My childhood was not a childhood. In my family, adults raped children. It was our normal. It was our culture and it was generational. My parents grew up with it. Their parents grew up with it. The abusers justified their disgusting behavior with excuses and stories. Most of the victims in our family didn’t remember it because the trauma caused dissociative amnesia. We were a family of traumatized individuals who were doing whatever it took to survive … usually at the expense of the others.
The extreme abuse in our family might seem easily discernible to outsiders. In our case, it wasn’t. We were a typical suburban family. We lived in a four-bedroom house as a middle-class family with a mother, father and two children. We had plenty of social circles. The parents worked. The children attended school and after-school activities. We didn’t move around all the time. We did not request government or social services that may have shined a light on our family dysfunction. Nobody suspected anything. We seemed like a “normal” family.
My parents, uncles and grandparents started sexually abusing me when I was 2 years old. This was necessary to break me. I was indoctrinated in to a way of life. I was brainwashed. But there was a problem. As I got older, they realized I was a talker. They had not successfully broken me. I was telling people. The good news for them … nobody believed me. Or if they did, they didn’t do enough to help me. I was visited by social services a few times. My father had to threaten a few people to shut them up. But in the end, my family maintained the secrecy … and control.
My talking (and fighting back) led to some additional abuse. My father became physically abusive with me. I was suffocated, physically assaulted, abandoned, strangled, starved and hit many times in the head. I went to the hospital on multiple occasions. I am not sure how my father talked his way through those visits. But he did.
My mother handled the emotional abuse and gaslighting. She could manipulate a child better than anyone. Actually, she could manipulate anyone. She could get me to trust her just long enough to tell her what she wanted to know. She ensured that I knew how worthless I was. She told me all the time … in many ways.
My parents didn’t stop with the incest. They realized there was money to be made. And they never passed up an opportunity to make money. So they sold me to their friends. They traded me for their friends’ daughters. They sold me to groups of men who were having bachelor parties. They sold me to gangs. And they sold me to pimps. I would spend my Saturdays and summers working for pimps. One pimp set up a brothel outside the Quantico marine base. Most of my customers were men in uniform.
By the age of 9, I was fully indoctrinated. I had given up. I remember the moment when I realized there was no hope of being saved from this terrible life. In that moment, I made a conscious choice to forget. Not only did I forget my abusive past, but I forgot every abusive experience in the coming years. I could forget almost instantaneously. Dissociation is a powerful defense mechanism. And it is a common response to trauma.
My parents divorced, but my mother continued the abuse and trafficking. She continued to sell me to pimps to make money and justified it by blaming me for her divorce. When she remarried, my stepfather became my next abuser. He used financial control to keep me quiet by threatening to leave us homeless if I did not comply with his wishes. In high school, I acted from a dissociated state most of the time. I was bullied all the time because I did not know how to stand up for myself with my peers. But at home, I was no longer interested in keeping the peace. I acted like many teenagers do when they are trying to push limits. I fought back intensely which caused my parents to raise the bar on the level of abuse. There were many times I was sure I would die, but somehow, I stayed alive.
My childhood trauma impacted my life in considerable ways. I was inundated with intense anxiety. I was constantly suffering from panic attacks. I dealt with chronic pain and inflammation in most of my joints. My fertility was highly questionable. I had severe problems with vaginal scarring and my ovaries were not functioning. I had been prescribed countless anti-anxiety medications, but generally, the side-effects were too much to handle. So I lived with most of the symptoms.
My self-esteem was so low that intimate relationships and friendships were highly dysfunctional. I was the subject of bullying on a regular basis. I could not trust anyone. I usually dated abusive men with substance-abuse problems. My continued dissociation left me without any defense against the abuse because I would freeze and forget. I was married twice for very short periods of time.
In my second marriage, I was able to conceive my beautiful twins with the help of fertility treatments. And the twins changed everything. The triggers and painful flashbacks started almost instantaneously. I could not stop or control them. My children were reminding me of my past. They would cry and I would feel my own suffocation. They would express anger and I would feel threatened. They needed my constant attention and I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know how to practice self care and I started to fall apart.
The twins were three months old when I started my recovery process with a therapist. Of course, I didn’t know why I was there. I didn’t remember anything. But I knew something was very, very wrong. For the next several years, I employed several intense therapeutic remedies. I saw a therapist individually. I participated in groups. I did several forms of body and energy work. I read countless books. I wrote hundreds of pages. I experienced intense emotions.
Now, I am in my sixteenth year of recovery. I have recovered hundreds of memories. I am no longer a prisoner to my family and have severed all ties with them. I can parent my children without intense triggers on most days. I have a much better understanding of who I am and what I want from life. And I have found my voice again.
So now I speak, write and coach others. I tell my story because there is nobody stopping me anymore. I tell my story so I can heal. I tell my story so other survivors can heal.
I tell my story so everyone can understand that childhood complex trauma is real. I tell my story so children will be heard … so that someone will believe them.
I tell my story so that children can have hope.
I tell my story because enough is enough.