I Had Victim Written All Over Me

I saw this quote in a local news story about a sexual assault that occurred involving a couple of players from the Oregon State football team 16 years ago. They were spoken by the victim in the case, then-24 year old Brenda Tracy.

Now, I don’t normally get into assault and violence against adults on this site. Not that it doesn’t bother me, but this site is about child abuse survivors and I don’t want to have to start writing about every case of violence that occurs. There’s just not enough time in my life for that, so I try to stay focused. I’m not making an exception here because, as it turns out, Brenda was a victim of child abuse prior to ever being in this situation:

Tracy said she was sexually abused as a minor, up until age 5 by a family member, then again at 9 by a neighbor. She has not talked publicly about the earlier incidents. And while it’s the practice of The Oregonian to not name victims of alleged sexual assault, Tracy insisted she be identified here.

“I’ve spent all this time trying to prove to the world that I belong here,” she said. “That it’s OK to take up space, that I’m not garbage.”

As a young woman she found herself in abusive relationships, a partner to men who were volatile, angry and dangerous. She’d been emotionally and physically abused. She remembers wearing a turtleneck in the summer once to cover bruising on her neck after being choked by a boyfriend. The father of her children was incarcerated, first for drugs, then a Measure 11 sentence for robbery. She was prey, and the predators often found her.

“My self-esteem was gone,” Tracy said. “I didn’t think I was worth anyone really loving me.”

This is how childhood abuse plays out in adulthood for many people, male and female. The abuse becomes an ingrained part of how we see ourselves, believing that it was deserved. As adults, why would we believe we deserve anything else?

If you never get out of seeing yourself as a victim, your adult life may not look much different than hers. If you can get past that though, and start to understand that you are not garbage, that you have value and have a contribution to make, then you can overcome. You can stop being a victim, and become a true survivor.

Brother and Sister Survivor Show How Secrecy Works

The latest episode of the Survivor Stories podcast, featuring Ben Glade and Annaka Vimahi, brought home two important things to know about child abuse:

1. How deep does the secrecy surrounding child abuse run? A brother and sister, 4 years apart, have no idea they were both being abused until they were in their thirties.

Think about that. When we talk about child abuse being a secret epidemic, this is a prime example. Abusers groom kids and do everything they can to keep them silent. Survivors grow up and face all kinds of stigma, so they keep silent, and the cycle just continues. The only way out is to keep talking, and let kids being abused, and adult survivors, know that they aren’t alone.

2. Survivors truly are all around us. We just don’t talk about it and therefore we don’t know how many people right in front of us can identify with what we are dealing with. We need more survivors willing to identify themselves and let it be known that they survived, and have overcome, childhood abuse.

What’s the End Result?

Tomorrow I get to do something that, according to statistics, is one of the things adult survivors of sexual abuse dread the most. I have to have some dental work done.

I was terrified going to the initial appointment for an exam, I’m terrified of going back to have this work done, and I’m terrified of the number of appointments I will have to have to fully complete the work. Luckily, we found a dentist here in Corvallis who specializes in sedation dentistry, so I will actually be sedated long before I step foot in the office tomorrow, but even with that added bonus, just the thought of being in a dentist chair makes me feel queasy.

The only thing that is getting me through this, and the thing I’m counting on to get me through this whole process is the knowledge that the end result will be worth it. I’m looking forward to getting these things fixed and moving forward.

I think healing from abuse is a similar reality. Some of the steps toward healing can be scary, and many of them won’t be all that pleasant. Facing what happened, and facing the self-destructive behaviors we’ve developed over the years to help deal with it can be pretty terrifying. Healing isn’t always pretty. Sometimes, it can be a lot like taking a drill in the mouth, but we do it because the end result is worth it.

A life beyond “surviving” is out there, and it’s possible, but you have to show up to each appointment to get there. Keep your eyes on the end goal and keep moving forward!

Facebook User Asking For Advice on Confronting Her Abuser

Over on the Facebook page someone sent me a message asking for advice. Since I haven’t really faced a similar situation, with her permission I posted it to the page to see if anyone else had any wisdom to share. If you do, please go share your thoughts!

Take Care of Yourself

Over at the revamped No Longer Silence Movement website, they’ve put together a list titled “Treat Yourself“.

I am not pointing to it because I think there’s any new amazing revelation in this list of ways to take care of yourself. In fact, if you look at it, it’s mostly full of very common sense ways that adults should take of themselves on a day to day basis. On the other hand, that’s exactly the point. I’ve said many times that when you are surviving an abusive, horrific, childhood, you are too busy surviving what is happening to pick up the subtle lessons of life that you should be learning as you grow up. When we should have been learning about how to dress, good hygiene, ways to deal with stress, etc. we were learning how to hide, how to deflect attention, how to disconnect emotionally and all of the other defense mechanisms that we used to protect ourselves.

Healing for that, is learning how to move forward and live an adult life. This list is a nice place to start, and to understand that we are worthy of the care that we give ourselves.