Twenty-six years. That is how long I buried the memories of my abuse. When my story dared rear its ugly head, I dug a deeper hole. Intense anger, dig it deeper. Trust no one, dig it deeper. Heavy drinking, keep digging. Promiscuity, deeper still. My story and my abuser silently controlled me. That ends now.
I was 13 years old. He was a boy around my age and my first serious boyfriend. I didn’t want to be intimate with him, but he told me that that is what girlfriends do. He told me he loved me and no one else would. I was confused. I complied because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I felt dirty every time, but, I thought, this was my fault, I chose this. The physical abuse started soon after that. He liked to punch me on my thighs, so I wore long shorts to cover the bruises. Once he tried to drown me in my parents’ pool. Another time he threw me across his living room. I landed on my neck and heard a crack, then could not feel my body from the neck down. After a few moments, I was able to get up, but I couldn’t turn my head for the next few days. I lied to my family and said it was an injury from dance. He was never angry when he did these things. He would always laugh and make a joke out of it. He liked to beat me in front of our friends. He liked to throw me against lockers at school and drag me down the school hallway by my ankle. I never considered any of this abuse because he did not violently force himself on me or beat me out of anger. I did not talk about it because I was ashamed that I allowed this to happen to me. I blamed myself and considered myself dirty and undeserving of respect and real love. We were together for one year. When we broke up I buried my story and told myself to move on. Except it wasn’t a proper burial.
I always thought that I was just an angry person. I assumed I was born this way. I have never felt peace and I assumed I never would. I craved the attention of men. I would recklessly flirt regardless if the guys had girlfriends, even if the girlfriends were my friends. When I met my ex-husband, I thought he was a good man because he didn’t hit me. After we were married he was emotionally and verbally abusive. Later, after my divorce I was promiscuous. And then there was the drinking. I turned to drinking until I was blind drunk into a sport. But wasn’t this normal behavior? Or at the very least, is it just how I am? Everyone does things they are not proud of, right? I couldn’t explain it and I didn’t like it, but I never knew how to stop. There were other incidents that I never knew how to explain. Like having a full-on panic attack during my first pelvic exam. Or, during my first pregnancy, refusing to let an old male doctor examine me only to end up laying on the hospital bed crying as he ordered me to lay down and be quiet. I now know that I wasn’t being overly dramatic, a “party girl”, or a difficult patient. I was experiencing the after effects of sexual and physical abuse that occurred when I was 13 years old.
The years have faded my memories and made them fuzzy. Sometimes I think I’m making this up. Recently, I called two sexual assault hotlines in search of validation and answers. I needed someone to tell me what I already knew, and have known for years, deep down inside. Validation came in the form of a kind voice on the other end of the line during my second attempt at crisis phone calls. I now have a name for my erratic behavior, anger, promiscuity, fear, and anxiety that have followed me, plagued me, for 26 years. I am a survivor of child sexual and physical abuse. I hope that by posting difficult details of my story, I can help others. It took me a long time to recognize these experiences as abuse because I was not raped and I was not hit out of anger. I hope that by sharing my story as an example, this might prevent someone else from going through what I did. If someone sees their story in mine, I hope they will get help a lot sooner than I did. It is important that we recognize that there are many forms of abuse and the only way to know this is to say it out loud.
Today I joined a community that no one ever wants to be a part of, but with whom I feel immediately at home. I have been reading the stories of other survivors and I see myself in their stories. My once scattered pieces fell together. I understand so much of what has eluded me for so long. No one ever wants to join this community, but I am inspired and proud to stand with its brave members. From now on, I am not ashamed and I will not be silent. I have learned that I have an iron will and no one can break it. I have a wonderful husband with kind eyes, a warm smile, and a gentle soul. We have two beautiful children. I have come a long way, but I am still healing. I will have peace. I deserve it.