Part 6: Transition
By October Vicki recognized she was pregnant again. This was a miracle after a series of miscarriages and for sure would be her last. It was special even in Vicki’s busy life, but at 40 years old she recognized that she would not be able to make the long trip to see Isaac every other week, especially after the winter weather arrived. Vicki loved her group therapy and with Isaac’s approval found another group of sexual abuse victims that was only an hour away.
Things were still unsettled at home but not as bad as when the memories were surfacing regularly. Our regular family activities like hikes at the park, which had been sparse, were again in our schedule. But on the whole we were disappointed: With all the memory work and therapy she had done we had expected a healing curve to begin—for her fears to attenuate. But even with the new insights that Vicki had about her past she was unable to feel safe in her present –and it was puzzling. Why hadn’t she been unable to let some of these things go? Sadly, our church had been of little help. Any mention of her abuse brought gasps and withdrawal from these people we had worshipped with for years. Finally, the clergy had come to tell her personally not to talk about it in church.
“It was hard for everyone including me to understand, but my fears were worse not better. I felt on the verge of a nervous breakdown all the time. Not that I had ever had one, but I knew how strung out I was. I desperately needed someone to talk to and Jody was mad at me much of the time for not having conquered “my problems.” Therapy once a week brought up more issues than it resolved and the only other people I associated with were at church. It was an emotional downer to not be able to talk about what was happening with folks we were supposed to be sharing our burdens with.“
Vicki’s new therapy group was led by a social worker with her MSW and her co-facilitator husband who was equally educated. All of the victims were women and it was designed to support them in their healing. General topics included flashbacks that might have occurred since the last session and strategies for dealing with the emotional deficits that were common in victims.
After attending several meetings, Vicki reported that he leader’s husband was in pretty bad shape. She felt he was actually in worse shape than she was. If certain topics come up, he quickly exited the room. Vicki later found out that he too was a victim but it was a more severe type of abuse his wife referred to as ritual abuse. Neither one of us had heard of the word before and soon discovered it had to do with the practice of Satanism. We didn’t know whether to believe in it or not.
After a dearth of memory work, Vicki had a strange new one: She was in Hawaii, driving alone in the car with her father at dusk. She was anxious, sitting in the back seat as they traveled out into the country past the huge pineapple fields, past the stand where they often stopped after church on Sundays to eat fresh pineapple. Her father turned off the paved road onto a dirt path that took them into an increasingly isolated area. Soon there were bonfires and as their car slowed there were frightful animals peering into the car windows. Her father got out and animals continued staring inside. These were strange, exotic animals and it was terrifying. Next, she was an unwilling participant in wild group sex. Sorely abused and crying, at the end of the memory she sat before the leader who chided her saying that real women like this.
To Vicki this memory had the same quality as all the other ones she’d had previously. It was the content that was so bizarre. We decided that the animals peering into the car might have been adults wearing masks, but to a fearful five year old they could easily appear real.
“I realized as an adult that the animals were really people with masks. I am sure they wore masks because they knew I would recognize them as co-workers of my father. The women at this meeting did not wear masks but wore revealing clothing and heavy make-up–I think they were probably prostitutes. They were meaner than the men. Imagine me, a 5 year old brutally raped and a quivering mass of physical and emotional pain, being told I was not a “real” woman because I did not enjoy sex like these “real” women did. To this day, I cannot stand to be in the presence of skimpily clad, painted- up women.”
Where did this memory come from? Had she been subconsciously been picking up information from her new group? Was she somehow making all this up? When she reported this memory to her new group, the co-facilitator quickly exited the room and did not return. Vicki later learned that he had had similar experiences. Where was this going? And was it real? This was the most upsetting thing of all for Vicki.
Several weeks later Vicki remembered an incident when she was three years old and lived in Atlanta. Her father brought her outside behind the car and showed her the dead family cat.
“If you ever tell, the same thing will happen to you.” My father, apparently had killed my pet cat. My sister had a white one and I had a black. The black one was laying dead in his arms. I got the message and it had stayed bottled up in me. The easiest way not to tell was just not to remember and that’s what I had done all those years. But suddenly I was not only remembering but also telling and I’m sure that was the root of much of my fear.”
Donate or Learn More About our Work
If you would like to see the ongoing work we are involved with in Guatemala, please visit our website at www.safehomesforchildren.org. Our child advocacy work there is designed to keep families together which is the foremost deterrent to exploitation of children. Vicki does public speaking on child trafficking in the United States, and if you would like to support this work, you can make donations to Safe Homes and note its specified purpose. In the near future, you can submit donations or learn more about trafficked children at our new and specially dedicated site (launch and new address to be announced in an upcoming post).
Follow this series on Tuesdays of each week (read previous posts, 1-5 here).
Photo Image Credit: By Sarah Jane