I am a survivor. My true story is about what it is like to have been almost murdered and have a second chance at life. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone. Throughout time, it has been taboo to share a story like mine. I have grappled with a secret that America has kept buried for a very long time. I know about a hidden crime committed against me by the person whom I loved most dearly in the world: my sister. She nearly killed me in my own home. I want to share what haunts my every footstep, what follows me across the journey of my life.
Many adult survivors of sibling abuse are in various stages of recovery. I am one of them. Recovery from my childhood has not been easy. I often struggled to construct new perspectives upon a beginning foundation of horror. Our government, police, and legal system never intervened on my behalf. The offenses done to me were never considered criminal. While our country is focusing on the vast increase in bullying, it fails to understand that bullying often begins in the American home. Abuse sustained by a sibling is often acted out through bullying. Children who are abused by a sibling will often send out victim signals to bullies, who will, in turn, abuse them.
I share my story to validate the lives of millions of adults who have been affected by sibling abuse. Exploring our childhoods and the loss caused by sibling abuse will be a paradigm shift. Inside all of us is a deep understanding of the way our childhoods should have been. The ability to convince our siblings to apologize, to love us, and to make right what they did to us may never happen in our lifetimes. This is our time to be heard. I want to be the voice for those who cannot speak and for those who never had the courage to speak. My greatest hope is that other adults come out from wherever they are and tell their stories of sibling abuse.
I also desire to spare many children in the present generation the agony I and countless others endured. Sometimes at night, when I am gently lifted from sleep, I hear the screams and anguish of child victims of sibling abuse. When the lights of their bedrooms are turned off, a thousand lightbulbs break in my mind. They were once little dreamers who lived in the land of play and fantasy. These innocent children became the prey of an abusive sibling.
Science tells us we're all part of one vast family. It is time for us to create a new standard for sibling relationships. If we can make an empowering attack on sibling abuse, we will create a stunning new group portrait of the ultimate family gathering. It is time for intervention and prevention strategies for those who need and deserve our concern: our children.
My personal story starts on the innocent plane of my childhood and merges into the heightened complexity of my teenage years. Writing the book made me go back through the door of my childhood. Yet this time I had more perspective and the safe armor of adulthood. Even so, sharing the experiences of my life and the family members who inhabited it feels terrifying. My siblings and my family do not want me to divulge what happened. However, if I give in to their requests, I will have killed my narrative before I have started. I must tell this story; I want to tell the truth. For too long, out of fear and self-protection, I too was a part of the sibling abuse cover-up. My silence must stop. Standing before the world, naked and revealing all of my tattoos of dysfunction, is my only option. Honor is very important to me, and I will not feel honorable if I do not come forward. The overlearned lesson of my childhood was to not speak. Upholding human rights for adults who have survived and children who are presently subjected to sibling abuse is worth speaking out and fighting for.
As a result of sibling abuse, part of me has never grown up, making the adult perspective of seeing the world foreign to me. I have never lost my sense of being a child. As an adult, I have a parallel mental existence with the young child I once was. She was born on the same day of the same year that I was born. She always arrives from a place beyond time and the boundaries of this world. We meet and leave each other, time after time, year after year. A specific moment of her arrival never happened. One moment she was not there, and then she was. She is my dearest, most treasured friend, and she has never reached adulthood. Through many of the moon's phases, she has accompanied me. She has a child's soul and never ages. I am the one who ages and lives on Earth. She lives in my imagination and is a coping mechanism that helps me assemble the sprawling pieces of my life's puzzle. She has kept me sane. The English language has no word to describe her. In African and Caribbean cultures, she inhabits my juju, the mystical interior of my soul. We live in separate worlds but share a strong bond of psychic duality.
At times she is a ghost. Her outline can appear against a riverbank, a snow mound, a sharp rock, or thin linen sheets on a clothesline. I see her tiny body in windows, peering out at me. She is a true activist and can put posters on telephone poles and bulletin boards so fast the posters blossom. In her tiny hands she carries leaflets and desperately wants to disseminate information. Her core is that of a crusader.
For many years I wasn't aware that the little girl followed me. I was deaf to the way the wind collected her voice and scattered it across time. She has always been at the waterline of my thoughts. Her voice haunts me. At times, it can rise and fall inside me like the strong beat of water against the hull of a ship. My inner excitement at any moment with her is palpable. I am grateful to have been led at the right instant to the spot where she appears. The frame she is on is perfect. I quickly set up a tripod and click the camera shutter. I will have no second chance, no second exposure. At any moment I can lose the vision of her. I am in rapt attention of her precious image. Cropping or adjusting tone and color isn't required. Each moment with her is seized for what should never be erased. Each picture of her is a step she took in innocence and that I experience as insight. A riot of intense emotions beats in her breast, and she is fluent in poetry. A lyrical voice comes from her, with numerous metaphors. Her poems are integral for me to share this story. Overintellectualization obscures her instinctual nature. She possesses a powerful, enduring energy. This little girl is my muse.
Many times I have attempted to write my story. One day I swept all the handwritten pages into a sink of water. They floated upon the water's twitching surface. I didn't think anyone would care about sibling abuse. Hours later, when I tried to retrieve the pages, they had bloated and every word had blurred. Writing is very difficult for me. It is like looking into an inky bottle with a narrow top. I don't want to be pulled back into the past with no escape for my psyche. The memories I have housed have not washed away from my heart and soul. I fear that these memories will trap me in the sands of the hourglass of my life. Parts of me are broken and afraid. But when the little girl is with me, the boulders of life appear like pearls and roll away. I am empowered and guided to write. Her tiny hands steady the rotted rungs of the shaky ladder as I descend to a long-ago childhood. I think of her as a daughter, and each time I write, I labor and push out more of her.
In spite of the pain that reliving my past causes me, I am both willing and committed. I must step out into the open riverbank and become vulnerable. I stand exposed to strangers. Sibling abuse created such devastation in the flow of my life, like Satan's own nostril rose from hell, blowing out a poisonous, killing joke and coating miles along the shores of my life with rubble and broken dreams.
©2013. Nancy Fox-Kilgore, MS. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Girl in the Water. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.