Every time I’m asked to speak at an event, I can’t help but be overwhelmed and triggered, so then I’m usually inspired to write. However the topic isn’t always pleasant. As with most of my writings this may be stressful for some to read, but if we do not challenge ourselves we can never move forward. This is part of my childhood memories and I hope it will empower and inspire you to become active in helping us update old laws and policies so that we can tell the children in America, that we are putting forth every possible protective measure to ensure that you will grow to believe in the protections; believe in your inalienable and fundamental RIGHT TO BE SAFE, to live free from harm and free from fear.
Thanks for reading, please sign the petition at the bottom and help us actively protect our nation’s children.
The story of ‘The Flannel Pajamas’ probably gives the best view into their daily fight for survival.
‘The Flannel Pajamas; a warrior’s armor’
Walter both hated me and adored me now. He still kept coming into the bathroom when I tried to bathe. He’d sit on the toilet seat, talking his filthy talk to me; making sure I felt as if I didn’t even know how to wash myself right, and also that I responded to all of his disgusting remarks. He always made me talk his dirty language and I knew way too much for my young age. I hated everything about my life. I hated him for making me participate in his sick little games. I hated everything about taking a bath, because it became part of his torture. I just wanted to get in the bathroom and hide, not bathe.
The last time I bathed he came in and I decided once again to try and be brave. I yelled downstairs to Mom asking her to make him get out. Of course nobody cared what I had to say as I started to speak up against him. When I yelled for Mom she just yelled back up for him to leave, as though it were an accident he was in there at all. The rage in his eyes grew so furious they looked like they were on fire. He walked out of the bathroom swearing he would get back at me. He would make sure I paid for speaking against him. Mother never asked, or seemed to care at all, if I was alright. In fact, she didn’t even care to hug me since he came into our lives and took away the happy child I was, and should have been.
He stomped down the stairs and when I hoped for her to start yelling at him or even better, maybe hit him; all I heard instead was the normal silence and him turning on the television. “What did I expect? There was never anyone that had stood up for me, questioned me, or helped me; why would that ever change?”
Our new rental house was huge. The upstairs bedrooms were set up differently from most other houses I’d lived in over the years. We never seemed to stay in the same house very long. My little sister Rachel and I had the door to the right as you got to the top of the stairs. The interior wall had an open doorway from Mom’s room to mine. Mom slept on the right side of the bed, which put her on the same side as the open doorway. Walter would sometimes enter my room at night using that doorway, which meant he had to sneak out of bed and then walk along the end of their bed,walking past Mom to get into my room. Since Rachel and I shared a bed, not just a room, he had to be even more careful about his nighttime visits, because she was getting older and I know there are many troublesome memories she’s told me she’s had problems dealing with; although I’m not sure exactly what some of those memories entail.
As I got older, he would use more force in his hand that covered my mouth. When he snuck up to the side of my bed, his hand would clamp down around my jaw, squeezing so I could feel his dominance of secrecy during his torture. Actually he was growing more violent with me on a daily basis now. Since Mom was bartending in the evenings, it was easier for him to make my life a living hell.
I had only one nightgown, which was a very thin, pale yellow, see through cotton gown. It had a white upper part around the chest just above my breasts with flowers of purple embroidered on it. It was a pretty gown, but actually much to old for me. Every time I wore it I felt ashamed because it was really too revealing for such a young girl. Supposedly this was a present he bought for me, which Mom had allowed him to pick out and purchase from Victoria Secrets when they took a day out for themselves walking around at the newly built Fairview Heights, ‘St. Clair Square’ mall. I had just one bra and shared my five year old sister’s underwear.
Richie had it made, or at least I thought he did. He had two doors which closed his room off. He actually had a door from the bathroom and a door from Mom’s room, and they both had bolting locks. Mom said, “He is a boy and boys are different from girls. He needs his privacy.” I could never understand the logic behind that excuse, but there was little I could do about changing her mind. He also had thick heavy flannel pajamas with a shirt that buttoned all the way up to the neck. I was so jealous of those pajamas and wanted them so badly. He had to pair of these awesome pajamas, but a night would come that I would sneak one of those, later stashing them away in the bottom drawer of the dresser I shared with Rachel. Although I only wore them one time, I did hang onto them. Much later as I was packing my clothes to leave home shortly after turning seventeen; I found them there and was instantly frozen, completely terrified and my breath stopped dead.
While I was trying to go through my day to day life of being a pre-teen dealing with school, my thoughts were always concentrated on hoping my mom was going to be home when Rachel and I walked in the door. It was my duty of course, to pick her up from class and be sure we came straight home. There were chores waiting everyday to be done. I still remember the extremely dreaded five block walk with my sister, who now had started kindergarten. The short distance felt more like five miles worrying about what was ahead that evening.
First I had to cook dinner for the five of us and clean up the kitchen. I had to do a load of laundry, help my sister with homework, make sure she got to bed on time, only then if there was time and peace I would try to do my schoolwork as well. This was my expected normal routine of daily life. Although my brother checked to make sure the trash got out, everything else my family needed always lied on my shoulders from about age ten. I really tried to pay attention in school, but there was just too many worries at home. My favorite subjects were Math and English, but I never had the guts to raise my hand or even answer a question when the teacher called on me. Walter had destroyed my self-confidence and my self-esteem with his constant abuse. Truthfully I really didn’t have either of those qualities, never believed there was anything good about me at all until I was about thirty-five.
When I was in school all I noticed were the whispers and pointing from the other kids. I walked around by myself; keeping my head lowered and my mouth shut. Shelly and I didn’t have many classes together anymore, but she was still the best friend I had, the only one who seemed to talk with me now and then.
Everything Walter had done along with the neglect from my mother, just helped to confirm the filthy useless girl I felt I was inside. I didn’t want to draw any type of attention towards myself. Filthy, stench covered, ugly, and slave driven out of trained fear had become my identity at twelve years old. This was the only way I knew how to survive everyday. Survival meant I had to grow and adapt to my environmental surroundings. Distracting his attention away from me was my hardest chore. I kept hoping that maybe I could turn him off or better, maybe I could disgust him the way that I disgusted myself and then perhaps he would stay away.
Mom was never good at encouraging proper hygiene, nor did she care about teaching proper etiquette. She didn’t give the guidance that a struggling, drowning, young preteen girl needed. There was no discussion of boys and really no discussion of how my daily life was going. I was just there. There to clean, cook and take care of the family when she was working, which I surely understood she had to do, but I didn’t know that was supposed to include her husband. I felt as dirty and tangled inside as my hair and body were on the outside. I was ashamed of my life and the hell that I lived in.
Despite my attempts to make myself as ugly as possible, nothing deterred Walter from the sadistic passion he held for me. The word “passion” was used by the multiple therapists who often told me that his involvement with me and my life had developed from a type of “sick passion and jealousy”. He sought me out no matter how hard I tried to avoid him. I think back as I write this and wonder if the more I tried to push him away maybe the more that action turned him on; this fed his need to terrorize me. Everyday I struggled just to complete my daily chores. He would sneak around me all the time. While I was cooking he would come by and rub my ass, whispering how much he loved it. He would come up behind me while doing dishes and grab my breast; pinching the nipple so hard it made me pull away in pain. As I sat at the table doing my homework he would sneak up and grab at me running his hand across my chest. He always looked at me with eyes glowing and a wicked smile of evil on his face. It was a battle to ensure the outside world only saw the make-up of our family. No one could ever know about the impossibility of trying to be a normal child while living in a torture chamber at home. I never wanted anyone to know the true hell that existed in our house.
Things were always going to be evil on the nights when Mom worked, which was usually at least four night a week. It always guaranteed that my night would be hell. I could barely put dinner on the table or take care of my sister while trying to dodge his every move. Richie and Rachel were always safe; as I only ever saw him be mad at them once or twice the entire twelve years we lived in the same house as a family. If I maneuvered the night well I could at least get Rachel to bed without battling him for peace. When she got to bed I would run in the bathroom and wash off with a hot washcloth; it was impossible to attempt a bath.
My night started when his voice yelled out; “Richie get your ass up to bed and tell your sister to get her butt in here.” As my brother made his way reluctantly up the stairs he was angry because I was allowed to stay up longer. If he only knew, but I’m certain he has memories as well, especially a few particular nights with Walter for sure. I wanted to climb in a closet and hide or maybe find some hole in which to escape. The voice again, “Trecia Ann, get your ass down here right now. You better be ready for bed too.” This meant that I had best be wearing my little pale yellow nightgown; his favorite special nightgown just for me. A few time I’d try to be really brazen and leave my bra on to cover my breasts and some underwear for my bottom. This just made him angry and he made me take them off anyway, but as a little girl I would still try.
Climbing those stairs down to hell was as long as that dreadful walk home from school. I wanted to turn and run out the door; run anywhere. On this particular night I was so terrified that I went into Richie’s room and locked the door behind me. Walter was really getting pissed at me and started yelling with a deep growl in his voice. He was so furious that I hadn’t come back downstairs right away. “How dare I go against him,” he yelled out. It made him angry but no one else would do anything to help me so I had to try and protect myself.
Walter’s voice only raged out towards me. He never yelled for my sister or brother, only me. He had his own private play doll; that was it, just a life size doll he had the freedom to play with; do with whatever he wanted. I wanted to be a plastic doll like the ones my dad gave me when I was a little girl. There would be no feelings or thoughts to race through my head; no terror to make me shake in the middle of the night, no feelings of any kind. His voice kept getting louder and I could tell how angry he was getting.
Desperately seeking safety I crawled into bed with Richie. As I curled up next to him and wrapped my arms around him, my little girl voice filled with small tears begged him to help me. “Please Bubby, please help me,” I said. Deep inside I just wanted to disappear, but I knew I could never get away from him. Every night it was the same. I’d pray as hard as I could, “Please God, please just make me a boy.” Richie finally pushed me out of his bed when Walter started threatening to come upstairs and get me. He looked at me; crying the tears of a helpless boy as he told me; ‘Sissy, I’m sorry. You have to go, he’s yelling for you. I can’t help you’.
I stood next to his bed, my small body just begging for someone to reach out for me, to protect me. I stood there with my arms locked around my body, squeezing and holding myself as I cried and pleaded for his help. He was just a boy though; what could he have done to help me? Before I left Richie’s room, I pulled out his dresser drawer and found a pair of those wonderful flannel pajamas, then I snuck into the bathroom, bolted both doors shut tight. The little girl who stood in front of the mirror looking at herself wondering, “What is it about me? What is it that makes him come after me?” My body was physically shaking from head to toe while I struggled to put on those flannel pajamas; “These pajamas will cover me completely and protect me”, as if they had some type of magical power which would prevent him from touching me.
I felt a little safer at first when I started down the stairs that night, but he was waiting at the bottom landing and I could see how angry he was. He stood there like a huge barrel blocking my way. He grabbed my hair as he pushed me into the living room and I fell to the floor. He yanked me back up by my arm and he used his other hand to undo his belt while he dragged me to the back of the house. It was that same hateful leather belt he had drawn blood with so many times before.
He threw me into the back laundry area of the house. Maybe I should have made a run for the back door. I remember looking at it, but I knew I wouldn’t make it, besides I was just a child; a little girl being beaten because she put on a pair of pajamas hoping in some way they would protect her. He slammed me into a corner that I couldn’t get out of as he swung the first sting of his dominating belt. He grabbed me and pushed me up against the washer forcing his body on me so hard that it felt as if I would break in half from the pressure. He was pushing me back with all of his weight, crushing me. I felt it difficult to breathe as he tried bending me backwards against the washer. He kept swinging the belt. He landed a lash around my thigh and the leather grabbed against my skin.
Off of the laundry room, in a little small corner was a half bath area, just a small sink with a toilet and shower stall. He drug me into the little room and bent me over the sink. Raging he ordered, “Get your hands over here and pull down your pants!” He just kept yelling and swinging the belt. “You lean up against that sink there and do as I said. Trecia Ann, you get those pants down now! Don’t you move little girl or I‘ll rip the shit out of you.” I remember his instructions for my beating every time I stand at a sink to brush my broken teeth still today. It climbs into the back of my head and shoots sorrow into my heart. When I look at the vanity I can’t help but remember the little girl who was so frightened that night; the girl who could not get away from him; the girl getting beaten for putting on a pair of flannel pajamas. That little girl buttoned them all the way to the top; tight around the neck, praying they would protect her. Sadly she was raped from behind at that old sink while getting beaten in furious rage for believing she could stand against him.
The horror I felt as he beat me was nothing new. His violence was constant; the constant reminder that he was in control. There was no escape for me so I had to adjust and allow his torture. There could be no signals to the outside world that this was happening. No one could ever know the truth that was my life. I remember so vividly the emotions of terror and humiliation that shot through me. The days of walking through the school with my head down, ashamed of myself for all the disgusting ways he inflicted his dreadful game of torture with me. Later, I learned in therapy and study, all too often the brutalized child swallows their emotions in order to ease the pain of survival and bury the shame of their life.
After he pulled out of me, his words burned against my neck. In his whispering anger I thought the devil himself was speaking to me. “How dare you?” he said, “You think I called you down here to see you in those ugly fucking things. You just keep trying me every chance you get, don’t you? You think that you can stop me?” He stepped back and grabbed the collar of the shirt, then swung his belt and it wrapped around my thigh again. It stung and felt as though it was cutting right through my skin. I don’t know how long he had me there. He was enjoying the punishment that he was dishing out. “You filthy, ugly, little whore,” he yelled as he pushed my face into the mirror. “You think you can get away from me. You will never be able to get away.” He grabbed the collar as he growled, “Just do as you are fucking told and shut up.”
He pushed me out of the room, down onto a pile of dirty laundry. I felt like I was a piece of garbage lying there. “Please just let me disappear,”my thoughts begged. “Let me dissolve into the filthy pile of laundry, simply disappear forever.” His final statement as he walked away was, “Get your ugly ass up to bed. You keep trying to push me and I will get you. When you least expect it, I will be there.” He walked into the living room huffing from being out of breath and sat down in his recliner. “Get upstairs you little bitch and you better make sure everyone shuts their fucking mouth.”
Slowly I pulled myself up; my body stinging from the belt. Then, half stumbling, I made my way upstairs. Quietly I eased into bed, my heart still pounding in terror and the welts still growing on my backside. Rachel was asleep; at least her eyes were closed when I looked over at her. If she heard him beating me downstairs she was too scared to say anything about it. My hands pulled the covers in tightly around my body, hoping that they would keep him away, although I didn’t really expect a visit from him that night. At least I hoped it was over and once again I had survived. There were times after the beating, raging fit, when he still needed more. He would torture, send me away, and then call me back for more or sneak in my room for another type of attack. Now my legs, butt and back were stinging from the belt. The dread of what might be next took over my thoughts as I quietly cried myself to sleep. Richie was in his room probably still in the same huddled up position that I had left him in, but he didn’t say a word and he didn’t come in to check on me. My body was exhausted from the beating and the stress of it all so I didn’t hear or feel anyone come sneaking around as I slept. He must have felt satisfied by his imposed torture and chose not to visit me. Trembling now as the feeling of terror comes rushing back, much the same as I trembled then. It really didn’t matter if he killed me because I already felt so completely dead on the inside and so isolated from everyone on the outside.
The next morning Mom was yelling for me to get Rachel ready and come down for school. As I opened my eyes I reached down to rub a spot on my thigh where the belt had landed. I had hoped it was all a dream, but the welts were there to prove me wrong. They swelled up more through the night and my entire thigh
was burning with pain. My legs and every other part of me were still very sore and when I inspected them I could see the purple mounds of blood lying just underneath the flesh, perfectly in line with where the belt had landed. There were marks on my back, down my buttocks and both thighs and a few marks that wrapped around my calves. My body was in so much pain from the beating and slamming around the night before. It really hurt to move at all. My head was sore from where he held onto my hair, which it seemed he always did. I tried splashing cold water on my eyes to help with the swelling, but it just made them sting. The bags around them were dark and so swollen I could hardly see through them at all
As I finished getting ready and started down the stairs, my mind was praying that Walter had already left for work so I wouldn’t have to see his stare. Mom, as always, said absolutely nothing when I slowly arrived downstairs. She didn’t show any signs that she even noticed me. The normal night of my terror and torture had become the routine and it meant nothing to anyone; it was as if I didn’t even exist. Mom didn’t care what happened to make me look like I did or walk the way was. She was so absolutely blind to the pain and hurt that I had been in for the past seven years. Her only concern that morning was for my sister to get to school. “You girls better hurry up or your sister is going to be late,” she said to me. So without saying a word Rachel and I grabbed our books for school and my dreadful day started.’’
From the written true horror of ‘My Justice’, published March 2011.
This is how a child feels when they are brutalized and sexually dominated, used in servitude, traded out and forced in silence to allow others to do whatever they want, completely without concern for any emotions they feel at all.
‘Hell Yes’ I do know very well just how ugly the idea that a parent could dismiss this type of brutality and disgusting actions against their own child. Even worse that someone you are told is your ‘Dad’, could be so intently evil against you. The thought that your happy childhood could change into something so brutal, is never something a child can control. They become objects in their identity; a slave to the needs of others, but without concern or acknowledgement for any tear they shed. Those you live with, those who should love and protect you in gentle guidance through life, instead they enjoy the terror in your eyes, the fear they smell like animals, the dominance over your very breath.
My monster, my terrorist, thrilled when others raped me, filled me with alcohol, weed, cocaine to manipulate; then sent me dancing from lap to lap. I still recall those moments, although its not something I want to remember at all. The days and nights when he wanted to hear all the gory details, then he looked me in the eye and said; ‘God will never forgive you now. You are no longer a young child and God will not ignore what you’ve done. God will never take you into Heaven, not ever.’
As ridiculous as it may sound, and as impossible as it may be, I am still afraid of my afterlife in many ways. I’m spiritual in every sense of the word, but I cannot step into a church without fearing the overbearing judgment of my life. I am afraid that if I haven’t learned my life’s lesson and have to suffer through again, there is no way I could possibly survive his torture ever again. I’m terrified in some way that the monster I still feel creeping around me at times, will be there; waiting for me so that he can attack once again. How bad is the fear when you fear that dominating monster in every single breath you take, in every moment you live, but even worse in the moment you die. Who will protect you from him then?
These monstrous types of offenders will do whatever it takes to demean you and destroy every part of your being. This particular monster stalked and preyed on me even when I was forty years old and temporarily staying at my mother’s new house in Eldorado, Illinois; I wanted to believe he couldn’t be well enough to climb down those stairs to the shower room, just has Mom had said when she refused to let me use her bathroom to shower. However, sure enough as I went to rinse the soap out of my hair, I heard something. When I stepped out to pull back the doorway curtain, there he stood. He was sneaking in like the monster he was; prowling to feed off the fear he had instilled so well.
This is why we most definitely need to continue every ounce of energy to create awareness, bring light to their dark tortured pain and isolation. They are too ashamed, too terrified, certain you will reject them and send them back to endure this constant hell. It is our duty, the duty of our laws and policies, to absolutely ensure that every measure is in place to help victims who need us, every moment they need us. Make sure that law enforcement, teachers, healthcare workers, even our neighbors and school mates understand how serious this is and how destructive to live day after day, month after month, year after year, attack after attack without ever a single person who cares enough to ask; ‘Are you SAFE?’
How is it possible that we have tens of millions of survivors of these types of terroristic family crimes, but yet we can’t seem to get more than 500 signatures? Are we not tired of the ‘Good Ol’ Boy Laws’? Are we not tired of the dismissal and blame we place on young victims? Are we ready to end the teaching of tolerance, silence, and protecting these Family Terrorist, who attack day after day, enjoying the demeaning destruction of bright beautiful children? It’s time and I, along with many other excellent warrior advocates, will stand with you 100% to update our policies in helping victims rebuild, but more importantly to begin teaching the fundamental, inalienable right to be safe for every being around the world. If we work so hard, give so much, to defend the rights of these monstrous criminals; then it is certainly equal we should work so hard to protect our victims, especially children, so that each will feel their own special type of Flannel Pajamas, their warrior armor to protect from the burning touch and keep them safe forever.
HOW IN THE WORLD DO WE EVEN JUSTIFY TEACHING SILENCE OF THEIR GREATEST FEARS; THE FEAR WITHIN THEIR HOME, THE CONSTANT TERRORISTIC TORTURE THEY HOPE TO SURVIVE EVERY SINGLE DAY!!
PLEASE HELP, PLEASE SIGN, PLEASE SHARE!!!
Thank you for reading here. Thank you for protecting the children who come into your life’s circle. If every one of those millions of survivors will make a commitment to protect just one child today, this will ensure a beginning to an end of these very ugly, brutally monstrous, terroristic types of family crimes.
Patricia ‘Trish’ McKnight
Author: ‘My Justice’
Speaker, Trainer, Advocate, Survivor