Incest is the gift that keeps on giving, and Christmas reminds me of this every year by harassing me with corporate fabricated holly jollies. Furthermore, the disheartening images of the perfect nuclear family plastered on every magazine, television and store front window serve as a reminder that I am indeed marginal. I find comfort in the fact that the nuclear family, if it ever did exist at all, surely went extinct in the 1950s.
I am an incest survivor; turned into a five-year-old slut by a brother who was almost 10 years older. The abuse went on for years. He was known as a fun and generous guy, and I was fortunate enough to learn first hand just how generous he was. Tis the season of giving and sharing, and triggers that awaken my mind to memories of my brother’s selfless giving.
Most children remember reading their first book: “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” or maybe “The Cat in The Hat?” My first book was “The Joy of Sex,” and I still remember how it felt on my lap while my brother showed me the pictures of different sexual acts. I thought the Chinese people were funny, and for most of my childhood before every bath I would stand in front of a mirror with my arms extended over my head to see if I too had armpit hair.
One Christmas I received the complete recording of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. It was narrated by the legendary Burl Ives; his velvety voice comforted and touched me with a gentleness that was un-known to me. I played it winter, spring, summer and fall, and knew every song by heart. My brother laughed and teased me, but I didn’t care because I knew that it was much better than the Jimi Hendrix he used to play over and over again. I always felt perplexed as my brother fiddled with me and Jimi Hendrix kept asking, “But first, are you experienced?”
Many times I pictured in my mind what would happen when my brother would finally be caught, and I’d be saved from my life of hell. My father would throw my brother out, and my mother would hold me tight as she whispered comforting and loving words into my ears. Life would go back to being simple and carefree, and I could again roam freely without the burden of living as a hunted animal. Not so. The end was far more traumatic than soothing. My brother was beaten, and I was punished because I should have known better than to play in my brother’s room. Silly naughty me.
I am thankful that the mind is such a well structured self-repairing mechanism. When sexual abuse starts at such a young age, the only positive point is the mind goes into survival mode, helping you by dissociating yourself from the overwhelming strain. No matter the beatings, no matter the pain my dissociation always ensured that I survived. Children who are victims of incest are like little warriors fighting a valiant battle for survival; because a child is being raped repeatedly also believes they will die. In the case of incest, when the sexual abuse ends the child is then forced into a continual relationship with the abuser. My predator happened to live two rooms away from me.
I have a family I love and somewhere I know they love me. But they are unable to deal with what I went through as a child. Incest is a dirty secret, and most families go to great lengths to keep it just that, a secret. In my case, family members witnessed the abuse directly and some indirectly, and because they were unable to face it, they chose to do nothing. How many times have I heard, “Ah, Mary Ann, you were always everyone’s favourite.” Oh happy lucky me, and could you imagine if I had not been the favourite one? In hindsight, I would have preferred not to have been their favoured sacrificial lamb in their ceremonial dysfunctional dance.
My brother and I have not spoken or had any contact since 2002. Three years ago I confronted the whole family about the abuse. In my naïve mind, I thought they would all stand up for me and send him flying to the other end of the universe. But no, they decided it was a conflict that affected only the two of us, and therefore a mistake due in part to his youth, hence there was no need to drag the whole sordid story on.
As a survivor I have gone through life with a dagger driven through my heart. Every so often when I move and the pain paralyzes me, it acts as a constant reminder. Then comes the secret you hold, and the family who would prefer killing your psyche slowly to letting you divulge this information. You are alone as you are being raped, and then you are abandoned by those who should have protected you in the first place. The gift that keeps on giving are the families of incest survivors who, for the sake of not rocking the boat, will gladly throw you to the sharks.
I have recently realized that in the spectrum of normality, it is an unremitting fact that incest survivors are commonly abandoned by their families. All too sadly, the closer the relative is to the victim the more chances they have of being turned into shark food. Since learning that I am normal, it has been easier for me to focus on my own life. This is my third Christmas without them, and as Gloria Gaynor says, “I will survive.” My life is slowly turning around, and with every new day I am becoming more human and less angry. Granted, I have tons to be angry about, and there are days that I want to explode and just yell and yell and hope that someone will understand. When the loneliness hits and I realize that all I have is my partner, those are the days when I feel myself crumbling away. I am moody and sad, but usually within a few days I am able to pick myself up again and move on.
So in this high time of Yule-tides, Silent Nights and busy sidewalks, I feel a need to toast my newfound life. Let’s crack open a bottle of that bubbly, and raise our glasses. Here is a toast to that rocky train ride that brought me here. To the survivors of incest who have grown up to become big warriors and continue to fight battles every day, but are forgotten at this time of year. To those of us who will watch It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol alone. We have the couch to ourselves, the quietness of our homes, our partners and animals who love us; and the feeling that we are safe and sound in our homes behind doors that we ourselves have locked. God rest ye, Merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…
Guest Author Bio
Mary Ann Davis
I am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults including incest and other forms of family violence. At ten years old I watched my 12 year old brother who was my best friend die in an avalanche. By the age of ten I had experienced what seemed like a lifetime of traumas. My mind shattered. I began the process of survival through years of struggling with Complex Post Traumatic Stress.
I have been a feminist activist for over 25 years. I am now 45 years old and all these years I battled with PTSD, I tried to keep it hidden for fear that I would be judged. The shame of the sexual abuse was too much, and even though I fought the lack of justice for survivors of sexual abuse, I never came out.
The time has come where I feel I need to come out as a survivor of child sexual abuse and other forms of violence. Not only do I want my survivor’s voice to be heard, but I want to encourage all survivors that have not found their voice to speak up. We hold the shame of our abusers, and it is not ours to hold. Let it go.
I have been writing since the age of 12. I usually write comical prose, stories about poetic justice and non-fiction pieces on a variety of subjects. I have only begun sending my writing out for publication. My goal is to one day publish a collection of stories about living with Complex Post Traumatic Stress. I should be writing disorder, but it is not a disorder it is a survival mechanism that helped me cope under overwhelming strain as a child and as an adult. I have a twisted sense of humour which comes out in the essays and short stories I write. This comical twist keeps me sane in light of overwhelming flashbacks that grab hold of me and try to pull me down.
I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with my partner, Diane, of 18 years. My two loves are Dante and Guizou, my cats who try to control my life and actually succeed. I am proud of who I have become, I like being me with all my imperfections.
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