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Posts Tagged ‘severe child abuse’

Christmas TreeI had a feeling there was more to the memories I recovered last week. Before being forced to “kill” my baby sister and being buried alive with her “corpse”, I saw Santa Claus, which explains my aversion to Christmas as well as when these things were done to me. This part of the memory has no triggers.

I was in a very expensive room with leather furniture and wood paneling on the walls. (Keep in mind that this was in the 1970’s.) I looked at the Christmas tree while waiting in line to talk to Santa.

My guess is that this was at one of two places. My father belonged to a Country Club for a while, and this location would be my first choice. I don’t see the chaos that you typically see with lots of children waiting to visit with Santa. This seems like a low-key affair for a select group of children. My second choice guess would be that my abusers set it up, and this took place at some sort of exclusive club, just not the one my father belonged to.

When it got to be my turn to sit on Santa’s lap, he asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I asked if my sister and me could go live with him at the North Pole. This helps me determine my age because I had cracked the Santa code by age 8, so I was 8 or younger when this happened. Santa asked me why I wanted to live with him, and I was silent. Santa blew it off, saying something about how my parents would miss me, and asking what would I like for Christmas.

The next flash goes back to right before they forced me to “kill” my sister. By asking Santa if my sister and me could go live with him at the North Pole, I was at risk for “telling,” which is why they put me through what they did. S, my most sadistic abuser, had always told me that the consequence for telling was my sister’s life, so they followed through in their sick, staged way to keep me silent.

I was impressed with my gumption as a little girl. If Santa had been real, escaping with him on his magic sleigh and disappearing to the North Pole would have been a clever way out. Sadly, what I took from this experience was that I couldn’t trust Santa, either, and that is likely when I started thinking through whether he actually existed.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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Dark Skies*** trigger warning ***

I wrote about the first part of the memory here . The next part of the story is truly ghastly.

The hooded figures placed my sister’s “dead” body into a large box. Both my sister and I have always remembered this box. S&L, my most sadistic abusers, gave my parents the box for us to use as a toy chest, and the box always freaked both of us out. (Now I know why.)

The box was HUGE! We could fit two chairs inside of it along with a ton of toys. It was made out of plywood, and it had a lid that was attached with hinges on the back. On the front was a latch screwed in tightly that my parents never thought to remove. They just told us not to climb into the box because, if the lid closed accidentally, we could be locked in if the latched caught.

The hooded figures placed my sister’s “dead” body into the box and then told me to climb inside with her. Obviously, since my sister is alive today, she was not “dead,” but I did not know this. I was just a little kid – younger than my son is now – and I was forced to get into a box with my dead sister that I had just been forced to kill.

The hooded figures closed the lid and latched it, leaving me in the dark. Then, they buried me alive with my dead sister.

From the adult perspective, I seriously doubt they buried us. This was a HUGE plywood box with two children inside, so it would have been heavy, and they would have had to dig a huge (and I mean HUGE) hole in order to bury it. This happened during the daytime, so they probably threw a tarp or blanket over it to make it dark inside and then scooped a few piles of dirt on it to make me think I was underground. I was an extremely traumatized little kid, so I wasn’t exactly thinking through the details.

They left me in the dark for a long time. There was no air circulation, although the plywood was not flush, so I wasn’t at risk for suffocating.

When you are enclosed in a tight place with no airflow for a while, it gets hot. You also hear every single noise – the sound of every breath and every movement. To this day, I must have some sort of background noise going – music, a white noise machine, a fan … SOMETHING!I get triggered by complete silence.

I shared a free-writing exercise I did several years ago. I think this memory is the “box” part, but I still don’t know what the “thrice” is unless it is the triple betrayal of daddy, bonfire, and box. LS = little sister. I have excerpted just the parts pertaining to the box:

*** trigger warning ***

Box. Thrice. Box. Thrice.

Box. Children in a box. Box locked up. Children suffocating. Children die. Children. Box. Box. Box.

Box dark cold scared

Fit in box children fit in box both fit in both latch lock latch lock locked in suffocating hot no air no air hot musty scared locked in box locked in box locked can’t get out with LS

Locked inside hurt scared want to die want to get away want to die die die die die die die die

Hate grownups hate all hate people hate life want to die die die die die die die

Kill me kill kill kill die die die die bang head bang head bang head stop stop stop stop stop want to die die die die die

Kill me die die die die die

Hate box hate daddy hate box hate bonfire hate hate hate hate hate

Hurt LS why hurt LS why why why why why

Why hurt LS why hurt in box why

Hurt me hurt me hurt me hurt me hurt me

Hurt hurt hurt hurt hate hate hate hate hate hate bang head bang head bang head want to die die die die die die

Kill die kill die die kill die die die die die

Why why why

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Woods (c) Lynda BernhardtI have been working on recovering a memory for a while, and I finally got enough of it to blog about. I am still reeling from it (writing this the morning after), so I am just going to write the memory. I haven’t had time to process it yet.

A few nights ago, I “saw” myself standing in the woods. It was this time of year – most of the leaves had fallen from the trees, but the leaves on the ground were still fairly fresh. It was during the daytime, and I saw the people in black hooded robes walking toward me. They were scattered, coming from different directions as if none of them were together and just randomly happened to be walking toward me in the woods. I rarely have memories of the ritual abuse happening during the day, which was disconcerting.

That’s as far as I got the other night. Then, last night (I am writing this on Monday morning), my head started hurting really badly like it does when I have a memory coming. I saw that one hooded figure was carrying a body – a limp body with the hair hanging down toward the ground. The body wasn’t held in a loving way like when you cradle a hurt child. It was held out to be dramatic – “Look! See! This child is dead.”

I tried to absorb seeing a “dead” body when the next wave of the flashback came – that body was of my baby sister. At this point, I experienced internal conflict. The adult me knows that my sister is alive today, but the child me believed her baby sister was dead. I had to reconcile the internal conflict by validating the horror of seeing my sister dead while, at the same time, reassuring myself that she is alive today.

Then, the next wave came – They were carrying her to me because I had “killed” her. That piece is just in flashes with the adult me filling in the blanks. They forced me to smother her with something (a rag?? a pillow??) laced with chloroform or equivalent. I was very gentle because I didn’t want to smother her, but the substance knocked her out, and I believed she was dead from me smothering her.

Then, back to the woods … They were carrying her body there for me to bury. I couldn’t handle any more and shut it down. I tossed and turned for hours, unable to sleep. I am exhausted this morning, and my head really hurts.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Chapel (c) Lynda Bernhardt

*** This was supposed to post on 10/21/08. I just realized that it never did. – Faith ***


On my blog entry entitled Riding Out Suicidal Urges, a reader named Matt shared his struggles with being married to a woman with dissociative identity disorder (DID) who has a suicidal alter part. His comment is a long one, so I am not going to reprint it here. I addressed most of his comment in my last blog entry, Helping Spouse with a Suicidal Alter Part.

In this blog entry, I would like to address this part of Matt’s comment:

I’ve been a faith-filled person, but my faith has been stretched to the point that I have a hard time believing in a God who would allow this to happen.

I hear your pain this comment, so I thought it would be worth devoting an entire blog entry to where is God in this situation. Believe it or not, God is all over this situation. When you view the situation from a different perspective, I hope you will be able to hold onto your faith.

DID is not a curse – it is a blessing. Imagine being a three-year-old little child who is being repeatedly raped and tortured. You are so little that you have no means of escape. A 30 lb. child is no match for an adult, even a small adult.

God gives very young children (under six years of age) the ability to flee their bodies. Most of my memories of abuse in childhood come from the perspective of the ceiling. I calmly observed my body being severely abused as my spirit hovered above my body. I was “spared” the abuse because I was not in my body as it was being harmed.

Adults do not have the ability to do this unless they developed DID in early childhood. If adults could flee their bodies during abuse, then prisoners of war (POWs) would have a way to fight back, but they don’t. They are forced to stay in their bodies and experience all of the horror as it happens to them. God lovingly provided young children a way to be spared from this.

When you live in a severely abusive environment, DID is a gift. It is only when the child is removed from the ongoing abuse that the DID becomes maladaptive. Without developing DID, your wife likely would not have survived the abuse. She either would have killed herself, gone insane, or become an abuser herself. The DID spared her from these outcomes and gave her a life with you and your son.

Pastors love to tell their congregations about how much God loves us, but I rarely hear them talk about how much God wants us to love ourselves. This is the key to your wife healing from her DID. In order to fragment her spirit into multiple alter parts, she had to “reject” them as being “her.” The way she will heal from the DID is to love each part back into being one whole spirit.

A wonderful book on the importance of learning to love yourself is Francine Rivers’ Christian novel, Redeeming Love. She flips the story of Hosea to focus upon Hosea’s wife, Gomer (“Angel” in the novel) instead of on Hosea. The novel drive home that, no matter how much God loves you, you are not going to be able to receive that love and heal until you choose to heal yourself. It is a powerful book that might get through to your wife.

One other thing – Many “faith-filled” people believe that suicide = fast-track to hell. I vehemently disagree with this, and there is nothing in the Bible that says this. The Catholic Church implies it because you last act is “murder,” but I do not see suicide as a personal murder. Instead, suicide is a last-ditch attempt to make the emotional pain stop. People who commit suicide are in such deep emotional pain that they are willing to do A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G, even die, to make the pain stop.

That is not murder. I truly believe that greets those who commit suicide with deep love, compassion, and understanding. Nobody other than God fully appreciates the depth of your wife’s pain. God is not going to punish her for not being strong enough to continue enduring such overwhelming pain. I know the weight of that level of pain. I wouldn’t make a dog continue living in that level of pain.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to post them. My heart goes out to you and your situation.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry, Child Abuse: Severe Emotional Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I was hoping when I read, “When a person suffers from severe emotional abuse, he might have trouble validating that the abuse was that bad because there was no physical or sexual abuse involved,” that I would read farther and be able to validate my experience as abusive. My “abuser” threatened to kill me (while he had my mouth and nose covered so I couldn’t breathe), to strangle me (while he had his hands around my throat), to break my neck (while he held me up in the air by my head). My abuser threatened to break my arm while he was twisting it behind my back, but in any of these instances he never left a lasting mark. So it couldn’t have been that bad. My therapist says that was abuse and that it was emotional/psychological abuse, but it’s so hard to accept. I just keep thinking that she is a “softy” and doesn’t understand that I just had to be tough in my family and that it wasn’t abuse.

To me, the reader’s experiences were clearly abusive, yet the reader is having a hard time embracing the label of “abuse” for these experiences. This is a common phenomenon among child abuse survivors. My therapist says that mentally ill people try to convince you that they were abused, and child abuse survivors try to convince you that they were not.

I used to share horrific memories with my therapist and immediately follow it up with, “but it wasn’t that bad,” or, “other people have had it worse.” Like this reader, I had a hard time seeing certain traumas as “that bad” because they left no marks on my body. However, some of the my most traumatizing moments did not even involving my being touched, such as when I was forced to “choose” between the life of my sister and my beloved dog and then witness my dog’s execution.

Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery, explains this phenomenon very well. She explains that the abused child needs to minimize the abuse as a coping mechanism. If a child fully grasps how overwhelming the abuse is and how powerless he is to control it, then he will lose the drive to continue fighting to survive and sink into the depths of despair. So, minimizing the gravity of the abuse is actually a coping mechanism that helped you survive.

One way to judge how abusive a situation was is to project it onto somebody else. Imagine that somebody did those things to your child or another child that you love or care about. Would you label those actions as abuse? If yes, then it was abuse.

For some reason, I continue to have a hard time accepting smothering as being physically and emotionally abusive. Even though I almost died from smothering, it left no marks on me. My parents saw me immediately afterward and noticed nothing. All of this has made it difficult for me to embrace this traumatizing event as “that bad.”

And yet I continue to experience body memories from that experience. Why would I have repeated body memories if that experience was no big deal? And if somebody smothered my kid and almost killed him, I would definitely label that action as abuse and do everything I could to get that person locked away in prison. I would also get my child lots of therapy and feel guilty for leaving him alone with a person who would do such a thing to him. So, why don’t I have that same reaction about the abuse toward myself?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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An online friend of mine has put together a powerful video about organized pedophilia and dissociative identity disorder (DID). I bawled my eyes out as I watched it, so grab a box of tissues first. This video explains DID, ritual abuse, and organized pedophilia so well. The pictures and music are haunting.

I hope that others will see this video and pay attention. My friend is right — the passage of the Protect Our Children Act is a good first step, but it is not enough. The video explains why.

I would not label the video as triggering, but some of the symbolism in the pictures might be upsetting. So, be careful viewing the video if you are in a bad place. For those of you who are triggered by clowns or robed people, there are brief photos of each that can be triggering.

There is a link to my friend’s blog at the end of the video, but it is hard to read. You can access her blog here.

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Writing the blog entries about ritual abuse this week has been hard. I have a major headache right now, and I have been feeling triggered as I worked through the topics this week. The worst part is the terror – the deep-seated fear that I am going to be “punished” for breaking the silence of the cult.

Ritual abuse and terror go hand-in-hand. I suffered from many forms of abuse at the hands of many people, but none of the forms of abuse is coupled with the same level of sheer terror that I felt from the ritual abuse.

I am not worried about the cult members coming after me. For one, I have been very careful to shield my off-line identity. Also, this abuse happened back in the 1970’s, so most of my ritual abusers are either very old or dead at this point. I have not been in touch with any of my ritual abusers in decades. Also, I am not providing any identifying information, so they are safe from any sort of punishment for their actions at this point.

Instead, it is an internally-generated terror that bothers me. The terror comes with feeling very cold. In fact, whenever I have nightmares involving the cult, I have to pile blankets on top of myself in order to fall back to sleep, even in the middle of summer. The coldness permeates my bones and reaches down to the very core of myself.

Whenever I think about the ritual abuse (which is not very often), I remember the icy coldness. The abuse always happened outdoors in the middle of the night, so I was cold from that. But it was the coldness in the ritual abusers’ eyes that really froze me. It was like they were not human. It felt very much like how Harry Potter describes the dementors in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was as if the ritual abuse tried to suck the life out of me.

However, they did not succeed, and I am very proud of that. They had all of the power, and yet they still could not control one little girl. No matter how hard they tried, they could not succeed in breaking the will of one little girl. I never became like them, and I never will. Their actions have affected every single area of my life, but they could not turn me into one of them. I can live with the terror, so long as I know that I am my own person. I have the power to make my own choices. They never controlled me, and they never will.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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