Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"I Wore an Invisible Sign."

(This post from Cecil Murphey first appeared at 1in6.org.)

Lee Willis, a courageous survivor, told a sad tale of being abused by his father and later by day-care workers. They were only the first. Until he was 16, he was molested many times.

He wrote this (and I have his permission to quote it): "Once we're abused, it seems that we wear the mark for other perps to see." His comments make it clear that something happens when we're abused—something that preying individuals sense, even if family members or friends don't.

I gained insight on that recently while I was working on Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor, a book with Katariina Rosenblatt on human trafficking. Kat escaped from traffickers three times and now works with federal authorities to help other girls and boys, who are victimized as she was.

In relating the account of her first traffickers, Kat had been molested by her father and sexually abused by older children. She was recruited by a woman named Mary who befriended her.
Looking back, I now know she chose me even before she talked to me. I'm sure she spotted the longing in my eyes and the loneliness that I projected out of my hurts and agony. As I would learn later, when we're chosen, they watch us before they target us. They especially seek the lonely and abused children who display their vulnerability by the way they walk, their clothes, general demeanor, or the helplessness in their eyes. They sense their lack of family support or their susceptibility. Only later could I see that my own identity was fragile and distorted. Then I would realize she had chosen me because she knew I was defenseless and lonely.
So, yes, Lee, we were marked—and vigilant perps watched us and they knew. But as we heal, those markings disappear. They're replaced by our inner peace, self-assurance, and the knowledge that we're no longer "just survivors." We are overcoming the pain of our childhood. And most of all, we finally like ourselves.


Joseph said...

My counselor pointed out that predators can spot and target the lonely boys. That never crossed my mind, although I had always wondered what made a man see me as a boy who would respond to him. I certainly was lonely and rejected at home; therefore, I was spotted and targeted as I waited in Alabama for a bus to take me to Greenville, SC, to finish high school in a Christian school.

Roger Mann said...

I was a fairly happy kid,(read oblivious), as a boy. I didn't know any better and just accepted things as they were as how they should be.

That said what with not being able to connect with my father in a healthy way probably contributed to my being marked as someone who would be an easy mark for a perp. I was attracted to older boys and men that paid attention to me. I really longed for someone to take an interest.

So I'm sure a perp would pick up on that and I was probably an easy groom. Looking back it really didn't take much.

Like this poster, I always looked back as an adult mystified by how they seem to pick me out but as I learned more about this I realize I probably stood out like I had a read flashing light on my head.

Joseph said...

I certainly connect with what you say, Roger. I longed for male acceptance. And in the last few years I came to realize that actually I was "looking for daddy." Many nights when I pray just before going to sleep, I say, "God, while I sleep tonight, hold me in your arms like a daddy holds a five-year-old boy and cuddles him to his heart." And, somehow, I believe He does. It makes me happy, anyway.

Anonymous said...

"what with not being able to connect with my father in a healthy way"...
"I longed for male acceptance"...
I cried when I read these words. I'm working through recovery from a single incident decades ago, and these words brought pieces together for me. I never understood why approval from others was so desperately important to me - but this thought, that I would have tossed all this aside for a single approving pat from my father, rings and resonates from everywhere inside me.