I would rather not be writing about topics like this one but it has been surfacing a lot in conversations with women in my life. I have witnessed people struggling with parenting as individuals who have experienced sexual abuse and it seems to be a necessary topic, but believe me, I would rather be writing about unicorn sightings or even on some cliché heart break shit while listening to, “I’d rather go blind”. Hell, I am guessing you probably would rather not read about subjects like these either but alas here we are darlings. I will say that I am not discussing silence and cycles of silence in this post as I have written about it here and did a poetry video about it.
Trauma. Layers of trauma. Inches of unfertile shit and soil that threatens to choke out the light and stop anything from growing.
I was once a child and my mother vowed to stop anything from happening to me. She wasn’t able to keep it. This was not her fault. I am now a mother. I have made the same promises.
I have become hyper aware of people’s hands, of their gazes, and of their gestures in the presence of children. I am on watch constantly and analyzing everything. Aware of bodies moving within the house when there are too many heads to keep accounted for. I sometimes awake to shut a door to a room where my son lay sleeping, convinced that it is a small barrier that will keep him safe. I can hear the door opening if it does. I trust almost no one.
I talk with him about his private parts, and he knows the proper ass names for them. We talk about what is untouchable and inappropriate. We have discussed to no end, the things that abusers would say to keep him silent and I tell him,
It will never be your fault.
No one can harm me as your mother so never listen to them if they say they will.
I will always put you first and believe you.
You have to say something. Anything. Say something.
These were mantras. Sometimes he is exasperated and finds my questions and discussions odd. I try to keep them natural as possible, so he will never fear telling me anything. But I know that one point my questions had created a sense of unsafety for him that did not actually exist but came from my own childhood experiences. I know that I have made him uncomfortable with my interrogations.
“So where was his hand when he hugged you?”
My mind has ran rampant while I have laid in bed and imagined discovering that someone has sexually abused him. I would kill them. The mother in me that would feel like she failed and would be so enraged with the trespassing of my flesh and blood, and I would kill them. I would have no other option but to kill them or at least break multiple limbs and render them crippled. I played out scenarios of drawing blood from a faceless person, exacting my rage. I would end up in jail. How could I be a better mother from prison? I would get MOM4 LIFE tattooed on my knuckles the second year in to my motherhood life sentence. Life is hard. Push back harder. I wonder how many of these scenarios played out are to satisfy the little girl in me who wasn’t protected. I interrupt these imagination overloads now to tell myself that he is safe, he is okay, he will be okay. That I am safe now and my child is safe.
I once decided I was going to sleep naked. I hadn’t really done that before and I wanted to “embrace my femme form”. My son was already out cold in his bed and I woke up before him so I figured I could do this without any awkward moments. I laid in bed. Naked. I heard a noise and the next thing you know I am wondering how in the fuck am I going to fend off some intruder whilst buck ass naked. What if someone made their way into my child’s room and I had to go over there and fuck his shit up with my tiddies flapping around. The next thing you know I was fully clothed and had went and grabbed my son from his bed, placed him in my bed next to me, barricaded the door with a desk and other objects, and went to sleep with the light on and a baseball bat beside my bed. I remember laying there looking at my barricaded door like… “Well that went sideways really fast.”
The next day I called my friend who has done a lot of work of her own and we talked about reclaiming space and safety. I had to repeat to myself that “I was perfectly safe in my own space”, and declared that “I reclaim my right to be safe in my own house”. I hung medicines in the doorways and in windows. I smudged. I prayed. I slept naked. I survived.
I know I am not alone in this, I know it because I talk to other mothers with similar experiences and we are on a sliding scale of hyper-vigilance and projecting our own stuff. I know other women have imagined the horrible and have exacted revenge and murdered imagined abusers in their heads. I have spoke with a mother who was triggered and wept for hours when she thought her child might have been in an unsafe place. We are all trying to heal ourselves while simultaneously trying to prevent wounds on our own children. Sometimes we do not know we inflict wounds by our own behaviours.
I read this book the other day where the mother had put her child in double diapers, as to avoid any sexual abuse and I cried. I put the book down and I cried. We live in a world where many of us feel like we cannot trust our own partners. Admittedly, I have never trusted any of my partners fully with my son because my own experiences tell me that the devil is almost always someone that you know. I cried because we are trying to leave things behind but how do we do that when we also have knowledge and experience that the darkness in people is very real and very present. Trust must exist somewhere.
The mothers that I have talked to discussed the importance of self-talk and reaching out when they are feeling triggered or scared.
“I have a few safe people that are further along in their healing journey with this that I call when I feel like I may be overreacting”
“I tell myself that my children are not me. They are their own individuals. I tell myself that my children are safe and they will be safe”
I read a few articles on parents who were sexually abused as children but all of them pointed to mental health issues, depression, and substance use and did not speak of the hypervigilance and fears that come out whilst parenting. There are many of us whom have broken cycles and have done healing work, or are starting healing work, that need to be having these conversations that extend beyond a symptom check list. Another article said what one of the mothers had said, have someone you can talk to when you are triggered.
Be unafraid to have these conversations. You’re not a social leper. Triggers happen. We struggle. We rise. We need to talk this shit out in safe environments and reclaim our right to safety and our belief in that safety. If we grew up in a culture of silence, blow the fuckin’ roof off that bitch. Set Boundaries. Get Counselling. Smudge your household. Hang medicines. Pray. Lay Tobacco.
Self-talk is what helped me when reclaiming my own space for my own sense of safety and I absolutely needed to include ceremony with it because at the same time I reclaim my safety, I have to reclaim who I am as an Indigenous woman. I reclaim the value in my body and being. I reclaim my right to parent and raise strong children. I refute the internal belief that Indian children lead hard lives, and this is just how it is. I believed sexual abuse was an “Indian thing” until I was thirteen years old. I reject that. It is not an Indian thing, it is a result of intergenerational trauma and colonial genocidal tendencies. I reclaim my place as a war-worthy woman and the ability to parent with deeply soft and fierce love. I reclaim my household and reject the cycles of trauma that keep these wheels spinning.
I will make wise decisions as a parent but also trust that the conversations I have had with my son will be enough.
I will continue to have open dialogues about bodies, consent, love, and boundaries with my son.
I will continue to work on myself and further my own healing journey because I am not just a mother, I am a woman whom is worthy of that much.
I will take a minute to assess situations to see if it I am acting from a space of my own internal shit or if it is a reality that I need to address.
I will love calmly and patiently ..…… always being ready to burn the mufucka down if I need to.