Answers from a Sexual Abuse Survivor Part 2
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 we understand that 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: Victor Pacini
Survivor of Sexual Abuse
When did you identify that what you were going through was sexual abuse?
I knew when it happened it was wrong but I didn’t have a word for it. At eight years old I had no idea what sexual abuse was; all I knew was that it didn’t feel right. I didn’t understand that it was abuse until high school. We started learning about deviant behavior in psychology and it was like a switch flipped. “Oh my gosh!” I thought, “That’s what I went through!” The label of what happened to me was nonexistent until that moment.
How do you handle flashbacks and triggers now?
One of the biggest triggers for me is Christmas time. I handle it now by really celebrating through my kids. There are definitely times where I go back and it can still hurt. I may think about it and get emotional for a minute, but now more than ever I am focused on my present life. Rather than focus on that one event of abuse, I remind myself of where I am today.
Really, the triggers were worse when I was growing up. Focusing on the present moment with my children is what gets me through, not on the pain of the past.
Do you feel a lot of sadness talking about your abuse?
Quite honestly, the sadness I feel about my abuse doesn’t feel comparable to what kids are going through right now. I know we’re not supposed to compare horrors, but my horror is over; there are kids hurting and going through abuse NOW. I have had so much time to heal and to be open about my unsafe secret but the kids I’m presenting to may still be suffering.
Sure, I get sad. I’m also really happy my sadness helps another person find their voice. I know what it’s like to be a kid that is holding an unsafe secret. Every time I speak openly about abuse, it feels like I’m speaking to my eight-year-old self. It’s cathartic to know I am helping kids in ways that weren’t around when I was a kid.
How did you find resiliency in life after trauma?
My resilience came from a decision I made in college; to disclose to my family that I was abused. I no longer wanted to be defined by this pain. That pain the abuse left behind had consumed me for 11 years. I refused to allow something that was never my fault control my life any longer.
Part of what keeps me going is the push from within to share, to tell my story, and to help other people. All of my work in college was dedicated to telling a story and I knew right away I wanted to be vocal. It was basically the exact opposite of silence and secret-keeping. I created out my my pain and turned what hurt me most into art.
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 2
Hey, it’s Victor, welcome to another Be Seen and Heard© Journey. Thank you for being with me today. Last week we talked about Deanna’s story. Deanna is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and incest and her story is just so inspirational and I’m so honored to know her.
And again, we are honoring all survivors of sexual abuse. April is child abuse prevention month. This week I would like to share a little bit of my story. Again, if you don’t know my story, I was sexually abused when I was eight years old by a family friend.
I always say this, I’m very grateful that it only happened one time because it caused so much pain, confusion, just sadness for many, many years. Deanna’s situation hers was ongoing. So I can’t even imagine what she went through. But what I really want to focus on today is not the story so much, but in this week’s blog, the question is, “do I still feel sad about what happened to me?”
The answer is I’m not really that sad anymore for myself and let me explain.
I’m actually more sad for all the kids that I get the honor to be in front of every single school year who may be connecting to this kind of story. That’s where I get sad.
Where I get sad is when a child comes up to me and says, “Victor, I have to share something with you. I’m connecting to your story.” And as soon as they say that I feel sadness, but I also am very relieved because they don’t have to stay voiceless any longer. So every presentation, every opportunity I get, I dedicate to that little boy right there, because I know there are other little boys and girls sitting in the audience that would be connecting to that story or to Deanna’s story.
All I can do from this moment on is to use my story to empower kids. I can use it now to empower my own kids, to teach them that no one touches them inappropriately and they have the right to speak up again. It’s all about not being voiceless.
So again, April is child abuse prevention month. I want to honor all the amazing adults that are working with kids every single day, dedicating their lives to keeping children safe. I want to honor Deanna for her courage and her inspiration. And yes, I want to honor that little boy for his courage and to finally share at the age of 19.
I want to say thank you for taking the time to watch this video or listen to the podcast. Please continue sharing this message with your friends and family. And again, every child, no matter how old they are, deserves to be seen and heard©. Thank you.