Dating a Ninja–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–September 1991, part 5

I was Peter’s first girlfriend.  I told him I hadn’t dated in high school, either.

I had a boyfriend in Kindergarten, and I would have dated a certain guy in high school if my mom hadn’t told me not to date before I turned 16.  Another boy had a huge crush on me, but never told me until 20 years later.  😛

But my dating life was so full of near-misses and crashes that I felt I could safely say Peter and I were in the same boat.  Soon after we started dating, I was disgusted with the girls who had refused to go out with Peter, because he was “the sweetest guy in the world.”

I don’t think it was this night, but another one soon after, when Peter and I somehow got on the subject of marriage in college.  I said I didn’t want to get married until after college, because I didn’t want to deal with babies and rent and work along with my studies.

He said, “I’m so glad to hear you say that, because I don’t even want to think of getting married before I graduate.”

It was great to be in perfect agreement on this.  Sure getting engaged before graduation was okay, but getting married that soon was a bad idea.  I didn’t expect to marry Peter, since I didn’t know him well enough to know what kind of a match we’d make.

He was glad I was a Christian.  He said, “In my high school, the only girls who I would even think of dating didn’t care a hoot about God.”

He didn’t want an easy girl, but rather someone like me.  We had many other things in common as well.  In our differences we seemed to complement each other.  (Of course, there were differences I didn’t even know about yet, and ones that should’ve been a warning sign but weren’t.)

One evening, soon after we started going out, we met a couple in the Commuter Suite and talked with them a while.  Peter said, “No fooling, everything she likes, I like, and everything I like, she likes.”  He went on and on about what a great relationship we had.

He claimed to have ESP.  At least once or twice, I thought about asking him a question; before I said a word, he heard my question, and answered it.

He said his ESP seemed to suddenly get stronger when he hit the age of 18.  (He would turn 19 in December.)  Last Halloween, he had even detected some shady characters’ thoughts as they planned something bad, I believe a drug deal.  He told the police as an anonymous caller, and they ended up busting these people.

He claimed to be able to transmit telepathic messages to people.  Peter said he would imagine the person’s face, but he had to picture it perfectly or else it wouldn’t work.

He didn’t just make up this concept: I read about this very thing in an old book on ESP which I found in the Roanoke library while researching a paper.

Of course, whether or not he could really do it, I can’t possibly say, but at the time I believed anything he said.

Even though he had, as he would term it, a tendency of making the air blue (that means, cussing) before he met me, Peter didn’t like his habit, and didn’t like excessive cussing in movies.

I believe Peter said he was a third-degree black belt in ninjitsu, that he had trained secretly for the past five years with a man who was one of the only ninjas in all of America.

He had become a third-degree black belt through a series of secret tests which he couldn’t describe to me, but which were very taxing and needed great skill to successfully complete.

He said other ninjas liked to hide what they were, so you could know one without even knowing he or she was a ninja.

But Peter was proud of it, and wanted to tell anyone–except his parents.  They didn’t know about his trainer, still thought it was just a phase.

He showed me some of his ninja moves, too.

As a ninja, he learned mind tricks as well as martial arts.  For example, though in a ninja movie the ninjas actually disappeared, he said that wasn’t what happened:

Ninjas were trained to use their minds to make themselves seem to be invisible; I believe it had to do with erasing your own feeling of importance, or something like that.

One day in the library, he used this invisibility on me, and he was quite successful.  I didn’t even know he was doing it.  I was going through some books and then all of a sudden, he was there.  I didn’t see or hear him walk up to me, or anything.

One day, some guy at Roanoke challenged him to a fight.  I believe they met in the Wehr Center one night.  Peter showed up in his ninja gear, and freaked the guy out.  Either Peter won, or he won by default when the other guy backed down.

I especially loved that Peter was a Christian ninja.  I remember thinking during one of the American Ninja movies that he could be a good influence on other ninjas.  I was proud of him.

Though at first I thought ninjitsu was this evil occult thing that no Christian should ever get involved in, Peter soon persuaded me that it wasn’t evil and that he wasn’t into the occult.  He did believe in karma, though.  He got upset when movies and TV shows said that ninjas were assassins; he said this wasn’t true.

In the beginning, I trusted him completely, not imagining that my own boyfriend could lie to me.  I knew he lied to other people, but he insisted that he would never lie to me.

You might recall him telling Shawn he was a ninja; he told everyone he knew.  But later that year, some people doubted that he was really a ninja, wondering if it was possible for Americans to be ninjas.

Ninjitsu is a legitimate martial art which even Americans can learn.  It’s not the movie version with all its myths; you don’t have to be a spy or assassin; it does involve mind control, though I don’t know the actual extent of it.

All I know is what Peter told me, which I have included here, and what you can find at the sites I linked.  Here is another article on real-life ninjitsu, not movie ninjas, which has links on the spiritual aspect of ninjitsu.  Also see here.]

As for how I felt about the spiritual aspect of ninjitsu, with karma and meditation and yoga and the like: Since I was raised Fundamentalist, I saw this as spiritually dangerous, an element of Eastern mysticism which no Christian should get involved in.

But dating a ninja seemed really cool, and this was my first serious boyfriend after years of not dating.  So I let infatuation get the better of me, and Peter convinced me that these things were okay.

Still, I stayed away from them myself–except, of course, for the Link.  (I go into the Link and other psychic aspects of Peter’s ninjitsu, in the next chapter.)

Peter had a K– accent, which was distinctive from the S– accent, but still strong.  He thought the S– accent was funny, so it wasn’t quite as strong as that, but it was a lot different from mine and took some getting used to.

He came up with the term “Roanoke’s Revenge,” which was, as Shawn had so delicately termed it, the Hershey Squirts.  This was the effect the food often had on people.

We discovered that we both went to the same SEED Day, both took our tests in the same room in Chase, and could have been in the same room at the same time!

Peter told me that he visited Indiana once for a family reunion.  He eventually got thirsty and asked where to find a bubbler.  Of course, most Hoosiers have probably never heard of a bubbler, and he didn’t think to use the terms “water fountain” or “drinking fountain,” so the person couldn’t figure out what he meant.  “I finally had to draw a picture of it,” he said, irritated.

Peter and I both loved BBS’s.  For those who don’t know, BBS’s were the 80s equivalent of the Internet.

But you had maybe one line, it was DOS-based, and all you could do was post messages in the forums, send e-mail to people who used the BBS, download files, play simple games, and occasionally chat with the Sysop.

You couldn’t send e-mail across the Internet to people who lived across the country, surf the Web, or any of that other stuff we can do these days.

I loved finding someone else who knew what a BBS was.  I’d been playing around on such things ever since my dad first got a modem in about 1985 or 1986.

It’s often said that you should argue once in a while to get everything out in the open and not have resentments festering underneath the surface.  But Peter and I noted in those first couple of months that we never argued because we never had anything to argue about.  We probably thought we never would, either.  We had no resentments festering underneath the surface.

Peter thought getting drunk and smoking were both stupid things to do.  He tried smoking a cigar or cigarette once, but it made him so sick that he threw up.  He didn’t want to get in trouble for drinking underage, so he would only drink alcohol if his parents gave it to him.

He surprised me by saying underage drinking was legal in Wisconsin if your parents gave it to you, and I doubted this because it wasn’t legal under any circumstances in Indiana.  But I later learned it was true.

But even when they did give it to him, he didn’t want it because it made him sick.  His parents teased him, but he just didn’t want to drink it.

Peter and I saw the sad state of editing in each week’s issue of the Mirror, the school newspaper: Typos were everywhere.  Peter told me, “They need you as a proofreader!”

In the first few weeks, Peter would speak of a future wife (I forget the context), and I didn’t expect it to be me, but some shadowy figure off in the distant future.  At that time, I didn’t expect us to be together forever.

It would be nice, I thought, but I remembered that many relationships didn’t turn into love.  I also cherished those early weeks as they happened, realizing that one day I would be looking back on them fondly, wanting to relive them.

One thing I did not let myself do with Peter was say “I love you” before he did.  I’d heard that guys get scared off if the girl says it first.  And, well, I just didn’t feel it yet, anyway, and I wasn’t about to say it without feeling it.

I had always considered love to mean marriage: If you loved someone, you had found “the one.”  If it wasn’t “the one,” then you could never feel anything but infatuation.

Peter told me I was just the kind of girl he had always imagined himself being with, right down to my long, dark hair–and that he had dreamed about me before he met me, except that in the dream I had shadowy, indistinct features.  So he called me his dream girl.


On the 25th during a German Suite meeting in the Muskie conference room, somebody said before I arrived, “Isn’t it great about Peter and Nyssa?”

Candice told Heidi the various dating terms: “Dating” is the most casual type, “seeing each other” means you have a girl/boyfriend but you’re allowed to see other people, and “going out” means you’re an exclusive couple and can’t date anybody else.

This is also the first time I heard the various classifications. I don’t know if they were used in my high school, but they were used here in Wisconsin, so that’s what I went by when I began dating.

By that day, it was understood between Peter and me that we were “going out.”  And now I was to meet his parents.  Tom said when I mentioned it during the suite meeting, “These kids these days move so fast.”

Peter didn’t understand why I was so nervous.  But I got him back for it a few weeks later, when I had him meet my parents, who came up for a visit.  Then he discovered why I felt so nervous.

The first meeting went well.  We had dinner at Peter’s house.  I liked his parents.  And, most importantly, Peter’s parents liked me, which was reassuring.

Peter told me to never mention his ninjitsu to his parents.  He never told them about it, and they just laughed at his ninja stuff, thinking it was a phase he would soon pass out of.  I did tell my own parents, though.

Before one of the first dinners I ever ate with Peter’s parents, they told me they were having hot tamales.  I didn’t know what a hot tamale was, but I knew it was Mexican, so I expected hot spices and maybe even taco shells.

I remembered when I had once eaten something Mexican and strong, and ended up with heartburn because I didn’t include enough cold stuff like lettuce and cheese.

(Since my dad couldn’t eat Mexican food, my mom never made it, so I didn’t know I was supposed to put that stuff on it to prevent heartburn.)

Dinner was served.  To my surprise, the hot tamales were on buns.  They looked like sloppy joes, but they were supposed to be Mexican hot tamales, not sloppy joes, so I figured looks were deceiving.  I put some cheese and lettuce on mine, and began to eat.

Wait a minute, this was sloppy joes!

I don’t remember if I removed the cheese or lettuce.  But I must have mentioned my confusion, because Peter’s dad said that hot tamales and sloppy joes were the same thing.

I said I had expected something quite different, like Mexican food, and that explained to them why I put cheese and lettuce on it (which struck them as strange).


Peter’s mom used to be a Catholic nun, until she had bad experiences which I won’t go into.  His dad was Lutheran.  Neither church recognized their marriage; Peter was considered a bastard, even though his parents were legally married.  They wanted to find a new church, so I hoped they’d like the Nazarene church.

Peter’s mom hated hunting and called hunters killers.  Once over Thanksgiving Break, as we all drove along we saw a truck with a bunch of orange-clad deer hunters sitting on the back of it.  I think it was a pickup.  Peter’s mom joked that they had to keep their butts warm.

I had never seen deer hunters in their gear before: No one went hunting inside South Bend, after all.  This was my first exposure to Wisconsin deer hunting season, and I now discovered the fervor the natives had for it.

Peter hated this season because you had to keep a sharp eye out for eyes in your headlights when driving at night.  There were a lot of car accidents because of deer running into the road to get away from hunters.

Peter’s friends asked him for permission to hunt in his parents’ woods, but he refused because of his mother.  They especially didn’t want to worry about bullets being shot around the house.

Peter didn’t share his mother’s views–hunting kept the deer population low enough that they wouldn’t starve over the winter–but he didn’t want to hunt, himself.

In South Bend, a picture of a hunter with his prize deer on the front page of the newspaper, inspired angry letters to the editor about murder being glorified.  In Wisconsin, such pictures are perfectly normal and inspire no such letters, at least not that I’ve seen.

In 2015, a story of a wounded hunter went viral on Facebook, and brought in all sorts of comments that the deer should’ve finished the job.  This horrified the reporter, because she was born and raised in Wisconsin, where hunting is a normal, accepted part of the culture.  She could not understand where the vicious comments came from.  She just naturally expected people to sympathize with the hunter.

This episode showed me just how different Wisconsin and Indiana really are.

Peter’s mom was a beautiful, slim woman with cat-eyes and hair which was naturally black, but dyed red.  It was wild and frizzy and at least shoulder-length.

I never could figure out if I should call her by her first or last name, but I didn’t feel comfortable calling her by her first name.  So I avoided using any name when speaking to her.

She loved to joke, was kind of weird and was rather flighty, making her fun to be around.

Peter’s dad worked for a local factory (which shall remain nameless) which shipped its products all over the country.  He often got home around 3 or 4pm.  Since his wife, who occasionally did substitute teaching for eighth graders, also got home early, dinner was often at 4:30.

This seemed very early and strange to me; my parents got home much later and had dinner around 6.  Yet even Roanoke’s dinner started at 4:30, and some people went that early, so I eventually got used to dinner at 5 or 5:30.

I wondered if it was a Wisconsin thing to have such early dinners.  It is possible, since I later learned that local businesses often started and ended an hour earlier than did similar businesses in South Bend.

For example, in Wisconsin office hours tended to be around 8am-4pm, while in South Bend they tended to be around 9am-5pm.  A later boyfriend, who spent the summer in South Bend with my family, told me that factories in S– ran their shifts an hour earlier than South Bend factories ran theirs.

South Bend did not do Daylight Savings back then and was on Eastern time for much of the year; Wisconsin was always on Central Time.  Businesses on Central Time often start and end an hour earlier to be in sync with Eastern-Time businesses on the East Coast (see here).

It could also be because Wisconsin is traditionally a farming/dairy state, with so many people on “farmer’s hours.”

Peter’s dad was more down-to-earth than his wife.  He was also a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers.  I didn’t yet know about Wisconsin’s cult-like following of the Packers, or cheesehead hats (which I think came about in the 90s).

On one of their first dates, or maybe it was their very first date, a little girl saw Peter’s parents sitting in a car.  The girl pointed them out to someone and said, “They’re going to get married.”

It was only three days later (or three weeks, I forget which) that they did get married!  (Of course, I don’t recommend this.  I won’t go into it, but they should have waited.)

Peter’s little, German-styled farmhouse had two dogs, one little one named Petey though she was a female, and one big one, a sheepdog, I think he was.  He was a sweet-tempered, older dog, and not too bright.  Petey may have been a pug.

If anyone in the family paid attention to anyone else but her, human or animal, for even a few minutes, she gave them an upset look, like, “How can you pay her attention and not me?  You have betrayed me!”

There were cats: Misha, two kittens to which Peter tried to give the names “Yin” and “Yang” but which were generally called Boy Kitty and Girl Kitty, and Foxy.

Foxy was a beautiful kitten with red patches or stripes.  Misha was a Siamese; she may have been blue.  And outside the house, there were lots of barn cats.

The inside pets loved me, and kept wanting me to pet them.  One of the kittens would get up in my lap and put her front paws on my chest.  I think Foxy was my favorite.

Peter told me one night that I had hypnotized the sheepdog.  His big, furry, white head sat in my lap, and I just sat there petting it as he gazed up at me adoringly.

I didn’t realize before that I held a special attraction for cats.  I eventually learned that it wasn’t just Peter’s cats or my cat Hazel, but cats in general.  And, well, though I didn’t try it out as often, dogs apparently loved me, too.

Misha was a terror who wouldn’t allow even the family to pet her without trying to slice their hands off.  Peter’s mom said she must have been dropped on her head at birth.  Her name was short for not Mitsubishi, but Mitsu-bitchy.

But one evening, as Peter and I sat in his room talking, he noticed that Misha kept coming to the door and looking at me.  He said, “I think Misha has a crush on you.”

Either that night or a following night, she even came up to me and wanted petting!  She shocked the whole household.

They told me I tamed her, since after that she even began warming up to the rest of the family, and let them pet her occasionally.

If I pet her for too long she might try to slice at me, and once she even scratched my hand or face (which made Peter go ballistic), but usually we were good friends.

Whenever all these pets were fed, Peter’s mom would fill up a big bowl and call to them.  They would all rush to the bowl, crowd together, and chow down.  She called it feeding time at the zoo.  I loved seeing the kitties, which gave me my cat fix.  I often needed one, and really missed Hazel, but pets weren’t allowed at school.

Peter’s mom painted, and the walls by the stairs were covered with her pictures and Peter’s childhood pictures.  One day, she gave me a picture she had drawn of me!

It was good, if maybe a bit off, on a piece of stiff brown canvas (maybe cardboard), and I believe it was colored with crayons or colored pencil.  She even noted where exactly I parted my hair, and the little curls near the part on the side with less hair.


By the way, there is a mythical “Freshman 15” pounds which college students supposedly gain as freshmen.  But with me, those Freshman 15 were lost, not gained.  There was something about the food and the exercise of walking from place to place.

One day, Peter’s mom opened up the suite door to find Frank and Heidi kissing!  They jumped apart and then one or both of them disappeared down the upstairs walkway in an embarrassed hurry.

They seemed to be trying to keep their “special” relationship secret, since they didn’t talk about it to the rest of us in the suite.  Nothing much came of it, though.  I don’t know when or why or how it ended so well that they were still friends, but sometime in probably the fall semester, it did just that.

One night, Peter parked the stickshift car and went inside a gas station.  As I sat in the car waiting, the parking brake went out and the car began to roll backwards!  I jumped into the driver’s side and pushed the brake.  When Peter came out and found out what had happened, he felt horrible.

Maybe in the first week or two of dating, I found my interest in Peter beginning to wane.  It was very strange.  I had liked him, but now, all of a sudden, it seemed that I didn’t, not that way.  I thought about asking him if we could just be friends.  But I waited it out, and discovered it was only temporary.  It lasted maybe a few days at the most.

The campus had a lake, lagoon, and woods.  The long road out to the lake was gravel, turning that way just past the Wehr Center after having been paved up till that point.

A bridge led to an island on the lake.  A weeping willow tree was on the island.  I liked to watch the black waterbugs leap on the water between the island and the woods.

The lagoon, near Muehlmeier and Grossheusch Halls, was murky and rumored to be part of the septic system.  Though people were tempted to swim in the lake, nobody was tempted to swim in the lagoon.  Only geese ventured into it.  Of course you had to be careful of them; they were beautiful, but dangerous if you got too close.

On the 26th, Peter and I went wandering in the woods, and we went so far back that we found a path which led to the S– River.  There were pine trees all along that section.

We found out later that we had gone past the school’s grounds and onto private property.  I believe an article of the school newspaper tried to educate people on where the private property began.  If you reached the river, you had gone too far.  Later on, markers would be put up to show us where the private property line began.

On September 28, Peter took me to High Cliff Park.  It was beautiful, with its, of course, high cliffs and pathways through the woods.  There were even old, Indian ovens made of stone in one spot.  It was on the shores of Lake Winnebago.

I dressed warm for the hike, though we ended up tying our jackets around our waists, and found a walking stick along the way.

One of the trails had a small mound, too small to look like an Indian burial mound (like others at High Cliff Park), so we weren’t sure if it was one or not.  We sat on it to rest for a bit, which tells you how small it was.

There was another one much like it at the beginning of one of the trails in the woods on the Roanoke campus, so it’s hard to believe someone was buried in it.  Still, I never did find out what these tiny mounds were for or who made them.

Every time we passed somebody, Peter and that person would greet each other.  I kept doing double-takes and asking Peter,

“Do you know that person?”

“No,” he would say with a laugh.

Where I came from, nobody greeted complete strangers like that.  He explained that Wisconsin had so many small towns and wide-open spaces that people would often say hi to strangers just because it was hard to find anybody to talk to (or something like that).  I found this practice even in the mid-size city, Fond du Lac, I moved to later on.

Peter had brought some lunch for us to eat.  Unfortunately, the sandwiches were made of bologna and butter, an odd combination.  They weren’t awful, but they weren’t very good, either.  I teased him about using butter instead of mayonnaise.  He also realized his mistake, and took the teasing in the spirit it was intended.

On September 29, as Peter drove us back to school, I noted that neither of us had kissed anyone before.  Then I said,

“We’ll have to change that.”

Peter later told me that I pleasantly shocked him–and he was glad that I brought it up.

I mean, come on, Peter still hadn’t made a move on me, and we’d been dating for almost two weeks!  I kept fearing I’d die before I got my first kiss, even though I already had a boyfriend.

After the first date, kissing would have been okay, but we were long past that now and still nothing.

I kept thinking maybe he’d kiss me whenever we parted each night and he stood by the doorway of the suite with me, but no.

He told me later that he kept thinking about it but chickening out.  He also wanted our first kiss to be special.  I imagined a forest-surrounded terrace; he had another forest in mind.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:


Articles about abuse memoirs and abuse blogs: why we need to write them

Some years ago, Pump up the Volume inspired me to keep writing my truth.  This may have been back in the early 2000s, or it may have been in the mid-2000s, I don’t remember now.  Maybe even both.  As the reclusive main character said at the end,

I’m calling for every kid to seize the air. Steal it, it belongs to you. Speak out, they can’t stop you. Find your voice and use it. Keep this going. Pick a name, go on air.

It’s your life, take charge of it. Do it, try it, try anything. Spill your guts out and say sh** and fu** a million times if you want to, but you decide. Fill the air, steal it. Keep the air alive. TALK HARD!!!!

As I wrote in Narcissistic Webs:

I hope this will be cathartic, get the truth out, so that I can heal from what has emotionally and spiritually traumatized me.  I hope to make it (and my private account) a repository for all the hurt, pain, anger and bitterness, so that I can transfer it out of my heart.

I have dealt with previous abusive situations in this way, putting them into writing and then posting them on the Web, and it has been largely successful in helping me move on past those times.

I feel that if I just make it vanish, hide the story, it will do no more good than it did with my previous abuse stories.

For example, right after college I began writing College Memoirs, which were a combination of good things and life during that time, and the terrible things that happened with guys who used and abused (I hesitate to refer to them as “men”).

I was going to publish them, but feared libel suits, so I began putting the stories into my fiction instead.

But since the demands of fiction are that you don’t put your own life stories into your stories exactly as they occurred, or else your stories will appear pieced together like Frankenstein, I didn’t feel like my stories of abuse were quite dealt with yet.

I also read an article in Writer’s Digest about writing and publishing abuse stories, and the healing it can bring….So I posted a public version of my College Memoirs, first in e-mails to friends, then on a Myspace blog, then on my website.

Even though they don’t get many hits, the stories have been read by some, and in the past several years, I feel myself finally moving past these things that happened 15-20 years ago.  They are on the Webpages now and don’t have to be carried around inside me.

I also have a full account of what happened in this particular case, but it is so personal and private that I keep it locked away from anyone but myself.  Just as with the College Memoirs, I have a personal and a private version.

My hope is that this blog will have the same effect as those public Memoirs.  It has been said many times that the abused need to get their stories out into the open, not hide them for fear of “airing dirty laundry,” because that just victimizes them further.

Some people don’t “get” the concept of writing your abusive experiences into blogs or printed memoirs.  Maybe those people are not writers.  Or maybe they’ve never been abused or bullied.

Also, remember that Nellie Olson, in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, was a real person–or rather, a few real people–but her last name was changed because she was still living at the time.

Here are some articles to explain this to others who don’t understand, or to help you in your own writing:

Why would anyone want to read about another person’s horrible childhood?  One reason: Because our stories are bigger than ourselves.

I read other people’s memoirs to feel less alone than I felt when I was growing up. I felt absolutely alone–cut off and different from the rest of humanity. I wrote my own story to extend that same hand to others. –Sara McGrath, Why do we write these misery memoirs?


Why do people read, or write, unhappy autobiographies and memoirs? A simple answer to both questions is therapy, or more accurately, bibliotherapy.

Bibliotherapy…describes the act of reading selected works for the purpose of healing a personal issue, such as a history of child abuse. –Sara McGrath, Child Abuse Memoirs and Autobiographies


And that’s when I finally ‘got it’, allowing me to forgive and let it go…for good! Freeing my soul of resentment and anger, allowing me to see exactly why things happened and the reasons, but most importantly, making me realize ALL those supposedly ‘negative’ experiences made ME the person I see standing in the mirror today.

And you know what? I truly like that person…now. –Lisa Vaughn, Who Writes Memoirs Anyways?


As I was writing Don’t Mind Me I could feel a sense of relief that I was getting my experiences down on paper; the act of writing the book was cathartic for me and it lessened the power of traumatic memories over me.

I’d thought the treatments of ECT would have wiped away many memories but I found no difficulty in recalling events and writing about them really helped me to let go of the past….

Since my book has been published there are members of my birth family who do not speak to me – so intense is their disapproval.  Though sad at the break up of my birth family, I do not regret writing and publishing my book. –Judith Haire, On Memoirs: Writing About Abuse and Difficult Topics


Do not allow your perpetrators to silence you.

Many well meaning Christians who have “forgiven” their predators say that the events are also forgotten. If they were, you would not remember them, to share them with others.

Many well meaning people are discouraged to tell their story because they fear that their perpetrator will be offended, or hurt if your expose the truth.

Well, here is some truth for you. The perpetrator that you are covering for, may have actually committed these acts on someone else, and your forgiveness and selective forgetfulness i.e, fear of rocking the boat could be what helps them continue to recommit felonies- child sexual abuse, molestation, rape etc, on someone else’s child including their own.

I am not telling you to take them to court and put them in jail if that is not your desire and it has been twenty years. I talk about my thoughts about court in Taking The Stand.

However, their feelings should not play a part in you telling the truth about your own trauma. Families have silenced themselves for years, and perpetrators’ actions have lived on generation to generation. —How to Tell Your Story


Drawing upon my years of working with people who are healing trauma, in my book The Power of Memoir I discuss the importance for a victim of abuse and trauma to write down what really happened as a testimony to the injustices suffered.

I quote Alice Miller’s work on how important it is to be witnessed with compassion and understanding for the injuries suffered. When we are witnessed, we are no longer alone. Writing offers us witnessing—as we tell the story of how we suffered and coped. As a writer-narrator, we are witnessing ourselves and healing the past.

The studies on writing as healing by psychologists and brain experts all underscore the need to write your stories, to search for and tell the truth. How healing it is to hear your own authentic voice! And when you’re ready, you can share your story so others can learn from your experiences. –Linda Joy Myers, Jaycee Lee Dugard–Her Memoir as Survival Testimony


The silence that protects victims also protects perpetrators.  Victims have important reasons for hiding the things that happened to them. There is the stigma of shame, often made worse because the victim is made to feel responsible. And there is the risk of angering the perpetrator.

Until the memoir age, many wounded people have never felt empowered to share their stories. Now more people are telling and more listening.

In my optimistic vision, I see memoirs tearing down walls, and I feel a surge of hope like the crowds who were swinging sledge hammers in the final hours of the Berlin Wall. –Jerry Waxler, Fearlessly Confessing the Dark Side of Memory in this Memoir of Sexual Abuse


Pennebaker also wrote that repeatedly confronting an upsetting experience through writing allows for a less emotionally laden assessment of its meaning and impact.

Once organized, events become smaller and smaller and therefore easier to deal with. Writing moves us to resolution; it becomes psychologically complete and therefore there’s no need to ruminate about it beyond the trauma. –Catherine McCall, Writing and Healing

The August 2006 issue of Writer’s Digest had an article, “Spilling Secrets,” which encouraged me to post my college memoirs online, even though there are stories about abuse in those memoirs.  For years, I had been trying to deal with those demons from abuse and bullying by putting those stories into my fiction.  But it just wasn’t quite the same thing.

Then I read in this article about Kathryn Harrison, who tried to deal with her past incestuous relationship with her father in fiction, but ended up with writer’s block.  Then she realized she had betrayed herself by first writing about this as fiction, and that she needed to break the silence.  After convincing her editor to publish this memoir, The Kiss, she began to write it.

And once she finally got it all down on paper and published, her writer’s block was long gone: She wrote eleven more books, “including two more memoirs.”

She says,

One of the solaces that art can offer you is the chance to make something out of what’s hurt you.  You can objectify an experience, put it on paper, craft it and shape it.  There’s perhaps an illusory control over it.  But it is significant….

You’re taking this trauma and turning it into something else, as if it were this great mass of clay that you threw down on a potter’s wheel and started pushing around to making [sic] something out of it.

The writer of the article, Sandra Hurtes, writes,

If you get squeamish at the thought of making the personal public, ask yourself what’s stopping you….

If you, too, are concerned with outing those who harmed you, the words “bear witness to the truth” might cast a new perspective on your dilemma.

In her book Writing as a Way of Healing, author Louise DeSalvo suggests asking yourself who your loyalty is for and what truth you want to bear witness to.

A letter to the editor about this article, by Ruth Pealer, published in the April 2007 issue, said,

I believe most writers, if not all, write for therapeutic reasons….

I think if you can ask yourself why you need to write, it’ll release you from your personal demons, and you’ll progress further in your writing career…

There will be people who object to your writing, and it’s up to you to keep writing regardless.  I’ve noticed memoir writing has become popular in recent years.  Why is that happening?  Perhaps it’s because our society has become more secretive, more abusive or has become a riskier place to live.

As written by Brent Staples in his review of The Kiss,

Younger novelists have joined the memoir trend. But hard-core traditionalists have denounced it as a blight on literature and a turn toward self-indulgence and exhibitionism.

This is curious indeed, given that novels and memoirs are often so closely related as to be interchangeable. First novels in particular are often no more than thinly veiled personal histories.

In addition, the best memoirs use fictional techniques — and could easily pass for novels if the writers wanted to call them that. In other words, what distinguishes many memoirs from fiction is that memoirs own up to being true….

For Mr. Gass, biography is only acceptable when produced by some mythical neutral observer. He sees memoirs as “tainted with conceit” and the impulse to preen for posterity.

But novelists suffer this ailment as well. Even the most respected of them have kidnapped enemies into their pages, trashing spouses, lovers and rivals — while hiding behind the label of fiction.

Memoir writers drop the pretense, which makes the narrative more honest and often more compelling….

It has become popular to dismiss memoir as a way of peddling misery to a voyeuristic public. But what’s at play here is a prejudice that regards fiction as more literary than nonfiction narrative writing.

That may have been true in other times, but given the stylistic kinship that now links novels and memoirs, that prejudice is no longer supportable.

(No, don’t trust the blurb at the beginning of novels that this book is not based on real people, living or dead.  That’s just a legal thing to fend off libel suits.  Libel suits are a common problem for writers.)

As written in the description of an Oprah episode about Mackenzie Phillips:

After 31 years of secrecy, Mackenzie says she had to tell her story for herself and others like her.

“In the finding redemption and freedom for myself, maybe I’m going to be giving a little piece of it to somebody else to hold onto,” she says. “Having this type of story, and still being here to tell the tale, tells me that I’m still here for a reason.” —Mackenzie Phillips’ Family Secret


The bottom line is that speaking up about abuse is rarely easy. It is one of the hardest things you may ever do.

But, you need to be brave and speak up anyway. 

If you remain quiet and never speak up, this abuser will most likely abuse you or someone else again. You could prevent this. You definitely will not if you remain silent.

If you keep this abuse within yourself and suffer in silence, you will never truly heal. Talking about what happened to you, is part of the healing process.

When you speak up about abuse, you encourage other people to speak up and they are more able to heal their pain.

Abuse needs to end and it may not end in our lifetime. However, by us speaking up about our abuse, we can begin to heal within and prevent others from being abused. –Joanne Cipressi, Be Brave to speak up if you were abused

Wikipedia article on the “Misery Lit” genre

Misery Lit is in Good Company

(Though, of course, it can be said that blogging is more authentic than misery lit, which can be seen as peddling misery to line the publisher’s pockets.  Bloggers often don’t make anything.)


But Glass says many readers identify with aspects of the stories. “I have had a lot of letters and emails from people since the publication, from adults who were abused as children. These people say they wept as they were reading it because it just took them back.

“One chap in his 50s who wrote to me had been as badly abused [as Jodie], if not worse. I’ve also had emails and letters from other foster carers who said, ‘Thank goodness you have told the story.'”

The psychologist and author Oliver James says that such readers, who recognise their own experience in the books, are likely to make up a much bigger proportion than we might like to think.

“Although it is true that on the whole, compared with 100 years ago, there are fewer people walking around who had a horrendous childhood, there are still a hell of a lot of people out there who have had neglect, maltreatment, physical and sexual abuse and cruelty inflicted on them. These narratives will provide them with an opportunity to identify, let’s say, with the various characters involved.” –Esther Addley, Guardian article on the recent rise of abuse literature

Why We Blog

What is the role of survivor stories in suicide prevention?

A closer look at why people blog


What all of the recent media attention to bullying has done is given untold numbers of victims—past and present—a voice to share their experiences, now that they finally realize that they are not alone. –Signe Whitson, Yes, We Are Talking About It More!


I’ve written through some hard times over the last twenty some years – divorce, a cancer scare and operation, a toxic relationship, and worst of all my son’s descent into drugs.

There were many days when I felt as if I had no control. I wrote because I needed to make a living, not realizing that writing through tough times is what gave me strength…and by doing that I gained composure and confidence to face the negatives that seemed to be swamping my own life story. –Elvira Woodruff, Writing and Healing: Five Stellar Strategies for Writing Through Tough Times


I do not want pity. I do not want you to feel ill about any of it.  I just want to exist somewhere, someplace where I am not told “get over it”, “shut-up”, “everyone has a bad life”.

I do not want to be an ugly stain, a throttled voice or a beaten soul.  I want to heal, if at all possible, I want closure for my life of such horrors and traumas. –Karen Placek, Foreword: An Independent Mind, Knot Logic

A commenter on the blog of Mikalee Byerman, who was threatened with a lawsuit for blogging about her divorce:

People blog about their lives, plain and simple…and this is your life. If writing this entertaining and resourceful blog helps you and others heal a little from a traumatic experience, where’s the harm in that?

This blog by Releasing Jessie discusses the purpose of writing a blog about her experiences with her narcissistic mother, and her fears of her mother finding it; in the comments, other bloggers share their own fears and reasons.

My Trip to Oz and Back is much like my own blogs, an account of two years spent by the writer with her girlfriend, which was actually a 50-page letter sent by the author to her ex-girlfriend.

That was in the late 90s, when the author had never heard of borderline personality disorder, so there had been no official diagnosis for her to point to.  But the more she learned about BPD, the more she knew her ex-girlfriend had it, so she posted this letter to help others who are dealing with someone with BPD.

It has been on the Web since 2003, and by November 2006 had received 53,000 hits.  As the author wrote on the main page,

Writing this was cathartic. It doubled as a form of therapy. I actually did send the letter; however, I doubt that it had much effect.  The more I learned about BPD, the more I realized that the likelihood of this person ever really understanding, was probably close to zero….

Why would I want to put such a personal document online?  There are several reasons. First, I wanted to give an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be in a relationship with a person with BPD. There are many books and websites on BPD, but relatively few from a significant other’s point of view.

Second, I am hoping that someone out there might read a bit and identify with it.  When one is in a difficult situation, sometimes just hearing about another person’s similar experience can be affirming–as in, “I’m not the only one.”

Finally, I consider myself a success story–see the final chapter, the epilogue.  My wish is to give hope to others.


Like me, the author changed names and identifying details.  This is to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.

It’s the most baffling part of Richard and Tracy threatening a lawsuit, because I never used and never intend to use their real names in these blogs–and anything I would tell my priest about this, would be the truth, and not in any way actionable.

Joyful Alive Woman also wrote about her abusive, narcissist, former female friend.

Mulderfan commented on a post,

FYI, a THERAPIST suggested I “piss and moan” on a blog as a way to rid myself of my demons. Its actually been a great way for me to meet other “volunteers” who, unlike you, validate my experiences.

My own abuse memoir starts here.


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