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The world is not perfect. It’s not a peaceful place. Most days we go about doing the best we can to carve out happiness. For some people that can be very hard. The hard honest truth is that out in the world there are people that do not try to do their best. They prefer to do as pleases them. Even if that means to hurt other people. I have experienced this myself. I am a survivor of Rape, Assualt, and Abuse.
I’ve had to grow a lot after getting myself out of the hostile environment I was in at the time. I had some help and resources, but a lot I had to do on my own with no guidance. I’ve still got ways to go to heal, but at least I can look back and see the progress. My goal was to share this with others. I felt there was a lot of gaps in what I found when I started my journey. And I didn’t want others to struggle for as long as I did.
This part two of the series ‘When Life Gives You Lemons’
Part one is here: Knowledge is Power: Understanding Rape
“So for those who think abuse survivors can simply logically process their situation and get out of and over the situation easily, think again. The parts of our brain that deal with planning, cognition, learning, and decision-making become disconnected with the emotional parts of our brain – they can cease to talk to each other when an individual becomes traumatized. It usually takes a great deal of effort, resources, strength, validation, addressing wounding on all levels of body and mind, for a survivor to become fully empowered to begin to heal from this form of trauma.”
― Shahida Arabi,
Abuse is an umbrella term covering a wide range of actions. Abuse can be categorized as physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and even financial. Neglect is defined as failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another. This could be just failing to dress a child appropriately (i.e. winter coats in the winter). Abuse is defined as to treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.
Physical: Any form of attack on you as with a weapon or bodily.
Sexual: This could range from unwanted sexual touches to rape. This also covers things such as not wearing condoms or allowed protection from STDs.
Psychological: This is mostly going to be verbal. Things such as mocking, insults, yelling, swearing, threatening, and even ignoring.
Emotional: This is an offshoot of psychological abuse but more direct. Examples would be humiliating, isolating, exclusion, and denial of any abuse.
Financial: This kind of abuse has honestly been around for ages but is only recently gaining the attention it needs to be recognized. Actions that are obvious are things such as stealing money, withholding funds, meticulous spending tracking (especially when the other person involved cannot be questioned). Less obvious means are denying financial literacy, or on the other hand, completely relying on you with no means of supporting themselves but controlling all the money.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:
“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation”; or
“An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
“You’ve already done the hardest part; you survived the trauma. You are much stronger than you think you are.”― Sarah Newman
I grew up in my early childhood fluent in sarcasm. Just because I understood it didn’t make it kinder. I was constantly pushed to do better in school and to be better. Honestly, I don’t think I had any good examples to follow and be better. Often, as kids will do, I tried to be like my older sister. That wasn’t cool with her and would cause fights and then later as I grew older the actions I did (still emulating her) got me in trouble – for the exact things they supported her in.
Lack of socialization
Early childhood was also isolating. This was a multi-faceted issue. My family was made up of introverts. I made friends more easily with a few boys than I did girls. My parents wouldn’t allow me to have ‘boy-friends’ over for play dates or go over to their houses. So basically I could only see my friends at school. Friends were always a challenge for me. I was also bullied – and unfortunately, some lived in my neighborhood – so the streets weren’t safe for me too often. And getting my parents to listen and understand that I was bullied was pretty much impossible. But my elementary nemeses scattered and mostly left me alone by the end of middle school as the school district kept growing and rezoning areas.
A Lonely Home
My father also made career and financial choices that while bringing in good money often went straight out to debts. He traveled for work and changed jobs regularly. My father often used that against us if he got angry for small mistakes – even if we had already been punished adequately by mom at home – I recall at least a few times that he stayed away from home for several months and only came home if he absolutely needed clothes or work supplies from home. He wouldn’t answer calls even if we left messages pleading him to forgive us all – even if we hadn’t done anything actually wrong.
When I Opened My Eyes
I had accepted this all as normal. That’s just how life is. High school was even worse. I had it drilled into my head that I would be going to college and I will be paying on my own. I wouldn’t be getting any money from them. Note, neither of my parents actually have a degree. Not that this is actually a bad thing, but it is in this instance hypocritical. So I was super worried about college and doing well and a million other things at the time. These fears and worries had their toll on me. Each semester I was near failing some class. 70 was passing for teachers. 85 was barely acceptable to my parents. I had a dozen things to do a day outside of school and homework. On top of that, I was barely getting enough sleep. I had no time for myself and any time alone I was able to grasp was in public – I was not allowed privacy.
The Money Problems
I thought this was bad. It got worse. Once I started a job I had no access to my own money. I couldn’t spend it if I wished. Finally, just before I turned 18 I was given minimal access. I was meticulously monitored. they had full access to my account and could move it if they wished – and latter did as “punishment”. They equated my actions of breaking a rule repetitively as running a red light and “fined” me. I was still unsure how I had broken a rule and why it was in place. I broke it again and they decided I no longer needed my money and took everything including future paychecks. Unfortunately, because they were on the account there was nothing I could do but close the account and move my money before they took it.
I still worked. They tempted me with “earning” it back with “good behavior”. I stumbled somehow and they decided I lost all chances of earning it back. But all while this is going on I’m expected to tithe on it and start college. Both take money. Finally, I had had enough I was going to get out even without my hard earned money. By this point in my life, I may have been living in their home but they weren’t taking care of my needs. I was supposed to be an adult and start taking care of myself instead of relying on my parents. Kind of hard when I have no way to actually accomplish that and wasn’t being treated as an adult. So, in the end, I was barely meeting my needs. I was barely eating two meals a day and burning about 3000-4000 calories a day. I was barely sleeping and when I complained about being tired or anything – my father’s go-to answer was “You don’t exercise”.
Yes, please tell me I don’t exercise. I work on my feet about 30 hours a week, bike or walk there, add in another 5 miles to school, physically demanding classes (5-hour culinary practical classes and an athletic credit) and still bike home (also 5 miles). See how I could burn 4000 calories a day?
Love yourself instead of abusing yourself. – Karolina Kurkova
What Could I Do About It?
I’ve already mentioned before that I’m speaking from my personal experience. The first step is recognizing what is going on in your life. What aspect is being attacked, where have you lost control over your own self? This has to be answered before you can even begin to get out of the horrible situation. Thought the fact that you are reading this is either a great coincidence, or you are starting to suspect something if you’re not sure. You also have to accept this as the truth. It helps to have someone you trust as a sounding board. In high school, I had a chance to be a library aide ( I was the perfect candidate.) I built a relationship with one of the librarians, she had a son in high school and I felt I could get an insight into what my parents could be thinking when we fought. Most of the time I asked what I could do to fix the problem, how I errored in the situation. By the end of the school year, I was told that I am very smart, mature, and overall a good daughter and that how my parents were acting was not right.
I couldn’t do anything about my situation at the time. But I did take off my rose tinted glasses (where I thought this was normal). I started thinking “Would I do this to my own child?” “Would they do this to my brother or sister?” ” How can I get out?” I educated myself as much as I could. As a college student, I was able to speak to a counselor, I took advantage of this and sought advice on what to do. Especially when there were threats of being kicked out.
The next step is to plan. Figure out where you could go, how you could get there, how you would cover your necessities, also think of what direction you’d go after getting safe. Most important you need to decide where the line is. At what point do you go? For me I had to do this twice – and I learned from the first not to trust some or take too long to act. The biggest factor for me was that I didn’t have my license or any mode of transportation. The first attempt failed because my driver’s test was held over my head. The second was delayed because I had to learn how to drive a clutch.
Decide where you can go as this will help fill in the rest of your needs. this can be a family member, a job away from your home, a shelter, friends or even school. I’d advise school being among your last resorts. Just because this option normally has the most requirements or restrictions. I didn’t have any close family that would have been able to take me in and I was already enrolled in the local college. So naturally, it was thought that I could just move into the school apartments and move out quickly and easily able to get on my feet. It was said a bit easier than done. I didn’t really have any financial education so, money was always a problem. I relied a lot on church support and just tried to do the best I could.
“Instead of saying, “I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues.” say “I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.”
― Horacio Jones
Go or Stay
It’s not always this clear of a case that one should leave. Your situation could have a dozen other factors that I didn’t have to consider. And from some of the stories I’ve heard the abuser can change if it is brought enough attention. This may be where you need to push back. Grow a backbone and tell them to change. Push against the unfair rules and scrutiny and try to take some measure of control over your situation. Finally, if it comes down to it leave. In my opinion, you should only stay if there has been a major change, but still, have your escape plan routed out – never tell them this.
Steps to Take to Get Out
1. Identify & recognition
2. Educate Yourself
3. Have an escape route
4. Pushback “test the waters”
5. Go or stay -Stay only if there is change. Permanently.
I do hope what I’m sharing helps others. Let me know below if I missed any key point or if you have anything to share! I love to hear from readers. I’ll keep adding to this series so keep a look out for follow up articles!
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