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Surviving Abuse – Part 3

Warning: This article recounts a surviver's experience with abuse and may be a trigger to some readers. 

In the third and final part of the "Surviving Abuse" series, I asked a friend of mine to answer a few questions about the abuse that she experienced growing up. The first time her and I talked about her experiences, I was taken-aback by how straightforward and forthcoming she was about her childhood. I suppose I didn't expect her to own her experience in the way that she did, especially to somebody who had only known her for a short time. Rape, especially sexual abuse that takes place within the family, tends to be a closely guarded secret. The aftermath of the assault is magnified by the fact that it happened at the hands of those who were meant to protect and the shame attached to the trauma compels survivors into silence. She's honest about how the abuse has affected her in her present life - she touches on everything from her struggle with depression, juggling responsibilities, society's failure to protect children and how difficult it is to heal. Healing isn't easy, simple, or straightforward. Looking at your experiences and not shying away from the uncomfortable truths can be difficult and painful. Hopefully her honesty and the frank manner in which she discusses her trauma will help somebody who reads this know they're not alone in feeling the way they do.

Q: How and by whom were you abused? 
A: I am a survivor of child abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, and physical abuse. My father, a.k.a. sperm donor (SD), was the main abuser.

Q: How old were you when the abuse started and when did you realize you were being abused? 
A: I remember being as young as 5 or 6 when the abuse started. Even then I was still in so much denial because in my eyes my SD was everything he could be as a father.

Q: Have you remained in contact with the individual? What do you wish you could tell him?
A: No, no, no. There is no point in talking to someone who does not recognize the wrongs they committed.

Q: Did you ever make excuses for the abuser? If so, in what way?
A: I remember being 11 (going on 12) when I stopped making excuses for him. My priority then was to survive and not become pregnant. I never had a mother, so I was on my own to learn how to protect myself.

Q: Did you tell anyone about it while it was happening? When did the abuse stop? 

A: I never did and I still don’t talk about it directly. When I was younger, I remember talking in metaphors, talking about it through story-telling and most people took it as that: simply stories, and not a cry for help. It stopped when the police where informed. It's a long story as to how they were informed, but an investigation was started. Everything happened my last year of high school. 

Q: Did you have a support system during and after the abuse was occurring? Did this support system work?
A: No, and yes, but I didn't seek it initially...not everything works for everyone in life, but everything takes time.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you could have told your younger self about the abuse?
A: That’s the one question you shouldn't ask a survivor of child abuse because they’ve been traumatized. What can a child possibly do after having been forced to grow up too fast? What could I possibly say to her that she would understand? “You are doing your best” “Courage?” “Have faith?”….the issue isn’t my younger self, but the present older me.

Q: What are you the most proud of concerning how you handled the aftermath?
A: I can’t answer this now, because the aftermath depends on so many things…I've struggled with thoughts of suicide and depression, but I've managed to keep going.

Q: How did you begin the healing process? What do you do now to practice self-care? 
A: I have always practiced self-care, that’s how I survived my childhood. I had no choice to but to practice self-care. Every day has always been a moment of hope for me, even then. To be f*cking alive. That is enough for me to keep going.

Q: Did you struggle with your mental health as a result of the abuse?
A: Ah! The denial of depression is harder than the actual depression…anxiety…PTSD.

Q: Do you think it can ever be something you’ll be able to put behind you?
A: How can I, when it's a part of me? It made me who I am today.

Q: What preventive measures do you think your community should take to stop this from happening? What should children and teens be taught about reporting abuse and/or escaping abusive situations?
A: We all need to start using our eyes and ears for what they're made for. I felt as though every day I was screaming for help, but instead people never actually saw or heard ME. They saw themselves and heard themselves. It's never a child’s job, it is always the adult’s job to be aware and report. Most adults don’t believe kids and especially teens. That's why most cases are discovered when it is too late.

Q: What are the current effects of the abuse? What part of your life now has it affected the most?
A: PTSD is the biggest effect, as well as anxiety. I take everything day by day. The expectations society places on people and how they should lead their lives (a.k.a. completing univeristy, managing finances, etc.) is hard to juggle. Also, being depressed is expensive as hell.

Q: What is one hope you have for yourself in the future (regarding the abuse/ability to move on)?
A: It's Hope itself. 


Sources: Cover 

Student. 22. Canadian/Eritrean. Short?
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