95% of child sexual abusers are known to the child. The younger the victim, the more likely the abuser is a family member – in my case, my paternal grandfather. He not only groomed me, he groomed my parents AND my grandmother. She knew what was happening and did nothing to stop him, making her guilty as well. Using my molestation in the summer of 1994 as an example, here are four signs to take caution of.
Child Sexual Abusers:
1. Are ALWAYS available to take care of your child.
My paternal grandparents were ALWAYS our caregivers when they visited us or when we visited them.
2. ALWAYS gives your child special treatment.
He ALWAYS called me his “favourite granddaughter”. I remember when he saw my 10th grade school picture, he couldn’t stop gushing over it, telling me how beautiful I looked, that I was all grown up, blah, blah, blah. When I visited my grandparents in 1997, three years after the last time time he molested me, I noticed that that school photo was framed in my grandparents room. My siblings school pictures? Outside in the living room. Did my parents notice it? Nope.
3. ALWAYS gives your child gifts and showers your child with never ending compliments.
One of our summer routines included our grandfather taking my siblings and I to the corner store. Guess who never had to share her candy?
4. Manipulates you, the parent, to spend time alone with your child, or ALWAYS finds the time to be alone with your child.
He would molest me after lunch, when my siblings were outside playing with my grandmother, and I would be inside the house trapped with him. My grandmother’s “job” was to usher my siblings out of the house right after lunch, while letting me know, as the eldest, it was my job to wash the dishes.
I have been asked quite a lot about why I used to cut and what led me to it. I share with you an excerpt from an email I sent to a close friend.
When we met I was already cutting. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t really “dead” and in actuality, I was indeed living in Hell on Earth. I started out making “points” on my skin of the constellation Orion (The Hunter) with a sharp pencil. As an astronomy geek, I knew that Orion can be seen from anywhere in the world, and that comforted me, something constant in my fucked up life. Dotting and tracing wasn’t exactly cutting, so I guess that doesn’t count. A bobby pin was my first instrument of choice. I broke it in half and removed the protective coating that makes it dull. Then I would use a Swiss army knife, cutting characters onto my thighs. I then progressed to the elusive box cutter. I would cut “Samurai” in Kanji (Japanese) on my left thigh and on my right, “Warrior” in Chinese characters. Kanji was easier, 3 cuts, Warrior took time. It made me feel in control and in some way, having Samurai Warrior inscribed in my skin was more like an act of affirmation rather than self-injury, staring at it in the middle of night, terrified to go back to sleep because of recurring nightmares that would make any modern day scary movie look like a cartoon. In the morning I would lie on my bed, with my legs propped up so it would be looking back at me. Sometimes I would recut, bleeding and repeating it to myself until I believed it, and that I could leave my room and face the outside, this war zone, a world I knew from a very young age was not safe and I had lacked the weapons to survive. I would stand in the shower and look at those two words trying to feel that I was that…and I would watch the blood from “Samurai Warrior” flow down and mix with the water. The cuts made my whole body burn. I would feel it underneath my clothes. I was numb. I was dead; a walking corpse. Blade to skin was the only way I could check to see if I was still alive.
I woke up on my 34th Birthday with one intention: let love in.
I was thrilled by all the Birthday wishes I wholeheartedly received that day as I continue my journey back to a connection with my body, a soul case that has, for most of my life, been a stranger to me. My day of birth has never been easy, and like many things in this world, I have a detachment from it. Being forced to evacuate my body at 4 years old because a monster made a choice to invade and steal my childhood is the primary reason that I have always woken up on the seventh of every July with an unexplainable emptiness. I would always ask myself, “How can I celebrate a life that I can’t wholly remember and was not allowed to live properly?” It has only been in the past three years that I have started to “like” it, but it was always a game day decision; whatever I felt when I woke up on my Birthday was the wave of emotion that I was going to ride.
It has been a little over twenty months since my first speaking engagement, and the number one question I get asked is why I have chosen to do “this” publicly, why I choose to blog, to speak, to rant, to rave. My answer has stayed the same; nothing positive came from staying silent. In silence, I was cutting, purging, bingeing, over exercising, depressed, suicidal, you name it, it was happening. I don’t know about you, but I like the whole Breaking My Silence thing a whole lot better. I woke up on the morning of my thirty fourth with no shame of my traumas and acceptance that I will never receive apologies from my abusers. But I have also accepted that as long as I am alive, I will always be a work in progress, and that I am living life with intention now, instead of waiting to die. Thank you to everyone that has stood by me, you guys are my real family. And to those that have walked away, you guys have been my greatest teachers, teaching me that rejection is protection in disguise, and that silence is, I believe, a staple in the cultural identity of Asians. I am thankful to these people for clearing so much room for amazing possibilities. My fellow survivors, in the wake of our monsters destructions, we will always rise victorious. One day at a time. ‘Coz they win when your soul dies.
The excerpt is a shining example of how to reach out to a survivor. The message is sincere, supportive and direct without being assertive. Often times, people find it easier to distance themselves from the person, as if they have contracted some kind of contagious disease. Instead of asking questions, they resort to making assumptions. Thank you, my dear friend for reaching out to me.
Do you cut to self medicate?
If so, I just want to support you with sharing. It really shows me you have had major traumas in your life, which I’m aware of, but that it was also traumatic to you.
You coming out and sharing your story I felt you may have come out unscathed. This shows me you are a more courageous woman than I even thought before.
This list are warning signs that I exhibited and my parents missed.
1. Nightmares. (I have not slept through the night since I was 14.)
2. Bedwetting. (Defense mechanism)
3. Easily startled when touched or if a particular person enters the room.
4. Suicide attempts.
5. Self-injury. (My mutilation of choice was cutting, over exercising coupled with under eating.)
6. Sudden changes in school performance. (I went from being on the top of the Honour Roll to sitting in detention during Summer School.)
7. Overly protective and concerned for siblings. (He threatened that he would go to my little sister instead if I didn’t comply.)
8. Wearing very loose-fitting clothing or more clothing than the weather requires. (Scarves in the summer anyone? Yup. That was me.)
9. Outbursts of anger. (Demotion of a belt rank in tae-kwon-do, yellow and red cards at field hockey games…)
10. Dissociation. (Unexplained crying, blanking out, unresponsiveness)
December 15, 2008 (the baby’s third Birthday) was the last time my ex made a resurrected cameo appearance in his son’s life. A total of one and a half hours to be exact. Whoo hoo!!! He came into the restaurant looking like a Latino Santa Claus, hauling in a giant Toys R Us bag filled with toys that were too advanced (bottom of the toy train said ‘not recommended for children 4 and under’), and clothes that were sizes way too small. He tried desperately to make a connection, but the baby clung to me, unsure as to who the heck this man bearing gifts was.
He was nervous. Partly because I stated in the Court Order that he was to come sober and consume no alcohol during the visit. His close friend Captain Morgan was going to have to wait till after. Towards the end, he held the baby in his arms for less than a minute, trying to get him to smile. Nope. Didn’t work. The baby’s body language clearly read, “Who are YOU?”. Exasperated, he handed him to me and said his infamous line, “I gotta go.”
“Of course you have to go, that’s what you’re best at!”
He stood in silence. He then took out a crisp fifty dollar bill and placed it confidently on the table.
“For your dinner.”
I continued to smile, realizing that we did not need his appearance every couple of years.
“What are you waiting for? Go ahead and turn your back. That’s what we’re used to seeing anyway.”
He left. I paid my bill and left a fifty dollar tip.
Today, I am thankful for Fathers that choose their Presence over their Presents. I salute you.