Warning: This material has childhood sexual abuse content
My early years
I grew up in the largest city in Canada, one of six children, with a mother and a father, who were/are both alcoholics. My childhood wasn’t the easiest. The 1960s were a time of revolution, change, and liberation. My mother suffered from depression, and at that time period, the usual treatment was Electric Shock Therapy. My father sought out alternative therapies and found a woman (Lea Hindley-Smith) who claimed she could fix my mothers depression. This woman had no formal training, just her twisted thoughts on how to “cure” depression. Our family joined this organization, and if truth be told, I can’t even begin to call it an organization. I call it a cult, and for a time, it was the largest cult in North America. So, our family moved into this community where real estate was put into the communal pot, and communal living became the new normal for our family. This started our journey into the nightmare called Therafields.
The purpose of this community was to teach others how to become psychotherapists. Remember, the Matriarch of this cult, had no formal training. However, the others did not know this. She was able to fool many people into thinking she had all the answers. If fact, she was worshipped in a way, that was odd. Her style of dress, stark white hair, pale skin, and lovers, all gave an aura of aristocracy. She presented herself as highly educated and espoused a diet of rigid conformity. There was a communal farm that we would go to on the weekends, and we would eat organic foods, dance and play music, and live the typical 60’s communal lifestyle. I still remember the children would help out with meal preparation, washing all the vegetables for the salads, making loaves of bread, and everyone sitting down together at the end of the day to eat a communal meal together. I also remember being hungry whenever we went to the farm.
However, all was not well. I remember adults committing suicide. Newborn babies were taken from one woman and given to another woman, who was deemed to be better mother material. I remember, mothers being slowly removed from their families. It turns out, the matriarch felt that children were better off without their mothers. Instead, they would be raised by other community members.
Living in communal houses, children were told to be very quiet at home, as a group and individual therapy was going on behind closed doors. I remember as a family going to group therapy together. Our therapists were typically in training, had no real experience with children, and in fact, did more damage than good. I still remember a time when a therapist asked me about my feelings, and then called me a liar. I don’t think many six-year-olds are able to articulate emotions, and I was certainly unable to express my feelings in adult terms. Growing up, I quickly learned that I needed to express my feelings based on what I thought the adult wanted me to say. I still struggle at times to identify what I am feeling, and not to psychoanalyze what I am feeling.
As children, we were allowed to roam freely around the city. We didn’t have someone watching our movements. So, we did what we wanted, and returned home when we got hungry, or it got dark out. This was normal in the ’60s and '70s. However, I feel that in my experience, I ventured further than my siblings.
When I was 8 years old, I was approached by a stranger, who took me into an alleyway and molested me. There was a familiarity in what he was doing to me, like from when I was very young. I don’t really know if I was molested before this incident, but I suspect I was. Remember, we were living in communal homes, with other men, living in a bedroom nearby. I told my mother what happened. She called the police, and two male officers came to find out what happened. The visual of them standing tall over me, their hands on their hips, me looking at their guns, feeling judged somehow, is my biggest memory of this assault. They took me back to where it happened, and I told the officers that the man peed white stuff on my face, and the officer looked at a downspout dripping water, and at that moment, I thought, He doesn’t believe me, he thinks it’s the water from the downspout. There was no visit to the emergency room to see if I had been hurt, and no collection was taken. The officers brought me back home, and that was that. I was kept out of school for a few days. People looked at me differently, and I felt nothing but shame, as in my mind, this was my fault. We didn’t have “stranger danger” back then. No “good touch, bad touch” teaching us to be safe.
When I was 10 years old, a man in a Camaro approached me in the park. Asked me if I wanted to go for a ride with him, and I went willingly with him. He took me to an industrial area nearby, and I was again molested. I didn’t tell my mother this time, in fact, I met him again the next day and was again molested. He never came back, and I felt that somehow I hadn’t done “it” correctly, so that’s why he didn’t come back again. My understanding of childhood sexual abuse is that once a child is sexualized, they can’t turn it off. I felt this is what I was supposed to do for strangers. This was my duty now.
My ability to say no, or even the understanding that I could say no, didn’t really develop until years later. I was a submissive, and meek child. I was molested many times after, right into my teen years by various men and boys. I struggled with understanding genuine affection vs sexual assault. If a man gave me a hug in a healthy way, I thought it was an invitation to become sexually active with them, and often became confused when it didn’t happen. My thought pattern reverted to “I must have done something wrong”. I really didn’t understand that what happened to me was not my fault, and should never have happened. I internalized it and became a great secret keeper.
I tell you this, not so you can become a voyeur into my life, but to understand how in the future, why my journey took such a fork. I hope I have not traumatized you in my story. In fact, if I was telling you this in person, it would be in a factual tone, with little emotion. I cut my emotions off so deeply and went to another place in my mind when the assaults were happening. This is called Dissociation, and I believe that my repeated traumas created this break in my emotions, which I have struggled with to this day.
"In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you." Homebody club
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