Deja Edwards

I don't remember when the abuse began, but I remember the isolation I felt.  I would make negative remarks about my childhood as a teenager, and my mother would say, ‘I don't understand why you say that. You had a great childhood.’ She didn't see the blotches of murky fog that laid thick in my mind.

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I believe I was eight when the abuse started. I'm not sure, but I know it began before I reached puberty.  I had been raped and molested by an older cousin as a child, but I forced a smile.  My older cousin's parents were in and out of his life frequently.  I have two loving parents, who stepped in to take care of him.  I would hang out with him more than the others. No one suspected a thing.  Why did I allow it?  I pitied him, but I also felt shame.  I heard about his hardships more than I heard about his accomplishments.  I was told to be nice and share.  As a child, I didn't understand sharing meant objects and not your body.  When I figured it out, I had stayed close to him because of my fear.   I was afraid of my family's opinion of me and my younger sister's well-being.  I believed he would do the same to her if I fought him.

I felt shame, but I also felt like the pariah of the family.  I smiled and laughed, but my attitude would turn sour instantly.  I would lash out on everyone including my parents.  When we were 11 and 13, I asked my sister if she knew about the abuse, she said yes.  I didn’t know how she found out, but my heart sunk.  I didn’t want her to know my shame or be exposed to my abuse.  To me, her knowing meant she lost her innocence with me.  My eyes welled with tears because of her response.  We both knew something was wrong, but we did not know how to tell my parents.  The abuse stopped when my cousin left for a couple of years.  He returned on my eighteenth birthday and sexually molested me on my grandmother's couch.  The next morning, my grandmother said, ‘He needs love.’   

There were days when the abuse would not occur.  We could laugh and play like children.  I never knew when he would use my body, but I was used to the pain.  I would leave my body and sit in front of the television.  I was known to zone out as a kid.  I had two sides of myself: the puppet and the dummy.  I would pretend everything was okay and continue to smile.  I would act how I believed everyone expected me to. 

According to RAINN statistics, 34% of the perpetrators of sexual abuse are family members.  Sexual abuse can last for years and often happens in the home.  I coped by pretending nothing happened and I was successful for years.  It's important to remember that recovering from sexual abuse is not linear nor easy.  Here are some affirmations that you can tell yourself to help feel better when you're reminded of your past. 

Do not let anyone make you feel horrible because of your experience.

My truth came out in the midst of an argument with my grandmother.  Her response to me was the following: ‘It's your fault for not saying anything.  He could have hurt other people.’  I remember feeling as if I was at fault for not speaking up.  I also felt guilty for being sexually abused.  It took me a while to find friends and people who experienced the same thing as me.  With the help of my support system, I was able to tell myself that I was not to blame.  I cannot control what others do or say, but I control my future and decisions.  I found my voice when I was ready to share my traumatic experience with others, in hopes that I could aid in their healing process.

You are not the victim; you are who you are now.

This advice was given to me recently.  I was sitting across from my professor, who looked me in the eyes and said, ‘You are not that person, anymore. You are no longer a victim.’  He was trying to calm me down because I was anxious about writing about my experience. He had been through the same harrowing experience.  I never understood the pain I was carrying. I was still scared of who I was, the hopeless little girl who was abused without anyone knowing.  The statement made me realize I was holding onto the damaged part of me. The part of me that believed I was nothing because no one understood me or my pain. I had to see someone who struggled with the same struggle as me and survived. It was as if I needed someone to tell me 'you survived and I see you'.  I am a strong woman because I survived and didn’t let my trauma define me.

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Power comes from within. You can either stay broken or rebuild.

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Surround yourself with people who understand your triggers and recognize that healing isn’t linear.

I have surrounded myself with women and men who understand triggers.  Triggers are reminders of the past abuse and can be hard to move past.  It is hard to navigate life without support and harder when you do not have healthy ways to cope.  I have two amazing friends who listen attentively and watch me carefully.  One of my friends was sexually abused when we first met and I made sure she knew she was still a strong woman.  There was a moment when all we could do was cry, but she has taught me tears have a way of cleansing the soul.  My other friend can tell what I am thinking about from my facial expressions.  She makes sure I call her every day.  They make sure I know I am safe and not alone because the most damaging part of being abused is the feeling of abandonment and loneliness.  The predator isolates you from others because of the abuse and the shame.

I don't know if the triggers or the nightmares will ever go away.  I do know that I am recovering and that's all I can ask for myself.  Even if you feel powerless, you are strong.

 

You can learn more about Dega by visitin her blog: aloeandamethyst.org

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