A Day in the Life of a Sexual Abuser Survivor
Gina woke up and rolled over to shut off the blaring alarm. When her eyes caught the sight of the cookie crumbs on the nightstand, she groaned. “Ugh, not again!” How was it that her body was constantly battling against her? She had been trying so hard to lose weight, but every time a pound or two came off, she found herself sleep eating.
It was a battle to drag herself out of bed, but eventually, she made her way to the dresser. As she pulled out a baggy sweatshirt that hid the scars on her arms and the extra weight on her waist, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. An almost violent explosion of anger and self-hatred filled her senses. She grabbed the nearest object, a coffee mug, and threw it at the mirror. It shattered, taking with it the horrid reflection she had seen there. You’re so ugly, she thought out loud. She imagined the school counselor would scold her for a comment like that, but it was mild compared to the hundreds of other dark thoughts in her head. She hated herself and often wondered what the point of living was.
Lunchtime was always the worst part of school. The quality (or lack thereof) of school food wasn’t the problem; it was being out in the open where anyone could see her. If Gina had the opportunity to pick a superpower, it would be invisibility. Then no one would notice her. No one would think she was worth their time. No one would sneak into her bedroom at night and…
She stopped that thought right there. Now was not the time to have a panic attack, which is almost always what happened when she followed that train of thought. Instead, she fixed her eyes on the food on her plate. You stupid idiot, she thought. Why would you pick food like that if you want to lose weight? She felt like she would never understand why she did the things she did. And how could she? She was just a messed up piece of garbage. Nothing to understand there.
The ignition turned off in the driveway, and Gina tried to hide the shudder that went through her body. She suddenly felt nauseous, but that was stupid. She had nothing to fear. It was still light outside, Mom was here, and nothing had happened for the past several weeks. Still, her stomach was doing summersaults, and she fought the urge to bolt from the living room. She had to hide this. If Mom saw her reaction, she’d ask her what was wrong. And she couldn’t be honest. Gina was still scarred from the way her mom had responded the first time. She’d run to her room, sobbing so hard she could barely speak. As she poured out what little her six-year-old mind could say, her mom had slapped her and told her never to talk about her father like that. She said if anything happened it was Gina’s fault and that she should never bring it up again. Eventually, Gina came to realize that she was right. Gina was the one who was messed up; she should have known better. She should have been able to explain it better to her mom. She could have done something differently. And it couldn't really be abuse, because she still loved her dad and wouldn’t tell anyone if her life depended on it.
Gina woke up in a cold sweat, barely suppressing a scream. The reoccurring nightmare left her feeling as helpless and dirty as the first time her father touched her. She was trapped with nowhere to turn to, and it was like she was being violated over and over again. She was so tired of feeling like this. Life either needed to get better or it needed to end. She knew she needed help, but who could she possibly turn to…
This story is based on the millions of stories of children who experience sexual abuse in the United States every year. It’s a huge epidemic, far worse than society would like to admit. It’s real and it’s devastating the lives of youth all over the country. The effects I included (poor self-esteem, self-hatred, anger outbursts, self-harm, overeating, obesity, panic attacks, fear, confusion, nightmares, trouble sleeping, and suicidal thoughts) are only a few of the issues that sexual abuse survivors deal with. If we want to break the cycle of violence and brokenness in our society, we have to stop abuse and neglect.
Children do remember trauma; it's stored in their bodies and it affects the rest of their lives. Sexual abuse is never okay at any age or in any circumstance.
If you are a survivor of childhood abuse, there are resources out there for you. Many people have improved their lives dramatically through therapy and other resources. We're here to listen to your story, provide resources, and help you with whatever else you may need.
And if your life hasn't been forever changed by sexual abuse or violence, please join us in preventing it. Check out NSVRC's website for more information on sexual violence and follow us on social media.
Call 1-800-770-1650 or text "IOWAHELP" to 20121 to talk to an advocate.