11. The Self-Help Section of a Barnes & Noble

11. The Self-Help Section of a Barnes & Noble

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

The Self-Help Section of a Barnes & Noble

Seek truth and you will find a path.

~Frank Slaughter

It was in the middle of Barnes & Noble sometime in 2009 when I realized what had happened to me. It was a terrifying, sickening, and nauseating experience as my fingers traced the words of a girl retelling her account of being molested by her grandmother. I coughed up tears and vomit. The writer’s words caused a revelation; what used to be memories of normalcy turned into nightmares of betrayal.

I always wondered why my other grandma never helped me take a bath. I felt disgusting and guilty. I had been so close with this woman, and I had done nothing to stop her. Tears of pain and confusion ran down my face, collecting on the pages of this book I had discovered in the self-help section. I do not remember the title or the author, but simply the story I had randomly flipped to. I wasn’t even there for myself! I went there to find answers for my family… my dad… my brother.

It felt as if I were wavering somewhere between self-pity and self-hate. I felt naïve for not seeing the red flags: the promiscuous behavior, the nudity, the affection… the bathtub… the locked door. My perpetrator was untouchable, so I looked for someone to blame. I wanted to blame organized religion because, coincidentally, she was a preacher’s wife whose congregation always marveled at how she “walked the talk.” I wanted to blame my father for sacrificing my brother and me to the hands of that sadistic woman. I chose to blame both.

Distancing myself from my father wasn’t that difficult since my parents were already separated. I became cold-hearted and numb, convicting this man guilty by association. My respect for him had died along with that innocent little girl, and angry outbursts became more frequent. He still managed to remain in my life, offering meals and shopping sprees as peace treaties. I welcomed his materialistic apology, forcing it to dress my wounds. But it wasn’t until recently that he truly attempted to attend to my scars. He opened up to me about his past pains during a summer visit to his then-home in Florida, breaking the dam that held back the years of trauma.

I finally realized that he would have never wished his heartache upon me. He, too, was once a helpless little child. My heart melted as I watched my father crumble, crying out for help in the midst of his emotional shipwreck. It was in this moment that I wholeheartedly relinquished all blame toward my father. I loved this man, his faults and shortcomings, his mistakes and fears. I understood that his troubled soul was incapable of protecting my brother and me because he was still chained to the burdens of his childhood. I didn’t blame him; I couldn’t.

Some days it is still hard to live with myself as the product of molestation, but God works in miraculous ways. I never thought that I would be able to talk about it because I was always afraid; maybe no one would believe, or maybe they would make it into a joke, or maybe someone would blame me for what happened. Although I haven’t truly forgiven my abuser, I can forgive myself for the pain I inflicted upon my own skin as I dealt with this horrible truth; I can forgive my father for allowing the cycle to continue into the next generation; I can forgive organized religion for sometimes harboring fugitives in their congregations because evil exists everywhere and Christianity isn’t well-versed in background checks.

I can only hope that maybe these words are the ones some girl will trace in the middle of a Barnes & Noble self-help section, but this time knowing that she is not alone. I am praying that she salvages freedom and forgiveness from the destruction.

~Kalie M. Eaton

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