Category: healing from abuse

I want my abusers to apologize to me

Today I read a thread on Twitter explaining that most men have done something to make a woman uncomfortable, or have even assaulted her, without realizing it–like, for example, drunken hook-ups.  But it said NO!  Don’t track her down and apologize to her!  You’ll only re-traumatize her!  And you’re only doing it to absolve yourself!

WTF?

I want all my abusers–whether it involved mental, emotional, verbal, threatening, or sexual abuse, or sexual harassment–to track me down and apologize to me.

It’s not for him.  It’s for me.  It’s to hear from him that I did not deserve this, that it was all his fault.  It’s to make it easier for me to forgive him.  It’s to ease my mind from all the trauma and endless circles of thinking over the years that kept leading me back to the thought, Maybe I did something to deserve it.  Maybe I was the real abuser.

I posted on Twitter:

TBH, I’d love to hear an apology from various people who abused me in the past. It’s not to make *them* feel better, but to hear them finally say that I did not deserve what they did. That would be tremendously healing. I long to hear this from Richard/Tracy/Shawn/Phil.

I keep hearing people say “Don’t contact the person you abused to apologize! It’ll re-traumatize them!” But that is NOT the way I feel about it at all! I even try to friend them on Facebook, open the lines of communication, hoping to hear this from them.

I told Richard/Tracy on my blog that they can apologize to me. I long to hear this from all my abusers. I’ve heard a version of it from Phil, but he never mentioned the sexual abuse. Ex-bullies have apologized; I welcomed it and became friends with them on Facebook.

I finally got Shawn to friend me on Facebook a few days ago. I’ve tried for years. I hoped he would see who I really am and not the distortion he had in his head 30 yrs ago.

Years ago we reconciled, so I thought it was okay for us to contact each other, yet I’ve heard nothing from him for 15 years despite a few attempts over that time.  This friending on Facebook was important to me.

Two days later, he unfriended me without a word. I have no idea why.

Once again, it felt like that apology from him had escaped my grasp, like he still blamed me for everything, had still made me into a monster in his head, despite the reconciliation years ago.  And yet he was the one who did the abusing, based on a patriarchal view of relationships and a prejudice against introversion.  Phil and I also made peace with each other years ago, yet I still can’t get him to respond to me on Facebook just to find out how he is, make sure he’s still alive during COVID.  Meanwhile, I’ve been friends online with Peter for many years.  He messaged me recently to make sure I hadn’t gotten the plague.  I want to find out the same from my other exes.  Because no matter what they did 25 or 30 years ago, I still care.

This idea that abusers/rapists should not apologize–This is not universally held! I wonder how many of my abusers have held back from that apology I long for, because they’ve heard this.

Here’s someone else who welcomed that apology from her abuser years later: My abuser apologized, and I forgave him.

Another writer says that the #MeToo movement should demand apologies, that they are important to make the patriarchy start to crumble: Men need to stand up and apologize for sexual abuse, says Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler

A therapist explains how to properly make such an apology: Dear Therapist: Is it possible to apologize for a sexual assault?

In a way, seeing threads like the one I saw today, telling men to NEVER EVER track her down to apologize, feels like a new violation, a new invalidation of my feelings about past abuse.  It feels like yet another denial of those apologies I so crave, like I’m wrong to even want an abuser to apologize to me.  It’s good to do a quick Google search and see that no, I’m not wrong, that many people do actually feel the same way I do about apologies from abusers.

Danny reached out to me a few weeks ago for the first time in almost three decades to apologize, and I had no idea how much I needed to hear that from him.

Of course, an apology doesn’t change what Danny did to me and hearing it didn’t instantly wipe away the suffering I’ve experienced throughout my life because of it. However, Danny taking ownership of his actions, acknowledging how wrong they were and expressing his deep sorrow for what he did has helped to begin healing a wound I thought would never heal.

We aren’t sure where we go from here, but we are both better for having made contact again and the reconciliation that occurred as a result. My story is mine alone and every other survivor has their own personal tale to tell ― or not tell. That is up to them. And, if someone else’s abuser reaches out to ask for forgiveness, there should be no expectation that the survivor in that situation should accept the apology. Every experience and every survivor and every abuser is different and everyone needs to do what feels right to them.

However, Danny and I hope that as we as a nation continue to grapple with domestic violence, sexual assault and other incredibly personal and consequential traumas, our story might provide an example of what can happen when people take responsibility for their actions, even if it’s 30 years later. –Donna Thomas, My Abuser Contacted Me After 30 Years. Now We’ve Both Agreed To Tell Our Stories. We need to hear stories from men who have taken responsibility for their actions.

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Reflections on healing from abuse in the past decade

So I picked up Sunday’s newspaper and saw what looked like Richard sitting at a training session in Madison for the 2020 Trump campaign.  It was blurry, so it was hard to be sure, and I couldn’t find the picture on the newspaper’s website to make certain.  But it sure looked like him–same size, same hair, same head shape, glasses–and had me thinking–

Well, I could say what I thought, but let’s just say I’m disgusted at the idea of him helping that potential antichrist get re-elected.

The end of the decade has me thinking a lot about the beginning of the decade, and how it’s gone so lightning-fast that 2010 might as well have been yesterday.  The events are still so clear in my head–Heck, the events of 2000 still feel like yesterday as well.  Two decades have just flown by so fast that I feel like I stepped into a time machine that suddenly aged me 20 years without me even feeling it.

That’s the thing that scares me about aging: that I’m going to blink my eyes and be 66.  Then I’ll blink again and be dead.  If I’m going to be 50 in several years, couldn’t it at least FEEL like it’s been 50 years, rather than maybe 25?  A century doesn’t sound so long anymore.

Things that happened in college are finally starting to feel like a Long Time Ago, at least.

But what a decade!  It feels like the late 90s and 00s were me starting to process and resolve what happened to me in college, along with a huge amount of religious questioning and revamping.

The 10s have been me processing and resolving the narcissistic abuse that Richard and his wife committed on me, along with the narc, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse I witnessed them commit on others including their own children.

In the midst of this, thanks to Facebook, I’ve discovered that my abusive ex’s behavior can all be blamed on his own diagnosed mental illnesses and narcissism–and NOT ME.

Then midway through the decade, we survivors of narcissistic abuse have been subjected to someone just like our abusers, becoming president–and this time we can’t escape the person or go No Contact.  So I suppose it wouldn’t be surprising if my abusers are now supporting this person who is really just like them.

Though it is surprising in a way, considering how Richard used to go on about freedom and human rights of immigrants etc.  Now he appears to be supporting a fascist who has a Nazi (Stephen Miller) advising him on immigration?

But this is yet another thing that helps resolve the abuse that happened at the end of the 00s.  In 2010, nearly 10 years ago now, I was in agony over whether we had done the right thing in breaking off relations with Richard and Tracy.  I was stuck in an endless loop of trying to remember what happened and figure out what was right, along with terrible grief because I thought Richard was my best and dearest friend.  Writing and blogging about it was the only way I could finally stop that loop; researching old e-mails and other things helped me clarify what exactly had happened and why I felt the way I did.

The first half of the decade, I longed for Richard to apologize and make things right so that we could be friends again.

Almost ten years later, I don’t feel that way anymore.

One reason for that is what was revealed about his and Tracy’s character during this decade.  There was Richard’s conviction for choking one of his kids.  There was the two of them stalking me online, complete with a threatening message sent through Facebook.  (They were both blocked, so they set up a fake account for the purpose.)  Then they stalked me in person as well for a while.  That stopped, and I’ve received no more messages, but to this day they stalk my blog.  They were just on it a few weeks ago.  That’s EIGHT YEARS of stalking my blog, as of next May.

EIGHT YEARS.

I even know where Tracy works these days because she reads my blog at her workplace.  Aren’t you supposed to be working and not stalking people at work?

There’s also learning how many ways my supposed “best friend’s” actions were anything but: the selfishness and lack of empathy, the mansplaining, the one-upmanship, the criticism and mocking, the mind games, the belief that he knew better than I did about *everything*.  And don’t forget the gaslighting whenever I called out some abuse he or Tracy had been doing.  And defending one of his friends after this person sexually harassed me, telling me I needed to “get over it.”

The only excuse I can come up with for putting up with Richard for so long, is that he had me under such a spell that I couldn’t recognize how badly he was treating me.  (He even told me he hypnotized me without my knowledge.)  I knew Tracy was abusing me, because she had no such spell over me.  But I kept missing how Richard himself was also abusing me.

Now, ten years later, it’s all so clear and easy to recognize that I’ve long since stopped wishing he would come to us to make things right.  Now, ten years later, I have a group of good friends online and off, who don’t make me cry all the time, or tell me I have to change myself to make them happy.  I’ve met so many good people that I no longer fear that the next person I befriend will be a secret narcissist.

Oh yeah, another thing just happened: A couple of weeks ago, I found a message Richard sent to me on a gaming forum.  It was in my old purse, which I was clearing out; back in 2008, I printed it out and put it there so I could tell the parish council his ideas on how to revitalize my church.  I never took it out, so forgot it was even there.  Now I read it, and found this in the second half:

And your friends [sic] husband just helped Satan seize complete control of this country.  The next time I pay taxes I will have killed a baby because your friends [sic] husband helped bring about that “change.”

Seriously, I do not want to hear about anyone who voted for Obama, supported Obama or whatever.  Obama is a murderer who supports murder, and anyone who voted for Obama is not an accomplice but a murderer as well.  Those who voted for someone who supports killing newborns, which is all a baby in a womb is newly introduced to life [sic], a “newborn” are murderers [sic], directly and indirectly.  I do not mean to sound mean but this issue is the most important.  God curses those who sacrifice their babies to idols, which selfishness is the worst idol of them all, and the lands of those who murder their own are usually decimated within a generation or two from those who did so, historically.  Well, that’s about another four to eight years from Roe vs. Wade, is it not?

(Check….Well, it’s been eleven years, and we’re not decimated yet.)

When I read this a couple of weeks ago, I decided to hold onto this unhinged rant as a reminder because it’s so nutty.  So my friends [sic] husband was a murderer because he voted for a Democrat–one under which the abortion rate dropped, I might add?

Republican policies drive abortion UP and into back alley butchery; Democrats try to solve the problems that lead to abortion, making the numbers go DOWN.  Republicans have been lying to us about abortion for many years.

As I ponder this, I think, “I thought he was more sane than that.”  But then I begin to remember the many insane far-right conspiracy theories I used to hear from him, how he turned away from Evangelicalism and yet still sounded like the extremist Evangelicals fighting in the religious right culture wars.  I remember how both he and Tracy used to go on and on about things that made me want to roll my eyes, all coming down to those wacky far-right “alternative facts” that I had already discovered were all lies.

This kind of thinking is one of the biggest reasons why I ran screaming from Evangelicalism all those years ago.  It’s one of the reasons why I turned away from the Republican Party and hated the TEA Party.

Meanwhile, Richard himself, after writing the above, nearly killed one of his own children a couple of years later.  He’d be in jail now but for a hand-slapping plea bargain.

Meanwhile, the same person who wrote the above, is he really supporting the worst person who has ever been called a US president–a criminal, a rapist, a serial liar, a wannabe dictator who is doing his best to dismantle everything that keeps this country a democracy?  A man who has been enabling our country’s enemies to destroy us, too, who looked the other way at Khashoggi’s murder?  A man who doesn’t care about children (and adults) being tortured and dying in concentration camps on the border?  A man who uses every narcissistic trick in the book to surround himself with butt-kissing sycophants and gaslight everyone in the country?  A man who my 90-year-old acquaintance recently said reminded her of Hitler?

Even “Anonymous,” the Trump administration official who wrote “A Warning” and who obviously is right-wing just the same, wrote that we in the Resistance are correct about why Trump does and says what he does.  There is no altruism in Trump; cruelty really is the point.

So was it Richard in the picture, possibly Tracy beside him, campaigning for Trump?  I keep looking at it and I’m almost certain it is.  It looks just like Richard, and certainly fits with what I know of their politics.  Anyone who actively supports the current Republican party (including during the days of Scott Walker) and Trump, anyone who actively campaigns for them, I don’t see how I can possibly have anything in common with such people.

Because these days, supporting the Republican Party means supporting evil and the demolition of our great democracy.  It means supporting racism, torture, mistreatment of immigrants, oppression of various minority groups, yanking food and health care and help away from the poor.  It means ignoring cries that someone has been sexually assaulted.  It means permitting persecution as long as your favored group commits it.  It means forcing women to carry babies to term even when they are at high risk of dying, or the father is her father, or they’ll be so poor they can’t even keep a roof over their heads, while doing absolutely nothing to help those women so they don’t see the need for abortions.  It also means that if the 15-year-old girl does carry the baby to term, she’ll now be seen as a bad sort of girl who (gasp) has had sex.

It makes me not want to hear about anyone who voted for Trump, or supported Trump or whatever.

Many of us are saying that we can now see and understand how Hitler took control of the hearts and conscience of the Germans, because we see it happening all over again in our friends, neighbors, and family.

So while it seems like July 1, 2010 was just yesterday, my grief on that day is long gone.  I’m out of the spell; I have no illusions anymore about Richard’s character.  And I’m glad of the decision we made then to break off relations with him and Tracy.

 

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A couple of notes: Spanking and No, the new girlfriend did NOT change my abusive ex

A couple of quick notes on things that I have seen today while, as usual, sucked into the Web when I’m supposed to be doing other things:

First:

Elizabeth T. Gershoff writes an opinion piece, The era of spanking is finally over, based on the announcement yesterday by the American Academy of Pediatrics that

recommends that adults caring for children use “healthy forms of discipline” — such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, setting limits and setting expectations — and not use spanking, hitting, slapping, threatening, insulting, humiliating or shaming.

…”In the 20 years since that policy was first published, there’s been a great deal of additional research, and we’re now much stronger in saying that parents should never hit their child and never use verbal insults that would humiliate or shame the child,” said Dr. Robert Sege, first author of the policy statement and a pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

…The statement goes on to describe how several studies have found associations between spanking and aggressive child behavior, depressive symptoms in adolescence and less gray matter in children’s brains, among other outcomes.

Gershoff hopes that the new statement will finally cause massive change in how parents discipline children, and notes changes that have already been made over the years.

She writes,

There are practical reasons to stop spanking. The main one is that it does not work. Some parents may say, “But it does for my child.” A child may cry and stop what she is doing in the moment, but numerous studies involving hundreds of thousands of children show that spanking does not make children better behaved in the long run, and in fact makes their behavior worse.
It is hard for parents to see this in their day-to-day interactions, but the research is clear: We consistently find that the more a child is spanked, the more aggressive he or she will be in the future.
Spanking also teaches children that it is acceptable to use physical force to get what you want. It is thus no surprise that the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to be aggressive or to engage in delinquent behaviors like stealing.
…The majority of us who were spanked by our parents think we “turned out OK.” Perhaps we did. But maybe we were lucky that our parents did other things, like talking with us about what behaviors they wanted to see us do in the future, that helped us develop self-control and make good behavior choices.

Of course, I see so many people say “I was spanked and I turned out okay” that I doubt the change will happen so fast.

It’s especially ludicrous to hear, on one hand, “They don’t let you spank these days and the kids are out of control,” but on the other hand read studies that say MOST parents still spank their kids.  Okay, so it’s more likely the kids who are out of control actually ARE spanked.   I’ve seen this for myself, a family where the kids were spanked and shamed and slapped over the back of their heads, but the kids still were out of control.

And well, I don’t actually see kids being any worse now than they were when I was a child.  Because yes, I still remember how we were.  I think people of my generation and older often have rose-colored glasses of how we acted.  But we were not angels, despite spanking at home and paddles in our principals’ desk drawers.

Just remember, back when harsh discipline was considered normal, what we had in the world: torture, Nazis, employers ordering troops to fire on their own striking Greek employees, burning or hanging people for being witches or heretics, racism, lynching, sexism, slavery, wars, military brutality (such as whipping for infractions), rape, murder, stealing, lying, piracy, etc. etc. etc.

Obviously, spanking children did not stop them from doing horrible things as adults.  These things did not suddenly appear in a world where spanking was banished.  And you can bet that the people performing these acts were spanked or otherwise hit as children.

Filmed in German and released as Das Weisse Band, Eine Deutsche Kindergeschichte, or The White Ribbon: A German Children’s Story, the film deals with a group of children who will become adults around the time of the rise of the Third Reich. This ‘children’s story’ seeks to discover what it was in German children’s background which may have caused them to support and assist the Nazi party when the time came – much the same questions, and conclusions, once offered by the late child psychologist Alice Miller, who drew a controversial connection between harsh child rearing methods and a tendency toward violence and the acceptance of tyranny. –Monica Reid, Twin Fascist Fables: The White Ribbon and The Childhood of a Leader

And also remember, today’s narcissists were probably spanked as children.  I know several of them who certainly were.  Sure didn’t drive the narcissism out of ’em.

Second:

And speaking of narcissists, more news on abusive ex Phil:

To recap, in the summer, I discovered that his own sister temporarily filed a restraining order against him.  I’ve also learned that she and his mother were involved in a lawsuit with him last year, with him as the plaintiff, though the details are not online.

From his Facebook profile, I learned that he was engaged.  His profile has been quiet ever since, and he did not respond to a question from me (simply “how are you”), though  I know he saw it.  But from hers I’ve learned all sorts of things:

She is around the same age as his controlling mother–whom, by the way, she writes that he finally broke free of about a year or two ago.  (Makes me wonder if she was a kind of replacement for his mother.)

She identifies as an empath.  (I don’t know if that’s a real thing or pseudoscience, but narc blogs commonly say that empaths attract narcissists.)  She believes in Christ, but also in various New Age things like astral projection.

(I’ve noted that Phil tends to have girlfriends who believe in New Age: One ex channeled a spirit in the middle of a makeout session.  I believed in Charismatic sign gifts and other psychic phenomena in those days.  Persephone is a Wiccan who’s written spell books, though in those days she told everyone she was Methodist.  Phil showed no sign of believing in such things himself, so I believe he looks for this in girlfriends as a sign of gullibility so they can be manipulated.  He manipulated my psychic beliefs severely, weaving a web of deception that lasted for many months.)

The engagement ended over the summer when she learned that he was diagnosed with Bipolar II and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (though Disorder is more likely, because he’s neither deformed nor retarded).

It was a mutual decision, because he hadn’t been taking his medication so his brain was heavily damaged; and under the influence of the disorder, he had turned manipulative and probably worse.  He has been in and out of a mental hospital on suicide watch for months.

She didn’t want to leave him, but neither did she want to be abused.  She was still supposed to stay in his life and support him–but then he cut her off.

She has been in a terrible state since then, very familiar as I was once there myself.  She has blamed it all on the diagnoses; sounds like there are several, though she only named two.  She has said that the real him wouldn’t hurt a fly, and that the disorder causes the bad behavior.

But there’s been a change recently.  She speaks of being blind, duped, used, of learning truths she didn’t know before he got sick.  (She’s also been posting memes and videos about narcissists.)  She talks as if she was more in love than he was, despite all the flowery words he told her once upon a time.  Flowery words which, by the way, he said to me some 24 years ago.  I can even tell you when, and what we were doing, because it’s in my memoir.  And her, she has a Facebook post which he wrote saying all those things.

I’m sad and hurt for her.  I’m angry at him.  I see it all happening all over again.  I remember my friends telling me what it was like seeing my relationship happen all over again with the girl he ended up legally marrying (1996-2007).

For a time, I thought he would change.  I thought this woman could do it.

I wondered if everything he did could be pinned on the FAS, if the real him was truly not responsible for the abuse, if he was truly Dr. Jekyll while Mr. Hyde was an illness beyond his control–but that could be eradicated by doctors.

I thought that because of the diagnoses and care of the doctors, which none of Phil’s exes ever had (he was diagnosed in 2010), Phil would finally turn away from his abusive behaviors.

But no.  Take this as a lesson to you: They simply don’t change.  They aren’t “different” with the next girlfriend.  She won’t “save” him.

And it isn’t your fault.  The abuse is not your fault.

It’s all his.

This is a lesson I, too, have been learning, trying to take it into my head and abolish all the lingering doubts, put there back when Phil insisted I was to blame for it all.

This knowledge is helping me to heal.  Hopefully it will help her as well.  She’s a sweet person who deserves much better than this.

Also see:

Abusive ex Phil has a new bride

Is this why my ex Phil was so abusive?

So Phil, my abusive ex-husband, is back in the hospital

Abusive Ex: Blame it on him, not mental illness

 

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Reflections on Emily Yoffe’s article: Why I keep perseverating on the abuse, and why forgiving the abusers may be unneeded: Repost from 2013

I originally posted this here in 2013: https://nyssashobbithole.com/main/refections-on-emily-yoffes-article-why-i-keep-perseverating-on-the-abuse-and-why-forgiving-the-abusers-may-be-unneeded/

Emily Yoffe recently wrote in The Debt: When terrible, abusive parents come crawling back, what do their grown children owe them?:

Bruce Springsteen’s frustrated, depressive father took out much of his rage on his son.

In a New Yorker profile, David Remnick writes that long after Springsteen’s family had left his unhappy childhood home, he would obsessively drive by the old house.

A therapist said to him, “Something went wrong, and you keep going back to see if you can fix it or somehow make it right.”

Springsteen finally came to accept he couldn’t. When he became successful he did give his parents the money to buy their dream house.

But Springsteen says of this seeming reconciliation, “Of course, all the deeper things go unsaid, that it all could have been a little different.”

I get this.  This explains everything.  He kept driving past the old house because he wanted to fix it somehow.

This explains why my mind has had so much trouble closing the door on Richard and Tracy: Not only did their constant presence on my blog keep me mired in the past and their hard-heartedness, seeing all the proof I put up that they were abusive, but refusing to apologize and make it right–

–but I kept going back to the situation because I wanted to fix it somehow, make it right.

Figure out what happened.

Figure out if I had it pegged correctly or was way off.

Figure out if I could post just the right thing which would get Tracy to realize how badly she had treated and misjudged me.

More importantly, figure out if I could post just the right thing to get Richard to realize how badly he had treated a loyal and devoted friend who would have done anything for him.

Yoffe also writes:

In a 2008 essay in the journal In Character, history professor Wilfred McClay writes that as a society we have twisted the meaning of forgiveness into a therapeutic act for the victim:

“[F]orgiveness is in danger of being debased into a kind of cheap grace, a waiving of standards of justice without which such transactions have no meaning.”

Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, writes that,

“There is a watered-down but widespread form of ‘forgiveness’ best tagged preemptory or exculpatory forgiveness. That is, without any indication of regret or remorse from perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes, we are enjoined by many not to harden our hearts but rather to ‘forgive.’ ”

I agree with these more bracing views about what forgiveness should entail. Choosing not to forgive does not doom someone to being mired in the past forever. Accepting what happened and moving on is a good general principle.

But it can be comforting for those being browbeaten to absolve their parents to recognize that forgiveness works best as a mutual endeavor.

After all, many adult children of abusers have never heard a word of regret from their parent or parents. People who have the capacity to ruthlessly maltreat their children tend toward self-justification, not shame…..

It’s wonderful when there can be true reconciliation and healing, when all parties can feel the past has been somehow redeemed. But I don’t think Rochelle, Beatrice, and others like them should be hammered with lectures about the benefits of—here comes that dread word—closure.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just close the door.

How can I forgive someone who refuses to repent? who would continue to violate my boundaries of being left alone, if I hadn’t switched to self-hosted Wordpress and blocked them at the server level?

Even though my old blog is no longer maintained, and even though they are blocked from the new one, my abusers/stalkers continue to check my old blog at least every other day.  They know about the new blog, so I am quite certain they have tried to come here, but can’t get in.

The biblical passages on forgiveness seem to refer to, forgiving someone who has repented.  If my abuser refuses to admit to abusing me, how can I absolve her of it, treat her as if she never abused me?

Even a simple “hello” if I see her at church, would feel like soul murder.  How can I possibly do that?

I can, however, accept that she abused me, accept that she refuses to admit to it, and treat her as I would a rattlesnake. 

You don’t need to forgive the rattlesnake if it bites you; it’s doing what comes naturally, and would not be sorry for it.  You don’t say hello to a rattlesnake; you give it a wide berth and then run the heck away from it.

 

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