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Life After Sexual Abuse Print E-mail
( 10 Votes )
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 25 April 2013 00:00

My name is Simone, I am from Belmopan, and I am 24 years old. In August of 2010, I wrote an article about my sexual abuse. If you have not read my story as yet you can go to Google and search for “A Sexual Abuse Survivor Tale in Belize”. It has been a difficult yet interesting two years since my last article. I was amazed by the feedback; I honestly thought I was all alone suffering with the effects of sexual abuse. It was difficult to reflect on what was done to me. I never thought sexual abuse would have ruined my life but it had. After hearing other survivor’s stories, I asked for some of them to meet so we could share and find ways to assist each other in the recovery. A few of us met and were working together for a few weeks along with a Psychotherapist. Facing the trauma is a long journey, it’s nothing easy to acknowledge the effects, remind yourself it’s not your fault and recreate your understanding about sexuality, spirituality, intimacy, society and actively practicing healthy patterns. As a group we were slowly opening up layers of pain, but it wasn’t long until survivor’s daily activities and priorities seemed more important to them than going back to childhood trauma.

The reason for this is that some of us are constantly told “The past is the past”, “Move on”, “Get over it”, “if you go back, you’re wasting your time”. We tend to believe all of this and deny we have problems. Even if we recognize some of the effects of abuse we don’t want to deal with it, also even if we want to, we are fearful. Some of us honestly believe ignoring our issues will automatically erase them; it doesn’t work that way no matter how hard we try. Sexual abuse consciously or unconsciously affects the way we interact with people, our decision making, self esteem, emotions, anger and sexual life; our entire life.

After the separation of the group, I felt all alone in misery, I wanted someone I could open up to other than my partner. I was starting to acknowledge my issues as tyrannous for my partner alone. It’s also understandable that it’s a difficult topic for family members to discuss, but I do wish I had their support; it would have made a tremendous difference in my recovery. The support of my partner and a few friends gave me hope that I can reclaim myself.

Although my partner supported me, he also needed support; it’s unfortunate that our country, as many others, doesn’t have support for Partners of Survivors. We fail to realize their pre-existing traumas, misguided notions, and misinformed beliefs and the newly acquired set they may encounter while in a relationship with a survivor. Partners may not have a clue how to assist or know the tools for handling survivor’s automatic reactions. Partners also need to educate themselves about the subject so they can better understand what the survivor is going through. When someone is involved with a survivor, they may unconsciously lose their own identity, self worth, and self awareness if they are focusing too much on the survivor. Some couples end up in a co-dependent relationship, which is where one or both partners develop an unhealthy, obsessive attachment based on fear and lack of self esteem. Partners need to see beyond the survivor, which can cause panic, abandonment and feelings of betrayed trust for the survivor, but that’s not the case. For him or her to continue being in a relationship with a survivor they need to take care of their emotional, physical and mental well being. Partners can only assist so much; survivors need to take responsibility of their recovery. A dark side of these relationships is when partners take advantage of a survivor. In these cases the survivor may be so lost in denial, overshadowed by fear, void of self esteem, or accepting of the abuse as just cause for ill treatment or even further abuse they accept anything from their partner. A survivor can minimize the effects but it can unconsciously seep out from the cracks in their psyche and what results are the observable problems in the lives of our best friends, classmates, or co-workers, who live in horrible, toxic relationships, but we would never think of it as a result of sexual abuse and neither would they.

Another topic that I want to touch on is Male Survivors. Our society negatively criticizes and ridicules male survivors which may lead to a lack of understanding, support, and prevention concerning abuse of males and the unsafe atmosphere that keeps men from opening up about their abuse. The shame of what it causes on a male’s entire being is terrible.  Many people think because a man or woman got raped or molested by the same gender they will turn out to be attracted to members of their own gender.  However, it’s a choice whether a person is homosexual or not, it’s not just because of abuse. We overlook male survivors but they are affected just as us female survivors. Society believes that men cannot be abused due to a misguided notion that men are always in constant need of sex and sexual experiences. Men are as emotionally complex as women and sex may be more pronounced in some ways in men but a man is not a skin bag of sex hormones. For some, if an older woman seduces and sexually interacts with a young boy he is “lucky” and “he’s a man so it’s early practice.” So young boys sadly brag about their experiences when they may have felt confused, sad, afraid, and hurt when it originally happened, but both men and women may ridicule them and teach them to ignore or suppress their true feelings and wear a false mask of bravado and sexual prominence. Young teenagers who are currently getting abused or have been through abuse need support instead of being blamed for the abuse; they need to be heard. I do applaud some of the male survivors that I know of and others for having the strength and courage in taking the steps towards recovery.

In my recovery process, it has been a challenge. I was occasionally questioning myself and the relationship I have with my partner. My anger issues were really getting out of control and I didn’t know why.  I would attack or lash out at him when I got angry. Damaging his belongings and throwing glass cups or plates against the wall was my way of showing how angry I am. We did become physically abusive with each other, we both had bruises, scratches and during one fight we had there was blood. It was indeed getting out of control; I got lost somewhere I thought to myself, “who am becoming?” I had never wanted to have a relationship that was physically abusive like my mother’s relationship. I despise men or women who did that, yet I was seeing my life become that way. I didn’t understand my violent outbursts. During my childhood I suppressed a lot of anger, so I didn’t have a proper way of expressing my rage. Going through my readings, I learnt I was doing transference, which is when a survivor transfers the traits of an abuser to someone who is not an abuser; I was unconsciously recreating my childhood experience. I felt hopeless at one point and it was too much mental work to change this behaviour overnight.  Taking it a step at a time, I practiced not to throw things when I got angry, I practiced to verbally express my feelings. I no longer touched or damaged his belongings. When my old habits surface, I would withdraw myself from my partner and smash a glass, I do notice though I only do this when I feel ignored when expressing my feelings. Lately I have been practicing to further improve this behaviour and it’s a good feeling to deal with my rage when it reaches to that extent because eventually I won’t have any glass in my home if I continue. I am planning to purchase a punching bag as well and it may help to have something like that around. I also realize meditation has been helpful.

Also experiencing and controlling my triggers, which are events or actions that cause a survivor to feel the same feelings they felt when being abused, has been a challenge for me. I remember few occasions, when my partner came home smelling of alcohol, I was triggered and immediately had an automatic reaction without realizing it. I would get extremely angry and say the meanest of things to him. I felt so disgusted and couldn’t stand the sight of him, my stomach would tighten and I felt nauseated.  I would then withdraw myself and lay on my bed, sometimes I would cry or lay there feeling disappointed. My partner is not much of a drinker; he would mostly take a cup or two. However, just the scent of the alcohol from his breath makes me snap. I didn’t understand my reaction. The more I read about triggers, I understood and recalled I hated when my stepdad came home intoxicated, because he would hit my mom and be verbally abusive. Explaining this to my partner helped him understand. What have I been doing to cope with my triggers? I practice to pay attention to my reactions and take deep breaths, clam my mind, reminding myself that I am in control of my reactions, I can do something positive  instead of  acting out in rage, I am safe in my body and no one can harm me. He is not my mother, he is not my step-dad and he is not my abuser. At times, I am very successful at capturing my triggers and react in a good manner. However at times my partner would have to tell me that I am reacting harshly, when he does this it helps me to pause and lower my voice instead of shouting and also to not curse. 

Another issue I have been working on during this past 2 years is my weight. I have used my weight, as a defence and coping mechanism, to protect myself from the world. Survivors needed to protect themselves from the physical and psychological strain and as children the mind instinctually did what it could to preserve itself in the form of unique defence and coping mechanism such as repressed memories, blackouts, rage, passive-aggression, over-eating, over-achievement, lack of achievement and so many others.  Although being overweight doesn’t work, I felt safe that way. I thought being overweight would make me less attractive and men wouldn’t harass me as much. I didn’t want anyone to notice me; my self esteem was very low.  I still do have some problems with it but I have grown a lot and I am willing to continue. Self affirmations have been helpful for me. I want to renew myself and that’s what I have been doing. Repairing all the broken pieces of my life has been worth it, I feel more in tune with myself than I was before. I feel now that I have a reason to live, appreciate myself and also the person who I am becoming. 

 I was asked by an individual how I have and continue to overcome these issues during the recovery process. I wouldn’t say I have overcome but I keep learning and applying new ways to cope with these issues. There are times I do feel like giving up, like I am just broken and impossible to fix. I just want to be somewhat “normal” in a hurry. It’s frustrating but it’s also a great feeling when I notice my growth, it’s like a “Wow” moment when I think to myself “I can’t believe I walked away from that argument”, “I am surprised I didn’t go to a corner and cry after my partner’s friend insulted me about my past”, “I am amazed I told them that they are crossing my boundaries”, “I was present in my body, I didn’t dissociate and I felt and enjoyed my partner’s tender touch”.

Setting me free from the effects of abuse is the best gift I am willing to give myself, and you are also capable of setting yourself free. I do agree every survivor goes through the recovery process differently; we all want to reach that level of satisfaction within ourselves. Being strong and having faith is what we can do, also helping and supporting each other. I am not a professional and learn every day but I am willing to create a group so we can meet and actively work on our issues, you don’t have to face this issue alone. I do believe its very effective working as a group. You can email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and on Face book. http://www.facebook.com/simone.smith.756?ref=tn_tnmn