It’s been 10 years since my father was deported, 25 years since I was born. He’s been in and out of jail since I was 10. I was 15 when he molested me.
It’s not a big secret, anyone who really knows me knows. I’m sure people who don’t know me, know. There is no such thing as a secret. Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.
I’m at a place now where it’s easy for me to talk about but hard for me to write, but there was once a time I couldn’t mention it without breaking down. I remember living in fear that no one would believe me, or accuse me of lying. All my life I wanted to become someone important or relevant enough to where my tragedy wouldn’t feel like it was just mine. I’ve always aspired to one day be in a position where this big huge secret would be believable.
The past never changes. Every time you get broken into a new reality, your perspective reflects back through an entirely different lens. New perspective changes the past, changes the way we look at the past. I was too young to understand what was going on at the time; I was just trying to escape pain.
Positive coping mechanisms include arts and craft type hobbies, reading, writing, drowning out thoughts through music, rampant intellectualism, things to build up the imagination to forget that home is a war zone, things to build up the logic to get better at explaining the reasons why.
Negative coping mechanisms include bulimia, self-mutilation, promiscuity, substance abuse, things to escape the body or feel excruciating sensation through pain or pleasure in a way that makes you feel like you have some control. In midst of excessive pain, it feels good to give the pain a form, a centralized focal point so the pain doesn’t pour out into everything else. Pressure stops a wound from bleeding.
Unmet needs during developmental years produce tension in the body. When buried, the tension manifests in a continuous state of alert and emergency that stays inside the body. The mind can justify anything. Your body could be bleeding and the mind could still be worried about the blood getting on your clothes.
It never stops hurting but I finally feel safe enough to write about it, hopefully give myself closure instead of moving through life with a hole in my heart that dick or money or followers can’t fill. My mother finally gave me consent and support, after years of living in denial, repressed memories, going back and forth between blaming me, blaming herself, not wanting relatives to find out. All of my grandparents are dead. I’m the first person in my bloodline to be born in the Western Hemisphere. My blood belongs inside my body.
I grew up feeling like a burden to my family, an outcast to my peers, wishing that I were an orphan. Orphans have this neat touchy label. It’s understood without explanation that orphans come from a lot, must be handled with care, have this crippling sense of unbelonging that comes from being unwanted, rejected or neglected. I grew up jealous of my friends who had parents that were divorced or fathers who were absent. I wished I was fatherless because having no father would also mean I had no domestic predator. In my home, these two roles were not separate. My father was a predator who part-time pretended to be my protector, going back and forth from being overbearing and neglectful.
I don’t think that my father was a pedophile. He did not have a particular attraction to underage girls, just women period. He was always drinking beer, in the living room on the computer watching porn, playing baduk. I grew up watching him beat and rape my mother; I witnessed rape before I was old enough to know what sex was. All forms of abuse are interrelated. If a person is verbally abusive, they’re one strike away from being physically abusive. An aroused physically abusive person becomes sexually abusive. Physical abuse is emotional abuse is psychological abuse is abuse is abuse is abuse. Sex is a vehicle for power, and power taken in one place is compensated for in another.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad person, just unhealed people. Healing is a lifelong journey. Awakening is never over, but a constant process that is maintained through habit and lifestyle, one day at a time. Even if all you did in one day was avoid death, you still did better than those who no longer have a body.
By the time my father put his drunken mouth on my high school freshman nipple, I was already desensitized and normalized to extreme violence. I remember bursting into tears immediately, he stopped and asked why I was crying. My mother rushed into the room. She later told me that she woke up from her sleep to the sound of my screaming. It was a telepathic signal. I was paralyzed in shock and helplessness. At the time, my mother told me that it was my fault from the way I would dress.
I’ve been sexualized from a young age, constantly feeling unsafe in my own body, living inside my body as if it doesn’t belong to me, using it to get attention that I also resented. I just wanted to be loved, and I hated myself for wanting love. I had no idea what a healthy relationship looked like and I resented my heritage because for me, it was inextricably linked with unmentionable violence and repression out of the sake of pride and family dignity. You don’t really heal from trauma, trauma creates a new identity and you reconcile it as you go along.
I’m the baby in my family, so my older brother and my mother served as a buffer to protect me, but we were all in it together. My mom endured the most violence to protect us, so many nights we went to sleep listening to her crying and begging for him to stop, and to let us sleep. I was the glue in the family, I talked to everyone more than they talked to each other. I caught the blame for most things gone missing or gone wrong.
I don’t remember a time when my father did not have a drinking problem. It just got worse as we got older. His remorse and self-pity was just as deep and vulnerable as his temper was blind and explosive. The two worked together to create a toxic cycle that became more sinister as we grew up. He drank because he felt he failed as a husband, a father, a man. He failed as a husband, a father and a man because he drank. There were days we missed school hiding bruises from teachers who would ask us if things were okay at home. I am an expert at hiding pain, pretending to be happy and putting everyone else’s requests before my own. From a very young age, I adapted to navigate his temper and coddle his guilt, using my childlike sweetness to preemptively pacify his rage. It made me a person that helps others as an escape to avoid facing my own issues.
In the process of writing this, I found myself angry and lashing out at expired relationships, people who knew what I had been through, people who I trusted enough to let in, to access my life and understand how I am the way I am. I have built up layers of unresolved resent, disappointment and hatred towards people who I appointed to save me, protect me, take care of me, understand me, relate to me. In that way, they were victims too. We both expected something that the other couldn’t provide.
Is it brave to admit abuse?
Everyone has their own story, regardless of gender, race or class.
It doesn’t just happen to girls, and women can be abusive too!
It’s not a secret because everyone knows. Part of me feels like people need to know because it’s played such a huge part in who I am, another part of me refuses to be defined by it. In between the space is this huge void, this invisible scar, this barrier I just can’t seem to get over. Part of me remains emotionally unavailable while the other part is unwilling to let go. The strange hurt builds a zone of confusion that is only validated through longing. The longing feels comfortable, safe, and familiar.
I don’t think it’s brave to hold onto a wound to use as an excuse to stay broken. I’ve been using it as a crutch, a badge of honor, a caution sign that imprisons me from being able to be available as a lover and expecting everyone to be my therapist or the father I never had. It’s unfair for anyone who wants to keep me around. I’m putting too much pressure on them to heal and deal with issues that have nothing to do with them, and too much pressure on myself by carrying it. I’ve held onto this fear of being too fucked up to love, simultaneously attached to being loved for being fucked up. I’ve built a whole identity upon surviving a secret hell, and also constantly recreating that hell by insisting keeping it a secret. Anything secret feels special. I like the feeling that it makes me special, and I like feeling a closer bond to those I share the secret with, like they are special now too because they know my secret. It’s not special. It’s common. It’s been around forever. The cycle can be broken.
When your body is violated, the mind shuts off. The emotional trauma often does not catch up until later. It sets your nerves on fire and leaves your heart feeling hollow and withered like a burnt match. It ages you prematurely. The term for it is called “Damaged Goods Syndrome”. Running from pain only intensifies the pain when it all catches up to you. I can’t wash it off.
Looking back, the sexual abuse saved my family. For my mother, it was the last straw. She had battered woman syndrome from all she went through to protect and provide for us, and we knew from experience that it would only get worse. Growing up, my mother would ask us what we wanted her to do. She’d tell us to not talk back to make things worse, tell us to not call the police because it makes things worse. Then of course there were nights we made the call because we thought she was about to die. My father molested me so my mother could get him out of the country and protect us from him, from things getting worse.
It got worse before it got better. After my father was deported, I had to go to therapy or else I would be taken out of my mother’s custody. I spent the first 15 years of my life hiding my home situation to teachers, classmates and friends to having to tell court-ordered therapists in order to not be put into foster care. The program was called SafePath. For the few years following, I spent two weeks each summer at Camp Cadi.
The therapy changed my life while traumatizing me in the opposite direction. I got used to talking about it with strangers and relishing in special treatment. For the first couple of weeks, SafePath was going through staffing issues. I went from not talking to anyone about the abuse happening at home to divulging to a different stranger every week. Still, only close friends knew. After the final time my father got arrested, my mother fought to keep the story off of the local news. A few of them came to my school to ask if they could interview me. She warned me about them beforehand so I did not give them any information. We left Atlanta a few years later, during the major foreclosure crisis in 2008.
I’m more comfortable talking about it than other people are hearing it. Sometimes I tell people, then they shut down and later forget, insisting that I never told them when I know I did. People who can’t relate, romanticize and are inspired by the whole narrative of this broken fucked up girl who needs love that she refuses to accept. Some people expect me to talk about it more. I have no problem with talking about it although I don’t want to talk about it all the time with any and everybody. I am afraid that it will be used against me. I’m finally okay with everyone knowing.
The prefix “ab” means “away” like “absent”, “abnormal”, “abuse”. The word “ab-use” means to use something outside of its intended use. Like if you have a broken clock and you use a fork to try and fix it, you ruin the fork and the clock and can never know what time it is. The whole time, you mistook the fork for a screwdriver when you should have really just used a screwdriver.
When you are normalized to abuse, you don’t recognize abusive behavior. You simply repeat it, thinking that’s the way to go about things, that’s what your purpose is. I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want to be a spokesperson or advertisement for abuse. I don’t want to be confined by secrets that no longer have any business being kept. I don’t feel like anyone deserves to live under the pressure of this kind of existence. Children deserve to feel safe, and to speak their truth. The truth sets us free. I deserve to feel safe, in my own skin. My blood belongs inside my body.