SAAM Feature 25: Keith

Men in My Town

by: Keith Smith

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I was abducted, beaten, and raped by a stranger. It wasn’t a neighbor, a coach, a relative, a family friend or teacher. It was a recidivist pedophile predator who spent time in prison for previous sex crimes; an animal hunting for victims in the quiet, bucolic, suburban neighborhoods of Lincoln, Rhode Island.

I was able to identify the guy and the car he was driving. Although he was arrested that night and indicted a few months later, he never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in Providence before his court date. 34 years later, no one has ever been charged with the crime.

In the time between the night of my assault and the night he was murdered, I lived in fear. I was afraid he was still around town. Afraid he was looking for me. Afraid he would track me down and kill me. The fear didn’t go away when he was murdered. Although he was no longer a threat, the simple life and innocence of a 14-year-old boy was gone forever. Carefree childhood thoughts replaced with the unrelenting realization that my world wasn’t a safe place. My peace shattered by a horrific criminal act of sexual violence.

Over the past 34 years, I’ve been haunted by horrible, recurring memories of what he did to me. He visits me in my sleep. There have been dreams–nightmares actually–dozens of them, sweat inducing, yelling-in-my-sleep nightmares filled with images a nd emotions as real as they were when it actually happened. It doesn’t get easier over time. Long dead, he still visits me, silently sneaking up from out of nowhere when I least expect it. From the grave, he sits by my side on the couch every time the evening news reports a child abduction or sex crime. I don’t watch America’s Most Wanted or Law and Order SVU, because the stories are a catalyst, triggering long suppressed emotions, feelings, memories, fear and horror. Real life horror stories rip painful suppressed memories out from where they hide, from that recessed place in my brain that stores dark, dangerous, horrible memories. It happened when William Bonin confessed to abducting, raping and murdering 14 boys in California; when Jesse Timmendequas raped and murdered Megan Kanka in New Jersey; when Ben Ownby, missing for four days, and Shawn Hornbeck, missing for four years, were recovered in Missouri.

Despite what happened that night and the constant reminders that continue to haunt me years later, I wouldn’t change what happened. The animal that attacked me was a serial predator, a violent pedophile trolling my neighborhood in Lincoln, Rhode Island looking for young boys. He beat me, raped me, and I stayed alive. I lived to see him arrested, indicted and murdered. It might not have turned out this way if he had grabbed one of my friends or another kid from my neighborhood. Perhaps he’d still be alive. Perhaps there would be dozens of more victims and perhaps he would have progressed to the point of silencing his victims by murdering them.

Out of fear, shame, and guilt, I’ve been silent for over three decades, not sharing with anyone the story of what happened to me. No more. The silence has to end. The fear, the shame, the guilt have to go. It’s time to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family. It’s time to speak out to raise public awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they’re not alone and to help victims of rape and violent crime understand that the motion, fear, and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.

For those who suffer with the memories, I hope my story brings some comfort, peace, and hope. To those who suffer in silence, I pray you find the strength to speak out.

My story has just been released as a novel, Men in My Town, available now on Amazon.com.

More info is available at the Men in My Town Blog at www.meninmytown.wordpress.com

SAAM Feature 23: Lady Spirit Moon

My Journey to Peace with PTSD (excerpts)

by: Lady Spirit Moon Cerelli

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The following is a collection of excerpts from the book My Journey to Peace with PTSD by Lady Spirit Moon Cerelli. Visit her website at www.peacewithptsd.org.

When I was seven my father had sat me on his lap and offered me fifty cents to do something for him. I had no idea of what it would be, but I trusted him. He carried me to his and Mom’s bedroom. Drunk and stumbling, he tossed me on the bed and undressed me. He tried to penetrate me. But when I screamed out and he saw the blood between my legs, he forced me to give him oral sex.

“…A few weeks later Daddy startled me out of a deep sleep in the early morning hours. Frightened, I became instantly awake when I smelled the alcohol on his breath as he again carried me out to the kitchen and put me on his lap. This time when he asked me if I wanted to earn fifty cents, I mutely stuck out my hand. Remembering not getting the money the last time, I felt brave at having conquered him when he put two quarters in my palm.  I wasn’t going to chance losing any money again and put out the other hand as I stared at him with tight lips.

Blushing, he hesitated only for a moment before putting two more quarters in my other palm. Hatefully, he stated, “I’ll hurt your brother if you cry like a baby.”

Like a good little girl, I did what I was told. I wondered why Daddy didn’t wait for Mom and take her to bed. More often than not, I had the childhood fancy that a monster took over Daddy’s body at those times. I began to notice other things about him and wondered what I had done for him to have changed so drastically. Sometimes I doubted these things happened in other families.

A week or two later we were in his bed for the third time. There were just threats this time, no “I love you” and no money. I tried my best to keep from breathing so I wouldn’t smell his breath. His body smelled bad, too, and he was impatient.

Then Mom walked into the room.

For an eternal moment the thunderbolt silence stopped my heart and Daddy’s breathing while Mom froze in her tracks. In a flash and in one stride, she stepped over to the bed. With a hand of steel she hauled up my hefty body by one arm, and snarled, “Get your ass into your own bed.”

I was shocked. Mom had never treated me roughly like this before. I was shocked further by again not knowing what I had done. Having raced back to my own bed, I lay there and listened to them arguing, using words I had never heard before.

Then silence descended – no noise of any kind.

My chest thumped harder and I held my breath. I didn’t know what to expect as fear, like acid, filled my throat. In the hard silence, I heard a dresser drawer yanked open and slammed shut with such a loud force that my body jerked in bed.  My curiosity got the better of me. I quietly slid out of bed, trying not to disturb my sister. At my bedroom doorway, I quietly dropped to my hands and knees, slowly twisted my upper torso, and peered around the partition into my parents’ bedroom. I was certain they could hear my heart because it was beating so loudly.

The light from the alley shining through the dirty window silhouetted Mom pointing a handgun at Daddy as she said in a hard whisper, “Touch her again, I’ll kill you.”

The next day Mom would neither talk to me, nor look at me. My heart ached worse than my arm as I teetered on the verge of tears for most of the day. I didn’t understand what made her angry with me. The morning hours dragged by and it wasn’t until late afternoon that I finally found the courage to speak.

I patted Mom’s arm to get her attention. “Mom, Daddy pees in my mouth when he takes me to bed with him.” I wanted her to be as mad at him as she was with me.

She sat staring straight ahead as her lips tightened into a straight line. She was so quiet, I wondered if she had heard me. I touched her arm again, “Mom…”

Shrugging my hand away and responding in a tight, angry voice, she said “He didn’t pee in your mouth. You just dreamed it.”

Dumbfounded? Yes. Betrayed? Definitely. How could I have dreamed that? What was wrong with her? The look on her face as she stared straight ahead told me she wasn’t going to say anything else. So I crept back to the room I shared with five other sisters and one brother and stayed in bed, alone, until dinner time.

I remained confused for a long time afterwards. Mom and I stopped talking altogether. My world had forever changed yet again on the night Mom walked into their bedroom and found me and Daddy in bed. It wasn’t my doing and there was no one I could turn to…”

Granny was tiny in built but her character was strong. Looking at her, you knew she was a mountain woman. She wore wire-rimmed glasses, a ready smile, and had a whispering laugh. She was everyone’s favorite person. She stayed with us for a couple days twice a year when she came north. Granny was the only one who hugged me during that time of my life; and I followed her around like a love-starved kitten.

“…We were in the basement talking quietly while doing the laundry. It had been four years since Daddy had hurt me and the ‘nightmare’ stayed with me. I still dreamed of seeing Mom with the gun and remembered what she had said. When the washer and the two tubs had drained and Granny and I were wiping them out, it occurred to me to ask her the question burning in my mind those four long, troubling years.

“Granny, can I ask you something?” I held my breath.

“Yes, child.” She looked at me with a soft smile curving her mouth.  She always smelled of the rich, pleasant mixture of snuff and peppermint.

I related to her what had happened the night Mom had found me with Daddy.

Lowering her eyes, it was a few moments before she raised her head. “Have you talked with your mother about this?”

Silence stilled my heart for half a beat before it resonated off the walls and around the room, surrounding us.

“Yes. But she tells me it was a nightmare.” Then I forced out, “And I know it wasn’t, Granny,” and I started crying. Mom’s rejection was still an open wound in my heart. It also hurt because she hadn’t trusted me with the truth.

The bare light bulb over our heads cast a dingy yellow glow. A shaft of sunlight coming in through the small, square basement window highlighted dancing dust motes in the thick air, full of the damp, earthy odors of the basement. The smell of bleach still clung as the sound of water dripping into the floor drain intensified in the silence. My heart pulsed in my throat, drying it out. I would dissolve in the pool of water in which I stood if Granny, too, told me it was a nightmare. I could not bear it if she, too, had turned on me.

She looked at me, and I saw tears well up in her eyes and fall on her cheeks as she whispered, “Child, I cannot speak to you of this.” She then gave me a hug different from any I had ever received from her before. Turning around, she walked through the other room and up the stairs, her soft footsteps echoing in the thick silence.

Each drop dripping into the drain sounded like a small explosion to my ears. As my heart beat fell into rhythm with each drop, my trust in my family drained away. With each beat of my heart, my trust in love flowed out into the city sewer. In those moments, loud with silence, I realized three things: I wasn’t crazy after all because I now knew I hadn’t dreamed the nightmare; I would never lie to another no matter how much the truth might hurt; and since I wasn’t able to rely on anyone, I would always stand alone…”

All during my growing up years, I knew my insecurities and ineptness had stemmed from my stepfather raping me, and seeing and tasting my own blood. With continued emotional neglect and abuses, behavior disorders set in and my low self-esteem set me up to be a prime target for the military rape when I was 19. I had joined the Navy after high school and finished IBM school. I suspected my pregnancy before transferring to my second base. In 2003 in a flashback I saw the image of my lying on a bed with blood all over me, the bed, and floor. I knew I had been drugged and raped while unconscious and was left to die. I had lost the baby. I suppressed the memory of that rape for forty years. I spent a week in a VA Hospital followed by several months of therapy.

It was during an interview with a psychiatrist I became aware of how the mind can actually kill.

“…The female psychologist was nice and I liked her at first, but her questions dredged up memories like a backhoe digging up garbage, one shovelful at a time. I became agitated, ready to cuss her out.

“What do you mean, ‘How did I feel about the rape?’ I wanted to castrate the bastard.” Stupid bitch!

She turned her chair toward me and asked, “Have you had any miscarriages?”

Surprised by her question, I responded, “Yes, all of them.”

“How many was that?”

“Six.”

She turned back to her computer and started typing. I sat there, dumbfounded, in the quiet room. The silence soon rang with each click of the keyboard. Each tap clicked louder and louder until each click tapped my skin like a tiny electric shock.

What do the deaths of six babies have to do with anything? Why are they important?

The silence stretched on as my chest squeezed my breath, preventing it from leaving my body except in a slow, narrow stream. My thought processes stopped after slogging through a quagmire. Then a dark, forbidden, lone thought crept in like a deadly shadow in front of my mental screen, forcing me to look at it. I tried to push it away, but  was held immobile in the chair.

Please, God. Have I not been punished enough?

The psychologist didn’t ask too much about the flashback, but asked about my childhood and my teenage years. I managed to answer her questions, but my throat burned with bile drawn up from my stomach. The nausea wouldn’t pass and stayed with me during the drive home.

I was pregnant when I transferred to the new base. The blood in my flashback wasn’t all from an internal injury. The clinical psychologist had told me there were men out there with very large penises. Bill had forced my miscarriage.

I knew psychological pregnancies existed. Can there be such a thing as psychological miscarriages? My brain reached out and touched that dark, forbidding shadow, dragging it into the light.

I killed my babies.

When I lost my last baby during the sixth month, I was told it was due to too many male hormones transferring from the adrenal gland to the placenta. Autopsy on the first baby, also six months in the womb, indicated the same thing. The four babies in between were aborted between three and four months into the pregnancy. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I’m certain every time I became pregnant, my adrenal glands, through my own psyche, secreted excess hormones until a hormone imbalance eventually aborted the baby. I also suspect the subconscious memory of the original rape aborting my baby was what psychologically triggered my adrenal glands. This interview was powerful to me for it was absolute proof the mind can kill.

My nightmares were bad, but, so help me, my waking hours weren’t much better. There were times, if I stood still long enough, I’d hear strange noises: the clinking of filled drinking glasses; soft voices, laughing; deep voices of men in a huddle. The voices didn’t talk directly to me, but I began to wonder if I was schizophrenic. I sat at my computer for long hours playing FreeCell game or Solitaire, or searching the Internet, anything to quiet and divert my thoughts.

Tears, waiting just behind my eyelids for a glance or a word of any kind came too easily, too many, and too spontaneously. Sketchy, fragmented memories affected my short-term memory, because I used so much mental energy trying to piece them together. There were times I couldn’t remember what I had been told five minutes before and, feeling foolish, wouldn’t ask the person to repeat what was said. The memory fragments either took up a large space in my brain, or created a great void. When I said what I thought was in my mind, the information came out in fragments, or not precisely the way I meant it to come out.

Crowds became a real problem. If I walked into a room I’d immediately search for all the exits, should I get trapped for some reason. I tolerated loud noises for a while, but eventually I’d have to leave the room when the noise became a loud buzz or a drone in my head, setting my nerves on edge and sometimes giving me a headache. I had always jumped at sudden noises. Now, tiny, sometimes imagined, noises made me jerk, always edgy.

And sensitive! I was beyond it, sometimes even paranoid. What did they mean by that? What do they want from me? What do they want me to do? What do they want in return? My brothers had teased me about being gullible when, in fact, I had simply trusted everyone. I’d always searched for that someone in whom I could place my confidence. Trust was now a real issue. I even began questioning my trust in Jim. Could I believe everything he told me?

I was afraid to go to bed. Though my antidepressant medication helped me to sleep, it didn’t assuage my fear of dreams. I moved around in the daylight, but was afraid anything I did or said would bring on another flashback. I kept away from people as much as I could.

The sessions with Jan helped me to keep my sanity while trying to establish what I felt was a new life. She was my lifeline through what I felt was a surreal life. The antidepressant medication kept my spirits up, but it didn’t stop my fears: fear of another flashback, new or old; fear of people; and fear of noises. Fears were alien to me; I had not been afraid of anything prior to the original flashback.

Reading the PTSD description, I immediately latched onto the word “helplessness.” This word resonated with each and every trauma I remembered. Helplessness, in my experience, is not an emotion, but a state of mind, a state of “no control.” You have no tools with which to deal with your trauma. No words to express your anger. For a few moments nothing registers. Nothing! The shock is so great usually no thought can penetrate into the psyche when the brain is under such stress. In moments of horrific shock, my psyche imprinted upon my brain, not only the visuals of the scenes, but one or more of my five senses. After this moment of helplessness lasting for a heartbeat, there’s an instinctive reaction to freeze, flee, or flight. My first reaction was to freeze.

I often wondered if, in my youth, I had been given the tools to deal with abuse or traumas, if I would have learned to fight or flee, rather than freeze. I also wondered if low self-esteem caused me to freeze, thinking I didn’t deserve any better and, therefore, zoning out during the abuse. In my adult life, it took only an imprinted sense or a word to send me back to the past to virtually relive the trauma.

I recall reading somewhere when prey, running from its hunter, may run for a while then just stop, drop to the ground, and wait for its fate—an internal sense telling it there is no escape. If time passes, and by some miracle, the prey is still alive, it will stand up, do a heavy shiver dance to shake off the trauma, then walk away, seemingly none the worse for wear.

Even though we are animal based, humans cannot always shake off life-threatening traumas. I’ve learned with and through my clients and by my own experiences, the only way we can prevent it from living deep within us is to share it. With no one to share the trauma, and no internal understanding or coping tools gained from a similar experience, I had devised ways of internalizing the trauma as best I could. Unfortunately, “the best I could” wasn’t enough and further deepened the pain.

Once I had experienced the state of total helplessness, the elements of fear and ineptness silently programmed themselves into my psyche. At the same time, I subconsciously created and put into place the first ember or spark of anger. Psychologically, I used the mortar of tears and spent emotions to cement into place the first invisible stone wall I thought would protect me, and I spent my life building on it. Each instance of a minor or major trauma would resonate with this wall when I remembered or re-experienced a small part of the visual trauma, or if one of my senses was again used to bring on a memory or create a new memory.

With each fear or incident of ineptness experienced after the first trauma, I added a coal of anger to those already smoldering. Had the first trauma (ember) been put out by my somehow dealing with it right after the event, or within a short time, the ember would have died. As it was, it smoldered long enough to spark a fire. This fire of anger intensified with the addition of other embers. This fire eventually turned into rage. This rage became so viable it took on its own entity; it was the silent entity I felt behind me all the time. This was the it standing, waiting expectantly, like a stalking, salivating, wild beast. My psyche was aware of it but couldn’t comprehend what it was or why the invisible thing felt so real.

Fearing it taught me to stay in front of it, to keep it behind me. This fear, stemming from the raging fire of anger within me, was the basis for my road rage, spiking anger, and sudden shifts of emotions so dramatic others wondered if I had a split personality when I suddenly turned on them. Anger, for the most part, was the only emotion I felt and it pushed down all others, numbing me. Anger drove me, though it didn’t present itself like anger. It made me super efficient so it took more than one person to replace me whenever I left a job

My mind never shut down, never stopped. It often looked for different ways to do a thing because the old way was no longer interesting. I quickly became bored with jobs and felt the need to get another one, as different and as challenging as possible.

My anger was a fire so alive that its excitement wasn’t comparable to anything else. I constantly searched for external excitement to equal the exciting fiery anger within me. As all things in the universe, there must be a balance, my psyche sought external means of equalizing the internal self. The term is “self-medicating,” and these actions created behavior disorders, sometimes compulsive, like drug/alcohol abuses; surrounding myself with “stuff” because I didn’t feel loved; excess food intake; spending money; sex for the euphoric sensation during climax; racing anything on wheels; any perilous act that put me at risk for that ultimate thrill, my need to defy – my need to satisfy.

I recalled what an adult advocate said one time about an abused woman. The woman was asked why she left a relationship with a man who loved her, gave her a good home, and supported her and her children. She responded, “It was too boring.” The key word being boring. She was unaware of the fire within her because the fire burns very quietly, its intensity very cold. That fire is always in need of being fed or sated.

I now understand the woman was only aware of the external need to be excited. Hence, she provoked a fight which brought on abuse followed by the honeymoon period; the stage where the abuser asks for forgiveness and acts the lover. The excitement of the abuse, sex after the abuse, sometimes followed by alcohol or something to smoke as a sense of celebration, is what the woman sought. For a while, she was satisfied…but only for a while. The fire needs the continual external fuel.

When the same adult advocate asked an abuser what it was about a woman that told him he could abuse her, he replied that he could watch a woman walk across the street and know if he could abuse her. He named four traits:

  1. Rounded or sloped shoulders—the fire is a great burden. This trait is the most prevalent of all the body languages for those with low self-esteem.
  2. They will walk with small steps, will not step out.
  3. There is very little eye contact—the lack of courage to “face” another. This one was different for me. I held eye contact. But others don’t want someone to think they are being confronted and they don’t want to invite a confrontation.
  4. They continually apologize by starting their sentences with “I’m sorry….” This can also be seen in body language.

I’ve discovered through my own body language and some of my clients, behavior patterns stemming from a state of helplessness, in both men and women. From the first experience of having no control, control became an obsession—a lot of times overpowering anything else. My body language and the psychological reasons involved with my anger mirrored others I have witnessed in my various careers, and in those I have counseled.

  1. Rapid and/or constant speech—fear of hearing the embers crackle or a spark would burn me if I stopped; the need to psychologically keep it a good distance in front of it, so I ran with my speech.
  2. The need to dominate the conversation or be the center of attention—I felt like I was floundering and didn’t want to drown, get lost, or be ignored.
  3. My hands flew, usually in the faces of others, as I spoke. Though I enjoyed the attention, low self-esteem deemed me unworthy, so I felt the need to push people away.
  4. Arms folded across the chest—the protective stance. This trait is prevalent with everyone if they are discussing something sensitive to themselves, or if they fear being hurt. It is a move to protect the heart. This was also my way of saying, “No matter what you say….” Much like standing in defiance with my hands on my hips. When my hair was long, I would move my head to move it out of the way or out of my face. This is similar to a mental karate stance. Someone preparing themselves for defense.
  5. I became efficient, worked overtime hours to do what I thought others could not or would not do to my satisfaction. I was an overachiever, doing the work of two or more people. Work was also a distraction. I never wanted accolades, but they would sometimes spur me on.
  6. I was so driven, I strongly lead the office or group or created a cause to which I could give my energy, usually my all. This gave me my purpose in life.
  7. All of my careers were in a field helping others. I couldn’t do anything for myself, so I did for others. I guess I was also looking for answers, especially if I was aware of something amiss in my own character.

I was so focused and driven I sometimes wore blinders to everything and everyone in my immediate surroundings. This focused drive masked or shut down other emotions, enabling me to live on a day-to-day basis. “Living a life of quiet desperation” is an apt description. I’d bounce from job to snack, to phone, to snack, then maybe to just a small glass of wine, or to outrageous sex, then the next day, perhaps, to another job.

When my anger spiked, I might say or do something to hurt another. Upon hearing or seeing what I had just said or done, I’d become contrite and apologize profusely and try to make up for it. Not understanding what was going on with my mood swings and acid tongue, I never kept friends. Eventually it was better to be left alone than to go through the hassle of forming a relationship only to shatter it. If folks were uncomfortable with me—oh well.

My internal fire became a friend so familiar that it inspired me to build a stronger wall. This inspiration became so strong, so invasive, the distraction of it caused me to mishear or miss entirely what was said or not see what was done. I fed on it. Indeed, it became my food, my shield, the anger became the very reason I got out of bed in the morning. It made me feel alive. It kept me alive.

The positive side to this internal rage was its ability thrust me into creativity. I’d go into my studio and create something. In my fifties, I was in the gym working out and rediscovered what moving the body does for the brain. I even trained for the senior competitions in racket ball. I realized I wasn’t working for training purposes, but, rather, to get out excess anger. I recognized my anger, but didn’t understand from where it came.

I now understand how a trauma isolated within us gains strength. Once it is shared, it no longer has a foundation on which to build. When we face the original hurt, we actually crack the foundation to which all other hurts, pains, and traumas have attached their tentacles, each turning into a stone placed on the foundation. Every time we share a connecting dot to that trauma, we lose a stone in the wall, as the trauma loses its control over our lives…”

Going over this submission for the book, I’m pleased to say that I’m no longer the individual I was when the book was published. It did take its toll on me physically, though. Right now I’m doing things for myself as well as seeing an acupuncture to put my body back on line, as it were. I plan to set aside time for myself each and every day for the rest of my life, because I’m worth it.

Every day I pray for men and women all over the world. I know of very few people in my lifetime who have not been affected by abuse of one form or another, even if they just know someone who has been traumatized. I embrace every man woman who survives and do what I can to help her or him. In my heart I praise every woman or man who has the courage to stand up and say, “Hell no, you don’t have permission to hurt me.”

Below is the Survivor’s Psalm, written by Frank Ochberg, MD, author and founder of the Gifts From Within website. Dr. Ochberg is a PTSD survivor. I have permission to use it. A copy of this psalm is still pasted on the shelf door of my desk.

Know you are loved.

Survivor Psalm

I have been victimized.

I was in a fight that was

not a fair fight.

I did not ask for the fight.

I lost.

There is no shame in losing

such fights.

I have reached the stage of

survivor and am no longer a

slave of victim status.

I look back with sadness

rather than hate.

I look forward with hope

rather than despair.

I may never forget, but I need

not constantly remember.

I was a victim.

I am a survivor.

 

Know you are loved

Lady Spirit Moon Cerelli

www.peacewithptsd.org

lady@peacewithptsd.org

SAAM Feature 22: James

Military Sexual Trauma

by: James O.

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Victim = one that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment, a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: a victim of misplaced confidence, a person that has been subjected to crime, rape, robbery, assault, mugging.

Becoming a victim is easy, it can happen to anyone, at any time. There is no gender, ethnic, class that is exempted, but some may be more protected in our society then others. Living as a victim is hard, to recover, build trusts, friendships, to trust your own strengths, insights, to accept you were not at fault, there was nothing you could do.

Society looks at victims in numerous ways. Sometimes they are compassionate, sometimes they close their eyes, and sometimes they blame the one that has been victimized.

My beginnings were as others may have been – a happy childhood full of innocence, the world was wonderful, people could be trusted, friends were for life, and no one would take advantage, or hurt you. My dad was a WWII, Korean Veteran who had PTSD, this may have helped exacerbate my trauma symptoms causing PTSD to be worse, or better. This I do not know.

The military changed me, to have some one you trusted, looked up to, and had to obey, betray the bonds of human nature, friendship, camaraderie, to sexually assault you, violate your civil rights, disrupt, distort your core values, and beliefs was devastating.

I went in the service as a career I was prepared to do my best, knowing I may possibly have to go to war. I did not know the battle would be trying to defend myself from a rapist, and I did not know the battle would go on in my head for years, as I fought alcohol-drugs, suicidal attempts, loss of friends, relations, and became more medicated, and more, and more isolated.

Neither did I know the battle would continue with the VA in the claims process. My battle was over 6 years, I received no medals, no apologies, just maltreatment, abuse, and every now and then an occasional notification from some one that had a soul, and treated me as a human being that had been tortured, as it was by being raped.

Losing everything, feelings intimacy, the hope to have a wife, family, the closeness of another, is as bad if not worse then the rape. Being a victim of sexual assault is not some thing you share, and rejoice over. It is not like high school reunions, military reunions where you go see friends, and buddies. There is none of that ((Example (9thID MST reunion for survivors of the MST attacks 9th Dec)) is not a actual reunion.

The victim is usually an outcast after the attacks, left to suffer their shame, humility, anger, hatred, fear, doubts, blame on their own. Some recover, some do not, drugs-alcohol is a source for many to numb their pain, feelings, nightmare as they try to medicate them selves, others break down totally ending up in institutions both mental, or penal, while others just kill them selves, or just survive a miserable secluded life.

Lives shattered by these crimes is no less then a soldier wounded in combat, the wounds may be different, the trauma source may be different, but the effects on the soldier-victim is devastating for all that are involved. I have had other Veterans ask me where I served, what battle I was in, and I can only shrink back in to my self, and cry, I can not tell them what happened, it is not a badge of honor, I got no CIB, CAR, Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, I got a venereal disease, a fear that I can not shake, a loss of trust, a damaged soul, and spirit.

I have played down my own trauma when I see a Combat Veteran who has been in battle, been wounded, a prisoner of war. Many times I have set in groups with Veterans with Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, Combat Infantry Badges, Officers, and Enlisted and many times I have been told by them how deserving I am and actually had some cry for me.

I claimed PTSD secondary to MST 6 years I fought with the VA. This was more stressful then the PTSD, more harmful, and degrading then the rape. I felt continually violated by regulations, and seemingly uncaring, insensitive people working for the government in an agency designed to care for Veterans what a crime.

A victim of our society, the Military, the VA, the rapist, the medications, of PTSD feeling hopeless, and helpless, alone, a sense of loss of myself, manhood, my soul. A PTSD victim that has nowhere to turn for support. Men do not tell that they were raped, and most of the time if they do no one listens, cares, or believes.

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SAAM Feature 21: Beth

You Threw Me Around Quite A Bit, but I’ve Never Been Hit

by: Beth R.

_

You started by alienating me from my friends and family,
Said to be happy, I should focus on you and me.
You kept telling me I wasn’t good enough,
If only I’d been strong enough to call your bluff.

You repeatedly called me a crazy psycho bitch,
Said I’d need to see a psychiatrist to get fixed.
You would pull my arms tightly behind my back,
Threatening to call the cops and tell them to arrange for a Baker Act.

You threw me around quite a bit,
But I’ve never been hit.

You pulled me across the front yard by my hair,
While wearing nothing but your underwear.
You gave me permission to call the police,
Because after all, you said it would be you they’d believe.

You slammed my arm in the bedroom door,
And rejoiced as you called me a dirty f*cking whore.
You threw me against the bedroom wall by my throat,
Just because I wouldn’t give you the TV remote.

You threw me around quite a bit,
But I’ve never been hit.

You locked me outside the house naked,
Forced me to beg and plead for your consideration.
You didn’t think anyone else would care,
As my naked body was out there for all to stare.

You held me down on the bed until you were finished,
Said the pain would only last a minute.
You didn’t care as you implanted me with your seed,
Then forced me to choose because a baby you didn’t need.

You threw me around quite a bit,
But I’ve never been hit.

Just because I wasn’t one to back down,
Didn’t give you the right to throw me around.
You said I should be grateful I’d never seen your true anger,
It was then that I knew I was in serious danger.

You finally dealt your final blow,
I no longer cared if the whole world was in the know.
You begged and pleaded for me to stay,
Said we could go to counseling and find our way.

You threw me around quite a bit,
But I’ve never been hit.

You say I am the one, who has lied and cheated,
But ultimately it was before the judged that we pleaded.

You have bruised and battered my soul,
But you won’t anymore!
No you won’t anymore!

SAAM Feaure 20: Ashley

Sitting

by: Ashley

_

She is sitting. Sitting in a pew. Sitting in a pew thinking back on her life.

She sees a flash of images in her head.

They are ugly, they hurt her heart.

She is a child no more than 4 or 5. There is another child. They are playing a game. A game she knows is wrong. A game a man taught his daughter. A game no one should ever play. This is not a fun game. Yet she does it.

She does not stop it

She is now 18. She goes back to a room. It is dark here. There is a voice and a face. They hurt her to remember. She is scared. She was stupid to agree to come here. She wants to go home but she can’t bear the thought of what he will think. He touches her where she doesn’t want his hands. She screams in her head as she lays on the bead wishing she were dead. Yet she does it.. She does not stop it.

She is 20. He loved her he said. She knows it is wrong to be with him. She has to lie to keep it secret. She hates it, but he wants her. She needs to be wanted. He played his cards right and she believed him. He makes it her choice and she thinks for a long while. She has believed too many lies. Deep down she doesn’t want it, but she convinces herself she does. She gives herself away, never to be whole again. Yet she does it. She does not stop it.

She is 21 now. The guilt over her actions of late begin to build up and she needs release. She grabs the knife wanting to end it all. She can’t even do that right so she just cuts herself. The sight of blood is excilerating yet it hurts so much. She reaches out for help and is betrayed. She reaches out again and he is moving. She is floundering in this puddle of mud. She sinks deeper and cuts more. Nobody seems to understand her. She knows it is wrong. Yet she does it. She does not stop it.

She is still 21. Her arms have scars. Her heart has scars. Will they ever fully heal? She hears a voice calling to her and tugging on her heart. It has been there through everything. She has tried so many times to listen to it. This time she has to. She won’t make it if she doesn’t. She hears it clearly now, “I still love you, I never left you, through it all I protected you, I watched you, I cried for you, I cried with you, I died for you. You have no more guilt or shame. I took it for you. Lean on me and I will carry you. Sip from my fountain and be made strong. You are clean for I have washed away all your dirt. I love you…I love you…I love you…believe that I love you. I will love you no matter what you do. You can never escape my love. You can run and I will wait…wait for you to run to me instead of away. I love you precious daughter.” She does not stop it.

She is only 21 and she has found a place to rest in the arms of her Father. He loves her and she believes it. She is forgiven and she will live again. One day at a time. She is happy in her heart. She wants nothing more than to sit at His feet and listen to His voice sing over her. She will live for Him. And she does it. She does not stop it

SAAM Feature 19: Ash

The Weed that Chokes

by: Ash

 

i’ve found that fingers are a funny thing
one false move and you’ll lose a limb a la Hemingway
the finger is the focal point of
every last hate and every first love

i almost escaped the rest of my life entirely
but i was the Ride Home, alone
with you…
all alone

the casket closed as i pulled the keys
your breath reeks, i speak
get out
of
my car

silence ensues, my god, you know exactly
what you do

writhing back against my seat
so this is how it ends..
deaf to NO, so empty and shallow
fighting myself to just pretend

I’m
Not
Here
Not
Here
Not
Here
NOT
here

But draining seconds pass and you refuse disappear
The lingering scent of fuckifiknow, my head hits the window
but i remain cursed with total consciousness
as you run your fingers along the fringe

fingers flit through page after page
shredding up bits of revenge
my neck stiffens and the rage drains

and you stop, an expression of oceans…
yet here we still are
funny how walking on one’s fingertips can take one so far

i don’t want your jacket or your shame
you got out too late

the listless rain spits gently, as if to calm, to caress
yet every drop feels like assault
as i clutch the wheel, lips blue, heaving chest
they told me the driver is always at fault…

it was a thursday. bloody thursday
trailing like a cloak covering my body
so no one sees my soul choke

SAAM Feature 18: Emily

We Are All Made of Stardust (excerpt)

by: Emily Monroe

_

Salliem felt a wet grip tighten around his neck. Breath slipped from his chest as easily as memory and his throat numbed, stuck in the limbo between life and death. Near the door, a trail of wet footprints stained the floorboards black. Leading into a puddle whose hands clutched his throat. He was pulled upright onto his bed and he could see that the thing holding his neck was a woman. When he looked closer, he could see that this creature was like no woman he had ever seen before.

Her skin glistened ice blue, her hair framing her face wild and thick as weeds. He couldn’t help notice that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life, but it was a cold sort of beauty that sent a deep fear into his bones.

The woman dragged him by the throat, pulling him through grass, dirt, and stone until they were standing at the mouth of the river. There was not a single star, and it was impossible to draw the division between water and sky. Instead, he stared into an endless pool of black that drowned his vision. They dove inside, slicing through layers of blue and cold and foam and fear until they were standing at the mouth of a cave. She released his neck and he choked, spitting water through his nose and mouth, looking to her for help, until he hiccupped and realized that he could breathe underwater.

When the woman swam past him, he noticed that her legs united into a single mass quilted with scales. She was a mermaid. He had heard stories of mermaids; how they walked on land disguised as women, luring men underwater where they could never escape. But he was not afraid. He took the mermaid’s hand and followed her into the depths of her cave, plastered with bits of shell smoothed to gloss by the current.

The inside of the cave was dark, lit only by the filtered reflections of stars. But even in the dark, he recognized the person who crouched inside. He knew her thin arms, her pink face. Miss Ruth slumped against the wall, her eyes wide and watching him. Even in the depths of the river, illuminated by the mermaid’s iridescent cave, she looked like she did not belong.

Salliem tried to swim to her, but the mermaid held his hand tightly, forcing him to stay at the mouth of the cave. He watched as a shadow filled the space, a shadow that morphed into a figure, its face blurred and features indiscernible. He pulled harder, trying to reach Miss Ruth so that he could find out what was happening, but his body was paralyzed by the mermaid’s grip.

“Let me go,” he said, but when he looked back at her, her face was stone. Her expression had not changed and he knew that it never could.

The figure had sprouted arms and legs and it was hovering over Miss Ruth, pinning her against the wall so that she couldn’t move. She was trying to swim up, her legs flailing as she struggled to reach the surface so that she could get air. But the shadow stayed pinned against her, holding her body immobile.

Salliem called for her, but his words drowned in the depths of the river, soundless, unuttered. He wanted to get closer, wanted to know what was happening. Why couldn’t she move? Why couldn’t she breathe? But he couldn’t reach her, and he knew it was too late.

Her face turned blue, her cheeks swelling as a rush of bubbles poured from her lips. He watched as her kicking slowed, and finally, stopped. He looked into her gray eyes that seemed like a vacuum to recede forever. The shadow flitted into the waves and he watched as Miss Ruth’s body floated up into the water, higher and higher until she was gone. There was nothing left but black water.

He woke up drenched in sweat, his hands dripping with salt water. Dampness spread like a corpse on his sheets. He stood up and went to the window, drinking in air as if he would never be able to satisfy this unquenchable thirst. The reflection caught his face and illuminated his skin in the night. Pale blue in the dilution of stars drowned by sky. When he opened his mouth, all he could see was black – black spread like tar over the pink of his tongue.

*  *  *

When she woke up, she looked to her left and he was lying beside her. His eyes still closed in sleep, his hand stretched across the bed in hope of holding her close to him. She watched the quiet contours of his face, the curve of a cheekbone that held the stretching of that smile. The smile punctuated by that shining tooth that hovered inside of her dreams. A flash of gold catching the bit of moonlight that lingered in the early dawn.

She wanted to wake him – or better yet to climb from bed and pull the cleaver from the nail on the kitchen wall. But he was helpless in the growing light, his mouth parted against the pillow in gentle sleep. He was harmless. It had to be a dream – everything must be a dream. As she watched him beside her, peaceful, she knew that she had just suffered from a terrible nightmare. She laid back and closed her eyes, begging for the return of sleep. In sleep she could forget the reality of the villain sprawled across her sheets. In sleep she could beg time to reverse its flow and crawl backwards to the pivot of yesterday.

But sleep wouldn’t come. Exhaustion pressed against her bones without mercy, but her brain would not quiet. And before she could slip into unconsciousness, she felt the body stir beside her.

Maybe it wasn’t too late; maybe she could still crawl from the bed into the safety of her kitchen. She felt the pull of an arm around her waist and she opened her eyes to see his face hovering above her. His mouth closed over the sparkle of that tooth, but she knew the exact place of its resting. She knew before he opened his mouth that he would come closer to her and place those lips on the flesh of her neck. And she didn’t need to look to know that his body was already situating itself against her, maneuvering until the moment when his eyes would close in pleasure. She could do nothing but count down the seconds until it ended – would her breath run out with counting?– and beg for insanity. Because if she was insane, then he was nothing more than her lover. A man she had invited inside of her to linger in the places that once belonged to her.

When it was over, he picked up the clothes strewn across the floor. He smoothed last night’s wrinkles from his shirt and pulled it over his head. He grabbed her hand – the hand of a corpse – from the bed and pulled her up. She followed him to the door, her body weightless in its ascension to heaven. Its plummet into hell.

“Don’t worry,” he said, leaning close to her to brush his dry lips against her cheek. “I not gon’ tell no one what happen. I gon’ keep we secret.”

She watched as he jogged away from her house, his body shrinking along the path until he disappeared completely. The first hint of sun climbing into the sky and electrifying damp trees and the crumbs of mascara stuck to her cheeks. She closed the door and sat down on the couch, trying to feel. She even closed her eyes, pressed her hands against her chest where she believed her heart must reside. She counted backwards from ten, begging her body for its cooperation, but as she reached one she opened her eyes and collapsed against the cushion. She could feel nothing.

*  *  *

This cannot happen to me, she thought, so she woke up the next morning, showered as usual, and began to clean the house in preparation for the week. Her body slackened as she reached for the broom and for a moment she thought she might cry. But she knew that tears never solved anything, and besides it must have all been a dream. She heard her father’s voice in her head. What’re you going to Guyana for anyway? You think you can save the world or something? The laugh that echoed, rude, in her memory. She knelt down and dipped her fingers into the bucket of bleach at her feet. She let her fist relax in the cool embrace of the soapy water, waiting to see if her skin would brighten. If her skin would be cleansed.

She was trapped in the jungle that had overgrown her mind. Stepping through drooping branches into a crumple of leaves, she searched in vain for the sun. The hum of crickets, birds, blurred her vision until she collapsed into wet brush. But she was not cleansed.

She wanted to ask for God but she did not know how to pronounce his name. The letters slid across her mind, but she could not unite their sounds. She once thought he was an illusion; now she knew he was a lie. Instead she looked up into a finger-locking of leaves pressed against the sky and she began to sing. A slow drawl of melody, it almost failed to break the barrier of her lips.

If her neighbors happened to stray past her house and steal a glimpse of the white girl crouched on the floor, soaking her hands in bleach and singing, they might guess that some obeah spirit had overtaken her body. The victim of a jumbie who pounced upon his prey in the cool of dawn without mercy. But she wasn’t thinking about her neighbors. She only wanted to fill the house with sound until his memory quieted inside of her. She let her voice swell louder and louder until the roosters crowing outside were nothing but the muted memories of expected sound. The notes blended closer and closer in pitch until they merged into the drumming in her brain. The pounding of blood, hungry, as it devoured the fist clump of gray matter. And still, she was not cleansed

SAAM Feature 17: Nicole

Silenced

by: Nicole T.

_

Is he here?
I look around the corner
I creep down the hall
So he doesn’t see me
To listen to whispers to hear if it is him
Is it him?
Is he going to hurt me?
Will I get one night free?
Why me?
I am so little and cause no trouble.
Why does he hurt me?
In fear, I look around the corner.
Their he is, I run silently upstairs.
From years of practice I go and hide.
Is he coming, will he find me?
If I close my eyes, he will be done quickly.
Then and only then I can sleep, for a little while.
When I wake I sneak in silence and listen again.
Listen, listen this is my life, my fear and my shame.
Will he kill me today or tomorrow?
Listen
Will it be my mother?
Listen
He is gone today, only for today.