|My dad and my brother Joe|
Every abused kid faces this question: disclose, or live a lie?
Abuse survivors live like someone sliding down the wrong side of a cheese grater. We must develop moves that civilians never even need to imagine.
And it never stops. Getting out of the house is no escape. I could not have managed, decades ago, when I ran out, that I'd be as old as I am now, and still making those moves worthy of Shaun White, Olympic snowboard champion.
There are problems with disclosure, and problems with non-disclosure.
If you don't disclose, you live a lie. No one can ever have any idea who you are.
If you disclose, one of the biggest problems is this. Some-not-all civilians exploit your misfortune to elevate their own status.
"Oh, you were abused.
Oh, your abuser was evil. Low class. Stupid. Irredeemable. Less than I, the pure civilian who would never harm a child. I'm rational. I'm fair. I'm kind. I'm above-it-all. I do everything right.
And you, the abuse survivor. You're probably wounded and inferior and dirty and I need to be magnanimous with you. Did you know that abuse survivors are ninety percent more likely to be abusers themselves? It's a good thing you never had kids. And I will be sure never to leave you alone with any kid I have. In fact I will go out and have a kid just so I can be sure never to leave you alone with that kid.
If you and I ever disagree about anything, from a presidential candidate to how much a tip to leave, I will say something like, 'Well, with your history, I can understand how you'd say something that stupid.'"
I wish I could say that it isn't like that, but it is like that.
So, you don't disclose, and civilians have no idea what you went through, and no idea who you are, or you do disclose, and civilians have no idea what you went through and no idea who you are.
A few things.
The folks who hurt me are full human beings. They have their own histories, which I do not feel free to disclose. I can say that every one of them went through various tracts of Hell that you probably can't even imagine.
The other day I was chatting with Liron and I mentioned, in passing, just one biographical event that one of my abusers went through. Liron was aghast. Of course I'm in the US and she is in Israel, so I'm guessing at her reaction. She wrote, "Oh, God … " When someone writes "Oh, God dot dot dot," you gather that what they've heard has overwhelmed them and they don't know what else to say.
But then, political being that she is, she followed up with, "But he was white, so his story is of no importance. White privilege."
Yeah. The hell that this loved one went through was, well, it was hell. But, he was white, so it has no importance.
That's it about my entire family. What courage, what strength, what endurance they managed to marshal, has no importance. And now, with my brother Joe's recent death, they are all but all gone. When I'm taking my dirt bath, that history dies forever, and no one will ever know. And rich, white liberals will slather over all that history with "white privilege."
Otto wrote an essay for my blog called "Ripples of Sin." You can read it at the link below.
Otto talks about having been an abused kid. Otto is very frank. He does identify his father as an abuser, and, indeed, a former Nazi officer.
I knew Otto in high school and I met his dad. I know more details about the abuse than Otto goes into in that account. They are very tough. You would not want anyone to do to you what was done to Otto. I wish that, as a seventeen-year-old girl, I had had superpowers, and I could have rescued my classmate. I did not, and I regret it. Really. I look back on that time and "not rescuing Otto" is a big hole in my life story.
When Otto and I chat now, every now and then, he will mention his dad. Otto may catch sight, in a wrought iron fence, of a bad weld. Or a good weld. Pretty much always, Otto's voice is full of admiration for what a great, strong, competent, proud iron worker his dad was. How much Otto learned by watching his dad work with iron. Otto is no slouch himself. He learned to work with his hands somewhere, from someone. His dad.
Me? One day I went for a walk. Heck, every day I go for a walk. It was summer, and in Jersey in summer you can assume that on any give afternoon, the sky is suddenly going to morph from benign, creamy, Disney blue to bruised, sun-strangling, mammatus clouds.
I was in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and I had not thought to bring any rain gear. The storm came up that suddenly. I wasn't really sure how to get back to the house I was visiting. The rain was pelting down. My shirt was becoming transparent and I was shivering. My head switched back and forth, disoriented. Had I turned on this road, in this anonymous suburb, or …???
An SUV pulled up. It was a family member. Someone who had done some pretty bad things to me. Things that, if I told you, would make you go, "Oh My God dot dot dot." This person was aware that I had gone for a walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood and left without rain gear. This person got into an SUV and drove around randomly until I was found. I got into the SUV and was given a safe ride back to shelter.
My family is the only family that has ever lived in the house in which my brother Joe just passed away. I'm not asking for replays of memories of that house, and its now deceased inhabitants: my mother, whose hand I held as she died in my childhood bedroom, my father, who also died in my childhood bedroom, Joe, Mike, Phil, who died on my birthday, Antoinette, who died just three years ago as I was massaging her feet. Even though I am not summoning up these memories, they are pounding against my eyeballs as if Joe's death had installed a Dolby cinema projector into my brain.
Yesterday, I was trying to take a relaxing bath, and all of a sudden I found myself, with my family, at Fountain Spring Lake. The sky was so blue. The sun struck every one of the bubbles from the springs pumping out water and turned the bubbles into baubles, into frothy gems between my little girl toes.
Facebook friend Rusty said something to me about how I can write about my family with so much love. Love is what is real. Evil is the absence of God, and its substance will not withstand. "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
Romeo Dallaire, the United Nations officer who was a peacekeeper in Rwanda during the genocide, said that he believes in evil, because he witnessed it. He touched it. And he said he believes in God as well, for the same reason. During the genocide, he felt the palpable presence of both evil, and God.
As a child, I witnessed evil, face to face. I recognized that evil is not a person, it is a force that a person surrenders to, however temporarily.
God, too, is real. Like Romeo Dallaire, I know that from my encounter with evil. I encountered God, as well, and no matter how many snarky things atheists and Christophobes say to me, I know that my God is real.
So Happy Father's Day. Here's a picture of my dad and my brother Joe.
And here is Otto's essay: