[Trigger Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and my real life experiences. ]
I spent the last few days going back and forth on whether or not to write this piece or to respond at all. No, I take that back. I spent the last few days trying to come up with justifications as to why I am responding. The truth is that I do not need anyone’s approval and I do not need to justify myself or my experiences and actions to anyone either. I also do not deserve to judged upon by my reactions. I am a survivor. The burden of proof is on my abusers and not me. I survived something that not everyone can and I am still surviving. Even on my worst days, even on the days I fall asleep crying on my bathroom floor because it is the only room I feel safe in – even then I am still surviving.
PTSD is a disease that is complicated and difficult to understand, even for those going through it. There are times I am so happy and feel so empowered and I finally have energy that I seem almost manic and there are days that are lower than low. There is no cure all, the best you can do is try to identify your triggers and learn to cope with them the best you can. I always find it difficult to understand why individuals choose to victim-blame and place the burden of proof on the the victim and really I feel it is a complete social tone across the US. Which is completely opposite of what our Justice system says we should. The burden of proof has always been on the accused not the victim. Unless it is you or someone close to you that is directly affected it seems nearly impossible for us as a society to empathize. Our humility is lacking and for some reason it is easier to trust the accused more than the accuser. Maybe it is that we relate to the anger or the yearning for power. Or maybe it is that we are so embarrassed by the ugly parts of our own lives that we project that on to other people.
The first time someone invaded my body I was 4 years old. A drunk, angry neighbor. A boy I played with’s father. He was always yelling and he never wore a shirt and most of the time smelled of beer. I was in a bikini and had been swimming and playing in the sandbox. The boy took me behind the garage, he was 5, and kissed me. His Dad caught us, whooped him and screamed for him to get inside. I remember feeling unsure of what to do and a bit afraid. I can still feel the cold garage against my back and the twigs scratching my legs and the wet swimsuit on my skin.
I was 4. Arianna’s age. As a parent comes all of these new emotions and fears. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t look and my kids and think “what if…”
What if it happened to them?
What if it has already happened?
What if they are afraid to talk with me?
What if they grow up feeling like this?
Surprisingly, I was a pretty normal kid after that. Maybe experimented a little more than some, but otherwise normal. I honestly rarely thought of the incident until I was 13. It is strange how memories work and how your own body can protect you from certain memories. I wish I could say that I never dealt with assault ever again, but that would not be true. It isn’t true for most assault survivors. Being a victim makes you already more likely to be a victim again. And I was. When I was about 7, my cousin who is just a little younger than me began beating me up and molesting me. From 7 to 14 it was a constant battle of keeping his hands off of me and keeping him from attacking me. My Mom baby-sat him and did tell his mother once that she could no longer watch him and that lasted a little while. Then his Mom came over one day and said she was pregnant. I’m really not sure if my Mom just wrote off what was happening to me as “playing house” or maybe even “kissing cousins” but that isn’t what it was at all. My Mom might have also felt obligated to help her, I’ll never know. What Christopher did to me was wrong and no child should ever go through that. At 15 though I stood my ground and it stopped.
It stopped right around dating age for me. My first boyfriend was a friend from my church. He was sweet and always a gentleman, never pressured me and understood me better than I could have hoped. He knew about the abuse from Christopher and I believe I even eventually opened up about the incident when I was 4. He stood up for me more than I could have asked and when we broke up I think part of me was worried I would be abused again. I was somehow less safe, but I got through it. Faster than expected probably.
I rebounded hard, I guess you could say.
As an adult there has been plenty of struggles and I was even raped a second time when I was 22. It’s like I have a neon sign across my forehead blinking. “Open” or something. When I waitressed there were plenty of drunk men sliding their hands up my skirt, grabbing my ass as I bent over, touching the collar of my shirt when I kneel down to take an order. Their words and winks were just as awful.
I’d love to say it ended there but not long ago there was an incident with my children. It has been dealt with and reported since then. My worst fear came true. By someone I trusted nonetheless. Someone I trusted enough to pick up our family and move, someone I thought was willing to help me. I stood there frozen just after and went from laughing hysterically to crying hysterically – I was in shock.
Life is a series of of memories strung together by faith. When some of those memories are tainted, it becomes harder to move forward even with faith. You do not get to decide others actions or their behavior, only your own. Sometimes there actions are triggering sometimes it is empowering, but it is always out of your control. Which is why I find it so important to remind those involved in my life that it is not appropriate to judge me by my reactions. I am broken and I opened myself up to hopefully help another victim of abuse. That was not something I had to do and I knew it would be uncomfortable, but as always I put others above myself and it being a child, I felt nearly obligated to. I was asked. I did not offer. From there things spiraled for over a year.
For over a year I was stalked online and harassed by the person who molested me and his mother. I kept my head down for months. Laid low and pretended it did not bother me. It was easy, but only because I was living out of state. Every visit back home was a reminder that I am that worthless, disgusting girl. I could tell myself a thousand times that I am happy and I am safe and I will still prove myself wrong. The once driven and independent young woman I was is a stranger to me , sometimes I wonder if my husband even recognizes me as the same girl he married. No matter how much you want to confide in your spouse you still cannot. You don’t want them to know that version of you, or have those images in their mind. Not when it is someone you are intimate with.
I decided not long ago that coping is a process and I deserve that time to heal, so I am going to give myself that time. I decided that I will do everything in my power to not be a victim again, but I understand that I am not responsible for the things that have happened to me. I also I understand that I am not responsible for the actions of others from here on out. I will still have good days and bad ones. I can handle every season of my life as long as I have support. I will also be honest, there is still a lot of anger there. That would be why when I found out that my family was discussing these incidents on Facebook that I exploded on just about everyone.
Let’s get something straight, before I get further into this. I am that girl that will step to you, that will go on offense, I don’t believe in playing defense and best believe if it ain’t getting through to you Imma start clapping.
The worst part of the Facebook incident was I have everyone involved in any of these incidents blocked so I stepped right into it on a cousins status while along everyone is talking about the molestation I suffered through. It wasn’t until I started receiving Pm’s and screenshots that I even knew it was me that was the subject of discussion. Then, came the mean girls attitude.
“You should be ashamed.”
“You are making our family look crazy!”
“She’s crazy, obvious a liar….”
It was like being hit by a wall. I could not breathe. Some of these people even saw it with their own eyes. Some of them grew up with me, not him. The funniest part is my family knows how they are, they have nothing to do with those two individuals and won’t even invite them to BBQ’s, but suddenly I am in the wrong. My name is the one thing I have always had. No matter how poor I was, no matter what I had my name. That meant something to me. I could not help the times he held me down, beating me, choking me or putting his filthy hands inside of me, but I could stand up for myself now. At least I thought so.
I had 1 or 2 days of feeling proud and empowered but then spent 3 days sleeping on my bathroom floor- crying on the bathroom floor there was not much sleep going on. I could not look at my husband with out feeling shame. No matter how great your life is we all have those moments, I think that you just think you could die. You find yourself asking God to take you instead of help you because you feel so powerless. You’ll never stand as the same woman again. I am ok. I am surviving and that’s all I can ask for right now. When I finally got the courage to eliminate the toxicity in my life is the day I decided to start this blog actually. It did not take long before someone had to ruin it for me though. I had an appointment with my vascular surgeon and I was prepping for my day. Journal – check, coffee – check, blog- uh oh.
I just love trolls though, that’s what is funny about this. I took my moment to dwell on his words but that was all. These words did not burn, they were weightless. However, I do have a response.
Thank you kindly for your concern about my life. Although, I am certain I know who you are, clearly you don’t know Alexis. I have already found your fake Facebook profile, I have emailed you 3 times in case you haven’t had a chance to check it. BUT because of the importance of my message I will be gladly sharing this publicly to make sure it reaches you. You probably thought your words would cut me like a knife. You probably thought it’d be easy to intimidate a woman, someone who has already been victimized – a Mom of 3 with PTSD. Your words did not hurt me though like you thought they would, in fact I am concerned about you. You clearly have some inappropriate rage and then when you did not respond, I began to worry you might be too cowardly for this cruel world. I would actually love to answer your question though, so let’s get to it.
I modeled for a legitimate bar promotional company in St. Louis for about 2 years. I did lingerie shows, wrestling shows, and I enjoyed myself. I made bank, there were at least two times that I can think of that I came home with more $1500. I was in college, one kid – married and supported in doing this job- I was contributing to my family. Beyond that, it was fun. I met all kind of different people, got to see areas of my city/state I would not have otherwise. I learned some self confidence. I felt empowered when I modeled and when I performed.
I am not quite sure what you meant by a respectable act of feminism, but I respect myself and my decisions. I feel empowered that I was able to take on a job that not all women can handle. I MADE THESE CHOICES, there for it is the epitome of a feminist act if there was one. “As for the drunk men that stared with pleasure” – I am not responsible for anyone’s behavior but my own. Although most of my audiences were 60% female MOST of the time and my husband and best friend would come and enjoy themselves also.
I just thought you should know that you are an irrelevant, sexist (and from your FB profile pic probably also racist) prick. I spent 3 paragraphs on you only because I am petty as fuck right now.
I left for my appointment after I received this comment to just get cat-called at the bus stop.
“Hey! Sweet ass!” 🙄 I really do think some men think we find it flattering. It’s not and you should be watching the road not my sweet ass anyway.
Stepping off my soapbox now. Feel free to make this go viral for Steve, in case he did not get my 3 emails.