"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Friday, March 4, 2011

"You were there!"

For a safe place, go to http://littleselves.blogspot.com/ 

     One of the ironies of my abuse is that it cost me my best friend. We grew up together (to the extent that I grew up with anyone who wasn't actually on our family travels with us) and my father molested her, as near as I can figure it, within days of his molesting me. We were both 13 and in looking at a photo of herself taken very close to that time she mourned, "I was still at the age when I was eating blueberry popsicles!"
     She had apparently always envied me, although I am not sure why. Yes, I was the first of us to move to a foreign country, the first to get a book published, the first to marry and have children, but I didn't know we were in a race and she accomplished all that and more, earning a doctorate. I was delighted for her and have great respect for her mind and accomplishments.
     But when my father molested her, she blamed me. I have never understood that. After we became adults, she was describing what he had done to her and I was appalled.
     "I didn't know!" I said.
     She glared at me and said  "Yes, you did! YOU WERE IN THE ROOM!"
     I felt all the air knocked out of me. What was she talking about? I couldn't possibly have been present when my father molested my best friend--and not know it!
     And then memories started to coalesce, faint stirrings and rustlings, whispers, and I realized I had been in a darkened room one night with my friend when something happened. I knew my father had come in the door after she and I had gone to bed. But he had not turned on the light or spoken aloud or come over to talk to me. There had been a long silence and then--then I heard their whispers, at least his.
     I remember lying there puzzled. What were they saying to each other? What did the two of them have in common that I did not share? It--mostly the silence--went on for some time and all I could feel was--left out. He was my father, not hers. I was jealous.
     Now, decades later, she was telling me the content of their "tryst." He had explained to her that he was a doctor--which was technically true, just as it was true of her father; mine had a doctorate in physical anthropology. He said he needed to examine her breasts.
     I talked to her mother about it just once. Her mom shrugged it off. "Earle just looked at her breasts," she told me. "I don't think it amounted to anything."
     But for my friend, it amounted to everything. When the abuse was over, she went from sexual victim to militant feminist in a single savage leap. She asked me to watch a movie (I've forgotten the title) about two sisters reacting in different ways to the same molester. She told me one sister represented the "right" response to her abuse. I didn't realize until I had watched the whole movie (and then with a shock) that the sister she approved was the one who dedicated her life to bitterness.
     My friend turned her own bitterness against the male half of the human race. "Can't you just hate my dad?" I asked her. "He's the one who violated you--not every man." But she wouldn't see it.
      She hated me too. We made very rocky attempts at friendship for a few years but she seemed to blame me for everything in her life. "We're both on the same side," I tried to tell her. "I was his victim, too. And," I attempted to make her feel the intensity of betrayal I felt, "he was my father. He was the only father I had." She had no capacity for empathy--or sympathy.
     I even tried to point out that my father was not the only moral offender here. Her father and mine had cooperated to save the negatives of the photos of naked little girls. That just infuriated her more. How could I accuse her father of such a thing? My mother, whom she idolized, told me my friend's father had propositioned her once. My friend wouldn't hear that, either. She wouldn't consider the fact maybe her father was also a voyeur and a reprobate. No, only mine. 
     It was my father and I hadn't stopped him. I hadn't protected her. It is the typical syndrome, to blame the mother.
     Only I wasn't her mother. I was just a confused little girl soiled by the same slime.
     "If I had had any idea he was molesting you," I told her, "my God, I would have stopped him! I would have done whatever it took to protect you somehow."
    But it was too little, too late or too--something. She needs her bitterness and nothing I could say will ever convince her to let it go.

For a safe place, go to http://littleselves.blogspot.com/ 

Today I am thankful for hot chocolate with marshmallows.

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