Saturday, August 2, 2014

Deliver us from Evil: A Survivor Speaks

Deborah Marsh, the author of Deliver us from Evil, is a survivor of sexual abuse as a child. Through her recent book, she has told the painful story of abuse that she and her sister Rebecca suffered at the hands of their father. Deborah shares a few insights on her own personal journey and on her book.

Image: Deborah Marsh
1. You survived sexual abuse - would you like to share your story with us?

My story begins in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1954 when I was born. Around 1959, when I was 4 or 5 years old, my father - a Mormon bishop at that time - began molesting me. Both my sister Rebecca and I feel that the abuse started when we were babies, but that's with body memories. This is all in my book so if I tell you the whole story there will be no reason to buy the book.  However I can tell you that my sister and I felt he stopped raping and plundering our bodies in 1961. He was released as Bishop and he started having affairs. So we were off the hook physically until our teen years when he started sexually abusing us (covertly out in the open) in different ways, even after we were married.  Rebecca and I didn't realize that what he did with us was wrong and that we both forgot - out of sanity - forgot the abuse when we were young children, but we always had a creepy feeling around Dad and no real relationship with him either. Then he started molesting one of my children and one of Rebecca's children and then we wanted him in prison.

2. A lot of people don't speak out when they face abuse. What gave you the courage to come out with your story?
I am disabled and pretty much bedbound, I have from tolerable pain to excruciating pain every day. I am an MSW social worker and I can't do social work because of my leg pain, but I must do something to contribute to society. They now make a device to ease the pain, but never having had the device I don't know if it will help or not. Anyway, I had this dream that I could write my story from out of the emotional pain I suffered as a child and now as an adult in my recovery process.  So I took some writing classes and slowly over time I became a pretty good writer.  The courage came from years of the right kind of therapy - Inner Child Work - which is hard and you think your finished and then you do something that triggers you like a book - major triggering and then it is like you have another piece of to work out in your head and heart. My sister is not so brave, so I wrote her chapter and her son's chapter for them after we discussed it over and over again.  She just couldn't do that and she hasn't wanted to even discuss much about her abuse.  I guess I just thought it might help people and that's all I've ever wanted to do.  Just help people!

3. How has telling your story helped you? Do you feel that more people should be talking about the issue?
Writing the book has helped me resolve a lot of issues I thought were resolved already.  However, one of my therapists told me a long time ago that--6 or 5 years ago-not to ever go back to where I pushed myself through my childhood again. It has been very hard but Dr. Ellsworth who writes the forward in my book and co-wrote the chapter on Therapy says you're probably never done if you're life is so damaged. I would not write a book for publication again, ever again. It was like ripping band-aids off on sores all over again.  I think it helps to talk to friends family, whomever you can trust to talk to. Sometimes it is better to talk to complete strangers like myself as you don't have to do it face-to-face yet they have been through it also.

4. As a survivor, you must have faced a lot of trials and tribulations, where you go through anger, grief, or even self-hatred. Could you talk about that?
I raged, I felt guilty, I hated myself and I grieved. First came the anger that someone who said everyday how much he loved me and could turn around when I was a tiny precious 4 year old and do what he did to me.  He said I was his favourite child - maybe favourite to molest. Then came the self hatred. The way I would do self talk, I wouldn't talk that way even to my father, "If only you had been smarter you could have gotten us-my sister and myself out of there." "If only you weren't a wicked child this would not have happened to you."  "If only you weren't a slut, an ugly child, a brat, anything you could have imagined I called myself.  I think guilt goes along with self-hatred. I felt guilty for destroying the balance of my immediate family my husband and kids as well as my family of origin, my younger sister blames me for "Killing Mom" yet mom never died.  Then there's grief which I still have.  I grieve that my little child didn't get a normal childhood, I grieve that I'm not what I might have been in life, I grieve for my children who had a pretty not so great of a mom when they were little.  I never could go back with them and fix them now they are angry.   I still grieve.  Maybe that's why I chose to spend the last 14 years doing hospice work.

5. What, in your opinion, should our approach be, to survivors? A lot of people hold back from speaking out or addressing the crime because of the discomfort they are forced to experience at the hands of other people.
I think survivors should give themselves a pat on the back each night because they stayed alive one more day, they should say "I didn't take that dark road that leads to a spiral staircase to suicide or to self-contempt or to cutting.  People who haven't been abused should be patient, kind but treat them normally.  Be a good listener with them, if you are uncomfortable, listen anyway a few minutes a day then say I’m so very sorry for your losses.  I will catch up with you when I’m not so busy.  I need to be in a meeting or a reassuring hug that you feel awful if you all of a sudden could see them again. Just remember they had to endure it so listening to them 15 minutes can't possibly be too difficult.  There are some abused individuals that haven't learned to share appropriately so be gentle and help them learn about boundaries by saying "I wish I could speak with you longer but I can't but call me and we'll continue this, or better yet find a time in your schedule (maybe lunch or coffee) that you could call them up and offer your company or time or both.  What a true friend you'd be!