The Scariest Aspect of the Bill Cosby Rape Allegations: From a Sexual Abuse Survivor’s Point of View

Lately, I can’t go anywhere without hearing or reading about the allegations of rape against Bill Cosby. This post isn’t about who is right or wrong in regards to that. About who is guilty and who is innocent. About who is lying and who is telling the truth. This post is about the reaction of the public to these allegations, and how angry it makes me.

The comments on these articles are out of line, plain and simple. However, because I’m an idealist who still has hope for humanity, I try to believe that the comments are made out of lack of understanding. That perhaps they’re written to sound callous and rude, but maybe it’s really people just asking questions. So I will answer these questions. Or at least for how they relate to me. For I am a silent victim of sexual crimes. One who never told a soul until it was way past the time where it would have been admissible in court. And then, when I did tell people, it’s only been a select few and even then I haven’t really talked about it with them. In fact, I’m scared to death to post this now. What will people think of me? What will they say? Will they tell me it’s all in my head? Will they tell me I’m a slutty hoebag who deserves to die? Which yes, I read on an article about this, and that was one of the nicer comments. So where people harp on these women for that, saying that there’s no way a woman could ever keep that to herself, and say that she must have liked it, and asked for it, and wanted it, and that she’s a dirty hoe…. That even if it did occur, where’s the proof, and until there’s proof, then that means that it didn’t happen.

So let me tell you my story. One I’m scared to death to talk about. So scared that I’m bawling just writing this, and if you read this, it means I actually went through with posting it, which is the scariest and hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. My ENTIRE LIFE. I’m actually hyperventilating just thinking about posting this, and I am not one to hyperventilate. But I feel my voice has weight in this and that my story needs to be told. And as it’s International Women’s Day today, I thought it would be a good day to do so.

I’m sure a lot of you will say the same nasty comments you said on other articles, but say what you want. What I’m about to say now is MY truth. My truth that I’ve kept inside for a long time for various reasons that I’ll get into next. MY truth that has no proof other than the memories that have haunted me my ENTIRE LIFE. The ones that give me nightmares still. The ones that make me afraid. But also, the ones that have made me STRONG.

Before I go on, please know how difficult it is to say what I’m going to say next. I’ve gone almost my entire life refusing to even think about what I’m going to say. And as for talking about it? That’s been impossible. But I have a voice in this and I feel that if I stayed silent, then I’m a party to it. So I won’t stay silent any longer because if my words help even one person to understand and empathize with other victims of such crimes, then this was worth it. And if it doesn’t, then you know what, it feels good to put this out there. My own soul has kept a secret and secrets destroy us. They put us in the dark, and I want to live in the light. So enough of the stalling, here are my words….

My story begins when I was a child. I was around 4 or 5, which I guess by where I lived and by who is in the memories—the boys who lived next to us, ages perhaps 13 down to 7. These boys were trouble, which was well-known in the area. They watched porn (which they showed me at that age) and tried to get me to smoke cigarettes they hid in the outside outlet box. These boys did a lot of bad things, but the worst was the time(s?) that they molested me.

My “memories,” which is what I always called the images of the abuse, were always at the back of my mind as I grew up, coming forward like eddies in a stream when I least expected them, then going back away as I pushed them down. But still, no matter how I tried, they’d find their way to the surface again. And these aren’t just small memories. These are intense ones that are more vivid than most of my memories, even recent ones. See, I remember the exact scents, the exact tastes, the exact textures. And not just tastes and scents and textures of normal things in a childhood, but these all have to do with the scents, textures, and tastes of the private areas of a boy. Where I have not done such an act as an adult so I don’t have anything to compare it to, these are not things that a child at that age should even know existed, let alone REMEMBER.

As I said before, I never admitted this to anyone growing up. In fact, I didn’t even admit it to MYSELF. Instead, I grew up telling myself that those things hadn’t happened, and that I was a very sick person for imagining such things. That there was something seriously wrong with me to come up with that. Why did I lie to myself and not tell anyone else? Because I wasn’t ready to handle it. If I had tried to deal with it back then, it would have destroyed me.

When I was 8 or so, there was another incident involving a different boy. Again, I didn’t tell anyone. Instead, I told myself that it was my fault. That I had asked for it. Eventually, I had pushed it away so hard that I started denying that it, too, had happened. Again, it was my imagination. It had to be. Man, I was so screwed up for imagining all these things. What was wrong with me? Did I need to be put in a mental institution? What would my family think of me for imagining such things? And what about my friends? Would they push me away? SHOULD they push me away? Maybe they should if my mind was so depraved as to come up with these things!

But then, when I turned 18, these memories all of a sudden flooded my mind. They were all I could think about. I started believing that perhaps they were real and not just my imagination. But how do you find out if things that had happened 10-15 years before were real? It’s not like I could go ask the boys from my “memories.” But then I remembered that someone else might know. Someone who had become entangled in the earliest memories, though I wasn’t exactly sure how. I went to them and asked them if what I remembered was true. It was. They’d felt guilty for not saying anything about it for years. In fact, in therapy, they’d been told not to tell me. I didn’t remember and the therapist (who I also went to because I was totally screwed up) said it would only harm me more. That I needed to remember first. That I needed to be the one to bring it up, not have it brought up to me.

When I finally asked them, it was a relief for both of us. Some people would get angry at this other person for not telling about what they suspected might have been going on, but I forgave right away because it wasn’t their fault either. They themselves were a child. How could I put that on their shoulders? That’s when I realized, I too had been a child, and I shouldn’t put it on my own shoulders either.

Over the next few years I tried to deal with it, but it was hard because I didn’t want to tell anyone, and I never spoke of it to that other person again. They were forgiven and I wanted them to move on with their life. To not have to have that guilt anymore, because it wasn’t their fault. Why didn’t I want to tell anyone? Especially now that I knew it was real? Because I had already been molested and raped, that was enough hurt. I couldn’t deal with any more of it. And what if those I loved didn’t believe me? What if they thought I was making it up? That I was, indeed, psychotic and sick? Was I just trying to get attention? I couldn’t change the past. What happened happened. But I could keep my future self from being hurt. And it seemed that the worst thing that could ever happen at this point was to be rejected and thought badly of.

I’m a solitary person. I keep to myself a lot. I have massive walls built around me. I hate to be touched. Not even my own mother can get a hug out of me. And though I have kissed a couple guys, usually one every five years or so when I attempt to date, I mostly accept hugs and kisses from children and animals only, or grudgingly stand there and wish for it to be over. But even though I prefer to be by myself, I knew I couldn’t go through this alone. So I dipped my toes into the pool and told a couple of people. They were supportive and believed me, but they didn’t want to talk about it. So I came to the conclusion that nobody ever would. I would never be able to talk about it with anyone. So I did what I’d done my whole life: I pushed the memories and pain away again.

It was killing me. I couldn’t handle it. I wanted to die. But I knew I couldn’t talk to anyone, so instead I turned to writing. I wrote a book series for myself where the main female character had my history and issues, and then I watched as she dealt with it and learned to get past it. I let a few people read those books, but mostly not. They were just way too personal. And even those who read them, I tried to make them believe that those parts were fictional. That it was just for drama. They had no idea, and still have no idea, that those things happened to me.

That was in 2008. I never spoke about these things again. Not until a few months ago when I finally told my mother since she didn’t understand why I don’t trust men and don’t want to get married. This is my own mother and it took me 14 years after I finally admitted the truth to myself to tell her. I was so nervous she wouldn’t believe me, but she did. I told her who, and she’d always known those boys were bad news. They’ve even ended up in jail as adults. Would she have believed me 14 years ago? 24 years ago? 27 years ago? I don’t know. But she saw how those boys ended up, and so she believed me.

Do I have evidence? No. That’s long been washed away. Rape and molestation don’t stay with you physically. Instead, they stay with you mentally, which is a million times more difficult. Your body can heal with no repercussions, your mind can’t. It has found itself into my personality and actions, and in how I look at the world, and at men. I’ve known a lot of good men. My father, my grandfather, my brothers, and some amazing guy friends. I see how good they are, and yet I still can’t trust the gender. I feel like they must be the exception to the rule, not the rule. And I KNOW that’s not true. But that abuse is like a weed that digs down and kills the root of the rose bush. The rose bush is beautiful and strong and GOOD, but the weed overtakes it and it’s all you can see. All you can think about.

So now I ask the people who make the hurtful comments about women who come forward about rape and sexual abuse. Or even men who come forward, because I know they’re victimized in comments as well. This is for all the victims. Look at my story. Am I a ho? Am I to blame for everything else these boys may have done to other women? No. Of course not. I was a child, a victim, and I was scared. Scared to admit it to myself, and scared to admit it to others. Even if I had been an adult, I still would have had the same worries, still would have tried to convince myself it was my fault, or that it hadn’t happened. See, a victim’s mind tries to make excuses for the pain so it can survive. If it admits things before its ready, it will disintegrate into nothing. It’s why still, to this day, I haven’t even fully let myself feel the pain of it. I tell the story and get to this point where I can no longer feel it. I don’t know how to even explain it, but I know other survivors of these things might get what I’m trying to say because they, too, have felt it.

For anyone who might say that child molestation is different than when an adult is the victim, that children are innocent but adults are “hoes,” then I’d like to know what makes it different? Because, as I see it, an adult victim is going to feel the same way as an underage victim. The process of denial, anger, fear, and acceptance is going to be the same since it’s a universal process. Perhaps you’d say that adults are old enough to know better and that means they should come forward, or that they put themselves in the compromising position to begin with, but those of you who say that, I want to know how many of you have ever been victims of a sexual crime. And even if you have been, each person has their unique perspective on life. Each mind works differently and processes things differently. Each person has different things they can handle and different things that destroy them. We can’t judge others on what WE can handle or how WE feel. In fact, we shouldn’t judge them at all. Though I know that’s difficult because judgment is a dominant human trait. We need it to justify our own actions and thoughts and make ourselves feel better about ourselves by judging and deeming others as less than us.

I don’t know if Bill Cosby is guilty or not. I don’t know if all, or none, of these girls are telling the truth. That isn’t the issue, for nobody will ever truly know other than him and those women. But until this society learns to stop treating potential rape and sexual abuse victims like dirt (in earlier generations, men wouldn’t even marry them because they were soiled, even though it wasn’t their fault, and some cultures actually murder these women to bring the “honor” back to their families), of course they’re not going to come forward. All we have, as humans, is our pride and reputation, in others’ eyes, as well as in our own. The moment it’s slandered, we’ve lost. People may not hire you, people may not date you, people may unfriend you, people may verbally attack you and call you all kinds of awful things. Whether you have proof or not, so many women are blamed for the rape and molestation they may have found themselves on the receiving end of, and that bullying and rejection is enough to keep you from telling a soul, or even admitting it to yourself. Victims live in denial and fear for years, perhaps the rest of their lives.

They say that you’re innocent until proven guilty, so how come the accused is that and yet the potential victims are 100% guilty of fraud? And even if we admit it might have happened, the fact that they didn’t come forward sooner makes them guilty? We need to treat BOTH sides as innocent until proven guilty, knowing that with rape, there’s not going to be evidence after mere hours or days have passed, but that doesn’t mean anything. Is a lie less a lie because time has passed and everyone forgot it? Is a crime not a crime because nobody saw it? It’s like the proverbial tree in the woods. Just because nobody heard it fall, doesn’t mean it didn’t. And where that would leave proof, emotional damage can only be understood by the one feeling it.

So here’s what I hope we can do. Let’s strive to be better humans. We’re allowed to have our opinions, but let’s not attack others just because we don’t want to believe them. Instead, let’s love them and hope that whoever is telling the truth will find peace and justice. Let’s remain positive human beings full of love instead of hate. You can be supportive of either Bill Cosby or the alleged victims without being awful and hurtful. Because going about it by calling people names and such only makes you part of the problem.

You who have attacked these women, or any other woman or man who has ever come forward with allegations, YOU maintain this cycle of victims being afraid to come forth. Because seriously, rape victims have already been through the wringer and the last thing they want is to be bullied yet again. As long as people will attack them for coming forward, putting them and their reputations through the shredder, then they’re going to fear doing so.

So let’s show some empathy and compassion and break the cycle. You don’t have to believe the alleged victim. However, your support in spite of whatever you believe can change things. If we can fix the repercussions of accusing people of rape (especially people in powerful positions), then maybe we can fix the system. Maybe, if victims aren’t afraid to come forward, then all rapes will go reported in a timely manner and there will be that “proof” that’s only there for a short time. Because if we don’t change, the chances that someone you know and love will be raped or molested, and you’ll never know it, are high. In fact, I can guarantee you know and love at least one person who has been a victim to a sexual crime. So for them and the ones that you love who will become victims, let’s change the system by first changing ourselves.

If you agree and this touched you, please share it. Get it out there for those struggling with either being afraid to speak up, or those who are victimizing those who do. Let’s get the word out there. Maybe it can help someone you know who is silently living in what I call the “sex crime victim closet.” Let’s get everyone out of it and then maybe we can put a stop to it in the future. For your mother, your sister, your aunt, your daughter. Your son, your brother, your uncle, your father. Sex crimes affect both genders, and men are probably even more afraid to admit it than women. Let’s cease that fear. Forever. And if it’s happened to you, find someone you can talk to. Even if it’s like me and it’s just your own words in a book or journal. Raise above it. Know it’s not your fault. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re amazing and beautiful and strong and will get through this. I survived, you’ve survived so far. You can continue surviving. And someday, you’ll get past it where it’s no longer about survival. It’s behind you and you have your whole life ahead of you. I don’t know you, but we’re kindred spirits and I love you.

Copyright © A.D. Seeley 2015

Photo from: discovermagazine.com

Advertisements

What Beauty Means To Me

What exactly is beauty? As a writer, usually I’d go straight to the dictionary to see what it says, but its top definition is “the quality of being physically attractive.” To me, that feels extremely limited, especially since I feel like physical beauty is the last thing on a list that makes someone beautiful.

The world and media would make you believe this as well. Everywhere you look, you’re exposed to what they would call an “ideal” beauty: the perfect hair, gorgeous features, goddess-like body. But how many people actually have that supposed perfection? If that was truly the definition of beauty, a very small percentage of people would actually be beautiful. Plus, I’ve known gorgeous people who were extremely rude that I no longer found beautiful, and less attractive people with the best personalities that made them the most beautiful people on the planet. That’s why I don’t agree with that definition. So now, I’m going to redefine it to include the rest of us mere mortals.

I grew up in the wilderness. Back then, I didn’t care one bit what I looked like. I was a wild child, with scraggly hair and layers of dirt. When my mom forced me to chop all my hair off since I refused to brush it, I didn’t care at all. It was just hair. What was the point of caring if it was cute, or the most hideous haircut in the world? All I cared about was making people laugh. And when they would always talk about how cute and adorable I was, I realized that my sense of humor was part of my package. In fact, they never said anything about my physical attributes that I can remember, so I guess I saw that being funny equaled being cute.

Don't let it fool you, this hair is full of snarls from not being brushed

Don’t let it fool you, this hair is full of snarls from not being brushed

As I hit my teen years, that all changed. I went from never once having thought of my looks to being so obsessed with them that I compared myself to every other girl I came across…and failed miserably. I didn’t think I was ugly, exactly, but all my friends seemed to be so beautiful, as did the popular girls. I remember sitting behind this one girl in science class and just watching as she’d run a hand through her perfect hair. It would fall just a bit, but not too much, creating a pattern of lacing hair. I spent hours in front of the mirror trying to get my hair to do that, frustrated tears taking over when my stupid hair just wouldn’t do it.

Then, when I was sixteen, I all of a sudden gained weight. I was still skinny, but to me, all I saw was these curves that I just wanted gone. I’d been a scrawny thing before, and I wanted that back. I felt fat and undesirable. My looks, on top of just other things in my life, ended up taking over until I was in a deep depression that lasted for years. During this time, I just wanted to feel loved, but my looks and those other things made me feel like that was impossible; like I was unlovable. All I ever did was criticize myself during those years. I was never pretty enough, never good enough, never important enough. I don’t think I thought one positive thing about myself during that time.

What I felt like I always looked like as a teen (even though it's just an awful picture)

What I felt like I always looked like as a teen (even though it’s just an awful picture)

What I actually looked like most of the time as a teen (minus the colored hair mascara)

What I actually looked like most of the time as a teen (minus the colored hair mascara)

 

Fast forward about a decade, to when a friend of mine forced me to try to find my beauty. I just scoffed at first. How could I find my beauty when I had none? I wasn’t Jessica Alba. I wasn’t anything. Sure, I still had my sense of humor, but people no longer called me cute or adorable for it, because they looked at looks, and I didn’t think I was someone people found attractive. But this friend wouldn’t have it. He made me think of the physical things I hated about myself, starting with the one I hated the most. That was easy. I hated my stomach, I told him. It was soft and doughy. So he asked me to somehow make that into a positive. It took a while, and when I came up with an answer, it was more a joke than anything. What was my answer? That if I ever got lost in a frozen wilderness with no sustenance, my body could eat itself. Like I said, a total joke. But for some reason, it made me feel better.

The next thing I told him I hated was my extremely muscular calves. I have a friend who was a running back for the New York Giants, and he was always so jealous of my calves and the natural V I had in them. It made me think I had man calves. It got so bad that I’d wear only pants, even in 114 degree weather. What was my positive for them? Sure, they were ginormous, but man, were my legs strong. I could kick a soccer ball from one soccer goal to the other by 7 years old.

Interspersed with the bad, he’d have me tell him the features I liked, and why. That was harder, but I like my eyes and lips, so those two were easy to list out. What I liked best about his approach with this is that even if he made me compliment myself, he never once complimented anything physical back because he believed strongly that self-esteem from within was better than getting it from others. What he did compliment was my sense of humor, my empathy, the different way I looked at the world. He brought it back to being less about the physical, and more about the attitude and person one was deep inside. It helped me remember what I’d believed as a child.

Likewise, on days where I felt fat, he’d make me look at pictures of Queen Latifah and ask me if I thought she was fat or if I thought she was beautiful. I thought she was beautiful. It helped me realize that maybe others don’t see my few extra pounds. Or, if they did, they didn’t care about them. Then he’d explain to me that she was so beautiful because you could see her confidence and good character in every bit of her. In the way she stood, in the look in her eyes, in the way her smile was real and natural. She might not be sample size, but that didn’t matter because she was seriously so beautiful. More beautiful than a lot of models who you could tell had no self-esteem at all. Supposed perfection doesn’t equal self-love.

Over time, working with him, I noticed that I was no longer comparing myself to other women. Instead of looking at them and wishing I looked like them, I could look at them for their own beauty without diminishing my own. Likewise, I saw beauty in every woman of every shape and size, and with all kinds of facial features. I didn’t see flaws like I had before.

As I gained confidence and a positive outlook, I felt happier; I felt free. In that happiness, I realized that I didn’t need to have makeup on to feel pretty. Sure, it didn’t hurt, but I had an internal confidence that had me forgetting that maybe I wasn’t conventionally pretty, and maybe I don’t have the best body. See, that positive outlook seeped deep into my bones, until I was carefree like I had been as a child. I no longer cared what others thought of my outer beauty, because my inner happiness made it no longer matter.

Me now, no makeup needed to feel beautiful! Though it doesn't hurt. ;)

Me now, no makeup needed to feel beautiful! Though it doesn’t hurt. 😉

Right now Almay has a campaign out starring Carrie Underwood that’s all about strengthening women, and helping them find their beauty, a message that I really respect, especially coming from one of the top makeup brands in the world. In one of the videos for said campaign, the first thing Carrie Underwood says is how beauty is about how you feel (to see the rest of the uplifting and inspiring video, see below). I remember stopping it right there to think about it because I completely agree with her. Why? Because I have those days where I might feel gross, and that makes me no longer feel attractive. I also have those days where I look in the mirror and think I’m seriously unattractive. But those days, I notice I have an icky feeling in my chest. They’re negative days where everything is trying to bring me down. On my happiest days, I look at myself in the mirror and realize that I’m cuter than I thought I was. Especially on good hair days, and days where I might try a little with makeup. Whatever you need to feel more positive will help you find your own beauty.

No matter where you are emotionally in the scheme of things, I want you to know that you have beauty. Even if you can’t find it, it’s there. Try to get past all the negativity of the world and you’ll find it. I hope you do. Because if there’s one thing on this planet we all deserve, it’s to feel beautiful and to love ourselves.

*Disclaimer: Where this is a sponsored post by Almay, all opinions are 100% my own

©2014 A.D. Seeley

Becoming Normal

For over a year I’ve been deaf in my right ear and hard of hearing in my left. I have this extremely nasty disease called Meniere’s Disease that eats your inner ear. As you can imagine, I have a difficult time understanding people when they speak to me. And if they have an accent, forget it, I won’t catch most of what they say. When it comes to watching movies, I’ve needed the subtitles on for years. Of course, I did adapt. I learned to make up a conversation by the few words I catch, and to laugh or nod or look sad depending on the other person’s facial expressions. I feel horrible about doing that, but I can’t ask someone to repeat every single thing they say eighty times.

This past summer my doctor finally told me that I needed hearing aids. That I really had no choice anymore. Problem is that insurance doesn’t pay for them and they aren’t cheap. At $2,500 a pop, I’d have to come up with $5,000. As an indie author whose debut novel wasn’t even coming out until October (and let’s face it, you don’t make money with a debut novel, even if you have a publisher), and with a job as an office manager for a start-up biotechnology firm, I just don’t have that kind of money. However, my audiologist mentioned to me that perhaps Vocational Rehab would be willing to help. I wasn’t sure that they would, but I made my appointment.

I remember the moment I got the letter that told me I qualified for help from them. I honestly started crying I was so happy. I had hope. Hope that I would be able to hear again. You see, my biggest fear is going completely deaf where not even hearing aids will help. It took months, but finally last week I got my hearing aids. The first moment I put them on, I could already hear. In fact, everything was extremely loud. All I could pay attention to was my audiologist’s chair squeaking. It was like someone was bashing my head with a hammer, the sound was so explosive.

At first the sound also had a robotic quality and I remember thinking about how if that’s what things were going to sound like then I wasn’t going to like having hearing aids. But that only lasted a little while. Everything was still loud, but at least it didn’t sound electronic anymore. My audiologist kept telling me that my hearing was at the “normal” level, even though it sounded as loud as fireworks. That’s how deaf I am. That “normal” hearing made me dizzy and gave me a headache.

I forgot all the little sounds that my brain tuned out the more deaf I became. I forgot that my pants make a sound when I walk. I forgot that my dog belches when she eats too much. So many little things and now I could hear them all. It overwhelmed me. I was sitting in my house and I thought someone was ringing my ancient doorbell that buzzes instead of rings, but it was someone opening a garbage can thirty feet away. I thought I hit something with my car, but really it was only a CD case sliding across my backseat. So many things stimulating my ears now bombarded me from every direction. I thought I’d go crazy. But just as I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it, my brain started adapting. Yes, everything is still loud and my own voice sounds odd in my deaf ear, as though I’m plugging my ears and speaking, but they say that will go away as soon as my brain relearns how to process sound.

I don’t know how long it will take for me to completely adapt, but I’m really excited for it. So far my life has changed so much in just a few days. It’s nice to hear all the things that make your life worthwhile. Like hearing my dog make her cute little noises as I pet her. Hearing music and TV, since those both inspire me in my own writing. Being able to hear what my boss is saying to me since he speaks in this tone that I always had a difficult time understanding. Not getting yelled at when people get frustrated that I don’t understand them. My life is changing for the better. I’m becoming a normal person again. And for that I can’t wait.

(I actually wrote this in January of 2013 and will write a follow-up post soon).