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In Spite of My Father’s Abuse, I Thrived

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Incest was the ultimate betrayal for me. I cannot imagine being more robbed of my childhood. I was innocent and my father left me a legacy of trauma that I could not seem to shake.

If statistics prove anything, it is that my life could have turned out very differently than it did. Please know that I do not blame any survivor of abuse for falling into negative situations. Trauma impacts are life-altering and not everyone makes it out alive or with their life intact.

I made it out alive

How did I possibly do that? I think there were many factors that played a role in me surviving.

I had positive role models in my life that loved me unconditionally (grandmothers, teachers, friends’ parents).

I had a middle class upbringing. There was always shelter and enough food.

I was raised to believe in God’s grace, and this gave me peace in dark times. I mostly did not feel alone.

I was intelligent, which made school, no matter how difficult the night before was, doable.

I developed dissociative identity disorder (DID) early on. It allowed me to separate the abuse from being experienced by the predominate alter so she could function in daily life and keep the secret.

In my childlike mind I coped by thinking that this was all a dream, and I would soon wake up and it would all be over.

Also I had the sheer will to live. I felt giving up was not an option and I was going to beat them.

What became of me the abused child?

Despite him, I have achieved academic success. I hold a bachelor’s degree from a premier liberal arts college. I hold a master’s degree in social policy from a university that is known for producing strong, talented leaders. I was respected by my peers and professors and was even served as class president and commencement speaker.

My professional career has also been a success. I was CEO of an organization by the age of 25 (a personal goal of mine). I have run multimillion dollar nonprofits, with large staffs reporting to be, both statewide and local. Many of the organizations nationally recognized for their service to marginalized communities.

I am proud of my volunteer service as well. I have served of many boards of directors in leadership roles. I currently serve on a national associations board where we work with master and PhD level students to become clinicians and serve ethnic minority communities.

I have had consequences too

In 2010 I lost my daughter, my home, my friends, my church, my career, my financial independence, all because of the abuse I suffered. I struggled
to find my place in the world and to find purpose. I went on disability and devolved into a deep depression.

I eventually found my footing through volunteer work and then part-time employment. I now have new careers as a mental health advocate and educator and as a writer. I found my way out of the darkness, and so can you.

You too can thrive

I did all of this and more despite my traumatic upbringing. I tell this story so that you too can have hope that this is not the end for you. That we do not have to relegate ourselves to the margins and give up hope.

My dad did me a major disservice. I could have given up. I know you have a will to live. I know you would not have survived the abuse if you weren’t strong and capable of thriving. Together in community we can put the abusers on notice that they will not win. They will not own us forever. We can thrive and take our lives back. No matter how hard we fall we can get back up and take the steps necessary to live a full, trauma-free life.

If you are currently being abused, know that you are not alone and whatever choices you make next can save your life and end the cycle of violence. Do not give up, we are all rooting for you. Reach out get support. You are poised to save yourself and we are here to support you in that.

You are Mighty strong, and you can do this.

Getty image by MoMo Productions

Originally published: June 15, 2022
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