It wasn’t “just the rape”

It wasn’t just the rape.

It was everything surrounding the rape.

Do you know what the plural of rape is? Rape. So when I refer to “rape” I’m not referring to one instance. It was many instances over the course of two years (from what I remember)

I got braces this week (2018)

What does that have to do with rape?

I’ve wanted braces since I was 15; when my teeth went from being nicely spaced out to being crowded and crossed. They were as confused as me. They were being squeezed together by the pressure of my wisdom teeth; besides the overall structure of my mouth. No one knew this. We couldn’t afford a dentist, so I wouldn’t find out about my wisdom teeth until I was in my twenties and a chiropractor would see them on an x-ray after I’d been in a car wreck.

Over the years I was glad I had crooked teeth, and a big nose. Maybe if I was ugly enough then Ted would leave me alone. But he didn’t, and he wouldn’t. I remember sitting on the bench at a church baseball game, waiting my turn for bat. He was behind me, talking to someone else. He said “I like it when girls have braces, because it shows that they care about their appearance. That they want to look nice for men.” I knew he was talking about me. He wanted me to hear. Statements like this were meant to keep me under his thumb. If my parents could barely afford to keep the water in our house running, how could I ever ask for braces? Besides, did I want to be a pawn in his game? Hell no.

In public I was ignored by him, and if I wasn’t ignored, then mocked. In private he wanted me to be nice, and when I fought him away, I was threatened, then abused. Once even drugged. I was at his mercy, and he knew it. I woke up the morning after having the date rape drug put in my drink and thought, “What would happen if I stopped fighting? Would remembering what happened to me be worse than not knowing what happened to me the day before?” It was scary as hell waking up in my bed and wondering who and what had happened to me. I couldn’t stop fighting, but I did lose my will to fight. And when I lost my will to fight, then my spirit went to a scary dark place.

I stayed in the dark place for a long time.

Every time a public rape case is in the news I think about my rapist out there somewhere. Enjoying his life, juggling oranges for his children. He thinks he got away with rape, and he’s probably right.

It’s been too long for me, I have no case (according to the lawyers). I don’t want to confront him, I don’t want to see him. I don’t want him to look at me, to see I have braces. I don’t want him to know me now. I don’t want to know him now. I have a choice. Some might choose to believe that I always had a choice. But I’m here to tell you:

I never had a choice.

I have a choice now. I’m making the choice to share my story. I’m making the choice to be vulnerable again, in a new and healthy way. Not everyone has experienced this abuse, not everyone will understand. I have made a promise to be open with my readers, however raw, angry, or hurt it may read. It will always be my truth.

Yes, I am hurt when I read stories about rape. I can relate with the victims. I have promised myself to live life with arms and heart open. Sometimes when you live that way, the hurt gets inside. The low feelings drag me down for a while, but when I keep my arms open, I will soon begin to soar.

~E

 

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The Confusion

Re: questionnaires given by health care professionals

When love means:

A slap in the face as affection

Being slammed against a wall as a wake up call for your bad behavior

Molestation is your fault

Being raped as being taught

An insult as a compliment

Being ignored means you haven’t learned your lesson

Deprivation of sleep and food and affection is used as a tool for growth

 

When that is the picture of love,

How do you answer the question:

“Have you ever been (or are you currently) in an abusive relationship?”

 

 

~E

Pathways of Life

I have written about my suicidal thoughts and idealization in the past. One post I called “Tree of Life” is about the day I had planned to commit suicide, and drove around looking for the tree that would end my life the fastest. I would like to say that since that day I changed my mind; that I haven’t thought about suicide. But it doesn’t work like that. Suicide for me was something that was inevitable. I simply knew that one day it would happen, and I was okay with that.

Then one day last week (2018) it surprised me to think that now I don’t want to die. I take measures to keep myself healthy. This surprised me, and in a good way. I don’t remember my last suicidal thought. I take this as a good sign of life.

For me, suicide was partially about control. My life felt so out of control. I felt like less than a person, I wasn’t a being. I thought that if I could have control over one thing, it would be my death. I didn’t have tragic thoughts that I thought were strange or that I even needed to get help. I was stuck in a situation from which I desperately wanted to be free. I was made to feel like I couldn’t leave. I had myself convinced for a while that death was the only freedom.

The other part of my suicidal thoughts was that suicide was the ultimate destruction. I hated myself. I hated my body. I hated what other people did to my body without my permission. I hated my personality. I longed to tear away every part of myself until there was nothing left.

The day I decided to drive my car into a tree, something kept stopping me. The day I failed the suicide attempt, my aunt and grandma got into a roll-over crash and walked away without a scratch. Do you believe in second chances?

My suicidal thoughts were by my side as a constant companion for years. They would comfort me in an odd way.

2017: Art class at community college. This quarter is about culture; specifically each of our family cultures. Dear God I did NOT want to think about my past. We were told to do self portraits in a unique way. I had no idea what I was going to do. I took a piece of watercolor paper and soaked it with my skin tone color. I was desperately trying to find inspiration. Finally, I thought, “okay, I’ll do something about stretch marks, an ode to having children”. So I drew my abdomen on a giant-sized piece of paper. I used colored pencil and watercolor, but it was missing something. I decided to collage. I ripped and tore up the flesh-toned watercolor paper. The act of ripping that paper was so satisfying. It was the feeling of destruction that I had longed for all those years. I could feel the “old me” melting away. Next, I applied the ripped pieces of watercolor paper to the large drawing of my abdomen. I put myself back together. When the work was finished, I felt that I had healed something inside of me.

Art heals.

No automatic alt text available.

“Pathways of Life” Erica Knapp 2017

~E

Normal Experiences

I think it’s safe to say that the thing I lacked most as a child, was normal childhood experiences. This is where you tell me that “normal” is relative, and I agree with you. HOWEVER, the abnormal in my memories outweighs the normal to society. There are things that we would consider group activities right? Like in a public school, things you do with your class. Graduating with a large group in high school. That type of thing. I hear it, when I tell other people that I haven’t experienced something. Their reaction: “what? You didn’t read that book? EVERYONE read that book!” I’m used to hearing it by now, and I’m okay with it.

A goal that I have had for my children is to allow them to be integrated into the general population so that they may have as many normal experiences as possible. I didn’t want them to miss out on everything that I did. SO FUNNY right? Because I didn’t realize there is no way that I can control what they do and don’t experience. To add to that, my middle child is Autistic. He often has difficulty in situations that may be overstimulating to him mentally. He is not in a general education classroom, so he does miss out on a lot of things that other students are experiencing. He is in a room called “extended resource”. A class with nine kids in grades K-2.

I am writing this because it is the end of the school year. And I’m seeing friends posting on Facebook about “field day” and “kindergarten graduation”. I find myself upset because my child doesn’t get that celebration. Even if his class of nine kids did have it, who knows if he would participate. My child, for the past two weeks, has refused all school work and activities. He chooses to sit under his desk all day or in a box. The teachers don’t know how to help him so he stays there. We tried a few things to help him but in the end we let the school year fizzle to the finish.

I took the boys out of school last month and went camping with them. I gathered homework from teachers so they wouldn’t fall behind in studies. I found that they loved being able to play, then work, then play again in the dirt. I dream of the life where we can be barefoot all day, doing our reading and math with dirty toes and happy minds.

Do I long for seclusion because that is familiar and therefore comforts me when faced with difficulty? Probably. So for now we keep the path, advocate for our little ones, and look forward to the next romp in bare feet.

~E

 

First-time Mother

1989

I woke with childhood energy and awareness. I felt her soft paws land on the bed, walk between my feet, then stop at my knees. I looked down towards her and from her mouth she dropped a soft bundle on my Beauty and the Beast-themed blanket. The tiny body was warm in the bright Spring morning light that shone through the single window in my bedroom. The house was quiet and peaceful. I didn’t want to startle Tabby, so I slowly pulled myself up and examined the tiny squirming kitten. Tabby watched for just a second, then jumped off the bed and ran out of my bedroom. She ran with the focus of a new mother. I sat with the small squirming kitten and waited patiently. Six more times Tabby came back, each time with a different-colored kitten. I knew Tabby was half-calico, so I wasn’t surprised at the rainbow-like patterns in the kittens’ fur. I marveled at their tiny pink toes, and soft searching noses. I had made a bed for Tabby in the corner of my closet in anticipation of the arrival of kittens, but she decided to give birth somewhere else; a secret location. I had watched her belly grow, and counted her nipples. I found 7, and it was from that I determined she would have 7 kittens. I was so happy to see her again, I had missed her warm, soft purrs last night as I drifted off to sleep. I watched as she sniffed and adjusted all their bodies. Then she laid down half next-to and half surrounding them. I waited until Tabby fell asleep, crept out of the room, then silently ran across the house to wake Mom.

Donuts and Orange Juice

There was something different about the morning, though all the elements were the same. I went through the motions of feeding the animals, waking the children, and getting everyone dressed to go out the door to school. What I didn’t know was that as soon as I had dropped off the last child there would be a thought waiting for me. Most of my subjects for writing come to me without prompting. I will be going through my daily tasks and then, as if someone comes along with a rope and pulls me another direction, I feel the urge to write. I do not always follow, but this day I chose to follow the rope. I decided that when I got home I would pour myself a second cup of coffee, sit down in my dark and quiet room, and write about something of which I have not written: the rape.

In 2011 I sat in the small office of my first therapist. It was warm and the couch was so soft and cozy I felt like I’d never be able to stand back up. Out her window I could see the Puget Sound. It was a nice place to look when I would lose the words. She sat on a rocking chair at an angle towards me. We had already established a timeline of my life, and it was time to talk about sexual abuses.  T: “Did you ever say ‘no’?” Me: “Always” T: “Were you ever shamed into doing things you didn’t want to do?” Me: “Always” T: “Did he ever take your hand and make you touch him?” Me: “yes” T: “Did you ever black out while it was happening to you?” Me: “Sometimes” T: “Did you try to get him to stop, or ask for help?” Me: “Yes” T: “Was he ever violent with you?” Me, quietly, “yes”

I don’t want to write about the details of the rape and abuses. You will read what I have learned, and how I’ve come to terms with the past abuses. The memories are painful, and I don’t have to remember them on demand, because I remember them without invitation. The memories used to come to me in dreams; night terrors. I would dream in blood red, as if looking through a screen. I would wake up choking on nothing. I would shake and scream. I couldn’t eat on the days following a terror, which was almost every day. I didn’t want anyone to notice that I felt like I was choking, so I would focus on work. But then I stopped being able to work, I started losing weight, my fear grew out of control. My family would get mad at me “Just EAT!” My Dad would scream, “can’t you see how you are affecting the rest of the family?!” As he stormed out of my house. I fell to the floor that day. “Why aren’t you over this yet?” Others would ask. “You aren’t in the cult anymore. It doesn’t make sense for these memories to be affecting you now.” I knew it didn’t make sense. I could not explain it. The memories became worse after losing the twins to a miscarriage. I think it was the extreme amounts of blood I lost, and feeling out of control. I thought that when I left the cult I would be able to control my life. I was wrong. I was shattered. All my thoughts were wrong, and I felt like the burden was too heavy, that I couldn’t get back up.

I have written about my therapy journey in previous posts. With therapy, I have come a long way, and no longer have the burden nor the dreams. I can eat and function in society. I am doing my best right now to keep the focus on the subject, as I can feel myself wanting to stray and show my readers how much better I am now.

I’ll write about the first time. Ted convinced me that if I just did it once with him, I wouldn’t have to do it again. I wanted everything (molestation, shaming, stalking, phone calls) to stop, so I “agreed”. He waited until I was 18. I had never been so scared of a birthday. I would will time to stop. Ted came to my window one night, and I crept out of my parent’s house and into his car. We drove around, but I chickened out. He told me that I could only do that once; chicken out. Next time he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. The next time was after I had moved out of my parents house, and lived in the basement of the church. We drove in his car, and I don’t remember many details. I remember him putting a trash bag under me before he climbed on top. I remember him removing the bag from the car when it was over. It had blood on it.

It was late at night and later he took me to a donut shop. I had a donut and orange juice. He bought it for me. I lost my virginity that night and all I can remember is the trash bag he put under me and the donut and orange juice.

I remember snapshots of the two years in which this continued: aggressive phone calls, not wanting to draw suspicion to myself from all of his attention, feeling scared, giving in, telling myself that I wanted to do it. Comments from him of which I’d rather not share. Sometimes I am triggered when I have to leave my house at night by myself. It reminds me of all the nights I would leave and go meet him somewhere. He told me that his wife knew. He told me she was ok with it. I didn’t understand why. I talked to her about it once, and she told me to “stay strong”. I tried. I didn’t know who to go to for help. And when I finally told an associate pastor, everyone in the cult found out. Ted’s wife yelled at me as if I hadn’t already told her. I stood in the bedroom of Pastor W and his wife with Ted, Rene (Ted’s wife), Charlie, and various W siblings. I stood in the door way as they each took turns calling me “whore”, “slut”, and “ugly”.  I felt like I was in a vacuum. I was staring down a tunnel with voices echoing their shouts. I don’t remember leaving that room, or how that night ended.

It had been a slow process, starting with the molestation, the donut and orange juice. The process led to the end result: I wasn’t a person. I didn’t feel like a person. I started off as a girl, an innocent child. I ended up as a nothing. The abuse was so taxing that at 16, my hormones and physical processes slowed. I didn’t have a regular period cycle until I was 34. 30-fricking-4. I didn’t cry for years after leaving the cult. At the first twinge of emotion I would drop a wall internally to stop it.

I was systematically abused for 17 years, and raped for two of those years. It messed me up physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Today, because of therapy and a lot of work, I have felt stronger than I have felt in years, though I am aware that I can fall quickly. Being able to fall apart and write has been instrumental to my healing.

See the source image

~E

To: my babies Love, your Mom

I remembered what day it was

before I opened my eyes.

it is the day of remembering.

unimaginable grief.

the type that rips at your throat,

pounds at your head,

while the rest of you feels empty.

But today I didn’t feel that.

this day I remembered the woman

Who used to feel that way.

I sent her a hug.

Today I sat in my art room.

I felt the warmth

of the sun

on my back.

I allowed myself to remember you.

I remember the love that I sent you,

A mother’s undying love.

I remember the rainbow you sent me.

Hope.

Today, like every other day

I love you,

and miss you.

~E

 

 

2007/2017

I have felt the biggest change within myself throughout this last year. It is a good change. I feel stronger yet softer. My eyes are open and accepting; no longer shielded. I realize now that my need for control was a way of running. I kept myself busy, I didn’t want to look up from my work. I wanted to control my world. I thought I had to or everything would fall apart. My world fell apart anyway.

The end of 2017 marks ten years since I left the cult. As the anniversary approached I felt like I was ready to move forward. Moving forward means to me that I am able to separate events from the past and current time. Previously I had been feeling everything so strongly, and with flashbacks and PTSD it was very hard to separate myself from the trauma. Despite this,  I had a looming fear that was bigger than most fears I have had. It was the fear of losing my sister. My sister is ten years younger than me and she was born in the cult. Whereas my brother and I were 6 and 7 years old when Mom joined. My sister really seemed to be struggling with thoughts of suicide this year, and I just didn’t know how to help her. I had vowed to always protect her from harm, but how do I protect her from herself? She would reach out to me sometimes, and I knew that was good, but I always questioned if what I said was good enough for her. Was I encouraging enough? Did I say the right thing? When will I see her again? WILL I see her again? I was getting desperate and feeling helpless.

One of the main ideas in the cult is that everyone (in the cult) was a part of God’s family. What this means is that we were taught to blur the lines of family ties. And since much of our extended family wasn’t in the cult, they weren’t our ‘family’ anymore, not really. I was told many times that any family outside the cult didn’t truly love me. I was also told that my Mom and Dad needed help raising us, because they didn’t know what to do with us. so that’s why the authority (pastors, associate pastors) had to insert themselves into our family business. We were also supposed to see other members of the church as our family. There was one couple that I was supposed to refer to as my grandparents. When I was 18 and I moved out, my counsel told me that I wasn’t part of my family anymore. I needed to separate myself from them in my mind and emotionally. It was one of the hardest things I had to do. Even when I lived at home, we weren’t very close, but moving away caused a great divide. Suddenly, we were strangers. I loved seeing them at church events, but we became distant. Because of this, I have come to realize that there is a great gap of time that I don’t know about my brother, sister, or parents lives, and they don’t know about mine. I moved out of their house when I was 18, and we left when I was 24.

In December of 2007, I took a road trip to California. Upon returning, I left the cult.

In December of 2017, I took a trip to California to visit my sister. It was family week at an eating disorder facility. She was admitted in September. I didn’t know what to expect. My brother and I went down together. It was the first time in over 10 years that it was just the three of us. The trip was heart-wrenching and beautiful. I will admit that I was wrong about everything I thought an eating disorder was. My brother and I had three days with my sister. All three days were spent in group sessions, individual therapy, and family therapy. It was exhausting work. We learned about shame, attachment theories, family dynamics, and more. My sister does this work, and more, every day. I am so proud of her and I admire her so much. She pushes herself daily to face the deepest, darkest, and most painful parts of her life. She invited us there for family week, and showed patience and compassion during the sessions and visits.

I would look at her when a therapist or the nutritionist would ask her a question, and she looked exactly the same as when she was three years old. The day my sister was born, she brought with her a great light. As she grew she became funny, outgoing, and charming. The pastors didn’t appreciate that quality. The main goal of the authorities at the cult was to ‘break’ people. Here are some examples of the breaking process that I witnessed of other members and was also personally subjected to: yelling, hitting, public humiliation, late night meetings, shunning, not being allowed to eat or sleep, standing in the corner until you fell asleep, being forced to take off your clothes, only being allowed bread and water to eat outside with the dogs. My sister was born into a world where this type of treatment was normal, and expected. I noticed a change in her by three years old; she was giving up. I cannot imagine giving up on life by three years old.

I am so grateful for this trip to California. I feel honored that my sister let me in, and is willing to show herself and teach me about her. I have trouble, even now, finding words to describe the experience. I had tried my best to do what I thought was right for her all those years, but I had to face the ways that I had caused her pain. We were stuck in an awful cycle, and I don’t know how we survived. I learned so much about my sister and my brother through this trip. We did an expressive exercise in which we had a pretend situation and we said everything going through our heads. I realize that I have no idea what they are thinking, and I haven’t known for a long time. Through those exercises and therapy, we learned it was okay to say our thoughts, and that we need open communication. We love and accept each other. The trip gave me hope for the future. I haven’t had hope for a long time. As a family (including Mom and Dad) we are committed to family therapy.

So, here’s to ten years.

~E

 

 

The World Through a Screen

“What was up with us always having to watch movies all the time?”

I think I have already written about the incessant movie-watching, but I will talk about it again. Last evening I was doing online homework and part of it was summarizing a short film. My first reaction was that I didn’t want to do it. I realize that this is because in the cult, the leaders would have us watch movies, and we were to apply our life lessons to the film. Everyone was supposed to “see” something different, as each application was individual. I HATED this process. It seemed that no matter what I “saw” out of the movie, I was incorrect. The process of watching a movie, summarizing, being told we were wrong, and getting in trouble (late night meetings, phone calls, yelling in the office), could potentially go on for weeks. A person never knew if it was their turn to be the one picked on. It was a very stressful process for me, and I wish to never re-live that. Presently, when I am faced with a movie summary for a class or otherwise, I sort through those feelings, realize that because it happened THEN does not mean it’s happening NOW. I consciously clear my mind to live in the present.

“But still, why did they have us do this?”

This is my trap, the “why” trap. My mind trying to analyze and sort out their actions. The truth is that it does not matter why, and I will never truly know why. I am trying to find something that makes sense when the things that happened and were taught to us will never make sense.

 

“It was wrong, and awful.”

I am okay to admit that what the “authority” did during that time was wrong. When they thought I was dressing too provocative, they showed me a rape scene in a movie. When Ted wanted to do things to me that I didn’t want to do, he showed me awful sex/rape scenes in an adult movie. When they wanted me to stop being sad about my dog dying, they showed me animals being killed in movies. Their referral was not the Bible, like many Christian organizations, their referral was to a movie. No wonder my view of the world was so messed up, when all I had to refer to was movies.

“I didn’t even like movies.”

Before the cult, I would read a book when my family was watching a movie. I would listen and watch halfway, but I am much more of a book person and not a movie person. I would draw. I do not like to sit still and stare at a screen for hours. I am finding this person again; the one that loves books and pencils. She is coming back to life, and I’m welcoming her.

~Ericabamboo for print

 

 

Leaving Home

I did not want to move out of my parents house, but my future had already been decided. There was a bed for me in the “dorm” that was in the basement of the church. The only windows were tiny daylight windows at the top of the cement walls. I would soon be grateful for the dirt and cement walls and tiny windows, as there were gunshots in the street every night. I was to share a room with three grown women (I guess I was grown now too) and we shared a wall with the boys’ room; three men in there. The boys’ room didn’t have a window. The boys’ room was the one in which I hid with the babies that were taken from my arms by their father.

I bought a car from someone in the church, I started adulthood in debt, since I had taken out a loan from a local credit union. The church member sold me a car with 200,000 miles on it and an oil leak. I vowed that I would never own more than I could fit in that car. I started a line of credit with a home improvement store and bought storage totes. When I moved to the dorm, I left everything packed so I could leave quickly if I wanted.

Every day I would call home. My heart felt like it was being ripped into pieces. I missed my sister, brother, pets, and parents. When I lived at home I would take care of them every day. As moving day had approached, however, I could feel my personality changing to be more like the people of the cult. Was this my way of making the leaving easier? I yelled at my sister. She was struggling, and I rejected her. Was I trying to toughen her up before I left? But I had loved her more than anything. Why did I yell at her? I did my best to protect her and brother, but I just couldn’t.

I would call just to talk; Sister was doing chores, and now having to do fill the role that had been mine. I was now no longer a part of their daily lives, and they weren’t a part of mine. They were moving on without me. My family was fine, they didn’t need me. The pets wondered where I had gone.

After hanging up the phone I would be visibly upset. There was nowhere to hide at the dorm, so I would have to go talk to my “counsel” before one of my roommates would tattle on me. This was the survival of the fittest: in order to keep yourself above others, you would have to report to the higher authorities. Though if it was too obvious, you would get busted. You must approach them humbly, so as not to get called out for being arrogant and thinking you were above anyone else. My counsel was the associate pastor’s wife. They had four boys whom I babysat, and their family lived on the other side of the basement of the church. The church basement was divided in half with separate entrances. They had real windows on their side.

She gave me a week of crying to her, then told me that I had to stop calling my family since it was only upsetting me.  I couldn’t stand the thought of it, but I had to do it. My family became strangers to me. I had no idea what they were doing, and they had no idea what I was doing. I was counseled to get to know my room mates better. I can still remember the feeling that I had when they would tell me this. It was something along the lines of “hell no! I don’t want to!” But I tried anyway. We all shared a kitchen and cleaning duties, and most of us also worked together. We also all attended Institute; the dorm was considered to be the housing for their fake bible college. Many of us were together all day every day, and I needed to get to know them better.

I have been thinking today of my baby pictures, the ones from when my brother was born. I loved him so much and as we grew we did everything together. When he was bullied before the church time, I would stand up for him. When he was bullied in the church, I would stand up for him, though to no avail. I remember the day my sister was born, when I was 10. I held her and loved her and I didn’t want to put her down. I wanted to protect her, and have that same loving relationship as with my brother. But my voice was restrained, I didn’t feel that I could stand up for her. I feel that so much changed when I moved out. I left them. I shouldn’t have left them. I became what I hated. They must have thought that I wasn’t on their side anymore. We were no longer a sibling unit.

To Brother and Sister: I am so sorry that I left you. I regret that decision more than any other from that time. I did not mean to hurt you. One day I hope that we can find solidarity with one another. I feel like we have the foundation of love. We are adults now, but that doesn’t have to change the relationship. I love you both and am so proud of you. I am here for you always.

I love you.

~E