“You can never change your past.
You can however, change your relationship to it.”
– Victoria Pendragon
“In 1988 I became grievously ill with a disease, Scleroderma, that began, slowly and relentlessly turning my body into scar tissue from the inside out. I was dying slowly and painfully. All the while, I kept asking myself, “Why are you doing this to yourself? What has made you feel as if you need so much protection that you are turning yourself into stone to keep it at bay?”
At 42, I was a mystery to myself, having lived a life defined by my promiscuity. Four years earlier, I’d lost my two children to the custody of their father, a man I’d married just to try and keep myself from getting killed somewhere, some night. Even before the divorce was final, I had found another man who was willing to love me in spite of my past but I knew when I entered into that second marriage that I’d have to change my ways or I’d lose what love I had left in the world. I was grasping for straws as I attempted to stop my behavior.
I’d never like it, never wanted to be doing it, but illicit sex was, for me, like a drug, a drug I hated myself for craving, so I’d spent a lot of time trying to figure myself out and by the age of 40 I’d figured out that my problem was twofold: 1) I craved attention, 2) I was absolutely unable to turn down an offer if the offer was made. For me, the answer to that dilemma was obvious and it was to not place myself in temptation’s way.
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I changed my once over-the-top sexy look to the style of a 13-year-old skateboarder, risking alienating my husband at the same time as I strove to keep our marriage intact. He didn’t know how to respond to the sudden shift but told me that his love would be the same for me no matter how I looked. Internally, though, I was eating myself alive, jealous of every attractive woman I saw and berating my husband for even noticing a good-looking woman. I was more than a little crazy, too crazy to see that I needed help. The help I got came in the unlikely form of Scleroderma which both disfigured and disabled me and, because it is incurable, led me into the hands of healers.
It was a gestalt therapist who first asked me about my relationship to my father. I expressed my mixed emotions, told her that I was terribly attached to him but also hated him. She asked me how I felt that had affected my life and my exact words were, “I’d rather die than be hurt like that again.” I didn’t really know where the words had come from, didn’t really know why they’d come but when she asked me if I’d heard what I’d just said, I said, “Yes.” I had. Now I had some clue as to why I was killing myself. I loved a man as I had once loved my father and, apparently, I would rather die than do that.
It would be four years before I got all the details and it came without warning. I had, for the previous three years, been involved in a clinical research study for people with Scleroderma. I’d been cured after one year, a practically unheard of miracle, but the researchers had asked me to stay on, afraid that if they stopped the treatment, I’d revert. I knew that I wouldn’t, knew it in my body.
A few days before what would become my last experimental treatment my father died. When I arrived for my treatment at the hospital I was surprised by the news that the study was being terminated and that everyone would have to be weaned slowly off of it. I reported that I could just stop and I’d be fine, that I’d been fine for a long time and so they dismissed me with love and good wishes afterwards, sending me on my way.
One of my sisters, a physician, met me at home with a bouquet for what she called my graduation and, indeed, it felt like one. She had her two sons with her, the youngest still an infant and the other about two. She had her hands full and had to leave in a hurry. As I helped her strap her youngest into the car seat she commented on his resemblance to our father; I remarked that he looked a lot more like our grandfather at which point she turned to face me saying, “Same thing, isn’t it? They were both sons of bitches and pedophiles.” The look on my face must have been one of utter disbelief because she followed it with, “You mean he didn’t get you?”
My head spun. My legs grew weak. And I cannot tell you how I got from where her car was parked into my kitchen where I found myself some time later, leaning back against the counter after having experienced one of the strangest experiences of my life.
For all my life, for as long as I could remember, I’d had countless odd little snippets of memories: myself sitting on my father’s lap with my panties off, my bottom wet with something; under the covers of my father’s bed; in his walk-in closet, looking at a picture of a blonde woman in a low-cut red dress; staring at his penis; waking in bed in my teens to find my pubic hairs matted in something translucent. There, in my kitchen, after my sister left, like sponge animals that had been dropped into a glass of water, the memories expanded one after another, all the just before and all the just after suddenly visible, available to my consciousness. I was reeling but in that moment my entire life made sense to me.
There would be more memories to follow in the years to come, some in dreams, some in trance-like conditions that I’d induce by attempting to paint other memory snippets but never again was there such a mass onslaught as I experienced on that day. Once I could collect myself, I went from the kitchen to my studio and painted the crude but emotionally evocative image I’ve attached, a little almost nothing of a tiny girl, lost in a sore pink vaginal space, screaming for a help that didn’t come until it was almost too late.”
‘The key moment was when I suddenly forgave. When I realized that we come to earth to do what we do, and that we are spirits in a material body, I opened myself to allow forgiveness.”- Victoria Pendragon
Victoria’s baby sister who was estranged from the family at the time, contacted another sister to ask if she would encourage all of the siblings to go sit down to bring healing to the family. Victoria and her brother immediately responded via email that they would not do it without a professional present.
Victoria and her sister, were sold by her grandfather for sex with men. Her grandmother was responsible for drugging them. Both of Victoria’s parents were medical doctors, and her father was incestuous. Her uncle on her mother’s side also sexually abused them.
Her mother was aware and may have participated in some way. Victoria remembers waking up in the woods at times. Victoria says that she remembers having strange body memories and believes the sexual abuse may have happened at infancy. As a part of the Grandfather’s grooming process to sell them to men, he would insert his fingers into her vagina.
As Victoria began to slide the paint brushes with colored droplets of water throughout her memory, she would soon realize that her own personal story was in fact one of many within her own family.
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Victoria’s sister was diagnosed at eighteen years old with schizophrenia and believes that men are out to get her. She is not well psychologically. The difference Victoria believes is that she left her body and her sister was unable to do so during the abuse.
Victoria’s sister who was sent out with her, drugged and raped repeatedly as children to grown men, was not able to attend the family meeting that the baby sister requested. After, another one of Victoria’s sisters found a psychotherapist that they could all feel comfortable with, they set out for a weekend journey to love; to heal.
The psychotherapist did exactly what I have always imagined me doing with other families, and to hear Victoria tell this story made me feel a bit unprofessional for allowing tears to stream down my cheek bones, and fall upon my chest.
The psychotherapist would bring them together to talk, and one of the evenings each person in the family stood up and told their personal story about their life. There were things shared in that room that no one have ever known about Victoria and her siblings.
There was abuse that they did not know they may have shared in common, and secrets that made their family sick. Together, they would heal in that room. They would cry for long periods of time and this process would change their lives forever.
When I asked Victoria what it felt like, on the day that they were leaving, she paused. I explained further. “What happened inside when you picked up your bag, and had your last hug, and were leaving? Did you all just walk away? What was the moment like when you left?” She answered “Well, that’s the thing, I don’t feel we walked away. We felt like we carried everybody with us for the first time.”
“We carried everybody with us for the first time.” – Victoria Pendragon
Victoria remembers going to her grandmother to tell on her grandfather when she mustered up enough courage. Her grandmother responded, “You bite your tongue, and you do not say anything.” Victoria said she continued this action until she was forty-two years old. Whenever she wanted to speak up against an injustice she would instead bite her tongue (literally), and not say a word.
Today, Victoria reports that she has no problem speaking out and is healed from the deeply painful abuse that took place in her childhood. Inspired by this piece she took the thoughts that were in my mind, and placed them before me as something that is possible.
I am the baby sister who has asked for us to attend counseling for many years. What I found in the similarities of the healing process between Victoria’s family and ours, is that something that seems so estranged, so unlikely can always give way to healing. Nothing is impossible and God is indeed a healer.
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Are you still:
- Struggling in your relationships with your family
- Separated totally from family connections
- Harboring resentment or bitterness
- Interested in family or individual counseling
- Wanting to be free from your experiences
Ressurrection is a child sexual abuse expert who offers free 15 minute consultations to answer your questions and offer support in the way that you need it most. You may contact her at: 202.717.7377 (RESS)