Survive or Thrive?
Historical child abuse and allowing the truth to come out.
My journey through abuse has been long, exhausting and at most times it felt never ending. I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I’m drowning and I’m still learning how to navigate through my life as an adult, even though I sometimes still feel like a vulnerable 10-year-old girl.
I come from a long history of trauma which began at seven years old, but that’s a story for another day. I wanted to give a short glimpse into a future memoir I’ll be publishing in the next year or so.
I’ve always written, journals were my outlet, the one escape and honest place I had and they became my biggest asset for my court case. When you experience trauma as a child, you learn to wear a mask to hide your deepest secrets behind. I thought I did a good job, but unfortunately hiding meant that I punished myself for the actions of a child molester.
I was told never to tell, that I was the one in the wrong and that my family would never believe me so I did what I was told and kept my mouth shut. The abuse occurred over a long period of time, I didn’t realise how long it went on for until earlier this year. I always thought it was one and a half years, but after spending nearly six years talking about it to the police, addendum statement after addendum statement, it all became blurry and confusing.
Going to the police to make that first report changed my life in a way I never realised. It went horribly badly, the officer told me after I gave my statement that I should stop now because too much time has passed and I should just move on. But I refused to do that. I may not have been heard but I was going to get someone to hear me. It was time to protect myself and anyone else this man could be hurting.
Now looking back, I didn’t get the outcome I was after, but I was heard. It took over a year of constant back and forth, paperwork being constantly lost in the mail and a lot of frustration but one day, that all changed. The officer who took over my case, A* believed me. I didn’t know for years how hard she would work to have others listen as well. I’ll never be able to thank her enough. Yes, she was doing her job, but she went above and beyond for me.
A* moved departments over the years and she took my case with her every time, despite not having to do so. In my mind, she’s my superhero. I wouldn’t still be here if she hadn’t done what she did and never gave up on me. She is why I trust police officers and I really look up to her as a human being as well. She accepted my calls and messages at any time, even when she was on holiday or not working. We don’t hear enough good stories about police these days, so I wanted to share about her. One person can change your whole mind set, especially after me feeling so let down previously by other officers.
Reliving trauma was worse for me than when I experienced it as a child. Having to go over and over in my head and out loud about my deepest fear was terrifying for me but being supported through all of it is how I kept on going. I would call A* a lot over those years and say I just couldn’t do it anymore, she would be empathetic and supportive and give me a day or two to process. She reminded me why I was doing all of this and so I was able to keep going. She had read all of my journals and so I had deep trust in her, because of her doing that, she believed my story. She knew my story. One person can change your life.
I nearly made it to court. It still hurts knowing I didn’t face him and his family like I wanted to, but he didn’t get off without consequences. My Mum and I went to see my prosecutor and A* to discuss the ending and knowing my Mum finally got to know more and be included since we hadn’t been allowed to speak about it due to her being a witness was huge for our relationship. Her hearing what I had done on my own is something I’ll always be proud of. I always just wanted to make my parents proud, I like to think I have by speaking up and not staying quiet any longer.
Going to the police about abuse is up to you. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your trauma. Staying silent doesn’t make you a coward, you are still here and you defeated a monster. That is the hardest part. But if you think you can, try. Everybody’s journey with trauma is different and we should never judge others for the choices they make to protect themselves, we haven’t walked in their shoes even if the trauma is exactly the same.
If someone tells you about something that has happened to them, just listen, try to empathise. The fact that they have felt safe enough to speak up, that’s a massive accomplishment but please don’t try to push them to go to the authorities. If you’re a minor, help them find an adult to tell, support them but it’s their choice to speak the truth so you wait until they are ready but please know that they may never be. See if they want to see a counsellor or a doctor, anyone they can trust but don’t push too hard. Telling the first time is the scariest thing in the world.
If you are a survivor of abuse, speak when/if you’re ready. This is your story, you choose what you do from here. I promise you, the best thing I did was tell my best friend in high school. She never pushed too hard to tell someone, she suggested and accepted when I said no. That’s what friends do, they support without any judgement.
Please know that if someone didn’t hear you the first time, try again. The more you say it out loud, the less restraint that trauma has on you. You are more than what happened to you. It will shape who you are in the future, but it isn’t all of who you are. You are here right now, reading this. You are not alone. There are so many survivors out there and the more you speak, the more people you will meet who understand your pain in some way. Don’t give up on yourself.
If no one has told you this before, I want you to know that I believe you. Whatever you went through, your pain is valid and you deserve so much more than the turmoil you’re experiencing. Life can get better. You can get through this, just please don’t do it alone.
My new psychologist asked me last week if I had heard of Survive or Thrive before and I said no. We discussed the psychology behind it and it’s opened my eyes, my whole life I’ve woken up every day and tried to just keep myself from drowning, just surviving. I don’t want to that anymore, it’s time for us all to thrive.