Friday, August 25, 2006

The Prison Within

There are things we remember with joy, or indifference, or just mediocre feelings.  Then there are memories which float to the clarity of our minds like a dead body floats to the surface of a lake.  

In the early 1980's I was well-placed in a paralegal job working for a Superior Court Judge, driving a new Honda and sharing a roomy house with 2 friends.  My life was full, I had dates every weekend and many laughing days of just pure, free happiness.  My bank account was nicely fattened and I wanted for nothing I could name.  What happened next baffled everyone in my life - except the therapist I eventually was forced to see.

Without detail, I'll just say that slowly I started abandoning these trappings of the material world, until I was without a home, job, car, and no idea where I belonged in the world.  Something went horribly wrong in my mind, and I was helpless to help myself.  Here in this Journal I've written about the clinical depression I experienced during this time.  My Mother,who I loved so much but who was never meant to be one and who we were never allowed to touch in any way, didn't seem to notice.  My Father however, loved me whole-heartedly and searched for me everywhere.  When he found me sitting in a park in rags, thin and dazed, he took me home and found a psychotherapist to come in and try to put me back together again.  He diagnosed me as having deep clinical depression.  I didn't recognize what was mine and what wasn't, who I was related to, who's house it was I slept in though I grew up there, I could only respond to my Father's worried face.  My brain seemed to have rewired itself for some unknown reason, and this is the story of what my doctor found once he arrived at the heart of the mystery.

As a 6-year old growing up in perfect suburbia, we had a huge back yard and our neighbor had a double-stalled stable where they kept "Lady", a beautiful, fit, chesnut Kentucky Walker, one of the most prized horses one could own.  Her racing days over, she lazed away in her corral aimlessly, and like all little girls I fell completely in love.  I wanted to brush her, feed her, care for her, and was allowed to.  I even eventually rode her all over the neighborhood.  Like a dream it was ....

Two men named "Red" (the leader) and Bill (the lapdog yes-man) worked full-time at the stable.  We all got along fine and I didn't bother them the way kids usually do.  They seemed somehow not from my town, and it turned out they were parolees from Trenton State Prison, convicted child molesters, who were obliged to work so as not to violate their parole.  No one knew about this, it was the 1950's and things like registering pedofiles was in the future, even the word itself was never used.  Doors were left unlocked day and night, children were allowed to play anywhere and for as long as they wanted.  Incredibly, back then there was no restriction for convicted pedophiles about working around children.  Everyone knew I was in their company almost every day.  They just seemed like grown-ups to me.  Odd, yes, but nothing to do with my 6-year old perfect world.

The day I found myself in their car, sitting in the front seat between them, I thought we were going for ice-cream.  If this had happened today I would've most likely been thrown in the back, on the floor and under a blanket.  But again, it was a different time, with an easy, safe attitude about people.  So off we went, and I was happy.  The car smelled like hay, and something else - beer I later found out.  This is as far as memory always took me, I could never get past this point until I had my 1980's breakdown and the therapist worked his magic.  He taped our hyno-sessions, which I later watched with him in horror.  But I finally knew the truth and been able to live more fully ever since.

When the car pulled into a tree-shrouded driveway with a small house, a lump rose from my stomach to my throat; I've no idea what it was but on the tape when I get to this point it's obvious my child's mind sensed something wrong.  Once through the front door, their voices - which had been soft and friendly - turned harsh and dictatorial.  Red shouted for me to sit still and if I said a word my parents would be taken to jail.  I started to cry, I was 6 and it was summer and I wanted to play with the horsie.  Why were they mad at me, why were they shouting?  Of course I came to understand years later that a pedofile is more afraid of their victim than the victim could ever be.  I wasn't afraid, I just wanted to go home.  I didn't know what was coming.

They went into another room, the kitchen I think, and talked low, punctuating their talk with shouts to me to stop that crying you brat or we'll get your parents you'll never see them again and it'll be your fault, you stupid brat.  I tried, truly, I tried to sniffle-up my tears.  Then they came out and walked purposefully toward me; Red scooped me up around the waist in one clean swift motion, I was now going down a flight of wooden stairs which smelled like mildew and oil cloth.  It was a basement with cement walls, and blue words painted on it but I can't remember what they were, not even on the tape under hypnotherapy.  Then I was thrown into a small "off room" like a storage place, it had boxes, newspapers, canned foods and alot of wiring, and work-tools.  My hands were tied in front of me with what I thought was a dirty gray stocking.  All through this, Red continually yelled for me to do exactly what he said "you better remember!" with Bill echoing "Yeah, do what we say!" but his voice never sounded menacing like Red's, and I had no choice anyway but it seemed, as my therapist explained, that they were a little afraid of what was happening.  They acted nervous.    

Fast forward:  I was too small to rape.  It's that simple.  It took only one session for that to surface.  They each touched me, fondled, sought out a little girl's private places that even she doesn't know about.  But I was too small.

Although I cried inside, on my face was nothing at all, no affect, no expression, I didn't object, I didn't fight, I don't think I was actually "there" but it was happening to me just the same.  They came and went, all through the hours into the night though I didn't know it was late.  They kept me in the dark half-clothed when they left the basement, and pulled this string on the end of a bare bulb when they returned.  I always smelled beer on them - and here's a strange connection that stayed with me.  During the late 1970s and into the 1980s I drank beer - and hated it.  Everyone used to laugh when the gang would go out to the club and dance, having our beers at the table, watching me drink it down and wince, but keep drinking it anyway lol I never understood why I drank it when the very smell made me ill.  Now I know.  Now I connected it up.

Some hours later, perhaps it was early in the next morning, Bill came down with a sandwich and glass of water.  It was my first food since the previous afternoon and I was more hungry than I knew.  I had already wet myself and the floor which happened when they first pulled my pants down.  My hands hurt and I was grateful Bill undid the stocking-looking thing.  It turned out to be a man's long tennis sock.  So I ate greedily and asked to go home now.  Bill just looked at me oddly, like I was an idiot-child, and left.  He only talked when Red did, and usually just echoed him.  I was alone again, and lonely.  Somehow, I wasn't scared yet, I was homesick and bored, worried about my parents, but not afraid.  I didn't realize I had been hurt.

When Red came down and yelled that someone was going to be upstairs all day and had special super-powers to hear anything I said or did, I believed him completely.  I promised to be good and not cry, besides he said we'd have that ice- cream soon.  I was still hungry and asked for a bowl of Cheerios.  He laughed loudly and mussed my hair!  I just couldn't believe what I heard on that tape, because that one action was so clear in my memory after it surfaced - yes, he laughed and mussed my hair like I was his own child!  He seemed happy so I smiled and laughed too, thinking of course that I'd have my Cheerios soon.  He left.

All day I was in and out of a strange sleep, but I had the very clear picture of someone else close by.  My therapist explained that obviously the men had to go to their job that day and act like nothing had happened, but I may've been hearing mice in the walls or just having aural hallucinationscaused by separation anxiety.  When I was finally rescued, the truth was no one but myself was in that house the whole day.

I was awake and tired when they returned.  They seemed different, more anxious and alert.  Their clothes were different but still smelly.  They talked upstairs for a bit then came down to my storage room and molested me again.  I left my body and took a ride on "Lady" all through the clouds in the bright blue sky, talking to angels.  I don't remember when they stopped, when they started, but I knew they were too close to me, and doing bad things I'd never had done.  I must've done something very wrong for this to be happening, that was my mind-set at the time.      

It would help to know what was happening in the real world since the previous afternoon.  When I didn't answer the "dinner bell" my Mother used to ring each night to gather us from all corners of the neighborhood, she thought nothing of it; I was a very independent kid and loved playing, even alone.  My Father wanted to go out and look for me, mad that I wasn't there, then he seemed anxious, then very very worried.  This family dynamic is what was elicited from my parents by the police, as well as the Doctor, in later statements for the record.  I know how my Father was, he had no trouble telling people he differed from his wife, that she was cold and unfeeling, and not the least bit maternal, which was true.  Poor Mom, she just didn't know how to love a child, no less a husband.  So when 8 p.m. rolled around and still no Cathy, my Father said "Enough" and drove around the neighborhood, looking for my familiar long blonde hair and little-girl plaid shirt with my favorite cowboy hat.  My Mother was ordered to make some calls, which she did.  Nothing.  Then they went together to the police and reported me missing.  All through that first night, it seems my older sister, younger one, and the toddler were untouched by any of this.  Though the family grew to 8 children eventually, in 1956 we were young with parents who were in no way a "team" in raising us.  But that's another entry.  My Father adored me, naming me after his sainted Italian Mother, and my own Mother was not capable of feeling a true maternal love for any of us.  It wasn't her fault, she was an abused child herself who had a cold, unfeeling mother and the cycle was broken only when I had my own daughter, raising her with love and care as she does now with her own children.  To continue:

While I'm in this storage room, so hungry and wet, still trying to understand what I did wrong, I was continually yelled at after each "fondling session", that my parents were not looking for me because the neighbors told them I ran away, not wanting to be with my parents anymore.  This made me so sad I kept crying and the more I did, the worse it got.  I kept wondering what my replacement would be like, my parents' new little girl.  

They had obviously been to the stables that day, keeping up normal appearances, but noticing the commotion at my house.  This was why they came back so anxious and fearful, and probably the reason they repeatedly molested me.  They knew they would have to dispose of me soon, very soon, or the trail would lead their way.  As it turns out, they had been almost the first questioned by police, then let go.  They had rights, after all, and no one had any proof I hadn't been kidnapped by a stranger, maybe from out-of-State.  But they were nervous and antsy. 

So now this second day, in the afternoon and into the early evening while this is happening and I'm being told no one is looking for me, after being given another baloney sandwich and water, I asked for ice-cream.  I asked if my hands could be loose so I could itch my scratches which my arms had from the wooden bannister in being carried down those steps.  And I asked nicely, having learned that crying got me nowhere.  The answer I got was one that stood out so clearly when the memory was returned to me:  "You're nobody's little girl anymore, because no one loves you - your parents are looking for a new little girl already."  Somehow that hurt me more than the confusion of abduction, kidnap, molestation, mild mind control, starvation, dehydration, all of it.  The idea that I was being replaced with "a better little girl" cut through my heart in such unreasonable sorrow - how could I know any differently?  I didn't know where grow-ups got their children and it seemed perfectly plausible that they could go to the special store and pick out another one.  I belonged to no one now, all I had were these two men who smelled bad and touched me strangely and didn't feed me and let me wet myself.

The City and State police in the meantime, in conjunction with the surrounding Town police, were all searching for me.  There had been talk of involving the Feds because a supposition of out-of-State kidnap had been put forth.  All through that second day it was big news in our town that a child had gone missing, and everyone wanted to be involved.  Oddly enough, not a single parent ever looked at their own children differently and told them the ways of the world.  "Stranger danger" didn't finally come into being for many years, and I was but one of so many children who went missing, sadly enough never to be seen again.  I had a very special Guardian Angel though, and didn't know it. 

I was alone and lying on my side when I heard it.  Like a constant banging of something heavy on a wall.  Scuffling upstairs.  A loud cry of "Police!"  Now alot of scuffling, I sensed alot of feet upstairs, all going in different directions.  From the tape I heard myself recall "Where is she?  Where's Cathy?  TALK!"  Red was yelling to leave him alone, why pick on him, and something about an attic.  I think Bill was actually crying.  It turns out in reality that it was Bill who cracked but by then I heard the door creak open and many heavy footfalls on the wooden steps.  "I see her!  There she is!" things like that, more uniforms surrounding me then picking me up.  The sock was untied.  A dark green wool blanket was thrown around me, I remember the feel of it, very rough.  I was being carried upstairs into the light, felt very dizzy and nauseous, and heard questions directed my way but couldn't speak.  I just let myself be carried away.   

I never saw a kitchen, just the front room and door, and out we went, all of us.  Men in uniforms and others in suits were walking in one huge mass toward the blinking lights - the police cars it seems.  When I was placed gently into the back seat of a police car, the officer who had carried me out got in beside me and looked at me, smiling, repeating how I must be a very brave girl to (something) I think "endure" I never could remember everything that officer said.  The psychotherapist came to the rescue, explaining that being "taken" again like I didn't belong to someone had been as confusing as the actual kidnap.  I know he sat forward to say something to the policeman driving, it turned out to be "hospital" and from there it's all pretty uneventful.  I was examined, washed, and put in a clean bed, where I prompty fell asleep - they'd given me a pill.  When I awoke,  my parents were sitting by either side of the bed, my two aunts were there, some others.  Daddy just wrapped me in his arms and wept.  I fell back to sleep that way.

I was kept overnight and released the next morning to a circle of reporters and cameras outside the hospital door.  It was a small place, not like today, but big news.  A handkerchief was put over my face by a well-thinking nurse, pushing the wheelchair.  On the way home however ..... is it enough to say I had a huge knot in my stomach made of intense fear?  I was convinced I did something horribly wrong to cause all this commotion and I'd be in big trouble for a long time, what could I do or say?  But my Father kept up a cheerful patter of "We're going to put all this behind us" and my Mother as usual sat silent as the Sphinx. 

Things actually did get "back to normal" and the whole mess was soon a distant memory.  However it may've affected the directions I eventually took as a teenager, I'll never really know.  Marrying early but continuing my college education, having a career, children, friends, a comfortable life, yet for some not quite clear reason, in the 1980's my mind became flooded like a tsumani with absolutely no memory at all, I couldn't place myself in the world, I didn't know for certain who I was or what belonged to me, I had a complete shut-down, break-down, I was clinically depressed, I "ceased to function".  Only after many hyno-sessions and psychotherapeutic hours with this incredibly wise Doctor, did the reason become clear - I had never properly dealt with my kidnapping and each time I'd read or hear a story of a child gone missing, something I wasn't aware of was inching closer and closer to the front of my brain until it took over completely.  The more plain truth is, I never grieved for myself, for the little girl I once was. 

I eventally learned the names of these men, even their relatives' whereabouts.  I was kept out of their trial because of my age, and with Bill's confession it was done.  These men are dead now yet they left me with something that can never die.  But because of the unwavering goodness and divine love of Our Lord, I've been spared any lasting scars, since I've never dwelt on any of this before.  To me, all my life it's simply been back there somewhere and though I remember it, I chose not to.  God allowed my life to continue for reasons no human can know and that's more than fine with me.  I'm happy with the person I've become, mistakes and all, and as I say in my short poem "Time and Space":  How can I but answer, whereupon I am asked, that I am just the sum total of all that has yet to be, and all that has passed. 

It has passed. 





stevietwain said...

My god....nothing I can say here will convey how deeply shocked, upset and sorry I am that you went through this ordeal.

I've gone cold.

That must've took guts to write about that...well done, and again, I'm soo sorry it happened!!

I really don't know what to say.....

Lv Stevie

siennastarr said...

Oh, Cathy.. my goodness, but what a traumatic thing for you to have had to experience.  I am so sorry.. in fact I am so sorry for all the little children in the world that are put through this kind of thing!

I am so glad that you eventually got psychiatriac help.  You buried it.. and it had to come out eventually.

Thank you for sharing your story.  I'm sure that, while putting this is words was ery therapeutic , it still must have raised up that old anxiety just a little bit.

Bless you for being so open..


treesrgreen78 said...

There are no words in the dictionary that convey my feelings about what you endured as a child.  The woman you have become today shows that you are a woman of endless intestinal fortitude.  I always knew there was something special about you.  You were blessed with a survivor instinct and though it took many years for you to come through this darkness, you did come into the light to be the brilliant author, writer, poet, forensic lady and pianist you are today.  God bless you my friend, mere words could never convey what I would like to say to you, there are no words.  Just know that always a Tree stands by if you ever need me.


queeniemart said...

This story has brought tears streaming down my face......i thank God you were are so strong....such a fighter...and so intelligent too. I know how hard it is to relive this and write about it but it also helps to get it out. I felt as if i was sitting right there with you as you wrote it.
Hugs to you,

xxroxymamaxx said...

I just don't even know what to think about this.  I realize that you have come to terms with it and I have had 'things' happen in my life but not like this.  I'm glad you are ok now.  Hugs and GBU, Shelly

lurkynat said...

May God Bless you Cathy! I am so sorry that this happened to you.
I pray that you are fully recovered somehow and that the writing of this sotry may help another person who needs healing

daddyleer said...

To "add a comment" seems an exercise in futility to such a powerful entry, but it looks like I'm going to try. ... As a father of a daughter your story has reached so many levels of thought. ... Your courage both then and now is inspirational.

mastersblynn said...

I am so glad you had your guardian angels watching over you.  I am sorry this happened to 6 year old Cathy.  It must have been so scary for her.  You could probably help child victims and show them that you made it through to the other side.  Thanks for sharing this with us.  I am so proud and happy to be your friend.  HUGS Barbara

sassydee50 said...

Cathy~I ache for that little girl. This is a brilliant piece of writing. Thank God you had such a wise therapist to help you grieve it and put it behind you. I love you!
I sat on the edge of my seat not breathing until I finished...((((((((((((((Cathy))))))))))))))))))))))))) Blessings, Deb

princesssaurora said...

Wow.  Thank God you were rescued, thank God you survived your depression and recovered.  Prayers for you...

be well,

a35ramy said...

Thanks for coming over to my journal and inviting me here hun. Thanks so muchfor sharing your story with us. How sad as it may be. Thanks you so so much. God bless you forever and a day. Love and hugs for you hun, Ruth

a35ramy said...

Hey hun I add your link to my journal. I hope you don't mind. Please write me if you do hun. I will take it off if you want ok? Love ya hun, Ruth

God bless you

queenb8261 said...

Oh hun, bless your heart. Where you've been and the strength it took to come back.  It must take guts of steel to write this down for all us strangers to read. Thank you so much for sharing so much of your beautiful soul with us. It's an honor to know you.
Hugs, Barb  

geminirising12 said...

I simply do not know what to say.  Seldom am  I speechless.  So many ahead of me have said what I probably would have said - but it would be redundant for me to copy their words.  What I do have to say is that your words were filled with such vibrant reality of what happened to you - and your descriptions of places,smells, noises, etc placed me in that basement with you; I smelled the smells so vividly and heard the noises - especially in the night coming down those wooden stairs.  The men's voices became so real - I know I heard them!  How important for you to be able to bring these horrible memories to fruition through your gift of writing.  I honestly don't think there would be any way on this Earth of ours that I could ever forget - no matter how many therapists I would see, no matter how gifted a writer I was - nothing could ever totally erase every single moment of this experience from my being. But you have done an admirable job with yourself - I am able to see you so differently now.  I picture you as a very disciplined, strong-willed, independent and determined woman with a softness in your soul that shines out as if left there by God.  He not only was with you those terrible nights very long ago, and saved your life, but He lavished you with wonderful talents to help strengthen your journey into and throughout adulthood.
I believe this is your peace.

thinkingoutloud said...

I was a baby/child of the  50's.  Reading this entry brought back so many 'close call' memories.
I'm sorry that you had to endure that but obviously you have prevailed.

tzmeee said...

i have been to this entry now twice, *well, if you don't count the times i went up n' down, deciding if i *should intrude ~ the first time ~ [eyesloweredsmilingwarmn'nalmostproudly*it's just me(smilingagain) ] ~ i tooo was "speechless" as you "laid to rest that "deadbody", i could feel your disquest, i could even share in it~ oh dear God, in heaven! ~ beloved child, [smiling] ~ all i would say, i find i am not able [ashrug-whoknew?] ~ yet, my heart knows ~ and from within ~ all i think ~ all i could dare to do ~ was a song ~ up there in your prayer ~ is mine ~ i hope you don't mind. *((( a hug ))) * i'm sure "lady" has missed you!!! ~ prancing ~ dancing ~ knowing you would find her again! ~ enjoy this! AMEN, I SAID IN JESUS' NAME ~ AMEN! * Jonah3:33/cd+song

fisherkristina said...

Wow, Cathy, searching around, I just found this entry.  What a brave thing to write.  What a brave little girl you were.  I know you don't think you were, but you were.
And what a brave adult you are now.  And yes, you are a sum total of all that has yet to be, and all that has passed.  How true that statement is.  I am so glad that you didn't let this incident crush you.  You are one strong lady.  You are a role model to me.


rdautumnsage said...

Somehow our small minds as children, find a way to tuck those memories away, until we can come to grips with what happened to us. I buried a lot myself , too much really. Mine was buried so deep it didn't find it's way to the surface until I was 38. I left home at 16 , I knew why but didn't dwell on the why. When that vault door to my mind flew open, it almost sucked me into that deep place and destroyed me. Therapy and the love of a good man finally helped me find my way back to being somewhat human. It was actually my deafness that causes me to lose that tenuous hold on keeping the vault closed. Despite what I've you I like who I am today. Life has a way of working things out in the end. (Hugs) Indigo

gehi6 said...

I am extremely affected by your account of your kidnapping.  It has such close parallels to my abduction at the age of 5 by a hired man three different times,  where I was taken into the corn, molested, wonderng if each moment would be my last, and brought back.  My abduction each tme was short term, not like this hideous experience you endured, which had such devastating affect years later.  I did not tell about mne, until I had been incarcerated in the mental ward, but I had been determined I was going to surface it at last.  I could not tell because my father ws so involved with the molester.  I feared him too much to tell about any of it, but it was almost lke the burden of it all affected my health to the point that I was never going to be the same again.  I salute you for the way you have told your story. It is so moving.  I must tell my sister.  You are a very powerful writer.  Gerry

wwfbison said...

I came your way by Gerry.  While reading your story I was trying to imagine what you went through, you were so brave & strong.  My heart broke for you.  Kudos to you for rising above and leading a good life.

be said...


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