not keeping the abuse a secret

a child-sexual-abuse survivor's blog

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joy and quality of life


Quality of life.

When Carol the therapist first threw that word and concept at me my outer reaction was an eye-roll. My inner, something on the order of, Oh give me a break.

Quality of life was jargon-speak in my world. I was alive. Period. Single mother of a teenage son, I lived paycheck to paycheck and my credit was not exemplary — no child support from my son’s father for the first 14 years. (They couldn’t catch him.) I didn’t even own a car — could not afford one — for the first dozen years of my child’s life.

“No no, you’re confusing quality of life with income,” this hopeless Pollyanna said. (She’s not a hopeless Pollyanna but 20 years ago when I found & started seeing her, I was a pretty hopeless cynic.)

“Well, I live in The Real World and quite frankly, okay, I have no idea what you mean,” I told her.

I was seeing her from a point of desperation: I had just pretty much experienced what they euphemistically call, “a nervous breakdown.” (I had always wondered, What exactly IS a “nervous breakdown?” I sort of visualized someone nervously twitching all over and then, I don’t know, making sounds akin to when you move a finger horizontally up & down against your lips as you speak? After which, dissembling in a pile on the floor, perhaps. That is not what happened to me.)

Following my breakdown — more like an emotional collapse or dissolution — I actually continued my slow unraveling, but having had emphatically crappy success with the therapy community in the past, I was at a loss where to turn.

So I spent a goodly amount of time researching my personal array of symptoms on my own, arriving at the conclusion that, by golly, I was experiencing post traumatic stress symptoms.  (All these years later?!)  This was such a moment of revelation & Aha! for me. And also irritation: for crimineys sake, if I could figure this out, why the hey had none of the three thousand five hundred seventy-six psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and/or therapists I’d seen? 😡

Well, this was a relatively new field [we’re back in 1993 here], I was to learn. Oh. (Well, still!) This sort of floored me — I think of the county psychiatrist years back [1960s…  dark ages yet where such as this was concerned] who actually dismissed a 13-year-old me after a brief 10 minutes with, “You handled all this really well,” “all this” being the abuse; then shaking my hand, smiling at me like I had handed in extra credit and earned an A+ on it, and that was it. Goodbye. — but, okay. Oh.

So I called a national incest helpline number several states away — listed in one of my research books — asked about childhood trauma therapists in my area and, here I was.  In Carol the therapist’s office.

“Look, I don’t want to talk in meaningless psychological jargon-speak. I need real help here.” If I wasn’t such a polite person I might have snapped my fingers at her.)


That was 20 years ago. I have since learned firsthand, that, there is just plain living — drudge-like, a, just-make-it-through-another-day sort of living, and there is that hard to describe concretely, yet, vital thing, “quality of” life, living where one actually experiences moments of, yes, joy.

Joy, it turns out, is not only real, but, can be photographed.
Herbie, Jul 26, 2011 at 2.42 PM
Above, a new cat-baby’s first day home.


Quality of life and joy rolled into one: a view of an area adjacent to my apartment patio that I made into a garden, giving me joy every minute working in it & also, all those spent just sitting near it…

2013-08-09, looking down fr Steph's--  cropped
Long walks outdoors? — calm inner demons, are good exercise plus fill me with joy.
walk--farm by back Elver
Here is to joy and to “quality of life,” not just jargon-speak after all, but more importantly? — here’s to the healing they promote. As difficult as healing from abuse is, it’s worth every painful moment to be even one small bit less at the mercy of your abuser(s) and of those who would keep the secret.


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[2] — the surviving in numbers project

Very good Huff Post article on Ali Safran’s “Surviving In Numbers” project, at, .

Writes Safran at the Surviving In Numbers website [ ], “I came up with the idea for this project in October of 2012, around the third anniversary of my own sexual assault.  I thought about all the people I had told and how I’d reported to the police, gone through the legal process, done everything a victim is ‘supposed’ to do…and still hadn’t gotten any real justice.  It occurred to me that, while I considered my own total ‘number’ (people I’d told) to be high, others must have had some experiences on the same spectrum.

Surviving In Numbers project--another

“I then reached out to multiple colleges in Massachusetts and began developing the project with them.  …  The name of the project is doubly meaningful: it’s a play on the phrase ‘strength in numbers,’ as there truly is a strength among these and other survivors who speak out about their experiences.  Additionally, the project is truly about survivors and the numbers around their experiences: how many people they told, how the assault cost them relationships, etc.

tumblr Surviving In Numbers project--one sign
“It’s my hope that this project raises awareness of how prevalent sexual assault is…and how many survivors there are…  I also hope to show how key it is to the healing process for a survivor when they tell their stories: if they’re supported and believed, it starts them down a supportive path to healing; if they’re admonished or blamed, it has terrible effects.  Additionally, sexual assault is highly stigmatized across cultures, and victims are often blamed for what happened to them.”

Go Ali!

If I were to add a sign to those featured at Safran’s website [ ], it might read:

The brother who molested me said,
“If you tell anyone I will say you are lying;”

One of my also-abused sisters said,
“If you tell I will deny it,
it’s too embarrassing,”

and she has been true to her word on that,
making me out to be a liar &/or crazy,
to nieces, nephews, and others;

A male cousin says laughingly,
“Incest is best when kept in the family,”

and both of my also-abused sisters
laugh merrily at his “joke.”

I was a LITTLE GIRL  when the abuse began:
in grade school! 😡

MANY YEARS: the time it took me to realize that
(i.) what had happened to me was ASSAULT;
(ii.) what had happened to me

(iii.) What had happened to me was
THEIR SHAME not mine.

Zero: Justice meted out to my molester father & brother. My father is now dead, and, when I tried to bring civil charges against my brother?
His attorney sent me a letter
referencing statutes of limitations.

TOO MUCH:  what the abuse
has meted out to me:

suicidality; “self-medicating” with alcohol & drugs; panic attacks; dissociation; sleep problems; major depression; ptsd;
fear of men; intimacy issues; more.

4: Number of times I’ve attempted suicide.

2: Number of times I’ve been raped (yes, in addition to the family abuse).

Between 12 & 15, roughly: Number of therapists/psychiatrists
I have seen over the years.

3: Number of therapists who were able to help me.

Having to keep it all inside adds to the trauma,
people are so uncomfortable being told,
how can I have real “friends” if I cannot share
this thing that shouldn’t have to be, a disgusting secret?

Being a sexual abuse survivor DEFINES a person — IT IS ALWAYS THERE.  As another person wrote on her sign, “I am & will forever be a survivor.”

Surviving In Numbers project--another's sign

Thank you, Ali Safran. A thumbs-up to the Surviving In Numbers project.

[1] — inspiration

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I have been in SUCH a slump now for weeks, feeling so bereft of family even though I come from a family of seven children (plus have, a son and grandson…).

Recognize that I have to pull myself out of this; I have before, I will, always, again — I am, first & foremost, a survivor — but some days/weeks are harder than others. :-/

I was Google-searching sexual abuse survivor blogs and felt nudged by Kim Coleman’s: “kimmysurviving,” . Thank you, Kim.

Felt further nudged by Kim’s Google+ post, “Don’t stay silent on sexual abuse” , a CNN Opinion piece by Allison Brennan.

Then, somewhere along in there, what do I see but, “18 Survivors Of Sexual Assault Tell The Numbers Behind Their Stories” — — with brave women holding up poster-sized signs that made/make, me want to cry.

It’s nice to know, others want the silence to stop, too.

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