Tag Archives: Miss America by Day

Relentless, Oblivious Ego Trip (Miss America by Day Re-Read-14: Chapter 2 – The Night Child (continued))

(The following is the 14th in a series of posts related to my re-reading of Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayal and Unconditional Love, by Marilyn Van Derbur.)

Continuing with Chapter 2 of Miss America By Day, one paragraph begins:

The night child [the phrase Ms. Van Derbur uses to describe the part of her that experienced the abuse, in contrast to “the day child,” which, having no memory of the abuse, functioned during the other, normal parts of her day-to-day life as a child] tried everything to keep my father out.

And goes on to describe several stratagems she employed in an effort to keep her father from sexually abusing her, such as opening the windows of her bedroom during winter to make the room freezing cold and, thereby, as unwelcoming as possible; hanging a sign she’d taken from a passenger train on her bedroom door that said, “Please go ‘way  and let me sleep”; not taking a bath for days to make herself as smelly as possible; and, as a teenager, wearing Kotex even on nights when she didn’t have her period.

The result of her efforts?

It never stopped him. . . . It didn’t stop him. . . . It didn’t stop him. . . . It didn’t stop him.

Such manic relentlessness on the part of a child sexual abuser in carrying out their abuse is, to my knowledge, quite typical, and, most importantly, in my opinion, reflects the abuser’s utter obliviousness to—and / or utter lack of caring for—the wishes of the child. The abuser, in their completely ego-centric mind state when carrying out their abuse, may attempt to rationalize their actions, including any use of force, by viewing the abused child’s resistance as a barrier that merits being broken through in order to enable the child to experience sexual pleasure. Such seems indicated in the case of Ms. Van Derbur’s father when, the efforts of what could be thought of as her first line of defense (noted above) having failed, he would proceed with his abuse, in response to which Ms. Van Derbur would resort to her second line of defense—attempting to completely shut down her body:

Sometimes I would like on my stomach, tighten my legs and my buttocks, and bring my arms up across my breasts, tightly against my sides.

In response to which Ms. Van Derbur’s father would . . .

. . . slowly begin to rub my back gently, rhythmically and then slowly he would begin to force his hands between my upper arms and my body. Forcefully. Powerfully. Until his hands were fondling my newly forming breasts.

And in response to Ms. Van Derbur’s further attempts to shut down—”I would fight with every ounce of my being to not feel anything he was doing. My mantra was ‘shut down.’ Shut all feelings down.”— her father would say, “Just let go. Just go with it,” in response to which, Ms. Van Derbur writes, “I would tighten my body and then I would tight it more.”

But her father would continue.

Could any disregard for a child’s clear wishes be more blatant?

Whatever the abuser’s particular rationalization or set of rationalizations for their abuse—whether it be that they are teaching the child they’re abusing to experience sexual pleasure, that they’re punishing the child for some wrong committed (as was the case with my father, when he raped me when I was nine, as I describe in Preludes), or something else—it typically shares in common with other rationalizations this blatant disregard of the wishes of the child that the abuse cease immediately.

Shattering and Dissociation (Miss America by Day Re-Read-13: Chapter 2 – The Night Child)

(The following is the 13th in a series of posts related to my re-reading of Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayal and Unconditional Love, by Marilyn Van Derbur.)

Ms. Van Derbur begins the second chapter of Miss America By Day by describing her father’s abuse in detail and the effects that it had on her in passages such as the following:

He pried me open night after night, lacerating my mind, my body and my soul. Like a delicate piece of crystal smashed into concrete, my father took my belief system, my sense of self, my very soul and shattered it into shards.

Such body- and soul-shattering effects of child sexual abuse are, based on my own experience as well as the experiences of a number of other survivors I’ve known personally or read about, commonly shared by child sexual abuse survivors.

Something else often shared by children being sexually abused is the defensive response of dissociating the abuse experiences from the rest of their lives. Ms. Van Derbur describes this in terms of a “night child,” who experienced the abuse her father inflicted upon her in her bedroom at night, and a “day child,” who led a normal life during the day and had no memory whatsoever that any abuse was occurring. As Ms. Van Derbur says,

In order to survive, my mind created another separate self to stay [in her bedroom] and endure the invasions of my body.

As described in my ebook, Preludes, my mind utilized the same survival strategy by protecting me from all memories, when I was going through my normal daily and evening routines, of what my father was doing to me when he would come to my bed in the middle of the night:

In the daytime the boy did not remember what happened at night. Even at night . . . as . . . he would make his way, despairing, from bed to bathtub, he would begin to forget what he’d seen when he opened his eyes and lifted his hand to look down his body at what his father was doing to him . . . .

For anyone familiar, personally or through reading accounts by survivors of their abuse, with the psychological dynamics of child sexual abuse, it’s not at all difficult to imagine an abused child’s mind utilizing dissociation as the best possible stop-gap solution to the overwhelming onslaught of their abuse experience.

Additional Thoughts (Miss America by Day Re-Read-12: Chapter 1 – A Not So Perfect Family (continued))

(The following is the 12th in a series of posts related to my re-reading of Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayal and Unconditional Love, by Marilyn Van Derbur.)

Some additional thoughts that reflecting on my re-reading of Chapter 1 of Miss America By Day has brought to mind:

(1)
That a child sexual abuser can have sexual relations with other adults which he or she genuinely, thoroughly enjoys, with the abuser not, in the least, carrying on such relations for the purpose of constructing a false front or cover for their sexual abuse of children (although such relations may, without any necessary intent on the abuser’s part, serve such a function, as I believe they did for my and Ms. Van Derbur’s fathers); with such relations, rather, forming as much a part of the abuser’s core identity as their sexual relations with children.

(2)
That, comparing (non-sexual) physical abuse of children with child sexual abuse, it’s ironic that, while growing up, if I recall correctly, I would sometimes feel myself lucky not to have suffered physical abuse, at least of any significant sort, such as a whipping with a belt or birch stick, or a beating, or anything that would leave welts or other marks, when, in fact, I was experiencing sexual abuse which eventually reached the point of rape—abuse which I was blocking from my mind almost all of the time when I wasn’t actually experiencing it.

Of course, one can’t make any perfect comparison of forms of suffering, and, of course, it makes sense that sexual abuse would be far more something to conceal in a society in which depictions of physical violence are much more readily and graphically shown in mainstream media than depictions of sexual violence.

(3)
One difference between my mother and Ms. Van Derbur’s is that, in contrast to Ms. Van Derbur’s mother’s seeming lack of any interest in the sermons preached at the Presbyterian Church she and her children attended in Denver, my mother took a serious interest in the content of the sermons at Westminster Presbyterian in Nashville, and, in general, seemed to enjoy discussing theological matters. Perhaps this was due, in part, to the influence of my mother’s paternal grandfather, who had been the minister of First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

(4)
Unlike Ms. Van Derbur’s father, who, unlike his wife and daughters, never attended church, my father attended church regularly with his wife and children.

(5)
My and Ms. Van Derbur’s feelings, while growing up, about the atmosphere of church seem similar, with both of such disliking its authoritarian tendencies, in particular those of a paternalistic nature—not at all surprising considering we were both sexually abused by our fathers. (Ms. Van Derbur notes that, “It would be many years before I understood why I didn’t want another father—certainly not a more powerful one.”)

(6)
The dangers of one parent being largely or completely dominant over the other—as was the case for my and Ms. Van Derbur’s fathers with respect to our mothers—are, indeed, great in situations in which the dominant parent is abusive towards the children and views the children as little or nothing more than his chattel. (Ms. Van Derbur notes: “My father believed he owned my mother and his four daughters. We were his property and he could do anything he wanted with us.”)

I’m reminded of a comment my mother made when I interviewed her about the abuse—that she had been raised to believe that a wife should submit to her husband’s authority more or less without question. Such a belief certainly didn’t serve her well as far as being able to recognize or effectively combat any sexual abuse by her husband of their children.

(7)
That a child can feel great admiration, even adoration, for a parent who is sexually abusing them, regarding, of course, aspects of the parent’s behavior, personality, etc. not directly related to the abuse. Ms. Van Derbur says, “My father was my role model and I adored him.” In my case, I admired, among other things, my father’s intelligence and his having a position as a professor in the Economics Department at Vanderbilt University, and I adored his sense of humor.

Such admiration and adoration can, of course, make it all the more difficult for a child to accept that the very same parent is sexually abusing them, and can, thereby, increase the possibility of a child’s having no memory of abuse episodes or any sort of awareness of the abuse except when it’s actually occurring.

Reality of the Facade-3 (Miss America by Day Re-Read-11: Chapter 1 – A Not So Perfect Family (continued))

(The following is the 11th in a series of posts related to my re-reading of Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayal and Unconditional Love, by Marilyn Van Derbur.)

Continuing from my two previous posts on the matter of the abuser’s “facade” and of the “facade” of the abuser’s family, another thought:

That it would be far more comforting if the abuser’s “facade” were bogus—were, in fact, a facade. That is to say that people can find it quite disturbing that a person who is so authentically, genuinely engaged in various normal aspects of their lives—regarding their work, religious/spiritual activities, or normal aspects of their family life—could be sexually abusing children, particularly their own. The more people realize that a great many child sexual abusers are, in many aspects of their lives, entirely normal, the more difficult it is to demonize them; to place them in the category of “monster” and exclude them from the category of “human.”

Reality of the Facade-2 (Miss America by Day Re-Read-10: Chapter 1 – A Not So Perfect Family (continued))

(The following is the 10th in a series of posts related to my re-reading of Miss America by Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayal and Unconditional Love, by Marilyn Van Derbur.)

Continuing from my previous post, some further thoughts on the matter of the abuser’s “facade” and of the “facade” of the abuser’s family:

– The world of wrought-iron tables and pleasant conversation of the adults in my golf course dream wasn’t simply some cover, consciously designed and maintained for the express purpose of concealing the child sexual abuse that was occurring within my family but had its own integrity, its own reality that sought to maintain itself quite apart from the question of whether any such abuse was occurring or not.

– Just as a major genuine, authentic part of Ms. Van Derbur’s father’s life involved his various roles as a Denver community leader in various respects, so a major, authentic part my father’s life involved his roles as a professor at Vanderbilt University and as a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, so that their actions, in these roles, were every bit as genuine and authentic as their actions when they were sexually abusing their children.

– I’ve often wondered whether my father’s case involved his have some sort of split personality, with him literally, at least in many cases, not remembering his acts of child sexual abuse while leading the “normal” parts of his existence—when, for example, he would be teaching or otherwise fulfilling his professorial duties at Vanderbilt, attending church, having sex with my mother, or presiding over a family dinner.

– With specific regard to a child sexual abuser’s sex life, a child sexual abuser may genuinely and thoroughly enjoy having non-abusive sexual relations with adults—such relations not being a false front in the least but, rather, as much a part of the abuser’s core sexual identity and behavior as his / her sexually abusive behavior with children.

– Of course, the possibility of rank hypocrisy exists. For example, a politician or other community leader who is committing child sexual abuse might vigorously endorse legislative and other efforts having as their central aim the curbing of child sexual abuse; the same such leader—as was the case with Ms. Van Derbur’s father—might serve on the board of an organization dedicated to the proper care of foster children. But even in cases such as these, the child sexual abuser may, from their own standpoint, perceive no contradiction, either because, in some cases, they have succeeded in largely or entirely compartmentalizing that aspect of their life involving child sexual abuse, keeping it separate from the other aspects of their life, or because, in other cases, they have succeeding in rationalizing their abuse to such a degree as to perceive it as being somehow beneficial to the child or children they are abusing.

The outer “facade” of normalcy is often, to a substantial degree anyway, bogus only to the degree that it is perceived or assumed to be representative of the entirety of the abuser’s and abuser’s family’s existence.