Freedom

“But maybe I know
what she’s going through,
although it doesn’t show,
maybe I went through it too.”

(2002)

Much like tears eventually stop falling, the rage in me was doused. I yearned for acceptance, support, and love. I wanted everything to be ok, even if it wasn’t. The care I was looking for escaped Hayley’s mouth before I had time to believe anything else. They knew what I wanted more than anyone else, and their hurtful actions were explained away. The glimpses of warmth that had previously gleamed through beamed through the both of them; they supported my belief that “we all have good in us”. Their sympathy softened my thoughts and I took three steps backwards.

My 21st birthday was on the horizon and plans were in motion for us to all leave for their home country. The country they called home, would soon be mine. I continued to hold on to the importance of education and anxiety of not reaching my goals filled me. Being in a different country, having to learn a different form of English, and being thousands of miles from familiarity swarmed through my brain. Promises of fulfilling my dreams and regular conversations of a brand new start slowly extinguished my fears. When David’s harsh comments rattled the walls, I wanted to prove him wrong. The disgust in his voice spewed out about how he had wasted his time on me. I was too young, wouldn’t make it, and didn’t really want them to love me. The past 10 years played through my mind. Love was all I wanted, even if that meant being afraid. After all, with their names carved across my left leg, I was branded as their property already.

The closer the new year became, the more arguing and fighting became the norm. Screams bounced off the walls as did anything in the near vicinity. I’d threaten to leave, only to be drawn back in. Talk of the importance of my 21st birthday drowned me in anxiety. The numbness through the years disappeared, and I feared for my life. I didn’t want to die. Feeling like my days were numbered, plans of escaping flashed through my mind. Lying awake in the middle of the night, terrified of what was so close, yet fearful of the possible consequences of leaving, tears smothered me and years of built up feelings were released.

Days before my 21st birthday was the last time I had contact with either David or Hayley. In the middle of a screaming match I slammed the door on the largest portion of my life.

“I’m done living like this! I’m done.”

The promise of “I’ll never leave” that I so tightly held onto slid away. I no longer cared about breaking promises and after years of protecting everyone else, the only person I was desperate to save was myself. I changed everything from driving routes to phone numbers, and moved around enough times to calm my fears of being tracked down. Tears welled up my eyes in the black of the night as I prayed to not be found. Clenching my eyes tightly, my wishes were to be a spec on the wall; anything that would make me blend in with everyone else and unrecognizable. Months later, I made the name carved into my leg unrecognizable and did everything short of surgery to fade the scars of my past. I was slowly on my way to truly being free.


Freedom is something expected in the U.S., but something that’s not necessarily as black and white as people tend to think. The other day I caught the story about the largest discovered sex ring in Alabama and came across another sentencing of a man for ongoing sexual abuse of a twelve year old. This isn’t freedom. The numerous amount of girls that are trafficked in the U.S., might I add, American girls, are not experiencing freedom. Sex trafficking, abuse rings, and abuse in general is not something that only happens in other countries, to the poor, to the “less fortunate”, to minorities, to people in “bad” parts of town, or to foreigners. It’s happening in your country, in your state, and more than likely in your city. And race, socioeconomic status, education level, or looks make absolutely no difference.

Most abuse victims go to school, work, are in after school/work activities, take family portraits, go to church, have friends or acquaintances, and go shopping. From the outside perspective, they’re no different than anyone else and even if you know everything there is to know about abuse, you may have no idea that freedom doesn’t look like what they learned in history class to them. The point being, as many times as I’ve heard “that doesn’t really happen here” or “it’s worse in other countries” I can very much say it happens everywhere here, and while there may be terrible things happening in other countries, that doesn’t minimize what is going on in our own country.

For me, freedom looks significantly different now than it did in the past. Grasping onto freedom has been exhilarating and terrifying at the same time all the while lies of my past have tried to wrap me back in chains. Like a soldier at war, it’s taken strategy and help from other soldiers to continue to hold onto freedom and to not surrender to the enemy.

A Challenge to Bystanders and Silent Supporters

My mom adored my new boyfriend and everyone thought we were the cutest thing. The approval I’d been fighting for, I finally had it. We had the same birthday, he was cute, played the guitar, and had manners. How great can you get? He had it all going for him, until we had a mutual agreement to break up. As “free bait”, the onetime fling I had with a fellow classmate, Brandon, escalated into dangerous territory. Walking the back stairways of a high school that was filled with dead end hallways, he’d follow me and pull me under the stairs, digging his hands into my wrist. I was conditioned to stay quiet; to accept it because being used and hurt was the only thing I was good for. After my no’s continuously became ignored, I stopped defending myself. He made it apparent that I never controlled anything with him. Fear crept back in as I started to lose control, again.  After asking to be as far away from him as possible in our shared history class, my only option to avoid his burning hands was to skip lunch and run through the halls.

Cutting continued to be a bandage that had to constantly be replaced. I rarely left home without razor blades, but in the middle of a crisis I often found myself turning to varying alternatives. I was desperate for an escape. Brandon’s whispers filled our history class as his stares burned through me. All the hurt from Hayley and David was done with, along with their concern for me and their care. I was left without them and a mess I created from wanting attention. It didn’t take much longer until I went looking for them again.

When Hayley and I started talking again things fell quickly back into place. The brainwashed girl I was over a year ago was still there, just even easier to manipulate as I begged for forgiveness. As sorry as I was, I would never be able to repay either of them. From the beginning Hayley was the overly clingy type and extremely demanding of my time. Constantly wanting my attention, always wanting confirmation, always wanting me to promise to never leave, threatening suicide when we’d argue; it was always something. She was just as desperate for attention as I was. We were the same in that way, and were both victims of a self-centered, manipulative monster that got away with everything. She just continued to carry on the cycle of abuse.

A few times, I heard from her ex-best friend. Prior to Hayley and me meeting, they lived together as a way for Hayley to get away from family. Messages meant only for me, I’d relay to Hayley for an explanation.

“Leave.”

“Get away.”

“Save yourself.”

“She’s lying.”

“They’re evil.”

“RUN.”

She’d keep trying but I would not only refuse to listen, but would call her a liar. I’d argue with her that she was just upset because they weren’t friends anymore; she was after revenge and Hayley wasn’t the “bad” one, she was. Then, she stopped.

I refused to listen to the one person who was telling me the truth.

By my senior year of high school the blanks in my memory became significant. I’d go hours or days not knowing what had happened. I couldn’t keep up with what was going on in school, things I was supposed to do with friends, or remember things I was told I had said. It felt like my memory was Swiss cheese and I didn’t have the motivation or care to question why I was missing so much time. The one thing that wouldn’t leave my memory was the flash of a camera. Getting my picture taken made me sick from fear; the stress of getting my picture taken was almost unbearable. It wasn’t until college when I saw the other side of the camera, a camera that held snapshots of images I couldn’t grasp because I couldn’t remember, but were being passed around the globe.


  • The fastest growing demand in commercial websites for child abuse is for images depicting the worst type of abuse, including penetrative sexual activity involving children and adults and sadism or penetration by an animal (Internet Watch Foundation. Annual Report, 2008).
  • Child sexual abuse images and videos are often extremely graphic and violent. Among the images of identified victims submitted to NCMEC in the last five years, most depict anal and/or vaginal penetration. Almost half include depictions of bondage and/or sado-masochism.

As a society we’re conditioned to not really think about these things – sexual abuse, domestic abuse, child pornography, incest. So we remain in this web that continues to grow and affect hundreds of thousands of lives, but many people continue to back away from approaching the subject. After all, how do you talk about such topics? How do you accept that we do in fact live in world where these types of things happen and it’s not the fault of the victim? By accepting this our world is shaken, our safety and the safety of our loved ones is made vulnerable, and in the end, we can’t stop it from happening to anyone. While all of this is true, our safety and the safety of our loved ones is even more jeopardized by living in denial. We can’t stop these forms of abuse in the world, but we can educate and become a voice for those that can’t speak. While no one may want to accept the truth of the above statistics, living in denial and hurriedly scrolling past these and other statistics don’t make them any less prevalent.

Instead of remaining a silent supporter or a bystander, I challenge you to not only become more aware, but educate those around you. It only takes one drop to create a wave.

Denial

My alarm clock blared when morning came. Making sure to wake up before anyone tried to come into my room; I saw my parents and sister off so Hayley and I could begin our day. Anxiety began to fill me, an intense fear that our secret would soon be discovered. Instead of listening to my gut, I brushed it off until that evening, the evening it all began to fall apart.  Out of excuses and lies, we both ran out of the house and left on foot. Knowing my way through the woods and bayou, I did nothing to try to hide us, instead I ran with Hayley behind me down main streets that were filled with the people that made up my overpopulated hometown. In the heat of the summer, I caved after running less than 5 miles away from home. My lungs burned, legs trembled, and sweat poured down me as my dad grabbed my arm and forced me into his truck to go back home, away from Hayley.

Back home, the house was surrounded by red, white and blue flashing lights from neighborhood cops and my uncle. My heart raced from panic and fear; I couldn’t let this get out of control more than it already was. Drug into the house by my elbow, I begged charges wouldn’t be pressed against Hayley. My memory was filled with empty spaces after passing out from the alcohol that previously drowned my body and I couldn’t reasonably say rather anything happened or not, nor did I want to know. Familiar with lies and stretching the truth, I told myself and everyone around me that nothing happened; explaining away the alcohol and any other questions. After an hour of questioning, the situation was dropped. I had an answer for every question, and a response for every statement.

The following morning I woke up to my bags packed and a non-emotional response. I was going to stay with my grandparents. It was back to the bedroom across from the attic where it all started. The one time the ring of abuse could have been stopped, the persuasion and denial of a sixteen year old pushed the questioners away.

After that I didn’t talk to Hayley or David for over a year. The abuse stopped. After 3 years, I didn’t know how to live without them. David’s voice cycled through my head.

“It’s you or them.”

I was terrified some child was put in place of me. An innocent was at the mercy of their hands because I failed. I didn’t know how to function with this heavy burden; I didn’t know how to function without being hurt. After all, somehow, being hurt meant being wanted, and being wanted meant being loved. Another bandage was ripped off and I was left with exposed gaping wounds.

Struggling with their absence and feelings of guilt, my heart became hard. I stopped caring and I lost the feelings of empathy I always felt so deeply. The pain buried so deep inside of me was screaming to be released, screaming for someone, something to heal the holes that were oozing hurt. At seventeen, I lost all respect for myself, and used sex to wrap up my wounds. A meaningless action to me had the ability to give me the attention my heart was bleeding for. I made excuses for breaking up relationships and being “the other girl”; I was finally the one not being hurt – or so I thought. I started dating the boy from my integrated physics and chemistry class from two years earlier. His voice still rang through my ears, his rape fantasy on replay. I knew the possible consequences of my actions, the danger I was potentially walking into. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care about myself; I needed someone to do it for me. Sex became a game of control for me, only this time the tables were turned and I was in charge.


A number of sexually abused teenagers won’t admit to being abused. They’ll refuse to talk about it, deny anything happened, and sometimes their abuse will go completely under the radar. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • They’re afraid of getting in trouble
  • They’re afraid the abuser will hurt them, a family member, or someone they care about
  • They’re afraid they’ll be taken away
  • They believe the abuser loves them and they don’t want to lose that relationship
  • They feel too ashamed or embarrassed
  • They feel as if the abuse is normal

So how do you get them to admit to abuse? You can’t. Last year someone asked me if there was anything anyone could have done to make me talk. I instantly knew the answer. No. I was determined to protect everyone, regardless of what that meant for me. Abuse became normal, and I felt loved and cared for by my abusers.

So what do you do? Be that person’s safe haven, something as little as verbally expressing care and playing it out leaves an impact. When my world was crumbling I knew who the safe person was in my life. Even though she was unaware of what was going on in my life, there was a genuine care and love that ultimately led me to question my abusers love.

Keeping abuse a secret doesn’t mean you’re weak, that you wanted it to happen, or that you could have stopped it. But, rather you’re a child or an adult, you can begin healing by telling a trusted person. Rather it takes the first person you share with to believe you, or thirty, you’re voice is worth being heard.

Taking Back the Power

“What she needs isn’t death,
there’s no reason for her to take her last breath.
No, what she needs is for someone
to be there when she is full of fear”

(2004)

Summer 2006. The humidity filled the pollution filled air and the scorching sun played tricks on my eyes. Hayley’s phone number flashed on the front screen of my flip phone. She was on her way, on her way to stay at my house for the first time. Home alone and excited to have the company, I flung out the front door. The cement burned the bottom of my bare feet as I ran down the driveway in anticipation. My heart fluttered; this was a first and my heart fluctuated between fear and excitement. As the car she was in pulled up, a sense of power filled me; a sense of control and comfort with her being in my territory. Before the car pulled off, we both jumped up and down. We both knew the chances we were taking with her being there, the secrets of shared hurts were on the line.

Walking inside, I threw her bag down. Twisting the lock on the front door multiple times before we plotted down on the sofa, we began to talk like we were best friends. My overprotective dog stuck beside me, growling and barking at any sudden movements. Holding his small, black body beside me, I apologized for his behavior and reasoned that he was not fond of strangers.

Making herself at home, we watched movies, joked around, and rummaged the pantry. After weeks of preparing for her visit, I hesitated to reach for the junk food that I had been avoiding, her father’s degrading remarks ringing in my ears. Desperate to maintain the extra few pounds I lost, but struggling to ignore the hunger pangs, I dug my nails into my palm as I grabbed ice cream out of the freezer. I covered my loss of control and anger at myself by offering her some of my weakness, delighted to hear that she lacked control just as much as me.

The day wound down and knowing my family would be home soon, we barricaded ourselves in my room by 5 o’clock to prepare for a night locked in. Grabbing for her bag that had been shoved in my closet, she brought out a bottle of Vodka. Without asking, she poured the toxic liquid into each of our glasses that were half-way full with soda. Sixteen and never having alcohol, the butterflies in my stomach began to flutter. Offering me my glass, she tipped hers towards mine and downed it without reservation. Flashes of her and her dad passed out from drinking binges ran past my memory. Holding the glass in my hand I swished the liquid that was nearly to the top from side to side, taking in the strong smell that made my stomach bubble. Putting the glass to my mouth, I swallowed, and hid the fact that I wanted to vomit up the taste that was burning my mouth. Instead, I didn’t utter a complaint and ignored my body as it began to scream “STOP!” Between drinks, Hayley shared her adoration for a child she sometimes babysat. Her phone flashed pictures of a small little girl with dark hair and dark eyes. Her voice filled with excitement as she went on about how smart and sweet this toddler was, and how she would never let her dad know she was around children. Full of alcohol and no tolerance, my room began to spin and everything went black. Familiar with missing pieces of time, I easily slid back into reality when my room came back into focus, her voice filling my ears. Darkness began to fill the arched window in my room that looked out to the street. With little energy to do anything but lay there, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the morning, both of us still barricaded in my room.


I tend to hear a common reoccurring theme from survivors of childhood/adolescent sexual abuse, that being that they lost their innocence. I held this same belief just up until recently. Although I went from being overly sheltered to being sexually abused for a number of years, my innocence was something that never left me, in fact, in some regards it probably grew because I desperately wanted what I felt had been taken. There are certain things I labeled myself else even after being away from abuse that created a victim mentality. I walked around feeling impure and had lost all of my innocence, when in fact, my innocence and purity had just become very twisted and mutated.

A few months ago someone said to me “if you think that, you’re naive” about a guy I was going out with as friends. I’ll admit, it hurt. In fact, it hurt so much I had to bite my tongue to hold back the tears because I felt like it was a hit to my personality. As much as I felt hurt by this remark, later that day I realized I am naive to men’s intentions with me because I lack healthy experience, or any experience at all short of abuse. I used to label all men as dangerous, only wanting sex, and self-centered. Having moved past this stage, I no longer use this all black thinking and find myself either in the white or grey area; either way, I’m hopeful. Jumping from one extreme to the other, or even to the middle area, I won’t deny naivety or possibly even innocence because of lack of experience and knowing. While this can be a potentially dangerous factor, instead of becoming fearful of it, I promised myself, at this stage of my life dating and opposite sex relationships are the one thing I need to talk about with trusted others for my safety. Abusive background or not, we all have our pitfalls. Acknowledging these pitfalls and reaching out for support rather we think we need it or not can sometimes literally be a means of safety.

Abusers are mastermind manipulators, and while you may feel like your life has been stolen, you have the reigns to take back the power.

 

Female Sex Offenders: The Last Taboo

“Looking through the mirror
of all those yester-years.
My life began to revolve around,
nothing but my fears.”

(undated)

The pages of the calendar continued to change, months and years passing. For every candle added to my birthday cakes, the more frequent days would pass that I couldn’t remember. Excuses and lies filled my days. Excuses to get out of changing in the locker room, excuses to get out of staying after school, excuses to cover up lies, and excuses for Hayley and David’s actions. Excusing their actions because of the misery in their lives, I began to fear what was in store for my future; surely I would be no better. Each of them gripped their bottles of alcohol as if booze was their lifeline; alcohol was a sure way for them to drown everything out. I pitied their habits, feeling sorry for them when they were passed out surrounded by a stench of Coke and Jack Daniels.

For all the attacks, tears, pain, and fear, I still carried around care and compassion for Hayley. For every action she committed that took the life out of me, she filled me back up through expressions of sincerity and care. The voices of “you’re stupid and fat” that screamed at me to take beyond destructive action were calmed by her reassurance and acceptance. These glimpses of care burned brighter than being held down, hurt, or torn down by words. I was blinded by these rare occurrences, and held on to them even through the darkest storms.

I was desperate to be loved, and continued to push away the truth that screamed at me. I continued to refuse women could be abusers, justifying Hayley’s actions and accepting her abusiveness as normal. Abuse was normal.


Men are automatically the ones we tell our children to be cautious around. Women are the caregivers, the protectors, the safe haven, and the automatic “safe” choice. It’s statistically accurate to say that men are the predominant sexual predators. However, the number of sexually abusive women are minimal because of the beliefs society holds about women. Just as shame surrounds the male victim that is abused by a male perpetrator, the same shame is held by the female victim that is abused by a woman. Sexual abuse is extremely under reported, with victims of female perpetrators even more under reported. Many studies have consistently shown that a vast majority of both male and female victims of female sex offenders tell no one.  Girls face the task of convincing others that females can be abusive and that touch between females can be sexualized. Males are not socialized to report victimization.

According to Dr. Michelle Golland female sex offenders typically fall within these characteristics:

 

  • Women between the ages of 22-33 years of age.
  • They have experienced sexual abuse as children or teens and can have victimization histories twice the rate of men who sexually offend.
  • History of alcohol and/or drug abuse.
  • The majority are not mentally ill, but may experience depression or personality disorders.
  • A majority are employed in professional jobs.
  • They have difficulties in intimate relationships; or an absence of intimate relationships.

Their victims comprise:

 

  • A high percentage of victims are in the family or the perpetrator is close to the victim — friend, teacher, coach, sitter or clergy.
  • Victims are both boys and girls — with a slightly higher number of girls.
  • Younger children, under the age of 12, are more often victims of women over the age of 30 years of age.
  • Children between the ages of 13-17 are often the victims of women who are between the ages of 18 to 25 years of age.
  • Women do not tend to show a “victim age preference” in the same manner that male sex offenders do.

and they are categorized as:

 

  • Teacher/Lover: At the time of their offending, these women are often struggling with peer relationships. They perceive themselves as having romantic or sexually mentoring “relationships” with underaged adolescent victims of their sexual preference, and therefore, did not consider what they are doing to be wrong or criminal in nature.
  • Predisposed: Histories of incestuous sexual victimization, psychological difficulties and deviant sexual fantasies were common among these women who generally acted alone in their offending. They tend to victimize their own children or other young children within their families or they are close too.
  • Male-Coerced: These women tend to be passive and dependent individuals with histories of sexual abuse and relationship difficulties. Fearing abandonment, they were pressured by male partners to commit sex offenses often against their own children.

If we as a culture continue to deny the fact that women can and are capable of being sex offenders, we deny victims the support they need to report and heal from their trauma. While no type of abuse is worse than the other, from my experience, being sexually abused by a woman took a much harder toll on me than being abused by men. Although we are far from where we need to be as a society with supporting sexual abuse victims, our society as a whole has come a long way in recent years over the issue of male sexual offenders and pedophilia. However, there continues to be a systemic denial of females as sexual abusers. The involvement of women as predators is still seen a taboo. Accepting the fact that women can also be sexual predators undermines what we believe is the nurturing and caring side of women, but denying this fact keeps this harrowing truth hidden along with the victims that are harboring their pain in silence.

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Words

The mind can do amazing things. It can drive you completely mad, or it can save you. Through my adolescent years and early emerging adulthood years I cringed and racked my brain about the blanks in my memory. Crazy was the only explanation I had, not that these empty spaces were my saving grace. While I began to normalize the abnormal, my brain kicked into survival mode. I learned how to act; when it was better to be submissive or fight, and I became a pro at judging the direction of what the day held.

As months went by it went from protecting Hayley, to protecting kids like me. The thought of anyone else, much less a kid (as I didn’t see myself as one) being hurt, was out of the question. People didn’t deserve to be hurt and no child ever deserved to be hurt that way, no matter how they acted. I dehumanized myself and stripped away every thought of me ever possibly being a worthy child. I painted myself as tainted, filthy, and used. The marks on my body and the constant replay of words going through my head confirmed the worthlessness I felt.

Tears welled up inside of me and fear traced through my veins, but as much as I wanted to cry and show fear, I knew better. I pushed myself to believe life wasn’t that bad. Threats of “it’s only going to be worse if you cry” soon smothered out my emotions. As an almost hollow person, blocking out the physical pain was easy; it was as if someone else just took over. But, blocking out the verbal pain was completely different. Words stung like bees and were branded in my brain that played over and over again.

“You evil bitch.”

“You destroy everyone around you.”

“You deserve this.”

But nothing sunk down deeper than “I love you”.

Having the ability to disconnect from reality in the blink of an eye gave me a sense of power and strength. It didn’t matter what happened to me, no one could take away my secret escape. However, the control disconnecting gave me escaped me the first time knife registered through my brain. I had come face to face with things I could have never imagined, but there was always something that pushed horrific even further. The word slipped out of his mouth as cool as ice, as if it were normal. There was an evilness that I felt dwelled in me so deeply that I believed I deserved the worst; even if that meant risking my life. Like a puppet on strings I’d go where I was directed and do as I was told. Whereas choice is usually something we take for granted, something that’s comforting and expected, the choices I regularly faced stripped me from any sense of comfort. Directed by my puppeteer, the silver of the knives reflected my pale skin as I ran my fingers across their blades in hope of finding a dull edge. Gripping the black handle in my hand, panic and fear never sank in; the only thing on my mind was survival and making the right moves. I knew the drill, and knew that no matter how much I tried to get away, there wasn’t a way out. I was stuck.

Tears burned my eyes and before I felt the cold from the blade against my skin their voices faded and everything went black. I drifted away to my safe place, a place where happiness replaced fear and pain. To a place I spent so much time in that it was completely real to me. I could touch the clouds, be comforted by a warm embrace with no expectations, and be filled up by the cleanest air. Leaving my safe place, the next thing I knew I was walking around my junior high school in a pain that I couldn’t disconnect from. Pain shot through me as I walked, stood, and sat down. Walking out of the choir room, my friend laughed as she said, “it looks like you got it good last night!” Quick to respond, I laughed with her and directed her attention elsewhere. I refused to believe the truth that screamed through my body. No memory was the equivalent so it didn’t happen, I reasoned with myself that it couldn’t have happened and bandaged my aches with excuses.


Words leave a tremendous impact on people. I’ve come to a place where I feel I deal with the impact of past actions well, but there are still words ingrained in my brain that scream out at me every now and then. It doesn’t take a physically abusive person to use words to tear you down, in fact, I’d even guess at some point in our lives, we’ve all had something come out of our mouth that caused a lot of harm to someone, and possibly still does. I’ve heard a lot of people say emotional and verbal abuse is by far the worst torture. Of course, when people would tell me this and I was surrounded by physical and sexual abuse I carelessly thought to myself “you have no idea”. But, as I’ve started to come full circle, I can very easily see this. It’s the aspect of abuse that leaves no physical marks, the part of abuse that isn’t seen as “real abuse”. The physical aspects of abuse are terrible, but in my case, it was their words that ultimately caused the most harm and kept me a slave to their world.

We all know that words can cause a lot of damage, but at the same time we throw them around like their meaningless. I’m guilty of it, and while I try to bite my tongue or walk away before something slips out that shouldn’t be said, it doesn’t always work that way. With no doubt in my mind I can easily say there is no chance of me carrying on the abuse cycle that so many abusers use as a crutch. “I was abused, that’s all I know, so that’s all I can do” – all I can say to that is a big NO. But, can we, as a whole, say that about our mouths? I may not go around degrading people, put people in a double bind over mixed signals, or spew hate out of my mouth, but there was a time when I used my mouth to “get even” and even use my words in an attempt to hurt people that I wanted to hurt because of how they had or were hurting me. This isn’t something we usually think about (in my opinion), but the way we carry ourselves verbally can become a cycle just like anything else, and be passed down if we don’t take the time to alter what may be our defense or become aware of what’s really coming out of our mouths – or even what is about to come out of our mouths. That doesn’t mean become a doormat and keep silent, but our words are much more likely to get us somewhere productive if we’re not yelling, cursing, blaming, and throwing word daggers. For anyone that’s been hurt this can be a huge challenge because our emotions kick in and it’s like word vomit just flies everywhere. There’s a balance between shutting down and verbally spewing. We may not always be in that middle area, but I challenge anyone and everyone to be aware that it is there.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

Napoleon Hill

First Encounter

“Don’t worry about getting caught
as long as you say you love her,
She’ll protect you with her heart”

(2005)

At 13 years old, much like the typical teen, I wasn’t a kid anymore, but I was barely a teenager. I was over-mature, but didn’t know who I was as a person. My past experiences shook my system of trust and my distrust for the entire male population bloated. I didn’t want to be around boys or men, but I wanted to be wanted and loved. I accepted that wouldn’t happen with a boy, so made and met new girl friends quicker than I could keep up with their names. Young and naïve, in my head, a girl could never hurt me in the ways I had been before. Therefore, there was no threat. I forced myself to fear the opposite sex for my own safety and replaced the “he’s cute” thoughts with “he’ll just hurt me”.

As my friendship circle grew, the more people I came into contact. When a friend introduced me to Hayley online, it fit in naturally with all the other new people I was meeting. We were guaranteed to get along really well, and as soon as we started talking, that guarantee was apparent. Something made it easy to talk to her, and the majority of the time I felt so comfortable that I would talk without thinking. Quickly getting all of my sensitive information – my broken home life, my abandonment issues, my desire to be wanted, and my coping skills; I became an easy target.

We rapidly went from talking weekly, to talking daily. Although there was a seven year age gap between us, it didn’t seem to hinder our relationship. The acceptance in her eyes drew me in, and I held onto each accent heavy word that came out of her mouth. Hayley slowly confided in me about the severe parental abuse she had experienced. From being locked up and starved, severely burned by chemicals, to her dad loaning her to his friends, I was entering a world I didn’t even know existed. Each scar she wore held a deep, dark secret. Confused and sickened by her allegations, my heart ached for the pain she expressed. From a severely abusive father, to a mother and stepfather that were neglectful and abusive in their own way, I was encountered with someone that had all the odds faced against them and survived.

Like the secrets of her past, our friendship remained unspoken of to the public. The relationship we shared was much deeper than the relationships I had with my friends from school, a connection so strong that I didn’t hesitate when she asked me to not tell anyone. She expressed that she didn’t want people to get the wrong interpretation, and neither did I.

It took months for me to realize the damage that was still visible from her past. I couldn’t piece together the dramatic changes; changes in her voice, accent, personality and mood. Her British accent would pierce through me with accusations only to be followed by a small quivering voice that threw up hands to cover her face. Unsure of what reaction to expect, anxiety shook through me. Patience dwindling after months of confusion, aggravation shot through me when I yelled “who are you!?” A confident voice was released through her lips.

“I’m Kaitlyn; I think it’s time for me to explain.”

More truth was revealed as the evidence of Hayley’s fractured mind was laid out; her psyche was completely split apart. I wasn’t dealing with just one person, but rather an entire group of completely different people. Her secret from most was shared, a secret that involved living a life with a group of people that spoke differently, liked different things, had different life experiences, and varied in age. With patience, time, and effort, I was eventually able to recognize who I was talking to, who I could trust, and who to avoid the majority of the time. But yet again, even these split second changes didn’t scare me away.

As trust built between us, it wasn’t long after that I met Hayley’s dad, David, for the first time. Mid 50’s and tall in stature, there were no tell-tell signs by his outward appearance that he could be anyone but just a “normal” person. His side brushed salt and pepper hair and pale skin looked much differently than Hayley’s long black hair and maternal inherited Sri Lankan skin. I put on my brave face, but didn’t dare mouth off; I knew what he was capable of. Unaware that he was still even in Hayley’s life, an overwhelming need to protect her flooded through me. The more time that passed by, the more David continued to be around. Threats filled the heavy air, his voice buzzing through my ears.

 “It’s you or her. Your choice.”

I didn’t fully understand that while I wanted to be a protector, I was only one person, and that meant I could be destroyed that much easier. While she had an entire army to protect each of them and was able to live a life divided from abuse, I only had myself.

There was something different about David, something I didn’t quite understand. Hate spewed from his pores, but the disgust in his face flattened when his venomous ways softened. I didn’t realize I was getting sucked into a foreign world, a world where he would always have someone bow down to him; there was always someone that was going to be sacrificed. A world where I would start thanking him when the pure red in his eyes faded. I took on the mentality that I was weak and worthless, his voice whispering in the back of my mind “You’re lucky I care enough to give you a break”.

Luck. That was exactly what I began to feel. I was lucky to have them spend their time with me, regardless of what that meant for me.


Looking back now, I can clearly see all of the warning signs. I was carefully chosen, lured in, and attacked. They both knew how to capture me, just like the hundreds of thousands of other predators that are searching for their next kill. Although I used to look back and blame myself, picking out and tearing myself apart for “falling” into such a trap, I now know how smooth predators work, and how disturbingly common they are.

In my first post I talked about how the internet is literally a safe place for predators. A place where they can come together, normalize their behavior and/or thoughts, and go out and search for victims from the comfort of their car, home, job, etc. We as a society know the dangers of the internet, but do we really…? If parents and adults in general could not only acknowledge the dangers of the internet, but acknowledge that their loved ones aren’t excluded from this danger, would so many children and adolescents have such free range with their technology? I’m not saying follow your child’s every move or become a helicopter parent, but do you (parents, guardians, adults), really know what your kids are truly up to on their electronics, or are you just trusting their ability to “do the right thing”? Their ability to “do the right thing”, regardless of how good of a child they may be, is extremely limited biologically. Their brains aren’t fully developed, their emotions, attitude, and hormones are all over the map, and they “know everything” – not a combination of always making the wisest choices. Even as adults we make unwise choices, how can we expect children and adolescents to when they’re living in a world that is screaming at them to do the “wrong thing”?

It’s easy to say this, I know, especially as someone who does not have kids. But, as someone who has literally been picked up and swept off by the dangers of technology, no matter how much attitude or defiance you get, no matter how busy you are, and no matter how much of an invasion of privacy it may seem to children/adolescents, it’s about safety, and ultimately potentially saving lives.

If my words aren’t enough, maybe these numbers will really help sink in what I’m talking about. Numbers tend to speak volumes for me, so here are just a few statistics that really scream out exactly what I’m talking about:

  • Law enforcement officials estimate that more than 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given time
  • 20% of all internet pornography involves children, with more than 20,000 new images posted weekly
  • 69% of teens regularly receive online communications from strangers and don’t tell a parent or caretaker
  • Approximately 89% of sexual solicitations of youth were made in chat rooms or through instant messaging
  • An estimated 725,000 children have been “aggressively” asked for sex, defined as an offer to meet in person
  • According to the FBI, chat rooms offer the advantage of immediate communication around the world and provide the pedophile/predator with an anonymous means of recruiting children into sexually illicit relationships
  • Approximately 116,000 child pornography requests are made daily on the internet
  • 1 in 5 youth ages 10 to 17 received a sexual solicitation or were approached online
  • Only a fraction of all inappropriate internet episodes are reported to authorities

(Statistics found at: http://www.guardchild.com/statistics/ )