Scars and Tiaras

Reclaiming Your Beautiful Self After a Painful Past

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Scars and Tiaras is a writing, photography, and social project by Angela Giles Klocke about reclaiming your beautiful self after a painful past of abuse and/or violence. It is meant to inspire, lift up, and hopefully move people into action toward lifting up others. {Formerly The Tiara Project} Read More!

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The monster you know

TRIGGER WARNING – the following features sexual assault / rape situations

Excerpted from “Of Scars and Tiaras,” work in progress

The Monster You Know by Scars and Tiaras / Angela Giles Klocke

I saw on a show once where one of the characters noted that “Stranger Danger” was one of the most dangerous programs ever started. This is because it taught parents to teach their children to beware of people they didn’t know. This took the focus off of those they do know, and the truth is, statistically speaking, most kids who are abused will be hurt by someone they know.

“60% of children are sexually abused by someone in their social circle. Hence, the phrase ‘Stranger Danger’ is misleading” -National Center for
Victims of Crime

A stranger has never hurt me, not like people who were supposed to love me have. I’ve never had to fight a stranger not to take my virginity. I’ve never had to fend off a stranger’s hands on my body. And I’ve never had to cover up bruises that a stranger gave me. My scars have not come at the hands of someone I didn’t know. I know all the names of those who have put hands on me, who have whispered lies into my heart, and who have tried to damage my soul.

So often, I walk for and with mothers and daughters and sisters who never saw it coming from their husband, dad, mother, brother, sister, or uncle. They thought pain, if it ever came, would be anonymous. How could they imagine someone who utters the words “I love you” would also hit, touch, or scream such vile ugliness. And yet…

In these heartbreaking situations, victims and their families are hurt twice. Once by the act itself, and then again because of the dubious emotions that tear wives and mothers and sisters in half. The monster was the husband, and though it should be black and white, the heart is actually torn. What we see on the outside seems obvious, but the inside is where the war rages on. Emotions are damning, causing three times more pain than one might have thought.

When my brother tried to rape me, my first instinct was to be saved, but it was that second instinct that filled me with guilt: protect him. I remember telling the police that it was like my brother snapped, like he wasn’t the brother I knew (and in some ways that was very true). “His face changed,” I told them and anyone who would listen. Yet, even to this day, I knew what I was doing. I was conflicted, filled with guilt that it was my fault he was in trouble, and I was torn between the desire to be protected and the need to protect. My heart couldn’t see black and white. It only understood ambivalence.

His face never changed. That is, he wasn’t overtaken by a monster all the sudden. He was the monster. His previous visits in the night were not known to anyone else, and I shoved them aside in favor of the story…because I loved him. I wanted more than anything to protect him from trouble. I was torn between my complete adoration of my big brother and my disbelief that he would hurt me. I blamed myself in the quiet of the night, telling myself I had imagined those whispered nights of his need, that I shouldn’t have been in a bathing suit, that I tempted him. And no one made me feel any differently, so I shouldered the blame. When schoolmates asked where he was, I felt guilty for taking their friend away. More, when my mother cried, her long sobs that would make anyone beg her to stop, I felt that pain to my deepest parts. Yes, it was my fault.

Again, when I sat with my counselor, I was reluctant to show any anger toward my mom. I shared stories that I should clearly be upset about, but I didn’t want to betray her. I wanted to defend her for never choosing me. Maybe she thought I was strong enough to handle everything, and that my brother was not. But that didn’t explain everything away, and as we peeled back the layers of the years, it became obvious I was once again torn between great depths of pain and loyalty to protect my life-giver. That’s where the anger lived, in those darkest corners that I refused to look into.

So when those on the outside say, “Lock him up! You don’t need that no-good bastard!” to a mom who just found out her very best friend, her soul mate, her partner in life has been touching their child, she just might not respond like we’d expect her to. Because her world just got turned upside down and then shaken and thrown. It’s horrible enough that she is flooded with pain for her child, that guilt overtakes her as she tries to run through every second of life in an effort to catch what she missed the first time around, but now…now she has to also weigh out the monster. It’s layer after layer after layer of emotions that have no quick and easy fix. Justice won’t bring healing. She will struggle with how society tells her to respond and how her heart is ripped into tiny pieces, about how she will want to protect both the victim and the abuser, and how she will feel like she failed everyone. Somehow, this is her fault. She will shoulder this, accept it as truth, and it will become her new reality, especially if no one lets her feel what she needs to feel first without telling her it’s wrong.

Even as I write this, I feel a stirring to understand my mom’s position in the attempted rape. The firstborn attacked the second-born. How does a mother reconcile that with herself? How does she weigh out a choice where she protects one without abandoning the other? How do her actions say to the wrong that she believes he was wrong but loves him anyway, and to the hurt that she understands the pain and will protect her anyway? Ultimately, a person chooses, and it is sometimes not in favor of the broken. In the end, no one wins, not really. Justice equals nothing when the story isn’t black and white. Had a stranger attacked me, I feel more confident that my protection would have been different, that my healing could have been expedited by jail, by counseling, by belief. Others could more readily believe a monster’s actions if they didn’t know him. But the monster we know is the worst kind of attack. There is too much at stake, too much attached. The monster is loved, cherished, and protected in so many ways by layers of truth of who they normally are. No one wins.

“Only 14% of children who suffered sexual abuse were violated by an unknown perpetrator” -National Center for Victims of Crime

Full Document with Above Statistics
Preventing Child Maltreatment

REAL Healing

“When you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry,
you know you have healed.”

False.

I keep seeing this quote posted everywhere and I believe it offers a sense of security where one should not be. Not crying doesn’t equate to being healed. In fact, more often than not, not crying can mean we’re still bottling up our pain, shoving it down, pretending nothing bad happened.

I told my story in person for over a decade without shedding a tear.

“You don’t look like you’re very upset,” one friend said to me only days after my ex-husband died. I was sharing what happened and I wasn’t crying. She expected something different, something more dramatic. I was in shock. I wasn’t performing to her standard of what grief should look like. She walked away and I never saw her again.

Don’t let anyone tell you how you should be reacting, or that no tears means you are all healed. The goal IS healing, of course, but we want real, true healing, not quotable healing. You can’t fake it, not forever. That’s the same as shoving it down. Eventually, it all comes up.

For me, I know I’m on the road to healing because I DO cry when I share my story. Not always, and not always in the moment, but my story moves me now. I feel it. I accept it. I give myself permission to grieve where once I pretended all was fine.

Tears are OK. Emotions are OK. Someone else telling you HOW to go about your healing is NOT OK.

Letter to Myself

Dear Former Self,

You’re going to go through some pretty ugly stuff in life. From the time you’re conceived, you will not know to whom you belong (father-wise). The man you think is your father will turn out not to be, and he will hurt you physically and mentally, and you will wonder what you could have possibly done to deserve it. You are just a wee child. You don’t deserve any of it.

There will be times with your mom that you won’t understand. Why is she acting like that? How can she say that? WHY does she DO that? You will fantasize that you are adopted, even kidnapped from your real mom. Just know that while she doesn’t change, you do. You will tune it out the best way you can, escaping to the fictional world. And you will decide that you will be a different kind of mother one day.

One day comes too soon when you meet him, the boy who will become your first husband. He will woo you and treat you with all the love you are sure you do deserve. But your desperation to feel loved will cause you to ignore other things, hurtful things, and one day you will get pregnant and it will be too late to get away. You will spend years feeling scared and trapped and like a failure.

By the time you’re 22, all of this past pain will come to an end. At least, that’s how it will appear. But the truth is, it will stick with you for much longer. The physical pains may be over, but the mental and emotional hurting will go on. You will try to bury it, to push it down, but it won’t stay down. It comes back again and again until you deal with it.

But here’s the thing: You WILL deal with it. You will take it out, mull it over, flesh it out, close it, open it, shove it, kick it, hug it and hold it. You will deal with it and you will be stronger than you ever have been before. You are not the person you were. You never deserved to be hurt. You are beautiful and wonderful and amazing. You are kind and giving and you don’t ever try to hurt people the way you’ve been hurt. You have come out of that mess doing all right for yourself. Your life NOW is beautiful. And I’m sorry you had to go through all that hurt to get to today, but here you are, a strong and beautiful person.

I’m proud of you. I love you.

Always,
Your Present Self

 

How to lean into the pain caused by your abusive past

Lean Into the Pain by Scars and Tiaras

Night after night, I was waking up in pain. My feet kept cramping up. I’d grab whichever foot was hurting and hold it, trying to knead out the pain, but ultimately I had to wait it out, refocus my mind not to feel it, and then try to fall back to sleep. No amount of babying the pain took it away until it was ready.

I shared this with my daughter when I found myself in the grip of another cramp in the middle of the day.

“It just keeps happening,” I said, pulling my foot in and bending it to try to loosen pain’s grip.

“Push against it,” she said.

I shook my head. “No, that hurts more!”

“You have to push against it. It hurts more at first, but then the pain goes away.”

A dancer in color guard, she was accustomed to foot cramps and had learned the best and quickest way to end the pain was to push into it, not try to avoid it or wait it out in hopes of it going away.

I pushed my foot, straightening it even though everything in my head said to just keep holding it. Within seconds, my foot relaxed and the pain was gone.

“Whoa,” I said. “That is the complete opposite of what I’d have ever tried to do.”

The message was not lost on me. Over the last several years, after over a decade of trying to baby and avoid my own pain from the past, I finally leaned directly into it, feeling it, tasting it, hating it but also facing it and learning to accept it.

As it turns out, it’s much easier to deal with it all than to keep stuffing it down, pretending it doesn’t matter. Because stuffing your feelings down will only work for so long. Eventually, an explosion will happen.

How to Lean Into the Pain

  • Seek out a good counselor with experience in your type of recovery, i.e. domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault
  • Turn to a trusted friend or loved one who can handle all the nitty-gritty details of your story, especially if that person has related experience
  • Join a support group — believe it or not, groups help remind you that you are not alone, and other members can help you process that which you may not have been able to express before
  • Call in to a support hotline
  • Journal it out — it doesn’t need to be pretty
  • Write your memoirs — and it can be for your eyes only. Writing helps you make connections to feelings and actions that you may have never noticed before
  • Read other books/memoirs about abuse — these can help you see how you’re not alone and give you permission to feel what you feel
  • Dance or exercise your way through — sometimes just getting physical as you process can ease the heaviness and help release your feelings
  • Accept that your pain — no matter the level — is valid and belongs to you
  • When something painful comes up, don’t stuff it back down. Instead, allow yourself to think on it for a bit. You don’t have to have a meal of it, but perhaps just a few bites to get you started

Maybe your pain leads you to self sabotage or a lack of confidence in yourself in the area of your career. If that’s the case you can lean into your pain by seeking out a coach or mentor to work with. With my coach, I work on all my self-doubt and old ways of thinking (lies that I am stupid, worthless, and will never amount to anything, lies of desperation and fear). After counseling and finding healing in some big areas, I still battle issues with confidence, and my coach walks that road with me.

Understand, an easy list doesn’t mean the task at hand is easy. It’s not. It’s uncomfortable, and at first, it hurts even more than avoiding it. But then it gets easier. The greatest pain begins to fade, and soon your heart can start the process of mending from all the broken pieces.

You are not alone.

#WhyIStayed = Money

Despite many opinions on the matter, money really is a pretty big issue when it comes to why victims stay in domestic violence situations.

Video is approximately 5 minutes.

When your finances are controlled by someone else, when they take all your money or won’t let you make money, that is another form of abuse and control.

“So, the woman often has no money, poor credit, and a limited understanding of her financial situation. Even if she is desperate to leave an abusive partner and has the courage to move to a local domestic violence shelter, she has no money for transportation, food or clothing.”
-Money, a powerful weapon in domestic violence By Thomas J. Wilson

So, what do you think?