As a child, I was raised in an emotionally, physically and sexually abusive household. My perpetrator was my father, someone I thought I loved deeply.
The first 16 years of my life my father taught me to do as I was told or he wouldn’t love me, he would hurt me. Unfortunately, doing what I was told meant not helping myself to food or leaving my room when I wanted too, even to use the toilet.
Whether I was being well behaved or not, he would tease me and say horrible things about my body and personality. I would laugh and smile with him out of fear of being hurt. I thought this was how most parents loved their children. I wasn’t allowed to have friends play at my house. I couldn’t see how other families lived but there was always a part of me that knew something was not right.
Even if I was allowed to have friends I didn’t make any at school. The trauma led me to incontinence as a child. The bullying I suffered at school cemented the name-calling and shaming at home. I would replay all the horrible things my family, other children and even teachers said in my head every day. I hated myself.
I spent my whole childhood conforming to one person’s way of living out of fear of getting hurt. I did not understand bigger social issues or learn to love myself and others in a healthy way.
Now as an adult I struggle with mental and physical health issues due to the trauma and neglect. I suffer from Non-Epileptic Seizures, Fibromyalgia and Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Dissociation. I get flashbacks to the abuse and see my father’s face in my own. I look at my body and see it as an object, I feel completely detached to myself. Learning to love myself and others is a challenge I will face my whole life. However, I now equally fight to live in the world as a disabled woman, especially as my disabilities are invisible. I wear my scars internally.
As a child, I was hurt if I displayed any kind of retaliation or spoke out. Now as an adult, I still experience this and it is a massive problem in our society. I have found that men are threatened when you hold a mirror to them. I have been told so many times by male friends that I should not tell my story because it makes people feel uncomfortable and that I am embarrassing myself.
I am now estranged from my family. I have given myself space to learn about who I am, what I like and what I want to do with my life. Never again will I keep silent or “behave myself” out of fear of being hurt by someone I love. I have spent most of my adult life setting healthy boundaries with everyone. From doctors to teachers, partners and colleagues. I have spoken out against my perpetrator publicly through art, music and the judicial system. I will continue to share my story to help and encourage other survivors to do the same. If my story can help just one person to seek help I will feel as though I’ve made a change.
I want to end the silence.