The card tumbled out of the book I had loaned to a friend to read, as I took it out of my desk at work.
I love cards.
The friend had read my story, The Brighter Side of A Darker Thing, and put an encouraging note inside.
The person had a background in social work with kids who had been physically and sexually abused. They noted that while they understood that my faith helped me in that time, they wondered how I did not turn out to be a destructive individual, either being angry with myself or others. And they wrote that they were sure that most survivors of childhood sexual abuse keep much of the dark stuff inside.
Memories, triggers, hurts.
I think one challenge I faced was realizing that there would never be “true justice” for what had happened to me.
Sexually abused from age 7 to about 12, with full blown rape happening around age 9, my perpetrator, although arrested, never served time for the crime. Charges were dropped because my family did not want me to endure the pressure of the court proceedings, and also because a key witness was unable to testify.
I felt angry, betrayed. I felt like a freak as I went to school with other girls who seemed to have great lives. They were in band, cheerleading, sports, clubs.
A pen and notebook.
During the years prior to me telling my family what had happened, during the time my greatest secret was told, and during the aftermath, and since then .. writing has been a release for me.
I often have a hard time articulating my feelings and thoughts verbally (not a great off the cuff responder to questions usually). Writing enables me to freely express what is on my heart.
Besides the abuse, I also was bullied by numerous people in middle school. I was surrounded by girls who said they hated me .. though I did not know why. There was one girl I did not even know who started a fight with me, saying people told her I wanted to beat her up. I guess my subsequent laughing was not the best response (I did not know her, after all.) For 2 whole weeks she hounded me until we actually did have a fist fight in the girls bathroom at school, for which we were both suspended.
Then there was a group of kids at the bus stop who used to call me names and make fun of my clothes and my appearance. I dreaded the hour long wait at the bus stop in the snow.
There was a group of like 3 or 4 girls who rode the bus who also often followed me home, pushing me to the ground, where I skinned my knees on the asphalt, and ran home, bleeding. Again, I did not even know their names.
There was a boy in one of my classes at school who started walking by me and slapping me hard on my hip and backside as I went from one class to another in the school corridors, every day for a little while. I sustained bruises from the attacks. One day, with my long nails, I finally grabbed his arm and dug in, leaving bloody nail marks on his arm. And of course, the teacher yelled at me. When I told the guidance counselor what happened the last few weeks, we were put in separate classes.
About that time, my eyes started opening to nature .. the birds, the trees, the snow, the shine of sun on a body of water, sunrise, sunset, the smell of rain and of dandelions when you pick them and pull their petals off, or blow the seeds into the wind.
Maybe it was disassociation, I do not know.
I had an attraction to light. Little lights, candles, tiny flashlights.
Turning my attention to writing dozens of poems, I eventually wrote for my middle school newspaper, The Crusader.
Somehow, seeing my byline made me feel as if I was not, as my bullies would say, worthless.
At the 8th grade yearly awards convocation, I won an award for my writing, The Shyrl Craig Creative Writing Award.
My life changed.
After I reported my abuse, I felt like nobody understood me nor listened, like I must have somehow deserved it.
Looking back, practical things my family did that helped me were:
1. The rules did not change. When I disobeyed my parents, there were still consequences.
2. The church was there for me, my only real friends in my childhood. We were all, well almost all, a little nerdy.
3. My grandparents on my Dad’s side took an active role in developing my interest in reading and writing. We talked about news articles, encyclopedia entries, the Bible and recipes.
4. Counseling helped. But more than a few sessions would have been nice. I later received years of therapy as an adult that really helped my perspective.
5. After my sister died, I was an only child. Because I grew up mostly alone, luckily I learned to self soothe my spirit through music, art and reading. As well as church and a few school activities. I feel that every kid in a public school should be in something. We were poor, so anything I was involved in had no cost.
6. Most of my family loved and nurtured me, although because of the abuse, it took me years to see that.
7. As an adult, I love to read, write, take photos, garden, listen to music and occasionally play my guitar, painting, crafts, sewing and crocheting. I love spending time with my family and friends.
I am glad that though I would never see “justice” .. that I did overcome. And still overcome. It is a daily choice.
Three words come to mind: Light, Peace, and Mental Health.
Outward actions regenerate the spirit, causing internal healing.
More on that, another day.
I am encouraged to keep sharing my story.
Life is not ever perfect. Life is full of challenges. But life can be beautiful for me when I choose it to be so.