The post I hadn’t dared to write – or my life as an abuse survivor

This is the post that a lot of people are going to stare at and look at in confusion. It’s the post that will get a reaction from people who knew me growing up more than people who know me now. It’s one I didn’t think I would ever be ready to post and I know given the community I grew up in it will put me at the centre of gossip. But you know what? Fuck it. I’ve spent the past few years dealing with the flashbacks, coming to terms with my past, and learning that I am not to blame. I’ve grown as a person and I’ve changed too. This is my truth. And now that it’s been over a year since my darling grandfather died I can and will put it out there. I waited as a sign of respect for the man who on finding out just a fraction of what I’m about to share here told me to call him ‘dad.’

Being kicked out of my father’s house was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me. Ever. On the day he kicked me out for being a lesbian, he went to punch me, I ducked, and he left a hole in my bedroom wall. That was the final time my father was ever physically abusive to me. Not the last time he was emotionally abusive, but the last time he laid his hands on me. The last time he had a chance to physically put the boot in.

You see, my father, the man that to the community was the loving dad and husband, and who treated his kids with equal love and respect has a twisted view on what that means. It’s only now that friends have admitted that they always found him a little creepy. (I want to throw in a disclaimer at this point that I love my brother dearly and don’t blame him for anything or for the fact he didn’t see what was happening, he is 8 years younger than me and he couldn’t have figured it out, nor do I want him dragged into any of this and so have not discussed it with him).

From the age of 8 I learnt very quickly that my father didn’t think it was his job to do the housework or help my mum. It was mine. And if she was ill it was my responsibility and woah betide me if I got it wrong. He was, as most abusers are, very clever at hiding the abuse. It started with yelling at me, calling me names, and later moved on to hitting me in places it wouldn’t be seen, even if I had a PE lesson at school.

By the time the molestation began I was too subdued to tell anyone. I can still remember the exact night it happened. Can still hear my cousin sleeping on the floor of my bedroom as he crept into my room. That’s how twisted he was. He didn’t care that my cousin was asleep in the room with me. I was 11. I lay there, silent tears running down my face and never said a word. To this day sirens make me jump and freeze because I associate them with that day.

I can recall every single time he crept into my bedroom with vivid clarity. I remember twice when it happened in his car. There are nights where I still find myself shaking in fear as I see a shadow and think it’s him in my bedroom. But still I never told anyone at the time. After all, who would believe ‘Daddy’s Girl’?

And it’s true, I was a Daddy’s Girl. Somehow in the grand scheme of things I had this twisted perception that it was all my fault. If I just tried harder or I just loved him more, maybe he would love me the way he was supposed to. These are things that as an adult I have come to understand are not the case.

There are home videos of me being a typical teen, arguing with my mum. What they don’t show are the agonising moments when the camera was off and he would lay into me for ‘upsetting’ them and I’d end up with another bruise to cover as well as another emotional scar.

The sexual abuse stopped just shy of my 16th birthday. I couldn’t tell you why. I just know that it did. He stopped coming into my room at night and that combined with witnessing him abusing my mum on the night of my 16th birthday and the years of bullying I underwent at school, triggered the start of my self harm and the repression of a lot of the abuse. The physical abuse slowed although it didn’t stop completely. But the emotional abuse continued until long after I had been kicked out.

During those years of emotional abuse some of the worst things he did were:

  • Repeatedly inform me that I was worthless and make me believe it by pushing it into my head at every chance he got.
  • Bury my mum’s ashes without me present ‘because it had to be done’.
  • Put my disabled uncle who lived with us in a home without discussing it with me after my mum had told him should she die I had a right in the decision.
  • Repeatedly inform me that working in a drag club would ensure I ended up HIV positive, especially after he found out I knew several people who were diagnosed, only one of whom was gay.
  • Repeatedly make homophobic remarks around me and pass them off as jokes after I initially came out as bisexual.
  • Tell family members and friends that I joined a cult, had died, was a junkie, had AIDS, had run away because of some ridiculous reason or another after he kicked me out.
  • Outed me to my grandfather when he knew that I was preparing to tell him myself.

I’ve forgiven him for so much of it. The emotional and physical abuse are forgiven. I’m no longer self-harming because of a lot of self-work and because of that I’ve been able to forgive those actions. But the molestation has not been forgiven. I don’t know if I ever can forgive it. So very much of my adult experience has been based on that part of the abuse that it is so very hard to let go.

Being molested by my father has made trusting anyone, particularly men, difficult. It’s made the relationships where I do trust all the more special to me. And allowing anyone close enough to trust them with the most intimate parts of me seemed impossible until extremely recently.

For years it made me fearful to the point I would watch over my shoulder and keep an eye on my surroundings when out and about not out of due diligence but because I wanted to be able to see when the next attack came. That’s something I only let go of in the past couple of months. Just short of 2 decades later.

The anger it created in me has kept me fuelled for so long I don’t know how to run without it. I’m learning to but by Gods it’s hard. It’s hard to focus on the love in my life and allow that to fuel me instead. But I am starting to. I can feel the lightness that love puts in me and how it makes me smile more. I won’t allow myself to be treated badly anymore and I’m starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel.

As an adult, I’ve made the choice not to prosecute. There isn’t any point to me in following that path and dredging up things I’m letting go of. Just as there isn’t any point in talking to him again. There is nothing to be achieved by either. However, there is something to be achieved by standing up and being counted. Even if I’m not ready to go into detail, even if I never am. Because it will let others know that they are not alone and it will remind me that I no longer have any reason to be afraid.

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