**Trigger Warning for childhood sexual abuse and incest.**
Please welcome Ashley Drye to the blog. Her writing is clear and brave. I encourage you to read her story, comment, share, and support her on this incredible truth journey.
Thank you for reading this article about a girl named Lily May.
That’s not my name. Lily May is the mask I hide behind, when I don’t want people to “see my ugly” as my mom used to say. I’m not ready for people to see my ugly just yet. I can’t imagine taking off the mask and standing before everyone, dressed in nothing but my past. So is it my time to speak up?
I don’t think so.
Who is Lily May
Lily May, my pseudonym, a name I conjured up five years ago, reminding me of my first love: Jake. So in love with him. In my girly fog, I picked out names for our children, naming the boy Jake Jr. and the girl, Lily May. In the times he didn’t smash my face into the carpet, I daydreamed about our future and children. Then he’d hit me again, and I’d pray that we never had children together.
Sometimes I wonder: if I had a normal childhood, would I have had a normal adult life? In my adult years, I’ve jumped from one abusive relationship to another, brandishing bruises and building up broken bones. I stopped hoping it was possible to live any other way. Every man is like this, I told myself. Then I looked at my two older brothers and realized that they don’t hurt their wives.
Always idolizing my brothers; I thought of them as the perfect men. They didn’t hit their wives. My older brother, Samuel, had a temper and destroyed property when angry, but at least he didn’t hurt the woman he loved. Now I know how silly it was to idolize him. My middle brother, Greg, always a nice guy and still is; he does not destroy property like Samuel. He doesn’t do a lot of things Samuel does.
Samuel was always a nerdy bookworm with few social skills. His temper ran hot, and he had difficulty withholding his outbursts. During his first marriage, his wife and him abused one another. As far as I know, he never hurt her. I know he cracked a windshield and made dents in the walls of the house. Still, he never hit her. It gave me hope that there may be good men out there.
A Visit to the Counselor: What is Abuse, Anyway?
Sitting on the familiar couch at the counselors, I wonder what she must think of me; I try to explain why I love my oldest brother. Everything about him is perfect; I hope to find a man like him someday. “There’s just one thing…” I say to her. It’s that pesky past of mine again. The one I can’t seem to forget. The one I carry with me.
That “one little thing” brought a shocked look on my counselor’s face and made me flush red. Was it that bad?
The brother I idolize most of all took advantage of me as a child. Who could blame him though? He was a child himself and confused… right? The thoughts and rationalizations spin around in my mind as I try to swim through the thickness of reality. He touched me before I can even remember.
He is only three and a half years older than me. If a five-year-old touches a two-year-old, is it abuse? I can’t seem to wrap my mind around that possibility.
Abuse Continues So…??
I brush off the early years as a child’s curiosity about things he doesn’t quite understand. Although I think of it as innocent, it still leaves scars on me. As we get older, I wonder why it didn’t stop, though. He’s still touching me; we are 12 and 15 years old. He’s no longer a little child, and I’m no longer able to say it’s curiosity.
He demands I go into his room after I take a shower. “Don’t get dressed; come in only a towel,” he says. My mind races as my body shakes in fear. Every inch of me wants to deny him and flee, instead I walk around like a robot, complying. It’s always been this way. I’m trained to do as he asks, and this time is no different. He never threatens me, so why do I feel like I can’t say no?
I walk into his room, in my towel, and stand before him. My mind is foggy and I’m already floating off into my thoughts, ignoring him placing me on the bed. “Just a massage..” he says. It seems like it always begins with “just” something, and ends with me feeling numb. I can’t imagine what he likes about my 12-year-old body. My chest is flat and my hips are narrow. Still, he seems to enjoy it. I can feel his hands rubbing over my back, buttocks, and down to the area that makes me float away into my mind.
When everything is over, I wrap my towel around myself and head to my room. By the time I’ve gotten dressed, I’ve forgotten most of what’s happened; it’s the same every time. He asks and I comply because I don’t know what else to do. I ask myself if this is the way people show love.
How Do I Handle The Past Abuse Now?
Now I am in my thirties and so is he. We avoid any topics that come close to the truth. Sometimes when I look into his eyes, I can see that he remembers the thing we don’t talk about. I still love him. He’s my perfect brother. So I hide behind Lily May, because I can’t ruin another relationship, or listen to people call me a liar again.
Dropping the Mask
Why do we love our abusers? That is the question that tortures me still. How is it I am branded by every act my abuser did, but I can’t hate him? This man took advantage of me when I was younger than him and unable to protect myself. Still, I have to think he’s changed. There is programming in me that says he’s different now.
Every holiday I sit across from him, smiling and making conversation. Then I go home, and I am plagued with nightmares about the past. I wake up to a feeling of disgust about myself; I feel dirty and used, hop into the shower, and wash off what I can for the day. Scrubbing at my skin doesn’t seem to make it go away. Going through this same ritual every time I see him is exhausting.
Lily May would know what to do about this. She would say it’s okay to keep quiet. Just pretend like it never happened and move on with your life. The problem is that I’m not Lily May: I am Ashley T. Drye; the author, blogger, and domestic violence advocate. I can’t continue to tell others to shrug off their shame while wearing mine. With this article, I’m dropping my mask and exposing my ugly to the world.
Why Do I Love My Abuser?
I tapped onto my keyboard, googling the words that run through my mind almost daily- “Why do I love my abuser?” The search brought up pages upon pages of victims asking the same question, with others attempting to give a satisfying answer. Through my research, I learned that victims will grow attached to their abuser because it is a survival technique. We refer to this as Stockholm Syndrome.
The abuser grooms their victims to feel as if the abusers hold their safety their hands. Whether it is through threats or implications, the victim feels as if they must do what the abuser says. Through that process, the victim bonds to their abuser.
Significantly different is the effects of traumatic bonding. During this process, the victim lives a mixture of both abusive and protective behaviors from their abuser. Some signs of traumatic bonding are:
- Explaining away the abuse
- Protecting the abuser
- Conflicting emotions of Love/Hate for the abuser
- Feeling like you owe the abuser
- Wanting the abuser to give you attention
I have grown tired of the mixture of shame and guilt I feel for loving my abuser. I can see now that what I’m experiencing is “conflicting emotions of love/hate” for my brother. For twenty years I have struggled with my ability to love someone who I also hate and despise for what he has done.
Lily May would say it’s okay and to keep her head down, but Ashley T. Drye is ready to show the world her ugly, and be free of this burden.
Ashley T. Drye is an author, blogger, and victim’s advocate. She focuses her time on bringing awareness to the complexity of abuse. She enjoys blogging daily, speaking with victims, and writing. Currently, she is working on a book series, titled Stories of Abuse, where she shares stories from victims and survivors of abuse.
The first book in the series is called Stories of Abuse: Domestic Violence and she is currently accepting submission from anyone wanting to share their story of domestic violence.
Why the Impact of Child Abuse Extends Well into Adulthood https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-resilience/201310/why-the-impact-child-abuse-extends-well-adulthood
Love and Stockholm Syndrome: http://drjoecarver.makeswebsites.com/clients/49355/File/love_and_stockholm_syndrome.html
9 Signs of Traumatic Bonding: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/caregivers/2015/09/9-signs-of-traumatic-bonding-bonded-to-the-abuser/
My Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AshleyTDrye/
Twitter Handle: @atdrye