‘Abuse Thrives In Silence, Voices Bring Change’

November 29, 2017

A Bermudian woman who was the victim of sexual abuse said it “shattered” her world and her confidence, with it taking her years to share her story with others, however now she aims to as “abuse only thrives in silence and together our voices are powerful in bringing about change.”

As part of the ongoing #MeToo campaign, she shared her story with the Centre Against Abuse who shared it with Bernews with her permission, with the woman saying, “I posted #MeToo on social media as a way to identify with and empower women who have been sexually abused.

“Abuse only thrives in silence and together our voices are powerful in bringing about change,” she said.

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“I have identified myself as a survivor of sexual assault several times on social media. I find that the more I tell my story, the more I can accept that it happened and the more I release and heal from the trauma of it.

“Sharing my story helps me to express my pain, while giving power to other women to share theirs. I have received personal chat messages from other survivors of sexual abuse here in Bermuda and overseas [men and women] and they have shared their stories of sexual abuse with me.

“Abuse is always about control. I was sexually assaulted several years ago by a man I was courting. We dated seriously for a few months, and I was actually trying to leave the relationship. By his own admission, he sexually assaulted me because I refused to marry him.

“He was very angry and hurt by my rejection, and the abuse was his desperate attempt to get what he wanted from me as well as trap me into a relationship with him by using force.”

“I had expressed very earnestly, from the day we met, that I had no desire to be connected to him sexually- not unless we were married- and I held to that conviction. I did not want to go that deep and he understood my stand. Our friendship was strong, or so I thought.

“I trusted him and with all the admiration he poured on me. I would have never thought in a million years that he would be one to sexually abuse me. Getting out of the relationship and away from my abuser was not an easy road, however, I did break away and I did seek and receive lots of professional help.

“The experience of sexual violence was very shocking, horrifying, terrifying, confusing, degrading, devastating, paralyzing, emotionally distressing, and extremely traumatizing. Initially, it was very difficult to talk about or share, very difficult to process, and very difficult to accept that it happened.

“I could not speak. I hardly left my house. I hardly ate. I isolated myself. I went on, month after month, literally in a daze.

“I had no idea how to process everything and I had no idea how to move forward. I was just in shock. It took me a long time to wrap my head around the fact that I had actually been sexually abused by someone I knew and cared about.

“I just couldn’t believe it. It shattered my world and my confidence and my self-worth plummeted. I was filled with shame and humiliation at being sexually exploited and I felt raped of my dignity. It took me months to tell my family about the abuse and it took years for me to feel comfortable to open up and share my story with others.

“For the first four years after the abuse, I trembled constantly day and night, reliving, re-experiencing, and remembering the forcefulness, the sexual violence. The image of my abuser abusing me was constantly at the forefront of my mind. I was very mentally and emotionally damaged and scarred.

“I suffered a great deal of post traumatic stress, which included acute anxiety and clinical depression and a host of emotions including anger. The abuse had resulted in permanent physical damage to my pelvis and what followed was years of on going medical treatment here and abroad, lots counselling, physical therapy and trauma therapy.

“The journey to recovery and rehabilitation has been very long, painful, sorrowful, and still quite unbelievable,” she added.

“Prior to this experience, I knew very little about sexual abuse. Now, that I have had this experience, I understand why sexual abuse is such a heinous criminal offence. The damage is intense, powerful and very lasting. It is life altering. The triggers and the horrible flashbacks do not go away.

“My abuser was extremely manipulative and forceful despite my begging him to stop, resisting and trying to get out of his grip. I really was at his mercy. The experience of having my freedom of choice taken away by force is a terrible memory I will never forget. It literally took my breath away and a part of me literally died. I changed.

“My trust in people vanished. The things I once did without any fear, I could no longer engage without feeling like I had to look over my shoulder to see who was watching me with evil intentions. I became suspicious of everyone and now I no longer only look for the good in people; I now also look for the evil. My whole world of thinking drastically changed.

“Sexual abuse damages the mind, the body, and the soul of the abused person. It is very destructive in any form,” she said.

“So far, I have noticed that seven of my contacts on social media have also posted #MeToo. I have had little to no comments made on my #MeToo posts. I find that it is very ‘taboo’ in our culture to speak openly about sexual abuse and very few people even know what to say.

“However, it needs to be discussed, not as a topic of shame, but as a very important and serious every day social issue. It is a huge problem here in Bermuda.

“I hope the #MeToo campaign empowers women and men to tell their stories and make the community aware of the tremendous, very serious and lasting impact that sexual abuse has on the lives of so many.

“I would like to see, in my lifetime, assaults against women taken very seriously in Bermuda, especially when it occurs in the context of relationships.

“The majority of sexual crimes take place within interpersonal relationships, and the majority of the victims are women. Out of that majority, only a small number actually get reported. Very few cases make it to court and of the few that do, there is a very small percentage of convictions.

The woman added that victims often “carry the painful burden of the entire experience, while the perpetrators walk free and often move on to manipulate and victimize the next person they pursue.”

“I have been through this incredible nightmare and a whole lot more and I know too well the trauma of not being supported,” she added.

“It is my hope that one day women in Bermuda, women will be immensely and compassionately supported, socially and legally, and in turn will be successful in seeking justice for the crimes committed against them.”

This is Part I of the stories shared with the Centre of Abuse, Part II will be shared at a later date.

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