Survivor Stories – Valerie

My name is Valerie and I’m an incest survivor.  I’m the author of The Monsters Game that is the story of my life through poetry.  This is how my story begins:

The Monster’s Game

She’s five years old, but she’s not afraid of the boogie man,

Cause the boogie man knows her name.

They said to watch for strangers,

But a stranger never caused her pain.

She’d tell the ogre to go away,

But she’s too little to complain.

So while she doesn’t understand,

She plays the monster’s game.

And now this beast lives in her head,

And is driving her insane.

She can’t escape the boogie man,

Cause she knows the boogie man’s name.

No, it wasn’t a stranger that came into my room at 4 years old. It was my own father.  When he started playing his little game I really didn’t understand at the time what was going on but I knew something wasn’t right about it.  He never had to tell me, but I just knew I couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t ever tell anyone  So that’s how it started and he continued for years until I was around 16.  At that point I found ways to avoid him.

Having been abused by my father opened the door to more abuse.  I believe that once a child has been abused, they are more susceptible to being abused again.  Once they are groomed to never say anything and to not say “NO”, they’re not going to tell on anyone.  I sometimes used to think that there was some kind of sign on me that told perverts that it was ok to abuse me.  I was abused by my uncle (my father’s youngest brother), my cousin and a man on my parents’ bowling team who was actually caught molesting one little girl.  His big punishment…he was kicked off the bowling league and told to get help.  It was never reported to authorities and never discussed.  Later, my mother said something that I would never forget…”I’m surprised it wasn’t you.”  Well, guess what mother, it was.  Talk about adding to my shame…so I never told, again.

So that’s the short version of my story.  My story is by no means unique, it’s actually insignificant on its own, there’s nothing special about it, there’s no big breakthroughs, no heroics, no religious revelations…it’s actually all too common and widespread.  That’s why I decided to break the silence.  We often think that we can tell if someone has suffered from abuse.  But we don’t go around wearing a sign and most survivors never talk about it.  Although many victims end up with lifetime problems of drug and alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, depression and various other mental health issues, there are just as many who go about living seemingly normal, productive lives.  Does this mean we don’t suffer?  NO.  It means we suffer in silence.

I Cry Alone

I cry alone, in the dark, in the night,

Silently, my pain, I hide out of sight.

I cry alone, as alone, I must weep,

Always protecting these secrets that I keep.

I cry alone, amongst the noisy crowds,

With the happiest of faces, my weary smile allows.

I cry alone, with the demons in my head,

No more tears at all, as too many have been shed.

This is the reason that Child Sexual Abuse has been labeled the silent epidemic. It’s much more than an epidemic, though.  It’s a pandemic.
It’s a subject that touches everyone whether you know it or not.  You might be saying to yourself, “I’m not affected by child sexual abuse I haven’t been abused.”  But I can say with great certainty that each of you knows someone who has been abused and that many of you have yourselves experienced some type of abuse.

Today I can say, I am no longer a victim of my abuse.  I am a survivor.  Just four short years ago I would never have had the courage to out about this most sensitive and taboo subject.  But now I feel compelled to do so.  

I started my healing journey 4 years ago when I first revealed to my best friend that I had been “molested” as a child.  I didn’t share any details at the time and I didn’t tell her by whom.  That prompted me to write the first poem of my book, The Monster’s Game.  I had no idea that it was going to be a book at the time.  

About that same time, I found an online support group through dailystrength.org.  I found a forum there for incest survivors.  I slowly began sharing my story and listening to the stories of 100’s of others who had similar experiences.  I felt such relief to have someone to talk to that truly understood what I had gone through and the feelings that I was having about it.  After almost 50 years of silence, I finally had a voice.  For the next year, I began writing poetry about every topic of abuse that I thought of.  Some were memories from my childhood, some about the feelings of shame and wanting to be dead and some about the stories that were being shared with me online.  As I shared these poems with my new friends, I was encouraged to put them in a book.  I thought it was silly at first, but I just kept writing and then I started drawing pictures.  I just couldn’t stop, It was all inside me and I was getting it out.  I spent a year writing and crying and going through cycles of depression and anger.

Writing this book did a couple of things for me.  It allowed me to say all the things that I felt but dared not tell anyone.  It also forced me to look at the little girl within and acknowledge the pain that she had suffered.  By reading what I had written, I was able to grieve for that little girl who lost her childhood and I was able to get angry at those that did that to her.  I had never allowed myself to get angry about it before.  Actually, I never allowed myself to feel anything about it.  I would just stuff all those feelings down inside and pretend everything was just perfect.  Another thing that writing did for me was to take the power away from the monsters and give me the authority to put the blame where it lies… with my abusers.

I realize now, that all those years that I “refused to let my abuse affect me,” it had affected me.  It affected me greatly and even more as I got older.  I had felt so alone for so long, even though I have the perfect loving husband and 2 great kids.  I was prone to mild depression and thoughts of suicide often plagued me. While I often wanted to be dead, I didn’t really want to kill myself.  But, if you talk to anyone about those kinds of feelings; they’d think you were crazy. I felt I was crazy.  Everyone thought I had the perfect life, but I could never be completely happy.  I always had that abuse weighing me down and giving me low self-esteem, self doubt and self hate.  I never thought I deserved any of the good things that happened to me and therefore, always wondered when my world was suddenly going to come crashing down around me.  Because this is how victims of abuse feel.  Even though I can stand before you today and say with 100% certainty that no child is ever to blame for any act of abuse perpetrated upon them by an adult, I still have those moments where the child within has doubts.  I know in my head that I’m not to blame and I couldn’t have stopped it, but it’s so ingrained in me that I’m not typical and I could have done something different.  If I had told someone or said no…something…but I was powerless…as are all children who are preyed upon.

So now I challenge each of you to help stop child sexual abuse. How are we going to stop child sexual abuse?  Start talking about it and stop sweeping the dirty little secrets under the rug.  If you’re a victim, you don’t have to remain silent.  I hear you and I feel your pain and you are not alone.

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