Code Of Silence

The Code of Silence

The predator wants your silence.  It feeds their power,

entitlement, and they want it to feed your shame.”

—Viola Davis

When I first begin getting to know someone, the very first thing I look for is their level of snitch. What do I mean by this?  Snitching is when you tell on someone to get yourself out of trouble.  Another word for a snitch is a tattletale.  To be labeled as a snitch socially is to be ostracized.  In other circles being labeled as a snitch can get you killed.  And snitching is a predator’s greatest enemy because that exposes secrets.

As a small child the term snitching wasn’t used yet. I did know what the term tattletale meant.  And what hurting my friend’s feelings and damaging a relationship because of telling secrets meant.  It meant people would be mad at me and I would have no friends.  Even teachers at daycares can get tired of all the tattling.  Step inside any daycare and you’re liable to hear, “The next child that tattles doesn’t go outside and play.”  These are two dichotomous examples of telling information.  My question to think about is are we teaching our kids the best and safest message?  There are always exceptions to the rule.  By the time these children are teens there’s an unwritten “code of conduct” around telling information whether it be relevant or not that might save lives.  This will also get someone labeled as a snitch.

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I can expand more about teens later, however, for the sake of this blog post I’m going to refer to myself as a young child.  My first lesson in keeping secrets that should’ve been told was around 5 years-old.  I was molested many times by my neighbor’s youngest and middle sons.  These boys were around 13-15 years old and old enough to know better.  The way I was held emotionally hostage was through threats like “the police would come and I would have my parents taken away.”  I was also told, “that I would make people mad and no one would want to be my friend. And it would be all my fault.”

This little girl named Dana would do everything possible to make sure both she and her family was safe.  From a child’s point of view, I hung on to every scary word spoken.  And afterwards they would tell me how beautiful I was.  The searing pain that would burn my body would leave an imprint on my psyche even today.  The pain and fear would start and I would leave somewhere in my mind where pain was not felt.  Still to this day, I’m very confused in just about every way in regards to having been molested.

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People  that seek power over other people instill in their victims that telling about abuse is a sign of weakness.  As a teenager, anytime I told or tried to tell about the abuse to the school administration this information would get back to the teacher making the abuse worse.  The message I got from doing that was to “forget asking for help and save yourself.”  After the abuse of my 8th grade year, I vowed that as long as I was around to witness someone needing defending or help I would step in and protect in whatever way that I could.  This has bought me unnecessary trouble with coaches and friends but to me it was worth it.  I could then lay my head on my pillow at night and sleep.

One night after Mel and I had been speaking to a class at the college, A mother from that class asked me where I went to middle school.  I told her Petal Middle School and she asked about the teacher that was so abusive.  Because her 8th grade son would come home from school every afternoon with tears in his eyes due to being called names in front of his classmates by a teacher. She told me the teacher she was speaking about and after my heart dropped into my stomach I said, “Unfortunately, ma’am that is who I was speaking about.”  She asked, “What should I do?”  I told her, “Tell someone and get your child in counseling like yesterday.”  I don’t know whatever happened to that mother and her child’s situation.  The information I shared with her helped she and her son?  However, a big load of shame and guilt was dumped on me as penance for that child and any other children after me that I kept the secret about the abuse ,consequently, leaving the predator unscathed and in the driver’s seat to handpick her next teen victim with ease.

The small little southern city with air tight politics and a nose for people’s business other than their own was to my detriment that year.  I was told many years later by one of the administrators that worked there my middle school years information that still burns my ears.  I was told, “You were a child at that time and I couldn’t say anything especially due to the politics.  But I can tell you now that she should’ve never been around children.”  The disappointment must’ve been written all over my face when she saw how perplexed I was.  She said, “Is there something I can try to clear up for you?”  I stood there for a moment not knowing what to say but burning with questions.  “Yes ma’am.  I do have a question…..So you all knew she was abusive and shouldn’t have been around children and you let her teach anyway?!”  “I was her verbal punching bag and her abuse has affected my education, my career, my relationship with my wife and children, my relationships with others and above all the relationship and image of how I view myself as a human being!”  I was mad but I couldn’t stop then tears.  She hugged me as we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

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 When I went to my own vehicle and unlocked the doors, I sat down and shook my head and said, “They knew the whole time and didn’t try to stop her.  Didn’t they know how badly it all hurt?  Did they even care? Yes, I fought every way possible to make it through that year in school that still shows its ugly scarring.  No matter what adult I tried to tell that year I got no help from the abuse.  And “snitching” never did me any favors.  Had someone look past the labels and protected me from the backlash of telling the truth about the abuse my life could and maybe even would be much different now.  That one year of school affected a few other teenagers in ways that are still damaging to them.  The most visible are the scars that line the forearms of those teens with 30 years of thick scarring  from the one thing that would listen to us all then…..razors.  I also had the experience of eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia), alcoholism, drug addiction that were all there with their arms wide open to help shield me from the unwanted torture of abuse.

The “Code of Silence” protected by perpetrators in a way that I had no defense.  And as a very young bride, I would face abuse again for the next 14 years.  That “Code of Silence” that was used as an intimidation factor all those years worked.  It kept me silent and the perpetrators innocent.  I go to bed scared every night and the first emotion I have in the morning is fear.  This shame based silence that seen as normal or acceptable is very hurtful.  Maybe protecting offenders because of “snitching” isn’t the problem. And maybe listening and helping to protect children and teens when they tell should be handled first instead of politics and reputations.

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

–Elie Wiesel

#thispuzzledlife

Tears Of A Child (Poetry)

The Tears of a Child

I came into this world screamin’ and cryin’

Never knowing that the world would be lyin’.

Big hands that touched with searing pain

And it would only be for their perverted gain.

 

Surrounded by four walls I would cry alone

Until she opened the door and I was already gone

Locked inside I screamed, “Don’t Leave!  Help me!”

But I would never be granted any reprieve.

 

A Child bride I would soon become

The tears I cried inside were many but to the outside there were none

I would defend you and say that life was grand

But you would crush me without even using your hands.

 

The venom you spewed I would also come to use

Innocent family and friends….If they only knew.

That little girl screaming for help and they didn’t have a clue.

That which the little girl is surviving might make her turn forever blue.

 

“Mommy! Mommy!” were the words she always longed to hear.

But the innocent screams rang so loud and clear.

She looked for the one that helped rescue her

But she was another one gone.

How does she handle it now in this world all alone?

 

She screams, “Mommy!  Mommy! ” from somewhere deep inside.

She was always taught to keep quiet and hide.

She also longs for the one that gave her life

But she’ll never meet those precious boys or her beautiful wife.

 

This child she’s full of anger and hates most things she sees.

The words they can’t hear are her hungering cries of “Help Me, Please!”

Please help me and don’t leave me alone.

But again she looks up to see they’re all gone.

 

She keeps those tears buried deep inside

Just like when she was taught to run and hide.

If they knew and could only see

These tears of a child that continue to haunt me.
By: Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

The Party Of One (Poetry)

The Party of One

This was the day for 9 months that I longed to see

You were the one that was meant for me.

Instead I was thrown away and forever shunned

I began life solo as the little party of one.

 

I soon had a new mommy and daddy

To look at me I appeared very happy

And then the boys’ hands touched me and it was no fun

for the little girl was the party of one.

 

You were there to help educate our minds

not to tell us, “You’ll Never Be Anything!” time after time.

You lied and told them I was disrespectful and having fun

But the only party I was attending was the party you reserved for just one.

 

I took you as my husband and you took me as your wife

But what you had in store was not a beautiful life.

You monitored me daily who i saw; what I did and what I ate

All I did was develop more and more silent hate.

 

I did what you said but it was still my fault

Do you have any idea what lessons you taught?

You made me your dog and to you it was fun

If only they could see you brightly shining at this party of one.

 

I’ve tried and the answer is consistently…fail

I can’t make it as a friend, daughter or mom anywhere

along the trail.

I long to hear from you just one more time saying,

“I’m here and together we’ll prevail.”

But the grief is so heavy without you that I feel like I’m in hell.

 

I’ve wished for life to be anything but this

I’ve already fought so hard just to be here and for that I’m pissed.

You all stripped me of everything good and it’s seen everyone

And though we are many, we are still the Party of One.
By:  Dana Landrum-Arnold

#thispuzzledlife

Silencing The Lambs

The Silencing of the Lambs

3.16.15

“What makes psychopathy so different, so surreal…that it knocks her head off?  The inability to wrap her head around the emotional-physical-spiritual-sexual gang bang that just happened when she thought she was the most wonderful person.”

—Sandra Brown, Women Who Love Psychopaths

I was trying to decide on a quote this morning for this particular blog post about trauma that would cover the spectrum of how trauma effects different developmental stages from a personal perspective.  While quite blunt, this quote pretty much describes the ‘rape’ on so many levels of each of my personal traumas.  When people ask, “If things were so bad, why didn’t you leave? Or, why didn’t you just tell someone what was happening?”  Honestly, I just have to see and understand that I’m talking to someone at that moment who doesn’t and might not ever understand unless in that position themselves.  Individuals who have never been abused or been so scared that the last thing they would or could ever do is tell the ‘little secret’ to expose their perpetrators, can’t comprehend that level of fear.

Keep in mind that the ‘little secret’ about my molestation by our preacher’s sons was mentioned in passing only a couple times until I told what happened, not even in detail, less than 10 years ago.  That secret I had been holding since I was a 5.5 year old child.  Why do kids do that if they know and are confident that their parents can help?  The problem is not with the child or the parents.  The problem lies with the perpetrators.  If the perpetrators are the parents, then that’s a separate topic.  Even when I got older and new no physical harm could come to me, the seed of fear was planted many years ago.  All I knew was that the topic scared me.  I knew what had happened through broken memories.  But, I was completely detached emotionally except for the emotion of fear.  My parents being the very loving and understanding couple that they are were revealed additional pieces of that time in my life last summer for the first time.  Can you imagine how they felt knowing some additional information about things that transpired?  Then how do you think, as a child, I felt with it being done to me?  The fact that they were connected to religion has always had an influence on my view of religion and religious figures.

In my abusive previous relationship and consequently a marriage, I kept holding on to the false hope that one day I would again be in the relationship with the person that charmed me.  I was so young and naive that I couldn’t see what was happening to me every single day.  His grip just became more and more tighter emotionally until I had been convinced that I was too stupid, dumb, uneducated, ugly, retarded, unwanted by anyone else and whatever else he could come up with in the moment to call me that I felt too weak to be able to stand on my own two feet.  My view of survival was…..well….him.  I was also extremely scared, at that time, of the repercussions of his or his family’s anger.  But, he had his own techniques about how he would ‘raise’ me as his wife.  He just didn’t know that there was a term called gas lighting that would describe parts of his abuse.

A very common form of brainwashing in which an abuser tries to falsely convince the victim that the victim is defective, for any purpose, such as making the victim more pliable and easily controlled, or making the victim more emotional and therefore more needy and dependent. {You’re reading “Definition of Gas lighting” by J. E. Brown.}

Often done by friends and family members, who claim (and may even believe) that they are trying to be helpful. The gas lighting abuser sees himself or herself as a nurturing parental figure in relation to the victim, and uses gas lighting as a means for keeping the victim in that relationship, perhaps as punishment for the victim’s attempt to break out of the dependent role.

Here’s an example…If an abusive person says hurtful things and makes you cry, and instead of apologizing and taking responsibility, starts recommending treatments for what he or she calls “your depression” or “your mood swings,” you are in the presence of a gas lighter.

So, next time, when someone says, “If it’s true, why didn’t they tell?” or “Don’t feel sorry for someone who just stays in a situation like that!”  Understand, that there is so much more going on psychologically that you nor anyone else who’s never experienced brainwashing can comprehend.  True the victim does protect the abuser most of the time.  Trust me…..”IT’S OUT OF FEAR.”  This is how perpetrators ‘silence the lambs.”

Mentally and physically, the effects of 14 years of ‘gas lighting’ took a big toll on me.  My ‘alters’ protected me from feeling much more of the abuse than was felt.  Did I develop maladaptive coping skills from a very young age?  Yes, of course.  They worked well at the time to help me survive some of the horrific traumas of my life.  Now, they just interfere with daily life.  PTSD, social phobias, OCD, rages, flashbacks, body memories, etc. are what my days and nights consist of these days.  Life is better on some days rather than on others.  This, however, are the effects of a lifetime of abuse perpetrated on who ‘had it all’ and became a ‘head case’ over time.  Look at the events of many forms of abuse in my life and tell me who were and still are the ‘head cases?’

Dissociative Identity Disorder is in no shape, form or fashion an easy thing to deal with on a daily basis.  It’s scary as hell for me most of the time.  I won’t nor can I even begin to imagine what it’s like for my wife.  Our son, he’s learning on a different level all of Momma D’s parts.  Every single day our family is in a battle with this disorder.  On an individual level, we’re in a war to put the pieces of the memories back together and deal with them as they should’ve been dealt with many years ago.

Every morning, as long as I choose to put one foot in front of the other, they don’t win.  The day I lay down directly or indirectly in a permanent manner is the day they win.  I think you know enough about me to know that I come from a long line of coaches that demanded and would accept nothing less than winners.  ‘Winners’ in their eyes were more than just numbers on a scoreboard.  There’s only one way I know how to operate….”Get knocked down 1000 times.  Get back up 1001 times.”  This too is a gift.

This lamb is no longer going to be silent.  Abuse is real.

#Thispuzzledlife