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.