*Trigger warning for CSA*
Some of you will know that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). When I heard that Amazon has signed Woody Allen to create a new TV show for them, it reminded me of this story:
When I was nine years old, a family friend was sexually abusing me. This was unfortunately not my first experience with CSA, but it was my first experience with ongoing abuse. I was utterly terrified my mom would find out what was going on and *I* would be in trouble. When I say “terrified” please understand that I lived my life in fear. When I finally, in a screaming fit of terror, confessed “my” crimes to my mother, she did her best to help me understand it wasn’t my fault.
Soon after, as we got in the car as a family to go somewhere together, my abuser pulled up in his car behind us and my stomach lurched as my mom told my dad he needed to go deal with it. I had no idea what to expect, but a confrontation of some sort seemed to be on the menu. I watched in the rearview window as my dad smiled, shook my abuser’s hand, and got back into the car.
The feeling I have when I think of that moment is the feeling that keeps coming back to me whenever I think of this—whenever I think of scrolling through my Amazon options and coming across a thumbnail of Woody’s latest offering. It’s that feeling that my abuse doesn’t count—that my abuser is “acceptable” to the society I live in.
I’m not alone in this, I know.
And can you even imagine how Dylan will feel?
THIS IS NOT OK WITH ME. None of it.
I am fighting for the kids who can’t fight for themselves. I am fighting for the kid I was—the kid my dad didn’t fight for.
Please stand with Dylan and me and all CSA survivors. Sign the petition. Tweet on the hashtag and at @RoyPrice, @Amazon, @Amazon_Studios. Help us fight this culture that uplifts powerful predators at the expense of their victims.
PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
- Petition: Amazon: Stand With Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and #StopWoody (change.org)
- Amazon Studios: Stand With CSA Survivors and #StopWoody (makemeasammich.org)
- Woody Allen Is Producing a New TV Show — And It Should Never See the Light of Day (Mic.com)
- #IStandWithDylan – My Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse (makemeasammich.org)
Today will be a crying day. I can’t always tell when I wake up, but when I wake up and burst into tears and cry until snot runs down my face, that’s a sure sign. Last night I fell asleep acknowledging that there’s a part of me still waiting for her baby to come back, and this morning I dreamed that I followed you and your girlfriend around like K did when we were first together, trying to give you gifts and be affectionate while you mostly ignored me.
Waking up my first thought as the tears came was “But I don’t want to.” I’m still trying to work out what that means. Don’t want to be over you? Don’t want to walk away like I did at the end of my dream? None of this makes sense because what I want more than almost anything in the world is to not feel anything where you’re concerned. Anger protected me for a lot of last year but as it subsided—as my brain started forgetting to hate you—I began to remember who you used to be to me: not a villain but the man I loved.
You’ve done a lot of crappy things. First there is the original betrayal—it seems so wrong that I can sum it up in three words like that when a) it went on for so long and piled betrayal upon betrayal and b) it has left me more broken than anything that came before including rapes and beatings I wasn’t sure I’d survive. Telling me over and over again via email about your new love and your bullshit philosophical “types of love” and how I fit into this one box over here, but that one didn’t really count, and your wishes for multiple lovers in the future and your hope that she would accept that, as though that information could possibly help me heal. Then ignoring me on our anniversary after I told you how hard just the days leading up to it were and how I dreaded it. Then promising to leave me alone about the house for six months and then sic’ing your lawyers on me after only three. These are the bigger ones, but once in a while I realize that some part of me still feels that your worst crime was not loving me—not loving us—enough to stay and try to fix it. The absolute worst thing about this for me is that you don’t love me.
For the past 14 months I have been in a state of illness. For several weeks I could barely get off the couch. It was four months before I felt ready to move back to our bedroom and since I did, I’ve barely left it. I am unable to earn a living because depression keeps me from working more than a few hours a day for a few weeks at a time (which means I can get through a book editing project, but a full-time job feels out of the question). I am fighting a constant, uphill battle just to get back to the level of depression I occupied when you were still here. For the past six months I have been largely unable to blog. It’s like I’ve run out of things to say and confidence in my ability to say them.
J told me that you said your actions were hurtful. They weren’t just hurtful—they were harmful. Nothing in my life has ever left me this broken. She said you mourn the loss of your friend. My first thought, and what I said to her, was this:
“He killed his friend. And he killed mine. I will never, ever be the same person I was when I met him. I will never start a relationship with that trust. 8 years ago today I met the man who would murder the person I was that day.”
I know you’ve read things I’ve written before and come away thinking that I hated you. I have tried to, but I don’t. The honest truth—and the most excruciating thing I have to accept on days like this—is that I still love you. And accepting that, it takes everything I have not to hate myself. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year it’s to be gentle with me because I have been on the edge and I know what it feels like to want to slip over and lose myself. I can’t let that happen.
Now you see where I still am 14 months after you left and a year and ten days after we last spoke. I am still crying over you. I am still dreaming about you. I am still waiting for you to come back to me. And I am still agonizing over all of these things and trying not to despise myself. The best thing my anger did was to protect me from that hope and I really wish I still had it. Since I don’t, I’m just trying to get through the time it will take for the hope and love to fade away. I really thought a year would be enough.
I painted this for you back in the early days. For me it expressed what I thought was happening between us: something so big and important that it threatened to burst out of the confines of this mortal existence.
Now I realize that it was big and important, just not in the way I thought. Now I see the flaws in a painting I once thought beautiful and I look for meaning in them. Where is the line that shows you falling out of love? Where is the one that predicts your betrayal? Which lines represent not love but pain? Which ones are the signs I should have seen that would have allowed me to prevent us from falling apart?
So, this is the state of things. These are some of the things you need to know before you make any attempt at another apology. I wish I could tell you everything. I wish that I could make you experience what I have experienced this past year. I want you to know what it is to be the one left behind instead of the one always leaving and leaving destroyed lives behind you. I wish I could communicate the sadness I’ve felt watching friends and even my family members choose to remain in contact with you even when they know how much it hurts me. I want you to feel what I have felt and know the pain that your choices—and complete lack of empathy for me—have caused. And I want to understand, I think, but maybe I don’t because every time you’ve tried to explain you’ve only caused me more pain. What I really want is for things to be ok, and on days like this it’s hard to believe they ever will be again.
Tomorrow will mark six months since I learned that my best friend had betrayed me. Six months since he got caught, confessed, and ran out the door as fast as his cowardly feet could carry him. Four months since I gave up any hope that he was still capable of being a friend or even a decent human being when it came to his treatment of me and broke off all contact with him probably forever.
This has been one of the (if not the) most difficult periods of my life—a life that has included other betrayals as well as beatings and even rape. And though I’m doing much better than I was six or even four months ago, there are times when the whole thing hits me all over again and knocks me back down onto the floor where he left me back in December. A photograph, a dream, the bar where we had one of our first dates which I can’t avoid visiting because friends must support friends—these things and so many others poke holes in the armor I’ve built around myself these past months and stab me right in the heart.
Some folks tell me that all this only has as much power over me as I allow it to have–that it is my choice whether to dwell in the past or move on with my life. It’s true, I have no choice but to move on–it’s that or die. But this healing I’m doing is a process, and I don’t actually control how my body reacts to stimuli such as an image, a place, or just a vivid memory. There’s a sensation like a kick to the gut or chest, and then the tears come, and *then* I get to choose what to do next. And I have chosen life. And there have been good times. I have optimistic days. Sometimes I think I might be ok. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again and that I won’t feel agony every time—at least for a while.
The support I have received from friends and acquaintances (and here I must acknowledge that even the ones who say and do things I don’t find particularly helpful are usually trying to be supportive) has been overwhelming. Social discomfort has mostly been due to the place (my old apartment building, the bar I mentioned above, a local convention, or just downtown Seattle, for that matter) or my state of mind. There are those times when people ask how I’m doing and then change the subject when I tell them the truth and it’s not happy, and that can be awkward and can leave me feeling like they didn’t really want the answer to that question. (I’ve never been one for small-talk anyway, so if you ask how I’m doing, you’re very likely to get an honest answer.) There are those people who I know are still friends with my ex, and that can be uncomfortable for me because he hurt me so much and they remind me of that by their very existence in my social sphere (it’s not their fault—it just is). There are those people I suspect are still his friends, but who don’t tell me so—don’t say anything at all about him (which is as it should be—as I have requested—if they are still friends). All of this can be awkward and painful, but it honestly pales in comparison to the outpouring of support from people from all areas of my life—especially from my online friends and acquaintances (some of whom are also RL friends and acquaintances).
That very much includes you, dear readers. Very much indeed. Without this place to share my stories and my personal…challenges? …this past year, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like. Without this place to vent my pain and rage in December and January, I’m afraid to think what would have happened to me. And without you showing up here, whether just to read or to comment or commiserate, this place would not be what it is for me. I know that I can talk about the things that feel important–whether they are about all of us or just about me–because you have helped me see that our stories are one of the most important ways we learn, grow, and connect with our fellow human beings.
Thank you for being a part of mine.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
After I wrote the previous post about loving someone “warts and all” and feeling like I didn’t get the same in return, I ran across this quote:
“Let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are broken, out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room.” — Marc Hack
It’s lovely, isn’t it? It reminds us to let love in–to let a person truly know you. To be honest with them about the broken parts of yourself and to trust that they’ll love you anyway. The problem is, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes those broken parts of you are the exact things the person you love, who supposedly loves you, can’t handle. How many times can we allow ourselves to trust so completely that we reveal those broken places only to be ultimately rejected on the basis of their existence and the “issues” that result? I did it exactly once in 50 years, and the result has not been what I would call a success.
I thought I could tell him when my body wasn’t responding. I thought that meant we’d work together to figure out how to help it respond. But ultimately it meant that he gave up on trying to please me and focused on pleasing himself, and later, someone else. In the past when sex didn’t work, I just pretended. He made me promise early on never to pretend with him. So I told him the truth, and he turned away from me.
I know I’ll be struggling with a lot of questions as time goes by. You’ve watched me juggle many of them here–try to make some sense out of what’s happening by telling myself (and you) the same story in different words. This morning my question is this:
How can I trust someone with my body and my bruised and battered psyche ever again? How can I ever again not hide the parts of me that are broken?
Yes, my friends, I fully admit it: I am not perfect. Far from it, in fact. I suffer from depression and anxiety, for one thing, which means I’m in a constant battle with my brain chemistry. When I take my meds, I have very little sex drive, and when I don’t take them I’m miserable. I’ve tried switching meds several times, but never with good results. And I’m not the neatest person. I smoke pot, and I probably drink too much. And I have a bad habit of acquiring pets in need. The list goes on and on…I’m sure if you talked to my ex, he’d have a number of items to add. And he’s got flaws, too. Many of them are becoming more apparent to me with perspective, as I realize how long ago he must have checked out and stopped giving a shit. But here’s the thing: even after all he’s done, even knowing all I know about him, I still love him.
That’s the difference between us, I think: he loved who he thought I was going to turn out to be, and tolerated who I am. I love who he is, warts and all.
Of course, I have no real way of knowing who he’d be in a real, grown-up relationship because we haven’t had one. I don’t know what it would be like for him to sit down with me and say, “This is really, really bugging me and we have to do something about it,” and then to have us work together to fix it. Most of that kind of stuff came from my side, and we always did fix it. If something bothered him he either stuffed it or made light of it and assured me when I asked him that nothing was really wrong. (And apparently became resentful enough to make snide comments to others, but by then he’d already written us off, I guess, so why bother telling me?) He knew for a long time that he wasn’t happy, but claimed it was himself he wasn’t happy with. He promised again and again to seek help. And finally, he did. It just turned out to be the wrong kind of help.
I now fully believe my ex–whom I still love with all my heart though I am angry as hell at what he’s done–is a sex addict and a serial monogamist. I’m not even sure those are two different things. I think he loves falling in love, loves the hot, passionate, effortless sex that comes along with it, but can’t get himself to deal with the real-life, day-to-day stuff that makes a relationship work. So he sat here for I don’t know how many years wasting both our time ignoring our sex life and enjoying porn by himself instead until he got bored enough with porn that he had to escalate to sex chat, then escalate to sex, then escalate to full-on chemical infatuation. This is a cycle he has repeated again and again. And that means no woman is safe around him unless and until he recognizes his problem and truly decides to get better. I know he’s not doing that now, because he refuses to give up his addiction. I do not envy her the heartbreak she has coming when he moves on again. But hey, maybe she’ll get seven years of illusion like I did.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote this:
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
I’m not sure I agree. As much joy as loving him brought me, the pain of losing him is worse than anything I’ve experienced. I don’t want to go through this again for anyone.
So here I am, up at 5am sobbing and packing the last of his stuff, saying goodbye to one of my little dogs who is going to live with his dad who he loves more than life itself. I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest over and over again.
Sometimes I don’t know if I can do this. This is one of those times.
A friend once said to me that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die. But who among us can experience injury at the hands of another (or two others) and not feel resentment, anger, spite, even hate if the injury runs deep enough?
Out there somewhere is a woman (a sex addict, I assume, like my ex-boyfriend) who believes that she is entitled to joy and happiness at the expense of another person. I have been her. I am not proud to admit it, but I was her seven years ago when my ex decided he loved me and left his wife for me. As I have explained previously, he was miserable in the relationship, but now I’m certain he told his current addiction the same stories about me that he told me about his ex wife. He “loves” me, but he doesn’t “belong” with me because he doesn’t have the “passion” with me that he does with her.
Now, you and I, reader, understand that he’s got a problem with grown-up relationships. He wants to have GREAT SEX all the time without having to work at it. He wants his woman to scream in ecstasy at his every move because if he’s not the World’s Greatest Lover, then sex is not satisfying to him. And if he can go out and find someone new every time the passion wanes, then why on earth should he make any effort in a relationship? Why should he work with someone who has been raped and abused and figure out how to help her feel the things she wants/needs/ought to during sex when he can go out and find someone who fulfills all his fantasies RIGHT NOW without ANY EFFORT on his part? When you put it like that, it seems so simple, doesn’t it?
And as much as the rational part of me understands that to dwell on them rather than myself–to expend any energy at all on this fucking rerun of the worst syndicated cliché the world has ever dreamed up–is to keep myself from healing, to poison myself, to kill myself, there is a part of me that can’t stop doing it. Can’t stop hating him for loving me so little. Can’t stop hating her for believing she’s entitled to joy and ecstasy and this sick thing the two of them are calling LOVE at the expense of anyone and everyone who might get in her way. Can’t stop hating myself for being just like her, and for being me–the person he left for her.
Fuck him. Fuck her. And Fuck all this hate.
As the days go by, I realize over and over that my boyfriend’s betrayal has gone (and continues to go) beyond just having sex with someone else behind my back. He used me, friends, and even my own insecurities and personal struggles to give himself peace while he created a fantasy world for himself in which he wasn’t accountable.
[**Warning: You may be witnessing the decline and fall of Rosie’s sanity–please wear a hard-hat.**]
The man I love and devoted my heart to did the following (that I know of):
- Claimed to love me, that we were “in it together,” and pledged that he would “pay attention.”
- Became sexually unsatisfied with our relationship and claimed it was his lack of libido. Made multiple promises that he’d get help, but I was ok with being with him regardless. (In fact, as he knew, my libido was affected by my anti-depressants.) If he’d become paralyzed, I would have happily been his partner for life.
- Ignored my attempts to address our declining intimacy.
- Sought sex outside the relationship (i.e., this wasn’t an accident) and rationalized that a) what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me, and b) that he was entitled to have his needs met, regardless of mine.
- Woke me with a kiss every morning, went to work, rented hotels in the afternoon (while wondering aloud at home where all our money was going) and carried on his sexual relationship, which he rationalized was not about me. Was generally home in time for dinner, though now I doubt his every move from cello lessons to drinks with friends.
- Took his lover on a business trip to San Francisco–one of the ones I did not go on, but you can be certain he texted me the whole time updating me about his accommodations, meals, etc. without a trace of irony.
- Used at least one of OUR FRIENDS as a decoy for his rendezvous. Said friend has confirmed this deception.
- Woke me with a kiss one Saturday morning and said he was off to shop for a “surprise” for me. Remained occupied for the entire day making vague excuses about not finding what he was looking for until I texted him in a panic because my drug-addicted brother showed up, at which time he dressed, I assume, and “rushed home in a panic cursing traffic.” He showed up looking guilty as fuck, and of course bearing no “surprise” for me. (Surprise! I was fucking someone else today!)
- Said he wanted to work on our intimacy and fix our relationship while fully (and later, admittedly) intending to continue a sexual relationship with his lover.
- Refused, after I discovered his infidelity, to break off contact with his lover, choosing instead to break off contact with me. (This is the part where I packed his shit.)
- Followed that act by posting on Facebook how awful he felt about what he’d done to me and how he is dedicating the next year to figuring out how to be the person he wants to be (and got lots of sympathy for his pain and loss, of course), while offline telling his lover that I’d tracked her down on the very same website (yeah, couldn’t help myself) at which time she blocked me and he became HER FACEBOOK FRIEND. Oh, and while I changed my status to “single” he changed his to “separated.” Was that meant to give me a tiny spark of hope, followed by a full-on slap in the face? “We’re only separated, but I’m going to go ahead and publicly friend my lover on Facebook.” I don’t even…
What will I discover next?
Yes, I’ve done obsessive, stalkery things, but the book I’m reading says that’s perfectly normal and GUESS WHAT? I’m still not as stalkery as his ex-wife who I DON’T EVEN BLAME ANYMORE. (Yes, this is a pattern. I didn’t recognize it because he had one foot out the door when he met me, moved out immediately, and we didn’t have sex for over two months–she got way better treatment than I did.) I told him I would fight for him, but I can’t if he’s not fighting for me. I’m not going to show up where he’s having dinner with his lover or at his office or church. I’m not going to chase her in my car or insist on meeting her so I can tell her what she’s done to me. Yeah, she’s an asshole, and somebody probably ought to tell her so, but it won’t be me. She didn’t do this to me. He did. This is a man who will apparently stop at nothing to have his sexual and emotional needs met at the expense of everyone in his blast radius. He needs help. He’s a serial monogamist and very possibly a Narcissist. And, God help me, I still love him. Or who I thought he was, anyway.
Some may think it’s wrong of me to be so public with this. But I have no desire to protect him from the truth and the consequences of the choices he made and is continuing to make. And I’m entitled to heal in my own way. If he had chosen to be here working on things, that would have been a completely different path to healing. But this is the one I’m on now and I have to find my own way through this, and the fact that my dog is dying, and everything else life throws at me during this dark and fucked up time in my life.
How can I have spent seven years of my life with someone I loved, but didn’t know? How do I move forward knowing that I can’t truly know anyone? Readers, I know you know these are rhetorical questions that can only be answered with, “That’s just the way it happened.” and “You’ll find a way.” But right now the confusion in my head can be summed up in four little words I find myself repeating often:
“I don’t get it.”