I had a really difficult conversation with my mother this week. It was about the very first time I was sexually abused as a child. I say first time because there were a number of instances after that. And truthfully in a way I have been victimized for decades, only just now scratching the surface of my truth to get at the business of healing. Part of that healing is asking questions that I have been unable, unwilling or just plain old too terrified to ask. But the past four years I have been on a slow and painfully arduous personal journey. On the eve of my 43rd birthday I felt compelled to ask questions that were and had been haunting me ever so subtly for decades.
My first abuse event happened at my preschool in Milwaukee. Though my mother says that I am in fact the one who told her about the abuse about a week after the trauma, (despite staff being aware that something horrible had happened), I have no memory of any conversations with her about it then, or later on in life. (Truthfully my memories of any of my childhood are sketchy at best. I have blocked a lot out.) For me this was the first time that I was talking to her about it in such a frank way. It’s taken me nearly four decades to begin to peel the onion back and examine the smelly, tear inducing veins of my victim experience. But if I didn’t start to do it, if I didn’t get to the heart of my trauma, I feared I would be lost to my children and to myself. I couldn’t be the mother I wanted in my heart of hearts to be if I continued to allow this agony to fester within me. My greatest fear was that I was leading by example, an example that my children would emulate in their own life, and I could not let that happen.
With that first abuse event I feel like I was marked with neon paint that all predators could see, and for the rest of my life I have been easy pickings. At the same time I feel like I gained the second sight as well and could see victims myself. Which is why I have always felt compelled to fight for children, all children, but especially those tagged with the invisible neon green paint of abuse.
By now you have at least heard about, if not seen the interview with long time Michael Jackson playmate Wade Robson. I say playmate not to make light of the situation, but because I think it accurately describes the relationship I saw between the child Wade and the adult Michael Jackson play out in the media as I was coming up. Wade has always insisted, even under oath, that he was never abused by Michael Jackson. But today, at age 30, he is standing up and telling his truth, the truth that he only now is beginning to fully understand. Because that’s how confusing and paralyzing child sexual abuse is. Wade Robson says Michael Jackson molested him, and I for one believe him.
Do you know what I see when I look at Wade Robson, I see a glow. A neon glow. But it’s not as bright as what I see on others. It looks like it is starting to fade. I believe that with every truth he tells, every time he stands up and says “I was abused and it wasn’t my fault”, a little of that neon marking fades away. I hope that I am doing the same thing for myself. I’ve got forty years worth of neon marking to scrub away, but it is my life and I deserve to reclaim it. And so does Wade.
My best friend who has been absolutely by my side, for the last 4 years in particular when I have really embarked upon my journey to the center of myself, she is the one who darn near every day, in some fashion, has to remind me that I am not to blame. It is a hard notion to let go of. It is so deeply ingrained in my psyche. She understands when I talk about how marked I feel and believes me when I say that I can see the markings on other victims, I just don’t recognize the markings on monstrous predators. But she tells me from her heart, “Lori, when you stop blaming you, you will be able to see the paint on the predators too.” I know she is right because it has started happening already. I am starting to see the monsters in their real form, glowing with malice. I feel like a Grimm from that NBC TV show of the same name.
Now I am “working my program,” as I say, trying to extricate myself from the emotional bindings of the monsters past and present in my life. I’m clawing and scraping, fighting to be free. I am standing up for myself, no longer shrinking in fear and diminished self worth. I am learning to be the warrior for myself that I have always been for others. I won’t lie to you, it is terrifying, but I refuse to go back. I won’t be what I was. My children need me to save me so I can be there for them. That’s what happened to Wade Robson. He talks about the birth of his son two and a half years ago, and the thought of his son suffering the same fate that he did as a child drove him to a breakdown. That is real to me. I understand that. I have felt that crack within my own psyche. People don’t understand how hard this is. Always I hear about how resilient children are. I am sorry, there is no amount of instinctive resilience in the World to pull a child away from the dark, encompassing grasps of the evil echoes of sexual abuse. It infects you, and colors every choice you make going forward, until you deal with it. You have to have therapy and a solid support system. I didn’t get that. My parents, despite being social workers, didn’t put me in therapy because in the 70’s when I was first abused, “professionals didn’t know to do that”, my mother told me this week. I am mad at them. I love my parents, but I am mad at them for not protecting me. As an adult I get that they couldn’t have seen the abuse coming, but the feelings I am experiencing are those of a child in fear. They are not about logic. And those are tough emotions to wrestle with. But I have to acknowledge them, experience them, and admit them out loud in order to move through and past them. And that’s what I am trying to do. That’s what I hear Wade Robson trying to do. I think he summed it up very well at the end of his interview with Matt Lauer.
“The trauma and the psychological effects of sexual abuse last for so long. I had no understanding of this until just over a year ago. I am just at the beginning of my healing process. I am sure I will be dealing with this for the rest of my life. But I am so thankful that this is happening now, because now I can get my life back. And my son, my son is the one who saved my life.” ~Wade Robson on The Today Show
Wade’s son gave him a reason to save his own life. His love for his son may have even given him the strength. But I believe Wade is the one saving his own life because he is finally in a place where he feels safe enough to do so. He is standing up and protecting himself, as I am standing up and protecting myself, the way we wanted someone to have protected us back when we were being abused.
It’s never too late to live.
Additional work from Miss Lori can be found at
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