙂

  7. titflasher says:

    Thank you. I hope so. It is so important we talk about this sort of stuff and I realise, finally that we simply have to. So many of my fellow bloggers (you included) have been so honest and so brave, that I find I have the courage, finally, to be so too.

  8. Daryl says:

    Sam, my Sam. My heart hurts that you had to go through this. Are you or were you afraid of the dark? That would explain so much to me. You were never an easy swimmer, you were afraid to go under the water and this often translates as a fear of the dark. I am all for castration of paedophiles. Bravo for this post. It takes guts. Thank you for being the strong woman you are. You are so brave. Love you!

    • titflasher says:

      Hi MamaD – yes I was. But I was also very afraid of being out of control. And in water, I will always feel out of control. You were so patient with me, always. I love you too, very much.

  9. Paula Ann Walker says:

    Heart to heart I admire you for this. I can understand the difficulty in posting, but honestly, you have done a great good thing for other people, those who have experienced some of what you have, and those who have not. My heart smiles for you and aches for you. I love you. Thank you for sharing.

    • titflasher says:

      Thanks Paula. You were one of the few who knew this about me before I posted and I cherish and honour your care of me, as well as your ability to understand me, so completely. I love you too and yes, I hope it helps anyone who it needs to xx

  10. Narky says:

    I just admire you. Deleted the rest of the comment, was rubbish. Just much love and admiration for you.
    xxx

  11. Phil Groom says:

    Wow! You blow me away with your enthusiasm for and commitment to our mutual project … now this, and I’m blown away even further. Can only echo what others have said: total admiration and kudos to you: one awesome woman.

    So many of my female friends have suffered abuse, some in childhood, others as adults … I hope more of them will find whatever it takes (was going to say ‘courage’ but that would imply they lack courage, which none of them do: this takes something somehow beyond courage, and I’m not sure there’s a word for it) to speak out about it as you have, because it seems to me that it’s only by shining a light into these dark places that there’s a hope of scouring them out, if I can put it that way — the ‘dirt’ you felt was never a part of you, and I guess that you know that now…

    Be blessed, my amazing friend, and never be ashamed of that scar.

    • titflasher says:

      Phil, thank you. It is for that reason that I have finally “come clean” if you like. I wrote the post and had no intention of putting it on here and then thought – why not? Not my shame, not my sin and I need to articulate something here that needs saying. “Our” (can I lay claim to be part of it, even though I don’t really qualify, not sure – but I feel that I belong?) particular blogging community and the wonderful people in it, face their demons with such courage and clarity, how could I not? Funnily enough, posting this has made me finally, finally shrug off some the deep shame I have felt my entire life, a side-effect I did not expect at all (I thought it would, if anything, intensify it).

  12. Edain Duguay says:

    This is the first time I’ve read this and I’m sorry I missed it at the time. You are a strong, beautiful, wonderful woman and I love you for all of you. Letting a wound get fresh air makes the scar smaller and that’s exactly what you’ve just done. Proud of you and you know where to find me. x

    • titflasher says:

      Edain I didn’t link this one on fb to be honest, so not surprised you missed it! Thank you. I think the world of you too and you are right – airing it does help it heal x

  13. MsLeftie says:

    Found you via TWIM, excellent blog post full of depth and honesty, some of the childhood behaviours I can very much relate to.

    • titflasher says:

      Thank you. It was one of those posts that virtually wrote itself. I was initially very hesitant about sharing, but very, very glad I did. Thanks for the visit too – I hope you enjoy some of the lighter-hearted stuff on here also.

  14. randomthoughtso says:

    X

  15. randomthoughtso says:

    As sad that it is, that even though you told me – and I am forever grateful that you did!!! – I could not protect my daughter from the evils of people who exist and who are let into our lives. You and I both know this. It’s made me more vigilant, more aware. Moreover, her recovery from that trauma, her assimilation of the events that happened to her and her smiling face that bares a remarkable resemblence to you…underline her inner strength. I thank you for yours, because it was what I went home to mentally when I did not feel strong. You did the bravest thing telling us.

    Thank you X

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