Friday, April 4, 2014
WARNING: Contains Adult Content - Testing the Waters
A victim may be defined as anyone who experiences injury, a loss, or misfortune, resulting from an event or series of events. Trauma can trigger this and send the person's mental stability and self esteem into a downward spiral. The experience one may muddle through allows for the emergence of a somewhat victim mentality. A sense of victim hood. Always feeling that they deserved their bad luck or harmful situation, a person can be conditioned to take the bad....over and over again.
I did just that. However, with all my writing, I hope you realize that I was able to transform victimization into a victory of survival. I'm alive and kicking, a voice against all the injustices done to me. I am a survivor. All that I am is clearly exhibited in Until You Say Uncle. Right here for me to share. And it has been quite a journey. I still catch myself when I'm scared to fight back and stand up for what I believe in against an aggressor. And then I remember...things are not what they used to be. I will not be silent.
In 1978, I did not believe in myself. I was easy prey for a predator. I will not dwell on the what ifs...but know surely with all my being that had I a parent who believed in me, my life would have turned out differently. Sometimes, I still imagine what it would have been like. Me, as a child, with a mother who loved me, and told me just that. But that was not my lot in life. I was dealt a Mom who told me the contrary. She also told me she should have had a miscarriage when she was pregnant with me, wished I would die from cancer, and how I ruined her life. I was told I was never going to amount to anything - and that is what I held on to. The nicknames my mother had for me were wielded like a sword to cut through any self esteem I could have had. When you are constantly told how ugly you are, especially from the one person who can shape all you hold dear, well - it becomes who you are - the way you see yourself.
So, in 1978, I was not in the most confident of mindsets. I was a senior in college - seeking employment and housing (my mother said that I could not live at home after college), with little to no self esteem. Then along came a young man, someone whom I knew since childhood, and he lavished me with attention. That is, until July 4 of 1978 when he raped me.
We all have a moment in our lives when we know we are changed forever. I can tell you that at 11:30 pm on July 4, 1978, was mine. Most victims of rape don't talk about it. I didn't. Who could I tell? My parents were not the kind of people I could go to. Instead, I internalized the crime. I withdrew. Became silent. I isolated. I felt branded by this incorrigible young man who stole my future in that one act of sexual violence.
And after this life altering night, it was as though he owned me. The only way I can describe it is to tell you that he stole my dreams. Every single one of them in his selfish act. Branded. I remember watching Bonanza shows, and seeing how they branded their ranch's symbol on the cattle. That is what rape did to me. And more. This young man - Bob, at 20 years of age, saw me as a body he was able to control, manipulate, use and abuse. I couldn't fight back. I didn't even know how to.
I became a perpetual victim after that. I continued to "date" my rapist, if that's what you can call it. And he escalated his abuse on a weekly basis. Bob, the abuser, became Bob, my "boyfriend."
My victimization empowered him and he become more brazen. I guess he figured if he could get away with rape, he could get away with anything. It no longer mattered what he did to me in public. We went out to eat with another couple at a yacht club once. When our meals came to the table, I saw that Bob asked for a side order of macaroni salad, which I loved. When I asked him if I could have a taste, he turned to me with a look of disgust on his face and spit into the bowl of macaroni salad. Right in front of the other couple, Evan (may his memory be for a blessing) and his girlfriend,Leslie! They were shocked. I was numb. Evan took Bob aside to talk to him. I did nothing. I no longer wanted any macaroni salad.
Another time, my friends from college came down from Connecticut for a visit. We were all set to go out to dinner, with Bob and I in the backseat of their car. Headed to a nice restaurant in New York, Bob brought up the subject of my religious faith. He didn't like my relationship with my Rabbi - I admired the Rabbi alot and it infuriated Bob. Bob was probably fearful that I told the Rabbi about all the abuse. I never did. I didn't tell anyone back then. When I opened my mouth to defend myself - whack! Bob smacked me on the side of my head. Then again - all while my friend was driving us. But seeing this in his rear view mirror, my friend stopped the car, screamed at Bob to cut it out...Silence. And we continued like it never happened.
1978 was quite an eventful summer. It was my first summer of being a victim of sexual assault and violence at the hands of someone I was dating. I was sucked into hell at a slow pace. A pace which was speeding up at all costs toward the end of the summer.
The warm summer weather left us. However,in September, Bob still wanted a few more weeks of taking out the speedboat he owned. The name of his boat was Foreplay. Distasteful, but I never saw the signs back then. I was oblivious to anything - except accustom to being scolded, criticized, demeaned, and hit. One chilly afternoon, Bob demanded we go out on the boat. I thought the weather was not accommodating, but I had to accommodate "the boss", as he liked to be called.
Well, we took the boat out that day. We left the Castaways Yacht club in New Rochelle, NY, and headed to Mamaroneck's Orienta Point. It was so cold that afternoon, that I wrapped myself in the two huge bath towels that we brought with us. It was not the kind of weather for a boat ride. I was about to put my sweat pants and sweatshirt on over my bathing suit, as the breeze was overwhelming and chilled my bones. His voice loud and ringing, Bob told me not to touch my clothes. His face was red, about to go into rage mode? I thought. We were alone in the middle of the Long Island Sound. Anchored off the shore of Mamaroneck's coastline. I could see Orienta Point Beach, but not another soul was out on the water. Or on the beach.
"Get in the water!" Bob demanded. "I want to see if it's cold or not. You're going to test the waters!"
I don't know what got into me, but I refused. Huge mistake. But I didn't think that until the second after I said, "No. I don't want to."
Bob pulled his penis out of his swim trunks and peed all over me.
And then the what I call hyena laugh. There was the wicked laugh and evil smirk that he became known for.
"Now, I bet you'll go into the water!" "And let me know what you think the temperature is - I might want a swim."
Okay - so how disgusting was that? I don't remember crying. I certainly don't think I said another word. What I do remember is getting up, feeling like I was going to puke from being drenched in Bob's urine - and I jumped off the boat, and into the water.
It didn't end there. Demanding my opinion on the water temperature, I said it was too cold. He helped me back onto the boat and took out a joint. Then he had another thought.
"Take off your bathing suit and get down on the floor (of the boat)."
It was time to be his sexual victim again...
I didn't fight, I didn't yell. I had already lost myself and my voice.
Do you know the story of the frog that dies in boiling water?
If you drop a live frog into a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out of the pot. To escape and save itself from sure death. However, if you put this frog into a pot of room temperature water, and then slowly, steadily, bring the water to boil...the frog will stay in the water until it dies.
I was a frog in a slow boil. Rape, public humiliation, denigration, and mind control were the tools Bob used to bring the pot to that slow boil. Thinking I deserved what I got, who knows what else went through my mind back then...I married him. After all that he took from me, my dignity was shattered. I didn't think anyone else would ever want me, as the remains from Bob's torments left me a broken person.
I didn't think anything could get any worse. However, in married life as husband and wife, the hell got hotter than ever.
Why am I telling this story, my history?
If you ever think my voice comes from the soul of a victim, I wish to correct you right now. At this moment, I can tell you differently. I don't know who I was back in 1978. After that July 4th evening, I lost who I was.
And now I feel like I have finally found her. Me. But how many other girls end up being abused during the dating period, not knowing the signs from the very beginning?
Bob lavished me with attention. He would call me several times a day in the beginning. I thought that was sweet, showed that he cared. Wrong. It was a means for him to know where I was at all times. And is all part of the control these perpetrators need to have.
The gifts I was given? I came from an affluent background, so Bob had upped his out-of-the-blue surprises to Gucci handbags, a Louis Vuitton briefcase, flowers, jewelry....He'd hit me, buy me gift. Rape me, send me flowers. A cycle that was tumultuous in and of itself. Beyond damaging! Crazy making.
And this all happened PRIOR to my marrying him. Of course it is with a huge amount of humility that I share my experience. I was not shallow, being swayed with gifts - but I did always believe that Bob was sorry and could change. I ended up thinking that for 2 decades - and it never happened. Never any remorse.
My concern now is for young women everywhere. I never had any daughters. But I pray for daughters everywhere. Young women need to believe in themselves to a point where no one can take their dignity away from them. They need to be taught the differences between a man who truly cares for them, and a man who needs them like every prison guard needs a prisoner.
And young women need the unconditional love of their mothers. Mothers should nurture their daughters, guiding them to develop into strong women in their own right.
Teen dating is much like testing the waters. In order to end domestic violence, women must escape situations whether the abuse is swift and unyielding...or slow and unassuming. Young women need to learn the signs of abuse at an early age, so they don't have to learn how to undo the victim mentality like I did. It's not an easy road to transform the v for victim, into the v for victor. Not everyone is as lucky as me. Not everyone ends up finding their voice.
Teach your daughters the difference between a man who considers her property, and a man who views her properly. The difference between a man who wants to control her, and a man who wants only the best for her.
Teach your daughters the difference between a man who needs her as a means to an end, and a man who cherishes her until the end of time.
And we must teach our sons to be the better kind of man.