Posts Tagged ‘severe emotional abuse’

Skull (c) Lynda Bernhardt

This blog entry will likely only be healing to me, but I need to get this out. Although I endured an unbelievable amount of trauma throughout my childhood (and some into adulthood), none of the memories has haunted me like this one.

I am feeling driven to face this memory once and for all so I can heal from it. I deserve to be freed from it. I have mentioned it in passing, but I do not believe that I have ever told anyone the full story about that night. I am going to do that now because I need to in order to heal. I have always needed to give my trauma a voice, and that is what I am doing now.

++++ animal abuse & ritual abuse triggers ++++

When I was around six years old, our dog had puppies. I fell in love with H and begged my parents to keep her. They eventually relented, and I was inseparable from H.

I think H was only about 18 months old on the most traumatizing night of my life. My most sadistic abusers, S & L, invited my younger sister and me to go on an overnight camping trip. They offered to let me take H along and sleep with her under the stars. It sounded great.

I remember camping out by a mobile home. I remember eating fish and playing with H.

Then, I am back in that horrible place in the dark around the bonfire. People are milling about before the “ceremony” begins.

The cult leader tells me that this is a special night – they will be “sacrificing” my sister. Of course, I panic, but there is nothing that I can do. They have already snuffed out any trace of emotion from me, but my soul bleeds at the news.

They tell me that I can choose a replacement for her, but I will be responsible for the death of the replacement. I say, “Yes. Anyone but my sister.” They make a big deal about me being the one to choose the replacement.

I am so relieved that my sister will not be the one “sacrificed” until I hear H’s whines. Three or four robed people are dragging my beloved dog toward the bonfire, and she is putting up quite a struggle. They are having to drag her to get into my line of vision. They want me to watch … and I do as they slit her throat with a knife.

Her body stops moving instantly, and then they plunge the knife back into her, making a “cross” as they cut her long ways down her torso. Blood is pouring from my beloved dog, and I can do nothing. I cannot cry. I cannot scream. I can do nothing except feel the weight of being the one to “choose” her death. She was one of two beings in my life who truly loved me, and they took her from me.

They throw her body on the fire, and I smell her burning flesh. They scoop up her feces and smear it all over my body – my face, my hands … everywhere. It is still warm — she expelled it as she fought for her life.

Then, they carve out part of her burned flesh and force me to eat it. I have no choice. I “ chose” this. This was my doing.

I turn over to the side and vomit, tasting my bile filled with fish from my dinner a few hours earlier. To this day, I cannot eat fish. It triggers me enormously, as does coming into contact with dog feces.

++++ end triggers ++++

As an adult, I know that it was not my fault. This was all “drama” to drive home the point that they had the power to kill my sister if I ever told … and I never did until adulthood. Even now, I tell through a pen name and use initials rather than names.

At least I can cry now. It feels very good to shed the tears that I have held back for over three decades. The last time I tried to cry over this, it took me thirty minutes to work up one single tear, but the release was enormous. Today, I have tears streaming down my face. They have been a long time in coming.

I honor H for her love and her sacrifice. I forgive myself for “choosing” her death. I give myself the gift of releasing the pain and the screams that I have held back for over thirty years. I am grateful for the love that this dog gave me, and know that she forgives me. At least her passing was quick.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Girl behind bars (c) Lynda Bernhardt+++ trigger warning – I discuss specific forms of severe emotional abuse +++

In my last post, Child Abuse: Severe Emotional Abuses I Suffered, I shared my two most painful memories of trauma, both of which involved severe emotional abuse. Now, I would like to discuss other forms of severe emotional abuse.

The reason I have chosen this topic is to help people who have suffered from severe emotional abuse put a label on what they suffered. 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. As I shared in my last post, my most traumatic memory had no physical or sexual abuse involved, but it still managed to scar me deeply.

Some child abusers traumatize children in ways that do not leave any marks on their bodies or even involve touching the child. For example, a child abuser might lock a child in a wooden box. The child might lie in the dark for hours with no access to fresh air. The child might need to use the bathroom but have no way to do so without making his situation even worse. This form of abuse does not involve touching the child physically or sexually, but it definitely inflicts deep emotional wounds.

Another method a child abuser might use is burying a child alive. He does this by forcing the child to lie in the ground with a straw in his mouth. The child abuser covers the child with dirt, and the child lies under the ground, petrified about what will happen if the child abuser removes or blocks the straw. Enduring this kind of abuse is clearly emotionally damaging.

In Martha Stout’s book, The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness, she shares the story of a man who, as a child, watched his abuser kill his brother. If one of the boys did something “wrong,” the abuser would punish the brother for the transgression. One time, after the boy had supposedly done something “wrong,” the abuser went too far and kicked the brother until the child died. Obviously, this was extremely traumatizing to the boy who watched his brother die. The abuser never laid a hand on the child, but the emotional damage was severe. If I remember correctly, this man struggled with dissociative identity disorder.

If you suffered from a severely traumatizing experience that involved no physical or sexual touching, you were still abused. You do not have to be touched for the abuse to “count.” Severe emotional abuse can be the most difficult form of abuse from which to recover. The good news is that you can heal from all forms of abuse, even severe emotional abuse. Just receiving validation that the abuse was that bad can go a long way toward helping you heal.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Skull (c) Lynda Bernhardt

+++ trigger warning – I discuss specific forms of severe emotional abuse +++

In my post Which Type of Child Abuse is the Worst?, I stated that I believe that emotional abuse is the hardest type of abuse to overcome. All forms of child abuse include emotional abuse.

When I wrote that post, I thought about which incident of child abuse I would erase from my mind if I had the power to remove just one. I quickly narrowed it down to two incidents.

The runner up was a particularly savage gang rape. It is not the gang rape itself that plagues me so much as the resulting phobia, which came from the emotional aspects of the abuse. My abusers held up Russian nesting dolls that were all stored inside of the largest doll. The leader told me that I was going to die that night. He dramatically opened doll after doll, and I knew that something horrible was going to happen when he got to the smallest doll. While they (obviously) did not kill me, I would have preferred death to what they put me through that night. To this day, I get a severe headache whenever I come across a Russian nesting doll. Even writing this is making me lightheaded from dissociation.

However, I prefer that memory to another one. My abusers told me they were going to kill my sister, but I could choose a substitute to die in her place. Of course, I said I would choose anyone else. That is when they brought out my beloved dog and slaughtered her right in front of me. Then, they threw her body on the bonfire, so I could smell her cooking flesh. Next, they cut up her body and forced me to eat a piece of it. I still have not fully healed from that trauma, and I can feel the tears welling up inside as I write this. The pain runs so deep that I still have trouble shedding tears over it, even though I know that shedding tears would bring me an enormous amount of relief.

In this incident – my most painful – I did not experience any physical or sexual abuse. However, I find that memory significantly more painful that any other trauma I suffered. For me, emotional abuse has been the most damaging.

In my next post, I will discuss other forms of severe emotional abuse.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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