I wanted to write an article about sexual coercion this week. I may still write it, but I find myself unable to think of much other than my current situation. Something that I have not shared with my readers is my own personal story. Sure I have told people that I am a child abuse and domestic violence survivor, but I have not truly opened myself up to my readers until recently. My first transparent article was posted on RachelintheOc.com, titled How to Love Yourself and Not Your Abuser.
In that article, I discuss the sexual abuse I experienced as a child at the hands of my oldest brother. After writing and publishing that article, my family has been going through an emotional roller coaster. Some of them first learned about the abuse through the article. Others already knew, but felt upset that I had told personal information about our family. Some writers from my writer’s group suggested that I use a pen name in the future. I had considered this at first. I pushed that idea aside, because I feel ready to tell the world everything about me. I don’t want to keep secrets from the world, my family, or myself anymore. So with that article, I told my truth, no matter the consequences.
It seems like once a victim has experienced abuse, whether it’s in childhood or adult life, they continue to be punished throughout their lives. It takes a very strong constitution and a strong support system to get through some of the things a victim experiences.
Most can get an idea of what I experienced by reading the article I spoke about above. As a child, I experienced sexual abuse by the hands of my oldest brother. It began before I can even remember, likely at three or four-years-old, and went on until I was twelve years old. I was good at pretending nothing was happening and loved my brother anyways. Besides my brother doing those things to me, I was also a victim of covert sexual abuse by my father. A few times after I got out of the shower, I found him in my closet. He also dropped his towel in front of me one time. Although he never touched me, it still was traumatizing to know my father sexualized me in some way.
Between these two things, I had developed PTSD by the age of five. My emotions became very cold and I had difficulty attaching to anyone. I only trusted myself and knew I had to be tough to get by. I would sleep in my closet, because I felt safest there. I wouldn’t be able to turn my back to a door. I couldn’t handle my feet not being covered in some way. I was constantly paranoid about people’s intentions with me. So I was a strange, little kid that no one seemed to understand.
“I was mad that I would have to live each day with a reminder of my abuse.”
By the time I was sixteen, I had developed depression. Soon after, I began to have chronic pain. My depression worsened over time and I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at the age of twenty-five. The chronic pain spread throughout my body and I began to show different worrying symptoms. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in my mid-twenties, as well. Later I would learn that child sexual abuse made patients more susceptible to brain changes, which could lead to Fibromyalgia. Learning that upset me a lot. I was mad that I would have to live each day with a reminder of my abuse.
Besides my health, I experienced two domestic violence relationships. One of them was when I was eighteen to twenty-years-old. I loved my boyfriend and thought he was amazing. He was a very strong and scary guy, but he was a sweetheart to me. I finally felt cared for and protected; I felt like I didn’t have to protect myself for the first time in my life. After we moved in together, things started to change. He started being emotionally abusive. Over time that developed into a physically and sexually abusive relationship.
A few years later, I got involved with a man that I thought I would marry. He was great until I moved in with him. He started calling me fat and making me feel bad about myself. He would punch me and threaten to kill me. I would sleep in a different room in the house and lock the door. I could barely sleep, because I was so scared he was going to come in the room and kill me. I was eager to leave him and booked a plane ticket home as soon as possible. A year later, when he found out I was pregnant with my first child, he threatened to come find me and cut my child out of me. I made sure my name, email, social media, and address were all changed so he couldn’t find me.
I had two failed relationships that produced two great children. I am the mother of two wonderful girls. Because of my daughters:
I sought out help for my Major Depressive Disorder.
I got medication for my Fibromyalgia.
I went to counseling for three years.
I went to church and found God.
I changed my lifestyle and worked on finding a positive outlook on life.
I worked two jobs and tried to provide for them the best I could. I was exhausted! Raising kids is HARD. I hadn’t been out with friends in a long time since having my children. So I went out to let loose and enjoy myself. That night a man drugged my drink and raped me. I couldn’t understand why that happened to me. I was a good Christian now and had changed my life. I went through a difficult time trying to understand why God would let that happen to me after everything I had already been through.
A year later, I began to work for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The training I went through helped me to understand many different aspects of domestic violence. I also learned a lot about sexual assault and sexual coercion. Between the counseling I received and the training I went through, I was able to think more clearly about my past situations. It made me want to help others that have experienced abuse at the hands of another. Going through these experiences is very isolating and we all need as much support from each other as possible.
Being a Repeat Victim
When someone experiences multiple types of abuse, it’s easy for them to blame themselves. It’s hard to understand what makes certain people a target for abusers. People may wonder what it says about them that multiple people have chosen to use and abuse them. This is something that I have done a lot of research on, because I am a repeat victim. Repeat victimization is more common than many people think. During my research on the topic, I came across a few reasons why people are repeatedly victimized.
1) A lot of people that have experienced child abuse have been taught that love comes hand-in-hand with abuse. People who experienced child abuse, often have not learned how to create healthy boundaries with toxic people
2) Some people who have experienced trauma, have lost the ability to properly gauge dangerous situations. Abuse changes the way we react to situations. Some of us become hyper sensitive to our surroundings, while others lose the ability to properly gauge what might be considered risky or dangerous.
3) This is my least favorite theory about repeated victimization. The theory that states in victims there is a compulsion to repeat the abuse of our past. It’s said that many victims will place themselves in dangerous situations because of this need. This theory states that victims place themselves in like-situations to their past in hopes of creating a better outcome. This is my least favorite theory only because it skirts the line with victim blaming. I don’t doubt the validity of this theory though.
It’s important to realize that no matter the reason for the repeat victimization, it is not the victim’s fault. We SHOULD be able to trust people. We SHOULD feel safe in our homes. Abusers like to take advantage of that trust. The best way to prevent repeated victimization is through counseling. It helps the victim to realize toxic people in their lives, recognize abusers, and understand dangerous situations.