Browsing Tag

abuse

Abuse, Guest Posts

An Open Letter to My Childhood Abuser (I Choose Me)

August 15, 2016
abuser

By Mariann Martland

Dear You (the one who stole my childhood),

Time creeps in without me noticing, and suddenly it’s morning again and you’re not here. Yet, you are. You’re always here. You’ve always been here.

I don’t mean to think of you. I mean to live everyday with purpose, meaning and intention, but it’s so damn hard since I began to recall the dark magic you played on my life – it was so very dark.

I feel a tapping on my eyelids, reminding me that I’ve not slept all night, but it seems pointless now. Nothing will change when they reopen:

You’ll still be gone and you’ll still be here, living in my mind. I will feel just as exhausted, for the terrors of the night play hard. Continue Reading…

Compassion, Guest Posts, Surviving

The Dress That Binds, Or How I Learned To Love My Mother

July 15, 2016
mother

By Jill Rothenberg

I held the delicate piece of lace tulle between my fingers, the light pink froth of it peeking out between the hot pink of the skirt layered on top. I pulled it off the rack and held it out at arm’s length, considering what kind of top would be perfect: plain white bodysuit or the cream-colored sweater with gold bling at the neck? Would the perfectly coordinated pastel pink fur coat be too much?

I took them from the rack and considered them all, holding each over the skirt in my right hand.

“Jesus Christ, I’ve been looking all over the store for you. Put that stuff down and come on.”

I jumped and turned around, the clothes falling to the floor.

There was my boyfriend, who had caught me red-handed in the little girl’s section of Target.

You would have thought he caught me with porn. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

Of Mice and Memory

June 6, 2016
abuse

By Avery M. Guess

Dealing with the consequences of abuse looks a lot like this:

You go into your kitchen one morning and pull the small frying pan out of the bottom cupboard—the one to the right of the stove, one of the two or three in this rented house’s kitchen you have to close just right if you want the latch to catch—because you are determined to eat better and save money and because you love egg sandwiches with cheese for breakfast.

You see what looks like a mouse turd. You wonder how it got there—how there could be a mouse in your kitchen that had previously only harbored black ants and four (maybe more, but definitely four) termites prior to your landlady spraying for them while you were out of town at a writing conference in Tennessee.

You step on the garbage lid opener and dump the offending turd, clean the pan, cook your egg. Sooner than later that day you are pretty sure it wasn’t the poop of a rogue rodent you saw, but your imagination playing tricks on you. You see something in everything. Patterns that aren’t there. This was nothing. Never mind the now half-remembered odd sounds coming from the same cupboard over the last couple of weeks. Sounds you also dismissed because they came like memories—only every so often and gone before you could recognize them as something real, something tangible. Continue Reading…

Bullying, Guest Posts

Heart Whispers

May 31, 2016
bullying

By Amy Pecic

I was born with a hole in my heart.

This is the literal and figurative truth of my life. You see, stitching up the physical hole—when I was just 19 months old through a high-risk procedure I wasn’t expected to survive—ended up being the easy part.

It’s terrifying, sure, but a congenital heart defect has a simple solution: operation

I would beat the odds and go back to being a healthy, playful little girl, just one with a “zipper” on my chest—the nickname my father lovingly gave my surgery scar. I wouldn’t feel weird, different or broken. I’d make friends and live a delightfully sheltered life.

In fact, in third grade I’d stumble onto my passion, and for a brief moment, one other hole in my heart—the spiritual one—would fill blissfully up… Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

19 Years (and 2,000 Miles) Beyond Sweaters and Smiles

May 4, 2016
abuse

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses abuse.

By Lindsey Fisher

Nineteen years have passed since I left him, a decade since he last tried to contact me — time enough that I can almost forget the sound of his voice, can almost imagine that the things he did to me happened to someone else long ago and far away. Except that they didn’t. They happened to me. On October 23rd, I published an article on Vox.com about my recovery from the violent relationship that consumed my teenage years. Two weeks later, my former abuser reemerged, like an unwelcome ghost from the past, to make good on his decades’ old threat to me: just like he said he would, he denied everything.

I had left his name out of my article, scoured it of identifying details about him, his family, where we grew up, our school. He was so far removed from my life that revenge was beside the point. I wanted to use my story to help others, to take a terrible thing that happened to me and make some good come from it. To that end, I think I was successful: my article was shared several thousand times on social media. Teachers and parents wrote to say that they would use my story to help guide the teens in their lives toward healthier relationships. A friend used my piece as a springboard to come forward about the abusive relationship she had endured in her twenties. A college junior reached out to share that my past was hers, too. She had felt alone, as if no one else had been through what she had, but my story gave her hope that she would find her way to a happy, healthy adulthood. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

The Long Goodbye

April 18, 2016
father

By Leanne Chapman

My father died today.  Or at least he was my father once. I hadn’t seen him in almost 25 years.

People told me I’d regret it if I didn’t go and see him when he got sick. But I don’t regret it. They said I’d suffer if I left things undone, but it feels done. Our time together ended decades ago.

My father was not the primary abuser of my childhood, he was the enabler. I’m grateful to him for buying me a bicycle and teaching me to ride it, for encouraging my swimming and walking beside me as I swam my first 50 metre lap, for indulging my love of animals and the outdoors.

If he’d been married to someone else, he probably still would not have been a great father, but he would’ve been a father.

He didn’t want children, and when they found out they were both infertile, he was content to remain childless. My mother pushed for adoption, and he decided after my arrival that parenting wasn’t so bad after all.

My mother shifted the opposite way. If I’d been a puppy she would’ve returned me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving

What The Body Remembers

April 17, 2016
rape

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses abuse and rape.

By Claudia Smith

For Meihua, my daughter

When I was small, Jesus was more than love, more than an important figure to me.  He was the soul of everything. I could not imagine my world without him any more than I could envision a world without rain, sun, clouds, or earth.

A picture of Jesus hung over my grandmother’s dresser; he wore a cream robe falling in a way that only suggested a body, light shooting from his barbed valentine heart. He was so very beautiful; his hair was light brown, his beard split into a small heart as well. It was difficult to read the expression in his eyes and over the years, I saw many feelings in them. Gentle forgiveness, calm resignation, even lust. If he was in pain, he seemed to have transcended.I preferred this image to the crucifix that hung in church. I can’t say when I began to understand that suffering was his love, or at least the proof that was needed for me to understand the depths of his love.

Years later, when I was no longer Catholic, when I wasn’t sure if I was anything, I still prayed when I was afraid. I would say the Act of Contrition, Hail Mary, and whatever else I could remember, even after my understanding of Jesus had complicated and when asked, would call myself a “lapsed Catholic.” I liked that. It left things open. When I prayed, I imagined the eyes of the Jesus in that classic Sacred Heart picture, not the Jesus nailed to a cross. That image sort of pissed me off. Why should I trust him more because he was tortured? Wasn’t his love infinite? What was the torture for anyway? Continue Reading…

Abuse, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Things the Missing Would Tell You

December 12, 2015

Trigger Warning: This brief essay deals with child abuse.

By Keema Waterfield

Halfway through my first pregnancy I imagine my mother, age 19. She is unwed, the weight of my future self putting a bend in her back, widening her hips. The ghosts of her childhood trail behind her like lost buttons: all those years with her brother, the powerlessness, the shame, the guilt, the angry mother, the denial. That black place the hurt goes, overflowing. A baby sister she can’t protect looking at a lifetime of worrying at those same choppy waters.

How my mother’s heart must have ached at the thought of me.

It isn’t hard to imagine.

My own ghost is a man we knew by the name of Ray, but whom we later learned was wanted in fourteen states, give or take. He had one eye and a gun, both of which he laid on me in my top bunk somewhere around my third birthday, his pants around his ankles. Mom away for a few days, picking up furniture. My baby sister in the bottom bunk making a noise in her throat that no person of sound mind could hear without offering comfort.

I think of Ray when I hold my growing belly on dark mornings after another visit to the bathroom. I think how ponderous the shape of sorrow is. How little it takes to upend a childhood, like a table on its side: dishes broken, food soiled, water glasses emptying themselves onto the hardwood floor.

At dinner now the table is upright and the lamplight has grown reluctant listeners, but there is still a world of missing children out there. Missed. Misused. If you’re lucky and some part of you makes it back people tell you slow down, be a kid, but the missing learn early that childhood is a mercy only sometimes granted, and dessert is offered only to those who suffer gently.

I’ve been thinking about silence lately, how much it makes me want to break open all the windows in the world and scream. Because I know now what my mother knew then: the missing don’t have a say.Keema_Waterfield-Author_Photo

Keema Waterfield is a 2011 MFA grad from the University of Montana’s nonfiction program. She has been published in Pithead Chapel, Redivider Journal, Understory, and the Anchorage Press. The title essay from her forthcoming memoir “Inside Passages”, won the 2011 Cross Genre Award at Mason’s Road.

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, Surviving

Stranger Savior: Escaping Abuse

December 6, 2015

Trigger Warning: This piece deals with physical and mental abuse and contains graphic language. 

By Candace Roberts

We train our kids to know, “stranger-danger” these days, but my escape from my abuser finally happened by a “stranger-savior”. In a gas station parking lot, I watched the stranger mouth, “monster” as my abuser was ferociously banging my head into the driver side window. I was in the driver’s seat and his hand was reached from the outside with a firm grip on my long dark brown hair. I was in shock and couldn’t believe what was happening.

The woman clung on to her cell phone and called the cops. I saw her mouthing the report off to the dispatcher. She backed up and drove away horrified. That was the first time and the last time I ever saw that angel. I wish I could have thanked her.

I was horrified, too. But, ironically not for my life or safety, rather for my reputation and knowing that I would be embarrassed if any one else saw me in that situation. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Self Image, Sexual Assault/Rape

Encounters On A Train

November 3, 2015

By Yana Walder Cook

Sensitive material is contained in this essay. Mention of rape/sexual assault.

I grew up in post-Soviet Union Collapse Ukraine. In 1990s, being a female teenage girl was a hazardous liability. I watched girls disappear into the dark underbelly of nightclubs, human trafficking and drugs and did my best to escape that. All through middle school I bartered potatoes for English lessons. The year twin towers fell I turned 16, and given one lucky break, I found myself in Boston with a United States Green Card. I ended up on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts where I slowly healed from years of scarcity and violence. I diffused into the scenery and went to the ocean every day, until my writing and my love of travel brought me face to face with the reality of human trafficking again.

I met a Ukrainian girl on a night train in Italy; it was 2011. I was travelling from Vienna to Venice. My laptop sat open on the table between us and she watched me typing at it until it got very dark. She ordered us each a glass of steaming black tea and a cookie.

“I have a story for you,” she said at around midnight. “It is a story of hundreds of girls like me; half of these stories will have died with the body they belonged to, And those stories that survived will never see the light of day because of the shame and stigma and the powerlessness…”

Listening to her was like looking fear right in the face, but there she was sitting across from me, so I knew the story was going to end well somehow. She was like quiet ash, beautiful, sad, soft-spoken, transformed by life into fine mincemeat. Here is Sefi’s story.
***

When this story began her name was Serafine. The name was given to her presumably by her mother.. at least that was her hope. She knew she was born outside of Kharkiv in Ukraine, but she never met her mother because for one reason or another she could not keep the baby and gave up Serafine at the hospital. This story began when she was 14 years old. That day in November of 1999, she got busted for smoking, which was prohibited. At the orphanage of 200 kids between four and seventeen years old, her only reprieve was smoking a cigarette in the outhouse above a hole in the floor over a pile of shit. Hiding away, she thought about how it was even possible to feel this alone even though she shared her bedroom with 18 other girls her age. And she thought about how painfully cold it will be to go pee in this outhouse in about a month. No indoor toilets at this orphanage. Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, healing

Crying Turned Me Into A Real Girl

October 17, 2015

By Janine Canty

Living with a cruel man for seventeen years teaches you that tears only bring more pain. Tears on habitually bruised and torn skin stings. Tears only feed a fire you can’t control and don’t understand. At first you might try crying in the shower or  over the sound of the washer. He watches in the shower. He’s deaf in one ear, but he hears over the washer.

He knows your hiding places and what your voice sounds like when it’s trying not to cry. He can see your tears before they form. He anticipates them before they fall. They are Mardi gras and Christmas rolled into one for him. Proof that he is right and you are crazy. Your wet eyes and begging give him fuel.. Pass him his manhood with your ravaged face. Slumped shoulders. Downcast eyes. A cup of black coffee. Extra sugar and shaking hands. I hate coffee. I taught this body not to cry in order to survive.

Numb is good. Numb is quiet. Numb is nirvana among the shattered green plates and ripped shirts. I kneel on broken glass with bloody knees. I hold a piece of glass in my palm. I wonder what it would feel like to open my wrist. To see my life flowing out onto the floor. Among the glass and cat hair. Turning the couple of cheerios the dustpan missed, red. My hair is tangled. Dirty and in my eyes. My face is aching  and dry. I wonder what my casket might look like. I wonder if my Mother will cry. I envy her if she still can.

***

I’ve become my own memory at 31. Have I stored up enough numb to end me like a broken sentence?  Pull the glass down my wrist. Let someone else clean my stain and non tears. Wipe the flesh that used to be a girl named Janine, away. The baby coughs once, then again, from a jenny lind crib. He’s had that cough a day too long. The house is chilly.

I touch the back of his head lightly with the hand not still holding a piece of glass. Like an admonishment. A reminder. A warning. I pick up a doll my daughter has kicked out of bed. I chuck it towards a cracked toy box. I’m cradling the glass in my hand gently, the way I once cradled them. I don’t cry when I sweep up the mess. I  wrap the glass carefully so none of the kids cut themselves. I’m not satisfied.

I slip my feet into the monsters slippers. I carry the bag to the shed behind the house. I push the lid down firmly on my non tears. My non-suicide.  My non-self. I get in the shower while he’s not there to see.

I don’t cry. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Anonymous, Fear, Guest Posts, Self Image

Working On It

September 28, 2015

By Anonymous

He took me to sushi on our second date and I told him how it’s neutral Zen glamour reminded me of the Japanese restaurant I’d waitressed at in New York in my twenties. The uniform so by far the nicest thing in my closet, I wore it to a wedding. A dress with stains like salt flats in the armpits,  that forced me to hover around the reception, arms clamped by my sides.

“The big broad comedy version of that,” he started, “is she gets to the wedding and has forgotten to take her name tag off.”  He was a half hour writer, I was one hour. He smiled at his own pitch, and I felt like he got it. That he got me.

I was attracted to him and never fake laughed once, until the end of the night, when he said, “People working on themselves, if I hear anymore about people ‘working on themselves…’” and I giggled praying no self-help mantras scribbled on post its fell out of my purse.

We started dating. He said I was confusing — a mix of a 50’s housewife and Gloria Steinem. I fell in love because every time he spoke I was surprised by how emotionally intuitive and funny he was.  Like when one of my job interviews got cancelled and I rolled out the slogan “Rejection is God’s protection.”

“Well,” he said, one eyebrow raised, “if it rhymes, it’s definitely true.”

At which point we laughed until we were pink.

The night I really fell for him, though, was the night we had plans and he texted that he couldn’t make it. He’d had a meeting at a poncy members only club  earlier about a feature. Disappointed, I asked him to call me. Hours later he came over, explained he wanted to be the best version of himself around me.  After the meeting, (which didn’t go well) he went to the horrible valet which is like a Tesla/RangeRover/SmartCar parade. His old truck wouldn’t start, and the valets explained that his car wouldn’t “go.” He had to call a tow truck and the whole debacle crushed my heart. Because every time I walk into the stuffy place, I feel like I am at a wedding in a waitress uniform again. I fell for him that night.  For his vulnerability and his reticence.  For the guy part that didn’t want to be a mess and the sensitive part that knew that standing me up was hurtful. I thought we could work. I thought it was my kind of guy who could hold both.

A few weeks later, on my couch, he noticed a book, the Dalai Lama’s “The Opening of The Wisdom Eye.” He picked it up, thumbed through it, settled on a page and read aloud. I listened, sort of soothed. Most of the quotes were about grappling with death. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, love

Perfectly Imperfect

May 31, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melissa Dodson

I’ve never felt Enough.

I’ve always felt Less Than.

I’ve belittled and berated myself. I’ve put myself down. I’ve told myself all of the lies that I can’t and I won’t and I should and I shouldn’t. I’m too fat. I’m not pretty. I’m not good. I’m not worthy. I’ve shamed myself. I’ve starved and binged and purged myself, all the way down to 73 pounds at the age of 19. I’ve wanted to disappear. I’ve hurt myself and cut myself, before cutting was even a thing. I’ve swallowed pills and puked them back up. I’ve smoked the pipe, and emptied bottle after bitter bottle until poison filled my belly and ran through my veins, so that the only way out was getting pumped out of my stomach in a sterile hospital room. I’ve looked for love in the worst places, with the wrong kind of men. The kind that don’t respect me, don’t see me, don’t care about me. That want to hurt me, with their words and their minds, and their hands and their bodies. I’ve been in harms way. Too many times. I’ve made bad choices. Too many times. I went back after he pushed me, again after he hit me, and kicked me, and dragged me by my hair. And again and again. I went back when I knew he could kill me. I went back when I knew that I might not make it out alive. I’ve been beaten down and gotten back up, more times than I can count. At the mercy of the vicious hands of an abuser.

I was lucky. I did make it out alive. And even luckier, I did find someone who loves me. He sees me and hears me. He is gentle with me, and to me. He loves me and likes me. He wants me. He cherishes me. He’s made a life and a family with me. A good life. A happy life. A beautiful family. But…. But. Behind it all, I still wait for the shoe to drop. The luck to run out. I wait for him to know what I know. That I’m not good. That I’m not worthy. That I’m not enough. That I’m less than. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

The Letter No One Wrote My Mother

April 8, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Shawna Ayoub Ainslie.

Dear Mother,

There is so much I need to say to you, because you are a sister to me. In a new way, now. We share a fear of seeing anger in a man’s eyes. We share a fear of those we love being hurt, and hurting those we love. We share a fear of hurting. This love is beyond friendship. We are betrayed. I want to hold you. I want to make myself safe for you. Always, you can cling to me.

For hours, I have walked my floors and washed my hands with tears. You are precious to me. I have known you since your daughter was a baby. With you, I have loved her and watched her grow. Both of you are family to me. I know I said it all wrong yesterday. You left and I thought and thought about how I should have said what I owe it to you and your beautiful daughter to say. Yesterday, I was surprised by what you told me. I was reminded of my history, and I tangled the two. I spoke in sticky webs. Today, I have paced, cried, and vowed to untangle my story from yours. I am putting it to paper.

Here it is.

Fact One: Your husband is hurting your child. He is hitting her. He is kicking her. He is shouting at her, belittling her, destroying her every day.

You believe you are on top of it, though. At the end of each day, you try to reverse any damage. You tell her how wonderful she is. How beautiful. How smart. You say words at her that are the glorious truth of her existence. You tell her he doesn’t mean it when he hurts her. That’s just how he is. He can’t help it. Look at how he was raised.

Fact Two: You are hurting her, too. Every time you try to reverse the damage with words, you reinforce it. Why? Because you let the damage happen in the first place. You choose not to stop it. Every time you tell her that he doesn’t mean it, or that he can’t help hurting her, you are hurting her just as much as your husband is. Maybe worse.

Why? Because someone has to be to blame. If you say it is not him, that means it is either you or her. Since she is the one he is hurting, she will believe it is her. Until she grows up. Then, one horrible day, she will realize it is you. You should have stopped it. Because, when you say that he can’t help himself, you are saying you believe he will never stop hurting her. That he can’t stop hurting her. And you keep him around and let him hurt her. That makes it your fault.

Fact Three: You never knew that you would abuse your child.

You don’t accept what I’m saying.

You do accept what I’m saying.

You hate yourself.

You hate me.

You feel betrayed.

Why am I saying this? This is not your fault.

How could this be happening?

I can tell you. It is real. It is absolutely real. You are hurting your child. You never meant to do it. But you are doing it. And it is happening because, like your daughter, you are also a victim. You know it is true. She is not the only one he tears down. She is not the only one he holds hostage with the fear of that anger in his eyes.

I am so, so sorry.

You feel confused. You don’t know what to do. You packed his bags and met him at the door one night. Told him you wanted him to leave. Things had to change. Somehow, he stayed. Somehow, you let him stay.

You feel angry. Why is he still there? You want him to leave. You want him to make this easy. He could just get out. Why doesn’t he?

You feel guilty. If you turn him out, you’re giving up. And hasn’t he had a hard enough time of life already? You are his partner. You made a commitment. You need to keep your family together.

You feel sad. Continue Reading…