Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Family, Bigger Secrets

It is important for all family and friends to pay attention to details. Behavior changes, emotional changes, everyday changes that might seem normal but, taking a closer look might just save someone from going through trauma alone. It might just save their life.

There are three response to major stress and trauma. Fight, Flight, or Freeze. Fight is clear- the victim fights back, physically and/or mentally. Flight is when you can run from the situation, which at times can go hand in hand with Fight. The freeze response is different. The freeze response happens when the victim feels like there is not a chance to get out of the situation. The victim might also be in shock of the situation and feel in ways they are "frozen" from fear. You can find more information at http://www.stressstop.com/stress-tips/articles/fight-flight-or-freeze-response-to-stress.php

Today a survivor shares about her experience along with the effects of keeping such a big secret. This girl is a strong one and I am lucky to call her my friend. <3


My family situation is very complicated because of how mixed the generations are. I am one of 5 kids for my father, but we do not all have the same mother. My father was married once before having my sister and I. The older 3 siblings are much older (~30 yrs). Old enough to make me a very young aunt to some older nieces and nephews. However, we grew up together like we were cousins.

I was experiencing the happiest time of my life…childhood. I was your typical 9 year old girl tomboy. I played sports, hung out with guys, cut my hair short, hated dresses, loved being outside and getting dirty.

He was 14 or 15. I looked up to him like I would an older brother, but he was my brother's son. I don’t really remember exactly when the first time he sexually assaulted me was, but it went on for ~4-5 years. I felt completely shocked. I had no idea how to react or what do to, so I didn't do anything. Whenever he got the chance, he would force me to touch him or force himself on me. It was like being in an outer body experience. I could see and feel it all happening, but couldn't control myself to even speak. It happened when no one was looking. Playing games outside, inside, anywhere. I can't even remember all the times it happened because it was too frequent and they all just kind of ran together. At first it was 'simple', but then it became more intrusive until it couldn’t go any farther.

He would either take me out of the room we were in, or have everyone start playing a game. Literally just do anything so everyone was distracted. I remember a couple times where there would be people in the exact same room while it happened, but none of them were paying enough attention to see what he was doing. Considering, the other people in the room were typically kids my age and we were usually playing video games, 'house', hide and seek, etc. But yet there were still times where someone could/should have noticed.

He told me not to tell anyone because what we were doing wasn’t bad. I believed him and took his word. Even though I had a bad feeling about it all I still trusted him because I loved him. I still love him. We are family.

I remember being down at the lake one time when I was about 11. I was showering and my mom was getting ready in the same bathroom. I remember asking her how girls got pregnant. I was worried and scared that I was pregnant. At that point, I kind of knew how it happened, but what I didn’t know was that your body wouldn't allow it unless you had started your period. She talked to me about it a little, but never asked me anything about my curiosity. I was alone with this GIANT secret and all these questions.

At some point after about 4 years it stopped. I was so relieved. My body had started to change and it made me feel so uncomfortable. I would have nightmares about it. I became so paranoid, not just about him but about all men.

We were at my older sister's house on the lake for a weekend with the entire family. I was 13 and he had just turned 18 going into his senior year of high school. There were over 10 of my family members sleeping in my sister's house. So people were on couches, air mattresses, and pretty much all over for sleeping. Everyone had gone to bed but I was laying on the air up mattress, with my sister. I was pretty sure she was asleep. He was sleeping on a couch just in the other room. He got up off the couch and came and laid down next to me. He started to touch me and move my hands to him. I retracted my body from his, hoping not to wake up my sister. I grabbed my cell phone and typed. "Stop. I don't want this." He saw my screen and got up then walked out of the house. It was roughly mid-night. I started to get really worried when he had not returned. He was gone for around 15 minutes and I had told myself, if he didn’t come back in 5 minutes, I was going to wake up my brother. Of course, he came back in the house before that time was up.

It freaks me out that I can still say that I love someone after all the awful things they forced me do. I know that I can't really change how I feel about that. Encountering what I did for so many years and keeping the secret, changed me. Some days it is hard to convince myself that what even happened was wrong. Some times I think it was okay.

The saddest part is that I am okay that it happened to me because it didn’t happen to somebody else. I wasn't okay with the new me, but I have learned to cope. I probably didn't go about recovering from this the best way but I managed.

I never told anyone about any of this happening until I was a sophomore in high school and we had a section of health class discussing sexual abuse. I told my friend and she convinced me to tell my parents. When I told my mom, I was so upset that I only told her about the time at the lake a few year before. I saw how much it hurt her and my father, so I thought there was no reason to completely crush them. Of course there were no charges pressed.

I got a hand written apology letter on a sticky note over a year after telling my parents from him.

I can't even remember who I was before I kept the worst secret of my life. I hope that young girls have more courage than I did, to tell the truth and don’t ever let the feelings of other obstruct from telling everything. I know that I have only made it that much harder for myself as I continue to hold this secret inside of me. But I see the effects of that night I told my mom everyday in her behavior…that night changed her.

I almost always think I shouldn't have told anyone because all it has done is create more pain for other people. But then my brain kicks in because I know I tried to do the right thing.

It took awhile for my to get through the flashbacks, months of no sleep because of nightmares, paranoia, but the day came. I can't say that the demons don't come back every now and then, but I am stronger now than I was before. I will never feel safe in the dark or by myself again. But everyday is another day that I have survived. That day gives me more strength to be stronger for the next.