My Story

My childhood was not a childhood.  In my family, men had sex with little girls.  It was our normal.  It was our culture.  And it was generational.  My parents grew up with it.  Their parents grew up with it.  Most of the victims in our family didn’t even remember it because the trauma caused memory loss.  We were a family of traumatized individuals who were doing whatever it took to survive … usually at the expense of the others.

The extreme abuse in our family might seem easily discernible to outsiders.  In our case, it wasn’t.  We were a typical suburban family living outside of Washington D.C. in Stafford, VA.  We lived in a four-bedroom house in Aquia Harbor as a middle-class family with a mother, father and two children.  We had plenty of social circles.  The parents worked.  The children attended school and after-school activities.  We didn’t move around all the time.  We did not request government or social services that may have shined a light on our family dysfunction.  Nobody suspected anything.  We just seemed like a “normal” family.

My parents, uncles and grandparents started sexually abusing me when I was 2 years old.  This was necessary to break me.  I was indoctrinated in to a way of life.  I was brainwashed.  But there was a problem.  As I got older, they realized I was a talker.  They had not successfully broken me.  I was actually telling people.  The good news for them … nobody believed me.  Or if they did, they didn’t do enough to help me.  I was visited by social services a few times.  My father even had to threaten a few people to shut them up.  But in the end, my family maintained the secrecy … and control.

My talking (and fighting back) led to some additional abuse.  My father became physically abusive with me.  I was suffocated, physically assaulted, abandoned, strangled, starved and hit many times in the head.  I went to the hospital on multiple occasions.  I am not sure how my father talked his way through those visits.  But he did.

My mother handled the emotional abuse.  She could manipulate a child better than anyone.  Actually, she could manipulate anyone.  She could get me to trust her just long enough to tell her what she wanted to know.  She ensured that I knew how worthless I was.  She told me all the time … in many ways.

My father didn’t stop with the incest.  He realized that there was money to be made.  And he never passed up an opportunity to make money.  So he sold me to his friends.  He traded me for his friends’ daughters under the guise of a babysitting cooperative.  He sold me to groups of men who were having bachelor parties.  He sold me to gangs.  And he sold me to a pimp.  I would spend my Saturdays working for a pimp right outside the Quantico marine base.  Most of my customers were men in uniform.

By the age of 9, I was fully indoctrinated.  I had given up.  I remember the moment when I realized there was no hope of being saved from this terrible life.  In that moment, I made a conscious choice to forget.  Not only did I forget my abusive past, but I forgot every abusive event in the coming years.  I could forget almost instantaneously.  It is a powerful defense mechanism.  It is a common reaction to trauma.

Although my abuse and trafficking stopped at adulthood, the affects did not.  I was severely traumatized, and it manifested as intense anxiety.  I was constantly having panic attacks.  I suffered from chronic pain and inflammation in most of my joints.  My fertility was highly questionable.  I had severe problems with vaginal scarring and my ovaries were not going to function.  I had been prescribed countless anti-anxiety medications, but generally, the side-effects were too much to handle.  So I just dealt with the anxiety.

My self-esteem was so low that intimate relationships and friendships were difficult.  I was the subject of bullying on a regular basis.  I could not trust anyone.  I usually dated men with substance-abuse problems.  I was married twice for very short periods of time.

In my second marriage, I was able to conceive my beautiful twins with the help of fertility treatments.  And the twins changed everything.  The triggers and painful flashbacks started almost instantaneously.  My children were reminding me of my past.  They would cry and I would feel my own suffocation.  They would express anger and I would feel threatened.  They needed my constant attention and I didn’t know how to do that.  I didn’t know how to practice self care and I started to fall apart.

The twins were three months old when I started my recovery process with a therapist.  Of course, I didn’t know why I was there.  I didn’t remember anything.  But I knew something was very, very wrong.  For the next several years, I employed several intense therapeutic remedies.  I saw a therapist individually.  I participated in groups.  I did several forms of body and energy work.  I read countless books.  I wrote hundreds of pages.  I experienced intense emotions.

Now, I am in my sixth year of recovery.  I have recovered hundreds of memories.  I am no longer a prisoner to my family and have severed all ties with them.  I can parent my children without intense triggers on most days.  I have a much better understanding of who I am and what I want from life.  And I have found my voice again.

So now I speak.  I tell my story because there is nobody stopping me anymore.  I tell my story so I can heal.  I tell my story so other survivors can heal.  I tell my story so everyone can understand that child sex trafficking is real.  I tell my story so children will be heard … so that someone will believe them.  I tell my story so that children can have hope.  I tell my story because enough is enough.

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48 thoughts on “My Story

  1. It’s so good to hear your voice speaking your truth so clearly. I admire and support you fully, and remind you that you have a superb sense of writing – eventually all these great posts will be a book, yes?

    I found I had some questions: how do you know about the generational abuse? Has not enough data emerged to make a criminal charge? How was that all suppressed? I mean outside a marine base is a pretty public place – no one saw or knew?

    Best, Susan Thesenga p.s.

    Did you get the article I sent from the NY times about the new courts to deal with prostitutes as victims not criminals? A good start…but how does the child sex trade get exposed? Adult women usually sooner or later numb themselves by getting into drugs and sooner or ater run into legal issues, but not children being used in this way?…hmmm.

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    • Hi Susan, Thank you so much. These are all good questions. I did not get your message, but I did see that article. Our society is changing slowly, but when I grew up, there seemed to be a general acceptance of child sex abuse among most people that I knew. It wasn’t that nobody knew. They just ignored it or accepted it. The military can be a breeding ground for acceptance of sexual violence as we have seen in the news.

      The only choice a child has (when they are ignored) is to repress their childhood memories. Essentially, I forgot the entire thing. I believe there are many who have done the same. Their unconscious creates a painful life, but on the surface, they just don’t remember.

      I know it was generational because I was abused my multiple generations. I also know others in my family who are willing to admit their own abuse. It is hard to imagine that someone just comes up with the idea to sexually abuse a child. More than likely, they were abused also. It is what they know.

      I am not sure about the criminal charges yet. Still waiting for some key information. I hope to have it soon.

      And the book … it is certainly possible. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elisabeth – we, sadly, have similar stories (although I wasn’t trafficked out). I can relate to pretty much every aspect of your recovery – especially the part about having kids causing all sorts of emotional upheaval as a result. The book comment caught my eye because I just published my story in February. It’s not so much about the abuse but what was like to grow up in the shadow of childhood sexual abuse, how it impacted every aspect of my life (like you, I also had two short marriages that had no hope of lasting), but more importantly, how I managed to heal from it all. Or at least get far enough down that road to leave much of the trauma behind 🙂 If you’re interested, the book is My Father’s Prostitute: Story of a Stolen Childhood (http://www.amazon.com/My-Fathers-Prostitute-Stolen-Childhood/dp/1304774007/)

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      • Thank you for sharing your story and your book. I am sorry that you experienced childhood sex abuse also. It sounds like we struggle with similar things. I have the beginnings of a survivor forum on my site if you are interested.

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  2. Pingback: 31 days of thoughts. Day 2. | iamabeautifulthing

  3. Thank you for sharing your courage. Courage sends out ripples and it changes the vibrations of these acts and turns them into tools to inspire other survivors.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are so brave. And your children are lucky to have you as a mother. No child should have that life. Hugs to you! And absolutely you should write a book! thanks for sharing this.

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  5. Elisabeth, I admire your courage to write about this trauma and recovery. As a mom (and a human) it is so hard to imagine anyone allowing this to happen to children. I know I will hug my kids a little tighter and try to be a little more patient over our mundane teeth-brushing battles.

    I’m sure you’ve met many other victimes with supressed memories, but I’ll add my own story. To this day, I cannot remember how I lost my virginity. I know who it was with it (my boyfriend at the time), and I remember the events leading up to it and directly afterwards, but not the actual event. I think I was terrified and as you said the brain is capable of protecting us by taking away memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You are a hero. A hero to the child(ren) who cannot speak for themselves. A hero for women (and men) who do not have the courage to stand up for themselves, but through you may one day find that strength. You are my hero. I was raped and repression is real. Before therapy, I couldn’t tell anyone what happened. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t remember. Sad thing is, most sexual abuse/rape cases are people you know, and it’s terribly sickening. Like you say, it’s all they knew…and I am so glad you have “broken” out of the cycle. I am truly blessed to have come across this blog..you have given me the strength to potentially come out with my story and I hope I can have the same effect on people that you have now had on me. (I just read your post over at Scary Mommy) You are a wonderful mother and I know this because you worry about that. And that’s what makes you the best mother. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words. I am especially touched that it may help you tell your own story. That is the reason I started this blog. I want every survivor to put the shame back where it belongs.

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  7. Hi Elisabeth,

    I just wanted to say that I appreciate your blog very much. Your insights and thoughtful commentary on life as feminist, womanist, survivor, and citizen of the world is refreshing. I too am all those things. I am an assault activist.

    Over the years I have come to believe that telling my story and getting involved in assault prevention is key. I also feel that it’s time that survivors stand together – not only in community – but against the misconceptions and stigma that are heaped upon us. With that being said, I would like to tell you about my project that I’m working on called Edipus. It’s a concert that features all-male performances who’s participation is solely in the name of sexual assault. I believe that all men are not rapists nor do they condone it – they just don’t know what to do about it or how to get involved with becoming the solution. Ergo, Edipus.

    Please check out my personal blog about the movement at : htttp://janishillard.blogspot.com

    Cheers,
    Janis

    Be brave. Be Edipus .
    http://www.edipus.org

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  8. Thank you for sharing your story. Reading you talking and speaking out about your story really helps push me. I am a survivor of human trafficking and childhood abuse. Though none of my abuse was done by my parents, I still do understand where you are coming from.

    It takes a lot to speak out, and I am finally being open with myself and those around me. I have had rude and negative comments from people, pertaining to my story, and sometimes it makes me want to just curl up and never speak out again. But I am determined to keep pushing forward.

    I am going to follow your blog, and am so glad to have met someone else on WordPress here. It’s awesome when I meet other survivors. It helps!

    Hope you have a great day!

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    • Thank you so much. I am so glad to meet you. Survivor connections are so important to me. They are the reason I keep telling my story. The people who respond to you with rude or negative comments don’t deserve to have your time. Find people who believe and respect your story. They will be invaluable to your healing. I look forward to continuing our conversation.

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      • Thank you! Yes, I am learning to ignore negativity. My blog was started about a month after I gained my freedom, though it was anonymous. It was my way of saying however I felt, and the people who were helping me could read it. Just before New Years I went public with who I am and all. I had thought about deleting my previous posts before that, but decided to keep them as they are part of my journey. I even have writings from when I was as young as 12 years old. (Of course those are not online.) Anyway, thank you for your comment, and I look forward too!!

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  9. Pingback: Fail Quickly Because Your Core Knows Better Than Most | My Words My Life

  10. Huge congratulations and much love. You are brave and you are correct. You have a voice. You must use it. You do. It is fascinating how the victim is scapegoated and ruined, damaged for all time. This is reality, but with wisdom, you come to realize, as I have, as you have, that it is about them, not you. It is an ongoing process of healing, isn’t it. Triggers come up constantly that you don’t expect. But goodbye to the perpetrators, lovers of violence, narcissism, secrets and child exploitation. They will never win. We know the truth. xoxo

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  11. Connecting with other survivors is the key for me too. I’m 60 years old now and about to retire from a job I’ve held for 23 years. I was raped by older neighborhood men at age 9 and again at age 10 and 11. I was put into a mental institution at 11 and got out when I was 12 years old. I was relentlessly bullied in school and at home by siblings. Dad was an alcoholic and mom and us 6 six kids were all beat by him. I ended up on the street with a drug addiction. I was under the control of pimps and drugs till age 34. My life was threatened by diseases, johns, pimps, cops and other drug addicts. I was thrown out of cars and left for dead numerous times. I developed severe PTSD. I was emotionally disabled.
    Coming to an understanding of how it all came to be has helped me rise up from this life of turmoil. It opened the door to forgiveness. Understanding my PTSD symptoms helped me to forgive others.
    I witnessed my dad rape my mother numerous times when I was 8 years old. My mother was abusive too but she never beat me. I came to understand how it all came to be in her life too even thought she would never talk about her life. She was so emotionally disabled.
    Forgiving myself was essential to move forward; forgiving others set me free.
    There were no safe houses for prostituted women to go to when I was young. I went to numerous drug rehabs and was got “treatment” from a methadone clinic but they never addressed the issues of childhood rape or the issues of prostituted women.
    Coming up from that life was a miracle to me. Now I see there are safe houses now, the awareness is being pushed laws are being changed. This is all so empowering for me. I wrote my memoir in hopes of helping others; from preventing it ever happening to another child.
    One thing I lack in my life right now is a connection to other survivors. I wish I had a group of friends that have been there done that.
    This is a great site.
    Thank you very much.

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    • Hi Ruth, Our stories certainly have many similarities. I am so sorry you went through so much. The connection with survivors is so important. I have healed so much through that. I have a relatively new survivor forum on this site that you are welcome to join. Just request an invitation. Elisabeth

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      • I would love to be a part of the survivors forum too if possible? I believe my story is very similar to yours but I do not have too any memories yet…it’s been a slow deliberate process I’m now understanding…but connecting with others is so important.

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  12. Elisabeth,
    I feel so small near your courage. I “only” had an agonizingly lonely childhood, with a father that was never there and a mother who rejected me and blamed me for all her misery. I was a tortured child with early signs of mental illness and I’m a tortured, depressed adult. I unfortunately got pregnant and as soon as my daughter was born, I rejected her in millions of different ways and was abusive to her. That’s when I understood the extent of the damage done to me, when I saw I wasn’t able to love my own innocent child. I also have very few memories of my childhood. I’ve been struggling like hell but I can’t seem to make it. When I push a bit harder To try to access to my memories and feelings, I only can think of everything that my daughter has been enduring because of me and the guilt is so overwhelming I just want to disappear (why should I try to get better, I don’t deserve it) but at the same time, I know it’s not the answer, not for her, not for me. The therapists I saw did nothing for me, one of them was even abusive and tried to seduce me. I don’t know how to get out of here. When I think about it, it just seems like a huge, huge amount of stone trapping me, how can I begin to break it? Sites like yours give me a bit of hope, though. I try to think I’m not as bad as my mother, she never once stopped to question herself and oh boy, do I question myself, do I try. I went to a new therapist and I don’t trust her, she seemed afraid of my questions, I’ll have to wait and see, but from some things I told her she said I might have been sexually abused, though I don’t remember a thing, there are some clues that “fit”.
    Thanks for the hope and the crucial job you’re doing here. I feel so alone and abandonned, nobody to give me a meal though I’m incapable of shopping or cooking at the moment, let alone finding somebody who understands what I’m going through. It’s actually shocking how very alone one can be. I’ll be following your blog.

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    • Hi Leonor, I am so sorry for your pain. You are right. It is extremely isolating. I know how guilty it can feel to pass any pain on to your children. I am not a perfect parent. Not even close. If you do not remember the majority of your childhood, there are some traumatic events that happened. It takes a lot for a child to forget because children are inherently hopeful, and honestly, dissociation is a final straw when hope is lost. I don’t know if it was sexual, physical or emotional abuse, or some kind of acute trauma which kept repeating, but whatever it was, it was bad. So don’t underestimate what you have been through. Sometimes, that can make the guilt from our own actions worse.

      Please keep following my blog. It will help with your isolation. And keep working with a therapist. It is totally normal to distrust your therapist at first when you are a trauma survivor. Don’t worry about that. Over time, you may establish a relationship that is more trusting. Just give it some time. Thinking of you. Elisabeth

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  13. Hello
    As I read your biography, I felt such pain inside. It always hurts to read about the pain and suffering others have experienced as a result of sexual abuse. I know because I too have experienced it….certainly not to the degree you did, as a victim of trafficking. But nonetheless it was a painful experience that traumatizes me to this day. There are days I just wish I were dead, and it honestly probably wouldn’t make much difference, because I feel dead inside anyway.

    “Quiet F.”

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    • I know that feeling. Sometimes I wonder if there is any meaning to what I am doing, not just work, but basic daily tasks like eating and cleaning up the house. Sometimes I don’t think any of it is worth it. But I guess some part of me knows it is because I keep going. Hang in there and keep connecting with others. It helps.

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  14. You are certainly very brave. My bravery ran as far as legal action against my stepfather but stops far short of still feeling shameful. It’s funny because I am a ‘talker’; feel very strongly about injustice and would fight for others until the death. But I am still unable to post without fear of being found out. Strange eh? Anyway, thank you for sharing your story and blog.

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  15. Dear Elisabeth,
    I just read your story and I’m so very sorry for your suffering. I hope you and your younger self are doing well and experiencing peace.
    Thank you for the courage you have to ‘TELL’ your story. To pull the depths of darkness right out into the light. The more of us who tell our story, the more aware our society will become, and the more likely we can help an abused child or prevent abuse, and help adult survivors. Thank you.

    The birth of my 1st born triggered my unremembered trauma and activated my C-PTSD. What a painful ride that was. It took another decade before the memories came in full blown, drop to the floor and fight for my life flashbacks. Prior to remembering, I knew something was terribly wrong that I couldn’t reach in my mind. I tried to remember for 15 years. It was after a lot of therapy and when I got to a place where my ego was stronger and I found a sense of self, plus, becoming spiritually connected and letting go of self medicating behaviors that I was finally strong enough to remember. That is when my healing took off.

    I’m grateful for you and your empowering, inspiring, and educational site.

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    • Thank you so much Donna! I was similar to you before I remembered. I knew something was wrong, but I was too busy to look at it (on purpose). I just kept running and running so that I could avoid my past.

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  16. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this site. I’ve been open about my abuse since I was in my late teens but in a dissociative way. It was a ‘story.’ What I didn’t remember, my 3 sisters did and we fill in the blanks for each other. So YES, no memories, YES! The mind is so powerful and how we’ve learned to protect ourselves. I was abused forever; probably from at least 9 mos old until I was 12, by family, friends, neighbors; you name it. Still your story is so much “worse” than mine.

    What I LOVE about what you’ve written is that you are honest about the recurring triggers, the ‘stuff’ that continues. My child, my little baby boy is who started my healing journey 23 years ago. I wanted a different life for him. I knew I’d been abused but I didn’t think (lol) that it impacted me… I also knew I was very ANGRY and volatile. I started my journey to healing 25 years ago and DAMN it pisses me off that I’m not ‘healed’ yet!

    I went to therapy, read books, took classes, joined groups, sought the Lord, tried to ‘give it to HIm,’etc. I began going to school at the age of 30 and ended up in psych classes because, well it was healing. It’s taken me a while but I am just entering my MFT practicum. School has been ‘intense therapy.’ EMDR has been LIFE CHANGING over the last 5 years, yet I still struggle at times. So for me, reading ppl write about continued triggers through out life has been incredibly helpful.

    I ‘noticed’ about myself, that I didn’t want to post on here for fear that someone may google me and find it some day. Really? Still living in shame? I’m the one with the big open mouth who self discloses, who finds that other women reveal their abuse to me because I am so open. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Yet, here I sat, afraid to write, fear of shame… the impacts of sexual abuse are so far reaching that we don’t even recognize it in ourselves.

    I am a survivor. NOT A VICTIM!

    Thank you for your blog!

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    • I am so glad you found my blog. You are right. You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. As a matter of a fact, you are a sparkling jewel of a human because you chose recovery. You chose to end the cycle.

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  17. I used to ‘go away’ to my other life. The one with the mom and dad and white picket fence (my father died when I was 2, my grandfather, who I loved more than anyone in the world, was my worst betrayer). We lived in poverty with drugs around us. I was 8 the first time I got high. My mom was strung out, a kid who’d been severely abused, had 4 daughters and no husbands or family support. What I notice about me, is that my ‘thought life’ will avoid my real life. I will STILL escape to ‘other places’ when lost in thought. I have a really hard time being in the now, still, at 51 years young!

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  18. I am in awe of your strength and proud of you using your voice through this blog and your company. May you find much success in personal healing, helping others heal and advocating for recovery and other services for people whose lives are damaged by sexual abuse in all of its forms.

    God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I am so glad that I stumbled across your powerful blog and glad that you have found your voice…both for your own healing…but also to educate others. In that vain, I am wondering, what do you suggest if someone suspects trafficking? And on a different note, I wanted to share that a practice called IREST (www.irest.us) can be very beneficial for coping with trauma. Many blessings wished for you.

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    • Thank you so much! If you suspect trafficking and know where the trafficker or victim are located, I recommend calling the Polaris Hotline at 888-373-7888. While they are not perfect, I beleive they are better than contacting law enforcement directly. I will check out the website too. Thank you for the recommendation.

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  20. Oh my gosh I am almost crying…..You are so brave. Your story is like nothing I have heard before. (And I have heard and read plenty)! More people NEED to hear your story!! It has power to change and STOP sadly what is going on in many homes today!

    Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome! Your story should be shared in schools! In shelters etc..! Where ever there are children that could be being abused and tramatized!
        I believe perhaps God allowed me to read your story because I will be helping out soon with a local Human Trafficking program. And sadly I will prob be hearing a lot more stories like yours…😥
        It is a lot to take but I am reminded that in the midst of all the evil and perversity that God DID shower His love along the way…somehow…someway…in big ways and in small ways.
        God Bless your couargeous heart!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

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