I am better than where I came from.

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*Note to Visitors: The post below is very raw, and very real. The Breaking the Silence Planning Committee both honors and celebrates the tremendous courage displayed by the author in committing these words to paper. Please, if you are a survivor and choose to read this post, consider reading it with support available to help you process your reaction.

Written by Anonymous

I am three years old. I have been forced into a blue and white dress against my will. Shiny black shoes, white stockings. Hair in pigtails. Trying so hard to hold still for a photo so I can get this stupid outfit off and go play outside. I’m not still enough. She beats me with a wooden spoon. I sob and sob. She gives me something to cry about. I hold my breath until I get control of my crying. I’m four for fuck’s sake. I have sad, red eyes in all of the pictures. I still hold my breath when people hurt me.

I am 6 years old. It is Christmas. My favorite uncle gifts me a beautiful snow globe. It plays whimsical music and I obsessively turn the key on the bottom to make it play, over and over. Something happens, I don’t remember what. She is angry. She begins to yell. I feel the rage bubble up inside me. I scream back. I don’t even know where this fury is coming from. I hurl my snow globe at the wall and watch it shatter; the fake, white, confetti snow sticking to the wood paneling of our cheap apartment walls. I am heartbroken. My first memory of punishing myself through emotional sadism. It is painful, but I am in control of it. At least I chose this pain.

I am 10 years old. I’m in the kitchen. I knock something over accidentally. She rages at me, starts throwing serrated knives around the kitchen. SCREAMS at me to go to my room and lock the door so that she can’t get to me. (A friend of mine keeps reminding me about not putting the good knives in the dishwasher. I never learned about knives the way that someone who loves to cook should have. I was taught that they are weapons. My friend says I’m jumpy. I clink the plates together and wait for him to grab his belt. He doesn’t. I have to remind myself that I am safe. I am 37 years old and carry such anxiety over the day that I drop one of his mugs. He is fair. My brain is not.)
I am 11 years old. I am walking along the side of the road. She is next to me. Her husband pulls up next to us in the car. “How much for the little one?” He leers. My skin crawls. She rolls her eyes. I wish I were a boy. I will remember this moment forever.

I am 12 years old. There’s a bookcase in the nook at the end of the hallway. I am at the other end, in front of an open doorway. She is angry at me for something. Probably because I’m 12. She grabs the bookcase and hurls it the entire length of the hallway. I’ve read stories about mothers who experience enough adrenaline to lift a car off of their children. I’ve lived the story where the mother can hurl a loaded bookshelf at her kid and then tell them to clean the mess up.

I am 17 years old. I am forming an exit strategy. I will do anything I have to. She has no money that night. Her husband will not give her cash for groceries. We are hungry. I have two grand stashed under the bottom panel of my dresser. It pains me to subtract from my dream, but I take $20 and we get into the car and I go to the grocery store where I work 6 nights a week and buy a sandwich and two sodas. We tear the sandwich apart on the dashboard of the car and eat in silence. I have lost three hours of wages. I am set back three hours from taking my leave. We sit in the dark and watch cars drive by. I know I have to get out.

I am 19. On a train headed as far away as I can possibly get. I reach into the pocket of my old green military coat, the one I found in the rafters of the garage and wore for years after discovering by pleasant accident that it protected from the sting of whippy car antennas. (I’ll give her credit. That time didn’t involve her.) A folded note. She tells me she believes in me and that she hopes I find love and that she’s proud. My heart sinks. I’ve abandoned her.

I am in my early 30s. It is my birthday. We are on a road trip, she and I. She is showing me where my grandparents grew up. We pull into a driveway. She tells me about how she used to come here in the summers. About how my great grandfather used to look at my grandmother in inappropriate ways. More than look, but she doesn’t vocalize it. Instead, she hesitates. I am driving, my eyes forward, but I can tell she is shifting. There is something she needs to tell me. It is my birthday and this is supposed to be fun but instead I grip the steering wheel and keep my eyes on the road and force myself to stay between the lines as she confesses to me that I was sodomized from an early age.

I am 37. It is Easter Sunday. She tells me that she is done. That she has no more time to fuck around. I ask to visit her. She tells me that if I come, she won’t be there. At first I think she is suicidal, but she corrects me. She will be leaving town and will not return until I have gone back home. I don’t know what I’ve done or what I didn’t do or what I’m supposed to do. She’s abandoned me.

I am a masochist to my very core. I have gone to therapy for long enough to learn how to seek out a healthy release from someone who will keep me safe. But the awful truth will always be there. Fear will always be arousing. Pain will always equal love. Bowing quietly and avoiding conflict will always be a survival tactic. Being empathetic and emotionally intelligent is crucial when you’ve been abused. You have to be aware. You have to be able to read the room. You have to know what’s coming for you. You have to be able to dodge the bookcase, brace yourself for the belt, shut down your emotions so you don’t engage when you’re called worthless or stupid.

And then you have to figure out how to not let any of it destroy you for the rest of your stay. How do you explain to someone that you know they don’t expect perfection, but it’s programmed into you to not feel worthy unless you conquer everything? How do you cut through the never-ending internal monologue to not only hear – but believe – the praise that you so desperately crave? How do you hold a list with 25 tasks on it and realize you missed one and not let that small failure negate the other 24 jobs you’ve completed?

I am resilient as fuck. What is the other option? Tomorrow I will get up and I will quiet the negative thoughts. I will remind myself that I am not who I was destined to be. I am not where I came from. The military coat is gone. I’ve weaned myself down to sweatshirts and sweaters and hope to someday be mentally comfortable enough to shed that last layer and regain my physical comfort as well. Tonight, though? I’m just that stupid, worthless, abandoned kid who is homesick for a place she hasn’t ever been to.

From Pain to Strength

*Note to Visitors: The post below is very raw, and very real. The Breaking the Silence Planning Committee both honors and celebrates the tremendous courage displayed by the author in committing these words to paper. Please, if you are a survivor and choose to read this post, consider reading it with support available to help you process your reaction.

Written by Yesenia Armenta

Staring at this blank page
My mind enters the time traveling machine,
Taking me straight to those dark days.
The fact that I was only 5,
Could lead you to think that those memories are gone from my mind, being that I am now 29.
I will tell you, you are all but right.
Many days of my life consist of this very fight, just to stay alive.
A fight to keep going.
Mother of 2, watching my beautiful babygirls, happily growing.
Remembering being abused at that age,
Filled me with pain, filled me with rage.
Not a soul knowing of my abuse,
I was alone and feeling so confused.
My self hate was good for you.
Waves of emotions,
They gained traction then drowned me with such devotion.
The silence slowly turned to violence.
That angry little girl before your eyes,
Was holding on by a thread.
She wanted to end her own life,
She became tired of the fight.
How would anyone ever understand?
This pain did not just start yesterday,
It’s been sitting here for a decade.
As I grew I realized it wasn’t love that I lacked,
I just wanted to stand up and take my power back.
So that’s what I did.
I spoke my truth, let you in on everything that I hid as a kid.
Now you see me, now you hear me.
It all makes sense as to why I was so angry.
You stand there in disbelief.
This all happend, and you couldn’t even see.
I’m not looking for pity.
Just wanted to show you that what felt like the end,  was really only the beginning.
Life has never been perfect.
But I took my power back and decided it was worth it.
Ready for the next chapter.
Like the pheonix that rose from the ashes,
I became self aware, and there was no looking back after.

Outpacing My Past

*Note to Visitors: The post below is very raw, and very real. The Breaking the Silence Planning Committee both honors and celebrates the tremendous courage displayed by the author in committing these words to paper. Please, if you are a survivor and choose to read this post, consider reading it with support available to help you process your reaction.

Written by Anonymous

I have been a fraud my entire life. I’ve identified as a stranger on this planet who never knows if I’m truly connecting with people because I’m not 100% convinced that I am one. I was sodomized at 9 months of age. I don’t remember it happening, but the knowledge that it occurred is enough to constantly make me question everything about myself; my motives, my sexual preferences, my relationships – everything. I wasn’t even on Earth long enough to make a full cycle around the sun before the world started fucking me in the ass.

I do remember the flashbacks of physical abuse. In the memory that visits me most often, I was three and wearing a frilly blue dress with white tights. My hair in pigtails. I was being beaten because I was moving around too much when I was supposed to hold still to have my picture taken. I remember the huh-huh-huh sound rushing in my ears as I tried to catch my breath. The woman who hurt me was not my mother, but she was the world to me at that point in my life. I trusted her to keep me safe. It was not the first time, nor the last. I didn’t have the words to tell anyone. I keep a photograph of myself from that day to remind myself that I’m not crazy. There I am, on a bench, in that stupid fucking dress, my eyes hesitant and exhausted…and still, I’m trying to pay attention. I’m trying to cooperate. I just want to cooperate.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time being held down and having decisions made for me throughout my life. The angry man that my mother married, who easily outweighed me by 200 pounds, straddling me as I screamed and thrashed. He was a stupid man, who put no stock in things like emotional intelligence. He just wanted to win. During this particular moment, I was 7 and wearing pink shorts. I remember the pink shorts. I was 7…and he wanted to win. He wouldn’t let go of me until I surrendered and fell silent. I screamed for 45 minutes until I shut down and turned my rage inward to think of all the ways I could kill him. I hate him. I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life screaming internally.

8 years later – I’m in a church parking lot, gravel crunching under my shoes. I act stupidly, against my instincts, contributing to my undoing by placing myself in a vulnerable situation. I’m walking with a teenage boy whose name I don’t remember learning. I’m sure he doesn’t remember mine; the only requirements at that point were that I had a vagina and I was a loner. He pinned me against a concrete wall, his hands like warm coils around my wrists, leaning into me with his body. Reassuring me that it was best to stay silent; he was going to do whatever he wanted anyhow – I might as well relax. It was dark. All I remember is the reflection of the parking lot lights in his eyes. (Almost sounds fucking poetic doesn’t it?) And here we go. Just keep looking at the reflection of the lights. Save your strength. Control your breathing. Get ready to fight. I’m not doing this shit again. Solar plexus, Instep, Nose, Groin.

Solar Plexus, Instep, Nose, Groin.

Sing, Motherfucker.

I have learned to keep my emotions buried because at the end of the day, men don’t give a shit about your personality or your sense of humor or your trust issues or your trauma. They want their dicks sucked. Good thing I’m such a people pleaser, right? It’s no secret that my Daddy issues run deep. I’m masochistic to my core, always looking for direction from someone. Always craving pain before I can allow myself forgiveness. Always hoping someone will see me and know that I am good. I can be so good. All you have to do is ask nicely. Just fucking ask.

There’s this voice in the back of my head that belongs to one of my friends. It asks me, “Are we going to be perfect today? No. And that’s okay.” I’ve gone 37 years loathing myself for constantly falling short and someone changed it in three seconds with a gentle smile and a simple question. It’s on a constant loop in my head when I’m running, the words echoing in rhythm with my shoes against the pavement. “No. And that’s okay. No…and…that’s…okay…” Those words are married in my mind to a quote I read by David Goggins – “Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done.” This mantra pushes me to fight. It flips something in my brain; I’m no longer running from something, I’m hunting it down. No, I won’t be perfect, but I’m going to get it done. Maybe I won’t catch what I’m chasing. Maybe I won’t need to. Maybe therapy and continuous rumination and running until I question my body’s ability to continue will take me to a place where I simply look it all in the eye as I outpace it. It’s my turn to be in control. I’m ready to be heard. I’m so fucking tired of being a stranger.

It Was for My Own Good

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Written by Beaker45

I have a few good memories as a child but the ones that seem to have molded me were not.

***

I’m four years old and I’ve just discovered if I play with myself my body will react. My mother catches me. Stands me in front of the mirror explaining how ashamed I should be. I don’t know what to think. I am 4.

In the years to come I’ll be horrified each time my mother tells the story with me in the room.

***

I am pretty small, 6 maybe. I’ve just said something I shouldn’t have. By now I’ve learned there are acceptable and unacceptable conversations. I am in trouble. Mom spanks me again. I start crying. Grandpa is mad because I am crying, Mom wants me to just shut up.

“Do you want something to cry about?”

She hits me again. I cry deeper and go into a fit. Finally, I am holding my breath.

“Maybe he will finally die.”

Grandma throws water in my face to snap me out of it.

***

I make a mistake. A simple mistake. I throw the ball and it breaks a window.

She drags me inside and lectures me.

“What is wrong with you?”

“Are you stupid?”

“Go get me a switch.”

I stay outside a long time.

I hope she will forget.

She doesn’t forget.

She comes out, drops my pants, and whips me bloody with a switch.

I can’t go to school because I can’t sit down.

***

My report card comes home. Over 60 days absent.

“Doesn’t do his work!”

“Great child.”

“Doesn’t turn in his homework.”

“F.”

The family conversation starts. I hear my Mom, Grandmother, Grandfather. Everyone trying to figure out what is wrong with me.

Grandpa thinks I need my ass whipped.

Mom thinks something is wrong with me.

Grandma says “We need to leave the baby alone.”

***

I stare out at the window watching the neighbors, wrestling, playing football and running around. I want to go out so bad. I’m 10, and I just want to play.

I have to clean the house, or color, or take care of the dogs.

Soon one of the kids runs home crying.

Mom tells me that is the reason I can’t go out. I will get hurt.

***

Friday night comes. I look toward town. The stadium lights are on. We can hear the sounds of the game. All the rest of the kids are there. I want to go.

I beg and get backhanded.

I can’t go because it is a dangerous place to go.

***

By the time I was 9, I knew my childhood was not right… even though I wasn’t allowed to interact with other kids other than at school.

I always knew I was loved. I never questioned it. I don’t question it today.

As an adult, I started to question if I was abused.

I was loved, how could I have been abused?

Wow, I was abused.

My abuse was Emotional and Physical. It was for my own good.

My mother loved me and lived with the guilt of my abuse.

I learned something was wrong with me.

I was convinced I should be ashamed.

I never grew out of it.

I try to remember the shame is a lie… and move on.

Phantom Memory

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Written by Leon Richards

What if you knew without a doubt that something terrible happened, but you couldn’t draw forth a single memory of it? Would that be better, or worse, than remembering? What if you knew you were abused by someone who should have cared for you and protected you, but you couldn’t recall anything? Would that be better, or worse, than remembering? And what if your body remembered what you’d forgotten; certain things could make your heart race and your fight, flight, or freeze instincts kick in; or for no obvious reason, make your skin crawl or make you feel cold and clammy; or take your breath away when the air is clear, and you’re not even exercising? Would that be better, or worse, than remembering?

To quote childwelfare.gov:

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events occurring before age 18. ACEs include all types of abuse and neglect as well as parental mental illness, substance use, divorce, incarceration, and domestic violence. A landmark study in the 1990s found a significant relationship between the number of ACEs a person experienced and a variety of negative outcomes in adulthood, including poor physical and mental health, substance abuse, and risky behaviors. The more ACEs experienced, the greater the risk for these outcomes.

That describes me pretty well. I was abused in multiple ways. I had a raging alcoholic for a father; and he abused my brothers and me, and our mom, too. My parents divorced when I was young, and for a time we had supervised visitation with my father. But I don’t actually remember most of that. In fact, one of my youngest memories comes from when I was twelve, not long before my dad disappeared. My brothers and I were at visitation with our dad, with our mom supervising, and he made an overtly sexual comment about my sixteen year old brother’s recent (medically necessary) circumcision. That’s what’s salient for me, that’s how I know something terrible happened, even though I don’t remember any of it.

Memory is a challenge for me. History is a mystery. The idea of ‘long-term memory’ seems like a joke other people are playing on me, and the idea of ‘short-term memory’ seems like the punch-line that flies over my head. You see, I have Multiple Sclerosis.

From the National MS Society:

Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS). […] Within the CNS, the immune system causes inflammation that damages myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves, and the specialized cells that make myelin. When myelin or nerve fibers are damaged or destroyed in MS, messages within the CNS are altered or stopped completely.  […] The damaged areas develop scar tissue which gives the disease its name – multiple areas of scarring or multiple sclerosis. The cause of MS is not known, but it is believed to involve genetic susceptibility, abnormalities in the immune system and environmental factors that combine to trigger the disease.

And excerpted from Dube et al’s Cumulative Childhood Stress and Autoimmune Diseases in Adults:

Childhood traumatic stress increased the likelihood of hospitalization with a diagnosed autoimmune disease decades into adulthood. These findings are consistent with recent biological studies on the impact of early life stress on subsequent inflammatory responses.

Environmental factors, ACEs, poor physical health… reader, let me tell you something about MS. It flares up when the patient experiences unmitigated distress. Like, say, just as a random example; when the patient has a supervisor who mocks and berates employees, including for their terrible memory, and there’s nothing the employee can do about it because he really needs that job and whatever little pittance it brings in. That’d probably do it. But that’s not the only kind of distress, and whatever the source, distress worsens MS. MS is an autoimmune disorder and it’s believed to be caused at least in part by “environmental factors”. ACEs are potent environmental factors. Two plus two usually equals four, and the math adds up here, too. The initial distress at least contributed to the disease’s development if it didn’t outright create it, and the disease is then powered by further distress. And the retraining necessary to learn how to avoid distress and manage it when it comes is orders of magnitude Easier-Said-Than-Done, especially when you have a mind like a sieve, or Swiss-Cheese-Brain.

I have a lot of ways to describe the state of my memory, because part of the retraining is developing a sense of humor about the thing. Long story short, there are hundreds of lesions throughout my brain, where my own immune system attacked it, ate away pieces of it. Because of that, and among a list of symptoms that aren’t really important here, I have difficulty forming new memories, and many of the ones that were already there have been ravaged by the disease. Among the old and now-destroyed memories are all the ones I would have of my abuse. It happened. I’ve just forgotten.

It could be argued that’s a blessing. Something terrible happened to me, but I don’t have to remember any of it. It could also be argued that’s a curse. Something terrible happened to me, but I’ll probably never be able to fully process it. Regardless, it’s kept me up nights. Not nearly as often anymore, but it used to be the case that I’d have nightmares whenever I’d sleep, and night terrors whenever I was trying to sleep. There are still things that fill my veins with ice. There are still things that terrify me, for no obvious reason.

So what if you knew something terrible happened, but you couldn’t remember? What if you couldn’t bring up the tiniest shred of evidence in your own mind that it happened? What if the tapestry of your memory was destroyed by that same terrible thing? Would that be better, or worse, than remembering?

Amputees experience a phenomenon called Phantom Limb. An itchy left foot, years after it was removed. Pain in the right wrist, yet they’ve worn a prosthetic right arm for a long time. What is MS but a kind of rot in the brain? What are brain lesions but amputations of memory?

So, last question, reader. If your innocence is stolen from you, and you only know it happened at all because of Phantom Memory, and the reason you only have Phantom Memory available to you is that your innocence was stolen from you in the first place…

Is that better, or worse, than remembering?

You tell me.

SHELTER?? In Place

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Written by Billy Walker

As I thought about this Shelter in Place order, I knew what it meant for the abused child. For many, school is the social getaway. It’s the time they get a reprieve from the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Shelter in Place means being trapped with their abuser.

Experts tell us that domestic violence can increase when people are in close proximity for extended periods. They also tell us that there is a greater risk of child abuse in families where there is enormous stress—isolation, struggles paying the bills, uncertainty over well-being.

Bree Marchman, Child Welfare Division Director for Marin County in California, was interviewed by Devin Fehely of KPIX news. She stated that the child abuse hotlines are open but the calls are down in Marin and Statewide. These children, who are victims of abuse, typically reach out to those they trust; which is often teachers, counselors, and classroom aides. Without those people in their lives, they have nowhere to turn.

These children have been ripped from the thin strand of safety they had. I can only speculate what the next few weeks (or months) will look like to these kids. Schooling in an undisciplined, abusive, violent, or emotionally traumatic environment can only be a dismal failure.

This isn’t a class, race, or creed issue. This is simply an abuse issue, across all economic and cultural pods. With over six and a half million people filing unemployment, Shelter isn’t secure let alone safety for the future. This stress and uncertainty could be fuel for even the least likely to abuse.

What can be done? First things first. Find out who to call. Santa Maria California Police reported a surge in domestic cases which included child abuse just as Miami and Houston did.

We can be proactive with phone numbers on our refrigerator for child services, police department and maybe even domestic shelters to be able to hand off, if someone may need it.

Now more than ever when we hear the abuse—the doors slamming, the child screaming and crying—and see marks and bruises on the kids: we need to call the hotlines. The goal isn’t to have the families destroyed. The goal is to head off lifelong trauma. Because, make no mistake, an abused child is traumatized lifelong. But early intervention can reduce the severity.

When we report it is important to remember we aren’t splitting a family. We are reaching and helping a family that needs our help.

I Was That Girl

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Written by Roselena Guerra

I was that girl…

That girl who peed her pants while her father stood in front of her.  I wish I could say more, but somehow my brain can’t remember the details. I was so young.  The girl who stood by her mother as her father threw a glass vase at them for trying to defend her son.  Oh, how she remembers that gut-wrenching feeling sitting there watching her mother cry. Such a confused little girl.  The girl who watched her brother stare at the wall in the corner for hours without being fed for not being “good enough.”  The girl who learned to stay away from strangers while the real danger was right at home.

I was that girl…

That girl who dreaded the night, knowing she would be up listening to her mother and father argue in the next room.  The girl who held her soggy teddy bear up to her chin praying to God to make it stop. Making promises she couldn’t keep.  The girl who was nauseous every morning fearing what mood her father would have that day.  The girl who was forced to stand in her parents’ room with her brothers to listen as her father shamed and belittled their mother.  The girl who hugged her mother tight as tears ran down her face, listening to her father’s insults. The girl who locked eyes with the devil. Lying to his brown hairy face knowing damn well her mother was hiding in the garage. Sitting there hearing her mother scream because of this devil as her Nana screamed too, for God. The girl who saw her mother’s bruise as they got ready for church that night.

I was that girl…

That girl who became a victim of her father’s words and hands.  The girl who was criticized for trying to be herself and stand up for what’s right.  The girl whose self-esteem was constantly destroyed.  She was fat and should lose weight.  She was worthless and useless for not cooking for him.  Who would want a girl like her? She was a whore for dressing “worldly” and not abiding by the church’s rules. His rules.  She was a slut on drugs in the streets for going out to eat with friends after Prom. She was useless if she didn’t experiment on her body. but she was worthless if anyone else touched her body. No one, I repeat, no one would ever want or love her.

I was that girl…

That girl, groomed by her father.  The girl who sat on her father’s lap. Daddy’s girl.  The girl who got massages to help develop her entire body.  The girl who was asked to take lingerie pictures… to win money… to hire a Christian band for her Quincenera.  The girl who was forced to kiss his lips, after he apologized for ruining her Quincenera with his religious beliefs.  The girl who lay there as he told her not to tell her mother.  The girl who soon avoided and hated her father. Who became the girl who sat in the passenger seat as he tried to convince her that he loved her like a father. Friends’ fathers were probably doing the same.

I was that girl…

That girl who began hurting herself.  The girl who sliced her arms and thighs.  The girl who starved herself and lied about eating.  The girl who spent afternoons in the nurse’s office rather than class.  The girl who was rushed out of class and sent home due to severe panic attacks.  The girl who began taking medication at a young age.  The girl who stopped going to therapy once her therapist, with the Big Blue Eyes, questioned her about the abuse. The girl who had the loudest laugh, but cried herself to sleep. The girl whose secret was diminishing her.

Then, I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who broke her silence. The Survivor who broke the cycle and found out there were others like her.  A brave soul who reported her abuser.  The Survivor who waited anxiously as each preliminary hearing was rescheduled.  The Survivor who was accused of being a fucking liar and attention seeker by her own family. The Survivor who faced her abuser in court while he continued to shake his head in disbelief at the accusations. The plea deal. Six year sentence, while she fights a life sentence.

I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who hit rock bottom. The Survivor whose brother talked to the 911 operator as he held a towel over her bloody forearms. The Survivor who wears her scars proudly but also shrugs at the sight of strangers’ reactions.  The Survivor who turned to dancing, singing, and therapy to assist in her healing journey.  The Survivor with an amazing support team. The Survivor who desperately searched for love. The Survivor who refused to continue the cycle of violence because her baby girl deserved so much more.

I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who refused to give up.  The Survivor who was reaccepted into University because she wanted to find a bigger purpose to her story. The Survivor who passed her semester the same week she was put on bed rest.  The Survivor who earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology with an 11 month old daughter to cheer her on.  The Survivor who is now passionate and has spent the last few years serving at-risk youth. Because they matter and they need to be heard.

I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who continues to discover life after the abuse.  The Survivor who wants to be loved. Who falls but gets back up again.  The Survivor who is often misunderstood as angry, dramatic, or jealous. The Survivor who can be triggered by a month, a song, a holiday, a dream, or a person. The Survivor who can’t control her reactions sometimes. Who often blames herself and feels like a burden. Although it may not seem like a big deal to most, if you had to relive the abuse over again for each and every little trigger, you’d probably understand.

I became that Survivor…

That Survivor who found her way to an amazing organization, Breaking the Silence. The Survivor who earned her Survivor’s Medallion. The Survivor who uses her story to reach other survivors. The Survivor who will NEVER stop overcoming the darkness or fighting for what she deserves. For what ALL OF US deserve. Healing.

Now, I’m a Warrior.

A Message to Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

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Written by Jasper Lopez

If you’re reading this, I want to say thank you for taking the time.  I hope this message is able to impact lives for the better.

I know what it feels like to need to keep it a secret. The abuse.

Every day that I kept my secret buried inside felt like a small victory.  I just felt like if I could make it through the abuse then I could keep this secret for the rest of my life.  No one would have to know and I would tell myself, “This won’t affect me.”

Those first few years after I no longer had to suffer through the almost daily abuse, I was the happiest person you’d ever seen.  I felt as if I had escaped. I had made it out. I could go on with the rest of my life and never think about this ever again.

The truth is I couldn’t go a day without thinking about it.

Soon the happiness started to fade but I continued to smile.

“Everything is good over here, I’m fine.”

Then I thought I could hold the secret in a bottle. A flask. And maybe these sleeping pills would help.

That is until my eyes started closing and as they closed I thought Oh shit! Did I just mess up?

My last thought before I passed out was I don’t want to die.

I awakened 16 hours later, walked myself to the bathroom, and saw the reflection in the mirror of a pale, dehydrated, lost young man.

“What the fuck happened to you?  You were supposed to be a superstar, you were supposed to conquer the world!”

It took me time to break my silence and realize that the only person I was protecting with my silence was the person that caused all the pain to begin with.

I would then go on a journey to turn my life around.  I ran my first ever marathon. Moved to Northern California.  Started seeing a therapist. Picked up surfing along the way. And figured out my life’s purpose.

But I struggle with my insecurities.

I share my story with you because no one should feel as though they have to wait years to break their silence.  Those dreams and aspirations that you had as a kid are all still possible.

Now more than ever we need people to chase their dreams.

We need people that will speak their truth and shine their light to guide those who have yet to break their silence.

If you are still struggling with the idea of sharing your story, you are not alone. You will have friends, family, colleagues, mentors, coaches there when the path gets tough.

Assembly Bill 218, which went into effect January 1st, 2020 allows for civil action against the offender and any institution or organization that allowed it to happen.  It’s an open window for the truth to be revealed and the institutions that allowed it or concealed it to be held accountable.  The law extends the statute of limitations 22 years after the victims 18th birthday.  There is also a provision in the law that allows for anyone to come forward until January 1st, 2023.

Although you cannot go back in time and undo the wrongs that happened, it’s not too late to share your story and break your silence.  You don’t know how or who you may impact by sharing your story.

This is important information, so please pass it on. To a friend. A family member. Someone you know that has suffered for far too long.

There is no need to keep secrets.

We are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and we are stronger together.

A Beggar

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Written by Alynn Berk

Growing up I didn’t think my childhood was so bad.  Not until I began to feel ashamed of my own family because other families weren’t like mine.  And then I just began to feel ashamed.

Child abuse has affected my whole life, every relationship and most importantly my relationship with myself.  At 56 years old I’m continually gaining awareness of the lifelong impact that child abuse has had on my ability to cope in almost every situation.

Worst of all, child abuse strips away self-love.  It rips it out of every cell and replaces love with shame. Infinite shame so unbearable that being IN the world is impossible.  It shades everything, every relationship, spiritual awareness, language and interpretation, into an awkward, embarrassing, and very small version of what I could be – of what is possible for me to be.

Compliments are met with dismissiveness.  Criticisms are an overwhelming amplification of self-hatred.  God is at worst an intentional manipulator of fate—and at best an ignorant bystander.  Love is doled out by those with more power than myself, who I can rarely please but wait timidly for any morsel of kindness.

That is until the pain of shame became so unbearable that I chose self-love.  I chose to walk an unknown path to healing.  I could no longer bear the known path of fear, shame, awkwardness, and being a beggar for affirmation.

I became a beggar for myself.  I begged to know what it would feel like to be comfortable in my skin, feel confident enough to set boundaries, to know that failure wouldn’t cause rejection. I wanted to celebrate who I was at every moment, to joyfully receive compliments into my heart and hear criticism with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Self-love enables me to choose healthy partners and friends, search for a compassionate interpretation of my highest Self, set boundaries without stress, and respect other people’s boundaries without shame.  Self-love means I can go to dinner or the movies alone and truly enjoy my own company.

Self-love means I no longer search for someone to tell me that I am lovable, or even likable, or even tolerable.  Because no one could give me the kind of love that I give myself.  The kind of love that leaves very little room for shame, very little room for begging, and very little room for, well, bullshit.

How did I come to a place of unconditional self-love?

I got so very sick and tired of believing that I was worthless and unworthy.  I was abused one too many times and I refused to live that way anymore – small, and in hiding.  I wanted my very first reaction to be standing up for myself instead of standing outside of my body. I wanted to know what it felt like to punch someone awful, smack in the nose, either figuratively or literally. I wanted to walk away from a bully with my head held high.

So I did my inner work, the ugly and beautiful healing that lifted me above my shame and transformed it into laughter.

The most beautiful thing about self-love is that it gives you freedom. Freedom from shame and lack.  Freedom to believe in yourself and allow people see all your wonderful qualities, including those qualities they may not admire.

Self-love is really about conquering the inner demons that had no business being there in the first place and filling yourself up with the confidence to be in the world without shame.