August 29, 2012

A Beyond Survivor's Story: Spoken Secret - Part 2

Hi all,

Last week, I introduced you to J. Eve, a Beyond Survivor and writer who has recently been published in Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories from Inspiring Women. Here is Part 2 of her story. Enjoy!

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What happens to a child’s sense of self when they grow up believing they are guilty of acts so terrible they don’t have names? For years I talked to different therapists, searched for books that reflected my experience, and consulted friends to help me make sense of what had happened. In my second to last semester of college, I took a course to become a certified sexual assault counselor. It was during this class that I gained tremendous perspective on my experience.

When I first heard the term “grooming,” I realized I’d been groomed. My abuser created a game conducive to getting what he wanted. He knew he had my complete trust and adoration long before the abuse started. I learned about power differentials and finally came to terms with the fact that the abuse didn’t happen between the two of us. In actuality, my abuser was aware of what he was doing and fully capable of understanding his power over me. Conversely, I didn’t know what was happening and didn’t have the language to stop him or seek help.

Every time the class met I felt a little lighter as I accepted that the abuse had not been my fault. Midway through the course I disclosed. After I spoke, several other classmates did so as well. Later, Hope told me, “I just couldn’t let you feel like you were alone for one second.” It was incredible that many of these women had, just like me, been drawn to this advocacy work after having been violated. I was stunned that it had taken so long for all of us to come forward, but mostly I was horrified by the numbers in the room and utterly moved by the contagiousness of my courage.

I’ve learned that disclosing is a critical piece of recovery from sexual abuse. Yet disclosing to my journal, and eventually to my family (not by choice), was not enough to begin the healing process. For years after the disclosure, I minimized the abuse, because I felt pressured by my family to move past it. They wanted to leave this awful part of our family history behind and not let it change our family dynamics. They feared the consequences of people finding out what had gone on in our house. The judgments about how this would reflect on their parenting were overwhelming, but mostly they worried about what this could mean for my abuser’s future.

As we’d believed ourselves to be prior to the disclosure, we continued to portray the life of a wholesome family unit that vacationed and celebrated holidays together. We gave each other advice and smiled for pictures, continuing to project the image of a loving, connected family. One year we traveled to St. Thomas over Christmas. The photos from this trip of my mom and abuser wearing matching pink shirts, their tanned skin causing their teeth to look especially white and perfect, does not reflect the underlying, unspoken tension bubbling beneath the surface during that week. For a brief moment, in the midst of a peaceful and “ordinary” trip, my mom shattered the culture of denial and minimization, saying, “The two of them cannot sleep in the same room!” I was annoyed at how insensitively she expressed her concern, and I felt extremely uncomfortable—it seemed her emotion was misdirected because we all knew I was no longer at risk around him.

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Check in next week for Part 2 of J. Eve's story. 


In 2010, Lisa Shultz and Andrea Costantine published the anthology, Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories from Inspiring Women. Their goal with this book and its subsequent volumes and spin offs is to provide a beacon of light, hope, and connection for women as they navigate their lives while overcoming challenges and difficulties along the way. They had 49 contributing authors in Volume One who shared their stories of family matters, love and abuse, faith and spirituality, health and healing, and finding their path."

1 comment:

  1. Eve's story is so familiar to me that it is scarey! I wrote my own autobiography on child abuse, domestic violence, and recovery in my book entitled, "The Breakdown of an All-American Family". My book was just recently published and, now that certain family members have read it; apparently the pain of knowledge is much stronger than 'speaking your truth, because they have threatened legal action. Some family units can be so broken and shattered by the actions of others that it is the victim who carries the unnecessary guilt and shame. I have a very limited supply of my book and I have agreed to do some revisions for an updated copy to help ease the pain of certain individual's. As stated, "...we continued to portray the life of a wholesome family unit...", for some victims this is the 'truth' they seek whether there was sexual abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect.

    Feel free to check out my book and some of the amazing reviews it has received: http://mmmcconnell.wix.com/live-life-coaching

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