We may not be living the "Life We Chose" but nothing says we can't change and Choose a better life in Future.
As many of you know, I've been writing a memoir about Child Sexual Abuse and how the trauma of 'it' cycled down through my family and ended up affecting not 'only' me but my choice of husband and resulted in the sexual abuse of my own children. Writing the memoir has been a process of personal discovery.
Like so many others, at first, I didn't want to know what happened to me. One grandmother said, "just don't think about it...no matter what 'it' was, 'it' wasn't a nice woman's business and the women in my family were raised to be 'nice.'
The other grandmother 'prayed about' virtually everything as a matter of survival in a marriage to the un-thoughtful man who, I now realize, molested several of her children, including my father.
My father went on to sexually molest me and my brothers. He was also an 'un-thoughtful' husband in the style of his father. My father was perpetually resentful and angry and justified anything harmful that he did, saying "My childhood was worse than yours"
When I began writing the memoir I was forced to look at myself. At first, I had assumed child sexual abuse in my family began when I was molested. I thought 'it' all began with me and in order to survive my childhood, I stopped thinking about 'it.'
After my father's funeral, I found a box of old letters and pictures and remembered stories I had been told as a child. Once I realized what happened to me was part of an ongoing cycle, I began to understand how 'it' happened but, I still had a hard time with "Why." Especially "Why didn't I see what was happening to my own children?"
Why had I married a 'strangely familiar' man (who I found out had been molested himself)? Why Oh why had I 'not seen' what he was doing and saying to gaslight me so he could continue molesting my children?
Why did I think divorce would protect me from repeating the same mistake twice? Why didn't realize I had to change my own perspective on my own beliefs that made me vulnerable and hence my children to sexual abuse.
I was raised, as many younger women are raised today, to be a 'Happily-Ever-After-Believer' In my mother's and grandmother's time, 'nice' women didn't even believe divorce was possible, they thought divorce for any reason was a sin, not against 'man,' but against God. I believed in divorce as a last ditch effort, but I thought just dumping the 'molester' and changing my (our) last name would protect me and my children.
Problem is, that without understanding how our own belief-system about a 'woman's place' makes us vulnerable, we and our children remain at risk of repeating the cycle and, if our belief-system remains unexamined, we will unwittingly teach these beliefs to our children and grandchildren's generations.
In my time, social convention and religion conspired to extend the belief that if a woman just 'prayed about' the state of her un-thoughtful marriage, turned 'it' over to God and waited...all would eventually be well.
Meanwhile, she should figure out how to love her husband enough that he would see how much she loved him and 'do right the right thing.' Some of us still believe that a good woman's love has the power to 'love him into loving me' and protecting our children We go to great length to demonstrate we love him enough to 'change his ways,' but fail to see we much become different people ourselves if we hope to break the pattern, the cycle that perpetuates child sexual abuse.
Silence, love, and not-knowing are the mantra's taught us as a 'nice' respectable women. We are the 'nice' women who cannot imagine the police will ever come knocking on our door...until they do.
1) Belief in Silence (before and after the fact) may distract the neighbors, deter the lynch mob once 'it' comes out but there is a lot of 'it' going on and silence doesn't help us understand the how or the why of the cycle of child sexual abuse: silence does nothing to help us prevent or heal 'it.' either. We don't need to heal back into who were were before (just with a new partner) We need to do the work to be different not simply better-than.
2) There are a 'lot' of 'us' out here (even in nice neighborhoods.) , When 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys report they too were sexually abused in childhood; when upwards of 800,000 offender names (and by extension at least that many families) are listed on Sex Offender Registries nation wide, the continuing belief in the magical power of silence, 'a good woman's place' may make us feel like we are at least doing something. And not and not-knowing actually facilitates abuse of all sorts.
Until we have to face the fact that we were betrayed; until we (maybe) have to look at ourselves and ask what factors of my belief system contributed to my actually 'not-knowing.'
Or maybe we choose to just cut and run...trusting that without change on our part, the next marriage/ relationship will automatically be better-than this one? I have come to believe that, What is required of us (as the betrayed party) is not to insist that we are the forever betrayed victims but that we examine our own beliefs, change, become different than we used to be so that our relationships will also be different.
We need to re-write our futures by re-thinking our roles in marriage and motherhood and voting for gender-role equality...and that is hard work.