On Betrayal

I’ve been betrayed by everyone I know twice in my life. I don’t mean betrayal like your best friend kissed your boyfriend one night when drunk, but the kind of betrayal that rips your entire life away and shakes the very foundations of everything you know to be true. I’m talking about the kind of betrayal that makes you question everything about life and even, in fact, whether you should bother to continue living it. Hopefully, none of you know what I’m talking about. Betrayal sucks.

When I was seven years old, my family allowed a pedophile to move into our home. He had already been sexually abusing me for some months before that. In and of itself, that could be viewed as a betrayal, but my family didn’t know. Eventually, they did know when I told them myself and that’s where the betrayal comes in. They did not believe me. They let it continue in their own house with their child. Eventually, and I’m not even sure how, the pedophile did leave after a year or more of sexual abuse. Perhaps I got too old or wasn’t fun anymore. I really couldn’t tell you how he left; all I know is that he did.

The sexual abuse was over, but it was really just the beginning. For the next eleven years, I had to live in a house with a family that did not believe me, did not protect me, had betrayed me and tried to pretend nothing had even happened. As a child, I retreated into myself. I didn’t really talk to anyone. I lived within myself behind big walls I built to protect myself. Since I had no one to protect me, I had to do it myself.

As a teen, I became very self-destructive. I was anorexic, a cutter and a substance abuser. I gave up on life. I wasn’t actively suicidal, but I didn’t care at all whether I lived or died. I call it passive suicide: putting yourself in dangerous situations so that you might die.

My family kept asking why. Why are you doing this? They should have damn well-known why. Still, even then, when I had cuts up and down my arms, shaved off all my hair and started skipping school, or getting drunk or high when I was there, they did not get me any help.

Well, that’s not entirely true. My mom did make me go see a therapist once when I was about sixteen. I told him my story and I never saw him again. I surmise that my family thought that one session of therapy was enough to cure any problem. It wasn’t, not by a long shot. Perhaps, had I continued to see that therapist, things might not have gotten so bad.

I faced the sting of a family who was more concerned with appearances than helping their child every day. I ran away from home a lot, but they kept dragging me back because I was a minor. Eleven years of daily betrayal until, on my eighteenth birthday, when I was finally a legal adult, I moved out. I didn’t tell them where I was going. They got home and I was gone. It was weeks before they knew my whereabouts. Apparently, my mom was sick with worry, but I was too pissed off to care. If only she had spent some of that worry when I was being sexually abused, none of that would have happened. I still don’t feel guilty about that, but I would have done things differently if I could do it over.

Fast forward a decade or so and we reach another point where almost everyone I knew betrayed me. From my late teens to my mid-twenties, I lived with an abusive sociopath. Eight years of domestic violence culminated in one night where he really intended to kill me and he would have had an acquaintance not happened to walk by and stop it. I was seconds away from death. He saved my life. How do you repay someone for saving your life? At the time, I didn’t value it much. I was resigned to the fact that the sociopath would kill me. I half wanted him to kill me just so he would be punished.

I saw no way out but my death, until on that final night, one appeared to me in the form of an acquaintance and police reports. I kicked him out of the house. I got a restraining order. I tried my best to put him in prison. It never happened, but I was free.

I assembled all of our friends one night, because I didn’t want to tell the story more than once. I showed them my battered body, all of the police reports and the restraining order. I told them the story. Only two of them believed me. All but two of the people I had known most of my life sided with the sociopath. Out of a lifetime’s worth of friendships, I was left with two friends and one of them is dead. My life in Detroit was over. I ran away to Boston, where only a few people knew my story. I built new friendships, but I would never trust anyone the same ever again.

Over the years, many of the people who betrayed me that night have come to me and apologized once they saw the monster for what he is. One of them even ended up marrying the sociopath. Not surprisingly, it did not end well. She came slinking back to me after her divorce. “If only I had believed you then…” Yeah, but you didn’t. I had a difficult time not saying, “I told you so.” I had a hard time feeling sorry for her, because unlike his other victims, she was warned. She knew what she was getting into. Even if it was only in her subconscious, she knew, because I had warned her.

We talked for a while. She told me her story; I told her mine. We bitched and bemoaned and I comforted her. She and I shared the same monster after all, but she could never be my friend again. We’ve since lost touch and I don’t lose sleep over it.

So, yeah, betrayal. I’ve had my share. When you’ve experienced that kind of betrayal–even once, let alone twice–it makes it difficult to trust people. If I catch people lying to me, even if it’s a white lie, I don’t forgive that easily. With the exception of this blog, I don’t open up easily. By design, it takes a long time to really know me. I have very few real friends (I can count them on two hands with fingers to spare), but the friends I do have, I trust as much as I am able, which isn’t close to all the way, but it’s the best I can do.