Tag Archives: #csa

Head-Banger’s Ball: Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

This post, though not graphic,
discusses childhood sexual abuse.

Life is unbearable,
but death is not so pleasant either.
Russian Proverb

I was dancing when it happened. After almost four years, I’d just had the braces removed from my legs and, in my joy at being free, I was dancing all around the kitchen and the empty dining room, wearing nothing but my panties and a camisole. My father was there, drinking beer, watching me, following me all around the house. I thought he was impressed with my improvised ballet skills. I don’t remember where my mother was, though I do know that it was late at night.

When my father grabbed me and began kissing me, I squirmed and twisted away. I wanted to dance, not kiss. Besides, I didn’t like the way he was kissing me, putting his nasty tongue all over my face and mouth. I fought hard enough to make him lose hold of me. When he tried to grab me again, I ran to the kitchen and got under the table, trying to hide.

Unfortunately, he found me.

My biological father first raped me when I was 3. My mother walked in when it was happening, and had to beat my father over the head to make him stop. Instead of taking me for medical attention, my mother told me I was a “bad girl” and locked me in the closet until I stopped crying. I don’t know how many days I was in that closet, but it seemed longer than any lifetime. I couldn’t understand what I’d done, but I vowed never to forget.

As soon as I earned my freedom from that closet, I  began telling people that my father had done something bad to me. I told family members, neighbors, doctors, nurses — anyone I thought could punish him. Anyone I thought could make him stop hurting me, which he continued to do. No one listened until I was 4 or 5 years old, when a Judge, in his chambers, asked me to show him — by pointing to my body — where my father was hurting me.

I don’t remember what events led up to that encounter in the Judge’s chambers, only that he was kind and patient, that he actually listened to me, and that after I talked to the Judge, my biological father lost all visitation rights. Furthermore, though I visited my father’s parents each weekend and though he now lived with them, he was not even permitted to be in the same room with me. I never saw my father again.

After my mother divorced my father, I thought I would be safe from men’s violence. Unfortunately, by the time I was 5, my mother was already dating a man who was sexually abusing me in every way imaginable, doing more atrocious things than my biological father had done. At the ripe old age of seven, after an entire lifetime of abuse from my mother, my father, and my mother’s boyfriend (who later became my stepfather), I decided that life was unbearable, so I decided to kill myself.

My only problem was that I wasn’t exactly sure how someone did that. During the last violent fight with my father, my mother had slammed him in the head with a cast-iron skillet. I’d seen him lying motionless on the floor, surrounded by a pool of blood. When the police arrived, my mother told them she’d killed her husband because he’d killed me. Though my father actually survived the assault, he was seriously injured. Because I never saw him again, I thought he was, in fact, dead. Since my mother had “killed” my father by bashing him in the head with the cast-iron frying pan, I decided, at the world-weary age of seven, to become a head-banger.

Swing-sets, telephone poles, brick houses. Fence posts, church pews, marble statues. Bang, bang, bang. Walls, bedposts, porch supports. Basement floors, steel pipes, tree trunks. Bang, bang, bang.

I hit my head so hard so many times in a row that mostly I walked around in a daze. Sometimes I hit my head so hard that I fell asleep. Each time that head-banging numbness rushed over me, I was convinced I’d successfully killed myself, and I was so relieved and so grateful that I could never be hurt again that I slipped into that deadened sleep with something like joy.

Each time, however, I woke up.
Disappointed.
With an unbearable headache.
And with dreadful pressure in my skull.

Although many people know that a baby’s skull plates move — to allow it to pass through the birth canal — they don’t realize that the plates of the skull remain mobile throughout life. The brain and the spinal cord, furthermore, are surrounded by their own pulsing, hydraulic system that does not match the rhythm of the heart, breathing, or any other system of the body. Dr. John Upledger discovered this brain-spinal-cord hydraulic system and named it the “craniosacral system.” Upledger went on to develop a medical massage therapy designed to put the craniosacral system back in proper alignment.

When the plates of the skull are not in their proper position, as from any common injury such as bumping the head hard, then headaches and pressure inside the skull (from the non-circulation of craniosacral fluid) may occur. A severe head trauma, or even a minor fall from a slide or swing, can shift or jam the skull plates, preventing the craniosacral fluid from moving as it is designed to do, creating a tremendous build-up of pressure — and pain — inside the skull. The pain and the pressure will only stop when the skull plates are restored to their normal positions, something that may take many sessions with trained craniosacral therapists, especially if the skull plates have been jammed for years after some serious accident.

Of course, in my case, it was many accidents, some of them caused by my repeated head-banging at age 7, some of those accidents caused by my mother from the time I was born, but one of the most serious head injuries caused by my father during an argument with my mother.

My parents were both drunk the day it happened. They were standing in the living room, quite close to each other, screaming and shoving and hitting each other. My father suddenly shouted something that made my mother jump at him, clawing at his face. Then he began choking her. Since what he’d shouted had been about me, I must have felt, even at three years old, morally obligated to separate them. So there I was, shoving myself between their knees, trying to push them apart so they wouldn’t kill each other and leave me all alone to be sent to an orphanage.

In his drunken rage, my father must have perceived me as quite a pest, something you just fling away from you. So that’s what he did. He grabbed me under the arms, lifted me as high as he could, and flung me away. I remember the sudden rush of air as he swept me upward, the terrible, mind-numbing fear, the choking sensation I felt as he released me and I flew, without a net, across the room.

I remember the horrific jolt of pain as I smashed the upper right side of my head against the marble mantel of the fireplace.

I remember, too, the cold blackness that descended on me in an instant.

By the time my migraines got so debilitating that my family doctor recommended I go to craniosacral therapists, I was over forty years old. As soon as they touched my head, the medical therapists informed me that the right frontal skull-plate was “significantly jammed” under the left one. It was wedged under the other one so tightly, they couldn’t fix it in one treatment. Also, since it was a long-standing injury, they informed me, the muscles of my face and head had gotten used to holding the plate in the incorrect position. They agreed with the doctor that, though my tendency toward migraines was probably hereditary * as well, the jammed frontal skull plate wasn’t making the migraines any better.

The therapists warned me that, as they attempted, over several sessions (which turned into several months), to free the wedged cranial plate from under the other one, my migraines might get much worse before they improved. They were absolutely right. I’d been having about seventeen migraines a month when I went to see them. The first month of treatment, I had twenty-seven migraines. It took them five months of three-times-a-week sessions to get the jammed skull plates back into place.

When the skull plates moved back into their proper positions, the intense and unremitting pressure in my head disappeared. The pressure that I’d grown up with and assumed was normal had been caused by the craniosacral fluid’s inability to circulate freely around the skull plates and the spinal column. As soon as the right frontal plate slid free of the left one, the crushing pressure inside my head disappeared. I lay on the massage table and wept in gratitude and relief.

When I told my psychologist about all the times I’d banged my head when I was a little girl, trying to kill myself, she said she doubted that I’d really been attempting to commit suicide. She said that since I was so determined and so successful in other areas of my life, if I’d really been trying to kill myself, I probably would have succeeded. She said that I’d been in so much emotional and psychological pain that I was merely trying to medicate myself. Since I didn’t have any healthy coping skills, I’d banged my head against the hardest things I could find, to “numb” my pain.

I still maintain that I was trying to kill myself in order to escape the incessant torture from my mother and my rapist stepfather, and to atone for my father’s murder, which I believed I’d caused since my parents had been fighting about me when my mother “killed” my father with the cast-iron skillet.

You see, that day, when my mother killed my father by slamming him in the face with the skillet, they were fighting about me. That day, when my father said the words that sent my other into her uncontrollable rage — making her scratch his face, which then made him choke her — he was talking about me. The words he said were what I myself had been saying to my mother, family members, neighbors, and doctors for some time, though I said it like this: He does bad things to me.

That day, my father said it to my mother himself, despite her already knowing what he was doing to me, but he said it in a way that she couldn’t ignore. I didn’t understand what he meant, but I always remembered his exact words.

“Sascha’s a better fuck than you are.”

Bang, bang, bang.

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I Survived a Serial Killer: My Own Mother
(guest post on RachelintheOC)

Kevin’s Mother & The Pedophile:
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
(guest post on OTVmagazine)

When is Rape NOT Rape?

Rape is Rape, No Matter the Victim’s Age or Gender



* Familial Hemiplegic Migraines (FHM) are caused by a genetic neurological disorder. I have FHM as well as from Complex Migraines.
(back to post)

Note: a different version of this post was published in March 2017. This version has been updated.

a small portion of this post is adapted from my true crime memoir M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door © 2002, 2007, 2014, 2017 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman. All rights reserved. No content may be copied, excerpted, or distributed without the express written consent of the author and publisher, with copyright credit to the author. Please don’t support the piracy of Intellectual Property.

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Filed under #CSA, Attempted Suicide, Childhood Sexual Abuse, hemiplegic migraines, Memoir, migraines, PTSD, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence

Kevin’s Mother and the Pedophile: Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

Trigger Warning
#CSA

“Oh, my god, I am so angry at Walmart,” said my University colleague — Kevin’s mother — one day. “They had photos of Registered Sex Offenders on their bulletin board in the main entrance.”

“Why are you mad at Walmart?” I said.

“One of the registered sex offenders lives less than two blocks from me,” said Kevin’s mother. “Now I don’t feel safe.”

“I’d think you’d be grateful.”

“Grateful? I know where he lives. I drove by his house last night. He was out in the yard. Some of Kevin’s best friends live next door to the guy.”

“Then you should be really grateful,” I said, “and you should do something to protect Kevin and the other children.”

Kevin’s mother looked confused. I was surprised that she’d never discussed this topic with Kevin, who was eight-years-old. I used to teach my Kindergarten students about Stranger Danger, as we called it then, before I completed my Ph.D. and began teaching at University.

“How far away is the pedophile from the school playground?” I said. “There’s usually a limit to how close a convicted and registered sex offender can go to a school or playground.”

“Just over two miles.”

“I don’t know what the Judge ruled as his limit,” I said, “but you still need to do something about it. Take the photo off the Walmart bulletin board for a few minutes while you go to the copy machine right inside the door [where Walmart let customers make copies for only 1¢ each], make at least 500 copies, show them to Kevin and his friends, show them where the pedophile lives, and tell them never to go near him.”

Kevin’s mother looked doubtful.

“Go to the PTA at the elementary school, tell the parents, teachers, and administrators about the registered sex offender. Then pass out copies of the poster with his photo to all of them. Everyone has a right to know that, and to protect their own children.”

“I can do that,” said Kevin’s mother, apparently thinking that would be easy compared to discussing the situation with Kevin. “Can you talk to Kevin and his friends?”

“No, I can’t. I’m not their parent. You need to do it. If something happens, the children are more likely to tell the person who teaches them to protect themselves in the first place. Don’t you want Kevin to come to you?”

“But how do I do it?” said Kevin’s mother, sounding clearly distressed.

I told her how the teachers of the private Daycare and Kindergarten had done it when I worked there. First, we told the children — as matter of factly as possible — the names of their private body parts, including the names of their genitalia (male and female) and their anuses. Some of their parents had already told them these things; some had not.

We then told them that no one — not even their parents, nurses, doctors, or teachers — was allowed to touch them in their private areas unless they were injured and needed help. Some of the children also knew this, thanks to their parents.

“I can’t touch my own child?” said Kevin’s mother.

“Unless he injures himself on his bike or something, you’d better not be touching an 8-year-old child on his genitals or his anus,” I said. “You don’t give him a bath, do you?”

“No,” said Kevin’s mother. “He doesn’t even like me to see him in his underwear.”

“That sounds normal for a little boy who’s growing up. Parents and step-parents or a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend can sexually abuse children. Just because someone lives in the same house as the child doesn’t mean s/he can touch the child’s private parts. You need to tell Kevin that.”

sad-eyes-1494027

At the private pre-school / Kindergarten where I taught, we were committed to protecting the children from sexual abuse. After we made sure that the Kindergarteners knew all the names of their private body parts, we explained that older children and grown-ups sometimes did bad things, hurting children in their private parts. We made it clear, without being graphic, that the people hurting the children could use their hands, their own genitalia, or instruments. We told the children that the bad people would hurt the children’s private areas or force them to do something to the pedophile’s genitalia or private areas. (Yes, we used the word pedophile, telling the children it was a person who hurt children in their private areas or made them do something to the pedophile’s privates.)

We informed the children that the pedophiles could be men or women, strangers or people known to them.

We told them some of the tricks that we knew of that were used by pedophiles to lure away children:

  • offering to show the child a puppy or kitten to get the child physically close to them;
  • telling a child that they’d lost their puppy-kitten and requesting the child’s help in locating the pet;
  • asking the child to get into their car or come into their house, to play a video-game or do something else the child would like;
  • offering the child money or some other reward, like candy, for helping them find the pet, getting in their car, or going into their house;
  • asking the child to get into their car and help them find some nearby location — like the school — which the child might be familiar with;
  • grabbing the child when s/he came close to the car to answer a question posed by the pedophiles, usually a request for directions or asking if the child had seen a “missing” pet.

Kevin’s mother did a great job.

After she informed the PTA, the school, and the parents, she talked to Kevin and to his friends’ parents, who talked to their children with her since they didn’t know what to say. The children were all instructed to tell their parents, teachers, nurse, or doctor if someone ever attempted to lure them away, succeeded in getting them into a car or house, or — most important of all — ever touched them in the private areas. Kevin’s mother talked to his classmates after the teacher requested it and sent home permission slips which the parents signed.

Then, to her horror, Kevin’s mother realized that the convicted neighborhood pedophile lived across the street from her Condo Association’s “recreational area,” which included a playground, tennis courts, a swimming pool, as well as an indoor playroom which children used during bad weather. Many of the parents worked, so they took turns “watching” the children in these areas. Any parents with children who used these facilities had to take scheduled turns being a guardian. No child could be there without the parents’ knowledge or without at least one adult guardian.

When Kevin’s mother asked Kevin if the man in the photo, whose name and address Kevin now knew, was ever in the recreational areas. Kevin acknowledged that the man was often there, though he had no children, and was not a “guardian.”

Kevin’s mother went directly to the Condo’s Association and insisted on an “Emergency Meeting” where she passed out even more of the flyers featuring the convicted pedophile / registered sex offender’s personal information. The other parents were understandably outraged: some of them went directly to Walmart to get copies of the other local pedophiles to distribute to their fellow parents.

Eventually, they drove that convicted pedophile out of the Condo Complex, although it took some of the parents’ protesting in front of his house with signs containing his rap-sheet to get him out.

Kevin’s mother and the fellow parents did a fantastic job of protecting the children in the elementary school and in the Condo complex.

Every parent or teacher needs to teach children about sexual abuse, and from an early age. After all, we teach our children to protect themselves from fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, poisons, guns, bullying, and now, unfortunately, shootings or other school violence.

We need to protect them from sexual abuse, too.

image courtesy of Londonberry Sentinel UK

image courtesy of Londonberry Sentinel UK

When I taught Kindergarten, we called the sexual abuse prevention program Stranger Danger, but inevitably one of the children would ask, “What if the Bad Stranger lives in the same house with you?”

Now, as far as I know, children are taught Run, Yell, Tell, which I think is an improvement over Stranger Danger, since we always had to teach the children how to react in those situations in any event, which included shouting “This is not my parent,” fighting, kicking, hitting, biting, and running away as soon as possible, and then telling a trusted adult about what had happened.

Parents may be nervous about talking to their children about sexual abuse. They may not realize the importance of teaching the children to Run, Yell, Tell! Other parents may ask you to do it for them. Give them this a copy of this post, or direct them to the Yell And Tell Foundation.

The need to teach children how to protect themselves against sexual abuse is even more important than any of the Stop, Drop, and Roll of fire drills, or any of the other safety drills they regularly practice, if only because the chance of children’s being victims of sexual abuse is just as likely, if not more so, than their being victims of a natural disaster, yet sexual abuse is less frequently and candidly discussed.

Need help discussing sexual abuse prevention
with your children?
Visit the
Yell And Tell Foundation for advice,
including resources for parents and teachers.

Related Posts

When is Rape NOT Rape?

Rape is Rape, No Matter the Victim’s Age or Gender

I Survived a Serial Killer: My Own Mother
(guest post on RachelintheOC)

Head-Bangers’ Ball:
Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

—–

This condensed version of this post originally appeared in
OnTheVergeWithShareenMansfield (now, OTVmagazine) in April 2016.

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Filed under Memoir, Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse, Rape, Serial Killers, Sexual Abuse, Violence