My Story by Patty HiteOct 11th, 2009 | By Patty Hite | Category: All Posts, Our Stories
No Excuse for Abuse – Part 1
In Honor of My Sister, Darlene
Abuse has followed me around like the boogie man hidden in the shadows. My earliest and most overpowering experience with sexual abuse started when I saw my dad raping my sister. I was six and she was sixteen.
The incident that led up to that was the day my sister pulled up to the curb in front of our house with my dad was sitting next to her. She was blowing the horn to let the whole neighborhood know that Dad had bought her a car. My mom was standing in the doorway crying and yelling for them to come inside. The next thing I remember was my dad living in an apartment a few blocks from home. My brothers and I would walk there to visit him and this particular day, I ran ahead of them to get to Dad’s first. When I opened the door I saw my dad and my sister, naked in bed, having sex. They ran around putting on their clothes and dad threatened me with a look, and the words, “You better not tell anyone what you saw.”
It must have been extremely frightful because I forgot about it until many years later. I escaped within myself, disassociated, to my hiding place, a place which became very familiar to me most of my life.
My sister was sent to an all girl catholic school and my dad returned home. I was told she wanted to become a nun. The few times we visited her were miserable. She was always crying and I thought to myself, ‘if you hate it here so much, then just come home’.
As we all grew older my sister would visit us and bring different men with her. She openly flirted with any man she saw and I saw her drunk more times than sober. Every woman who knew her kept their husbands and boyfriends away from her and family and friends began to call her a whore, a drunk, ditzy and stupid. I always felt sad when I saw her. When she was supposed to laugh, she cried. And when she should cry, she laughed.
When she visited, Dad treated her like she was an alien who landed in the living room and if Mom talked to her too much, it always ended in an argument. The times I visited her as a teenager, she slept all day and stayed awake all night. She could barely care for her children. I always thought her eyes looked dead, and dark. I was afraid to stay too long.
During this time, my dad divorced my mom for an 18 year old girl my brother used to date.
When I was twenty-five, I was sitting at my table, drinking a cup of coffee and the gates of hell flashed memories and pictures of my dad and sister having sex. I thought I had lost my mind. I couldn’t sleep, eat or communicate with anyone. I thought the only way to end this torment was to write to my dad and so he could tell me it wasn’t true.
He called me as soon as he received the letter and admitted that it happened but blamed it on my sister. He told me that she was a whore and threw herself at him and how hard it was to deny her. I wanted to know when it started. He wouldn’t tell me. My dad, my father, my hero, my protector had just become one of them– a sexual abuser. He stepped into a class of people I dealt with most of my life. An enemy.
I didn’t tell my mother that I knew the truth until I was in my 40′s. I will never forget the pain in her eyes. I had four children and I wanted to know how she could abandon her daughter and allow a pervert to remain in her home with her other daughters. She felt she could do nothing else. She had eight children to feed and keep a roof over their heads. I talked to her about mending her relationship with my sister.
My mother died shortly after that meeting. My sister died a few years later. Neither one asked for forgiveness nor was able to forgive. My mother died with her children present. My sister died without a husband, a protector, she so desperately looked for her whole life.
It grieves me to know that my sister didn’t have the loving hugs from my mother, the instructions on how to bake a cherry pie or the discipline needed from someone who cares. I do thank God that I was able to tell her how much I always loved her before she died. At least she wasn’t alone, the moment before she left this world that was so cruel to her.
To this day, my brothers defend my father. We are at odds when it comes to him. They see him as an honorable man, a hard worker doing everything to provide for his family. I see him as an abuser. I am quick to remind them that our sister may have been sixteen at the time, but she was once a baby, a child. There is no excuse for abuse.
Just one dysfunctional act can affect someone for a lifetime. This one act of abuse set me up for years of sexual and physical abuse. It not only destroyed my sister and my mother, but it put a brand on me- “Abuse Me”. I learned how to keep the secret, how to protect the abuser. By keeping the secret, I not only gave the abuser permission to continue abusing me, but I also gave permission for him to abuse others.
No Excuse for Abuse – Part 2:
I was the baby of my family of five brothers and two sisters. When Mom and Dad went out, my brothers were in charge of watching me. Their watching me included every male friend of theirs at our house. This was always a scary time for me because a few of their friends took every opportunity to touch me sexually. I know this went on from kindergarten until Mom and Dad divorced, and the boys joined the service.
Before the divorce, our home was always filled with adults too, relatives living with us and friends of my parents coming over for parties. I remember walking out of our bathroom and my uncle reaching between my legs and asking me if I wiped. Another time, friend of Dad’s picked me up in the air, lifted up my shirt and sucked on my breast. Well, not breast yet, I was around 7 years old.
We moved to a farm near my dad’s family, when I was around 12. I remember one time being in my aunt and uncle’s car, on our way to their house. I loved visiting my cousins and was so excited that I was allowed to spend a few weeks with them. My aunt was driving and my uncle reached over the seat, put his hand between my legs and tried to reach inside my panties and said, “We are going to have so much fun, Patty Jane”. I closed my legs, and crawled within myself.
He said my name with such evil that I related my sexual abuse with my name and hated it. I stopped using the name Patty Jane and demanded that everyone call me Pat–a more grown up name, one with strength.
We only had two bedrooms at the farm. Mom and Dad were downstairs and my brothers and I upstairs. When relatives stayed, the boys gave up their bed, and I was left alone with whoever was staying. I would pull the covers up to my neck, tuck them around me and keep my foot sticking out because I got so hot. We never had air conditioning, but I would rather die sweating than allow my uncles to touch my skin. Oh, they tried. Right there, in the middle of the night, with their wives in the same room. I woke up many times with my uncle under my bed, his hands trying to reach under my covers.
For many years I kept silent, then one night I sat up in bed and asked him what the hell he was doing. He said he was looking for an ashtray. He never touched me again. I learned to be vocal from that moment on. If anyone touched me, I either hit them, or announced to the world for them to stop.
When I started dating, there were many times I told my date to stop the car and let me out. I would walk home. I was too afraid of having any sexual contact with them. Some slapped me and tried to force me. One time I had bruises all over me from someone trying to force me to have sex. My brother saw them and asked what happened. I told him the truth. He said he was going to beat the hell out of that boy. I told him he didn’t have to, I already did.
When I was sixteen, I married the town drunk. I didn’t care about having sex with him and he was always too drunk to do anything, and this arrangement was fine by me. I stayed with him until he started getting physically abusive. He would come home while I was sleeping and pour a gallon of milk on me, chase me around the house, and hit me. I learned that men hit harder than boys and knew I couldn’t protect myself by hitting back. It just made them angrier.
I married again and had a daughter. I was cared for, never abused, but didn’t have the attention I wanted. I left him only to marry an abuser straight out of hell.
I dated Bill for six months before I married him. He was gentle, kind, always buying me gifts, paid extra attention to me. The day we married, we were standing in the kitchen of our new home, and he hauled off and knocked me to the ground. He grabbed my hair and dragged me to the bedroom. He ripped my clothes, slapped me, hit me, and finally raped me. Afterward, he told me “I own you now. You will do what I say, when I say it, and how I want it.” I was told that if I told anyone, he would kill my baby daughter and me. I believed him.
The abuse became an everyday thing. He started using weapons in the bedroom. He stuck knives to my throat and guns inside my vagina. There were times I would do something wrong so he would beat me, to get it over with. I became very familiar with rape. I was forced to have sex with him any time he wanted it. Even if it wasn’t by force, I knew I had to do what he wanted. I lived in my hiding place constantly. I was able to disassociate myself while I was being abused.
The only thing good to come out of this ten year relationship was that I had a son. One day my daughter told me that Bill was touching her and my son sexually. I walked into the living room and Bill was sitting in his recliner. I put a butcher knife to his throat and told him that the kids and I were leaving that night, or someone was going to die.
After I left him, he broke into my house, put a knife to my throat and took my son. For a year I searched for my son. Every once in a while Bill would call me and tell me he killed my son and buried him and I will never find him. I had no where else to go but to God. One year later, Bill called and told me to pick up my son. Hallelujah!
I remarried my second husband, someone I knew was safe. At least I thought he was. During this time, I knew I had to do something. I lived like a zombie. Even though I was openly free from abuse, my mind still clung to the lifetime of abuse. Fear consumed me. I lived in fear, talked with fear and raised my children in fear.
I had been controlled for ten years in every aspect of my life. Even though I acted to everyone else as though my life was all together now, I knew inside that I had no identity of my own. I was afraid to wear makeup my way, afraid to shop at the grocery store, afraid to drive, afraid to talk to others. I recognized my whole life was now ruled by fear, and I knew it started when I was that little girl watching my dad have sex with my sister.
It took every bit of strength I had to find resources to begin my healing. The first step was recognizing I needed help. I couldn’t afford a therapist so I went to the library and whenever I had a few extra dollars I would buy books. I read self-help books, anything that had the words abuse on the cover. I had my yellow highlighter and marked things that pertained to me. It seemed that the best books to me were the ones which told of the abuse, then told of the changes which were done to overcome that abuse.
The one thing I recognized, no matter how much I read, was that I didn’t know what “good” behavior was. I didn’t know I shouldn’t yell at my kids. I didn’t know that other people actually slept with their lights off and their doors closed. (I discovered this on a trip with some women friends. We were all sleeping in bunk beds in this large room and someone turned off the hallway light and shut the door. I actually thought I was going to die. The light and the door being ajar was my safety, my way of seeing my abuser enter my room instead of sneaking up on me.) I began talking to my friends and it dawned on me that the way I act and felt is not necessarily the right way.
I hated what abuse did to me. I not only hated the abuser, but I hated the aftereffects. I hated all the attachments of abuse which clung to me like a cobweb. It was time to sweep my brain, vacuum my thoughts.
So now I was beginning to be alert to my actions of every day living. Why did I laugh when I should be crying? Why did I cry when I should be laughing? Why did I feel like I was going to die in the dark? Why did I become angry over silly things? Why did I have to be in control? There was so much, yet I was bound and determined to overcome this, to win, to get control, to stop the abuse.
I always loved God. I remember being very young, sitting under a tree and talking to God. I always seemed to be crying when I talked to Him. I do the same thing to this day, but during my healing I not only talked to God, but I began to read the New Testament in the Bible. To me it was a guide on behavior, how to act and how not to act. It showed me what true love is, and more than anything, it showed me how a father is supposed to love his children. I loved how Jesus told the disciples to allow the children to come forth, and I loved how Jesus cared about the prostitute. I read about God’s love, that He sent His only son to die for me, to help me become whole and healed. I loved that the fruit of God’s spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control. I wanted this. The Bible said that the acts of a sinful nature are sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, hatred and discord, jealousy and fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, envy. All kinds of nasty things. This, I wanted out of me.
I took these nasty things and talked to God about them. I wanted my mind and my sub-conscious mind, my hiding place, to let go of them. Once I revealed them and started hating them, it seemed as though the gates of hell were coming after me. There are so many memories attached to the evil that was done to me. I cried, I shouted, I punched trees, I kicked. I did whatever it took to get the pain and hurt out of me.
Then I replaced the nasty things with love things. I wrote “love” phrases out and stuck them all over my house. “I am a new person. I am whole. I am destined for good things.” Anytime one of those ugly things would show up in my life, I would tell myself, “no, that is not me anymore” and then I would say, “I am a new person, I am full of love, goodness, kindness, peace, joy, etc.”
I knew I had to learn how to act differently, to be whole. It was more than remembering the abuse and everything attached to it, it was learning how to be a whole person, free from fear. Fear is the opposite of love. We become controllers because we are afraid of losing control. Fear. We become jealous, because we are afraid of losing someone. Fear. We become angry because we lose control. Fear. It goes on and on. I needed love. I needed to love myself in order to love others. I needed joy in my heart, not the joy that you show to others as a cover-up from the pain you feel inside, but the kind of joy that puts a hop in your step, that puts a smile on your face because you are alive. I needed patience for myself and others. There is so much that I needed in order to be whole.
Once I started doing this and making it an everyday thing, more of the old stuff revealed itself. If I was at the store and I started to get angry or fearful, I would literally stop everything, and start talking to myself (in my head, not outwardly, lol) and address those feelings right on the spot. Other times I would recognize them when I went to bed. I always did and still do, reflect on the day, kind of like reliving it to see if I became fearful.
It’s an ongoing process. I don’t want to discourage anyone into thinking it will never end. How long before I become totally free? I don’t know. But I can tell you this. I am one hell of a better person than I was. I am strong. My mind is clear and alert. I am not afraid to say I am sorry if I did something to others. I am responsible for my actions now. I do what I believe to be right for myself. I wake up everyday happy, I go to bed every night happy. When I think of my past, the abuse, I don’t feel like I am dying inside. I can look at it clearly and in strength. Instead of the memories being painful and pulling me down, they now raise me up. I am not that same person. I am a new person.
Sometimes I have my bad times. I get angry when I shouldn’t and I get in fear sometimes. After taking an MRI, I realized I was afraid of closed in places. Talk about panic attack. But that’s okay because I am not afraid to face it. I am strong enough to dig up the past and get above it, get free of it.
I have learned to put up boundaries with myself and with others. I can say “stop”. I can stand toe to toe with any abuser now, instead of shriveling. I can and will protect myself and others from abuse, because I have been there. I understand. I am not ashamed or afraid to tell others the truth, in love, and I can stand firm on what I believe to be the truth. I am not a people pleaser, I don’t do what others say I have to do, I do what I believe is right for “Patty Jane” to do. I look at the future in hope and faith for better days and more love instead of failure and hopelessness. I surround myself with people who love me and care about me, people who won’t criticize me or control me. Not because I am afraid, but because I have nothing in common with anyone who hurts others. I have learned to love others, to be patient, to be kind and gentle. I encourage faith and share joy. I am a new person and I like who I am now.
Children who have been sexually or physically abused are controlled by that abuse. You seldom see the “real” person. I always felt and have said that it wasn’t the act itself, but the abuser’s control over me that has molded me. We don’t like ourselves because we are filled with shame. We never asked to be abused and we especially didn’t ask to be put into a situation where we felt responsible for those around us, afraid to hurt our parents, our relatives, our siblings. No child should have to live in fear of abuse, nor fear of exposing the abuse.
Abuse touches everyone’s life. It forces sides, it demands an army for support, or can cause an army against us, and it creates us to be someone we are not. I never knew the real me until I was able to separate the abused Patty Jane from the real Patty Jane. I am not afraid to use my real name now.
This is an account of how I am getting free from abuse, the beginning of my healing process and what I did to overcome the shame and fear I lived with for most of my life. I hope it helps you on your quest to freedom, but understand that it may not be the only answer for you. Just as we are individual in our appearances, I also believe that our healing is an individual act. Whatever resources you use, just keep doing it. Keep searching for the freedom that awaits you. My heart desire is that you find peace and most of all love. Love within yourself, that you arise everyday in love with yourself in spite of your past.
For those who have never told, I encourage you to stop the abuse. Wait for the right time when you are safe and tell someone who will protect you and love you through this. If you can’t tell a family member, tell a friend. Just tell someone.
Patty Hite is one of five facilitators of Overcoming Sexual Abuse. A survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. Through her healing, she’s discovered hidden talents such as crocheting and quilting and spends many hours in her wood shop creating masterpieces for her family. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of five years. She’s blessed with four children and six grandchildren.
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