Innocent and yet broken inside, my pain was in a tight knot deep inside. My pretty dress and curls hid the ugly secrets of suffering I had endured. My experience with abuse began before I could walk or talk, sometime before my first birthday.
I remember touching and being touched and feeling ok about that, soaking in the touch as love. But soon, that touch shifted, and even though I did not understand, I could not say "No!" I was uncomfortable and tried to move away, but my hands and feet were not functioning. I do not know how many times this occurred, but I was very uncomfortable. I learned years later, that this person also sexually assaulted many of my cousins; we were silently sharing a world of suffering.
A part of me worked hard to get through the everyday living, growing up and going to school. Another part hid the secrets of the horror that happened at night. At about 4 years old, another person in my extended family began to come into my room, almost every night, and forced me to do many things sexually. One night, I tried to say, "No!" but was taken outside and beaten severely. I had to decide every night, whether to subject myself to the overwhelming pain of a beating with a belt or submit to whatever sexual act that was demanded of me. This lasted year after year, until after a forced abortion, my abuser finally realized how fragile I was emotionally (because I was talking about suicide - my emotional pain was invading my daytime persona) and then he stopped the sexual assaults.
There were two additional sexual assaults, one was induced by the family authority figure suggesting that another family member "practice" on me to prepare for marriage and the final one was by me, doing to my younger sibling what was done to me. Both were short in duration, but the latter has brought me far more heartache. At the time, I had no clue what I was doing and how profoundly it would hurt my brother. I was extremely confused, about relationships, boundaries, sexuality, and found myself acting out in ways that was horribly painful to my younger brother and to myself as well.
The physical abuse occurred throughout my youth. My parents did not have the skills that would help with appropriate boundaries for raising children, as well as appropriate ways of handling punishment. They tried the very best they could, but were victims of abuse themselves, so they resorted to what they knew. There were no rules for our behavior, but when they tired of our constant fighting, every one of us would be beaten with either a belt, or a switch (made from a small branch from a tree outside). The pain was so severe, I often lost bladder control. I remember one time that I was waiting for my turn at the switch and I heard the screams of my brother being beaten before me; I wet myself before the beating, knowing what was to come.
As an adult, I have pondered many facets of what happened in our home. I remember wetting the bed until I was about 11 years old. I realized that I would try to hold the urine back, and not go to the bathroom, trying to avoid the presentation of being awake (and therefore available for another sexual attack). During my sleep, after the one inevitable sexual assault, I would not be able to hold the urine the entire night and would wet the bed. In the morning, my head would be shoved in the urine-soaked sheets, much like a kitten that was being (poorly) trained. At some point, I decided I did not want that to continue, and learned to empty my bladder thoroughly before going to bed.
The violence in our home was not limited to only our parents toward us kids; we became violent toward each other. Every day, we hit, kicked, punched, and pulled each others' hair. Once I was old enough to go to a friend's home, or ride my bicycle, I remember spending hours and hours away from home, away from the violence. I was not violent anywhere else, but at home, it was the only way I could survive - attack before I was attacked. This is not to say that we did not have good times; on the contrary, there were some precious moments I will always cherish. Dad would wake us up extremely early (about 3am) on the day of the annual Rose Festival Parade. He would have us all pile into his step-van (the size of a UPS truck) and he would drive to downtown Portland, Oregon, and would back up the van right up against the parade route. We would all sleep until around 7am; then he would take us all out for breakfast and after our special meal at a restaurant, we would go back to the van and settle in to watch the parade, right from the back of the step-van. He opened up the back door and had chairs lined up across the back end of the van. Then, he would hoist us kids to the top of the van, with sleeping bags and munchies to keep us happy.
I cherish the good times we had as a family. I've gone through the process of healing, through counseling, growing in my faith in Christ, and learning how healing the Bible is. As I wrote Flame of Healing, I healed even more, processing the deep pain that even counseling couldn't get at. I have also worked through all the hard memories with Jesus Christ with me, joining me in each memory of the abuse and have learned to process all the facets of forgiveness, for each of the three family members who hurt me, and for myself and how I in turn, hurt my siblings and later, my own children. One of the strongest pulls to stay in counseling as a young adult, was the desire to learn another way of disciplining my children and thereby ending the chain of abuse. The counseling lasted twelve years and since then, I have continued the healing by writing, sharing my story and offering to others who are suffering the hope and healing that I've found in Jesus Christ.
I realize now that the extreme violence I endured and even that which I attacked, has made me a woman of compassion, empathy and strength. My life has been transformed, from victim to victorious! Through Flame of Healing, the healing that I have experienced is transforming other lives; this blesses me immensely. The years that were stolen, years of innocence and childhood joy, have been and will continue to be repaid.
"I will repay you for the years the locust have eaten... You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the Name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed." Joel 2:25a, 26
Today, I am a new creation, blessed and joyful. I am: