No one deserves to suffer in silence

Not too long ago I linked to a study on incest, and the next day I woke up to 6 emails from people who have been abused, know someone who has been abused, or are just generally appalled and didn’t know it was so prevalent and horrifying. Over the course of the summer, 2 more people have confided in me and told me their story. A total of EIGHT people have broken the silence and told me about how sexual abuse and assault has affected them. That’s a lot, but it’s not at the same time. I want more people talking about it. I want more people to know about how rampant sexual abuse is, about its long-term effects and about its victims. And so, on that note, here goes:

I am a survivor of incest.

It started when I was 3 years old and continued for 7 years, about 4 times a week on average. I don’t remember the abuse being hurtful to my body, but I do remember it feeling gross. It would happen after hours, when everyone had gone to bed. There’s no way to properly explain how fear paralyzes you in those moments. I knew at any moment I could scream, or make a run for it, and it might stop. But fear of not being believed or of making someone mad was enough to nail me to my bed. I sure as hell didn’t want to know what would happen if I were to anger my abuser. I never said a word, therefore there were no beatings, not even any threats — not verbal ones anyway. To me, they didn’t have to be verbalized; they were implied, and they were terrifying.

However, when I was 10, I started to get this sense of urgency: I knew it needed to stop. I couldn’t explain to you WHY, though. Perhaps I had a feeling that once I’d hit puberty and become a sexual being, it would be worse. Of course I couldn’t know that back then, but I would have been right. I was “fortunate” in that it happened in a stage when I was unaware of sexuality. Perhaps my mom’s pregnancy at the time struck a chord with me — I was terrified of having a little sister who’d grow up to be abused as well. In my mind, that’s what would have happened. One time I even called 911, but chickened out and hung up. They called my house back and my parents answered, and I was grounded for a week for making prank calls to 911. Shortly after, I confided in a friend. I don’t remember what could have possibly possessed me to ever tell anyone for the first time ever, but I did. Then, on November 11, 1994 — I’ll always remember it because it was Remembrance Day, and I was going to march in a parade at school because I was a Girl Guide living on a military base — I was called into the principal’s office at school. Turns out my friend had told her mom, who had called the school. The principal was sitting in her office with the school social worker. They asked me about some “trouble” I was having at home. I asked if I had to talk about it. They said it would be better if I did.

So I did. I told. I told everything. I remember how hard my heart was pounding. My mind was racing. I knew my life was going to change forever, but I didn’t know if it would be for better or for worse. I wasn’t allowed to go home for lunch. That day, I had to tell 2 policewomen. I also told them again, later, in my basement, in front of a camera — for court purposes. In total I had to tell my story three times in a short period after keeping it a secret for 7 years. The school had called my mom in the meantime. I was terrified of her not believing me. That was my one and only concern. When I was finally allowed to see her, she hugged me. We cried and cried. She said she believed me. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure she was told to tell me that. But anyway. We cried, my mom tied up some loose ends with the school, and we went home with my younger brother. I never saw my abuser again.

That was the beginning of the rest of my life. My baby brother was born December 2, and to tell you the truth, I do not remember one single thing about what happened between November 11 and December 2. Not. one. thing. My mom says I spent a lot of time up in my room, playing quietly. I stopped hugging and kissing her and my other brother. I started suffering from sleep paralysis and nightmares; these went on for about 5 years. A month later I started therapy: individual, family and group. I was in therapy for 18 months. During this time, charges were pressed and a trial was prepared. Fortunately, thanks to a guilty plea I didn’t have to testify in court. The sentence was 8 months, with a total of 5 months served. It’s a good thing I was in therapy when we learned the verdict. Five months just seemed — and still seems, to be honest — so little. Apparently, though, “inside”, they make sure perpetrators like him are “taken care of.” I’ve never wanted details, but I do know for a fact that some form of justice was served in those 5 months.

I have never had a relationship with my abuser, and I still feel guilty for not having a relationship with him. It might seem crazy, but consider how confusing and damaging it is to be abused for so long by someone who is supposed to love and protect you. You have no idea how hard I’ve worked in the last 17 years to feel at peace with myself for wanting to be in control of my own body and do what I feel is right and safe for me, all the while fighting extraordinary amounts of guilt on a quasi-daily basis about not letting my abuser see his daughter.

I endured long-term sexual abuse by a person in a position of authority, which made me develop a footprint of secrecy and hopelessness. I still deal with these feelings. You might not be able to tell because I tweet so much and say stupid shit about myself; seems like I’m an open book. But it’s all information of which I am in control. If someone were to read my emails, snoop around in my room, even just make a decision for me or speak on my behalf, I would feel so incredibly violated and annoyed. I crave control over everything when it comes to me. For so many years I was so completely powerless and just endured what someone else forced me to endure. Learning to channel that desire to be in constant control into something positive and not excessive isn’t easy. I struggle with it every day.

I also have massive body image issues. Some days I feel great; others, when I am stressed and things aren’t going my way, I am disgusted with myself. Reconciling my mind with my body in a positive way has been difficult. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder — a pretty direct consequence of the abuse — when I was 18, and was in therapy for a few months. I weigh 140lbs now; I remember weighing in at 97lbs when I started treatment. I will never forget the humiliation of learning how to eat again, or how grueling and embarrassing it was to complete a nutrition journal and log every single thing I ate, for my therapist to scrutinize and give me a gold star if I ate a banana and felt good about it. I have the tools to deal with stress and feelings of control today, but I probably won’t ever entirely heal.

I’ve been in therapy a total of 3 times: when I was 10, 14 and 18. I’ve been able to tell my mom that I don’t blame her. At all. I requested my file from when I was in therapy the very first time; they sent me my Sexual Assault Trauma Assessment. Reading it proved to be profoundly cathartic. I also requested court documents from the trial. The defense lawyers made me sick: for me, for my mom, for humanity, really. To see how they placed blame on me (even as a 3-year-old girl) and on my family, specifically my mom… it was absolutely devastating. But I digress. I also began volunteering as a crisis counselor at a rape crisis centre. Training was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but volunteering there has also been one of the most important decisions in my life. I’ve made so much progress in the last 2 years, and I’m confident in myself enough to share my story with others now.

I have spent most of my life feeling deeply ashamed. Perhaps now you understand a bit more how rampant and insidious rape culture is. I was conditioned to feel ashamed of and disgusted by my own sexuality, responsible for my abuse and guilty for wanting sexual pleasure now; it’s taken years to unlearn and reverse all those feelings. I’m 27 and I stopped feeling like a “slut” after sleeping with a guy probably only in the last 2 years or so. Becoming sexually liberated is one of my greatest accomplishments because it contradicts so much in this misogynistic society that encourages rape apologia in which we live. 

This coming November will mark 17th anniversary of me “coming out” with my story. In 17 years, I’ve told less than 10 people. Today, I am telling what could be thousands, including the many, many friends I’ve made on twitter. Truth be told I’m extremely nervous about telling my story, because still, despite everything I just said in this blogpost, I fear your reaction. I am an incredibly secretive person who needs to be in constant control and fears what people think of her. What I’m doing today is in direct conflict with these feelings, but I needed to do it. My level of discomfort with my own story has been such that for years I rejected the idea of “victim” or “survivor” — no more. I am proud to say I’m a survivor. If there’s anything i’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that in order to make a full recovery, and truly be armed with the right tools to cope with past sexual abuse, one needs to fully accept what happened and acknowledge how it affects them.

I’ve worked so hard, and if I can help or inspire or educate, I want to do it. I couldn’t live with myself anymore if I didn’t. My work at the centre and people’s reactions have opened my eyes to how rampant and misunderstood incest is. My best friend Marylène said it best when she said to me “Si je ne suis pas pro-moi, je suis anti-moi” which means “If I’m not pro-me, I’m anti-me.” This is me being pro-me, and my greatest hope is that the work I do, the stories I share and the recovery I’ve made help others in some way, whether it’s a victim who wants to break the silence, a survivor who needs a boost to get through his or her day, or someone not affected at all by abuse, but who might reconsider telling that rape joke or calling that girl a slut.

There are concrete things we can all do to help victims who suffer in silence, and not being afraid to discuss abuse openly is the first, most crucial step. There is a bigger picture here that goes beyond me. Chances are you know someone who is a victim or a survivor of abuse, whether you’re aware of it or not. They deserve and NEED to feel safe, and not fear being shamed or judged for something someone else did to them. Be aware of the repercussions of your words and your actions. If you know someone who has been abused, help them regain their sense of dignity, safety and self-worth that were taken from them. Let’s all shift our perception of abuse and victims, and open our eyes, our hearts and our minds to help our loved ones heal.  Let’s all be more vocal about acknowledging incest and its consequences, because no one deserves to suffer in silence.

No one deserves to suffer in silence

Not too long ago I linked to a study on incest, and the next day I woke up to 6 emails from people who have been abused, know someone who has been abused, or are just generally appalled and didn’t know it was so prevalent and horrifying. Over the course of the summer, 2 more people have confided in me and told me their story. A total of EIGHT people have broken the silence and told me about how sexual abuse and assault has affected them. That’s a lot, but it’s not at the same time. I want more people talking about it. I want more people to know about how rampant sexual abuse is, about its long-term effects and about its victims. And so, on that note, here goes:

I am a survivor of incest.

It started when I was 3 years old and continued for 7 years, about 4 times a week on average. I don’t remember the abuse being hurtful to my body, but I do remember it feeling gross. It would happen after hours, when everyone had gone to bed. There’s no way to properly explain how fear paralyzes you in those moments. I knew at any moment I could scream, or make a run for it, and it might stop. But fear of not being believed or of making someone mad was enough to nail me to my bed. I sure as hell didn’t want to know what would happen if I were to anger my abuser. I never said a word, therefore there were no beatings, not even any threats — not verbal ones anyway. To me, they didn’t have to be verbalized; they were implied, and they were terrifying.

However, when I was 10, I started to get this sense of urgency: I knew it needed to stop. I couldn’t explain to you WHY, though. Perhaps I had a feeling that once I’d hit puberty and become a sexual being, it would be worse. Of course I couldn’t know that back then, but I would have been right. I was “fortunate” in that it happened in a stage when I was unaware of sexuality. Perhaps my mom’s pregnancy at the time struck a chord with me — I was terrified of having a little sister who’d grow up to be abused as well. In my mind, that’s what would have happened. One time I even called 911, but chickened out and hung up. They called my house back and my parents answered, and I was grounded for a week for making prank calls to 911. Shortly after, I confided in a friend. I don’t remember what could have possibly possessed me to ever tell anyone for the first time ever, but I did. Then, on November 11, 1994 — I’ll always remember it because it was Remembrance Day, and I was going to march in a parade at school because I was a Girl Guide living on a military base — I was called into the principal’s office at school. Turns out my friend had told her mom, who had called the school. The principal was sitting in her office with the school social worker. They asked me about some “trouble” I was having at home. I asked if I had to talk about it. They said it would be better if I did.

So I did. I told. I told everything. I remember how hard my heart was pounding. My mind was racing. I knew my life was going to change forever, but I didn’t know if it would be for better or for worse. I wasn’t allowed to go home for lunch. That day, I had to tell 2 policewomen. I also told them again, later, in my basement, in front of a camera — for court purposes. In total I had to tell my story three times in a short period after keeping it a secret for 7 years. The school had called my mom in the meantime. I was terrified of her not believing me. That was my one and only concern. When I was finally allowed to see her, she hugged me. We cried and cried. She said she believed me. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure she was told to tell me that. But anyway. We cried, my mom tied up some loose ends with the school, and we went home with my younger brother. I never saw my abuser again.

That was the beginning of the rest of my life. My baby brother was born December 2, and to tell you the truth, I do not remember one single thing about what happened between November 11 and December 2. Not. one. thing. My mom says I spent a lot of time up in my room, playing quietly. I stopped hugging and kissing her and my other brother. I started suffering from sleep paralysis and nightmares; these went on for about 5 years. A month later I started therapy: individual, family and group. I was in therapy for 18 months. During this time, charges were pressed and a trial was prepared. Fortunately, thanks to a guilty plea I didn’t have to testify in court. The sentence was 8 months, with a total of 5 months served. It’s a good thing I was in therapy when we learned the verdict. Five months just seemed — and still seems, to be honest — so little. Apparently, though, “inside”, they make sure perpetrators like him are “taken care of.” I’ve never wanted details, but I do know for a fact that some form of justice was served in those 5 months.

I have never had a relationship with my abuser, and I still feel guilty for not having a relationship with him. It might seem crazy, but consider how confusing and damaging it is to be abused for so long by someone who is supposed to love and protect you. You have no idea how hard I’ve worked in the last 17 years to feel at peace with myself for wanting to be in control of my own body and do what I feel is right and safe for me, all the while fighting extraordinary amounts of guilt on a quasi-daily basis about not letting my abuser see his daughter.

I endured long-term sexual abuse by a person in a position of authority, which made me develop a footprint of secrecy and hopelessness. I still deal with these feelings. You might not be able to tell because I tweet so much and say stupid shit about myself; seems like I’m an open book. But it’s all information of which I am in control. If someone were to read my emails, snoop around in my room, even just make a decision for me or speak on my behalf, I would feel so incredibly violated and annoyed. I crave control over everything when it comes to me. For so many years I was so completely powerless and just endured what someone else forced me to endure. Learning to channel that desire to be in constant control into something positive and not excessive isn’t easy. I struggle with it every day.

I also have massive body image issues. Some days I feel great; others, when I am stressed and things aren’t going my way, I am disgusted with myself. Reconciling my mind with my body in a positive way has been difficult. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder — a pretty direct consequence of the abuse — when I was 18, and was in therapy for a few months. I weigh 140lbs now; I remember weighing in at 97lbs when I started treatment. I will never forget the humiliation of learning how to eat again, or how grueling and embarrassing it was to complete a nutrition journal and log every single thing I ate, for my therapist to scrutinize and give me a gold star if I ate a banana and felt good about it. I have the tools to deal with stress and feelings of control today, but I probably won’t ever entirely heal.

I’ve been in therapy a total of 3 times: when I was 10, 14 and 18. I’ve been able to tell my mom that I don’t blame her. At all. I requested my file from when I was in therapy the very first time; they sent me my Sexual Assault Trauma Assessment. Reading it proved to be profoundly cathartic. I also requested court documents from the trial. The defense lawyers made me sick: for me, for my mom, for humanity, really. To see how they placed blame on me (even as a 3-year-old girl) and on my family, specifically my mom… it was absolutely devastating. But I digress. I also began volunteering as a crisis counselor at a rape crisis centre. Training was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but volunteering there has also been one of the most important decisions in my life. I’ve made so much progress in the last 2 years, and I’m confident in myself enough to share my story with others now.

I have spent most of my life feeling deeply ashamed. Perhaps now you understand a bit more how rampant and insidious rape culture is. I was conditioned to feel ashamed of and disgusted by my own sexuality, responsible for my abuse and guilty for wanting sexual pleasure now; it’s taken years to unlearn and reverse all those feelings. I’m 27 and I stopped feeling like a “slut” after sleeping with a guy probably only in the last 2 years or so. Becoming sexually liberated is one of my greatest accomplishments because it contradicts so much in this misogynistic society that encourages rape apologia in which we live. 

This coming November will mark 17th anniversary of me “coming out” with my story. In 17 years, I’ve told less than 10 people. Today, I am telling what could be thousands, including the many, many friends I’ve made on twitter. Truth be told I’m extremely nervous about telling my story, because still, despite everything I just said in this blogpost, I fear your reaction. I am an incredibly secretive person who needs to be in constant control and fears what people think of her. What I’m doing today is in direct conflict with these feelings, but I needed to do it. My level of discomfort with my own story has been such that for years I rejected the idea of “victim” or “survivor” — no more. I am proud to say I’m a survivor. If there’s anything i’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that in order to make a full recovery, and truly be armed with the right tools to cope with past sexual abuse, one needs to fully accept what happened and acknowledge how it affects them.

I’ve worked so hard, and if I can help or inspire or educate, I want to do it. I couldn’t live with myself anymore if I didn’t. My work at the centre and people’s reactions have opened my eyes to how rampant and misunderstood incest is. My best friend Marylène said it best when she said to me “Si je ne suis pas pro-moi, je suis anti-moi” which means “If I’m not pro-me, I’m anti-me.” This is me being pro-me, and my greatest hope is that the work I do, the stories I share and the recovery I’ve made help others in some way, whether it’s a victim who wants to break the silence, a survivor who needs a boost to get through his or her day, or someone not affected at all by abuse, but who might reconsider telling that rape joke or calling that girl a slut.

There are concrete things we can all do to help victims who suffer in silence, and not being afraid to discuss abuse openly is the first, most crucial step. There is a bigger picture here that goes beyond me. Chances are you know someone who is a victim or a survivor of abuse, whether you’re aware of it or not. They deserve and NEED to feel safe, and not fear being shamed or judged for something someone else did to them. Be aware of the repercussions of your words and your actions. If you know someone who has been abused, help them regain their sense of dignity, safety and self-worth that were taken from them. Let’s all shift our perception of abuse and victims, and open our eyes, our hearts and our minds to help our loved ones heal.  Let’s all be more vocal about acknowledging incest and its consequences, because no one deserves to suffer in silence.

Posted 2 years ago 64 notes

Notes:

  1. dyancuzobrien reblogged this from metricjulie
  2. afton-holmes reblogged this from metricjulie
  3. katleen-williams reblogged this from metricjulie
  4. mariahoenenevigglad reblogged this from inkdot
  5. qualx reblogged this from metricjulie
  6. acontinuation reblogged this from andyhutchins and added:
    Seriously though, read this.
  7. andyhutchins reblogged this from metricjulie and added:
    Lots of trigger warnings, but this is a must-read.
  8. breakthebricks reblogged this from inkdot
  9. maddy44 reblogged this from inkdot
  10. inkdot reblogged this from metricjulie and added:
    Trigger warning for discussion of rape, incest, and eating disorders, which is why I’m not reblogging the complete text,...
  11. dianadoeslife reblogged this from metricjulie
  12. radname reblogged this from metricjulie
  13. sodisarmingdarling reblogged this from metricjulie and added:
    This is hard to read but please do, if you can.
  14. lotus09 reblogged this from metricjulie
  15. sexygeologist reblogged this from battlefly
  16. danlevy reblogged this from sboulton and added:
    Total agreement Sean. Wow, what a story. Words cannot begin...express what went...
  17. sboulton reblogged this from metricjulie and added:
    One of the best things about the internet, particularly Twitter? Getting the chance to have people with the courage to...
  18. acmesalesrep reblogged this from metricjulie and added:
    One person’s account of surviving incest. As @bruce_arthur put it: “This is hard to read, and brave as hell.”
  19. sarahh0ckey reblogged this from battlefly
  20. officer-judy reblogged this from battlefly
  21. battlefly reblogged this from metricjulie
  22. gur1bye reblogged this from metricjulie
  23. chibambo reblogged this from metricjulie
  24. rocketmunkey reblogged this from metricjulie and added:
    A must-read.

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