Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My Personal Story

It was late in the summer of 2007 and I was watching an episode of Law and Order in which a woman is accused of murdering someone and has to rely on her son, who as it turns out has been in an incestuous relationship with her, to lie on her behalf to get her acquitted. I had seen this episode at least a dozen times. This time, however, something was very different. I suddenly felt nauseous and sick to my stomach.

Over the next few weeks I went through what was inarguably the worst period in my life. I grew distant from my wife, unable to adequately put into words what was going on inside me. I assumed it was a midlife crisis. Being 46, it seemed logical. There was just one problem: what I was going through didn't quite jive with what I had read and heard about midlife crises. I was emotionally shut down and depressed; I had an aversion to any music that reminded me of my past; I couldn't look at, much less touch, my wife; and I moved into the guest bedroom upstairs.

On the recommendation of an associate pastor at my church I entered into therapy. Over a period of several weeks, she and I hit upon the real problem. I was an incest survivor. That realization was the single most difficult thing I had ever had to come to grips with. The shame that came up for me was more than I could bare. The flashbacks were humiliating. I can't tell you how many times she had to remind me that I was not to blame. If you've ever watched Good Will Hunting, in which Robin Williams repeatedly tells Matt Damon "It's not your fault, Will," you know exactly what I'm talking about. Only in my case, my therapist had to keep reinforcing it in virtually every session I attended for at least a year.

I would spend the better part of six years coming to grips with a part of my life I had all but buried. I can tell you what year the abuse took place. It was 1979, but I cannot remember the month or the day. It was definitely in the afternoon. My sister was out of the house and my father had not yet come home from work. I remember there was a song on the radio by Gloria Gaynor. It was, oddly enough, "I Will Survive." I have always wondered why, whenever that song came on the radio, I would change the station. Now I know why. It was subconsciously triggering a visceral reaction in me. Today, it's on my oldies playlist and I am quite fond of it. Ironic, don't you think?

My mother did not physically touch my genitals, nor did she undress herself or me. What happened was more emotional than physical, but there was no denying the fact that she crossed a line no parent has the right to cross. I will not disclose the exact details of what transpired, but suffice to say, it took a trained professional months to help me reassemble those details.

When Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez say they can't remember every single detail of their assault, it's important to know this is quite normal. Victims of abuse frequently blot out certain details of the event. When their critics ask why it took them so long to come forward, it took me 28 years to admit I had been abused. We are not machines; we're human beings. And human beings have survival instincts which allow them to cope with the unthinkable.

And make no mistake about it, it is unthinkable, not to mention unconscionable. Who wants to admit that their parent - the person charged with protecting them from harm - harmed them? The very thought of it is anathema. Even now, eleven years after I entered therapy, part of me still can't believe it happened. I'm sure it was no less so for both these women.

The idea that Christine Ford and Deborah Ramirez have nothing to lose by accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault is insulting. They have already lost more than any woman should be required to lose: namely their dignity and their self worth, both of which were stripped away by this man's reckless behavior. It is not so much that I believe them as I do NOT believe him. I have been to enough 12-step meetings to know a bullshit artist when I see one. The manner in which he keeps insisting he's innocent is reminiscent of that famous Shakespearean line, "Me thinks he dost protest too much."

I am writing this not out of any need for self-aggrandizement. Far from it. I want there to be no doubt as to my motives here. My last piece dealt with the politics of the Kavanaugh hearing; this one is far more personal to me. I believe there is a special place in hell for those who victimize the helpless. And while my faith informs me that I am not fit to consign anyone to that ghastly place, the part of me that was robbed and cries out for justice cannot help but feel contempt for the damage that was done.

I have come to a certain peace, if you can call it that, over what my mother did. She was a sick woman who, hopefully, is in a much better place. But the scars she left behind will be with me all my remaining days.

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