Here is the next installment of a series of the Top 11 things I have learned while healing from CSEC. (Yes, eschewing 10 for 11 is an overt Spinal Tap reference. “These go to 11” is the exact volume at which I intend to live my life.) These reflections seek to answer that question of how I survived, and also to provide some insight on common themes that still run through the dynamics of CSEC. My experiences as a survivor and as a social scientist can never be disconnected. This is who I am.
I was alone a lot growing up. My exploiter purposefully pitted members of our household against one another to keep us separated. This tactic took me years to understand. I could not figure out why I was despised, especially by other children, because I thought I was a pretty nice kid. Only later did I grasp that these people were jealous of the perverse perfection my exploiter thought only I – and no one else – possessed. Other people blamed me for their abuse and neglect because my exploiter told them they could never be as good as me.
Granted, I now know other people did not recognize I was also being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, as well as being commercially sexually exploited by this person. They thought I was free from harm, and cast endless aspersions my way in the form of ceaseless emotional and physical abuse, as well as occasional sexual abuse. I was, therefore, tormented, terrorized, and abandoned by three generations of my family.
But, through it all, I had faith that I would one day have a healthy family, and also be surrounded by supportive friends. My long-time therapist has commended me for visualizing the life I wanted and having faith that I would one day I would be loved: those daydreams, literally, saved my life. Imagining what my life would be one day made withstanding excruciating isolation for nearly 20 years manageable. Yes, I was always surrounded by fun-loving friends growing up, but except for 1 or 2 lifelong soulmates, books and music were always my closest companions.
I am happy to share my dreams came true, and I now have an abundance of generous people in my life. I am only close with one member of my family of origin now, and even that came after decades of healing and therapy. I do not take one relationship in my life for granted. I know the pain of isolation, and I am beyond grateful I had the grit and patience to withstand the excruciating, unrelenting void of feeling utterly alone. Not one second of that solitude was easy: I will never go back. My heart is full.
Here are a few photos of the friends and colleagues I am grateful to have in my life now. I have been traveling with friends and family a lot this winter and early spring. I am beyond thankful to have found them all.
January 21, 2017 Washington, DC. Women’s March w/ fellow UMass students.
February 24, 2017 Williamsburg, VA. College of William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law Human Trafficking Symposium, with fellow UMass Boston student Julianne Siegfriedt and our Prof. Keith Gunnar Bentele. Our presentations represented UMass Boston well!
February 28, 2017 Boston, MA. Honored to be a part of a group that helped MA State Rep. Kay Khan at the MA State House to draft new legislation to fully decriminalize both child and adult commercial sex trafficking victims in MA. The bill (H.3499) was filed yesterday.
March 22, 2017 Stockton, CA. Women’s Center – Youth and Family Services Director of Administration Kim Miller and I became fast friends during their annual luncheon. I was honored to be the keynote for their 37th annual event that raised $20K!!
I also became fast friends with my fellow presenter, Suzanne Schultz, the Family Justice Center Project Director from the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office. I was already formulating a new study about prosecutors and CSEC legislation as we were saying “good-bye” for now.
Love does conquer all!!
(Stay tuned through the year for the countdown to #1.)
Also in this series: