not keeping the abuse a secret

a child-sexual-abuse survivor's blog

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hard chain to break

I’m single.  Not in a relationship.  (For, years and, years.)  So, my son has urged me to try online dating avenues.

This is the thing.

What being sexually abused as a child does to a woman… — What being sexually abused by an older brother you used to look up to, does to a child… — What seeing your father r-e-g-u-l-a-r-y steer your sisters into his bedroom to sexually abuse them does to one… — What being roofied and raped as an adult does to a woman — What being raped by a guy you meet in a club and make the mistake of inviting home does to a woman…

Gosh, how to say this?

Um, there’s a lack of trust that ensues??  (Righteously so, folks.)  (Common-sense logically so.)  (Like, one would have to be an idiot or, severely dissociative [<- Been there, too…] to “trust normally?”  I mean, C’mon.)

cartoon, your worst fear, by matt bors--fr dailykosDOTcom
Your Worst Fear
Not all men.  Just some.”
— Matt Bors cartoon.
Find political cartoonist Matt Bors on Facebook at ,
on Twitter at .

 Hard chain to break…


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the dress girl and other mes

I honest to goodness thought there was just one of me.

I won’t go so far as to say, I thought I knew me…  Before my breakdown and even in the early years of my work with Carol-the-trauma-therapist, I often felt quite befuddled by me (although, I admit to having regarded “the many sides” of me as “quirky” and, a plus?  I.e., I was probably, not boring?).

But I did not think there was “more than one of me to get to know,” so to speak, so imagine my surprise when Carol mentioned nasty phone calls I was making to her.

“Horrible,” she referenced them with a surprised face and knit brows.  I had laughed — ME?  I don’t think so.  Not my style.  I hadn’t made any phone calls to her let alone mean or nasty ones, good grief; What was she talking about?!

“So it wasn’t you,” she said.

“Nope, nada.  Why would I even do that?  I like you.”  (Well, most of the time.  True, she did tick me off now and then.)

“It sounded like you,” she persisted.  (And apparently the content was relevant.)  “Has this ever happened before, has someone ever ‘thought’ you’d made calls to them that you had no memory of?”

Now I’m just merrily giggling away.  Hee hee hee.  What a concept. 🙂

We talked a little about dissociative identity disorder (DID).  I had never had any experience of any other mes but me running the show, nope.  Well, okay, Dr.-Josephson-the-psychiatrist I’d seen a couple times way back in the early 1970s had one day questioned a casual statement I made that I’d walked to his office from campus “on auto-pilot,” no memory of what I saw or heard along the way — this was in response to his asking me about “the weather out there” or some such, I forget — leaning back in his chair and hooting with laughter, saying, “Not possible.”  To which I, genuinely puzzled, had replied, “Oh, possible; I do it all the time.”

All the time?!”

I revised this.  “Maybe half the time, but at least half.”  Good grief, like, doesn’t everyone?  You know, sort of highway hypnosis but on foot.

Josephson answered in the negative.  Smiling at me though, like, What a neat idea, so when he next asked, “And just out of curiosity, where are you when you’re on auto-pilot?,” I didn’t feel threatened and confided, “You know, just, not there.”

Well he just seemed to love this.  What a creative girl I was [as opposed to, Oh gosh, we just might need to lock her up in the loony bin?]

“You’re simply ‘not there’ ,” he repeats.


“For about half the time.”

“Uh-huh.”  I shrug my shoulders.  Big deal.  Like, who needs to “be there” to do a simple task like walk down the street, or, sit in a really boring class, or, just sit with people somewhere?

“I do,” he says.  “Most people probably do, or they’d walk into a tree or a parked car.”

Huh!  I guess I was more graceful than I thought.

“So, you’re not there in classes too, and social situations?”  He was thoughtful.  “What kind of grades do you get in the classes you’re not there in?”

“Yes to the first part of your question, and, As or Bs — you have to be there for hard classes; I’m never not there except for easy ones.”

He regarded me thoughtfully.  I can still see his face puzzling away.

Josephson was a good doc.  Smart.  If I’d had health insurance or could have otherwise afforded it, I would have continued to see him.  His was a wonderfully easy-going manner, and, although male, he behaved in such a completely non-threatening manner that I felt safe.  I bet he could possibly have helped me.

I can’t even count the professionals I saw who were as helpful as a rock and, knew their business half as well.

But back to Carol-the-therapist and the bad phone calls.

“I didn’t do it,” I protested, laughing.  Gosh — who was this rogue client of Carol’s?  “I’m always ‘present’ on the phone.”  Oh wait a minute — Was I?!?  Drat.  Wow, if I could walk places and, sit in classes and get As & Bs yet not “be there,” Shoot…  Maybe I could do other things, too, “not being there” — like making phone calls?  But it seemed so far-fetched that I was still mentally merry, thinking things like, Quite the accomplished gurl here, could this be showcased somewhere?  Ha ha ha.

Okay, there was that weird time in the Rathskeller when brother Pete’s then-girlfriend Christine had claimed I’d said, “I wish I was dead,” to which Christine had turned to me and said, “I’m glad you’re not dead;” to which I’d replied in irate astonishment, “Well Jeez Christine I’m glad I’m not dead either!  Where the heck did that come from?!;” to which Pete had said very gently, “You just said you wished you were dead.”  Which was preposterous, I had said no such thing.

Or, Had I?  What was going on here?  And it all stopped being funny.

Weeks, months, years of therapy with Carol pass and I work up the courage to indulge my love of dresses.  (Long ago I used to make them.  In my late teens, early 20s.  I sewed a lot back then.  Even on consignment for a local boutique, at one point.)  I buy a dress, at the Gap.  I decide to return it though:  It really needs a belt, I decide, yet I don’t have one that quite works and, I don’t feel the dress is much of a bargain if I have to spend more to belt it.

So a week or so later I head back over to the Gap.  I’m at the register and I tell the cashier, “I’d like to return this, please,” and I hand her the dress and the receipt and, hum dee dum, she’s processing my return and, another clerk whispers (loudly) to her, “She’s worn that!  She was just IN here, IN it, the other day!”

Well I never!  I am quite indignant.  “I have not worn the dress,” I say firmly, with a glare in the direction of the offending clerk.  But as the words come out of my mouth I suddenly know they are not true, as, like a deck of cards fanned out in front of me, I see a series of snapshot-like images in my head.  That’s the only way I can describe it.  Memories, clear as day, but in weird snapshot format.  Me, standing in my apartment-complex driveway about to cross the street, wearing the dress.  Me, browsing at the Gap, wearing the dress.  Me, in a dressing room at the Gap, taking off the dress so as to try on a different one.

Oh my Lord.  I am blown away.

Thankfully, my cashier just pooh-poohs the other clerk and speedily processes my return and I am able to leave the store, because, I need to sit down somewhere, man.

So:  Dress girl.  Phone girl.  Girl who wishes she were dead.  (Person or persons “present” when “I” walk places “on auto-pilot”…  Person or persons “present” getting those “As & Bs in ‘easy’ classes” when “I” am “absent?”…  [Complicated, huh? 🙂 ])

Carol-the-therapist and, literature on the subject calls these “discrete alters.”  This seems a misnomer to me — I would have to classify most of my own “discrete alters’ ” doings as quite indiscrete, i.e. imprudent, lacking good judgment — but ordinary discretion, or lack of it, is not, of course, what “discrete” here references.

One website reads pretty generically but clearly on the subject, “In some people, dissociated memory and experience fragments are organized…into discrete ‘personalities’ or ‘identities’ which can be experienced internally as having separate experiences and histories.  Often personalities are so compartmentalized that they are not aware of each other’s existence.  This is called an ‘amnesic barrier,’…”


I can especially relate to the amnesic barrier idea, as, I tend to experience my life memories as, snapshots here, mostly brief videos there — i.e., in pieces, not as a continual flow, which certainly is suggestive of something amnesiac going on.

Meanwhile:  the Dress Girl wants to wear dresses (and makeup).  I’m pretty easygoing, so, I’m working up to accommodating her on that.  (In fact, more & more, I’m thinking, I might like to wear dresses & makeup, too. 🙂 )  The Phone Girl doesn’t feel comfortable? safe? whatever, expressing anger at? dissent with? confronting?, people, so, I practice that one in the safety of Carol’s office.  (And interestingly, no more nasty phone calls to Carol…)  The Girl Who Wishes She Were Dead:  my last suicide attempt was in the mid-1990s and, it will stand AS my last:  I’m here for the duration now.  “You tried to murder yourself!,” Carol sputtered.  Angrily?  With tears in her eyes.  (This moved me greatly, notwithstanding that my first reaction was a giggle.)  Yes, I did, I register in surprise.  Horrified, Gasp.  Yikes — I never looked at it that way before.  (And, let me tell yoU, I am no murderer!  Indignation.)  The person or persons “present” when “I” walk somewhere “on auto-pilot,” and, who gets the grades in the “easy” classes when “I” am “absent:”  for these, I work on what may seem simple to some but has not been for me — “being present.”  Being more mindful, across the board:  mindful of where I am; mindful of my feelings; mindful of what I say; mindful of what I do.  Mindful, mindful, mindful.


I like to think of it all as a “What About Bob” [the 1991 comedy starring Bill Murray & Richard Dreyfuss, directed by Frank Oz] thing:  Baby steps, baby steps…  They’ll get you there. 😉


i don’t wear makeup. i don’t wear dresses.

I don’t wear makeup. I don’t wear dresses. I laughingly tell people, “Hey, I grew up with three older brothers, got used to being ‘one of the guys,’ what can I say…;” or I grin and go, “I came of age during the Woodstock era, we hippie girls shunned makeup and that headset just stuck, I guess;” or, I smile broadly and say, “Once a tomboy always a tomboy…”

What I don’t say is, I’m afraid if I look too girly I’ll be assaulted.

What I don’t say is, Well actually, truth be told, The Dress Girl once [once that I know of anyway…] put makeup on and wore a dress to the mall some years back – I don’t know what all she did there though except that, she did go into the Gap.

What I don’t say is, I want to wear dresses and I’m working up to it, I have two right now in my closet plus two skirts…

What I don’t say is, I would like to wear makeup if I feel like it but, it draws attention to a woman and that might increase my chances of getting assaulted.

At the same time, if anyone tries to sexually violate me again I swear to God I’ll take his eyeballs out with my bare fingers.

You could say I have mixed feelings.

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true confessions: i used to try to kill myself

I used to try to kill myself.  (A lot.)

I am so glad I was unsuccessful — Whew!? — and also, that I don’t try to do that anymore.

JOY I would have missed out on:  a son!  Talented-artistic, he made this:

2014, sow sculpture by Jamaal--fr his Fb

JOY I would have missed out on:  a grandson!  Silly below in, “tealight eyes.” 😉

Tealight eyes BeFunky-ed, PopArt_CROP

JOY I would have missed out on:  my best-bud kitter-catz…

2009, Nov. 1, Hummy w. Quinn's piggy-bank 

herie & ct louge

MORE JOY I would have missed out on:  some very special feathered friends; dear to my heart.  Also my garden.  Also lots of walks.  Also skies.  (Oh:  and books.  And tunes.  And…)

ALSO some very special people, too. 😉


DON’T, ever, try to kill yourself, okay?  Please.  (Look at it this way:  murder is, murder.  You wouldn’t murder anyone else, right?!  Well, don’t murder yoU!)

You matter.

Got that?  Say it again:  I  m-a-t-t-e-r.

Good job.

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Being true, being vulnerable

This is my first “reblog,” but as I just-now read this piece by Kelly I kept thinking, YES. Uh-huh; YES.

So I’m letting her say for me here, how,

“Being true makes me vulnerable because I can no longer use the excuse that these are not my thoughts, that these are not my feelings, that these are not my beliefs. I am putting myself out there in the world, and that’s quite scary.”

As Kelly says here,

“I do matter, and every day I have to prove that by being ME. …by being me, and putting myself out there, I have to be able to accept that others may disagree with me, and might not even like me, but that’s okay because I am who I am, and if someone doesn’t like me, it’s no reflection on me as much as a reflection of them and their values, their morals, and their beliefs.

“As long I am being true, being honest, behaving with integrity, and being open and vulnerable, that is all that can be asked of me.”

YES.  (Thanks, Kelly. 🙂 )

Writing From The Ashes

Being true, being vulnerable Being true, being vulnerable

I am currently working on an ethics assignment for my Bachelor Degree, and although I am having difficulty with all the theorising and waffle, it has had me thinking about how we make decisions and be true, or authentic, to ourselves.

Being true, unfortunately, also has the consequence of being vulnerable.

In 2010, on receiving confirmation that my father had abused a fourth victim, one much younger who had been abused much more recently than the other three, I felt I had been forced into a dilemma – do I remain silent, or do I take action?  Typical of all dilemmas, I had the capacity to choose either option, but only one of them.  Both choices had severe consequences attached.

Although my journey towards speaking out had, in hindsight, begun much earlier than the catalytic phone call I received, it was not until during that phone…

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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.