How does one become an adult afraid of life? Afraid of love? Afraid
You must start with a child, you must inflict pain, you must deny praise, you must make the
child appear flawed and unbelievable to those around who may help. You must use any measure
to make the child believe that he/she is being hurt because he/she is unworthy, because
he/she deserves to be hurt. You must be consistent, never rewarding good behavior, never
encouraging. You must wake the child at night to inflict more pain, making sure that the
child has no place where he/she can feel really safe. The child must not be allowed close
friends, they may invite them to their home. Someone may question the bruises, why the child
freezes when spoken to, stiffens when hugged. It doesn't take long at all, a child is so
impressionable, they will carry the images you put in their heads till death. Even if they
survive your treatment, they will never forget.
Some day the lucky ones escape, they grow up and live on the surface as normal happy adults.
They do not often speak of their childhood, nor their nightmares. More than two thirds of
them will never become abusers.
SILENCE is the enemy......please speak out.
In our culture we place a lot of value on a Mother's love. It is not always available to a
child, even a child living with it's Mother. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a Mother turns
her back. Perhaps it is fear, perhaps it is ignorance, perhaps it is an inability to face
the truth..............sometimes it is bitter, unloving cruelty. Not all women are endowed
with the ability to love their children and as a result, many adults cannot believe they are
worthy to be loved. You must go back, see that child as she/he was. You must take that child
in your arms and shelter it. You must nurture that child and keep it safe. You must learn to
see the beauty......................
"When I was 16, I sat in a courtroom listening to my Mother and stepfather tell horrible
lies on me. Lies that were designed to make me look as if I was mentally unbalanced. I had
been emotionally locked down for some period at that time due to severe abuse at their
hands. I sat there remembering the words of my case worker...."If you don't tell the judge
where you were for those three weeks before you came in, he will be harsh with you. He will
send you to girl's school." I wasn't about to tell on the only family who had the nerve to
hide me and shelter me during those three weeks. I knew first hand the depth of my parents'
vindictiveness and I wouldn't unleash it on others. I didn't realize at the time the weight
of the extensive mental and psychological testing I had been given. I think I just thought
it was to be sure I wasn't insane after the treatment I had suffered. The judge looked
frightening in his robes and seated above the rest of us. I didn't look at him as I refused
to answer his question about where I had been. He asked once and dropped it. I was grateful.
I wasn't afraid of girl's school anyway, I was only afraid he would send me home with THEM.
When he finally spoke, I was amazed.......and relieved. He read off a list of names that
included all my aunts and uncles, all my older married cousins, two schoolteachers , two
pastors and the psychiatrist who had been testing me. He said they had all applied for legal
guardianship of me. He said that I had tested very high in intelligence, and that I showed
emotional damage from the treatment I had been subjected too. He felt that time in a good
home would correct that with no further need for treatment. He then made some very pointed
remarks to my family about why this situation had been allowed to go on for so long and
ended by saying his decision to give me to my aunt was based on her home being so far
distant from the rest of my family. I hoped I was safe. I didn't feel anything except relief
that I did not have to go back to my home." ......... an anonymous survivor
There is always a sunrise, coming over the hill,
Always a to time to soar, a time to be still.
There will always be hope for a new and brighter day,
If you will take my hand and walk a brighter way.
Take the hand of that sweet child that's in the heart of you,
Show that child the brighter sky, the sky of glorious blue.
Hold that child in sheltered arm.
Keep that child safe from harm.
Place your hand upon that tear-stained face,
Let that child see in you, the love in God's sweet grace.
A child too old, a child too wise,
A child filled with pain;
Can be taught, must be taught, to face the world again.
You can never help them by denial of their truth,
You can never bring back the innocence of their youth,
And yet.....you can show them,
There is good as well as bad.
They can learn that laughter can exist within the sad.
You alone can show them, that every day is choice,
They can live in sorrow or they can once more rejoice.
If you love them as they are,
If you teach them to see,
They are treasures on this earth,
They have a right to be.
They need not hide their pain,
They need not hide their tears,
They can learn to laugh again,
And OWN the future's years.
"I was a good mother. I didn't subject my children to any of the abuse I had been victimized
by. I was both puzzled and grateful that my abuse hadn't effected me very badly. I was never
angry. People always went on about how quiet and sweet I was. How patient and kind I was.
Here and there, someone would say "But why DIDN'T you get angry?" over some incident or
another. I would say, honestly, that I didn't know. I was a high-functioning survivor. A
good and loving parent, active in many community projects, laughing, smart, happy. Other
than periodic depressions and nightmares that I handled without drugs, and only some
occasional counseling , I was fine. I thought. When I was 49 years old, I was driving back
to my home in the country; returning from a quick run to the grocery, sun shining, a happy
day. Suddenly a dog stood in the road in front of me. I stopped and waited. The dog seemed
to be looking right into my eyes. I remember briefly thinking that it was a double for my
dog when I was a teenager on the farm. After a couple of minutes, the dog moved and I
continued home. As I hurried inside, I heard the door slam behind me. Then everything went
into slow motion. I threw my purse hard against the wall. I opened the door and slammed it
again, harder. She who had never felt anger, was mad.
In seconds I was screaming and saying words I had never said in my life. Words I didn't
remember knowing. Suddenly it was as if a part of me was watching myself. The watching part
was saying "You have done it now. You will never be able to stop screaming. You have lost
control." Eventually, I was sobbing as I relived the day my stepfather chained my dog and
made me watch him beat it. That was my punishment for crying and trying to fight off his
advances. When my dog saw me cry, he growled at my stepfather and half charged at him. As he
beat my dog and I listened to it's yelps of pain, my stepfather repeatedly said it was my
fault the dog had to be beaten. My fault for crying. My fault for upsetting the dog. My
fault for not being quiet and not cooperating with his perverted desires.
I'm grateful for the day I felt anger now. It was the beginning of real healing and I am
several years down the road from there now. No, I won't ever be completely free, but I
become MORE free of it every day. I learned how to love and I learned how to be angry. That
is very big indeed." ............a survivor
See the face reflected in the mirror's silvered glass?
See the pain etched there, by the distant painful past?
Touch that face, accept it, it was not your choice!
Vow to love that face, learn to rejoice!
Those eyes that ache, those eyes that saw so many ugly things,
Those eyes can see the hope of joy,
That each new sunrise brings.
Carefully choose the persons with whom you share yourself,
But do not hide the pain inside on a darkened shelf.
There are people who can see ALL the things you are;
Who can learn to see you as a bright and guiding star.
You have learned to live with pain,
That is what you were taught,
You need not study anymore,
The damage that was wrought.
Now you must choose to look for joy,
Claim it for your own,
To walk within another's love,
You first must walk alone.
Some people never see the child inside of you. That is ok. Some people are afraid to look.
So be it. There is one thing that must be though. YOU must see! You must look closely, see
that child, love that child because in your heart you know all children deserve to be loved.
Take that child away from those who hurt it. Shelter and soothe that child. Wash away the
dirt, apply the soothing balm of tears to the bruised and hurting places. Dress that child
in cleanliness and love. Feed that child with warmth and beauty. Walk in the sunlight, walk
in the rain. Let that child's feet touch the earth, show that child how to lift it's
precious face to the stars. Nourish, protect and lead. Choose daily the bright path. There
has been enough darkness. Always on the path upward, be aware of the dark valley below. Know
that it's there, but don't walk there again.
Each new day you choose. Walk in the valley or climb the hill. Please go upward. The air is
sweet and clean there. You cannot forget, but you do not have to walk in that valley. You do
not have to stay where people with ugly crippled hearts put you. Give them no more victories
over you. Don't let them rob another moment of joy from you. Take yourself gently in hand
and smile. You are quite special. You are better and stronger than they are now. You can
climb to higher ground. Indeed you can touch the stars. That will be a deeper joy for you
than most, simply because you know, truly know what lies in that dark valley.
A prayer I heard and claimed for my own....................
Thank God I survived.
Thank God it happened to me and not to someone I love.
Thank God I was the victim and never the perpetrator.
Some dear friends tell me there is not enough ANGER on this page. I have thought
about that for months now. Of course I have anger......I have thought it best unexpressed
here, BUT now I wonder; anger can be cathartic. Anger can also be very destructive. I know
from experience, when people let their anger control them, other people get HURT. I am
however, angry. I am angry that in our society, the child is often blamed for it's own
abuse. In our society, there seems to be almost a collusion between the perpetrators and the
people who do not WANT to believe these things happen. One thing I have learned, silence is
Now I will tell some things that I know to be fact, statements made to an abused person by
those who should have been protecting them.
I will not dwell on them, other than to ask, WHY and HOW did these attitudes become
prevalent. I would also ask all of us to consider, have we done anything to prevent these
attitudes? It is hard to accept that people you think are NICE are capable of such behavior,
but I will tell you something that is harder....
It is hard to run to your mother in terror because of a stranger's approach, and to be
smacked in the face for not thinking to call a policeman then and there. Especially if you
are only 7. It is hard to tell your mother that a neighbor grocer touched your breasts only
to be laughed at and told , "Oh, he's always been like that. He did that to ME at your age."
Especially if you are only 12. It is hard to turn a classmate in for writing you a dirty
note and find that YOU are the one locked in the principal's office with him and a male
teacher, being questioned about whether you had called that boy at home, whether you were
careful to keep your dress down, did you have a crush on the boy........ had you written him
a note........ANYTHING that could possibly put the blame on YOU for HIS behavior. It is hard
to constantly be working deep into the night in the hopes that you will be allowed to go to
school if all your chores are finished. It is hard to be afraid to go your own room at night
for fear of the intrusions that usually interrupt your sleep. It is hard to be a teenager
trying to use makeup to cover bruises instead of zits. It is hard to be trembling in fear
and yet somehow find the courage to answer outsider's questions honestly and then wait for
help that never comes. The hardest thing of all, is to KEEP objecting to sexually
inappropriate behavior AFTER these and many other incidents, when the OBVIOUS message to you
is, "Shut up. It is to be expected, it is your fault, don't make waves." I will NOT get into
a discussion of establishing my credentials as an adult survivor of child abuse by relating
my experiences here. I will only say that I KNOW. There may be places and times to tell the
horrors, but it is not here, and I will not give that part of my life any more of my
happiness than can be helped. I will certainly not spread it in the minds of others. NEITHER
will I be a silent member of a society that had to make it a crime to NOT report child
abuse. That, to me, is a sign of a sick society. I have a few VERY firm beliefs; one is that
your mind is what you feed it. Too often, other people feed our minds, also. I suppose I was
one of the lucky ones, I escaped finally, the legal system helped me, but for the neighbors
and family members who heard my screams, and turned away, for those who saw my injuries, and
turned away, for all those who remained silent, even after I told them and asked for help, I
want you to know this... I blame you, not only for me, but for the other children who
suffered because there was NOT a hue and cry about the absolute unacceptability of mental,
physical and sexual abuse of a child. YOUR message to me, by your silence and inaction, was
that I was not worth saving. It has taken me 50 years to learn to fight that. I will fight
it the rest of my life.
If you need help, talk to a teacher, look in your phone book for local agencies for the
abused, call a mental health center for a referral, or online.............click on the link
below to a search engine, when you get there, type in adult survivors of child abuse, then
CAREFULLY read and check out the many different sites that will come up. Be cautious in
choosing to speak of your own experiences until you are sure that you are with a qualified
counsellor. It is well and good to have people of like experiences to chat with, people who
understand, but the path to healing is rocky. Choose your steps carefully.
Take a good look at the page listed on the above link as Kathy's Essential Information
National Hotlines that can put you in touch with local help....