A Negative Into A Positive
From when I was very young my father abused me physically and emotionally. One of my earliest memories is when I was three and my Dad was slapping me repeatedly over the head and telling me to stop crying. My body was often covered in bruises and my teachers started to notice. Social services were called and a social worker came round to my house. However, my father just blamed by brothers.
The sexual abuse by my father started when I was four – when this started my whole world flipped upside down. The pain was even worse than the beatings.
I felt like a walking zombie my body was numb and I felt so alone and I had no one to talk to or go to because I was afraid of what my father might do next.
I was 21 years old when I took my revenge and if anyone is reading this and you have been through abuse I would say, please whatever you do – don’t take the law into your own hands because it is not worth it going to prison for.
There is always a better way to bring your abuser to justice. Prison is not the answer.
However, since being in prison I have turned a negative into a positive. I have gained an education and got a diploma in Sports Psychology. I have also had a counsellor to talk to. Talking to her about the abuse was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders.
She also gave me book called “New Shoes” by Rebecca Mitchell and I recommend this book to anyone who has been abused.
Since having counselling and reading this book I was able to write my story for those who have been or going through abuse, know that you are not alone and I hope that my story can help you beat your abuser.
How I Discovered I Was Abused
I was raped when I was thirteen years of age, although I did not recognise it as rape until ten years after the incident.
After ten years the guilt and shame surrounding the rape had turned inward and into depression.
I thought that I was such an unvaluable, unlovable person I would literally tell myself “You are a bad person”. Without consciously being aware of my attitude towards myself I felt completely useless and inadequate.
I later informed my mother what had happened and she was no help. She angrily told me off for “hanging around with people like that”. She was referring to my friends of that time.
She obviously did not know how to handle the situation and only reinforced my guilt and shame. The guilt was affecting my life in so many ways – I would blame myself for things that were clearly out of control and not my fault.
Whilst studying at University I decided to see a Counsellor. It was here that I talked about “my first sexual experience”. Yet my counsellor instantly recognised it as rape.
It was painful, yet a relief to hear the truth.
It took a few years for this to really sink in – I had been in denial for so long. I had some more counselling and attended a course on sexual abuse which enabled me to look at what had happened more clearly.
I was able to identify with the effects of the abuse and it was such a relief to hear others had been through similar experiences. I know I still have a long way to go in terms of healing but I know that the process has started and God will bring me through.
Facing The Fear Within Me
I often don’t know whether it is a “girl thing” or an “abuse thing” or maybe its just a “me thing”.
My fears around men suddenly hit me out of the blue and leave me speechless and paralysed.
It happened to me shortly before I was getting married. I developed this huge uncontrollable panic attack that I would be raped in marriage.
Pictures began to run through my head and I built this montage of possibilities of what was going to happen to me. I felt sick and could not talk to anyone.
I stopped talking to my fiancé and would not call or see him for several days. He was devastated and thought I’d abandoned him.
I knew I was running, I could feel I was running, but I just couldn’t face talking about it with him.
I thought I was going to explode with the tears in my chest, the pain was so intense.
The space I put between us was good at first but then it began to be destructive.
After a few days we sat down and talked. I knew I had to stop running. It took so much energy and courage to tell him my fears – but he was affirming and assuring. I felt I could continue. The rollercoaster of feelings was going.
My journey is interesting and I am moving – I am thinking differently about myself and relationships.
I know I am still ambivalent at times. I know my feelings come out of nowhere and shock me and I know it is slow at times – but at least I am facing in the right direction.
My father established a sort of totalitarian style of leadership over the family and his unpredictable outbursts of rage were feared and a great cause of anxiety. My mother submitted to his control and she became very task orientated. I felt very alone and scared.
For a long time I thought anger was bad. My father’s rage and anger scared me when I was growing up. I therefore made every attempt to avoid anger – mine or anyone elses.
But maybe deep down I was really afraid of my own anger and rage. Anger at the abuse that I did not invite. Anger at my family and community who did nothing to help me.
Instead of getting angry when people took advantage of me I took the blame even though it was not my fault – or else I just kept quiet. All I did was comply, comply, comply.
My own unexpressed anger manifested itself in feelings of depression, hopelessness, helplessness, fear, listlessness and worthlessness. I felt the only way my anger came out was by being very hard on myself. I felt that I deserved to be punished.
My anxiety and stress and also began to come out in my teens in compulsive obsessive behaviours – for example washing my hands and being over concerned about germs. These actions made me feel more in control rather than feeling controlled, but in the end they began to control me.
The obsessions worsened in adulthood and the stress got worse as I entered my thirties. This came out especially with men. I was happy dating because I felt like I was in control, but as soon as I made a commitment to someone I felt like a caged bird – controlled and trapped.
But now things have changed. I have had some support and now I stand up for myself. I put down healthy boundaries, recognise that I am valuable and stop trying to please people or rescue them or worry about what they will think of me or do to me. The anxiety and stress I experienced has dropped dramatically. At last I no longer feel controlled.
I Know Fear
I don’t think anyone has feared another person as much I feared my Dad. Anyone who has lived with a violent parent knows what I am talking about. At school I even refused to write my surname on any of my work – I did not want to be associated with him in any way. Every day I would dread the sound of his key in the lock and every night bought with it an uneasy sleep wondering what the darkness would hold.
Looking back I can see my Dad lived a tortured desperate life, wracked with pain and addiction. But as a child I only knew the fear of his fist or the terror of his angry tongue and even worse – the sexual abuse.
I do not remember the first time he came into my bedroom but I can remember very clearly that I always felt a strong sense of shame about myself and each morning when I was around eight I would be violently sick. Later on things changed and the abuse would take place in the living room when my mother was preparing dinner. Then I would have to go and eat dinner just as though nothing had happened. This went on for about eight years – every day except weekends – when there was no dinner.
By the time I was fifteen or sixteen the fear had changed and had become terror inside me, and I was living in it all the time. I tried drinking to ease my feelings but that just bought me more trouble and I ended up in some very self destructive situations.
My early adulthood was filled with anxiety, fear and very damaging relationships. I was attracted to some very abusive people – men and women – and each relationship would end with me being just as afraid of them as I was of my father. It was a terrible vicious cycle and I could not get out of it.
It took many years and a lot of work before things began to change. I sought help and found I was able to relax a little more and allow more healthy people into my life, and keep negative people out.
One day I told my Pastor about the fear I was trying to overcome. He said something to me I have always held onto. He said “You are not here to fear anyone. You are here to love people. Now that puts you in control”.
I knew at that moment that is what I needed to do. It is something I walk towards every day – ending the fear – by taking control myself.
Why Shame Paralysed Me
Having been abused is so intimate that it brings shame and fear.
I know I just wanted to hide.
It stopped me moving forward in certain areas of my life.
The shame was just eating me inside. And, the thing is, it wasn’t even mine to carry. It wasn’t my fault I was abused. But, for some reason I still wanted to keep it in. It became part of my identity. I felt this shame justified my hurt.
It took me six years to tell anyone about the abuse. It was hard and it hurt; but that’s what I needed to do; let it out in the open. Hiding it affected me so much in my emotions that talking about it made me and enabled me to deal with it.
I felt such a relief. Then time and help from the right people brought me healing.
You need to be in the light to have real freedom.