healing the trauma caused by rape healing trauma rapetrauma

When the Fantasy That Once Saved The Child Must End

Vintage photo of 1940s family

I think a lot these days about a powerful scripture that I read every week during college as the chaplain of a group I belonged to. First Corinthians 13, Verse 11: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a woman, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

This is a normal part of growing up. We have constructs, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and perceptions that serve as our foundation for living and understanding the world and its people. And they change over time, if we're lucky and if we want to grow and seek and learn.

As a child victim of extreme manipulation and sexual abuse, which I began to remember for myself in my 50th year, I have been unpacking an entire lockbox the size of Mount Everest of beliefs and yes, fantasies, that I had created in my mind in order to escape the inescapable molestation that occurred in the night throughout my entire childhood.

I remember the morning whilst walking my usual path up to my statue of St. Francis in a beautiful garden behind the Catholic church near my home, when I saw it: The black and white fairy tale fantasy I had created for myself in order to survive. I had decided to paint my family and home life to be the Cleavers. It's a terribly clever ploy. And one of my childhood friends remembers vividly me saying on more than one occasion, "You know, it's so strange, but my family doesn't have ANY problems. We are just like the Cleavers."

It's so wild now--this fantasy. It was spun around the house where incest occurred on the regular and where the father figure was having known affairs with women outside his marriage regularly from my age of 6, at least. A house where boxes and boxes of carefully-labeled Playboy magazines were housed on shelves right above the mother's green Pontiac in the garage. "Playboy 1972. Playboy 1973...." and on and on. Who DOES that? It's disgusting! But in those days pornography was coming out of the closet and it was the perfect ruse for a pedophile to use to normalize the seduction, manipulation, and aggrandizement of the female body in a way that would desensitize the entire family--and any visitors--to the fact that women, girls, children are highly sexualized in this home. But don't worry. It's OK...because...Playboy is cool and popular and regular.

It's fascinating to me now. There were always 2 or three pornographic magazines on his night stand and the floor on his side of the bed, usually lying open.

Again, who DOES this? 

A pedophile. A narcissist. Someone who doesn't give a god damn bit about the feelings of belittlement, sexualization, or anything else of that nature that this might cause in a young girl, young boy, or wife living with him. Someone who wants to manipulate by normalizing shame and sexuality to such an extent that it desensitizes every known instinct in the family, and thus, helps him get away with rape. That's how I have come to understand the warped manipulation that allowed this man to penetrate my every sense, my bedroom, my bed, and my body, on a regular basis until I was 14 and God gave me the strength to tell him to stop.

And so, I say of fantasy: The fact that I watched a television show and was able to turn it into MY story in order to concoct the most powerful and realistic fantasy of my life is pure magic on one hand. It's how I got by. I lived a double life--one daytime me, and one night-time me who would leave her body while it was manipulated night after night, and sometimes even in the broad daylight.

The  black and white fantasy of a perfect father, mother, and brother was EXACTLY what I needed, and I thank God for this gift of perception, because it saved me from constant focus on the actual real-life tragedy going on under the covers.

So I am grateful for this magical gift. I am grateful I had that as a crutch to help me get by. I even think of that little girl, wow--that's some powerful story-telling ability. And truly God and my angels were always there guiding me along, because this is one of the many ways I survived.

But the problem is that the gift of the child, the belief system of that little girl....carried on until well into my adult years. 

It's taken me this long to realize that a) the fantasy that once served must end, b) the fantasy that once served me CAN end....because I am finally safe, and I don't need it any more, and c) the fantasy that once served me has been the catalyst for a profound dysfunction in me because I continued to see my family as magically as Ward, June, and Wally. For decades I have idealized these birth parents to a devastating degree. And that's why the memories of my true childhood only began to appear to be healed when I was 50. I was that tightly wound in the fantasy. I didn't want to know or remember or believe the actual truth.

Who could blame me? I don't even blame myself. It nearly killed me many a night to have to live through the freeing release of rape trauma events that I had endured from 4 to 14. If I had had a gun in my home, I would have used it many times on myself. I know what it is like to have a madness drive you to the point of suicide, and I am only grateful I did not have access to a gun, though I am not opposed to the use of arms for self protection.

Using the scheme of thinking that birth father was Ward Cleaver makes sense. 

But what I want to highlight is how I concocted an equally dysfunctional myth that the mother of my childhood was like June Cleaver.

Because, she is not. And she never was.

But how does a young child reconcile life with the very person who is supposed to protect her from everything--most especially heinous crimes? How does a tiny mind wrap around the fact that nobody is going to save her from HIM? How does one in a tiny body make sense of a world where a man is so revered and loved by his community....who does such icky things to her at night that feel wrong and nasty and shameful?

There is NO way for a child to reconcile any of those things. It has taken me YEARS as a mature adult to pick apart and put back together all of the fragmented pieces of myself that shattered and dislodged and got lost over so many tragic events and a double life that from the outside seemed perfect but which sizzled and smelled as a sulfur hot cauldron of shame, despair, lies, incest, rape, and manipulation on the inside?

My escape was: fantasy. 

I am so very grateful for fantasy. I imagine I am hardly alone in this. It serves many purposes.

It let me survive and get by and forge and co-create a life that was meaningful, even if extremely painful. 

But as I began to own my status as a mature, wise, thoughtful, conscious adult...the onus was on me to put away those childhood fantasies. I had to come face to face with the truth. I had to get angry, shocked, saddened, pissed as hell at those truths. And I had to let them go. And then, I had to let go of the fantasy. 

The parents of my birth story are not perfect. They are in fact extremely flawed human beings who were extremely hurtful, negligent, unworthy parents. They had their reasons and I no longer care what they are. 

What matters to me is that I put away the childish beliefs that they are anything at all like me, or even FOR me. Because, they are not. I will never know if either of them had any actual true love for me. I had to let go of that because now, it's none of my business.

And I had to learn that it's actually OK to turn away from people when they have been abusive towards you. So many people remain in toxic, fragmented relationships because of some god-forsaken-belief structure of our society that says that 'blood is thicker than water.' 

Well I'm hear to tell you, honey: When your own blood relatives are perversions of morality, when they hurt you, shame you, make you feel degenerate, do things that make you feel suicidal....well, THAT blood is toxic. And in short, that blood needs to go. It doesn't deserve you. It never did. 

Now as I work with clients who have similarly endured toxic childhoods or marriages, I have found the strength to suggest to them that it's OK to consider breaking away from family members who hurt you, spouses who drink all the time or hurt you in other ways. 

There's always a way out of a bad relationship. And don't you deserve better? There's always a hand to help, a way to survive outside of what you thought possible.

I know this, because my life, my choices, my God, and my Angels on Earth and in Heaven have shown me that I could be free. I found freedom--from trauma, oppression, toxicity, manipulation, my own vices and character defects, all of it. It's taken years. But it's happened. And it can happen for you.

If you dare to let God in, Spirit will light you up like never before. Spirit has the infinitely beautiful capacity to show you ways of living and being that you could NEVER dream up for yourself. But it takes courage. It takes action. It takes faith and a whole lot of trust. 

This is true, because there is Grace. There is always Grace.

Isn't it about time to let go, and let Grace?

Amen.

And so it is.

Blessings and Light,

Suzanne

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