Monday, March 30, 2015

Forgiveness, Individual Results May Vary, and Vera

Trigger/Content Warning (TW/CW): this blog post contains mentions of rape (in detail as well as in general), child abuse and neglect, assault, and domestic violence. Reader discretion is advised.

There used to be one word that would be the bane of my existence for many years. That word was "relax." Folks would tell me to relax more than telling me to shut up about the Rolling Stones. Just the sound of that word would irritate me to no end; just how does one relax? Heh, the answers I would get from this pseudo-survey I ended up conducting were quite interesting:

"Take a nice hot bubble bath."
"Read a good book. I recommend...."
"Go for a walk. It's great exercise!"
"Watch a movie with some friends."

Basically, folks would tell me how to relax as it helps them. But, I kept asking myself, I already do those things, and they don't work. Now what?

All of a sudden, folks who were eager to share their advice with me suddenly had no answers.

It wasn't until very recently that a new word would replace "relax" as the bane of my existence: "forgiveness."

"Why you don't forgive (so and so) for what they did to you?"
"Forgive yourself; you had no idea of what you didn't know."
"When you forgive, you will find peace within yourself."

Seriously, I was about to go into "Madea with a Gun" mode. "Say that one more time," followed by the sound of a gun chamber going into position to fire.

Wait, who are you being told to forgive? And why?

Damn, you're good. Great questions.

In 2014, I basically entered unchartered territory with life and with myself.  I discovered the awesomeness that is Judaism, the awkwardness of being both disabled and bankrupt, and the absolute destruction of how I viewed people who I thought loved me and cared for me. All of this happened while I was temporarily living in the basement of my parents' home, to which I called "Troll Central Station" (because that's where trolls live, right?).

I found out, through of all things a television talk show, that I was raped about six years prior to February 2014.  It was later solidified during the day by my therapist (and a whole bunch of other experts on sexual violence later on) that, in fact, I was raped. Apparently having 3-4 Long Island iced teas at an off-work site holiday party in December 2007 was the invite for my (at the time) boyfriend to later in the evening take advantage of a intoxicated and unresponsive me, lying in bed, unable to move any ligament in the body let alone to communicate (verbally or non-verbally) my consent or even my wishes.  For the longest time, I thought it was just a "bad night of drunken sex." Seriously. It didn't even register as rape when I explained it to a couple of people throughout the years up until February 2014. Nobody told me prior: "Hey Vera, that's rape, you know that right?"

In the days that followed this discovery/acknowledgment, I went the legal route and pressed charges of rape against this guy. Unfortunately for me, the case was closed due to "lack of physical evidence."

But at least I was done with this guy. So I thought.

Enter my parents.  Not exactly the brightest lights in the room, but my parents did what they could to raise my hellcat of a sister and I.  So I thought.

I also discovered that I think too much, heh.

When I explained to my parents about the situation about the rape and who did it, the expression on their faces and the tone of their voices suggested that I kicked their beloved pet in the face rather than them wanting to destroy a motherfucker for harming their daughter.

My father: "You mean to tell me that you didn't know this for how many years?  And you still slept with him? Well, that's your fault."
My mother: "You should have listened to us about him. But no, you wanted to do what you wanted to do, so we didn't do anything."

The last time I checked, that's not exactly the response a parent gives to a child after such a painful admission.

In the months that followed, I had to deal with the perpetrator calling my phone, leaving messages that he was "checking on" me to see if I "was all right." When the detective told him to back off from calling me, his cousin decided to call me to see if I "wanted to work at an event for them" (note: I used to work the register for his cousin's family business of gyro and lemonade stands at various area festivals during the summer for a couple of years). Then, the perpetrator started calling my parents' cell phone. All the meanwhile, I just kept minding my own business, eventually getting my bankruptcy discharged and my disability awarded so I can finally move back out on my own.

One day, I discovered my father had the perpetrator's name and phone number on a phone list located on my father's desk in his office (originally designed as a bedroom).  I asked my father why he felt the need to have the perpetrator's info at hand.  "In case of an emergency," was my father's answer.

After bantering back and forth for a couple of sentences, I asked my father again: "Why?"

In a seemingly jovial fashion, my father had this to say (and I quote): "So he can rape you again," my father chuckled. "I don't know."

Well now.

I finally moved out of Troll Central Station in October 2014, but not without controversy.  I decided, since at least my father wanted to keep the perpetrator's contact info on hand for whatever reason, not to give my parents my new address. This act of defiance infuriated my parents.  A day after I moved, I even changed my phone number so that neither my family or the perpetrator could get a hold of me.

And life was good.  So I thought.

The perpetrator went calling again. This time to a former supervisor of mine, asking if the former supervisor had any "rejects" that the perp could hire at his place of employment. It didn't affect me until the former supervisor dropped this gem: "Yeah, (the ex) told me how you just cleaned out the basement, dropped the keys on the counter, and took off without leaving an address."

My parents and the perpetrator were, in fact, communicating with one another, even after I had moved out of the house.

And after sharing this scenario with some folks, they had the fortitude to tell me to forgive?!

I started to lose my grip on reality whenever I would hear or see people's responses to what happened to me:

"Just let it go and forgive."
"You still sound bitter over what happened.  You have to move on."
"Give it some time.  Maybe one day you can reestablish a relationship with your parents."

I have a word to describe all of those sentences. It's called "invalidation." The experience that I just went through for several months in 2014 were being invalidated by people, whether said people realized it or not.  And that hurt worse than suffering from staph infection.

Then, someone - a brave, kind, gentle soul - reached out to me to see if I understood what was being explained to me.  I told them, "No, why would they say these things to me?"

I was reminded with this, to paraphrase: "What your parents did was obviously wrong, but in their view; it wasn't the case. They do not have the mental or emotional capacity to understand what they have done to you, why they did it, and what they can do to become better people, let alone parents."

Say for example, your best friend ate a cookie that was originally yours. You found out and you got mad, and you confront your best friend over that cookie.  They said that they were sorry, and you accept it. All of a sudden you don't have it in mind anymore that your best friend ate your cookie.  That is forgiveness; that "letting go and moving on" mumbo-jumbo that was being preached by non-televangelists. I see forgiveness as two layers; internal and external.

The internal forgiveness is where you can tell yourself that you can forgive someone for their mistakes, regardless of size.  With my parents, I told myself that I forgive them, as well as myself, for the asinine actions they and I have made and being so hard on myself.  Both of my parents were survivors of child abuse themselves.  However, neither parent made the choice to seek help for unresolved issues that stemmed from their experiences. That choice led them both to make very epically bad parenting choices, like screaming, yelling, beatdowns, and breaking stuff. Such behavior was all they knew; I don't condone it, but I understand it.  It's not fair, but neither is life.

The external forgiveness is where you can tell another person (outside of yourself) that you can forgive them for their mistakes, regardless of size.  Now, this is where the catch phrase "individual results may vary" comes in.  I'm not going to tell my parents that I forgive them.  And I'm sure one of you is going to point to this post and say: "here look! See, Vera does forgive you!"  And that's fine; it will not make a difference to the person who wronged the victim unless the victim who was wronged externally communicates that forgiveness to the person.  Some people, who have suffered relative traumatic experiences as mine, will have a different approach to this concept of external forgiveness; these folks may actually communicate their forgiveness to their perpetrators.  If that's what brings them full closure, that's awesome sauce.  Hell, I probably bet that my parents have, in their own way, "forgiven" the perpetrator for his transgressions against me.

Wouldn't your life be easier to just go to your parents and say "I forgive you"?

Actually, no. As long as my parents feel the need to associate with AN INDIVIDUAL WHO RAPED ME (had to bust out the caps, sorry not sorry), to quote Andy Grammer: "Oh no, honey; I'm good." In my view (again, individual results may vary), to tell my parents or my ex that I forgive them would mean that I will look past what they have done to me.  I, actually, can look past those actions now and see these people for who they really are; total unabashed cowardly assholes. I'm not going to forget what trauma these people put me through; however, I don't have to keep them playing on loop in the center of my brain either.

Whenever flashbacks of events that have happened to me (and more memories become available each day) occur, I imagine myself holding a fly swatter and smacking these protrusive thoughts away from me.  It is a lot of hard work to keep swatting at these damn things; but in the end, what ends up happening (in my case; individual results may vary), the anger diminishes, and there is this sensation of the heart being blown out of my chest.  That sensation is what some folks call "peace."

In closing, the words "relax" and "forgiveness" are now no longer banes of my existence. I can relax because I have forgiven. And it's not just forgiving my parents, the perpetrator, my sister, but friends who cut ties with me for whatever reason, anybody else who has hurt me in this life, and the worst enemy of all time; myself.  And all of this is something that, in my conversations with folks, is something that is not shared with wisdom, it is shared with experience.


  1. It sounds like you really are starting to get what forgiveness is about. With forgiveness comes peace and with peace comes happiness. Keep it up! I'm really proud of you!