by iampunha | 7/30/2008 08:00:00 AM
He went to war with several young children under his wife's care.

He didn't come back.

That's the story of many hundreds of thousands of Americans.

But today it's the story of one man and those he left behind.

(Diarist's note: Portions of this diary are really disturbing. Really, really, seriously, disturbing in ways that strive to redefine depraved. If you're ingesting something, stop. If easily disturbed eyes might happen upon the screen, secure their safety far away from it. You do not want your kids to read this. It gets ugly fast.)

For those who live today having been abused yesterday.

Never, ever give up finding your place in this world and keeping it safe.

One cold and damp morning in mid-June 1995, I was trying to sleep in a van parked near a cemetery in Picardy, France, less than two hours from the house four of us would stay in for about three weeks (my sisters would stay in it for an additional week).

We'd had to sleep in the van because my mother had forgotten that in France, if you make reservations for "sept heurs" at a hotel, that hotel will expect you at 7 a.m. This is even more amusing because she was raised on military time and so would have written it as 1900 hours, similar to the French version, dix-neuf heurs (19 hours, or 7 p.m.).

We had stopped not because anyone was particularly tired (not that the van was especially amenable to sleep) but because the cemetery was closed.

The cemetery contains the physical remains of one Alfred Joyce Kilmer, whose most memorable (but not best) poem, "Trees," you may have been forced to memorize one year for some Arbor Day celebration.

He was an academic, he is commonly mistaken for a woman (Joyce was a family name, similar to Johns for the Hopkins family), and his death, at age 31, on July 30, 1918, started a chain of events many members of my family still don't talk about. Some are in denial still.

Joyce Kilmer was my great-grandfather, and when he died, his wife had to make ends meet. Among other things, she took in a boarder whose name you can find in any number of stories about my great-grandfather. Apparently they were good friends.

But friends don't do what this man did.

Even enemies don't do what this man did.

This diary gets ugly fast. I am mincing words because this is not my story to tell, but too many people are too scared to talk about their own abuse for me to be silent today. I have put asterisks around the place where the family stuff ends, though I do later reference some nasty shit. It ain't pretty, and I don't want any survivors here to have flashbacks on my account.

It takes a special kind of animal to abuse children.

One of them took religious orders to escape his grip. We did not find out that anything particularly bad had happened to her (and as far as I know, we will never know the full story) until, on her death bed, she became delirious, started remembering ways he had touched her before she got out, and started reacting to those memories.

Another of those children had 11 of his own. And where the cycle ended with his sister, this man continued it.

Some of his children did as well, though my father was not among them.

And some of those children, from what I am told, continued the cycle not only later in life with their children but with their own siblings.

My grandfather and his children were not the only monsters in the house. My father's grandmother (on his mother's side) was also evil. She lived with them until 1969, when my father was 11, at which point her body died.

Her soul, see, had died long before. My father tells me that before extended family came to pay their respects, his mother said, "Now, let's all pretend we're sorry Mêmê is dead."

Through letters I was not meant to read, written by people I doubt will ever see this, I have found out that she used knitting needles and scissors on her grandchildren.

They were not used in traditional ways.

One of my aunts reported that when she underwent an emergency procedure during the birth of one of her children, necessitating the use of scissors near her vagina, she had a flashback to when she was very young.

She wanted to know if anyone else had similar memories.

Nobody remembered having scissors used on them, but some people said they weren't surprised to hear it.

***OK, the bad stuff's over. (I so totally understand not wanting to read about abuse.)

I do not need the comments here to tell me that many people on this site were abused as children.

I also don't need statistics on child rape and/or pedophiles.

I know because they escaped to the Internet for the same reason I did: Nobody can hurt you here.

My grandfather never abused me (that I know of), but I do have experience with abuse, albeit not nearly on the level of scissors or knitting needles.

And I know that psychologically, if you get burned by something enough, you stop going near it.

The psychological scars take a lot more to heal. And your personality changes. Your habits change. You don't want to interact as much in person because you're willing to do anything you can to make sure it never happens again. (The other reaction is to embrace sex so you can own your abuse. You will never see me condemn this reaction insofar as it does not hurt innocent people. I have no inner wound to heal by condemning those victims of sexual abuse who become promiscuous as a form of therapy. I have only the hope that they will seek out healing as do those who wear baggy clothes and don't make eye contact with anyone.)

It's why I fled to the Internet when I was about 16. I had more friends in my e-mail inbox than I did in high school. I have formed close relationships (albeit not permanently so) with more people online than in person.

And here, the most someone can do is type something vicious at me. Nobody here can do what those kids did to me.

Nobody can corner me when the teacher is deliberately looking away, eating her lunch facing the wall so she can say she didn't see anything happen.

And nobody can act (as opposed to type) incredulous that someone would beg off their job.

It happens. Child abuse happens. Child rape happens. And it's going to keep happening unless we step up our efforts to end it.

For every victim who steps forward, 10 more haven't. Maybe they don't have the courage to. Maybe, like with my father and many of his siblings, the memories are repressed, tucked away for a time when they can be dealt with (most of them started coming out in 1995, when my grandfather died).

And maybe they are tired of having people not believe them. "But he was your father! How could he do that to you? I just don't understand it."

... and you think victims do? You think a 5-year-old girl understands why her father rapes her?

You think a 12-year-old boy understands why his father is standing naked with his penis in the boy's face?

You think any child understands being penetrated by a foreign metal object?

They just know they need to escape. And one of my aunts escaped the hell of living with her parents (one a pedophile, the other an enabler) for 30+ years by forming alternate personalities.

My father repressed for 20+ years. Then, one day, maybe seven years ago, we were sitting in the car as I was getting ready to drive him somewhere.

He was breathing rather uncertainly.

He doesn't do that around me. Even when he's uncertain, he doesn't do that around me.

I put the key in the ignition.

"I think ... " he started.

I looked at him.

" ... that my father might have abused me."

I think I said "OK." I'm pretty sure we didn't say much more about it that trip or that day. I know he said my sisters hadn't wanted to hear much about it. (My grandfather was a monster, but he was a very clever monster. Kids loved him.)

My father has never given me many details. They're not mine to ask for. He knows he can tell me anything, and I'm pretty sure I know things about him that even my mother doesn't know. (I'm told this is unusual, but in my natural state, I am much with the personal sharing, so it doesn't seem weird to me. Only some of the things he tells me are unusual.)

The situation is the same with other people I have known, most of whom have since moved on from knowing me to knowing other people. One of them one day out of the blue asked me to accompany her outside for a smoke break. I don't smoke, and I said so, but who was I to turn down an invitation to talk?

We made small talk for about five seconds, which is about four seconds more than I usually like, and then she started talking to me about her abusive boyfriend. I don't know what she was told that suggested I wouldn't beg out of the conversation, but I didn't. (I have never understood the desire to, but part of that is probably being able to endure knowing so much awful shit.) Maybe the woman I was with, who knew some of my family history, had found out about the abuse in question and suggested she talk to me. Maybe I have a sympathetic face.

I don't know if that woman is still with her abuser. I don't remember her name, and I doubt I'd recognize her face. But there's a woman in Virginia who got listened to once, and that asshole she was with (I hope she isn't still) can't beat that out of her. He can't tell her she doesn't matter to anyone. He can't say nobody cares, can't say it's no big deal, can't say he only does it because he loves her so much.

Because if someone she barely knows can talk to her without rearranging her face, someone who supposedly cares more for her can sure as fuck stop giving her things to cover with concealer.

Someone reading this is suffering in silence. For at least one person who has gotten this far, that lack of understanding, that charge of lying, that talk of psychological scars not healing is not foreign.

It is personal.

All I can say to you is this:

It's not your fault.





Blogger Unknown on 7/30/2008 1:25 PM:

A powerful diary, iampunha. Not being an abuse victim, I don't really have much to say, except to thank you for your thoughts. I hope many, many people read this.