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We had to run away to Reclaim our Life
"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."
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
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
would have been the worst crime
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
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.
- 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.