The previous post was hard for me. It was hard to formulate what was going on in my mind, and painful to write down.
I really hoped that publishing the story would help me dispel some of the lingering shame I feel. A lot of times, blogging has worked that way for me. I post something, and I feel free. It lightens me just to put it out there, and when people comment saying it resonates I feel almost celebratory with relief.
Instead, I've felt scared, naked, and hideously self conscious. I thought about taking it down. I'm pretty sure that would just make me feel worse. I don't want to hide. I don't want to feel that I have to hide. I believe I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I don't want to coddle my irrational feeling of shame.
I asked a friend to read it. "What did you think?" I asked. He said he couldn't tell if it was consensual. He wasn't sure if it was supposed to be a happy story or not. He was uncomfortable. I concluded the story must need editing. It should be clear--starkly clear--that my stepfather's actions were the cruelest kind of abuse: the kind that presents itself as love.
I sat down to edit the story tonight. I can't see where to add a line, a word, a paragraph that explains. I don't want to make that story an educational piece for those unfamiliar with the various dynamics of sexual abuse. I'm surprised to think I might need to.
I guess that's a good sign for my own healing. To me, at least, there's nothing ambiguous about a grownup man in a position of trust having sex with his teenage stepdaughter. It's destructive. It's wrong. But for those it's not so obvious to, here is a list of a few of the things Howard's charade of love cost me:
Having a father figure I could rely on
The opportunity to develop sexually on my own time line
Trust of, intimacy with, and respect for my mother
A sense of safety in my own home and bed
The ability to be honest with my peers
Access to mental health care (because revealing my situation would mean his arrest)
The ability to connect with others physically
The ability to feel sexual pleasure
I've won a great number of these back, through hard work and with the loving patience of friends. As I said in the original post, I don't generally feel the need to think or talk about this part of my history very often. For the most part, I've moved on.
For the most part. Because I clearly felt the need to write Red Tide. And I needed, just as much, to hear from friends and readers that they understood my story.
As a young girl, I took the shame and horror and fear of that experience and turned it in on myself. I felt shameful, disgusting, and tainted. I was hoping sharing the story would help dispel the last of those feelings. It hasn't so far, but I'm still hoping.