Stigma Fighters: Rachel Thompson

The Quiet Child

by Rachel Thompson

After experiencing sexual abuse at the hands of my next door neighbor (an adult man, in the army, a father of five) when I was eleven years old – and subsequently testifying in both civil and military trials which helped convict him and court martial him – I became the quiet child.

The Explosion

Always an introverted, serious kid, I withdrew further into my safe world of books and music in my room, rarely venturing out other than for school, meals or chores. Because if I did, I faced the glaring, accusatory stares of his wife and children – as I were the one who committed such ghastly crimes.

This was about mid-1970, and though my parents carried tremendous guilt about what happened, therapy was something for my crazy Aunt Barbara who existed on cigarettes and Thorazine between her many botched suicide attempts.

I didn’t need therapy. I was good. I was fine.

Except, as most survivors know, I wasn’t. I drank, got high, partied – a lot – and while I surprisingly didn’t sleep around, I was that straight-A, smart with a side of nerdy cheerleader to appeal to both jocks and geeks. In other words, I was never without a boyfriend or at the very least, a prom date.

The Aftermath

It really wasn’t until I had my first child (a daughter, now almost fifteen) in my mid-thirties that I sunk into a heavy, gray mix of depression laced with anxiety. Despite hiring a wonderfully sweet, qualified nanny, and knowing that my husband, a solid, good man, worked from home and could keep a keen eye on them both, leaving her to return to my sales job sent me into a loop of fear that made normal existence quite impossible.

Fortunately, I reached out to my fabulous doctor, my gynecologist, who asked if there was something in my past that would perhaps cause me to well, freak out. After giving a brief description of my childhood experience, she hugged me tight and then handed me a prescription for Prozac and the name of a qualified shrink.

The Help

I’ll always be grateful for her loving, gentle manner and for seeing in me what I was incapable of recognizing in myself: that I was suffering from anxiety, panic disorder, and depression. Even, and most especially, PTSD. I entered therapy and found it to be life changing (along with a different anti-depressant, indicated for both depression and anxiety that I still take daily).

Now, as a fifty year old woman of two children, who has written three books (one, the bestselling, award-winning Broken Pieces, deals with my experience – as well as date rape, love, and loss – in the form of essays and poetry), I learn more every day about the effects of that experience and that they are, indeed, quite real.

My family (sisters, parents), while supportive, cannot imagine what I experienced and we really don’t discuss it openly. Growing up, I’d hear my parents talk about it in hushed tones, telling people that my experiences weren’t as bad as some of the other girls… you see, because there was no penetration, the multiple times he did sexually molest me were considered to be ‘less damaging.’ Yea, think about that.

Multiple studies show that ANY type of sexual abuse is traumatic for a child, be it visually, with words, or through inappropriate touching of any kind. But back then, we didn’t have that type of understanding. When people tell you that ‘it happened, you’re fine, move on,’ you, as a compliant child, do just that.

Well, you try. And usually, fail. As I did.

It took until I was in my late forties for me to give myself permission to write about these difficult experiences. Like many survivors, I found myself worried that people would think I was exploiting myself for profit, that they would consider my experiences as no big deal – bad luck maybe, nothing to make a fuss about – or even that my family and kids would reject my project as vanity.

The Reality

Fortunately, none of that happened. In fact, I’ve connected with so many survivors, both male and female, that I created a private, ‘secret’ group on Facebook (up to 50 members now) that serves as support – not therapy – for any survivor of CSA who wants to participate. It’s been so gratifying to learn that what I experience even now isn’t unique.

I also created #SexAbuseChat on Twitter – every Tuesday, 6pm PST/9pm EST, cohosted by survivor/author/certified therapist Bobbi Parish. We welcome anyone to join in – survivor, family, friends – to help others find a safe place to discuss their own experiences and the aftermath.

The incidence of childhood sexual abuse continues to grow. Sadly, multiple studies show that the majority of victims are still young girls (some say 1 in 6, others say 1 in 10, with over 60% (some studies say 85%) of the perpetrators a male that they know). According to the National Center For Victims of Crime:

chart

More than anything, I’m honored to be a voice for survivors, for those people who for whatever reason are not able to discuss their experiences. I will never be normal, but that’s okay, because normal wouldn’t have created the situations that allow me to survive, to thrive, and to hopefully, help others by being the quiet child no more.

Rachel-Thompson2-768x1024

Rachel Thompson is the author of the award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Rachel is the creator and founder of#MondayBlogs and #SexAbuseChat. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

  • http://thefeveredpen.wordpress.com/ jess.⚓

    Amazing post!! It took me a while to give myself permission to write about my experiences too.

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      HI Jess, and thank you so much. I’m so sorry you had to experience abuse also. It’s sadly so freakin common.

      What I work on with my therapist is reminding myself that sharing my story shows my strength, and hopefully others will seek therapy or help of some sort. That’s huge!

  • http://oldschoolnewschoolmom.com/ Old School/New School Mom

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with abuse so openly. I know that survivors are reading this and benefiting from your story.

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      Thank you so much for reading! I hope so — too many people never discuss what happened and sadly, stagnate. Our voices all help each other. xx

  • Tina Burgess

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am also a survivor of csa. It is difficult not to be over protective of your daughter. I have a three year old daughter and I dread leaving her with anyone. It is also hard when people down play any instance of assault as not that bad. This makes the person who suffer (ed) from the abuse reluctant to address it because they will be looked at as less of a victim and more of a perpetrator. I want to use my experience to help others as you have. Thank you again for all you do.

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      Thank you, Tina. I’m so sorry that happened to you. It’s awful.

      And yes, the aftermath can be as difficult for others to process — but at this point, I figure that’s THEIR problem, not mine.

      As for being overprotective, I think that as long as we are loving and supportive of our children, this is the day and age we live in. Not protecting them isn’t an option for any good parent. #hugs

  • Jenna Goodwin

    Rachel, you’ve spoken the words many of us have fought to find or are too afraid to say…

    So many voices needing to be heard but finding the words we can say…the hardest step.

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      Thank you so much, Jenna. It is such a struggle for so many survivors — to get past the shame of it. That’s a battle I still fight today. Giving ourselves permission to be open and not hide is a major first step. xx

  • Mike Hartner

    I’ve said it before, and will continue t say it. “You, Rachel, are one of the Bravest individuals I’ve ever come across. To bare the experiences of yourself, and others, to the scrutiny of neighbours and countrymen alike, to own the experience and try to teach others it’s devastating effects, is something it’s important for others to hear. Thank you for having the courage and fortitude to bring your story out.

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      Thank you, Mike! Your words mean the world, as does your continued and amazing support. #hugs!

  • Linda_Roy_elleroy_was_here

    Thank you for sharing your story Rachel. I admire your strength, bravery and proclivity for helping others get through the darkness as you did.

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      Thank you so much, Linda! I’m honored, truly, to be able to share and to hopefully reach even just one person. It’s a daily battle survivors fight, but we fight because we ARE survivors.

  • Bobbi Parish-Logie

    I absolutely love this post, Rachel! You do an excellent job of describing how devastating sexual abuse is, for years after the abuse itself stops.Thank you for both sharing your story, as hard as that might be, and for being a voice for other survivors. Because of your courage other survivors have found hope and healing. I’m so damn proud to know you!

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      Aw, thank you Bobbi! I learn every day from you and other survivors how strong we really are — look at what we’ve survived! Thrilled to know you as well, dear friend. xx

  • Kristina Smith

    So incredibly strong you are! Thank you for sharing your story.
    What an insane theory, that the act could have been any more or less detrimental depending on what the sick pervert was into. In my situation, the only time anything went below the belt was the first time. I would argue that the following 10 years (where he focused mostly on my chest) was much much more damaging. My family kind of did the same thing, though. They are not convinced that this is all real because I am not able to remember how many times, my exact age at each occurrence, where everyone else was at the time. I just want to scream at them, “Why does it matter? I was fucking violated!”
    People like us will stand tall and tell our stories so all those whose backs that are hunched by worry and fear won’t have to. So that they can finally lift their head and see that there are people who care.

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      Hi Kristina and thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so sorry you had to experience that.

      Sadly, it’s so common to have to deal with the minimization and denial by family members or others close to us (or the abuser). It can be incredibly damaging, and you’re absolutely right — it does not matter. It’s all wrong!

      I’m honored you shared here and proud of you for speaking up about it. If people don’t want to believe because our memories aren’t crystal clear, that’s their issue, not ours. #hugs

  • Jovita Vergara-Sosa

    Hi Rachel, there’s a saying in Spanish that translates roughly ‘until you live it you feel it’…reading your words was very touching, I know someone who was molested as a child but reserved with her description of the encounters and ashamed, not allowing herself to delve into and relive the past – ‘oh I was too young, no penetration, it’s nothing’, and though I’m limited in how I can help, I know now that it’s a bluff and that she hurts. Thanks for sharing your story, truly inspirational.

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      Hi Jovita and thank you for sharing that saying. wow, so true.

      Shame is so common for survivors — regardless of gender or age, it’s something we still carry — it never truly goes away. The hope I have for your friend is to read an article or book that addresses the issue and spur her to at least find help.

      Maybe send her this article or others like it — survivors do walk a lonely path of minimization and denial because talking about it makes us and others uncomfortable. That’s what I had to get over to finally share my story. xx

  • EtotheJ13

    Thank you for starting this discussion!

    • http://RachelintheOC.com/ Rachel Thompson

      thank you for reading! xx

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  • Kitt O’Malley

    Thank you, Rachel.

  • http://www.ganepossible.com/ @KimGANEPossible

    I love this, too!! And I’m proud to know you! xo

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  • Guest

    Hi Rachel, I’d like to join the Facebook group page. Where I am, it is
    expensive to seek professional help so I still don’t know what kind of
    mental health issue I am suffering from due to the abuse. I have a very
    long history of abuse and it took me 30 years to come forward. Thank you
    for sharing your story! It is encouraging to know that I am not alone.

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  • Billie Ann Howell-Zahir

    You inspire me and others more than you are aware. <3

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