If you need immediate help please call 911 or your local emergency number. For other abuse issues contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224 or visit their website at http://www.thehotline.org.
This is my personal abuse story intermingled with advice for others. I share it because I hope sharing it helps others.
The rate of sexual abuse varies across the world and is hard to calculate precisely. Whatever it is, I am one impacted individual. These are some of my abuse memories. These experiences permanently shaped and changed me.
I thought my life had been normal. Frequent long walks through the fields were normal to avoid verbal abuse. Contemplating sleeping in the woods alone because it felt safer was normal. Having my hair pulled and being verbally abused was getting off easy compared to others I knew. People losing their virginity with siblings was something I heard about too frequently. I assumed the incestuous sexual occurrences I heard about were desired and the way things were. Everyone had sex at a young age, right? Sexual boundaries were not respected. After experiencing these things directly, indirectly, or by hearing about them, they had become normal. Now I recognize it as fucked up.
For years I did not talk about my earliest memories: abuse, a fucked up childhood, and my sexual history. My childhood was abnormal, unacceptable, and dysfunctional. I thought verbal, physical, and sexual abuse were normal for everyone. I am shocked nobody in my family seemed to care, say, or do anything. I held it to myself because I was ashamed and thought others would judge and ridicule me.
Many of my earliest memories are sexual. The events in this paragraph started before kindergarten. I was playing when Lars, a male five years older than me, led me to a swampy area to play "cats and dogs". The area consisted of a makeshift natural grass shelter where we 'played' without being seen. I do not remember what exactly happened beyond the fact that it was sexual and I was uncomfortable with it. Lars later had me play another "game": "Driving the [manual] Car". The 'gearshift' I "shifted" was atypical. A peer innocently walked past and ran away after the abuser said it was just a game. This witness is happy they never went "driving". Those are two of my earliest molestation memories. It may have been the beginning of my abuse. I do not know how extensive it was. A friend said the person also had me play a sexual version of "Cops and Robbers" where I experienced raw and realistic prison life before escaping. When a different person wanted to perform mutual oral I was nervous. They said it was okay and we would not be caught. We did it. We weren't caught. During sleepovers I enjoyed exchanging fellatio with a different person. I was uncomfortable being coerced to "play husband and wife" with five males.
When young I perpetrated abuse on animals by kicking and harming them. I thought it was okay. Our pets had a short lifespan; I never felt an attachment to them because they always unexpectedly disappeared. They changed constantly. Different family members shot them for their slightest misdeed.
Closer to puberty someone pointed out my first pube. As I should have been, I was still very naïve. That same person later coerced me to perform mutual oral. My first ejaculation was in his mouth. It tickled and I did not know what happened. He came in my mouth. He liked it all. I didn't. I don't know how I felt when a different male and I regularly fucked and sucked each other. It was my first time using a condom. It started as a "game". Another person and I regularly engaged what I felt were consensual sexual relations without condoms. I was really attracted to him and wished I were him. I still fantasize about it at times. A smattering of other males and I performed mutual oral. I wanted to fuck the local 'easy' girls.
In my early double digits someone felt I was a perpetrator. An experience I felt was consensual they experienced as sexual abuse. It surprised me to hear that over ten years later. The person had been deeply impacted and I didn't even know. They went to counseling and forgave me. Their introduction to sex was me causing pain. I stopped as soon as I knew it hurt. That was not soon enough.
My father was verbally and physically abusive. He seemed to take his anger out on me, perhaps because his brothers beat him. I was fighting with a brother when my dad rushed in. I thought he hit me, he later said he pulled my hair. I think I called the cops; it felt like he resented me for doing that on multiple occasions. I went to our neighbors barn to sleep for the night, but returned home after my dad drove there. I usually felt scared of him growing up. After that incident I wanted to grow up to be strong. I obsessively planned how I would defend myself, what I would do, and where I would hit him if it happened again.
In an abusive relationship I was hit once. Because they were smaller it was not a big deal. I told them it was not okay, ever, to hit me and if it happened again I would leave for a minimum of 24 hours and double that each time after. Abuse is about control and has to be called out immediately. This prompted me to learn about abuse; a TED Talk helped (1). It described the process of abuse which my partner closely followed: compliments, guilt, confessing a "secret" no one else knew, pretending I could help, and physical abuse. Overcompensatingly overt friendliness always followed. The research led me to a startling realization: some of my traits were abusive. This shocked me.
In the relationship I experienced knowing what rape felt like. I initially consented and never directly said "no" later. I was apprehensive and didn't want it after starting. The person pushed it. I succumbed. I laid there during the ordeal wanting it to be done while thinking to myself, "Now I know what it feels like to be raped and how one partner can rape the other in a relationship." I requested to go slower and to use more lube. I did not fight them off even though I could have. I felt obligated and coerced to finish out of guilt because I initially consented and we already started.
After re reading my journal entries I saw how susceptible I was to abuse. They used my words and sensitivities to try manipulate me. I started to wonder if I was: at fault for everything, the instigator, more abusive than I thought, the problem, and controlling. I internalized the issues, took the blame, and felt guilty for how the person felt and what they did. Even though I understood the abuse process I was still vulnerable to their tactics. It felt like they were taking me on a daily emotional roller coaster ride. I became more emotional and for the first time connected and cried to Jason Walker's song Down. It felt good.
I learned criticism can be abusive. It is really hard for me to withhold it! Sometimes I want to verbally tear into others by criticizing them as much as possible. One friend and I sarcastically exchange criticisms until stumping the other person. That always seems to be enjoyable and lighthearted. But that is not true for everyone. Unwarranted criticism hurts people, myself included.
My parents went through an extra rough patch. They split for a couple weeks. As a condition of rekindling my dad attended counseling and learned how to manage his depression in a healthy manner. It has been a difficult and long process, but I am happy to report that it has helped tremendously. I have seen my dad transform. He has started to mellow, stabilize, relax, and become more enjoyable to be around. Pets stick around; no family members dispatch them. He protects and cares for our pets by feeding and ensuring they are comfortable. The family life has improved dramatically. My parents relationship appears stronger and healthier. My younger siblings seem to be having more positive, healthy, and stable childhoods. Visiting is more relaxing. I feel at ease visiting longer than one evening per year. His childhood was filled with pain and abuse. I am proud of the progress he has made. My childhood when much better than his. People can overcome difficulties.
After my parents patch my mom wanted us to attend counseling. I did for a semester at my university. They thought I was fine and recommended exercise, sleeping well, eating healthy, and returning if anything changed. After learning about abuse I will return for more counseling. I want to try unravel and figure out the extent abuse has impacted me to understand and learn how my past has shaped who I am today and how I can better prepare for the future. Life changes, it does not have to remain stable. It can get better. It takes time. It is difficult. But it can be done. My dad started drastic changes in his forties. I can start now.
My treatment of animals started to change in mid childhood. I began to care for, protect, and order that my siblings and friends did not harm them. I could not stand to see them abused. I recognized animals also feel and should live their lives without abuse and pain.
Many of those I had sexual relations with I thought were friends, but now I wonder if it was all simply sexual. I am in touch with basically none of them today. I wonder if any of the experiences were consensual. The "easy" girls were likely themselves sexually abused. We never fucked. For the person who remembers me as a perpetrator, this one incident impacts their sex life today. Some people genuinely do not know they are abusive. I had no idea. Now I have been very conscientious about requiring clear consent and ensuring things are relaxed. I wonder where truth lies and what memories are created and suppressed to cope.
My obsession over self defense never came to fruition. My dad never physically hurt me again. He has brought it up and apologized numerous times since.
The other person in my abusive relationship initially said they are manipulative and chronically lie. I believed almost nothing of what they said. But they were good at what they did. I felt comfortable and open with them. Overall it was positive; likely because it ended before it became too crazy. I appreciated how I trusted them to push me to consider and see things from a view I may have never allowed myself to entertain otherwise. I have not allowed many people to do that, maybe nobody else. I learned I tend to brush things off by saying something is silly or nonsense. It's easier to brush things off — possibly as they said — to confirm my ideas while rejecting others. I am also not as open minded as I would like to be. I am happy we met because of the perspectives they introduced me to. I recognized, learned, and experienced abuse. It helped with introspection and exploration. I began change in myself. I had been working on being more open and honest and ironically increased that further. I am striving to ensure I am not abusive. If I was searching for something they were what I needed.
Now when I want to criticize somebody, I try to hold or rephrase it in a constructive way. Holding it sometimes feels like it swells and wants to burst out. It would feel great to explode! At the same time I understand it is unproductive and unhealthy. It is hard to break habits and nurture healthy relationships without criticism.
My past abuse impacts me today. One coping mechanism is to detach myself from everything. Stubbornness and independence are used to feel control over myself. It bothers me when I feel, correctly or incorrectly, like others are trying to manipulate and control me. I struggle with relationships; when someone gets too close romantically I break it off. Someone told me, perhaps correctly, I don't "achieve my intellectual potential" by undervaluing myself. I stutter at times. Seemingly minor events remind me of abuse and set me off. I am emotionally numb; seek high risk, stimulating, and dangerous things; and have low concentration. All of these things I try to recognize to manage and improve my life and relations with others.
I have always been an exhibitionist and would have felt perfectly at home in a nudist colony. Now I wonder if that exhibitionism is related to abuse. Maybe exhibitionism has been my way of feeling in control by deliberatly exposing myself after someone invaded my personal privacy without my extent.
People did notice, say things, care, and were concerned about me. They spoke in person and emailed. This was their way of supporting, but I took it as a criticism and personal attack.
While some people understand and know they are abusive, others might not. This never makes it right. It can help people to understand and recognize that it may be better to remove themselves from abusive relationships. To continue an abusive relationship it will take effort to ensure the abuser knows their actions are unacceptable, need to change, and they need professional help. That being said, almost nobody is worth going through abuse to stay with. People take a long time to change and that only happens if the person is willing and receptive to it. Because of other factors that led to my extreme independence and inability to absorb criticism, if I felt external influence it would have been difficult to help me recognize abuse and change. If I trusted and was open with someone and they acted respectfully and without pressure I may have responded positively.
At the same time, if anyone is abusive and does not change they are never worth your health, safety, and well being. Never. Leave the person and situation after ensuring you are safe. If you do not know how to leave recruit outside help such as the police, other professionals, or trusted people in your life. Check out government benefits and services. Police are trained to keep you safe. Leave abusive and negative relationships even if you have to start a new family, create a completely new life style, and find a new circle of friends.
I was hesitant telling one person about my past fearing they may be judgmental, disrespectful, and insensitive. They were. Later I cried when I thought about how much their reaction hurt me. It felt like they tried to delegitimize my feelings, memories, and experiences by trying to force their own views and opinions. They insisted I was the instigator in my past which I felt was incorrect and not fair of them to judge. It was already hard to talk about. Judgement made it worse. I am glad to be opening up about my past. Not that I told them about it. When people go through pain and need help, the best thing we can do is simply listen without judgement.
Everyone else I have talked to has been really supportive. It was a huge relief realizing it is okay to tell others. If you have been abused or are an abuser and do not have anyone trusted in your life to talk to visit a professional counselor. Talk to people you trust, who have been supportive of you in the past, and who have been around for a while. Find people you think will react positively. If you have doubts find someone else. It may be hard and you may cry, but opening up is refreshing and a burden lifted. War veterans who share their experiences readjust and overcome post traumatic stress disorder better than those who hold it in. The first step is to address and share it. It may take counseling. Life does get better. You can be content and happy.
These are part of my memories, but I do not consciously regret, feel anger, or feel resentment about them. They happened and have shaped who I am today. Now I can work to repair what others broke. I can learn how to overcome my past.
Note: I have decided against using most names at this time. What is more important, avoiding discourse caused by revealing names or protecting other innocent people from harm? Might revealing names encourage the perpetrators to seek professional help? Would reporting it to the police — even though my case may be weak — encourage others to come forward with a stronger one? Am I undeservedly protecting the perpetrator by not revealing names? Does pushing for positive change require doing more than write this article? Please let me know what you think by contacting me here. I may update my article based on feedback.
1. Organization: TED: ideas worth spreading. Title: Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don't leave. Speaker: Leslie Morgan Steiner. Posted: January 2012. Accessed August 2013 from http://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_morgan_steiner_why_domestic_violence_victims_don_t_leave.html.
1. If you need immediate help please call 911 or your local emergency number.
2. For abuse issues contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224, or visit their website at http://www.thehotline.org.
3. A book I found very helpful: Victims No Longer (Second Edition): The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse. Author: Mike Lew. Copyright: May 2004. Here is a search which is supposed to be anonymous for the book from DuckDuckGo: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Victims+No+Longer+by+Mike+Lew.
4. Me, Reid by contacting me here. I will try to direct you somewhere for help if you need.