Connecting the dots TW

If I told you of all the men, you would not believe me.
“Til it happens to you, you don’t know how it feels…you won’t know, it won’t be real…won’t know how it feels.” Lady Gaga

I think if I purge it all then I will be free of it. I talk of it as if it will release each memory and go into this space of the internet where all will be cleansed and free of the pain. I just don’t know if that’s true. But keeping it inside of me will destroy me. So I speak it. It makes me feel worse at first. I feel vulnerable. I think others will judge me or think I’m making it up or I’m crazy or give them reasons to shift blame to me. Then when I stop thinking of them and I have stopped thinking about the event I wrote about, a little tiny place inside of me feels…vindicated. I’ve kept their secrets and after I reveal them then I feel some sense of justice even if real justice will never happen for me. And it won’t. All of these men can’t be found, prosecuted, held accountable for what they did. And they are not thinking of me. They are not suffering. They are sociopaths, psychopaths, pedophiles who did not think of me for a second after I was gone. There will never be justice for me. I can just let out what I can into this internet space of men who will read this and get pleasure from my pain. That’s a chance I’m taking. It wasn’t everything that was done to me as much as how it all made me feel. That ONE moment. There was always a moment of realization. Where I knew I had been used up and tossed aside. Right before that moment, I could have been feeling joy or maybe even loved. Then came the moment of loss. The realization that if I allow myself to feel joy or love that it will be taken in the cruelest of fashions. I was so groomed and brainwashed that every form of affection was interpreted as love until it caused pain and only then did I see it for what it was. I was so manipulated and tricked and forced that I knew nothing of purity and goodness from men.

I met someone who lived in Indiana a few days ago. I told this person I had a waterskiing job there. I went on with my day and later that night I grabbed a handful of chocolate chips. Then the flash came. I remember being picked up from the airport for that job in Indiana and taken to the home of the director of the job. He was so handsome and I was so flattered that he thought I was beautiful and he gave me so much attention. It was days of sex and just being in his bed and showering and more sex. I’d never been treated so affectionately or adoringly. He never offered me any food or meals so I would go into his refrigerator and get bread and in the pantry was peanut butter and chocolate chips. So I made myself a sandwich. Peanutbutter and chocolate chips. I created this fairytale that I’d go to my first day on the job queen of the world. This man must have loved me! It was this automatic love! We drove to work through the corn fields and they were beautiful. We were in his jeep and I was waving my arm up and down like the blowing corn. Surrounded by corn. I saw myself smiling in the mirror. I felt joy. I had just escaped my home life where I was abused by the ski team for my entire childhood and finally I got this job in Indiana and I was free!
We got to work and he dropped me and my suitcase off and acted like he had just picked me up from the airport. He told me I’d be staying in the skihouse with all the other skiers. He did not touch me again. I was 16 years old. He was 25 years old. That would be considered rape in the laws now. In this county and city at least. But…Too many had already had sex with me. I knew no different.
I looked at the chocolate chips in my hand just two days ago and remembered that part of the story that I’d forgotten. I remembered him and what he did. He humiliated me multiple times later in my career just because he could. He neded up at the job I took at Seaworld years later. Everytime I thought I was free I wasn’t. I have put together over the years that the entire waterskiing community was connected. I was abused every place I went that was waterskiing. And that was everywhere. That’s what I did. I skied. That was my job. My career. My passion. And it took me to different places from Indiana to Costa Rica to Canada all to be abused by different men.
Everyone was connected. I made a chart one day to see the connection.
Each line connected one, two, five, 10. Each one was an added secret. Each one was a new loss. But all connected.

I ran into an old friend from the lake who introduced me to his friend when I was late teens. I knew I would be safe with this guy because he said he was saving himself for marriage. But he liked to videotape making out with girls. I’d never been videotaped before. Half way into the videotape he told me that he didn’t believe that anal sex counted as sex and he would still consider himself a virgin. His plan was to trick girls into making out with them under the premise that he would stay a virgin so they’d be safe only to find out with the videotape rolling that what he considered virgin was not what they considered. That was one of the only times in every scenario where I stopped everything. I don’t know why he was different but I told him to stop and I told him to give me all of his videotapes of all of the girls. Maybe it was me realizing that he’d tricked all of these girls into having his kind of sex with them. I could never stand up for myself but the idea that he’d done this to others made me stand up for them in the best way I could. He’s out there. Married. All of them are I’ve kept tabs on them. I like to know where the abusers and manipulators and rapists are. They are all married with kids and grandkids.

When you watch movies and documentaries of sex trafficking you see women and girls tied to beds drugged with men having sex with them 24/7. This does happen. I know many women through abuse programs that this has happened to. Violent rapes with beatings. Not all sexual trafficking is that.
In my case, one man, when I was 11, told another man. Then I went to ski school at age 13 and that man told another man in Indiana and then that man told the guys at Seaworld, That waterskiing world was connected to my church and the theater group I was in. Everything was connected and every person told another person so that there was no place on earth I was safe.

Our town had a group of men who had sex with each other behind their wives backs. They had affairs and who knows what else. Love? I don’t know. It’s been said some were in love with their lovers. I don’t know how they felt, I just know it happened. Secrets in the church. Secrets on the ski team. Secrets on the lake. Secrets in the theater. Secret affairs. Secret molestations.
Nothing could bring attention to the men and what they were doing. Having sex with each other. Some men who were molesting the little girls were FRIENDS with the other men having sex with other men. THESE MEN! THOSE MEN! How could one man stand up for me when he was cheating on his wife with another man and his secret could come out? Some of these men came out as gay many years later. Some of those men did not hurt me but didn’t they? They were all part of the inner circle secret. Each had a secret of their own. None of it was good. None of this scenario was good.

The inner circle secret. One man connected to another by either sharing me or by using me to keep their secret. They knew about the secret of me but their secret was more important than saving me. You may think oh they were just gay men who could not come out. Let me tell you that any man or woman who allows a little girl to be abused just so their own innocent sexual identity won’t be shared, is not innocent. These were men. Married men. Allowing a little girl to be abused and caring more about themselves. Am I to feel sorry for them? Poor man who cannot just be with his male lover? While cheating on his wife? While knowing what happened to me but pushed it under the rug? I don’t accept that.

I am not talking about homosexual orientation and whether it is right or wrong. I am talking about a specific set of men who surrounded my life and allowed me to be tossed around like garbage because they were more important. And this is not just about the men either. You don’t think some of the women knew? Oh they did! And I held them MORE accountable than the men! That was then. I’d say it’s a level playing field now of the men and women involved that kept secrets.

I wrote out a chart of every man who had ever hurt me. How all of the men were connected. I kept going back to that moment my father shook the hand of the man who destroyed my entire childhood after my father KNEW this man had abused me. The big man on campus, on the lake, head of the ski team. They shook hands. My father shook hands with the man who abused me and ruined my childhood. They were the inner circle. Those two men. I could draw lines to and from everyone from each of them.

Chocolate chip memories and secret men groups. How will writing about all of this help me? I am not sure yet. But I know keeping it inside will destroy me and I really do want to live beyond this.

My family washed their hands of me long ago. As did every man who ever touched me. God how I wish I could wash the stench of all of them off of me!
Somehow their inner circle of secrets has gotten so large that it enveloped me.
Connecting the dots has brought the evils of the world into the light. It stayed in the recesses of my mind in the dark until it could stay there no longer.
Remember as a child you’d connect the dots and draw the lines and in the end you’d see a picture of a pony or cat. I connected the dots of an inner circle of darkness and found that what I’d hoped for all along never could have happened. I could have never been saved. There was no one to save me.

Poetry…trigger warning

Shall I remove my locks?

Cutting away your desire of my flesh

Wasn’t it the flick of my hair

Or did you win me in a bet.

And what if I remove my breasts

No,

When you first touched me

I did not have any

Yet

(Hard words for you to read, imagine them in my head

Imagine me as a child in his bed)

Shall I gain 40 pounds of fat

No,

They should have told me

Weight won’t stop

Them,

From

That.

What can I do to remove you!

You’ve taken so much for yourself,

I am

Without myself,

A shell.

Residues of you

Come in scents and smells.

I am sentenced to a…you-hell.

Shh keep quiet,

I fight the years of grooming,

“Don’t tell. Don’t tell.”

Whether deemed saint

Or deemed whore

You take what is not yours…

Society does not care what is behind closed doors.

Neither do the molesters.

If not me,

Just another girl.

And the blame lies on my skin

Paper thin

From all the men.

So many men.

Yet it is their sin

Which they will repeat

Again and again and again

(No one will ever step in

To save the children from

The predator’s den. I know this,

It’s where I’ve been)

Word of me spread

As just a young child

” She will never speak of it,”

Like fire in the wind for miles.

The demand for youth is high.

But there would have been no demand,

I kept thinking as a girl,

If not for the multitude of detestable man.

You could never understand.

You will never understand.

Which is why I am alone here where I stand

(Or rather sitting in a wheelchair with a pen in my hand)

We call others barbarians!

Other countries

Other religions

But WE are the land of the great

Where little girls,

it is accepted, get raped.

Rich or poor,

We don’t escape

Behind the golden gates.

I watched

As protestors held their banners “Love. Not hate.”

It did not create change

Only action

Not bumper stickers

Could have unsealed my fate.

You say, ” NO! We do not accept rape.”

Then you turn back to your ham and your pie on your dinner plate.

(My story of your lack of action is not up for debate)

“I’ll kill him and they will never find his body,” I’ve heard a man claim, “If anyone were to touch my daughter,” he says in vain.

Words are more easily spoken

And rarely cause a stain.

A man will not risk being detained

But he will shout from the rooftops his empty distain.

And women…the wives…the same.

The cannot even whisper my name.

No one in the town.

No one on the lake

Where everything took place

I tried to tell the truth

But they covered my words in paint.

It would have taken only one.

No violence.

No words.

To give me self worth.

To make me safe.

No one chose me

TO THIS VERY DAY.

“Take her, she won’t complain, we have manipulated her brain.”

“She has nothing more to lose and we have everything to gain.”

The underworld is right in your face

As is the next little girl’s fate.

Your mere faith

Will not help her to be safe.

You cannot pray this away.

” If I only knew.”

You know.

The pain of my youth.

Everyone knows this truth.

It has nothing to do with me

It has everything to do

With you.

It has never been about me

But always you

And you

And you

And you.

So place your napkin in your lap

And devour your next piece of fruit.

Quietly

Pridefully

Chew.

It’s all you’ve ever done.

It’s all you’ll ever do.

I am the proof.

My own narrative

Trigger warning

A few days ago a friend of my husband mentioned an author that talked about vulnerability and courage and shame. She has a show on netflix now called The Call to Courage. It stirred up so many thoughts in me that have not stopped for days.

When my husband’s friend mentioned the word shame I was very quick to say that I had never felt it. Upon great reflection I think during Yom Kippur I have realized that I felt shame on many levels. Mostly I felt shame as a young girl which is why the truth could not escape from my lips for a very long time. Equally important was the shame that I felt others felt about me. Since no one wanted me to speak the truth, or speak the truth themselves I believe it left me in a constant cycle of shame. Maybe I was not good enough for them to accept or validate. Maybe a LOT of things but shame was a big one.

I cannot write the narrative that they tell others about me or that they even believe themselves. I have to some how pull myself out of even the concern of what their narrative of my life even is. I can tell you it is not my truth. It is only the truth they perceived and/or wanted to believe OR maybe it is just all steeped in denial and their own shame. I cannot speak for them I can only speak for how it has all made me feel. I KNOW how much I need to escape from the grips of their stories now more than ever.

I have never felt pretty enough, good enough, worthy enough. I like the person that I am more than I like most people because I know my own heart and it’s ability to care. I like me yet I don’t feel worthy. Worthy of what? I don’t know. Just worthy.

Even when I was doing admirable things like helping animals in wildlife rehab or helping the elderly in hospice, I still did not feel…good enough. Good enough for what? I don’t know.

For one I am not worthy of my own parents. They didn’t feel so as they so easily left.

It’s interesting because I have taken part in a genetic study where a brilliant geneticist has made it his mission to find the mutation causing my muscle disease. To do that I had to revisit the idea of my father’s mere existence on this planet. It’s easier to pretend they don’t exist than to accept that they do but don’t choose me. He was asked to donate a DNA sample for me, the daughter that does not exist. He agreed. He wants to help me he said. He hates to see me deteriorating he said. But he has not seen me in three years. I am worthy of spitting in a cup for DNA but I am worthy of nothing else. It hurts me. (This came to me second hand as I have not spoken to him)

In this week of reflecting on shame in its many forms, I keep flashing back to this photograph that was given to me when I was 15 years old by my boyfriend. It was right before my 16th birthday and he had written on the back of it but I never read it. My mother looked at the photo and turned it over. It was a photo of him standing next to his BMW. On the back he had written, “ From the two things that love to ride you most,” meaning he and his BMW. My mother was unaware I had been having sex at 15 years old and was mortified and I was sent almost immediately to a GYN to get on birthcontrol. I was so ashamed. I was ashamed she knew. I was ashamed that he had had sex with me at all. How ironic that I had not felt shame before. His is my fist recollection of feeling shame. Not when I had been molested by men for the 5 years prior.

I had met my boyfriend on a blind date when I was 15 to go to his homecoming dance an hour and a half away. I always wondered why my mom let me go on this blind date so young. But I also wondered why she let me go to the mans house who molested me all those years before. These things I will never understand because I don’t believe on my mother’s part they were intentional but in my own heart I just wanted to feel safe again. I had hoped it would come from her or my father. It came from fleeting moments of abusers who were mascaraing as people who loved me. Well back to my story…The night my boyfriend had sex with me I think was the first time I truly felt the dissociation that is PTSD. This was no romantic story. This was not a gentle loving experience. But he was my first love. I had no idea what he was doing was not only without my consent but that it would lead me down a path of shame that I would feel for years. It was in some back room. Ramming and ramming and ramming and blood everywhere and him leaving and me trying to hide EVERYTHING. From 11 until many years after I knew love as pain and sex and dominance over me. I find it sad now that I was so in love with…well…a rapist. I was in love with many men who turned out to be rapists. Once a child has been through sexual trauma at an early age their is a veil over what love even is. I did not know love until my husband when I was 24 years old.

So when my mother read the back of that photo she felt ashamed of me but had no idea the shame I felt for myself. She had no idea how horribly the GYN would treat me after finding out I had sexually transmitted disease because NO ONE at the time knew I had been being sexually abused for years and years prior. For some reason I felt that since my hymen was never fully broken that what the men had done to me was not really rape. It was. I guess I just had a super strong hymen! Well that hymen misled me greatly. They were actually more gentle with me than the boy I had fallen in love with at 15 years. Gentle rapists and child molesters. That’s what I thought. But there was nothing really gentle about them. They had just groomed me for so long and I was so confused that I did not know what was good, bad, right, or wrong. I knew that it all felt terrifying. I knew that it all made me feel sick. But I had no safety net or safe space to speak my truth and I had no way of knowing how to get away from ALL of these men who were around every corner of the waterskiing world and after. Everywhere! Men just waiting! Like they somehow knew ” oh yep, she’s been raped before, yep, lets take her!” That is what it felt like. Hmm. I guess that is why sleeping in my car at my Sea world job felt so safe. There were NO MEN.

I was thought of as an introvert, shy, soft spoken. That made me “sweet.” I stayed traumatized and quiet most of my life and those child molesters and rapists upped their game as I got older knowing there were no limits on what they could do. I got passed around from person to person and my value and self worth lowered and lowered and lowered.

By the time I decided to speak my truth I spoke it loudly. And I became not “sweet” anymore. I became angry. Apparently having a voice gave me a new label and changed my personality completely. That is not true. I just…became. Since I started telling my story I left all of the shame behind. In my growth and age I learned that these things done to me were not my shame. I had a blog called: Not my shame…no my secret. I stopped writing that blog a year ago after 3 years of bearing (no clue how to properly spell this word so be easy on me!) my soul to the world. I needed more time to reflect. I needed quiet time to grow more about myself. It is hard to know one’s true self when that self has been layered with lies by others and at the hands of others.

During Yom Kippur I realized that I had every right to be angry but that stooping to the level of those who have hurt me IN that anger was wrong. I have said some unnecessary things that came from emotions and even though they were factual they were also hurtful and mean. That is not me. I allowed that to come from me out of pure fury towards my family who has denied me and shamed me. So as I continue to tell my story, my truth, and facts about my life, I will be aware to not be malicious in intent. I cannot make myself the person they believe me to be.

While watching Brene Brown on Netflix she spoke about who will step into the arena with you. Who will be courageous and vulnerable and speak the truth. Those who cannot will throw criticism at you and I have felt that criticism. I am brave. I am truthful. I have allowed myself to be vulnerable as I have spoken about the abuse I endured in great detail. That detail, those details, made my family ashamed of me. I was even told that no one wanted to hear the details. That would not be true for the 40,000 women and men who contacted me over the 3 year period of writing my original blog. YET a few family members seem to have more power over my own self worth than those 40,000 people. How astounding!

I was molested and raped more times than I can say between the ages of 11 and 24. That was just my life. I had succumbed to it. So many men. So many times. There has not been justice for me. There has been rejection, abandonment and loss. There have been nightmares, triggers, PTSD moments, suicidal moments and ongoing therapy. I cannot change certain things. I cannot change what happened. I cannot change how anyone reacted to it. I cannot change my family. I’ve spent too much time hoping I could and not enough time accepting I cannot.

My father spoke with the geneticist of me fondly. Fondly. That’s his narrative of me. He remembers me fondly as a girl who was sick as a child and as an adult who is suffering with a debilitating muscle disease that he can now help with by spitting in a cup.

I rarely share how much pain I am in with my own husband and I have never shared the pain I am in with my father. My father has no idea how much I suffer. He does not know me. He has created little parts of his nostalgic feelings of me into a relationship that does not exist and where his love is actually real. What he has been in my life is not love. He lives in a narrative : Where he never shook the hand of the man who molested me. Where he never made me second to everything else in his life. Where he spent no time with me and never knew anything about me or what I was going through. His narrative is not true but it is one he created. I am sure my mother and the rest of the people that have left have created there’s too. They think they know how I feel, what I’ve been through and what I am going through. If nothing else I know they view me as weak and someone to be ashamed of. That is not what I THINK their story is of me that is what I know to be true. Because if they were proud of the mother, wife, daughter, woman that I am…they would be here. They are not. I roared. They ran. I am still as equally as sweet as I ever was. I am just no longer silent. But see how much I have gone on about them. Well it is hard not to when someone or a group of people affects you so profoundly in a negative way.

Their narrative should not matter. For some reason it does. So when I told my husband’s friend that I felt no shame, that was not true. I FEEL the shame others are putting on me. My body REMEMBERS the shame of learning I had sexually transmitted diseases because of molestation and rape. My body remembers my mother’s face looking at that photo and her shock at her daughter having sex yet having no idea the same daughter had been molested for countless years prior. My mind remembers the smells, the hands, the pain, the suffering, the desperation, the loneliness. PTSD will not allow me to forget. It seems to have tightened its grip on me firmly. I do not feel shame about what was done TO me by the abusers. The shame is not about them.

So while I capture beautiful moments in nature as a coping skill, it is to practice my mindfulness and to balance out the trauma with something wonderful. It does not mean the trauma is not there. But there are only so many things I can control. Behind the lens of a camera I feel no shame in anything. There is no past or future and just that one beautiful moment.

Learning how to not care about the narratives others have created about me is another story. I have to overcome this. I have to eventually not care because I know none of it is true. I can’t make others proud of me or make me feel worthy. I can’t make my family anything other than what they are and what they were. As I focus on me and my own healing I would say the hardest part is facing, accepting, moving forward, from my family and how they have made me feel.

I am living the truth. It’s all I can do. I wish I had the luxury of living in a lie or denial. I don’t. If nothing else at LEAST I can say I am authentically me. May other authentic people step into the arena with me. It has become quite lonely in here…

My story: trigger warning as abuse subject matter is talked about in detail

I was diagnosed with a muscle disease 12 years ago and with in that same month was sexually assaulted. It was a month that would change my life in ways I was not prepared for. But who really prepares for the aftermath of sexual assault and/or a muscle disease. I wish the two weren’t in the same sentence. It makes it seem more unbearable. One would have been just hard enough to face and learn to cope with but the two together did not set well. The muscle disease left me feeling vulnerable and helpless which is the LAST thing that a sexual assault survivor ever wants to feel. So, reality check, muscle disease causes daily triggers to the feelings I hated most about being attacked and this muscle disease is not going away!

Those two things made me face a reality that I did not even know existed. I was unaware of it. Well, I was aware of what had happened to me, but unaware of the consequences.

I was sexually abused as a child for many years. I have flashbacks of what he did to me. I have nightmares of what everyone else did NOT do to protect me and help me heal.

Shame is not an emotion that I feel. I cannot feel ashamed of what others chose to do to me. That is on them. Fortunately, that is not a burden I carry because I know that everything that happened to me was not my fault.

Tonight I was having dinner with my husband at a restaurant when I realize a pen had burst in my purse and was on my leg and hand. I tried to wipe it off and it wasn’t coming off. I had a PTSD flashback right then and there. I remembered what I did not want to remember. I tried to refocus but I was gone. I don’t like things to be on me that I cannot get off. I don’t like smells to get on me. I don’t like pens to get on me. I don’t like anything that cannot be immediately removed. It is because abuse could not be removed. The feelings could not be removed. The pen reminded me of scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing and not being able to remove what was done to me as a child. I have many triggers of smells, touches, am easily startled, and none of it I can help. None of it is my fault.

This is why I can so freely tell my story. I have written two books of poetry on amazon kindle and if you have unlimited they are free. They are simply written. I don’t feel big words and confusing dialogue are important to express the depth of our emotions. I wrote the books as part of my healing process. Sometimes I can write what is in my soul only in poetry form. The words of trauma are still hard to speak. The two books are called: The Secrets of Lilly Lake and My Body Speaks. Writing them helped me through a difficult time and transformation in my life. They were the first step in discovering my authentic self. It has taken a few years now to shed the lies, shell, judgment, and expectations others have put on me in regards to THE SECRET being the abuse I endured. They didn’t endure it. No one did but me. I endured the abuse. But everyone else had their own opinions, their own agendas, their own coverups, their own secrets, and none of that involved healing me.

I feel like I’m being too cryptic because I know how hard it is for others to read the words of abuse in full description. My life has been a tornado though and it can not be easily written in a perfect timeline. I’ve been blown from here to there and back here again, often lost inbetween. But I will tell my story the best way I can.

I have often wondered why the assault 12 years ago was so life changing. I have been through hypnosis, somatic therapy, trauma therapy, and TONS more therapies, but it was on my own that I realized the truth of this. It was the first time I experienced shock. It was the first time I recognized that I had completely left my body in what I would later find out was PTSD experience. This trauma reminded me of all the traumas I had experienced before. It pulled them out of the layers of secrecy to the forefront of my mind and I had to finally face the truth of my life.

I answered an ad in the paper to assist with wild life rehab. It was something I had always wanted to do. When I met her I loved her way of life. She wanted me to bring my daughter to help with the wild life rehab as well. So my two year old and I fed little baby birds and syringe fed squirrels. We were introduced to her sister who had a farm FULL of animals. I thought it was a dream come true. Her sister had a neighbor who had 100 acres that we could ride horses on. For 8 years this was my life. I was also a volunteer chaplain for nursing homes and hospice and my daughter would come with me to visit some of the patients. She loved making these individuals feel like they mattered again. She brightened their day. Our life was perfect.

On the outer rim of these experiences was always my family that never faced the abuse I went through in childhood and were a constant reminder of what was. They would often burst my happy bubble with, “ I saw Rick at the store yesterday,” knowing Rick was just a reminder of the abuse. We couldn’t talk about the abuse but we could talk about everyone intertwined in the abuse at their will. “ I went over to the ski club today to try and find your old ski,” boom slap in the face reminder that they will be throwing this old life in my face forever. Trigger, reminder trigger, reminder, but I did not realize at the time how triggering it was. I would go back to my wild life rehab and everything was safe there. So the girl in the ad became my best friend and we spent most of our time with her or her sister planting vegetables, riding horses, feeding injured animals. There were red flag along the way but at that time, again, I didn’t know what red flags were because I had not faced my past. Red flags that most people would have run from but I was numb to red flag. For example, her husband confided in me that he didn’t feel he loved her anymore. Another example, her sister’s husband beat her up over a political conversation gone bad. Another example, I trusted her with my daughter alone (which I only did once) and she returned her to me with alcohol on her breath. I was numb from my past so these things I chalked up to…nothing. I was so used to overlooking everything. “ Put on make up. Change your clothes. Do something with your hair,” were constants from my family and I was so used to being berated and not being good enough that I saw these other family dynamics and was not alarmed. My self worth was zero. My value was zero. Every good thing from my family was laced with their own guilt and their own need to change me. I was never ever good enough for them. So when these things happened with my friend I let them go and continued going to her house.

We had recently taken in a dog from Honduras. This part is relevant. A friend of mine was dying and asked if we would take her dog. We did. This dog loved my daughter so intensely that it caused discord with our other dog. A discord that we could not remedy and eventually ended in a fight to the death between the dogs. It was the night of the dog fight that I went to my friend’s house to get supplies to patch up our dog. She was a nurse and I needed her help with stitches and such. I basically lived at her house so driving there and using my key was common. I searched her house and could not find her. I never found her that night. I never did find out where she was. I was frantically searching and sobbing needing my friend to help me with the dogs that were in bad shape. It was late at night. My husband was called out to work but could not leave our daughter alone so he was waiting on me to get back with my friend to help the dogs. He was waiting at home. I was frantically searching. I finally entered her garage where her husband lived, another red flag I overlooked. I noticed the gun leaning against the door the moment I entered the garage and even asked about it. These were kind and gentle people. They never shot guns. He said he was shooting at armadillos. That was his reason. But they saved animals. They would never kill animals. So I just looked at the gun there while crying asking him where she was because I needed her at which point he stood in front of the door with the gun and closed and locked it. I slowly sat down in a chair. I remember watching my hands. I remember looking for a phone. I saw the charger but the phone wasn’t on it. I remember the slowness of everything going around me and the silence as his voice drowned out in the background. I knew something terrible was about to happen but I was frozen there. I would come back to the present moment and here him talking about killing himself or maybe if he could just have sex with me that he wouldn’t kill himself, and then everything would go silent again and slow. I’m going to skip forward past what he did to me because even 12 years later I cannot speak all of the words. I ran though. I unlocked the door and I ran. I got into my car and I looked into the rear view mirror thinking he was coming for me and I don’t remember how I got home. I felt dead. I pulled into the driveway. I was gone along time. My husband rushed out the door because he had been waiting on me and was angry that I had taken so long, not knowing what happened. The next day we put my friend’s dog from Honduras to sleep. There were no other options. I was in shock. I did not speak of what happened to me for a week at least. I did not sleep for days. Life went on. I heard the voices of, “ God your floor has so much dog hair on it,” from my brother and thought in my head why are you here? Why are you commenting on my house? “ You need some sun. You need to get tan! You are so pale,” he said and I thought, why does he care? Why is nothing in my life or me ever good enough for this family. Why do they come here just to say negative things and put me down? I had just been through this trauma but no one knew about it. But they DID know about my childhood trauma and they treated me this way? My shock continued. My dog was dead. My other dog was injured. My child…somehow I had to tell her that our life had changed. There would be no more farm or wildlife rehab. There would be no more horse back riding and picking blackberries off the vine in our friend’s yard. It was all over. I finally told my husband who called my friend and had her come over. We sat her down and told her everything. She would leave him. Nothing else needed to be done. She would leave him and life would go on as it had previously. I did not tell my husband or her about the death threats, about the gun, about the details. I could only say that he sexually assaulted me and held me against my will.

We decided that her leaving him was enough and I had waited too long to call the police so that was out. The next day she called and I could hear him in the background sobbing. He admitted to her what he had done and begged for forgiveness. She was calling me asking me to just forgive him because she was staying with him. She said we could just keep being friends and meet at her sister’s house and ride horse like nothing ever happened. But it did. But I agreed because I didn’t want to take this life away from my child. We met out at her sister’s house and her sister sat me down and told me that had I not dressed the way I did that it never would have happened. She also told me that it had happened to her and her daughter and I needed to just let it go. We never went back there or to my friend’s house. She lives 2 miles from me through the prairie. I couldn’t drive that road for over 10 years. A number of months ago I heard that he had left her. He was no longer there. I drove back through the prairie to visit some old farm friends. They told me I was welcome to visit their animals any time. Some of them told me they knew about what had happened and they had known all along that he was a predator. Why they did not tell me this… I drive back there and past her house once a week to visit some goat and horses and donkeys. It is the only distance I can drive with this muscle disease. One day I drove into her driveway and past that garage. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. It was harder than I thought.

Before our friendship ended I was taking care of her sister’s neighbor’s animals while he was out of town. The man with the 100 acres. I went to feed his animals and he had set off flea bombs in the house with all of his animals inside and left to go out of town. I went in to try and save them. I exposed myself to toxins which got in my eyes and on my skin. I threw up repeatedly but I got all of the animals out. I tried to save them. I bathed them. I took them to get them activated charcoal. I never thought of myself. I needed to bathe and activated charcoal too! It took a week but all of his animals died.

A few months after all of these traumas I was sent to the mayo clinic and after a few follow up visits, finally had a muscle biopsy. I was called by the doctor and told I had central core myopathy which has no treatment and no cure. I did not listen to her and contacted every specialist in Japan, Canada, US, England, NIH. And over the next 10 years have been a part of every case study that exists. Through my own persistence we have found that I have a rare form of the disease with out the typical genetic mutation but other mutations that could point to 2 diseases or the original disease with a new cause. But I found out I had a disease. I had lost my best friend. I had been traumatized and I was definitely not ok.

I ran into him in a grocery store. It had been so focused on by my friend, his wife, that I did not fight back. That was her main and only focus was why did I not just fight him off. It did not matter that I had declining health because even though I had yet to be diagnosed with the muscle disease I HAD to be stronger than he was since he had post polio which only affected one leg. Another red flag I had ignored when he pulled his pants down in front of my daughter and me to show us his atrophied leg years prior. I saw him in the store and could only think about confronting him and how that would “fix” everything. I did. I started yelling at him in the middle of the store that he is a sex offender and should be in prison and I cannot believe he got away with doing what he did to me. I had him back up against the wall and was in his face and said everything I had wanted to say. He said it was my obligation as a chaplain to forgive him. Those were his only words. There was a lot of cussing on my part after that. He then ran away. Ran out the door and to his car on that leg he said he could barely walk on. I stood there with my grocery cart shaking all over and sat down on the floor. The manager of the store came over to check on me. I asked if he could put all my food back because I needed to leave. He did.

I built up this idea of confronting my abuser and how that would undo and fix what had been done. It did NOTHING. It changed NOTHING. What he did to me was still there. I did not fix anything. I did not feel justice. I did not feel strong. He was still free to be out harming other girls and confronting him did not take away an ounce of the trauma that he inflicted. It quickly wiped away my unfounded need to confront his wife and her sister and everyone who allowed this man to stay in their lives knowing what he did. Confronting them would not change them. They already made their choice. I could only process what happened, go to therapy, try to cope.

It was not until 8 years later that I was diagnosed with PTSD. After what he had done to me, all of the childhood trauma came into focus. I started to see, as an adult, the reality of what had happened to me as a child. I started having nightmares and sleep walking. I showed all signs of PTSD but I did not know what PTSD WAS! I had been groomed all of my childhood to not speak. I was silenced. I could barely speak of what happened in the garage. I could barely speak of anything or show any real emotion because it was a way of life. I was “sweet Bethany.” I was told that by so many for so long. I could not be anything else. If I showed anger, or emotion, or passion, or rage, or tears, or truth, it was, “ well that’s not the Bethany I know, where is sweet Bethany!” I stuffed down my entire life until it began to eat away at the pieces that were left of me (the title of the book I am writing Pieces of Me).

It wasn’t until my dog passed away 3 years ago that I felt the full loss of my childhood and most of the rest of me. I felt the loss of everything. I made an appointment a few days later with a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PTSD. She has helped me to understand myself. She has helped me to speak and feel and know that this is ok. To know that all of this is normal for what I have been through. Oh, David Bloomquist is his name. The man who locked me in the garage. He was a university of florida professor. Surrounded by young girls. I cannot think about that. I can only hope that I was…well the 3rd and the last. Statistics say there are 12 though with sex offenders. I hope that isn’t true for the sake of other girls. And to think that is only one part of my story…

On the surface, my childhood looked so perfect! It is shocking really how perfect it seemed. We were a part of a ski team, my twin brother and me. We were part of a musical theater group. We were a part of the church. We lived on a lake with a boat. My mom was a stay at home mom and my dad was a play with his kids when he got home dad. It just looked so perfect. My mother’s mother lived across the lake from us and she was an integral part of our daily life. My mom brought in every stray animal so our house was filled with so many dogs and cats to love and I had 5 acres of woods. It was my dream childhood. Filled with nature and water and animals. The things I still love now. I felt loved. I had every toy or article of clothing that I wanted. I actually didn’t want for anything. I didn’t have strict parents and we’d often sit around in wet bathings suits wrapped in towels watching movies on our living room floor with popcorn not a care in the world. We had our house cleaning and lawn chores like every kid of that era that we got our allowance for and spent it at the dime store in the small town we lived in. I mean really. It was perfect. The abuse did not fit into the perfect. It did not fit in to the town. It did not fit into any facet of anyone’s lives, but apparently mine. The abuse was on a weekly basis starting when I was 11 to the best of my recollection. It could have started earlier but I don’t remember. He was the main member of the ski team on our lake. He groomed me from day one to be his victim. I trusted him. My family trusted him.

I can watch myself now as an adult in flashbacks from that time. I can watch myself as a child as if it were on a movie screen in horror! I want to yell at my childhood self HE’S COMING WATCH OUT! But I can’t. The flashbacks are just little nightmares of watching helpless me being traumatized over and over and over again by him. He was so slow and methodical about my grooming that it took me a very long time to understand that what he was doing was wrong. As I got older I realized more and more. One day I actually left his house and felt the exact way I felt as I was leaving the garage from being held. It was the same shock. I did not know it was shock then but I know it now. I had this realization that I was being abused. That everything he told me was “ok” and “normal” was not normal at all. He had power over me. Fear instilled in me that I had not even been aware of. He had pushed my face down so many times and held me unable to escape so many times that I had become numb to it and gave up all fight. It was just something that was going to happen weekly. Little parts of my own intuitions were destroyed by his words so I was left with no intuition at all. I was robbed of everything. I see the flashbacks now of him touching me and showing me pornography and remembering the feel of his body against mine and it sickens me. I was returned home weekly with no one knowing what he was doing to me. And I could not speak a word. It took me years to finally get up the nerve to speak. And it was only a whisper. It was all I could do. A tiny little whisper of words of “ Billy Banks is a very bad man.” My parents called the police and they called in the social services people who sent out older men who I could not speak the words in detail of what had happened to me. I didn’t even know all the details myself! I didn’t know which parts were bad, illegal, and I had blocked out so much (still am) that I was not prepared to speak. No one helped me speak. I had no advocate. I had no guardian adlitem. I had a man sitting at my kitchen table with my mother staring at me wanting me to tell them about the penis that was rubbed all over my body and at that age I was so horrified, embarrassed, mortified by even thinking about what happened I could not speak it. I was only able to say that he had done bad things to me. That was not enough. And just like that they closed the book. Poof gone. My brother promptly cried and begged to go back and be able to ski on the ski team regardless of what had happened to me and my parents, who said they did not want to disrupt his life or make him stop doing what he loved, let him go back to the man who had been sexually abusing me for years. My simple words were not enough. They should have been. But they weren’t. So late one night I paddled out to the ski jump with a friend I trusted with some of the details and we painted on the ski jump “ Billy Banks is a child molester. Protect your children.” That was the voice I had. I had written it. He was a child molester! There it was for the lake, the parents, my parents, the child molester, everyone on that team and lake to see. Everyone saw. The ski club members were out with their roll brushes rolling over those words as soon as they saw them. I watched them silence me. I watched my words disappear and nothing changed. No one’s lives changed. Every day, every weekend I got to watch as my brother skied with all of them. Billy would smile and wave as he drove by in his boat as would the other ski club members and I sat on the end of my dock all alone.

So I tried to kill myself. And when that didn’t work I tried to kill myself again. And when that didn’t work I tried to kill myself again. But I just would not die. My mother took me on some sort of mother daughter bonding weekend at the beach in hopes we could have this great time before I went off to a mental hospital. I could no longer pretend. I remember thinking that whole time how truly pathetic this charade all was. On weekend trips home from the mental hospital I would just sit on the dock watching the child molester wave at me and my brother out there with him. I quit school, got my GED, and got a job as a professional water skier at Seaworld and slept in my car. I HAD to get away from these people. When I got a little bit older I told them more of the truth. And I tried to tell my brother but he said he didn’t want those images in his head. He didn’t want to know. All of these same people from the ski club were part of the musical group and the church. I could never get away from any of them. The job at Seaworld my only refuge. Sleeping in a hot car during the summer in Florida was really a great trade off from watching an entire community go on like nothing had happened. I was finally 18 and decided to get an attorney to take this man to court. It was past criminal and now onto civil as far as I knew and I saved up money and spoke to this attorney. He asked me to call some of the ski club members and ask them if they would speak for me in court. That is when I found out they knew. I never had to say a word. They knew. They knew what he was doing to me and did nothing to stop him. They said they thought I “wanted it” and I was a “slut” and so they did nothing. The news of this was life altering. All of these people knew. They made me feel guilty for not giving more details but none were ever given because HE ADMITTED TO IT. My mother said that that could not be true because he would never have admitted to what he did. But he did. Which is why other ski club members abused me too. I forgot to mention that. I was shared amongst some of the men. So really my choice to sleep in a hot car and work at seaworld I felt was a good choice. I tried to come home some weekends to my mom’s house. She and my dad had divorced at that point so it was only her living there. The memories though…I moved in as quickly as I could with a boyfriend. Then I decided to start living in their secret. In their lies. I started going back home and pretending. I wanted this family. I wanted parents and a brother and to do that I had to fit into their lies. So I did.

I dated men that were far more abusive than what I experienced as a child. I knew nothing different and was easily manipulated and dominated. I was date raped multiple times due to my own (not blaming myself here) vulnerability and shell I was living in as a victim. I never spoke. I never screamed. I never fought. Two men living in this town right now raped me. I thought and overthought why and how those things happened. It was my psychiatrist that helped me to understand that I was groomed and victimized for so long and there are simply so many bad men in this world that I was an easy target.

One of the rapes was because I went on a mud bogging trip with three guys one of which I had a huge crush on and was a police officer. It was very obvious and they all knew I had a crush on him. His friend still took me in the back room of their apartment and raped me. As soon as he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and threw me on the bed I lay stone still and silent. The one I had a crush on even came into the doorway and watched. I prayed that he would stop him but when he didn’t I slipped back into memorizing the pattern in the sheetless bed that I was being raped on. The trauma just kept going on and on and on. The other date rape was a date rape. He asked me out on a date at the gym. He asked me back to his house to get ready. He raped me in the shower. I never said a word. I remember all of the words he said to me though, “ It will be over in a minute.” I will never forget that. No I should have never even been there. But I HAD NO INTUITION. Everything in me that would naturally protect me from these scenarios was dead and wiped out as a child and never put back in with love or understanding or teaching or nurturing.

I had been trapped in this waterskiing world for so many years and even with summer jobs I had getting away from the abuser, everyone knew. I would go to Indiana or Canada for a job and they said they knew about me being abused back on our lake. Gossip. Gossip led to more rapes. Men in other states in the waterskiing community knew that I would not speak. And I didn’t.

When I finally left the job at Seaworld (where coincidently one of the rapists was also working and often slapped me on the butt in front of other coworkers and told me to “tighten it up” which led OFCOURSE to the obligatory eating disorder) I finally thought I was away. But going back into the world I was just this sheep who should not have been there alone. So many men had taken bits and pieces of me. I had a wealthy friend at the time who was not connected to ANY of it. I was living in this really crap apartment and finding it very hard to get by. Although my father, after the abuse, had little to do in my life, did put money in my bank account every month to help me out. He remarried and was focuses on his wife and her kids, something, one of the only things my brother and I agreed on was that we did not matter to him at all. I had contracted rocky mountain spotted fever from a tick and we think (the doctors now) it was the beginning of the muscle disease I have now. My health was not good. I was very weak. I was tired all the time. I had constant dizziness. I met an old man at the gym who said that he had kids my age, 19, ride horses at his house every weekend. It was the one thing I could do that didn’t make me feel terrible. I would meet a ton of girls and guys and we would ride out in lake butler with this guy who had tons of money. He had a friend that was also an older man. We are talking 70’s probably so older when I was 19. He offered to pay for me to go to the mayo clinic which my parents were thrilled about. No red flags there. Old man paying for 19 year old to go to mayo clinic. They found at the time that the fever I had had damaged my inner ear causing the dizziness. At the time the did not think to look for a muscle disease. I was not prepared for the price of the Mayo Clinic and the payment the old man wanted for that trip which he tried to push on me but in that brief moment I fought. So many bad men. Everywhere. Around every corner.

So I was sick. I was trying to work and even with my dad giving me extra money I could not pay my bills one month. My good friend would take me to lunch. He would always say that at least he would make sure I got a good meal in me. It was during my anorexic years so one meal tided me over just fine. I confided in him about the abuse. About the men. And also about how vulnerable I felt being sick and not being able to pay my bills. He offered to pay all of my bills if I had sex with him. Jeff Ference. One of our own Gainesville’s best. My best pal who took care of me and listened to me had just offered to pay all my bills! What I nice guy right? I mean all I had to do was let him have sex with me. I’d been raped so many times and abused how bad could that be. We even agreed I didn’t have to take all my clothes off and did not even have to move. When he laid the money on the table and got dressed I realized the grave mistake I had made. I thought that it would make me feel in control. No. it made me feel like the prostitute that at that moment I was. Getting paid for sex even if it was by a “friend” who said I had always been “virginal” to him and he wanted to have sex with someone he though of as a virgin. Um I was no virgin. That was gone long ago in a big pile over very scary blood that no one told me about when I was just a young girl! I got therapy after that. And more therapy. And more therapy. Then more therapy.

I THOUGHT my husband had saved me from the last abuse I would ever endure which was a man I was engaged to that was particularly sadistic. My husband saved me from him and I had 10 years of just the most perfect life with the most perfect daughter and I had finally been saved. Until David in the garage.

I’ve never felt shame in the things that were done to me as an adult I am not afraid to talk about them now as an adult. I felt great shame as a child and teenager. Shame kept me silent. Others kept me silent.

After my muscle disease diagnosis my mom was a huge part of my life helping pick my daughter up from school and bringing us meals. We spent a ton of time together. She would continue planting and upkeep of the gardens I had started before my disease and help to keep my house clean. She had remarried a few times and sold the lake house to my brother for few measly dimes really. He wanted to keep the house in the family. I wanted my daughter to be able to experience the water like I did. I loved the lake. I loved the water. It was my solace and my peace. I brought her to the lake. She celebrated her 16th birthday there that my brother hosted for us. I WAS IN DENIAL. OF EVERYTHING. When he sold the house a year ago for over $400,000 I wondered at what price did that house and living there really cost me. I was sad that he sold it because, still, in my mind, there would one day be peace and I could go back and feel free. The abusers would be gone and their supporters, my family would be back together and I would swim in the lake once more.

I went out to the lake and asked the new owner if I could say goodbye. I walked down in the water and saw that same ski team skiing by. I loved that water because it was my safe place. Nothing happened in that water. I could go underneath it and live in the silence there. I didn’t need the lake anymore and I definitely did not need to see the people on it. It was past time to say goodbye and so I did.

I wrote a blog 3 years ago. It started after I had written a letter to my father telling him about everything that had happened to me. I cc’d the letter to my mother and brother. I received a series of hate mail back. My brother called my husband to ask if the things I said were really true. My husband said yes. My brother said he didn’t want to remember things that way. I thought…good thing he didn’t get abused, must be easy to remember just what we want to. My mother’s husband sent me a number of emails disowning me from the family. And just like that they were gone. They wanted the secrets kept. There were many secrets in the family. My secret older brother who came back into our lives which made me think he was no longer a secret! He visited us all the time! But when I told my cousin how happy I was that he had visited my cousin had no idea I had an older brother. It was news to me that this was to be kept a secret as I was proud to have an older brother. My aunt then called and flipped out saying that she could tell my daughter I was in a mental institution. Apparently they really wanted their secrets kept. That I had no idea were a secret. That child molester cousin apparently he was to be kept a secret. We didn’t want to taint the family name. As if we were royalty! I started my blog as a way to talk about my feelings and process what I had gone through…a lifetime of abuse only to be disowned by my ENTIRE family for finally speaking the truth. Something I will NEVER understand nor do I care to waste any more time trying to.

The interesting thing about my blog is it got 100,000 views and I received 4,000 comments from survivors of sexual abuse. I learned that my story was not unique. It was COMMON. Common to be raped. Common to be silenced. Common for families to deny it. Common for families to disown you for speaking the truth. AND all of my symptoms of PTSD…common. I had more support from strangers than I had EVER received from my family. It was a shocking eye opener. I closed that blog when it reached 100,000 views because I wanted to help and connect and reach others and I achieved that goal.

My new blog I started 6 months later. I will continue to tell my story. I wanted it to be about my growth though. I’ve made it past my family and everything they did and did not do. I have moments that it breaks my heart, moments of hate, but mostly moments of acceptance. I have more things to think about, more important things, than people who do not care to love me. I have a daughter and husband and good friends who do love me. I am moving forward.

My story that I have written so far are things that have happened to me. And the side affects of those things being ongoing nightmares and PTSD. If you did not know my story before you will hopefully understand now why I do not want cologne, or fabric softener, or aftershave on me. You will understand why I do not want to be pat on the shoulder or come up to from behind and why that startles me. But that is only what happened to me. That is not the whole of who I am.

I have loved animals my entire life. I am deeply connected to the earth, to animals and to kindness in people. Suffering affects me profoundly. I want to save every hurt animal as much as I rejoice every healthy animal. I am as excited to see a feather on the ground now as a child would be. I am a mother. I am a wife. I have been a chaplain. I am non-judgmental. I love unconditionally. I have learned boundaries and have continued to find my voice. I want to help others and be an advocate for children. I want to help other victims of abuse feel heard and understood. There are many parts of me and the wounded parts are only a small piece.

I chose to start photographing nature as a way to be mindful. I wanted to balance good with all the bad I have had. If you look at my social media you will see I post every one of my favorite photos I take every single day. For 2 years now I have gone out and taken photos. I started slowly and worked my way up to hours each day. My photography has saved my life. If you see me taking a photograph know that I am lost in that moment. That moment is seeping into every cell of my being. It is filling up all of the losses and voids and traumas with joy. Those moments are healing to me. It is not JUST photographs. It is me choosing to go out and find the good and embrace it with all of my being. I can look back at my social media and see that every day I chose good. I chose to live. I could have stayed in bed and given up with this muscle disease and bone disease and seizures and lyme disease and every other bad hand that I was dealt but I have NOT. I made a choice to live. I made a choice to win against the evil! My husband and I go out every single day and we live in each precious moment.

It has taken me 47 years to face the truth of what had been done to me and accept it and move forward to try to find good. I do not always succeed in overcoming the PTSD. I have down days, despondent days, triggering days that are very hard to live through, BUT I have beautiful days that way outweigh the bad. It is balanced now.

We all try to find ways to cope. Nothing has helped me cope and rediscover joy than photography. Finding my way back into nature and connecting to all of the beauty around me. So when you see my photographs, know that each one is removing a little bit of the suffering. Each photo was a moment that was healing and peaceful and devoid of all bad.

This is only part of my story. I will not reread it for spelling errors as I want to continue to move forward. As I move forward I will keep sharing the truth of how it feels to have PTSD. I will also focus in this new blog the joy that has been restored into my life. Thank you for reading and being a part of my life’s journey.

Tips for a gynecologist exam when having PTSD

You would think that 30 years after sexual abuse that an exam would not be so triggering. It is. Especially if it is a gynecological exam. These are things that are not spoken of and they should be. The only way we can help each other with experiences that come after abuse is to talk about them. So that is what I am about to do.

It was not until a week ago that I realized the impact of these exams on me. I’ve decided to write a list of boundaries and expectations. I know that even being prepared, things may not go exactly as planned so I have plan B. Plan B is to leave. I want every woman out there to know that at ANY point during an exam if you feel uncomfortable, as if you cannot do it anymore, you can ALWAYS leave. End the exam. Even in the best case scenario you may still feel triggered. But can that trigger be managed?

I took a young girl to an appointment this past week. I had no idea what mothering and nurturing and protective mechanisms would kick in while being there. I did not want her touched. I did not want her to feel violated. I was there as her advocate. I was there to make sure she felt safe. I had to make sure that my “issues”were not put onto her while also making sure she felt heard. While doing this, I came up with my list. On the spot I came up with a list of things I wanted for this girl during her exam. I stepped out of the room while she had her exam and had an immediate panic attack. I couldn’t breathe. I started to cry. The impact of my entire life flashed before me. The amount of men who had violated me. The amount of gynecology appointments that I felt unheard and disrespected. I flashed back to being 16 years old and driving myself to my first appointment. There was no advocate there for me setting up rules to make sure I felt safe. Anger washed over me and then sadness. Our mothers should be sitting there with us and then in the waiting room advocating for our bodies and our wishes ESPECIALLY after we’ve been violated. But even if our children have not been violated, they should be treated with respect.

If you wait until you get on that table to voice your boundaries it will be too late I have found. I have been laying on a table with a woman ripping off something on my cervix while I felt I was raped all over again stuck in a PTSD frozen state. When I finally got the courage to speak she did not respect my words. This is why I created a plan. I found a woman who knows about doing vaginal exams/ Pap smears for women who have been sexually assaulted. That was step one. Step 2 a list of rules. 1. Tell me what you will be doing before you do it. Before you touch me or put anything on me I need to know verbally. 2. I don’t use a cover because I want to see exactly what is happening as it is happening. 3. I am not comfortable with anything going into my body other than a swab so if fingers need to be involved then I require an ultrasound instead. No fingers. 4. For the speculum I expect it to be put in very slowly and I want to hear a count1-10. It should take 10 seconds to put that in. If the doctor can’t spare 10 seconds to put a speculum in then you don’t need to be on her table. 5. I need 30 seconds to open the speculum. If the doctor doesn’t have 30 seconds to open a speculum then you don’t need to be on their table. 6. I want to be assured no one will enter the room while the exam is being done.

This is my list for the exam. Second is my own list for self care. 1. Bring something to hold in my hand to concentrate on that is calming. It can be a ring, feather, shell, anything that brings comfort. 2. Bring some music to listen to softly on my phone that is calming. 3. Tell the doctor that I may be talking to myself reassuring myself that I am here, present, and all is ok and I am safe.

None of this listed should be too much to ask from a Gynecologist. I asked for all of these things for the young girl I took in and all of these things were implemented and that girl felt completely as comfortable as one can feel for an exam involving the vagina ( I mean in reality none of us want someone probing around down there).

I have this appointment next week with the same doctor. I have my plan. I have no idea if my plan will work but I HAVE a plan. Women who have been sexually assaulted, raped, violated, need a plan before going into these appointments. We have to. We are teaching our violated selves that we are going to protect and keep safe the areas that have been harmed. We are in control. Keep in the forefront of your mind that you can say stop at any point. Even come up with a signal if you cannot speak. Hand signal. Tell your doctor “If I raise my hand you stop immediately.” I have done this and it worked. It is how I actually made it through my dentist appointment. You wouldn’t think being sexually violated would have anything to do with a dentist appointment but for me it did. Laying on a table with someone over me feeling vulnerable is triggering for me. So I came up with a dentist plan too that worked beautifully.

I’m still processing my past. I am so sad for that girl inside of me that had to go to that appointment alone when I was so young and had been so violated. I left that appointment and can tell you that the feeling is burned inside of me how traumatizing it was. I am hoping by protecting myself now I will show those parts of myself that I will keep you safe.

I had no idea that childbirth would be so traumatizing for me. But that was before I knew I had PTSD and knew the depths of trauma that I’d been keeping a secret and how damaging that was. I did know when I gave birth to a girl my first thought was worry. My first thoughts were that I had to protect her for the rest of her life with the utmost vigilance. Because I was not protected. What I didn’t know at the time is that I would raise a daughter who would have the strength, and voice, to stand up for herself. I raised a powerfully strong woman as a daughter. She knows though, that she will always have a mother bear in me nomatter what.

It is what daughters should have.

A mother that always has their backs. Always makes them feel safe. Always keeps the door open to conversation.

So, as a woman who has been through horrible sexual abuse, I have had to come up with self protection plans when I see the doctor. I have to minimize what may be perceived by my PTSD brain as more trauma and I need and deserve to be respected in my wishes for my medical care. I realized if I could do it for another girl I could and should do it for me. I’ve spent 30 years feeling forced to endure these appointments every year. No more. The appointments are necessary. The feeling of trauma is not.

Hopefully my tips will help another woman out there or even a mother of a daughter so we can keep ourselves and our daughter’s feeling empowered about their medical care.

Poetry/story

I saw him

Strapped to a pole

In the middle of town.

His hands

His feet

Bound.

It appears

As I look closely now

more of a wooden stake

Some leather

Some nails

Him standing like his feet

Are willingly on the ground.

His head is bald

So much time has passed

He had silky blonde hair

When I saw him last

40 years ago

The demon

Of my past.

His hands are behind his back

Around the wooden pole

Tacked.

He is exposed there

In the cold

Skin peeling from the sun

Years and years

Of that water, sun, fun.

Fun

Fun

Fun.

No one looks at him

Not a quick glance

It is as if this place

Still stay lost in a trance.

Persecuted

Or persecutor

They do not care

They dare not lift their heads

You know,

The glare.

They follow heels

Left

Right

Left

Right

He would indefinitely

Be staying there.

Night

After

Night.

I stood

Swinging my arms

Moving my feet back and forth

Hmm

How SHALL I go forth

As a child

Forever scorn?

Or as a woman?

Oh I am torn.

I feel like a child

Seeing him there

A twinge of fear

Yet

I stare

Unwavering

My eyes become dry

As I’ve forgotten to blink

My mind has become flooded

With this

Scene

The

Memories

I’d been here before

Just him

And me

He was naked then

I remember the bathroom steam.

I say, now, as a woman,

“Hey, remember me?”

He lifts his eyes

His head still down

He chuckles

Like a circus clown

A bit more quiet

From back then

Til now.

My body shudders

It recalls

This sound.

What had I expected

From a pedophile

Does a coward

Smile?

Unscathed?

Me in exile.

An apology?

Nothing would change

My disgust

At the mention

Of his name.

Nothing would make his wrongs

Alright.

None of this

Would ever be…

Fine!

Like those

Who laugh

Over aged wine.

That’s still them.

So many of them

So little of my kind.

Stay focused!

This moment

It’s mine.

Wait,

If everyone is on autopilot

Why was he then here

In this spot

Cold

Who in this place

Had finally gone rogue!

I looked around

My mother?

My father?

Who would finally defend

After 40 years

A child, a woman, a daughter.

People kept walking

Shopping

Not stopping

Gossiping

About someone or other Gosling.

I pull out my switch blade

Opened it with a click

I contemplate…

His throat

Or his dick.

I have the anger

I have the rage

Everyone says it

“Bethany’s angry state.”

Heaven forbid

I feel

From beneath this armor plate

Of steel

Surrounding my heart

From this horrific “ordeal”

Yet,

In this moment

I kneel.

I feel the knife

In my tight grip

And in one scream of agony

In the ground the knife

I stick.

I see him

Strapped to a pole

In the middle of town,

Slowly pulled the knife out

And cut him down.

Death and suffering

Is not what I want

I did contemplate

A little kick

Or a stomp

But thought better

And walked away

He’d already sealed his fate

40 years ago

To the day.

Who strung him up?

It’s not mine to say.

I’m not what anyone thinks

Or unjustly portrays

I am

Simply

A survivor,

Bethany Kays.

#metoo Protecting one woman at a time from a predator.

Yesterday, as I went past my neighbor’s house in my wheelchair I thought, “If he asked me to go in his backyard to see his new blooming flower, alone, would I go?” Yes. I would have. Had I made the decision spontaneously. Had I not had established boundaries and been mindful and PAUSED before making ANY decisions involving being alone with a man, I would have said, “Yes,” enthusiastically! IF he would have asked. IF, I would have gone. Then I would have put myself into a completely avoidable situation that could have POTENTIALLY been unsafe for me. Do I want to be afraid of all men? No. Do I want to avoid being raped again? YES! I am more concerned with NOT being violated than I am with being anything but cautious for the rest of my life. I become comfortable. I let my guard down. Repeatedly, I have made these mistakes. Just yesterday I ran into a man that came up to speak to me alone but in a roadway. I completely and 100 percent trusted this man. I have actually been in situations alone with him many times. I have known him for over 10 years. He proceeded to tell me about his erectile dysfunction. I was caught completely off guard. The conversation went down hill with his oversharing of his penile function and his manly needs. Ten minutes before these words were spoken I would have easily gone right onto his back porch with him alone. I considered this a huge wake up call. Why risk it? If am alone with a man then the opportunity is there. If I am never alone with a man, I’ve just cut my chances in being assaulted again. Assaulted is using the word lightly. Over 10 years ago, my best friend’s husband sexually violated me and left me in fear for my life while being held against my will in his locked garage. I was looking for my best friend. She wasn’t there. He asked me to sit down while he looked for her, then he locked the garage door. I never ever could have known or seen signs that he was capable of this. I had no warning. Choosing to be alone with a man does not place the blame on me for anything that ever happened to me. I am taking being alone with a man off the table now, though, for the remainder of my life. He got me though. He got me alone. Do you know how he got me?
There are some common denominators for how predators choose their victims. Now, as a child I would not have noticed, been aware, or even known these signs. Had my parents not allowed their 11 year old clean an old man’s house for him (left alone with a man) then I would not have been molested. Being molested and later raped was not my fault. Not seeing the signs were not my fault. Child molesters/rapists/ predators carry the full responsibility of their crimes. As I have gotten older though I have become acutely aware of the ways that some pick their victims. If anything, through my experiences, I can share what I think will help to protect an innocent person from being a victim. I would like to share these revelations. 

I would like to use the remainder of this blog to discuss some red flags that predators will give. The only thing you need to do when you see these red flags is RUN! Online predators will behave similarly. They hunt. They are hunters. They escalate. Each ploy/game/attempt failed will just give them more insight to what does work. My blog for example makes me a prime candidate for a predator. I have had a blog written about me recently and hash tagged “child porn” so that everyone who read it looking for child porn would then be rerouted to my blog. If this is not a perfect example of a predator AKA an individual whose intention is abuse is then I don’t know what is. This man assumed I wrote a warning for women about him. I am given lesson after lesson about men and their predator ways. I cannot ignore these lessons. I must share them. 

Some common red flags: 

Is this man helping you, being there for you, listening to you, supporting you, out of the blue? At a time of vulnerability? Is he all of a sudden present in your life when you are at your lowest? 

Are you currently ill, or helpless, when this man comes of the woodwork to be there for you?

Have you just had a falling out with a family member, been sexually abused, broken up with your boyfriend, lost your job, had a death in the family, and all of a sudden this man swoops in to make it all better?

Is this man over connecting? Are they making their life examples so similar to yours that you feel a connection where there is none? Example A. “I’ve had a dog die too. I know how hard that can be.” B. “I know how it feels to have health problems and be isolated, I have health problems too.” C. “ My family no longer speaks to me either. Maybe we can make our own family. I will be like a big brother.” D. “ I am lonely too. I know what being alone” feels like. I will be here if you need a friend to listen to you.” E. “ I’ve been through what you’ve been through.” F. “ I had a sister who had that happen and I am devastated for you.” 

Is this man acting like he is willing to fight for you? Have your back? Is he using your need for safety against you by promising to be your savior when you didn’t ask for one? Example: A. “ I will kill him if I ever see him.” B. “ If anyone is mean to you or hurts you from now on they will have to deal with me.” C. “Just send them my way and I will take care of them for you. No one messes with you from now on!”

Is this man making you a “we” team now? Example: A. “We can take care of this together.” B. “We can fight this battle together. You are not alone in this.” WE. You are a team now.

Is this man trying to make you feel like you are special? Is he trying to make you feel like you are different and worthy of his time because you are just so important? Example: A. “ I hate most people but you are different.” B.” There is just something about you that stands out to me and makes me drawn to you.” C. “ I think we were meant to find each other because I don’t even like women your age but you are just special.” D. “ I feel like we are soul mates.” E. “ If you were my sister/wife/ mother/ child, I would feel like the luckiest man on earth.” 

Is he using techniques such as being overly angry for you, pitting you and him against the world? Giving too much personal information so you feel you aren’t the only one who is sharing? Is he repeatedly asking you personal questions? 

Is he trying to overly convince you that he is a nice guy? 

Is he telling you how wonderful he is? Is he claiming to work with the elderly, work with abused animals, abused women, abused children, a wounded veteran? Is he being fake noble? A man with such integrity and values that you could not possibly turn him away or YOU would be the bad person? Is he such a “nice guy” that he is saying you would be crazy to not have him in your life?

Is he asking you to be alone with him? Is he putting you in a position that you would need to be alone with him unnecessarily? Is he in a position of power that is intimidating? Does he make you feel like even if you don’t say no that you are consenting? 

Have you had a “bad feeling” when you are around him that you are ignoring or shrugging off or minimizing because he has overcompensated for how willing he is to help you “through this hard time”?

 
Predators look for young, old, weak, broken, formerly abused, vulnerable, sad, helpless. I can say that I am a survivor all day long but on my blog I also write about my vulnerability, my challenges, my losses, and details of abuse. I am the perfect fish for a shark to circle around me long enough to find a little moment to enter into my life especially on social media IF I am not paying attention. I have written previous blogs warning women of predators. Some of the male responses were “ Are so you saying I am a predator because I care?” And, “ So all men are predators?” I talked to my husband at length about this. My husband would have never commented on a blog that has the pure intention of protecting other women. Any man who is offended or has a problem with me warning women and protecting women against predators, should search their own souls.They should take a look in the mirror and find out where this guilty conscience is coming from. A real man would applaud my efforts to protect women and children from predators. And there are predators EVERYWHERE. Every single woman I have ever met has been abused by a man in one way or another in her life time. Every woman. She may have only told me. But her inability to report her abuse does not take away the reality of it. Now I write a blog on abuse. Women have told me their stories. Previously I was a volunteer chaplain in nursing homes and hospice. I heard hundreds of “death bed confessions” of rape and abuse. There are thousands of women just like me who have not been victims, not just once but countless times. 

Predators look at my blog. Lots of predators looking at my blog. I drew them out and because they were offended, but too stupid to realize that by commenting they are giving themselves away as predators themselves. “I’m a good guy though.” Are you? Because my husband is the best man I have ever known but he has never had to convince me he is a good man. Ever. He proves it. He would only ever support a blog that is written to connect to and protect other women from predators. Only a guilty man would have something negative to say. So check your comments at the door, they will not be approved. This blog is for women. 
If you have had a life change whether it is ill health, loss, mental health challenges, recovering from abuse, at this point in your life, a man is not the person who needs to be your savior. A man that you do not know, a male neighbor, etc. I don’t need to lower my defenses so a man can make me feel safe. I have a husband. If I did not, I would lean on and seek out women to help me through my recovery and challenges. A man is not the person to be the one to be on your team, fix you, be angry for you. Especially a man who seeks you out whether it is on social media or just out of the blue in your life. If you are already vulnerable then allowing a man in is very dangerous. Unfortunately, there are predators looking for women just like you and me. They are looking for this pool of women that are damaged and trying so hard to recover. They will use every technique that they know works because it has worked for them in the past. 
The man who got me in his garage gave me no red flags. I was simply crying. Sobbing. My dog had just been attacked. I was vulnerable. He knew of my recent health decline. He was a predator. There were some common denominators, in me, in that moment, that made him swoop in for the attack. He was laying in wait for that perfect opportunity to pounce on me and that he did. In the past, I could not have prevented that from happening. I was not to blame for the trauma he caused me. 

Today, I would not enter the garage alone. Today I won’t go into my neighbor’s back yard with him alone. Today, if my neighbor gives TMI (too much information) about his erectile dysfunction, I will walk away, and he will forever be in the red zone of threat. I will NEVER trust him again. 

A few days ago I read through all of the comments on my blog. It took a man that I did not know, 20 times of asking my daughter’s name and age for me to answer the question. He was, again, a man. I taught him that it takes 21 times to get exactly what he wants. I looked at exactly when he entered my blog. It was when my dog had died. That is when I got the first comment. Unfortunately, online a woman giving me support for the death of my dog could just be a man pretending to be a woman. We just don’t know. My point is, be careful who you let into your personal space on social media. It won’t take long or much probing if you are in a weakness state to get your address and the next thing you know they will be offering to buy you a ticket to visit them and the will make everything better. It happened. It happens. 

Be aware. 

Look for red flags. 

Keep your eyes open. 

Notice how you are when this “perfect” man has appeared who coincidently has a similar life to yours, conveniently, to fit right in. 
We were born with an instinct. Many of us through continued abuse whether it is sexual, domestic, verbal, or emotional, have lost some of that instinct. Denial, minimizing what we have gone through and outright ignoring the abuse leads to further numbing of instinct. We are left with hypervigilance, PTSD, and yet no instinct to tell us what we are to really be afraid of. 

I have found this book to be very helpful: https://www.amazon.com/Gift-Fear-Gavin-Becker-ebook/dp/B0036Z9U2A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508217906&sr=8-1&keywords=the+gift+of+fear+by+gavin+de+becker

The Gift of Fear. It speaks of some of the topics I have spoken of and how a rapist will use some of these techniques to attack. 
Whether this man is your best friend’s husband, a deacon at your church, your friend’s father, your pastor, your boss, your neighbor, there have to be boundaries. We have to be able to strip their titles, our comfort levels, and reinstate boundaries and rekindle our instinct. We have to teach our children. We have to teach our girlfriends. We have to teach women everywhere. 

I know there are some instances where there is absolutely nothing a woman could have done to prevent being raped. I will say this over and over again. I know this because I have experienced it first hand many times. There were others who could have protected me though, seen the signs, spoken up, protected me. If only we could see the signs of abuse in other women and children and see the red flags in the predators going after them. We can. We just have to look. 

I feel like, had someone sat me down and had this conversation that I have written, it would have opened my eyes to red flags and common factors and techniques used by predators, years ago. I discussed all of this with my daughter. This blog post has been part of conversation between my husband and me and my daughter and me all week. There will be a ripple affect. She will discuss this with her friends. I will discuss it with my girlfriends. One person at a time. 
My intention is to protect women. That is my only intention. I am well aware there are men who are raped, and abused. I know many of them. This is from a woman’s perspective as rape survivor and survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I wish I could speak for men who have been abused in this blog but I am speaking from my own experience as a woman who has been abused repeatedly by men. This blog is written by a woman for women and their daughters and their friends and their grandmothers and their mothers. This blog is is written in hopes of protecting women by sharing real life comments and experiences. What I have written in quotes are all things that have been said to me or written on my social media by men I know and men I do not. 
I have seen on social media this #metoo to spread awareness of the amount of women who have been sexually abused. I would like to take that further. Way further. Coming forward, speaking your truth takes real bravery. I commend any woman who can do that. Now lets go to the next step NOW and start implementing some protective boundaries, looking for the red flags, and for the love of everything good…tell your daughter to stay in a group and never be out alone at a party, alone in an alley, alone walking to her car, alone with a guy she does not know, alone with her best friend’s brother, alone with her best friend’s father. Teach them how to NOT be alone and don’t put them in situations where they are alone with men. It is our job to protect them to the best of our ability. My parents did not protect me. They sent me to a ski school where I was alone with a man who molested me. They took me out of the country and left me alone with a man who molested me. They sent me to my first job out of state where the man who picked me up from the airport committed statutory rape against me. The let me clean a man’s house alone as a child. These are 4 separate incidents that were completely preventable had my parents chosen not to leave me alone, as a child, with a man they did not know. Our children, all children, women, girls, matter and deserve protection from predators. They need to hear it all of this. We MUST protect women. One woman at a time. 

Please share this and comment your own suggestions and experiences for boundaries and protection. 
My friend over at A Thomas Point of View has written of her experiences and survival. I honor her with this post as well as every woman who has persevered after the devastating affects of abuse and rape. 
I Know Not – A Thomas Point of View

I Know Not