August 1, 2016

Escaping the Hands of the Abuser - Part 1

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Ivonne Meeuwsen, author, survivor, coach, advocate, and one very impressive human being. Ivonne has been in the trenches for years, sharing her story, supporting survivors, and bringing about real change in the Netherlands and around the world. Today, she shares with us how her abuse began.


My history of abuse starts when I'm twelve and a so called friend of the family manipulates me into believing that I'm special. I'm so mature for my age, he tells me, and my family doesn't understand that. They don't understand me. It's the start of what I mistakenly thought of as a star crossed love-affair. Mistaken, because it was anything but love. 

Is this really where my history of child sexual abuse starts? How is it that I was open, ready for what amounts to a real easy process of grooming. Surely it's not just me being a somewhat naïve child of twelve? It was so easy for him to lodge himself squarely between me and anyone that might have been able to help me out. My history of abuse really goes back to when I was little.

My parents are typical. My dad brings home the bacon and my mom cooks it for all six of us. These are the days before birth control pills so six children is considered normal. I am the youngest, younger by four years from my nearest sibling. My father is the king of his castle, his will is the law. He doesn't explode often, but when he does he's very intimidating. He's 6 foot tall and when he hits you it's with large hands. 

My first memory is of my father hitting my sister. She's sixteen and came home late. He's really laying in to her. My mother is standing there, crying. She tells him to stop, that he will kill her if he doesn't. I'm about two years old. I remember vividly the decision I made. My sister must have done something really bad, I can't save her. I had better be as good as I can and never make this giant angry. 

For ten years after that, I'm everybody's favorite. My brothers send me on errands, my mom has a great help around the house in her youngest child. My "self" disappears to make room for this person who is everybody's helper. I'm a good girl. I am safe as long as I am a good girl. But it starts to chafe at the edges. Enter the "friend of the family."

I was ready for the picking. Suppressing what I feel inside is a long standing habit by then, I hardly even know what I'm feeling half the time. He sees me. He sees a child on the brink of puberty, in a household where protest brings violence. It only takes a few interventions from him, to turn me into a rebellious teenager. He protects me from my father's violence. At the same time he isolates me from anyone who might be able to protect me from him.

My history of child sexual abuse lasts until I am 19 and I take off. The abuser tells me to get an apartment of my own and he would father a couple of children with me. I know, intuitively, that this would lead to my children being abused by him as well and something inside me roars. Anything but that, so I flee the country. I come to the USA.

This is where the history of abuse ends. It's also where the long road to healing starts. For 22 years, I'm healing. I'm resting. I'm in and out of therapy. I'm safe. For the first time since I saw my father beat my sister, I'm safe. Sort of. It will take me a long time to feel really safe in the world. To feel again. To free myself of the burden of my childhood. But this is where it starts. This is where I start to reclaim my life. 


Ivonne Meeuwsen is author of several books on child sexual abuse. Ivonne is a survivor herself of sexual abuse from the tender age of 12 until she was 19. In her book, I Thrive. Healing from Child Sexual Abuse, she relates her story, not just about the abuse, but about dealing with the long term effects of child sexual abuse. The book gives clear insight into all the major issues resulting from child sexual abuse: social anxiety, fear, dissociation, depression and more. She tells the story from the inside out, so people who have not been abused can gain insight and understanding, whereas people who have been there will find themselves saying, "Yes, that's how it was." 
Ivonne studied social work and coaching and has a thriving practice as an online coach, specializing in child sexual abuse. In addition, she organises symposia, trains and supervises therapists on healing from child sexual abuse.

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