The Mouse That Roared! This is the play that Ryan is performing in tonight at St. Thomas High School. We are going to see it’s debut and I get to help work it all weekend. So it’s time to be family focused.
Perfect time to pull out an article I had featured this summer in the National Catholic Women magazine. I realized I never shared it and felt that today would be as good as any.
I didn’t speak. A victim of childhood sexual abuse (by my grandfather) I was forced to remain quiet. I went through the most delicate years of my emotional and physical formation silent on what mattered, vocal on everything else in an effort to get attention. Two weeks before my 17th birthday when I was violently attacked and raped by a fellow classmate who barked, “Shut up!” as I pleaded for him to stop, my voice left for good. It is why I continued to allow the violence against me to perpetuate from relationship to relationship until I was raped again three years later when I was 19 yrs old.
Now, married to a wonderful and Godly Catholic man for 17 years, he still has to go on physical cues to know if what I’m experiencing is good or a ‘trigger’. This is one lasting side effect of sexual and physical violence against women, they lose the confidence that their voice matters.
Not all victims of sexual and physical assault have a history of childhood abuse but the reaction to violence remains the same for all ages – it strips the victim of dignity, worth and esteem.
Caitlyn, a young survivor recounts: “I remember that night like it was yesterday. It was a dark and cold night in the city, nothing too out of the ordinary. I had just graduated high school. It was time to celebrate and get ready for college. I was finally about to be on my own and I felt free. So much change was happening all around me. I wanted to try something different; get out of my comfort zone, so I went with a friend to somewhere I have never been before. It was that night that I was assaulted. One minute I felt as free as a bird, and the next minute my innocence was torn apart. I thought my world was over.
Everything around me just fell to pieces. My mind was always racing constantly with horrible thoughts, thinking that it was my fault, that I shouldn’t have even left the house that night. It turned my world upside down. I became distant with friends. I had frequent mood swings. I stopped eating and never slept. I became depressed and isolated myself from the rest of the world. No one knew what was going on. I was a scared, broken little girl desperately pleading for help. I felt alone, lost and more scared than I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
Common questions asked of survivors are ‘Why didn’t you fight back?’, ‘Why do you stay [in the relationship]?’ ‘Why didn’t you tell [or report]?’
It is important to understand that when a woman is a victim of assault (either sexual, physical or both) it is most likely done by a spouse, boyfriend, family member or friend. The supposed ‘normal’ reaction to fight or flight is replaced by confusion and despair. Instead of reacting rationally to their own survival victims are confused by the betrayal and no longer trust their own emotions and instincts.
Rachel shares the toll the assault took on her: “At 15 I ended up in violent relationship for two years with constant physical, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse and control by my boyfriend. I finally broke up after he screamed at me for attending my Grandfather’s funeral instead of being at his school sports match.
I had no boundaries, no self-worth, or self-confidence. I was an angry teenager who turned the anger inward. I ate to cope which turned into binge eating and became overweight. I cut my own hair and self harmed in other ways (pulling out eyelashes, picking off my nails or scabs until I bled, digging my nails into my arms until I bled). I dressed in baggy clothes, withdrew from friends and activities, and went through the motions of my Catholic faith but did not feel an emotional connection to God. I blamed God.
My saving grace was a man and woman who became like second parents. We bonded and I became a part of the family. Life improved and I felt God bring me out of the pit of Hell.”
The fact is this is our truth. Every woman mentioned, including myself, is a faithful, Catholic woman. We reach every age and every class demographic. We are the statistic and we have a story that needs to be told. One way to prevent the statistics from increasing and reaching your family and friends is to allow survivors to know they have a voice; a voice that deserves to be heard.
Survivors need to tell their story, release what has been done to them and receive the support from loved ones and the counseling that will help them expose the shame, fear and guilt and learn to live normal, healthy lives. The more a survivor can talk the more they will heal. And the more stories that are heard gives more opportunity for women of all ages to recall the stories and respond in kind for the preservation of their worth and dignity.
The more you talk the more you heal.