*Please note – This is a copy of posts from my old blog. The old blog was redesigned to point to this one, but not before I got all the old posts transferred. What is here and the next few posts to the “Posts from The Old Blog” are copies of what I did thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and many thanks to Tracie Nall at FromTracie for telling me about this. The links probably do not work and the pictures may not show up and to my dismay, the comments are lost. I will try to reconstruct the links, but I apologize for these posts. ~Jackie
I have learned another secret. It is another one which I can not share because it is not my story to tell. But it does impinge on my story and I wonder how it changes me. It knocked me out when I first heard. I could not stop crying. When the voice started, I knew what it would say. I knew the fear, the pain, the anxiety, the disgust it would disclose.
I was angry and sad. Actually I was furious. Not at the person speaking but at the person who caused the pain, and the others who stood by, turning their heads and pretending they did not see.
I have put this off too long. Almost a year ago, I agreed to be part of the Survivor Archive Project. It is another telling of survivor’s stories. I got all the paperwork in except this last piece. I did not want to write them all a letter as I said I would. It was too hard. I did not know what to say. I did not want to put a torch to their pain unnecessarily. I did not want to touch my own pain. I have learned that it is easier to tout my strength than to remember to pain and what it was like before I felt like I was a survivor.
So here goes.
Dear other survivors in my family,
I am so proud to know all of you and to know that in a huge way, you have all battled a monster masquerading as a man.
You battled, and you survived. It was not your fault. You did not ask for it. You did not deserve it. You deserved to be treated with love and care, but all that was taken from you.
You are not alone in your pain and your struggle. There are many of us. I am actually not sure of the exact number but I do know it is far too high. One child that endures abuse is too much. We are many. None of us asked to be in this family of violence and pain. We were all initiated into a group in which we did not wish to belong.
We had good times too, but it is hard for me to remember any of them. They feel tainted and I remember them as I do the abuse – as if it was happening to someone else.
We were different ages when the abuse began. We are different genders. We all thought it was our fault and we did something wrong for which we had to be punished. That is one of the lies we were told. We were told to be quiet and not tell. It was like being fed poison, but we had no choice.
I remind survivors who are having a hard time and having lots of flashbacks not to hurt themselves and remember that the pain is in the past. Writing this letter feels a little bit like it is still in the present. When I revisit the pain, knowing that there is more bound up in each of you. The tentacles of abuse are long and strong. Sometimes it feels like they are wrapping around my neck.
But I am no longer in that little town. I am no longer a child forced into silence. In our own ways, we have all spoken out, even if i was only a small, strangled “yes.” Yes, it happened to me too.
I love you all and am honored to have you in my family. I am glad you have found lives and loves and were able to say yes, me too.
I wish I could put your pictures here to show people the faces of other survivors. I know some of you do not wish to be named and I would never betray your trust. We have all been betrayed enough.
Be well and namaste.
Jackie Lawrence Shaw
In my mind, I have been trying to answer a question. There are many questions that rattle around in my head which I cannot answer. This particular question weighs more heavily on my mind than most, perhaps because it is one to which I think there is no answer. I have asked it for years. Many survivors, at least the ones I know, have asked the same question.
Where does child sexual abuse come from? Is it inherited through genetics? Is it a learned behavior? Do the abused become abusers too?
I do not know the answer. I do not believe that every abuser was abused and I certainly do not believe that everyone who is abused becomes an abuser. The majority of abuse survivors DO NOT become abusers.
Are some people just born bad? How can they overcome the societal taboo of sexually abusing a child? And what is the root? How do they learn to groom children to be perfect victims? How do they learn to recognize the kids who will tell and those who will not? How do they learn to lie to other adults and completely deny the extent of their actions and refuse to take responsibility for what they have done? How can they say, “Well, if she didn’t dress so provocatively, I wouldn’t have bothered her.”
Does that make any sense? I have actually heard people use that as an excuse.
How does a child dress provocatively? By putting on clothes, that were bought by the adults in her life? That makes no sense. It is not the child’s fault. And how do the other adults in the child’s life say, “Oh yes, if she hadn’t been wearing that dress, he never would have touched her. That makes perfect sense. It is her fault, (even though she isn’t old enough to tie her own shoes), she knows how to seduce an adult.” It’s not like the child is buying corsets out of the Fredrick’s of Hollywood catalog.
I researched this questions to see if there was any valid research. No one seems to know where it comes from. Even Wikipedia does not profess to know the answer.
There are, of course, groups within society that say the hurt done to children is minimal. Another group says that it is normal and just educational for the children. My response to that is you are delusional and a child molester. I refuse to even post the links to their pages because it’s so irresponsible and abusive, there is no place for it here.
With all our tests and analytical abilities, this is a question we still cannot seem to answer.
And I wonder. Do we not want to know? Are we so afraid of the answer that we can’t ask the question? Or is it just a cosmic roll of the dice? Some people molest kids, most do not. And would we be able to stop it if we could answer the question? Again, I do not know.
I do know that there are survivors all over the world. This is not something that only happens in one culture. The world is filled with survivors, and in my opinion, a very small number of people who molest children and cause a tremendous amount of harm.
So, after all this, I have to admit, I just do not know. I wish I did because if this could be answered, and if we could realistically deal with the answer, we could save people a lifetime of pain. And I would do that in a heartbeat.
I’m feeling a little helpless today. I’m feeling like what I do may not make a difference and there are too many hurdles to climb.
I saw a story on the news that an accused pedophile who molested little boys has chosen to defend himself. That is bad enough, but because he has chosen to defend himself, and he made tapes of what he did to the little boys, he gets to watch the videos in prison to prepare for his defense. I am appalled that he molested these boys, taped it, got caught and now our “justice” system lets him watch the tapes. If they believe for a single second he is doing it primarily to prepare for his defense, they are so far off base, I don’t know where to begin.
I think that is my problem today. I don’t know where to begin. Casey Anthony got off for murdering her daughter because there wasn’t enough evidence. Elizabeth Smart went back to a loving family who never gave up on her. Jaycee Dugard did a fabulous job of telling her story to the world and she got $20 million plus the money she will receive from her book. She doesn’t have an easy road ahead of her, but she certainly has the resources to get the care she needs and provide for her kids.
I’m fighting a battle that, for the most part, people do not want to hear. We can easily watch stories like that of Jaycee and Elizabeth because it is the stranger which we fear, and we don’t have to face the reality.
There are strangers who kidnap children. That is true. But most children, women, men, people in general are raped, abused and murdered by people who they know. Even worse and more unsettling, it is by people we know. It is pastors, police officers, upstanding citizens, bankers, mechanics, mothers, fathers, neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends. It is people we all know, or think we know.
And as a survivor, and someone who cares about kids and people, let me tell you that is terrifying. It is sometimes hard to look at people and not wonder about the secrets they are hiding. I know I can put on a good face and pretend that I’m ok. It is my guess that other people know how to hide secrets as well.
My friend Becky recently wrote this:
I am really having a problem with the media sensation with the Jaycee Dugard case & before that the Elizabeth Smart case. The media playing up to the fact that both of these young women are surviving & thriving so quickly after being found & suffering such horrific horrors at the hands of their captors. What they are failing to point out, in my opinion, is the fact that these girls had loving, caring families before they were taken & loving, caring families after they were brought home. For the majority of us who were abused, beaten, tortured we weren’t offered that comfort, love, care. I feel they are making it seem like it’s just a matter of all you need to do is set you’re mind to it & you can get over these horrible things. I feel it’s making it more difficult, not easier, for the rest of us. Society is now going to see those of us who are struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, DID, etc. and say, “Well, look at those 2 girls…they are living happy, productive lives. Why can’t you?”
Are those of us who were abused by family and friends out of line? Should we just move on and forget about it?
The answer is absolutely not. The more of us who speak out and keep lifting up our stories and our pain, the more likely it is that someone will hear us.
Another friend Kimberly Zarley, who is going to seminary and is a member of the Disciples of Christ, recently got a resolution passed at the General Assembly entitled, “Preventing Sexual Abuse and Ministering to its Victims and Survivors.”
I know this journey is like chipping away at a giant, perverse, underground, incestuous, dark iceberg. Even though I get discouraged and think that every time someone comes forward and speaks his or her truth and breaks the silence, one more rock with a slime ball child molester hiding under it is placed. I sometimes think that there are more child molesters than people with the strength to speak up.
Then I remember it isn’t true and it’s hard and painful and sucks to heal, but I wouldn’t trade healing or stop talking for anything. It has been too important and too healing for me to start to speak.
Survivors of sexual abuse aren’t whiny or weak because they don’t instantly heal. The media may portray them that way, but for the most part, the media and society just wish we would stay quiet. If you don’t talk about a problem, no one has to do anything to change it. That is way easier than actually acknowledging there is a problem and then doing something about it.
So, Becky and anyone else who is discouraged, fear not. The laws are wrong. The media is wrong. A strong tree doesn’t grow in a day. It cannot stand up to wind, storms, drought, whatever comes its way, overnight. It takes time to grow free and be strong. Anyone who is trying to dismiss you or hurry your healing just wants to get back to ordinary life. That requires no thought, no care, no change. It also requires no heart nor compassion nor hope for the victim.
The media may paint a pretty picture, but as with so many things, the media is just misguided.
And I’ve said it before, if you aren’t outraged, you aren’t really paying attention.
Last night, Jaycee Dugard’s first interview was aired on television. She was walking to catch the school bus, was tazed, and held hostage for eighteen years. To say the least, it must have been horrible. She was very hopeful and bore no apparent bitterness or anger at the two people who kidnapped her, repeatedly raped her, and held her hostage for eighteen years, and her two children hostages for their entire lives.
She was very hopeful in the interview. She kept saying that she held on to the hope that she would some day see her mother again and that got her through.
I knew the interview would be difficult, and I give Jaycee a tremendous amount of credit for doing it, and writing a book about her experience. Her face would cloud with pain when she talked about her experience of being raped, starting when she was eleven years old.
Diane Sawyer did a good job in the interview. I could tell she was outraged at the way Jaycee was treated. She was also appalled by how many people had let her down when they searched the house and didn’t find her. It was what wasn’t said that reminded me we have so far to go in making society aware of the extent of the abuse that goes on right in our own backyards.
At one point, I thought Diane might take it to the next level, where the conversation needs to go. The conversation turned to statistics. The statistics were given about how many children are kidnapped, how many return, and how many times children are not returned alive, or never found. That is harrowing enough.
The reality is that most children are not kidnapped and raped by strangers. These statistics are old and somewhat vague, but this gives you an idea of the reality. In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse. Seven percent of these children did not know the person who raped them.
Math is not my best subject, but that would imply that ninety-three percent of 126,000 children were raped and abused by family members. That works out to be 117,180 children. Molested and raped by people who knew them and were supposed to love and care about them.
And that is the number of children who were able to overcome the fear and the threats and report what happened to them. Most children are so wracked with guilty, fear, threats of violence to their parents, their own being, their siblings, and their pets that they don’t report what happened. They don’t report it at the time, and many are never able to overcome all the obstacles and tell.
And if they do tell, the legal system is another harrowing experience in itself.
I told three different people that I was being molested by my father. I told my mother, I told my Girl Scout leader and I told my minister. My mother said, “I thought something like this was happening. I’ll talk to him and make it stop.” It didn’t. My Girl Scout leader had just given a presentation on what to do if someone was abusing you. Her husband was a state police officer. She did nothing because she later said she was afraid of my father. My minister counseled my parents and told them to spend more time together and go on more dates. Eight months after I told her, I told her again. She finally called the police.
And what a painful, misguided process that was. I know I’ve written about this before, but it still amazes me at the repeated ineptitude. The minister called the police. The police had to call in people from another county because the local authorities didn’t have anyone trained in child sexual abuse. Mind you, this was 1989, not the 1700s. Then the police officer and his wife came to our house and interviewed me in the living room and then interviewed my father in the kitchen, right next to the living room. I could hear every word they said. I think the police officer’s wife (I’m still not sure why she was there) realized I could hear what they were saying. She sent me to my grandmother and grandfather’s house two doors down. Grandma later told me that my father was her son and she would always support him over me.
Dad had to move out, but didn’t have anywhere to live, so he went to his parents’ house, two doors away from my house. They had foster kids. I don’t remember how long he lived there before someone realized it might not be the best idea for an accused sex offender to live with foster kids. In the meantime, we were assigned a case worker. She came to our house for a little while and we had family meetings twice a week. We’d all sit down and have dinner together because, as everyone kept telling me, my dad was going to come back home. Oh great. How wonderful. That was nowhere close to what I wanted or what should have happened.
One night out of the blue another woman showed up for dinner at our house. She said she was there to replace Cindy, which was really confusing because that is my sister’s name. She didn’t even know our names.
We also went to family counseling. The only thing I remember out of that mess was that she made me apologize to my father for breaking up our family.
Dad pleaded guilty and was put on probation and was ordered to undergo counseling and rehabilitation. During his rehab program, he molested another girl who was not a blood relative. Because she was not related by blood, his crime then became more serious, because it wasn’t that bad that he was molesting his daughter. He did go to prison for two and a half years, which is amazing, because so many offenders serve no time at all.
My story is not uncommon. I wanted to hear Diane Sawyer say, “And Jaycee Dugard, while her story is awful, is in the minority. Most children are molested by friends, family members, ministers, someone who is close to them.” I also wanted her to say, “Join me next Sunday night to listen to the story of Marilyn Van Derbur, former Miss America who was molested by her father for thirteen years.” It didn’t have to be Marilyn Van Derbur. It didn’t have to be me, but there are millions of survivors who are willing to share their stories and break the silence of how they were abused and the system let them down over and over again.
I commend the interview with Jaycee Dugard to you. I also commend you to listen and read what other survivors are saying. There are predators in your own backyard, and if we keep silent, they are perfectly content to go on using that silence to destroy countless lives.
One of my favorite sayings is, “Lunch is one of my three favorite meals a day.” I think I may have even come up with it. I like to eat, and not just to be fed. When I’m happy, I eat. When I’m sad, I eat. When I’m bored, I eat…I think you get the picture.
In the last few years, I have tried very hard to learn to eat when I’m hungry. It is a struggle. I realize as I’m putting something in my mouth to eat that I’m not really hungry or that what I have is not really what I want or need. *Sometimes* I can stop myself and put it back. Other times I cannot.
I have heard this from a lot of people, that as a survivor of abuse, eating is a way to cover up the pain and try to fill the emptiness inside. With the mentality that if I’m overweight, no one can touch me, or even worse, no one would want to touch me.
I am not saying that overweight people are unattractive or bad because they are overweight. There are many reasons for that, such as gland problems, never having been taught how to eat what is good for you, trying to hide yourself from leering eyes, genetics. The list is a long one.
For me, it was a combination of factors. I never consciously thought, ok, so if I eat too much, my father and the others will leave me alone. It was more a combination of genetics, not having very much money as a child for proper nutrition, and trying to fill the gaping hole of pain that was inside of me. I remember being about ten years old and being at home by myself or watching my sister. My mom had just bought a new jar of peanut butter and it was like it was calling to me.
I would grab a spoon and start eating it, right out of the jar. When about half of it was gone, and I realized what I’d done, I’d try to smooth it over so it didn’t look like I’d eaten so much. As I was smoothing it out, I’d think just one more spoonful… Apparently I couldn’t count, because it would usually be like four spoons. Then I had eaten almost the entire jar. Mom would get home and not be terribly pleased that I’d eaten almost the whole jar. I had no answer for why I’d done it, but simply could not stop.
In 2001, my sister and I moved to California. One would think, being in California, close to the beach, that weight loss would be easy. I kept on gaining. None of my clothes fit, so I started buying men’s jeans because they fit and then I didn’t have to admit how overweight I was. I couldn’t face the size I had actually become. I don’t honestly know how much weight I gained, or what size I should have been wearing.
While we lived there, I went to visit some friends and they were both very slim. When the pictures came back and I saw myself, I was so upset at how overweight I was. At that point, I started paying a little better attention. I also weighed myself around the same time and I had gotten up to 229 pounds.
Now, I wear a size eight. I say that not to brag, but to show what a more realistic and healthy weight for me is. I am not sure exactly what I weigh, but I realized I never wanted to weigh that much again.
I don’t think it was so much how much I weighed, but just how unhappy I could see I was in the picture. I didn’t feel good. I couldn’t do very much without getting winded. I was just completely unhappy.
Losing the weight didn’t make me happy. It made me feel different, but not happy. Dealing with the sexual abuse and facing it gave me a glimpse of what it could be like to be happy. It gave me freedom I had never known. Even though I lost weight while dealing with the abuse, dealing with the abuse and being able to talk about it lifted a HUGE weight off of my soul. It made me feel like I was a person.
While thinking about this post, I kept thinking about the movie Ever After. There is one scene in the movie where the two step-sisters (one of whom is not wicked at all) are going to the palace for a ball. The step-mother has been grooming one of them to garner the prince’s attention. The other sister, Jaqueline, has no chance at the prince, at least in the mother’s opinion. Her mother and her sister have gotten in a bit of a rough spot at the palace and her mother accuses Jacqueline of helping to put them there. Jacqueline, who is the nice one, says, “Of course not, Mother. I’m only here for the food.”
The food is good, but I assure you, I am no longer here just for the food. I finally realized there is so much more.