A Kind of Child Abuse: Part 1 of 2

                I am a 22 year old woman and I do not have any children, but I have my own opinion about do-s and don’t-s. Tonight I’d like to open your mind to the different types of abuse or neglect that you may or may not have put much thought to. I’d like to share the experiences I had as a child.

                My mom conceived me at the age of 17 with a man who was nearly 30 years old. She and her family lived outside the country for a few years stationed with the United States Air Force base. After finding out she was pregnant she had the option to let her father adopt me or move back to the states. (I was told their arranged living on the base only covered immediate family – not grandchildren). So she returned to the U.S.

                Back state-side she lived with my great-grandmother in a very rural town and continued to finish her high school education. I remember when I was very young I was extremely close to my mother and great-grandmother. I remember being so happy to see them and little memories of my mother singing me to sleep or reading me stories still makes me smile. However, those moments were didn’t last.

                When my mother’s father and his family moved back to the states I can recall the tension. There was a night that is still very vivid to me (I was probably only two years old). I was being watched at my grandfather’s house and my step-grandmother (the wife that moved to the states with my grandfather) was holding my arms and I was crying a lot. She was yelling in my face and shaking me telling me “Your mom is a bad mom! She’s very bad! And you’ll be just like her!” There were probably other things that happened before this that I don’t remember, but for me this was the turning point. After that night I was told numerous times by this woman that my mother was the reason I didn’t have a father and that was bad. She told me my mother was keeping me away from him. He was a good man and I should have a father in my life. These things caused the first real rift between me and mother. When I was about four years old, the strain was very real. I had been given enough fuel by my grandparents to question my mother’s authority and I remember screaming at her that “I want my daddy!” and “You’re a bad mommy!” I didn’t fully understand these things, but at this point I’d been taught that if something was wrong – it was her fault.

                When I was four my mother was pregnant again. A friend of hers was having issues conceiving and this led to the adoption of the second child. This caused some problems with me that I’m sure she didn’t expect. My mother’s answer to me as to why she gave the baby was that she wanted the baby to go to a home that could take care of her. She wanted her to have a better life than what she could provide. This caused me to become closer to my great-grandmother. I already had it in my head that there was something wrong between me and my mother, so I was jealous that she’d let the baby have a “better life” because she couldn’t take care of her. I took that as: Why would you keep me if you can’t take care of me either? Obviously not in those words, but the feeling was definitely there. From here on, the tantrums I had escalated and I stopped listening to her all together. I didn’t want to be around her. I just wanted my great-grandmother because she made me feel wanted.

                The war was on and eventually I because I game piece between the adults in my life. My great-grandmother would undermine anything my mother would say to me. If I was in trouble: she’d get me out of it. If I wanted something to eat: she’d get it for me. If I wanted something from the store: She’d get it for me. My great-grandmother was very hands on. She was the one responsible for getting me into swimming lessons at the age of five. She taught me how to clean and do chores the right way. She played card games with me and she’d take me with her everywhere. I’d play in the garden while she was tending to it. This created a great bond between us and less of one with my mother. I do remember getting a bit closer to her for a little while, but between my great-grandmother and my mother’s father and his wife, she was always being put down. Her lack of confidence in herself as a person and as a mother just made the problem worse. Imagine knowing that your five year old is capable of being completely polite and mindful and realizing that you have no real effect on them.

                There were times when she and I would have a full on physical fight and she’d slap me and scream at me. This became the norm and unfortunately I learned very fast to hit back. I didn’t respect her. Once she had even screamed at me repeatedly “You need to respect me!” and I responded with “I don’t know what that means!” and told her to “Go away!”

                During the short period that my mother and I lived in apartments – just the two of us – I stayed mostly at my great-grandmother’s house. I experienced some close moments with my mother and I enjoy looking back on some of them like how we’d eat at the table just the two of us, we’d play with my toys and color, and she’d often let me watch TV with her and stay up late and she’d carry me in to my room.

                When I was half way through kindergarten my life changed drastically and for the worst. My mother met her first absolute piece of shit boyfriend. In the beginning he was very nice. He’d take my mother out and he came over to our apartment once in a while and even took me and his children to Chuck E Cheeses. I got along with his kids. The oldest was a girl (6) and the youngest was a boy (3); I was 5. Within just a couple of months we’d moved in with them. When we moved in his ex-girlfriend was literally still moving out and his mother also lived in the house. I didn’t understand what was going on back then, but looking back… Oh, my god! The son was only with us every other weekend for visitation. I shared a room with the daughter. Things declined quickly.

                The daughter and I hated each other. Almost as soon as we moved in I got to experience head lice for the first time. His daughter was riddled with them. The boyfriend made my mother cut all of my hair off down to an inch and proceeded to say that he couldn’t cut his daughter’s hair because “Models don’t have short hair.” His daughter was the favorite and was always given extra gifts for whatever reason or holiday and her word was always held above mine. She would hit me and if I hit back she’d start crying and tell on me. When I’d get in trouble for it she’d literally be laughing about it. Sometimes she’d smile while she hit me and the grin would grow as she tattled. There was a lot of fighting. When I’d get in trouble it was always the boyfriend’s say over my mother’s and more often than not the punishment was to be sent to the corner (he’d do this by grabbing us by the back of the head or neck and hitting our heads in the corner), go to bed early without food or be grounded from literally every toy and no sweets for a month. And he kept to it. He used to tell me and his children “Kids only exist to serve adults.” We didn’t eat much and were often left home alone at night. There was once that the power had been shut off in the winter and his daughter and I were told to stay in bed and not leave; we were left home alone that night, too. My mother and I became more distant and I sought a safe place with my great-grandmother. I’d call her after school and she’d pick me up. I’d stay the weekends at her house and things were good.

                At school I was very, very quiet. I was put into a speech class for a day to make sure I could talk at all. I could talk just fine, I just didn’t much. I didn’t particularly make any note-worthy friends during this period of my life and the teachers had asked me a couple of times if everything was okay (at home). Since I didn’t really understand what they meant I always told them I was fine. In that moment – at school especially – I was fine.

                While living with this boyfriend I was exposed to sexual ideas and behaviors. The boyfriend’s nephews (ages 6 and 4) would come over and act out what they had seen their parents doing with their cousin (the daughter I shared at room with). They didn’t touch each other beneath their clothes, but they defiantly made implications and called it a game. I didn’t feel that I could tell anyone about it because I didn’t really understand what was going on. I just knew it made me very uncomfortable. I was exposed to this for a long time and eventually I became curious since I was the only one left out. Nothing happened until the boyfriend went to jail.

                When my mother’s boyfriend went to jail his daughter’s behavior was a lot better, we got a long more and I got along with my mother better.  And once again this didn’t last. This occurred on the summer vacation between kindergarten and the first grade.

                When I was left home alone with the daughter there was a movie that was left on in the living room and I witnessed a guy say he didn’t want to kiss her lips, but instead implied her vagina. It reminded me of the “games” that the daughter and her cousins had played. I left to tell her about what I’d seen.

                The events that fallowed caused my life to completely flip. I experienced more confusion, shame, and embarrassments than I had ever thought possible. It became a game to us that when we were home alone after school she’d have me perform sexual contact orally. A couple of times she’d done the same to me, but more often than not she’d have me do it. I remember it feeling very strange and repulsive, but at the same time we both had that sense of “Ooo! We’re being sneaky! Haha!” which made it feel more like a game. Keep in mind at this point I was 6 and she was 7. When the summer ended and we went back to school I was terrified that she’d tell her friends about it and say what I did and blame the whole thing on me. I scared to death. My paranoia lead to me believing that I had caused the whole thing single handedly and that I couldn’t tell anyone about it or I’d get in HUGE trouble. There were times after this that she and I would continue doing things once in a while, but each time it made me more and more paranoid and I became to utterly hate myself.

                I finally got the courage to speak up to my mother about it when I involved a friend of mine. This girl was the same age as me and I had spent the night at her house. I tried to open up to her about what has happening at home and she said she wanted to play. Reluctantly, I told her what I did to the daughter and my friend tried it me. I immediately started crying and had my mother come pick me up. I told my mother. She corned me and the daughter in our room and simply told us to stop. That’s wrong. Don’t do that anymore. But that was it… I felt more alone about the whole thing because there was confirmation. There were no answers for if I was at fault, was I in trouble? Was I a bad person? It was pretty easy for me to completely stop at this point. The daughter, however, started making sexual motions while alone in bed or humping her pillow. I was further confused by this and left the room (she’d do these things while I was present).

                When I reached the second grade (age 7) I reached my first suicidal thoughts. The boyfriend had returned and became one hundred percent abusive. If I did anything wrong he’d sit on my back and hold down my feet with his legs and hold my arms behind my back. Eventually this changed to: he’d twist my arms backwards so that my hands touched the back of my neck. My arms were moved under and up – a direction they shouldn’t go at all. (Present-day, I can now willingly partially dislodge my shoulders and pop them back. Gross right?) These actions were displayed only once at my great-grandmother’s house – ON CHRISTMAS – and she was having NONE of it. She made him get away from me. Not long after he banned me from seeing my great-grandmother all together. As the abuse increased he started making my mom “take over” for him. If he was tired of holding me down in that position he’d have her to it to me. And she did it. That was the last straw for me. I no longer had any ounce of respect or even felt love for her. I hated her. I tried a couple of times to run away to my great-grandmother’s house, but it always failed.

                Also during the second grade, I was taught “Good touch Bad touch” at school. This horrified me. It was the first solid explanation I had for anything to do with that subject. No adult in my life had taken time to me about it. We went over it for a week in class and it was heavily emphasized that people who commit these crimes are horrible people who should and will go to prison. I believed I was a pedophile and became incredibly suicidal.

                During the winter of my second grade year my mother found out she was pregnant with her horrible, boyfriend’s baby and we moved out of state to live with her aunt.

                The time away should have helped our relationship, but I didn’t trust her at all. Even after being free of the people that constantly undermined her and put her down she still take time to teach me anything or to talk to me about how I was doing. Nothing. This made me even more lonely and resentful. I didn’t make any friends in this place. I didn’t know how to relate to the kids or be carefree and friendly. Even just at 7 years old I’d seen too much to forget about it. I gained weight very quickly and being fat made me even more depressed. I started doing bad in school. I went from having straight A’s to A’s, B’s, and C’s. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to be there and I didn’t care about my classmates. I started telling my mother I didn’t want her to come to the mandatory school programs and she wouldn’t come. She didn’t get to know any of my teachers. She didn’t try to know me.

                Now, I’ve always been an artist and could sing and came across as really smart, but the attention just made me hate myself more. I saw it as adults telling me I’m fine and I should be happy because I’m talents (that what was hurting on the inside didn’t matter). As I got older the physical fights with my mother worsened and when we moved back to my great-grandmother’s house things were not the same.

                I was more than thrilled to live with my great-grandmother, but my past experiences had changed me and I was more susceptible to her undiagnosed mood swings. I had seen her act “crazy” before, but now it was very real. It made me feel even more alone. I looked up to my great-grandmother more than anyone because she had shown me the most care and love, but that took a toll too. Living with her I was in the third grade (age 7/8). I got to really see the way she would change her mind on a dime and start cackling like a witch. I got to see how she’d just as quickly forget and claim something completely different had happened. The more I was open to see this it made it easier to know I had seen it before. She’d been like this my whole life. And looking back she was also just as abusive to me: she’d hit me and push me around and then just as quickly bought me things and treated me (A SUPER ABUSIVE behavior to learn! That just teaches whomever that it’s okay to abuse someone if you say “I’m sorry” or “I love you” and treat them later. A bad habit I had to identify that I had picked up on myself and put an end to). Her twisted behavior was a large reason why she undermined my mother and why my mother had such a hard time being in charge of me. However, when I would ask her questions about anything at all the only answers she’d give me were “I don’t know”, “you’ll understand when you’re older” and “I don’t know how to explain it.” Sadly, it just made it easier to turn my back on her because she wasn’t there for me when I needed her or when I asked. My mother and my great-grandmother continuously fought and I was stuck in the middle and would yell back at both of them. It was chaos.

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