A Victim No Longer: The Journey of Self Discovery

My Dear Readers,

Many in society turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the trauma and devastation left by sexual abuse.  Some believe that those victimized by sexual assault, domestic violence or emotional abuse at a younger age will in time “forget” or “get over” the physical and psychological abuses they have suffered.

In September 2012, a member of the Seattle WA African-American clergy community pleaded guilty to 22 charges of sexual molestation and rape of boys.  The local media reported that the minister admitted to sexually abusing 10 boys from 1997 through 2011.

One wonders what happened to those children and adolescents, who are now known as “The Invisibles.”

  • Have they faded into the darkness?
  • Is it possible that they sit alone, suffering in silence as they attempt to resist or respond to their feelings associated with the experiences?

It is possible that in the many years following the abuses and psychological trauma, they may continue to adhere to feelings of shame and guilt for what happened to them. As members of the larger society, we have a responsibility to ensure that those “suffering in silence” understand they have not been forgotten and to assist them by being beacons of empowerment and enlightenment.

In order to do so, I believe we must understand their experiences as they continue to progress on their journeys.  It is in that spirit that Loving Me More introduces a new series focusing on the therapeutic work of one such individual, Bobbi (not her real name).

This individual suffered horrendous sexual abuse, physical abuse, and exposure to domestic violence as a child. For the past five years, however, Bobbi has done remarkably well in the healing of her wounds through her therapeutic work, walking what we call her journey of self-discovery.

This series will begin with excerpts from Bobbi’s journal.  Bobbi has graciously consented to share her experience with us in the hope that her words will inform and bring awareness to the general public, as well as help others to become “travelers” in the Journey of Self Discovery.

Bobbi wants others to know that although she was victimized, today she has empowered herself, and is no longer a victim or simply a survivor of sexual abuse.  Instead of just “existing” in life, today, Bobbi thoroughly lives her life.  Now approaching the tender age of 60, Bobbi is striving; enjoying the challenges and actively looking forward to the exciting moments that life has to offer her.

Bobbi’s story begins……

“When I was 4 years old, I was raped by a family acquaintance.  The rapist threatened to kill my mother and my two-year old brother Billy (not his real name), so I kept the secret.

When I was 9, my stepfather Fred (not his real name) forced me into a horrible situation of repeated sexual abuse.  I would endure this horror for two and a half years.

When I began my menstrual cycle, my stepfather told me that he planned to impregnate me.  It was at this point that I summoned up the willpower to inform my mother as to the horror I was enduring.

In response, my mother beat and verbally abused me, and kicked me out of the house. At the age of twelve, I entered the state foster care system where I was moved around numerous times. I remained a ward of the state until my 18th birthday.

When she kicked me out, my mother told me that I was a whore and that I would never achieve anything in my life.  She was wrong.  I went on to have a successful marriage, a professional career and I have raised four beautiful, healthy children.

However, throughout my life, I have consistently viewed myself as damaged, broken and deserving of the abuses I had endured.  After 50 years of suffering and on the verge of  suicide, I made the decision to seek therapy.

For the last five years I have been on a   journey of self-discovery.  It has been a journey in which my therapist has served as my guide and companion. It was in therapy that I learned the steps associated with advocacy, balance and calmness.

It was in therapy that I learned that what happened to me was not my fault.  I learned that “letting go” of what happened to me wasn’t the same as “surrendering,” but was about empowerment for the psychological self—my psychological self.   I also learned that the guilt and shame was not mine to bear.

My name is Bobbi.  I am empowered.  I am no longer just a survivor. I am a striver, and this is my story.”

Commentary from Dr. Kane

At the beginning of therapy, Bobbi was adamant that she could never share the depths of her feelings with her mother.  That was five years ago. However, that changed in 2013 when she received a holiday greeting card from her mother, along with the gift of a blanket. Inside, the card read:

 “Dear Bobbi,

This is a special snuggle for you from your mom.  I am so sorry for what you had to go through as a child.  Had I known this, I would have done a lot of snuggling with you.

You are grown, but this snuggle blanket is sent to you with much love and when you don’t feel good or you feel sad, please know that my heart is snuggling in this blanket with you!

I love you,

Mom”

This message represents the first words in 48 years uttered by Bobbi’s mother regarding Bobbi’s horrendous experiences. Following several years and hundreds of hours in therapy sessions, sometimes 2-3 sessions per week, Bobbi has become empowered enough to be able to respond to her mother’s “Christmas card.”

The response from Bobbi is quite lengthy; I am providing the letter in its entirety. I do not have the moral right to erase, change or paraphrase words to suit timelines or the desires of the reader.  I will leave it to you as the reader to decide whether to read partly, in its entirety or disregard.

This response is indicative of the transformation of a little girl who suffered in silence to an adult traveler, focused on self-discovery who will no longer be silenced.

PLEASE TAKE HEED OF THE FOLLOWING NOTIFICATION:

       THIS WRITING IS WITHOUT CENSURE AND THEREFORE MAY CREATE DISTRESS FOR THE READERS DURING AND FOLLOWING REVIEW.  PLEASE USE DISCRETION IN SHARING WITH THOSE OF YOUNG AGE OR LACKING IN EMOTIONAL MATURITY.

       “Dear Mom,

Thank you for the letter. I was surprised to receive it. Your letter is the closest thing to an apology I have ever received. I would like to let you know how I felt as a child.

The landlord locked Billy in the bathroom. Billy screamed and cried until he was sobbing.  I could hear Billy screaming while the landlord took off my clothing.

He then pushed his penis at me.  He tried again and again and again to push it in rubbing my private parts hard and roughly with his penis over and over again.

He also used his hand and fingers forcefully. I was terrified and in pain.  I remember screaming.  I thought he was going to kill me.  I kicked and wiggled as much as I could but it didn’t stop him.  There was nothing I could do being a child against this monster.

He laid on me and forcefully kissed me. When I continued to scream he put his over my mouth and told me to shut up.  Hel told me no one could hear me or help me.  I remember the glaring black look in his eyes when he was on top of me.

I remember my private parts being sore and burning when I went to the bathroom afterwards.  When he got through he then told me he would come back to kill you and Billy if I told.

I loved you so much.  There was nothing I wouldn’t have done or endured for you. I know you asked me multiple times what happened.

By not telling you I thought I was protecting Billy and you.  I believed he would return and kill you.  When you asked me in front of him to tell what happened I could only think of what he had done and what he said he would do.  I was terrified.  Terrified not only for myself, but for you.    I would have done and endured anything for you.

I kept the secret because of my love for you and wanting to protect you.  The secret made me feel ashamed as a child.  I felt others could look at me and tell I was a bad person.  I felt that I was dirty and a bad person.  I never had friends.

I felt different from other children and alone. I cried easily.  I have now learned through therapy it wasn’t my fault. The responsibility of being left alone and what happened was not my fault.  The shame and guilt I felt for so many years was not mine to bear.

You left for work and left the landlord in the yard whereas being four years old with the responsibility of watching my two-year-old brother, I was too young to be left alone.

I know you were a single mother but there must have been another way besides leaving  me alone with the landlord in the yard.  The burden of carrying the secret of my abuse changed who I am.  It stole my self-esteem, joy and sense of who I was.

When I started being sexually abused by Fred at the age of 9 years old, I questioned if I deserved it.  He started by saying things to me.  Then he used his hands and then his penis.  He had the same dark glaring look in his eyes as the landlord when he was doing it.

In therapy I have learned that it was the look of power and control.  Power that the abuser yields over a child.  Control, because I felt I was a bad person.  How could two men sexually abuse me if I wasn’t a bad person or there wasn’t something wrong with me?

He convinced me at first that you knew and wanted me to do what he wanted me to do but not talk about it.  He then told me you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.  He convinced me that you would be unhappy if I did not do what he wanted.

I was a child and I believed what he said. I loved you so much.  Again, there was nothing I wouldn’t have done for you.

On the day when I told you Fred had repeatedly raped me, you began beating me.  I don’t remember why or what I was being beat for when I swung at you and missed.  I also told the people at the Youth Center.  I always felt that you should have known what was going on and protected me.  I was angry with him, but I was also angry with you.

In foster care, I felt abandoned and unloved. I knew our relationship would never be the same again.  I received no therapy.  Again, I was different from other kids my age.  I was severely depressed, cried all the time and wanted to die. I felt I had no one who cared if I lived or died.

I had no money to do the things other kids were doing.  My experiences were different. I had no joy. I made my own set of rules to survive by.

The foster care parents were doing it just for the money. I had $25.00 per month to buy clothing, personal items and meds that were not covered by welfare.  The feelings of abandonment, lack of love and caring were always with me.

I am now going to therapy.  I realize now that what happened to me wasn’t my fault. There was nothing wrong with me.  Young girls are often abused by more than one man.  Being abused by one man makes it more likely that it will happen again.

I have let go of the shame and guilt.  I have nothing to be ashamed of or guilty about. I know my abuse has changed who I am. It stole the joy of my life for forty plus years before I went to therapy.

I now look forward to living the rest of my life without guilt and shame.  There will always be pain, but it does not have to influence or control my life decisions and enjoyment of my family.

I don’t remember much of my childhood. I do remember some good things.  The bad things I remember far outweigh the good things.  I still have flashbacks of what happened to me in childhood.  I have learned to live with them.

I responded to your note because I wanted you to know the depths of my pain  and how it changed me.  I have tried to say what happened to me as gently as possible.  I wondered what I could have accomplished without such a traumatic childhood.

This letter is not intended to hurt you.  I have always loved you.

Bobbi (12/31/13)

Concluding Remarks from Dr. Kane

It is my hope that you, dear reader, will understand that victimization and psychological trauma experienced during childhood and/or adolescence continues to impact victims’ lives as adults.

Bobbi’s story began as one of repeated sexual assaults, victimization and survival.   Although victimized, she is no longer a victim.  In her therapy, she has learned to become an advocate for the psychological self, balance the burden she will carry for the rest of her life, and gain calmness for the years and the journeys which lies ahead.

In doing so, Bobbi is no longer a survivor, rather she has become a “striver,” setting the pace and direction of her life.  Bobbi’s story should not be viewed simply as one of strength and endurance; it is also a story of empowerment, growth and development.

Lastly, Bobbi’s intent that anyone who has similar experiences of psychological trauma, or victimization by sexual assault, domestic violence or emotional abuse, may gain encouragement from her story and will find the “want” to respond to the voice that lies within the “psychological self” and seek assistance.

Stop suffering in silence.  Have the willingness to strive and let go without feeling lost or giving up.  Although victimized, be a victim no longer.

“The psychological self will continue to advocate, seeking balance and calmness;    remembering the traumas, abuses and the   violence that the physical body fights to        withstand and the intellectual mind   struggles to forget.”

Dr. Micheal Kane

Until next time… Bobbi’s Saga, A Victim No Longer

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