The Good Men Project and Guest Editor David Kaiser, PhD, ACC were kind enough to post this essay on the Good Men Project site: The Seeds of Power
My thanks for helping me reach other survivors with my story, in the hope of inspiring them to speak out and get help.
WARNING, this essay contains abuse triggers for some survivors.
It wasn’t the lash of the belt or his hand on my throat that hurt the most, it was the look on his face: pure power, mixed with a dismissive arrogant boredom. I didn’t matter unless I managed to entertain him, either with my body, my humiliation, or my pain. That day, all three hadn’t been enough to earn me anything; not food, reprieve, or mercy.
Today I call myself a survivor, that way station between victim and victor; the struggle for healing between the acts of abuse and the goal of conquering my fears, as well as my mental, emotional, and physical damage. Yet the hard truth of abuse is this: some of these things can never be made right.
The seeds of power start small. The abused sometimes learns to abuse, in some vain and barren attempt to taste what power feels like. We see this in bullies today, so often victims of abuse and ignorance themselves. I never wanted that taste, not that way. Power to me was cruel and cold, terrifying – not a thing to desire, but a thing to flee from, or to obey. Disobedience was a seed too – a seed of powerlessness.
My father blinded my left eye when I was sixteen, to punish me for not coming home from school by the time he’d ordered me to be there. I tried to sneak in, but he was waiting. He hit me, beat me. I hoped that would satisfy his anger, but it didn’t. When I was weakened, he handcuffed my wrists over my head to the newel post of our staircase, sat on my legs, and used his knife to cut the upper eyelid off. He told me that was the intent, and if I didn’t stay still, he’d cut my eye by mistake. He said it would teach me to watch the clock better. That was a lie. He did it to force me to watch as he brought his lit cigar down and slowly pushed it into my eye.
Have you ever felt powerless? Feel the cold of a hard floor, the burn of metal cutting your wrists, of a weight crushing your breath from your body; feel the searing fire as it grinds out your sight. His mercy was to leave the right eye intact, though he often threatened it in the years after.
My father was never diagnosed, but he was a narcissistic sadist and a pedophile, who believed he was a god. His power in the home was absolute, as was the powerlessness of my mother and myself. She, a child of abuse herself, was more of a child than I was in many ways.
Being powerless was my life until I escaped at age nineteen, living on the streets to get away from the abuse, only to find more abuse of many different kinds waiting there.
Today I have a home, a family… and children of my own; my angels, my reason for fighting to survive every day from the damage, the memories. I could rail, cry, and scream about the injustice, but it wouldn’t change a thing. It wouldn’t give me the experience of seeing my children with the sight of two healthy eyes.
With all I still have to struggle with to heal, the only form of power I’ve ever found that helped me was the power to help others by telling my story. So few people who have been abused and raped can tell anybody what happened to them. Most who can talk about it are women; yet there are so few men speaking out. Men and boys have such an awful stigma to fight against, the myth that males cannot be raped, cannot be abused. If they hear other men speak out, it can encourage them to tell somebody they trust, encourage them to seek help.
Now, when men and women tell me that reading my essays and poetry has helped them in some way, hearing that helps me. It starts with a strange swelling in the heart, a timid, fledgling gratitude. These moments are the seeds of power for me; the power to help, to heal.
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For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse. You are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.