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Repercussions on the Road to Trauma Recovery.

by Matt Pappas

I am very excited to share this guest blogger post with you; it comes from my friend Phoenix.  Along with sharing her story of abuse, she offers 5 things to consider when deciding if the time is right for you to open up and talk about your past with others.

Thank you again Phoenix for sharing your story here, and for your amazing writing on your blog that inspires and validates so many. 

So, when I was asked to guest blog, I was completely humbled by the request. I’ve read blogs and am impressed by what I read each week. So, I start this post a bit curious if it’s going to stand up to the expectation and standard already given by other guest bloggers and Matt himself.

Indeed it stands up Phoenix, no doubt about it! 

Let me tell you my story. I was raised in a conservative, Christian home but one that was riddled with some dysfunction. I never received a hug from my father and was actually told that the first child he had wanted was a boy.

I am the oldest.

So, I tried to impress him however I could. My mother, as I’ve come to realize, is a covert narcissist. A covert narcissist is the most dangerous of the narcissistic individuals because they are disguised to the average person. They wear the mask of an introvert or as an individual with low self-esteem. But we need to be careful interacting with a covert narcissist. They will draw us into their trap of “pity me”, “feel sorry for me” scheme.

Now that you have a back story . . . let’s get on with why I write.

I write to tell a story. Here’s my story of abuse and recovery and the repercussions of sharing my story with the world.

I can’t think of the exact age I was when it happened. I think between the ages of 8 and 10. He was a few years older than I and knew better than to do what he did to me and with me. My mother was best friend’s with his mother and we were thrown together for play dates quite often, if not every week, close to every week.

We would play ball, superheroes, house, etc. But his type of play involved more than what evil I bargained for and more than my young body could tolerate.

My grandfathers had built an A-frame structure for me to play in. I have two brothers and this was my personal space to play with my dolls, to find refuge from the house, my bedroom, my brothers, my family. It was built just for me to enjoy. And I spent many summer days playing in the tin and wood oven called “The Playhouse.” But it was MY space.

My middle brother is 4 years younger than I am and although he wasn’t my favorite playmate, he would occasionally join me to play house. Of course, he wanted to be the maintenance man who would fix everything broken in my “house.” So I allowed him this pleasure while he was still young and not really “house” material.

But around the age of 8 or 9, something began happening that would forever shape my life, my way of living, my way of thinking. The boy who was my mother’s best friend’s son began to play more at my house, like I said, weekly. The playhouse designed for my personal entertainment became a den of manipulation and mind games, twisting the truth for his grooming purposes to lure me into his evil schemes and torture. And while our play was fun for a while, it quickly turned into a living hell. My nightmare that would haunt me to this day.

For a long time, I couldn’t even talk about it. I would not call it what it was, and for this writing, I will simply call it sexual abuse. I went for a walk one day last summer over to my parents’ house where the playhouse still stands to this day. I walked around it, looking inside, but not going in. The A-frame was made of a tin metal and the front and back walls of wood. It used to have a door that locked from the inside and the outside, but years of wear had damaged it so the hinges had been torn off and the door eventually removed. The lower part was obviously more spacious than the upper level.

Yes, there was a second level of sorts where I played once the abuse happened. I wouldn’t and couldn’t play in the lower level. He had ruined that space. He would lock the door, leaving me inside down below, walk around to the back side of the house, climb the stairs on the outside of the house to the upper level and then lower himself to me as he jumped down with a tween thud. There, in the darkness, in the heat, he would do unspeakable things to me and with me, all the while telling me that I couldn’t tell anyone what we were doing because we would get in trouble.

Well, that I would get in trouble.

I don’t know why he singled me out . . . actually, I guess I do know why. It was part of his grooming.

But I didn’t stay silent.

Oh, it was years, two decades, before I would really share my story with anyone.  I shared with my college friends and felt safe telling them. But they didn’t know how to help me or what to say to get my recovery to wholeness started. I went to my first therapist in my 30’s and it took two years before I actually shared the fact that I was abused as a child, or at least had memories of the abuse. My first therapist’s reaction and response?

It was a classic case of “kids just being kids.” Yep, she minimized what I knew deep inside was more than the classic case; it was abuse. I knew it and thought and hoped she would know it.

So, it was more years before I would talk about the abuse with anyone else. I would feel close to friends, but found quickly after I shared with them that they were not the safest people with whom to share. They treated me differently or didn’t talk to me at all about what I shared.  They would act like they cared at first but then I found out they really didn’t care about me getting better. Other than my husband, I decided to keep my secret a secret for the rest of my life.

Until one of my college friends shared with me that she had also been abused but had no lasting memories of the abuse. She suggested I start following some other survivors on twitter and to follow a podcast on YouTube that would help me see I was not alone. So, I did just that and through that experience, I was able to find a way to plug into safe community of other survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I also found a therapist in whom I trust whole-heartedly and who believes in me and my story. She recognizes the abuse for what it is.

A word on my parents and family. I had never shared with them what I had gone through. When I told my brothers, they were very empathetic toward me and asked if I was all right now that I have faced some of the demons. Remember, my dad was a man who didn’t show his emotions very easily. And my mother is a covert narcissist who would find any way to have this fall back on herself. Or she would gaslight me, making me feel like what I knew to be true to feel like I made it up.  This was what I was I was afraid of.

But I knew I had to tell my parents, regardless of their reactions or feelings toward me or the boy. It was January when I decided to tell them what had happened to me. My mother simply said she didn’t think any differently of me, but asked if it was more than one time (I believe to this day, she thinks it’s only been one time, when in fact it was multiple times).  My dad said, “Ok, so it’s out there. We don’t need to discuss it ever again.” Well, I didn’t think I could agree to that and told him, “There may be a time when I need to bring it up again, for my own healing.”

The truth is, I’ve only brought it up one other time (and at the time of this writing, it’s almost been a year since I first talked about my abuse with them because I find them unsafe people to share my story with) and my mother’s response was, “Are you referring to ‘the incident’?” Um, mom, it was more than “an incident, but I digress.

So, the purpose of this blog? For you, the survivor, the consider a few things before you share your story.

  1.  You will need to determine if you are ready to handle the repercussions of the person handling the information the way you think they should or not. If you can’t honestly say you’re ready to deal with other people’s acceptance or denial, it may not be the right time yet.
  2. Be prepared to be hurt. But know that you are not alone. This reaction of others is NOT for you to take on upon yourself. It is ON that person. They need to and should OWN their reactions.
  3. Know who is a safe person and who is not. This may take a while to establish. Not everyone in your circle of friends or family are safe people. Think carefully and choose wisely. Tighten your circle so you don’t get hurt as easily.
  4. Establish and maintain healthy boundaries with the people in your life. Not everyone needs to know your story. I told my story to more people than I thought I would because of the work I want to do with survivors. If I don’t or can’t share my story and deal with the repercussions, that work will be hindered.
  5. Know yourself. It may not be time to share your story. I know it’s time for my story to come out and be shared in more than one medium; it’s just a matter of time. And I will follow my own advice and know myself first and know how much I wish to share with whom and how much I share.

*Author’s note:  My name is Phoenix. I’m just a simple gal living a simple life for God. I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer/blogger. I want to let you know how humbled I am that you found my blog and chose to read the words God has given me this day. If you find this, or any other of these writings helpful or encouraging to you or someone you know, please feel free to share with your community/social media/e-mail, etc. I am willing to be used by God and welcome your extension of grace and encouragement.

Blessings to you all. I will rise . . .

-Phoenix

If you would like to be a guest blogger and share your story, just contact me and let’s do it!

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2 comments

Hootie December 4, 2016 - 11:04 am

You brought up some very great points. I wish I knew you I would have been better prepared to tell someone for the first time. Being better prepared for peoples reactions is key. Being nieve I thought all I needed was the truth. Who knew how far people would go to cover up a dirty little secret.

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Matt December 6, 2016 - 8:27 am

This reply comes from Bobbie Joy Hanson. She asked me to make sure it was posted since she had an issue when she originally tried to post it:

God bless you for being so willing to tell your story, Phoenix because as
you know without a doubt this is a huge part of your own healing! I want
to bless Matt & God for what they are doing for you & others like me who
held tight to many secrets for decades! I now know that like you, there
are many including friends & family members that are not safe to tell our
secrets but like you, I didn’t know any better until much later in my
adult life as I began to learn what had happened to me, why those things
happened & began helping other survivors. When I began telling years
before God healed my soul damage I spewed the sexual violence to anybody
& everybody who would listen! I just HAD to tell someone didn’t I? But I
now realize that there are people who just don’t want to know those
things & would rather you suffer in silence so like you, for decades I
kept the lid on until I began to face my own demons & horror of years of
sexual assaults. I love what you said about choosing your ‘friends’
wisely. I’ve worked at coming clean with ALL my secrets for 20 years
since as an adult I chose to tell my dad, a pastor what a grandpa had
done to me & my female cousins. But even though he wept for his precious
only daughter, he called his Bobbie Joy, he didn’t know what to do with
that secret & told me NOT to tell my mother “because it will kill her”!
So for three long years I kept that secret wrapped around my soul like a
wet blanket waiting to dry until grandpa died & the memory surfaced about
the 27 year old youth pastor who violated me at age 11-12 & other
pastor’s daughters at a camp. Then, maybe then it might be safe to tell
my precious ma ma because I knew that I knew he had done it to her too!
So like you, I’m telling the world what they all did to me because “God
brought beauty out of ashes & a garment of praise instead of a spirit of
despair.” Isaiah 61:3 In 1999, I faced the elderly pastor with a sex
abuse disciplinary trial with 3 other adult survivors he had assaulted &
chose to forgive him. God, in His mercy took all the abuse on his back &
wept for all those children he violated which I describe in details in my
inspirational book of hope, Listen to the Cry of the Child. I want to
thank you & Matt for giving me a voice of hope to other survivors.

Barbara Joy Hansen
bobbiejoyhansen@juno.com
http://www.listentothecry.org

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