Then She Stood By the Brave

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate Truth. It was originally published on April 8, 2014.

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**DISCLAIMER: the situation you are about to read about is in good hands and I ask that you not try to contact any of my siblings. They are safe and things are being taken care of.

About a month ago I got a phone call letting me know one of my siblings was being admitted to the mental health ward. All I could think was when it is going to be enough, how many more of my siblings are going to suffer.

Their story is theirs to tell, not mine, but I want to tell you about a story that has continued to unfold over the past few weeks.

Phil and I went to visit my sibling in the psych ward, and I saw my sibling relaxed, a little medicated, but they were relaxed, peaceful, and they were safe there and they knew it. We brought one of my other brothers in to visit our sibling and I found out that he had been faithfully visiting his sibling the whole time during their psych visit. This brother is the one I have had my spats with growing up, and in fact, thanks to him I have a nice numb spot on my hand from one of our fights. This brother is also the one I see holding one of the biggest, caring hearts I have ever seen. The fact that he would purposefully take time out of his day to go visit his sibling in the psych ward every day they were is a huge indicator of just how big his heart is.

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I am now barely 2 months away from having this child of mine.

I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to stand firm with my boundaries when it comes to my mom and my dad. I somehow found myself in a position last week where I was asked by my mom to “draw out” my sibling who had been in the psych ward. My sibling had been asking to be admitted again that morning and wouldn’t talk to mom or anyone else about what was going on. Inwardly I knew my sibling was only going to talk to me and that’s why my mom was pushing me to talk with them. After spending awhile chatting, I knew what I needed to know and just let my sibling know that I was there whenever they needed me. The rest of my visit over there ended in me putting my foot down and being completely blunt with my mom. I told her my exact thoughts on how her staying with my dad was at the expense of the kids and how he wasn’t changing, how I didn’t believe her when she said he was, and just watched her shut down as I refused to let her screwed up logic change my stance.

In that moment I realized I have changed.

I am no longer blinded by the manipulative logic my dad uses to control those around him.

I could see right through everything my mom said and was able to see things I had known were there but had never been able to put words to. I am stronger, I am clear headed, I have changed, and yet, it became painfully obvious she hasn’t changed. She is still toxic to me, she is still clinging to some delusion that my dad is changing, and until she can let go of that and actually protect her children from that man, I have to be careful to keep boundaries in place.

It was encouraging to see how therapy has really worked and I have been able to break so many chains that had previously greatly bound me. I am also in a position now where when a sibling needs help, I’m one of the first people they call, and hell, I’m out the door before they can even coherently say anything other than to beg me to come get them. Which is what happened recently, and which included a visit to my siblings’ school counselor who after hearing our story immediately called Child Protective Services to make a report. I have proven to my siblings, the ones who need it most, that I am not the mean, evil older sister my dad makes me out to be. I am who I say I am and I will drop everything for them if they need me.

I sat in that office and watched my siblings find their strength as they stood up to the abuse they have personally suffered from our dad. My heart bursting with pride, I backed up their stories, and watched as they willingly gave information that will hopefully make a difference. I watched my siblings make very brave and bold decisions despite the possibility of facing retaliation. They are doing what I wish I could have done years ago, they are brave enough to stand up and say enough is enough and it hopefully will truly be enough.

The little girl inside of me wept as I proudly stood by my brave siblings.

I felt like I watched my childhood come full circle. The shame of not being “strong enough” to stand up to my dad was put to rest as I stood there being my siblings’ support. I went through what I had to so that I could be there for my siblings when they needed me. I am stronger now, I have the strength they needed to be able to be brave themselves. I can validate their fears and tell them they’re not crazy despite what the man at home will say. I don’t know about you, but that’s quite a good reason to have gone through what I have if only to be the support my siblings need.

I’m feeling hopeful, I am full of pride, and so relieved I can be there for the siblings who call for help and I can be there to lift up their voices.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel 

TeenPacters Speak Up: Part Six, TeenPact Breakaway

TeenPacters Speak Up: A Series by Between Black and White

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Between Black and White. Part Six was originally published on May 22, 2013.

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Part Six: TeenPact Breakaway, by Jessica

I remember it clearly. Like a scene from a movie

I remember the exact moment I began to breakaway from the TeenPact message.

And what is funny is that the reason it started to crumble had nothing to do with the misogyny, the hypocritical modesty standards or corrupt election rigging. Instead, it was a young person who dared to speak their opinion; an opinion that the powers-that-be did not share.

First some background.

In March 2002, Alabama legislature was locked in an intense debate over reforming the Alabama constitution. At the same time, the 2002 Alabama TeenPact Session was conveying. They thought it would be the ideal time to introduce us to government in action (and rightfully so).

This was my second year to attend TeenPact. The first year, my involvement was fairly basic. I went to my state class. I learned a lot and really enjoyed socializing with so many people so decided to go to an alumni event: Leadership Summit.

It was there that I bought into the whole TeenPact ideal. The TPA dress code, how to interact with guys, how to keep “sweet” and be acceptable (which I never quite could do). But the biggest thing I learned was the idea of servant leadership. To the TeenPact organization, sacrificing yourself is the only way to be a servant leader. Which is true, in part. However, they failed to emphasis that it doesn’t mean becoming a doormat, an enabler or codependent. Telling impressionable young people…especially young women that to be God-like you must take anger, taunts and other abuse  without providing guidance on assertiveness and boundaries is dangerous. But I bought it. I bought it all.

And it damaged me.

To this day, I am prone to accept abuse from toxic individuals because I feel like I deserve it. I do not establish appropriate boundaries because I don’t feel I deserve them. If I want to be a good Christian, I will want to be abused and mistreated. This has caused a lot of problems in establishing friendships and even in my prior relationships with men (before my husband).

Back to my TeenPact story, though…

After Leadership Summit, I was hooked. I went and worked for two weeks at the National Offices, I staffed a one-day class, and was so ready for my alumni state class!

It was at this week-long class, that I, along with the Alabama TeenPacters, sat and observed the Alabama legislature debate the reforming of the state constitution. My father was a county official and I was very familiar with the state constitution reforming bill. Reforming the constitution would be beneficial for every county and would also alter the language to remove racist terms. I didn’t see a problem with allowing the state to do so. It was thousands of pages longs and the way it had been created was not intuitive to the 21st century. I, however, was in the minority. The rest of the TeenPacters were in a fever that the Democrats (said with all fear and loathing) would add all kinds of liberal propaganda. Like, gasp, the horror, lottery! Even at that age, I didn’t see the big deal in having a lottery. Sure it was stupid and I didn’t want to waste my money on it but so what if it was added to the constitution; if it would improve efficiency and remove racist language, who cared.

While I sat there with my other TeenPacters, a newscaster came along and tapped me and my friend on the shoulder:

“Are ya’ll here to watch the debate?” she asked. “Do you support constitutional reform?”

I said naively, “I do!”

She took me out of chambers and did an interview with me. I was glowing because I was actually expressing my views on an important matter, one that could affect my state!

After the interview and the Senate dispersed (not ever deciding on anything, of course), I walked back with the rest of the group. The Program Director walked up to me and said “I see you were getting interviewed. What about?”

At this time, I had a huge crush on this Program Director and was convinced that we would have one of those love stories that I read about in all my courtship books.

I said proudly, “I told her how I was pro-constitution reform. And I gave her an interview!”

His face went blank. He was shocked. At that moment, I realized I had gone against the TPA code of conduct by disagreeing with them on a policy matter. It should have been obvious to me that constitution reform was something we were supposed to be against since being pro-constitution reform was a “liberal” thing.  To his credit, the Program Director (who I did not marry, thank God) didn’t chastise me or report me to the TeenPact Dad for the week (please, someone, write about the TeenPact parents).

It was at that moment the first seed of doubt appeared about TeenPact. I might not have been aware of it but it was then that I started to realize I was “different.” I didn’t follow the party line exactly. In hindsight, I wish that I had questioned “the look” more.

Looking back, I think I know what was in that look from the Program Director. It was astonishment that someone would think differently. It was confusion that a girl would speak out.  It was suspicion over my ability to critically analyze a problem and come to a pretty good conclusion. All qualities that TeenPact supposedly promotes in theory but in action they are just as harsh on free thought as any other religious or political fanatic.

To be continued.