Liz asked us this a few weeks ago. At the time we answered that we wanted to be, but too many people saw us. The implication for us was that people saw us and hurt us. But for Liz this question had a totally different meaning. She wasn’t asking if people physically saw us, but rather she meant that people didn’t notice us. We were overlooked, ignored and treated as a chattel. We weren’t listened to. Nobody got down to our eye level, ask us how we were and waited for a response. Part of me is grieving that fact, part of me thinks it’s more melodrama and we just need to get over it.
We were rarely treated with hate. We were annoying for those around us, but we never generated hatred in anyone except the sister and to a lesser degree the other siblings. I wonder if we had generated open hatred whether our life would have been different? Would open hatred have led someone to noticing that we were being hurt? The mother would often forget us when we were out shopping and we ended up having to wear a harness because we were constantly wandering off or being forgotten. It’s odd reading these words, I don’t feel any sympathy towards that little girl; but I’d be the first to call the authorities if I saw similar behaviour towards another child.
So we were missed, as Liz calls it. No one noticed us and this made us an ideal target for abuse. The teachers missed the signs, the mother never saw a thing and the abusers saw an opportunity – this was one group of people that didn’t overlook us. I’m sure that this became part of our self-defeating cycle of needing to be invisible. We need to be invisible because no one can hurt you if you aren’t there. This need also meant that we actively deflected any worry people may have had, away from ourselves. Mickie remembers going into 6th form Biology one day and just sitting on our stool with our bag on our desk for the whole lesson. To put that into context, we were usually a very attentive student – you had to be in order to keep under the teachers radar. But that day Mickie was fronting and he didn’t want to even pretend to do Biology. Something really bad had happened the day before and he’d had enough. The teacher who had known us for over two years came up and asked us if we were alright at the end of the lesson, Mickie grunted that we were fine. The teacher replied “Poor Michelle” and went back to preparing for the next class. This was the teacher who was the closest to actually seeing us, and we deflected him. Life is filled with these “what if” moments. But there is no use holding onto them and questioning our motives. The only option is to learn from them.
I know that many of the people who read this would have been subjected to hatred by various people, including those who should have cared and protected them. I don’t want to in any way minimise the damage that hatred can do. But I think abusers know when to show that hatred, which is why I state that open hatred might have changed our life, just as it might have changed those who were subjected to hidden hatred. The sister knew when she could be open in her hatred for us, and who would go along with that hatred. To her and a group of her friends we were a play thing. This hatred did immense damage to us physically and psychologically, but it was always hidden from someone who would question it.
It’s time to go take some calming photos… Take care…