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We had to run away to Reclaim our Life

Updated on June 05, 2014

"I need your grace"

Born 9 Weeks Early!

Ben spent his first 9 weeks of life in the NICU. We were lucky and blessed that they were 9 fairly copacetic weeks as he was a "preemie" who just needed to grow. In the course of that stay, I befriended 2 other moms. Both of whom had very sick baby girls. We were sitting in the parent's lounge one day and one of the girls came in, tearfulfully telling us that they had to start another iv on her precious little girl. As we commiserated, she said "Sometimes, I wish I could just take her to a deserted island where there would be no more needles, no more ventilators, no more pain" While I understood what she meant by that, my baby, almost 2 months old at the time, was a smiley, fairly healthy, albeit tiny, baby boy. I had no idea how those words would come back to haunt me over and over...and how often I would revisit that sentiment.

"If you have a mom, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been." ~Robert Brault

We took our Premature Son Home just a few days short of his "Due Date."

How excited, proud and very,very cautious we were. Ben was barely home a week before he began to be sick. He was barely home a few weeks, when we brought him back "code blue." Our baby boy was seizing, needed a ventilator and was put into a medically induced coma. He was not expected to live through the night. We were told to call our famiies and bring them in. As we sat vigil that first night, the "crash cart" was called upon a minimum of 5 times. Oh how I longed for that island now. How I wanted to take my baby boy and protect him from all that surrounded him except us, the people that loved him. Ben survived that night, not entirely unscathed, but he made it! The first 2 years of his life were up and down. Between all his different therapies, some surgeries and still more needles, I began to think of that island more and more frequently. Along with the typical "mother lion need to defend her cubs", I added the "mother who almost lost her child", fierceness.

"Oh what a power is motherhood, possessing
A potent spell
All women alike
Fight fiercely for a child."
-- Euripides

A happy Child!

Ben grew into a delightful, happy-go-lucky little boy! he was bright and sweet and very good to his little sister, who joined us when he was 3. He had faced adversity, as well as still having a few more challenges to face. I started to forget about that desert island. In fact if I did remember it at all, it was probably as a get away for this busy mom of 2 to get a little much needed "time out!"

“There's no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids.”~Stephen King

How will You Know if your Child has been Abused?

Sadly, at some point, when Ben was about 7,I began to notice a change in his behavior and personality. My once sunny, friendly boy began to be a loner. I would watch him lagging behind the others, picking up rocks, putting them in his pockets, talking to himself. He began to cut off the relationships he had. He no longer wanted to go to his "playdates." He began to treat his sister differently. Oh, how she adored him and looked up to him and how very mean he was becoming to her.Sometimes violent. I will spare you all the details, but when Ben was eight, he finally told me that he had been sexually abused by his cousins for the past 2 years. After the initial shock, I remembered the deserted island. Now it took on a whole new meaning.How I longed for that island more than almost anything. The only thing that I longed for more than that, was to turn back time and undo all the horrible things that had happened to my beautiful baby boy.

"Children’s bodies aren’t like automobiles with the assailant’s fingerprints lingering on the wheel. The world of sexual abuse is quintessentially secret. It is the perfect crime."~Beatrix Campbell

I failed

My most important job ever

was to love and protect you

to keep you safe

away from harm

And I failed. I failed miserably

To think I sent you away with a hug and a kiss

To think they were my people

I never questioned, or ever feared

for your safety

feeling confident that their love was all we needed

to keep you safe

away from harm

I failed. I failed miserably

And I almost succeeded in failing again

to lift us up and out

of this abyss

and that

would have been the worst crime

of all

For Ben

The Pain of our Reality made me Wish more for that Deserted Island

Throughout the counseling, the court appearances and struggling with my family, I wished for that island, a place to run away to. To run away from: the pain, the hurt, the fighting. A place to: rebuild, heal, restore. The thought of it bolstered me through many difficult times, including the breakdown of my "extended" family, my parents, my sisters, their children. The "perfect" family that I had grown up in was not so perfect. In fact, far from it. As Ben grew and our little family tried to heal, I would often get this impulse to drive away and never turn back. We would be on our way to school, therapy or shopping. I would glance back at my precious babies and a little voice in my head, would shout, "Drive" just keep driving. Drive away and don't look back. I knew the deserted island was only a dream but I also knew that in order to heal, we needed to remove ourselves from the rest of the family. I kept thinking about packing up the car and driving away. My thoughts were, we could just drive until we fiound a place that felt good and right, that felt like home.

"The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is one of the most vicious crimes conceivable, a violation of mankind’s most basic duty to protect the innocent."~James T. Walsh

I almost lost my son to Suicide.

When he was 15, Ben hit rock bottom. He had been spiralling downhill for about 2 years and decided he'd had enough. It started with less than subtle hints and ended with an overdose. Thankfully, not near enough to do the job. It was for us, the turning point. I remember the 24 hour suicide watch. I was so exhausted and so angry. Are you kidding? First you are a victim because someone hurts you. Then you let them continue to hurt you? I don't think so. I told Ben then, that it was time to choose how his story was going to proceed...as a perpetual victim or as someone who had been dealt a crappy hand, but decided to rise above it. I remember telling him that by continuing to be a victim, he was giving his abuser more power and control. I, personally, wouldn't want to give him that satisfaction. Ben spent some time in the hospital and attended a day program for several months. He was put in some fairly strong meds, seeing therapists no less than 4 times a week. It was a long haul but with the support of my sister and her family and my mother, things went easier and he slowly began to heal.

Sometimes I wonder (A Question to Sexual Offenders)

Did you know what you were doing?

The pain you caused?

The fear, the nightmares, the anger

Could you know?

Your power, your ability

to tear a family apart?

How are you able

to sleep at night

to make peace in your world

to move on

knowing

the destruction

you caused?

Not the act, never the act

but the reaction, the effect

was it planned?

So, I have to ask again

Did you know what you were doing

The pain you caused?


Is it Feasible to Walk Away from Your Current Life?

Of course, real life and practicality govern many of our decisions but I still couldn't let go of the idea of moving. As much as I loved my mother, my sister and her husband and girls, we were constantly living in the shadow of my other sister and her family. The family that almost crushed mine. Not wanting my mother to always feeI in the middle and respecting both my children's request that we not have any contact with the people who hurt them, we needed to go, to be somewhere else. I didn't want too much of a plan. Look what happened to the first plan....you know, the happily ever after one...how'd that work out for us? So, this time, I wanted to do it with as few plans as possible. With little expectation. But how? Kids still need to go to school. Mama still needs to feed them. How do I go about fulfilling the fantasy while still taking physical care of my kids?

This is How We Reclaimed Our Lives

"Hey Ben, where in the US would you live if you could live anywhere?" "Tori, do you want to live in a place that looks more like Israel?" "Randi, do you think you can handle one more winter that even remotely resembles a Chicago winter?" So, we all made a few choices based on desire, practicality and interest. The final result: Arizona. And here we are. And here we continue to solidify our little family of three. And here, we nurture that family and add to it. Here, we are through chasing the demons and trying to only chase peace. Here we have made new friends. Here we are healing and learning to forgive.

"Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime."~Herbert Ward (1873 – 1897), English footballer who played for Southampton and Hampshire cricketer

A few last words

Our story isn't over. I am, though, happy to report, that it is better. Much, much better! We have run through the gamut of emotions from hurt and pain to guilt and anger! And everything in between. We have learned that even if one member of the family is abused, it affects all of us. We didn't realize how much it had affected Tori because we thought we were "addressing" it. She was young, confused and often felt left out. And me, I was angry, so so angry. This person, who I once loved like my own, practically a child himself, took all the innocence out of our lives. He took away my sister (his mother) and my father and he almost lost me, my other sister and her beautiful family and my mother, as well. For a while, he even took away the joy.

Some Statistics

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

There are hundreds of websites that you can visit to learn more. This one, The National Center for Victims of Crime has pretty concise statistics and links for help.

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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      btrbell....I read your powerful story with a lump in my throat and tears leaking from my eyes. What a burden your son, you and your family endured and must still cope with in the future. I'm glad you made the wise decision to move away from the abuser's family. Thank you for sharing such a painful story. Perhaps it will educate readers in the fact that abuse is often perpetrated by familiar people rather than strangers.

      Bless you and your children.

      Voted Up+++

      Jaye

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My heart goes out to you and your family. I'm glad that you made the decision to move away and find peace and happiness. This must have been a hard story to write and thank you for sharing it here.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bravo Randi! Bravo! For writing this....for making the decisions that were necessary....for loving so strongly and never giving up. Failed? I don't think so; how could you have seen it coming? How could any of us see that coming? The important thing is that you acted when necessary, and you are still acting, and your actions can now help others who are going through this nightmare.

      Excellent hub; incredibly important! Thank you for your honesty!

      bill

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Now, I understand the photograph of the mom pointing a gun. Reading this heartbreaking story made me so angry, I would imagine the only reason you were able to maintain restraint is the fact that you love your children enough to always consider them first and foremost. As your beautiful son was hurt by family, the betrayal is even more difficult to come to terms with. Don't ever say you failed. Failure lies on the shoulders of the abuser and anyone who helped create or hide the problem. You acted with courage and determination to remove your children from the source of their pain. Though my words cannot change the trauma that has been inflicted on you and your family, I am sorry. I realize that the journey will be lifelong. I am encouraged to hear that life is better and my hopes are with you and yours that together you will continue to look forward to a happy future.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Such a difficult time for you btrbell, your little family & the perpetrator your 'other' family...you no at first when I started to read this I felt so sad thinking how does one get through not only almost loosing your little guy but the far too common reality of internal CSA...but you have shown great strength, and it is encouraging to see that you found a way to deal with such a trauma. My heart goes out to you and yours and hope & pray for continued peace of mind for you all...take care

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Wow, It takes an incident to create total havoc in an otherwise rather peaceful and happy life. I understand this so well but on another level. You told the story well and you seem to have a lot of spirit. I know how that feels wanting to drive off. But pat yourself gently on the back for doing what had to be done. Thanks for sharing this story as it many people will relate to it. I am just sorry you had to experience this.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Jaye, Thank you, you have no idea what your words mean to me. It is a life long recovery plan but I am happy to say, we are happy. Many days, even weeks go by and we don't "think" about it. Ben is an amzing, happy, well adjusted young man who just earned his bachelor's degree! I am blessed! Thank you for reading, voting and your kind words!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Susan, thank you for reading and commenting. I do still struggle with my mother about the distance. She gets it but still....it was the best thing for us to do!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Bill...thank you. No one ever tells you when you have children how incredibly difficult it can be. I don't really feel like a failure, most of the time. I wrote this poem, not just for me but for all the parents, who at one time or other felt that they failed their kids. I truly appreciate your words and will probably, whether here or in a different venue, write more about our personal story or sexual abuse in general. It is a very important topic!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Amy...thank you for your amazing words and insight. I don't know where to start. First, ironically, I don't remeber evere feeling like I could or would resort to violence but when I was writing this and googled protective mothers, this came up. It felt right for the moment. Though i have at times felt like I failed my children,. I also know that I have been their best advocate. we are lucky and blessed to have each other. Ben is great and amazing. Each day moves us further away. Again, thank you for your caring insightfulness! And know that caring words, ALWAYS mean something and most definitely do help. Thank you!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, carter for reading and your beautiful comments. I hate to say it but it's kind of true..."what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I actually worry more about the perpetraters in our story. They have some reckoning to do! Thank you, truly for your thoughts and prayers. I am thankful everyday for my beautiful children and the grace that allowed them to move forward!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hey Carol! Isn't it crazy? You never know what could happen tomorrow. I have also learned something else. Outward appearances mean nothing. You never know where a person has been or what they go home to. thank you so much for reading and for your warm, encouraging comments. They mean a lot and I know that you are going through some tough times with your family, as well! I wish you all the best and a very happy thanksgiving!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this. Truly, I can kind of relate. I won't go into details except to say I was in my 30's when the nightmares stopped.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you for reading and sharing. I am glad the nightmares stopped for you. Ben says thay have stopped for him but as his mother, I'm not sure they will ever completely stop for me.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      .....well I admire you very much Randi for your honesty, integrity, passion, intelligence, your strength and your courage - you are a survivor and yes this was tough for me to read (as it must have been for your other readers as well) but it's a story that had to be told and because you are such a pure and open writer the words just flowed out of you like the tears in my heart did for you dear friend.

      Sending you warm wishes and good thoughts to you and your family from lake erie time ontario canada 2:55pm

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Colin, thank you, it was surprisingly much easier to write than it has been to read these beautiful comments. I'm not sure how much was courage or just sheer willpower combined with mother's love. Warm wishes always appreciated! And returned in kind! 1pm az mountain time, a beautiful sunny day!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Randi, I appreciate your vulnerability, courage, self confidence, and love that comes through so clearly in this article. I could feel the walls of emotional protection I've built begin to crack an shift. I hope you and your family continue to heal.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Chris, thank you! I don't know how else to be. I do understand that this is difficult for you but I think you will feel much better once those walls are broken down. Thank you for warm thoughts. We are, fortunately, doing well. Ben is an amazing, well adjusted young man! I am blessed! Please know, if you ever need someone to talk to, you have friends here and I hope I am one!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Really a tough tale to write, and a tough one to read. I get so pissed at anyone that would take advantage of a child in any way. Childhood is supposed to be filled with innocence and good times. Mine was marred by the death of my mother, and a month later, watching my best friend get killed on his bike by a speeding car. I always felt I had to grow up too fast, that I'd been cheated somehow. Child abuse is much worse as it's an invasion, as well as the loss of innocence. I hope the scars fade and you all can enjoy life as you should.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Richard for reading and sharing. You do know thatwhether invasive or not, all traumas mold us and you faced losses that many adults never have to face. We are good, though. Strong, healthy and happy! Scars do fade! Thank you!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Absolutely Randi. I feel a great deal of friendship here. And you are definitely one as am I to you.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Happy Thanksgiving, Chris!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

      btrbell, I sobbed through this entire hub and have to say it's the best piece of writing I have read on here. I am so sorry for what you had to go through, from his illnesses as a baby to the suicide attempt to the abuse. I understand your wanting to get away and it was the wisest thing for you to do. There's a saying, "we have to let go when it's too painful to hang on" and by removing yourself from all the sources of the painful memories, you showed great strength.

      Bless all of you.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Here's a huge hug and lots of love to you my dear friend;you are one brave lady and I am so glad to have met you on here.

      I wish for you all you want in your world.

      Take care

      Eddy.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      catgypsy...I am at a loss for words (something pretty rare for me!) Thank you. To think that our plight has moved so many people is both shocking and reassuring at the time. You are so very generous and I appreciate the saying "we have to het go when it's too painful to hang on" I grew up with the saying..."when the going gets rough, the tough keep going" true statement except they wanted me to keep going in the wrong direction!

      Thank you for caring and sharing..blessings to you and Happy Thanksgiving!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Aw Eddy, feeling that hug all the way here! Thank you. I'm not really so brave, just didn't have a choice. You have had more than enough sorrow to know that somehow G-d doesn't give us more than we can bear. I am so very glad to have met you as well and I so love to see the words "Eiddwen has published a new hub" on my notifications! I know my day will be lovely then! take care of yourself and your beautiful family!

    • TNSabrina profile image

      TNSabrina 4 years ago

      This completely broke my heart. I have no words to say that could possibly help, but I am glad to read that the days are getting better and the healing has begun.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      TNSabrina, thank you so much for stopping by and reading. Our days are much better now which is why I felt able to share our story publicly! The words you say do help. They validate our feelings! Thank you and happy Thanksgiving!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      My goodness, this is a powerful tear-jerker of a story. It's so true that no one can completely protect their children. You can't put them in a little bottle with a cork and watch them 24/7. But you can be supportive. I love what you told Ben when he hit his low point that by continuing to suffer he was empowering his abusers. He needed to stop being the victim. And it sounds like sunny Arizona has helped heal the wounds! I'm so glad there's a happy ending to this story. Thank you for sharing your bittersweet experience with us.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Vespawoolf....thank you! Your kind and generous words validate my decision to share this story openly. Yes, there is a happy ending! And I will be forever grateful to those who helped us get there! But, I have to admit, I like the corking them up in a bottle idea! thank you so much for reading and your beautiful comments!

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 4 years ago

      This was such an amazing story and I have to say you are such an amazing mother. I am so happy you found a way to make it through for you and Ben. I think that you moving was the smartest thing you could have ever done and I am so happy that it brought healing for you both. God bless you for sharing this story as I know it will help many too.

      Hugs,

      Sunnie

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Sunnie...thank you so much for your kind, supportive words! There are no "rule books" for something like this so we made our own rules. I didn't share our story until I felt certain it would not hurt Ben any more. I so appreciate your warm wishes! Randi

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      I am so glad you shared your family's story with the world.

      (Sometimes feelings of failure need to be looked at through the lens of the fact that we live in a fallen world.)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you RTalloni, for stopping by and your kind words. You are so right. We DO live in a fallen world but unfortunately, victims tend to continue to victimize themselves instead of leaving the blame where it belongs. On the hands of the perpetrator!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      One of the problems our society faces is that perpetrators are not held accountable. Of course, there is a great deal to that topic, but I mention it because I recently heard an interview with a teen/parent counselor.

      He said that parents need to realize that the days of sleepovers should be over. Of course, his statement would have more meaning in the full context of the interview, but parents who have been through what you have been through could help other parents understand it.

      I don't presume to know the details of your situation, but I think you know what I mean because you have posted this much of your story here.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Yes, there are many contributing factors but I can say without a doubt, be very careful. Don't assume that your child is safe. Check everyone and everything. I left my child with my own family. It never occurred to me that he was in danger. Things changed quite a bit in our house after that. Ben and I hope to continue to share his story and really appreciate all the input we receive! Thank you!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Btrbell,

      Our lives, all of our lives, as so filled with mountains, aren't they?

      No one really knows what lies behind a freindly smile. We all have pain and sadness and when it involves our children it is especially chilling and galling.

      I found myself unable to see by the time I was half way through reading as so much was famliar. When you go to the abuse, that is where I was suddenly jolted. That has not been part of our reality and I am thankful for that but so sad that you all had it to endure...because parents do carry it for their children...and your sweet boy had those years stolen...and it is so true as you said, it affects all of you...I am so glad that you all are better...

      Sending you special Angels today and know that you all are sent positive energy and thoughts and much prayer. :) ps

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hi Pam! Thank you so much for visiting, sharing and commenting! I hope your beautiful family is having an easier time. Sending those angels right back at you! With love and prayers,

      Randi

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 3 years ago

      Build sanctuary in in your self, that is what selfishness is for. You can save no one until you save yourself first. Build sanctuary in your home, tolerating anything evil allows it to control your home and defeats sanctuary. This is why we need a deserted island to hide on. Remember all addicts and self abusers and the abused have to leave what they once had in order to move forward. Last is creating sanctuary every where you go. Not accepting the things that defeat sanctuary in the lives of others, empowers others to know that they do not have to accept things imposed on them by others. Positive results are created by positive choices and everything else is a bad choice or just life. We can never control the things in life we have no control over, but what we do have control of can make a huge difference in just living.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, sanxuary.

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