A Note From Jackie…
Here is a life story of a woman who is working through the hurts and pains of a life of abuse. I am always so humbled when someone shares their story and gives us all the gift of trust. Please join me with me in appreciation toward yet another survivor of abuse.
Where to Begin
I am 39 years old. Some days I feel like I am about 18 and other days I feel about 108. I grew up on a farm outside of a small north Iowa town. I am the middle child of 3. I grew up feeling kinda like a leaf in the wind. I was just doing and going where ever my friends and family wanted me to go and be.
The First Memory
My youngest memory is that of a sordid occasion. My great-uncle lived across the road from my family. He was a drunk and a nasty looking and smelling man. He was an old and creepy acting man. He was nothing like my grandfather was gentle and level headed. Even though they were brothers, you’d never guess it.
I remember smelling the beer on my great uncles breath. He invited my little sister and I over to his shack. (He lived in a one room shack with just electricity, no running water nor bathroom facilities.) He lured us over by offering us chocolate pudding. Of course as a child, who wouldn’t want chocolate pudding? So we went. My little sister got scared being away from our house, so left me there alone. I was about 5 or 6.
I remember the smell of beer on his breath – so wickedly sour and pungent. He grabbed my little wrist and slung me into a chair. He said that I was to tell no one, especially my dad that I was at his place. He kissed my neck. I tried to get free of his grip, but I couldn’t. I tried to kick him, but I couldn’t. He pulled me onto his lap while he sat in his rocking chair. I remember feeling like I was in a whirlwind. My head was spinning with where I should be. I should be home. I felt like the room was spinning. He kept kissing me with his wicked breath. (This is a stench that I will always remember.)
Fast forward about 8 years. My mom and her sister were best of friends. Our families were always best friends and always over to their house. My cousin was just a bit older than me. One night, when my older brother, our cousin and his sister and I were getting ready for bed, I began regretting that I was related to the two older boys. We all were all sleeping in a huge bed together, when my cousin started touching me. I heard my brother kissing my younger cousin. I had a terrible feeling that I knew what was going to happen. My cousin started kissing and touching me more and more. Finally I remember giving in and in my mind I went far away. It felt like I was watching from a distance. Then he pushed himself on me. He made me do things that (at 12) I didn’t understand or know what they were. It was as if I just watched on.
Another day many months later my brother coaxed my younger cousin and I to the haymow at their farm, of course we went. Jumping in the haymow and building forts was great fun. Neither my younger cousin nor I expected anything but fun. We were sorely wrong. The boys started doing inappropriate things again. We were feeling very frightened because they told us that they would hurt us and our younger sisters if we ever told anyone. Again, I floated away into my own world. This time, I don’t remember what happened after I floated away.
The next thing I remember was that I was falling…my cousin pushed me out of the haymow onto the ground below. All I felt was falling and then pain. I felt severe pain to my left shoulder and my face. I had hit the ground. I was crying and hurt. I was angry. The next thing I knew, my younger cousin fell on top of me.
We were both in tears as we got up and headed toward the house. We didn’t know what to tell our moms. When we got inside, they asked us how we fell out of the haymow. We said we tripped and that my younger cousin had grabbed me and then we both fell out.
The Abuse Continues
My next memory is similar to the previous times with my brother and older cousin. I don’t know exactly how old I was but I was still young. My brother, older cousin, his sister and I went down to the railroad bridge. There was a deep pond under the bridge. We had all swam there before but this time was different.
When we first got in, we played Marco polo and some other water games. I remember at one point that I was under water and I couldn’t breathe – someone was holding me down. I felt like I was dying. Finally they let me up for air. I was dizzy. I had trouble catching my breath.
The next thing I felt was a had going down my pants. My cousin was fondling me. I knew it was wrong and I tried to push him away. But in the water it was so hard. I was about 13 or 14,and I knew what was happening to me. But I didn’t understand why or what I had done to deserve this. I knew from the “mother/daughter tea”, that this thing called sexual intercourse was something you didn’t do until marriage, especially in MY family. It was an unspoken rule that you don’t even kiss anyone until you were sure that this person was the one you were going to spend the rest of your life with.
No Relief in High School
As I got older and into high school, the sexual abuse got worse at times. My older brother set me up to be gang raped by some of his buddies. This happened after volleyball games or football games. It was always the same. They would cover my eyes with a handkerchief and lead me to the back of some out building on the school grounds. Then one after the other, they would take their turns. I quit fighting after about the 3rd time of being put through this torture. I sent my brain outside myself and watched what was happening from somewhere above. I wanted so badly to figure out how to get out of there but I was afraid of being beaten. They always told me, “Keep your mouth shut. Don’t you dare tell a soul. You bitch! You better not tell anyone.” I heard this talk every time. The threats stopped me in my tracks. These were just more secrets to be held.
Graduation and Escape?
Finally, I graduated and felt a sigh of relief. I could get away…very far away.
I attended a Lutheran liberal arts 2 year college in a town about an hour from home. It was probably one of the smartest things I have ever done. I became so involved in everything on campus so that I didn’t have time to think, let alone be in a relationship with anyone. Relationships did come and go. Some were good and some were not so good.
I had no clue how to form a good relationship with a man. All I knew was that abuse, hurt and sex went together. I expected that every man I met would hurt me and leave me as trash.
That didn’t always happen at college. I dated a few guys, but mostly I was just friends with them. I hung out with them, watched football, etc. It seemed that the guys who were attracted to me had some of the same issues as me. They also needed to be loved and touched and held. This got me in trouble. I started to crave attention and love. I got into a couple of really bad relationships. These guys never beat me or took advantage of me, we skipped all the in between stuff of getting to know each other and straight to delving into the meat of who we were and what we wanted and when. I ended up having sex with a few different guys because they knew my game and if they played me just right, they could get what the wanted from me. I wanted to feel loved. I wanted to feel safe. These guys talked big and assured me and reassured me that they were “the one”. I was naive or just plain gullible because I believed them every time.
Then one summer while working at camp, I met this really great man. He went to another Lutheran college. We hit it off like crazy. We talked for hours and hours. At nights when we had campers, we would meet in an informal area out under the moon and stars and just talk and talk while our campers were sleeping in the cabins with our junior counselors. He was like a dream come true. He was one of the most gentle men I had ever met. As the summer when on, he and I became best friends. He was struggling because his father was an alcoholic and his mother slept around. He felt like odd ball out because of this. So, he and I talked about this and many other things.
he wrote me a poem:
The Letter and Poem
This is the whole letter so that you can understand where he was coming from:
Aug. 10, 1989 – Well I took your advice. I haven’t used my creative tools much lately – so bear with me. My amateur skills whipped up this poem. It made me do quite a bit of thinking, which isn’t bad. Be prepared, here we go…
Gentle warmth and endless security.
A unique display of patchwork
Each piece so securely bound
With a few loose threads
Needing close, personal attention.
A brilliant radiance
Attracts all to it’s inner beauty.
It’s amazing to note various
Colors and patterns within one unit.
Pain, hurts, and insecurities.
Unbound-less joy, care and humor.
Either way, each piece is special
For the quilt wouldn’t appear the same.
He says next, “I think I got across what I wanted. What do you think? There will probably be more as the year goes on. I am hoping they’ll improve. Speaking of improving, I am wishing my health would too. oh well, chat to you later – got company. SMILE”
So as you can see, not all my relationships ended up bad. I did have a couple that were half way decent until later down the road when I found out more about their personality.
After my camp days, I ended up not knowing where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be. I found myself in the hospital with suicide attempts and overdosing, a number of time. Finally, after being asked to go to Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas for treatment on their Trauma and Eating Disorder Unit - I went. I spent 6 months at the clinic as an inpatient working on all the dissociative things that happened when I was younger. I learned new coping skills and different tools to help me with things. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. Overcoming all that has happened to me would be a lifetime of challenge and work.
My Life Today
Today, I am nearing 40 years old and I have worked through a great deal of my pain of the past. There are still things that get to me and I flip back to the old ways of thinking. But I am coping and doing better.