Animals were always my safe place.
A Facebook friend recently posted a tirade against all those non-stop political posting-types.
That would be me.
I get where she’s coming from; I even envy her because she doesn’t share in the same Trump-riddled anxiety that I do.
But what she—and many others—don’t understand is that for those of us who’ve survived physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, our wounds are re-opened with each insult, each putdown of women, each targeting of social groups to which we may or may not belong.
We fear for ourselves and all those who wear today’s targets.
I can’t go there again.
As an abuse-survivor, a hyper-awareness takes root when I perceive that I am being threatened with the same situation I’ve survived in the past. According to Mary Beth Williams, co-author of The PTSD Workbook, Those with PTSD or other trauma “experience intense psychological distress or bodily reactions when exposed to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event or events; these are called triggers.”
I don’t feel safe.
My childhood was spent in an emotionally and physically unsafe environment. My father was a very angry man, and I ran from the dinner table in tears most nights.
There was no safe zone, no “How was your day, let’s discuss our highlights over dinner” talk in my family.
There was only “Who will be today’s target for Dad’s wrath.”
I often drew the lucky straw.
I would huddle in the hay mow with my cat Streaker after school, hyper-alert and peering through the holes in the barn so I could see him coming up our 1/2 mile long lane. I needed some warning as to when my tiny bubble of safety would be destroyed.
My stomach hurt when I saw that red truck.
Then he killed Streaker, and all our other cats but one.
She was all I had.
Two cats and our dog Gally huddled for warmth by the house chimney.
Our animals were not allowed inside the house. We had a chained beagle, Maggie, who lived a sad and pitiful life, and never went or trained for hunting—although that was her purported mission in life.
Our other dog, a black lab named Gally, was free to roam the farm (and often the neighbors), but was not allowed inside.
I pitied our animals even then.
I often brought the cats and Gally inside the home when my parents were away from the house. The animals, understandably, liked it and wanted more.
Little did I know that my love and caring for them would lead to their deaths.
They all (with the exception of poor chained Maggie) began sitting at the front door, waiting and hoping for their chance to get back in. They snuck inside at every opportunity.
This annoyed my mother, who was prone to griping about them being in her way.
My father solved the problem.
He killed them all, with the exception of one cat and Gally.
I never saw Streaker again.
Did I mention that I loved her?
I mourned the cats intensely, felt I was to blame because I’d made them want to come inside, and hated my father for what he did to them, to us. I didn’t speak to him for two months.
This was just a stepping stone to what we would end up going through at the hands of my father.
The abuse in our family escalated from verbal to physical until when I was 16 my father overpowered my mother and was strangling her on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator.
My brother, then 14, ran upstairs, got a shotgun, and held it on my father, screaming at him to stop.
My father seized the gun from my brother and checked to see if it was loaded, popping the shell out in the process. I grabbed the shell off the floor and clutched it for dear life, so afraid he would get it from me and shoot one of us with it.
My mother took that chance to run out into the snow to escape my father, but he chased her down and dragged her back inside by the hair.
We then sat in the living room, the four of us, while my father calmly discussed whether he should just kill us all now, because his life was over.
My mother talked him down, and that night I slept in a sleeping bag in the hallway, hoping if he tried to kill her again I could help her before it was too late.
My father never went to jail, because we never reported him to the police.
It took me four months to persuade my mother to leave, during which time the abuse continued unabated. He smashed a ketchup bottle against the edge of the kitchen table, and when it shattered a piece of glass flew into my mother’s eye. When I tried to drive her to the hospital, he wouldn’t allow it, telling me I’d better have the mess cleaned up when they returned home.
He then swerved off the road with her in the car, saying he should just kill them both.
He threatened to kill me because I was laying out for the prom instead of cooking him dinner, telling my mother “I got a new gun, and she’s the first one I’m going to use it on.”
My mother and I fled to Canada one morning after he left for work, calling his parents after we were safely away and asking them to go to the home to take all the guns out and get my brother from school. My brother had refused to leave with us, wanting the family to stay intact.
I have ZERO DOUBT in my mind that if we hadn’t left the ever-worsening situation when we did, we would all be dead now.
My father went into a mental hospital for two weeks, but none of the rest of us received counseling for the multiple traumas we suffered at his hands. The words PTSD meant nothing then, and we bravely soldiered on like we were just a normal late-70’s family. I thought we were.
But we humans don’t get off that easy.
I dated abusive men and married a narcissist before I finally got a handle on what had happened to me in my life.
It took me until my late 30’s to really understand that I grew up in an abusive home, and that I was continuing to allow the same harmful personality types into my life in an attempt to somehow force a better outcome. That wasn’t happening.
I went public with my father’s abuse once before, in 2007, and he got even with me by testifying against me at a child custody hearing for my daughter, telling the judge I was a bad mother. Yet he saw my daughter so rarely that she didn’t even recognize him when I showed her a picture…how could he possibly know what kind of mother I was?
That’s what happens when you tell the truth about abusers. They get even with you by telling lies to destroy you.
Sound like Trump?
Today my daughter lives with me. I put my father out of my life once and for all when I finally realized (after almost 30 years of hoping and trying for more) there would be no “I’m truly sorry for all the hurt I caused you.”
There would be no “I was a bad father, how can I make it up to you?”
There would never be a “I really screwed up. Let me fix it, please.”
None of that would ever happen. I faced my reality.
My father is a preacher to this day in the Altoona, PA area. He once wanted to write a book called “Just Close the Door,” about shutting out all that happened in your life before and starting over.
That would be mighty convenient, wouldn’t it? For him, at least.
But for the abused, it’s never that easy. Many of us have spent years in therapy, thousands for self-help books, pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps time and time again, and finally learned to love and accept ourselves. We’ve worked so hard to get past our childhood traumas, only to be faced with a new and yet all-too-familiar threat that we can’t just walk away from.
I wonder how my father will get even with me for telling the truth this time?
If you think for one minute the women who have come forward against Trump have done so to get ‘fame’ you would be insane. They came forward because they finally realized they weren’t alone in their sexual abuse. It felt just safe enough and they felt just brave enough to finally publicly admit “He abused me too.”
I never went public with my family’s abuse for 27 years because I was afraid and ashamed. My father sought revenge against me for doing so at his earliest opportunity…what do you think will happen to these women?
They will continue to be traumatized by Trump and his supporters for having the courage to talk about what this man did to them—what he himself brags about doing yet now unbelievably denies!
I see so many similarities between Trump and my father. They share a narcissistic and incessant need to talk only about themselves, a complete lack of remorse for wrongs done to others, and a treatment of those they see as beneath them that is simply egregious…all while playing the victim and lying through their teeth to get even with anyone who tells the truth about them.
And THAT’s why I can’t stop sharing Anti-Trump posts. Because now that I can finally spot an abuser from a mile away, I don’t want them—him—TRUMP in my life in any way, shape, or form.
I know how narcissistic abusers destroy families.
And now we’re seeing firsthand how they destroy countries.
I can’t allow that kind of person in my life again, to destroy my family again.
Trump—and his supporters—make me feel unsafe.
I finally have a measure of safety in my life. I love my husband, and even if we didn’t make it one more day as a married couple, I couldn’t regret marrying him.
He made me feel like I wasn’t a complete piece of garbage after all.
Joe’s given me more love in seven years than I received in the 45 years before he came into my life.
I can come home and know that I will not be called names, not be screamed at, not be physically or emotionally abused.
I can provide a safe environment for my daughter, who has her own trauma to deal with. She, too, feels incredibly anxious about a Trump presidency.
I don’t want a man like him to have power over my family again. The thought of Trump coming into my home daily through my television or computer screen, through discriminatory policies he makes up as he seizes power, or through hearing him belittle and demean women or other members of our society, causes me intense anxiety.
I feel like I’m back at my father’s dinner table.
I’m afraid if I stop watching to be SURE he won’t become president, something bad will happen, and my worst nightmare will come true.
My subconscious tells me I must be on high alert.
I had a dream that Trump was beating on a young man of darker skin. I tried so hard to protect the young man, but realized that I couldn’t fight and passed out.
I awoke feeling helpless and hopeless.
A few nights later I dreamed that I was leading a social movement and I was walking around organizing an event. There was a male photographer there. Someone asked me how I knew him and I said I didn’t. They said “He was talking about you. He said you’re cute but you’re kinda overweight.”
Then he looked at me and told me to come get my picture taken. I was in sweat pants and everyone was looking at me. He said “It’s ok, you’re a little overweight and you’re dressed badly, but let’s take a picture anyway.”
I walked away in shame.
Then I came back and I said “Let me tell you this. Don’t EVER shame me again or tell me I’m overweight. It’s unacceptable—you wouldn’t do it to a man, and I won’t allow you to do it to me.”
I said it loudly and proudly and in front of everyone.
As I turned to walk away, Hillary Clinton was standing there smiling and giving me a hands-up wave as if to say “You go, girl.”
That, for me, is the power of a woman who stands up to the abuse that would have knocked most of us down years ago.
I can admit that it would have destroyed me.
Hillary Clinton gives me hope.
Thank you, Hillary, for standing up to so much abuse on behalf of all women in America. I, for one, am grateful.