I punished myself for 23 years of my life. I didn’t know I was doing it, I didn’t see the deep rooted hatred that I held for myself, but it was there all the same. Even now that I recognize my behavior, I still have trouble not taking some form of blame for the events that scarred me and may I dare say strengthened me at the same time.
To understand what I mean you must realize that rational thought has nothing to do with the demons festering just below the surface of my mind. I was fourteen but I wasn’t a naive child. I had been raised to be aware of predators. My parents educated all four of my siblings and I on the dangers of the real world. I knew not to get in the car with a stranger or accept an open drink at a party. But see I was fourteen and suffering from diagnosed depression. And like many teens in the 90’s I chose to drink and smoke pot to dull the underlining sadness that plagued my heart. I wonder now why I hadn’t found it odd that my friends parents let us drink and smoke at their house. Nor did I question the interest that my friends father showed in me.
At first he discussed religion with me. He was a Buddhist, I was Jewish. He taught me meditation and praying to my own higher being. I was soul searching and he found the perfect thing to make me trust him. He never touched me when we were alone meditating. That was one of the smartest things he ever did. He supplied us with alcohol and waited until everyone was too drunk to notice.
The first time we were all drunk and watching a movie. It was dark and I was laying on the ground against the couch. I’ll never forget the way he tip toed his fingers down my shoulder, past my collar bone, to my breasts. I didn’t believe that it was happening. It couldn’t be.....but it was. And this is the part of the story that explains why I punished myself for so many years. While at first I couldn’t believe what was happening, there was a point where I knew what was happening and I made a choice to go back there. I chose to go back and possibly be violated. I chose to be a victim. I loathed myself for years for that simple fact. I despised myself yet at the same time I became an activist.
I helped and continue to help other survivors or victims to overcome the demons that are haunting them. I help others to see that they are worth something and that it is never their fault. But I never applied that same thought to myself. Even when my father pulled the truth out of me and we took the man to court, I was fighting for those girls he had already hurt and could hurt but not for me. Let’s not forget that this man was my friend's father. I put his father and mother behind bars. Therefore, I lost most of my friends. That was fine with me but I spent my high school years being spit on and pushed in the halls. I was called a whore and a slut. I was told I was worthless and I felt that way.
At 16 I met an older boy who treated me great or so I thought. I got married when I was 19 and had 3 amazing kids Throughout my 17 years of marriage. I love my children and have always empowered them but I was blind to the abuse that I received from my husband or to be honest I felt I deserved. I’ll never forget the first time he raped me. I asked him to stop but he pinned my wrists down and refused. I didn’t fight him. I cried silently while he rutted on top of me. My cheeks burnt from the tears rapidly coming down. I couldn’t believe that my husband had raped me but I felt it was my due to pay for my childhood mistakes. My husband forced himself on me many more times after that. He made me believe that I was damaged and that’s why I didn’t enjoy it. But worse of all he emotionally abused me and my children. He was the text book definition of what a gas lighter is. But one day I found out that my husband was on sex groups on the internet. He had 150 pictures and videos of him masturbating. There was evidence of him having video sex with other women and men. And surprisingly enough it was this that opened my eyes to the fact that I had to stop being a victim.
I was pissed that I had endured sexual and emotional abuse from the one person I trusted the most for more than half of my life and he was also screwing other women! If he had these other sexual partners why did I have to suffer. I kicked his ass out, I divorced him, and I utilized the same NOVA Services I had as a kid. I felt broken. I was ashamed and I still hated myself. I joined some trauma groups along with my one on one sessions and also explored with controversial therapy. I made friends that helped me to see that I had value and that I didn’t have to be a victim. I was terrified and contemplated suicide. It wasn’t easy and I had to visit all of my nightmares but now 18 months later I finally set myself free. By taking the poison out of my life (ex husband) And the help from some other amazing survivors and therapists I’m done punishing myself. I was a victim but now I’m a survivor and I’ll never stop telling my story to anyone that will listen because knowledge is power and it’s time we took that power back!
By Ettie Petroski
[Please scroll down to add your comments]