*This post is from a sexual abuse survivor; it may be triggering for some readers.
This is my Red Tent truth, my Red Tent story. This is and was “The Mother” in my life. The person who birthed me, whose publicly portrayed image I adored, but whose private reality would horrorify any humane person. I try not to think about her too often because she has decided to abandon me completely. Not because I was rude or disrespectful or because I broke some reasonable code of family conduct. Not because I “did” something unseemly or uncouth to her or to the family. But because I did something that no one in several generations before me seemed to be able to successfully do.
I found the courage to speak up about family sexual abuse, psychological assault, and chronic neglect. The few in previous generations who attempted to even speak of these things were shunned and shamed into secrecy and silenced for the rest of their lives. But me, I’m living out loud, happily, freely, and publicly. I didn’t become a recluse. I didn’t go into hiding. I broke every toxic Code of Family Conduct there was.
I didn’t post anything online or tell a bunch of people in our local or national community. Instead, I had a quiet, calm, respectful conversation with my mother and my two older sisters. It was at that moment that they seemed to decide that I would no longer exist. I would no longer be the family “golden child” and hero. Instead, I would become the family scapegoat, the person who all of the problems of the family are blamed on instead of the family looking at themselves and the key problem itself.
My memory would be metaphorically erased from the DNA of the collective family experience. I would no longer be mentioned or invited to family events or celebrations. If I was spoken of by my mother or my sisters, it would be for their smear campaigns; to assassinate my character, tear down my credibility, and create rumor mills and gossip chains. For speaking up about abuse, collective gaslighting, isolation, and psychological abuse would be my “punishment” from my mother and two older sisters. Like a web a spider weaves that touches anyone in its path.
This became my mother’s work – she disowned me for telling the truth.
I was first raped by my father at age four until adulthood when I finally left that city. As a child, I was made to keep secrets daily. My mother knew it, allowed it, shushed and silenced me.
When I cried in the morning because of being raped at night, she would tell me to be quiet, get dressed for school, put my uniform on, and go wait for our driver to pick me up because “We don’t talk about these things.” She would beat me if I cried, but at the same time, there was no space for joy either because she would reprimand me or smack me if I smiled, laughed, or found something innocently funny as children often do. I was to be invisible and so is my pain to most of society because there is no space for people with mothers like mine.
The Mother archetype that everyone seems to idolize, uphold, and adore in our culture of the loving, nurturing, cooking, baking mother – we were not all so fortunate to have – and as a society, we need to do a better job of understanding these kinds of mothers so their daughters and sons don’t feel further isolated and dejected. People like me, who had abusive mothers who permitted the sexual violence and emotional torture of abusive fathers to their daughters on a daily basis. I was raised by a pack of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Men who preyed on me by night and women who allowed it by day. Where is a safe space for girls like me? For daughters like me? Where is there space to say these things out loud? Nowhere? Perhaps here, in the Red Tent.
This was my life for nearly thirty years, less frequently as an adult, but it still happened. I was expected to keep honoring my father and mother as biblically instructed to; I was expected to keep showing up to family events, playing the role of good daughter.
Today I stand amazed by God’s grace for the gentle, loving spirit I have genuinely retained for others, for myself, and my own beautiful children. I guess out of the pack of wolves emerged a woman who kept her heart and soul intact by God’s grace.
This Red Tent woman has requested to remain anonymous. We applaud her courage to risk sharing this part of her story with our community. It is our privilege to honor and protect her identity.
Oh sweet friend. I have lived your story. I know first hand the hurt, and torment you have gone through. I have never spoken to anyone about what I have been through. Not out of fear of isolation, but that part of my life is a part of my story. An ugly part that I pray no child will ever have to endure. I am so grateful that we serve a Heavenly Father that has healed our hearts. A Father that is nothing but love. The mistakes of our parents, are not our mistakes. I have forgiven my mother, and father and all of the others that were allowed to do harm to me as a child. My prayer forward is that they will know of His love and forgiveness. My our precious Jesus continue to hold you close sweet friend. Big love~ Tami Gail
Thank you for using your voice to speak out against your past. I commend your strength and resilience. While I cannot compare my life to yours, there was a part of your story that struck me. You wrote about the Mother archetype and how we “as a society, we need to do a better job of understanding these kinds of mothers so their daughters and sons don’t feel further isolated and dejected.” People need to understand that we were not all blessed with warm, affectionate, caring mothers. Some of our mothers were cold, withdrawn, isolating. Hallmark does not make cards for these types of mothers. I pray your journey is a good and blessed one and that you will continue to use your voice.
I wonder how many of us know that contradictory version of “Mother?” The public version known to most and the private version known only to the few who paid the price. My guess is that there are plenty of us.
There is a space in the Red Tent. I honor you for your courage. Taking a stand (in the first place) is very hard and then when mounded with rejection and dishonor becomes unbearable.
Thank you, dear One for sharing. We are on sacred ground here in the Red Tent. In Spiritual Direction Peer Group, after each on shares, we sing: Sacred is the call. Awesome, indeed, the entrustment. Tending the holy. Tending the holy.
Thank you for sharing. I cannot imagine the pain of the abuse, but what amazes me more is that there is no trace of bitterness in your re-telling. As a survivor of other abuse, I ask: how do we guard against bitterness? What is the secret to forgiveness? I bless you for the grace and forgiveness that is flowing from your heart.
May God’s loving embrace continue to be felt by you, hour by hour and day by day. I can only imagine the thousands of tears He cried over you as you walked through this painful journey. I’m praising Him with you for the precious courage and peace I hear in your voice at this time, knowing if He can enable this for you, He can do the same for others. Sending you a HUGE hug from the heart of God ! Love you dear Sister in Jesus. Laura Corwin
Dear THIS Red Tent Woman,
Yes you have loving sisters here. Genuine family. A few years ago I used the Red Tent dinner idea and have a group locally, but I also have, because of covid, connected with many sweet courageous women who have suffered enormously and will not be silenced! Delightful creations who refuse to be invisible. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to Red Tent Living. You can find your kindred spirits, to receive true care. This is a space for being seen and well cared for. Your story is a treasure. YOU are a treasure.
This is such a beautiful sentence, “I stand amazed by God’s grace for the gentle, loving spirit I have genuinely retained for others, for myself, and my own beautiful children.” You are a testimony to a loving God who teaches love in the more horrendous suffering.
“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine on you”