Recently someone told me that as soon as Bill Cosby started saying things against the Obama presidency, like that the real issue in America is fatherless households, etc., then as soon as he said something like that which reflected badly on Obama; all these women came forward…
And if they were really abused by him, why didn’t they say something sooner? Why wait until now to go after him? Where were the police reports at the time it happened?
The first thing I noticed during this conversation was my lack of bodily distress symptoms. A few months prior, had someone said such things to me, I would have felt my neck muscles spasming to the point of dizziness.
The second thing I noticed was my lack of personalizing what the person had just said to me. I had no paranoia that this person had just told me that my story was unbelievable. None.
Instead, I had a small desire to make the truth known about sexual assault and its aftermath. Coupled with a strong realization that no matter what I might say, in order for this person to understand the nature of recovery from sexual assault would take more than one simple comment or conversation. The person would have to either personally live through it or help another live through the aftermath to truly ‘get’ it. And since I no longer feel as compelled to be completely understood by every person I encounter, I wasn’t even that concerned about that one. I just wanted to honor truth, somehow.
The Cosby defender was already aware of my own story of recovery from past abuses; sexual assault among them. So I simply responded, as calmly as possible “You clearly do not understand how devastating sexual assault is, so devastating that it takes years and years for some of us to even begin to deal with the trauma. When one person comes forward against an abusive person, many others often come forward with their own stories as there is strength in numbers and they feel somewhat safer to own their own stories then.”
It wasn’t convincing, though. And that’s ok. I said what I had to say to honor the little girl inside of me who didn’t have a voice when she was being abused (as well as all those others in the world who are survivors of it).
In some ways, though, I think that person’s take had more to do with being against Obama than being for anyone else (other than Trump). The American habit of politicizing everything, even people’s trauma or tragedy, can be for another post–some day when I’m good and angry, I can pen that one. I’m not particularly mad right now so I don’t have it in me to go there.
After the conversation, I applauded myself and praised God for the growth that I have seen (because I hadn’t had distress symptoms (PTSD) and I hadn’t personalized the situation into my own–these were huge steps for me in my recovery).
Yesterday I found myself looking through some old photo albums. I have avoided doing this for several years now. There are snapshots of all of my abusers in the old albums. Lots of them. They are smiling in most of them, or clowning around, but their eyes look the same. Hollow. Their posture the same; almost like they are ready to pounce on someone. There is something ‘off’ about them. Predatory. Like wild animals, caged up and performing, posing for the flashbulbs, but you never know when they may snap. They are stiff. Unnatural. Especially their smiles.
Close friends of mine were uncomfortable around my family members; particularly the more extreme of the abusers. After I was honest about the past abuses against me, many of them quietly nodded. They could see how those things had happened, based on things they’d seen or uncouth comments made, or the level of tension and unease they’d felt when they visited my house at the same time as some of my family members.
I had always readily admitted my family was dysfunctional; long before I admitted the extent of the abuse. Close friends just nodded and stayed quiet when I said my family was dysfunctional.
Whereas if I admitted that my family was dysfunctional to a mere acquaintance they would often reply, ‘Everyone’s family is dysfunctional.’ It grated on me, to hear that.
In my childhood, there were very few photos taken of me. Aside from one photo album which I found in my father’s closet. In that album I was a toddler. Posing nude. With my legs spread. My adult brothers had taken the photos. I could remember them with the camera in front of their faces on several evenings right after my bath time.
Is that the kind of dysfunction that’s in everyones’ family?
Now, when I do explain my estrangement from family members, I use the word abusive. Not dysfunctional. It’s a bit clearer and I no longer hear the grating claim that all family’s are that way.
Then why did I take so many photos of them, if they were abusive to me?
I’ve been asking myself that same thing.
It could be because when there was a camera around capturing moments; they were on better behavior. It gave me a measure of control.
Perhaps because when we were all posing together in a row with arms linked, it felt like we were, perhaps, just another dysfunctional family. Not an abusive one.
So many photos, though, why was I always snapping photos of them? Including them in my stories of my life?
I think I may be overthinking it now. In short: I was brainwashed. Sexualized. Normalized. I knew no better. They saw to that, and tried hard to keep it that way long into my adulthood life. Plus: they were family. And as so many have told me in the past: all family’s are dysfunctional. You don’t go against that kind of cultural pressure.
Unless you are willing to be politicized and used as examples in conspiracy theories. Go ahead; use this post to defend Trump. I’m over it.