Answers from a Sexual Abuse Survivor – Part 1
Child Abuse Prevention Month is commemorating its 37th year of existence. After almost 40 years of advocacy and education efforts, we still see resistance when it comes to child sexual abuse. While the topic makes some uncomfortable, we are still committed to our goal: empower survivors of sexual abuse to be seen and heard. This April we wanted to give each presenter at Childhood Victories an opportunity to provide Answers from a Sexual Abuse Survivor. We asked about resiliency, life after trauma, and how they cope in their present lives.
Presenter: Deanna Hynes
Survivor of Incest
When did you identify that what you were going through was sexual abuse?
Firstly, I didn’t realize that what I went through as a child was sexual abuse until college. As a kid I had no idea that sexual abuse had a name. What my dad was doing made me feel uncomfortable, nervous, and terrified. But I thought that was what every family was like.
I ran away from home after my 18th birthday but it took me another two years to talk about the abuse. I began taking a Child Abuse and Neglect class my sophomore year in college. While I read through the textbook, I began having flashbacks of the abuse. I let myself accept the reality that I went through abuse.
How do you handle flashbacks and triggers now?
My answer to this question would be so different 10 years ago! I began weekly therapy in 2015. For four years I worked on therapeutic skills that manifest in healthier coping mechanisms. When I have a flashback or trigger now I do my best to remember my skills and remind myself, “They are not hurting you anymore.” Allowing myself to feel my feelings, being creative, and being physically active are my favorite ways to process the memories of abuse.
Do you feel a lot of sadness talking about your abuse?
At certain times I do. Children who are still feeling the hurt and shame of an unsafe secret overshadows my past pain of abuse. If I share my story and someone in the audience is empowered to get help, my sadness served its purpose. Maybe my story helped changed a life. Let’s be honest, my childhood was rough but I’m thankful for where I am now. I’m thankful that I can feel my feelings, I can share my feelings, and I can appreciate my happiness that much more.
How did you find resiliency in life after trauma?
Resiliency has only been possible with the positive relationships throughout my life. Surrounding myself with healthy people has allowed me to survive and more importantly, thrive. My family of choice, my soccer family, my friends, my therapist, past and present coworkers, and my mentor have all played a major role in who I am today.
You’ll never hear me say I made it to 2020 on my own. I did not find my resilience overnight. It was not something I was born with. I believe resiliency has grown through healthy love and positive support. Thank you for reading some Answers from a Sexual Abuse Survivor!
FULL TRANSCRIPT (The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Be Seen and Heard Journey. Please note that this episode, like all BSH Journey episodes, features Victor speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited.)
Answers from a Sexual Abuse Survivor Part 1
Hey, it’s Victor. Welcome to the Be Seen and Heard© Journey. Thank you for taking the time to be with me today. You know, April is Child Abuse prevention month and a lot of emotions go through me when I think about that because ultimately, it’s about helping children stay safe and to keep them safe.
I just like to applaud all the amazing organizations and people who are dedicating their lives to doing just that, to helping children stay safe from unsafe touch of any kind. Today’s video I want to dedicate to one specific individual. Her name is Deanna and this is her story.
“Here’s a girl who was sexually abused throughout her childhood by an immediate family member. She lived with the false belief that what happened was her fault.
Each time she thought she found the courage to tell waves of fear and humiliation would suffocate her. At 13 she pushed herself to break her silence though often cruel and harsh, the girl turned to her mother for help. Her mother told her if she continued talking about it, the girl would have to move out of the family home.
The threat was too great for the girl to bear. She had school soccer and her siblings to think about to keep her family whole. She stayed silent for seven years.
The day after her 18th birthday, the girl ran away. While playing soccer in college, she hid her pain. She had nightmares, flashbacks, and felt extreme guilt for leaving her family behind. At 20 years old, the girl found the courage to tell her boyfriend. For the first time in her life, someone believed her”
End of Video
This is what amazes me about Deanna. A close family member abused her. Someone that she would consider a trusted adult in her life. She goes to another trusted adult to say, “Hey, listen, I need help.” This trusted adult wouldn’t listen to her. The woman actually threatened her. She said, “If you continue to talk about this, you’re going to have to leave the house.”
And every time I watched this video, I think of my daughter who’s 13 years old. Above all I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, Deanna is an inspiration to all girls out there. Ultimately no matter what’s hurting them, it doesn’t have to be abuse, Deanna’s teaching them to not be voiceless. To not keep anything locked up inside, to have the courage to talk about it.
We’re going to honor all the wonderful people who are helping children stay safe. I want to say thank you. Please share this with your family and friends. Children have the right to be seen and heard. Thank you.