Exposing wrongs....predators can be very deceiving...
What shapes your thinking? What shapes your behavior? How do we learn that some of what we perceive as right is actually wrong? We are accustomed to certain norms in life. Those norms often shape how things turn out for us since they are all about what we do and the choices we make. The norms are often reinforced by the social norms in our environment, communities, and families. However, exposing predators and abusers can send a very powerful message, set a boundary and reinforce change either correcting behaviors and getting the help needed.
As I dive deeper into the content of the book I’m writing, I realize the many complexities that impacted so many of my decisions until I finally had the help I needed to recognize the dysfunction I was living with. One of the many lies I was telling myself, one of the really big ones, was that people had to fear me to respect me. That came from the way I was raised. Fear equaled respect, how twisted is that?
I noticed everywhere my family went that people feared my father and that he had great respect in our community due to that fear. He was a power machine: very muscular and short of stature. Though not tall, he had an impact on others and a palpable presence everywhere he went. I recall his stories about the knife fights he would get into with the gypsy population when he was in prison. According to his stories, he always won. He had this scar on his bicep, on his left arm, which was a reminder of one of the fights he had been in.
It took me a long time to learn that it is ok to just be; just be and not have to be in constant control of everything around me or instill fear in others to gain respect. I tended to have a strong personality and way of expressing myself, until I learned that lesson. I am still trying to learn to have a loving delivery when I am with others. It has been very difficult for me. Now again, I will stress that kindness is not weakness. It is ok to be kind and still set strong boundaries with those with whom you need to. I had to do a lot of work to change my thinking and free myself of the bonds of the lies I was living; free myself from the darkness that had overtaken my life.
The beginnings for my family in America were not easy. My father was the same as he had always been. He really kept my mom from advancing her learning of English and becoming somewhat independent. Controlling her and me was still at the top of his list.
As far as I was concerned, I loved high school and the very diverse population groups I met there. Remember I was coming from a very regimented learning environment. Suddenly I was going to a school with no uniforms, many very different cliques—not to mention races and nationalities. WOW, I was in such awe! I loved this! I wanted to know everyone! It sounds silly, but I did. I was so intrigued with all this. The breaks offered more learning than the classes. I still hated school, but this new environment was amazing.
I was able to talk and connect with all kinds of kids. I asked so many questions, and was grateful that all the kids I talked with were kind and willing to answer them. I asked about the way they dressed, the way they looked, the activities they engaged in. It was like this whole new world had opened up to me. I still recall a silly question I was asked: “Do all Eastern European women grow facial hair and gain weight? “ I honestly remember laughing because I had no answer to that.
As for me, my whole world opened up and I embraced the diversity that was there before me. Everyone had a story. I learned that quickly because I got to know so many people. I will never forget this guy who was always alone and nobody talked to him much. But I did. He was quiet and reserved. As I got to know him I was able to see cut marks and pain that was not just on his body. One day I decided to ask him about the cut marks. At first he was quiet but then he opened up and shared the abuse he experienced at his father’s hand. We connected immediately; we were able to talk and be honest about the darkness we each were living at home.
Although I was able to get along with everyone, I was more comfortable with the “odd ducks”because I, too, was one of them. I put up a very happy front but the truth was not what it seemed to others. I was a loner, reserved, shy, and quiet. I was scared of anyone finding out about my home life. The thought of leaving home, realizing that nothing there will ever change, became more of a reality for me when I started working as a waitress at a family owned restaurant in Riverside called The Family Basket. It allowed me to earn my own money.
I finally left home before I actually had a place to live, but I was at a place where I just couldn’t take it anymore. That was when I met what I thought would be my knight in shining armor. I was 16 ½ years old, working my evening shift, and he was sitting at one of my tables. Taken by his charm immediately, I really liked him. I took notice of the tattoo on his arm, the motorcycle helmet, and the fact that he was obviously a bad boy to the bone. But he seemed kind and nice. What did a kid like me know?
He left and that was that. However, one day as I was hitchhiking to work, this car turned around and guess who? Yes, you guessed it. It was the guy I had served at the restaurant. He offered me a ride and that opened the door to a date. Why did I not see the wrong in this? Me 16 and him in his mid 20’s? This started a phase in my life that led to the biggest lessons I have ever experienced. My childhood nightmares faded in comparison to what was coming...Unlike my father who was feared this man had charm and everyone liked him. This is the most dangerous kind of predator. I did not know that then...