Time To Share What's Broken
Contributor
Written by
Rachel Thompson
January 2015
Contributor
Written by
Rachel Thompson
January 2015

I’m scrawling the graffiti of shame across the walls of my past. Slashes of red cover me as I bleed onto the page as Hemingway directs us to; my face glows bright as I reveal intimate details of childhood sexual abuse hidden deep inside for decades. Because it’s time. 

Time for me to share. Time for me to know. Time to talk about it. 

THE BOOKS

So I write and quietly share my first book about it all, Broken Pieces, in late 2012. The response is nothing short of amazing: hundreds of five-star reviews, nine awards, I signed with hybrid publisher Booktrope. Nothing at all what I expected! But more than that: I connect with an amazingly diverse group of (mostly female) survivors. (I never refer to us as victims.) I start a private, secret group on Facebook, now numbering over sixty-five members--a safe place for support, community, and sharing. 

I also started #SexAbuseChat on Twitter every Tuesday at 6pm PST/9pm EST with therapist/survivor Bobbi Parish--anyone is welcome--to publicly discuss topics survivors face, and to help remove the shame and stigma associated with sexual abuse, because survivors need a voice, need to voice, to be heard. 

And I continue to write. My story isn’t over. I’m still shedding my skin. 

I just released Broken Places, the second book in my Broken series. I go deeper into the ways abuse affects me, ways even I never used to realize I could attribute to my past, experiences I’ve had and what I’ve learned about abuse, as well as how it’s all bound up in love and loss. 

I’m honored by the all five-star reviews I’ve received thus far and am thrilled by Kamy Wicoff's five-star review here: 

“Such a brave, moving piece of writing--something for all those who want to better understand the world we live in, and ourselves. You don't have to have experienced abuse to recognize the humanity, pathos and hope contained in this important book.”

I hope you’ll read my books, or at least take a look at the free sample, or share with a friend who is a survivor, if for no other reason than to learn what it’s like to be a survivor and have compassion for what we deal with every day. I’m also honored to share that Booktrope has offered me my own imprint, Gravity, where I’ll be bringing others’ stories of trauma and recovery (both fiction and nonfiction) to life! (Want to submit your story? Submissions are now open. More here.)

THE STATS 

The statistics on sexual abuse (of any kind) against women are startling. According to the UNIFEM report, Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women: “Throughout the world, one in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.” 

For children (under age 18), the stats are even more appalling: 

  • 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.
  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

And the after-affects are just as severe. Survivors of sexual assault are:

  • 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
  • 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

As a mother of two children myself (ages fifteen and nine), I felt compelled to comprehend more about my own issues of anxiety, PTSD, and depression, and to fully understand the role the sexual abuse played in those. I’m still a work in progress, and my books have been a conduit to my healing. I’m honored to share them with the world, and here with you now. 

THE EXCERPT: 

Shame 

Shame doesn’t like to talk. She prefers to walk through a room, the center of attention, the girl that all the boys dream of, all eyes on her, flash and heels and lips and eyes, and hair. 

Shame is the one everyone talks about but nobody talks to. 

Shame wears pretty, tiny bits of clothes, fancy makeup, and drives a cool, red, fast car, the kind all little girls dream of when they play with their Barbies. She has all the hottest boyfriends, and even the occasional hot girlfriend, who shows up late to the cool kids’ parties as if she’s too good to be there anyway, and besides, “this place blows,” she tells her jock hottie of the day as she sashays her tiny hips poured into her “$1200-a-pop-paid-for-by-daddy” jeans out the door to the next coke-fueled gig. 

Shame has a secret. Shame saturates herself with distractions, partying all day and all night because she’s desperately sad, filled with the loneliness of the lost, her heart a shell scraped so deep because she left it in an alley one night with her pride and her virginity when one large man pinched and shoved and filled and grabbed in in ways she cringes to remember, in tears and rages, in nightmares and flashes she can’t ever discuss with another human. 

Because he was an animal and that makes her one, too. 

Shame carries this animal in her skin, unable to shake his eyes boring into hers as she fought and kicked while he held her down, sticking his furious cock into her. As she watched from above, she wondered aloud why he even need to bother with a live girl; if all he wanted was a hole, he could have just as easily found some sort of household appliance to stick it in. A hole was a hole was a hole. 

But he didn’t hear her mumbled words. 

Nobody hears Shame. They follow her, watching her every move, but they don’t see her. They don’t see her terror, how she shakes alone in her room at night, how she wakes up covered in the slimy sweat of the animal, smelling his stink, flashing on his fetid breath, his flaccid penis finally moving away from her face, forever wiping his semen from her lips in the hour-long, skin-burning hot showers she takes 

every night, 

every night, 

every night 

scrubbing away that which will never fucking die. 

Nobody talks to Shame. They look at her, they stare at her, but they don’t embrace her. She’s this creature, this thing nobody will ever love or soothe, or even acknowledge. Shame knows this. 

She was born out of fear and terror and hurt. She knows that she is nobody’s friend. 

Because, after all, who wants to be friends with Shame?

Silence 

His hands were rough, the hands of a working man. As he slides closer on the seat, his large legs pushed mine down, making them useless for running away. 

He knew what he was doing. 

A father. Of girls. Girls my age. Did he touch them this same way, I couldn’t help but wonder, in a foreign way my own father would never, and had never, touched me? This isn’t how it was supposed to work, was it? He was not speaking my language. 

My eleven-year-old mind didn’t grasp exactly what he wanted--this was my neighbor, a middle-aged military man, one hand searching for my non-existent breasts, his fingers working their way into my shorts. 

I froze. This wasn’t happening. 

In a silent scream, I flew away, watching from the old oak tree that spread its arms the length of several men--wise, knowing branches holding the memories of other little girls. I held their tiny hands as we waited for him to be done, ghosts of innocence clinging to the bark, not even the rain able to wash away his dirty, prying fingers. 

Taking my shaking silence as permission, he continued with his exploration. As my quiet tears spilled, I watched from my safe little tree perch, knowing somehow that even though he’d stop at some point, nothing would ever look the same. 

Finding the courage in my ability to fly, I spoke: “please, stop.” When he pulled out his gun weighted with a meaning I couldn’t quite comprehend, placing it silently in my hand, I understood that my words didn’t matter to a man intent on speaking the language of the unforgiven. I waited patiently on my sturdy oak, holding onto the wispy ghosts for strength until he…finished. 

Making it clear that my family was in danger, that dark gun laden with a threat I could only imagine in my worst middle-of-the-night nightmares, enough to buy my silence. No quiet murmurings, only a binding secret replacing my innocence with shame. 

Children inherently understand the art of negotiation. Even I knew that this was definitely not a fair trade. I never agreed to the terms of the deal, only to a heavy silence I didn’t know how to carry. 

My world of laughter and dolls and joy didn’t end that day, but it changed--I now carried a burden that didn’t allow me to speak, that hid inside me, weaving its way deeper to a place that expanded and contracted with every breath, that reminded me only in hushed whispers, “Don’t tell.”

Let's be friends

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Comments
  • Marie St. Amand

    Hi Rachel, nice & well written, I'll need to finish it fully when I can sit back & concentrate. Rachel, please take a look at my group,
    "Dark Poetry & Deep witting". I think you'd be a great addition, after I saw your page. I put this group on the back burner & need to spiccin things up!
    Thx,
    Marie

  • Rachel Thompson

    Hi Cate! Thank you for reading and leaving a thoughtful comment. I'm so sorry for what happened to you. It's so horrific, how these events carry such weight for so long. Even as we move along with our lives, our subconscious knows. 

    California recently passed a consent law also, so that a women must say "YES" in order for sex to happen. People feel it's ridiculous, but as a survivor, I don't see anything silly about it. Thank you for your kind words. Words are empowering for all of us! 

  • Taunya Richards

    Rachel - brilliant. And I understand shame all too well....

  • Rachel Thompson

    Sorry, Meriah, here's the link to my Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelThompson

  • Rachel Thompson

    Hi Meriah! If you friend me on Facebook, I would have to add you to the group since it's private AND secret. You won't find it by searching. That's one of the protective mechanisms in place for the group since it is totally 'secret' -- meaning when we join and post, it doesn't show up anywhere on FB. 

    The Twitter chat, OTOH, is completely public. Just use the hashtag #SexAbuseChat to join any Tuesday 6pm PST every week. It's public to help remove the stigma. 

    Laura: I completely get you. My 15yo daughter has anxiety also. In fact, she does online public school because of panic attacks. The more I learn about how abuse affects our brain chemistry and even our bodies at a cellular level, the more well, unsurprised I am at how we pass down mental illnesses to our children. Abusers think only of themselves, and not of how their actions affect not only their victims, but future generations (their own children, but also their victim's children). It's a horribly vicious loop. Sending you love and hugs. 

  • Meriah Nichols

    Rachel, I"m a survivor too. I would love to connect with others on the facebook group. How can I find it?

    thanks for your post.

  • Laura L Lanik

    Hi Rachel,

    I am a survivor and sometimes I find it hard to admit without tearing up.  It is still hard to confront and think about all these years later.  Thanks for your blog post.  I've been lucky, I only suffer from PTSD and anxiety and none of the "other" major issues survivors go through.  I have discovered through parenting that trauma continues to manifest in future generations.  My son exhibits sign of PTSD and my daughter extreme forms of anxiety.  I've been learning about historical trauma and it greatly saddens me that the abuse I suffered now hurts my children. I bookmarked your book and plan to read it soon.   

  • Rachel Thompson

    Thank you all so much for your comments! I'm overwhelmed.

    Reese: there are resources out there specifically for women in the military. One of the ladies in my private FB group is ex-military and her daughter was raped by an officer. She's been instrumental in testifying about getting women the help they need. Here's a link: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=Womens_Issues

    Meg: that's amazing, the work you are doing. I do believe we can't sugarcoat these issues -- not for anyone. Politics and religion often don't go hand in hand with issues regarding sex crimes but that's not our issue when it comes to presenting the truth and getting help to these girls. I do have a book contract already with Booktrope, but would be happy to connect with them in regard to discussing advocacy.

    Gail: thank you! I appreciate and will gladly accept healing and positive energy and send it forward and back around. We can all use it. xx

    Karen: Shame is so ugly and such a heavy burden. Part of why I wrote the 'Shame' piece was because it felt like a living thing to me -- I often refer to shame as 'she' because she (did it again) is almost a friend; she's been by my side for so long. I've come to terms with her, and now she helps me to help others, so it's all good. I'm SO glad you've come this far and found peace with your family.

    Jane: I so relate to that feeling of being overwhelmed and where to start? I'm so glad you found your way and thank you for sharing!

    Kamy: as always, thank you for your support. I'm so honored to share my story here. xx

  • Meg E Dobson

    I complement you on your courage and dedication to write this.

    I sold a two book deal to a new YA imprint (Poisoned Pencil) of one of the nation's largest hardback publishers of mystery. Chaos Theory by MEvonneDobson.com. I just submitted book 2, entitled Chaos Dreams. The press wants edgy YA (17+;15+ advanced readers) but I fear that I've pushed the limit on it, but this is a story that needs told. It must be brought out of the shadows. I APPLAUD the emphasis this year's Super Bowl is shining on teen sex trafficking.

    My ensemble team investigate an interstate teen prostitution ring. My research reported the teen runaways usually are prostituting themselves within 24 hours. And the statistics to get out--depressingly low. Many were abused at home. Even if removed from the horrible situation, too often s/he will return to the place where it began. As benign as my Midwest mind does, there are disturbing scenes in the book. Still, I was chastised by a Lutheran deaconess for attempting to a veil too thick for future marketing needs. She encouraged me to raise it as far as possible for the reader. We will see where the manuscript will go.

    If you feel so inclined, send an email to the Poisoned Pen Press' editor. This story needs to be told to teens, so they can become eyes and ears who can report signs of this abuse.

  • Gail Priest

    Sending you positive energy as you heal through your writing. You are very brave!

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Thank you for sharing your words and speaking out, Rachel.  Though I did not suffer from direct sexual assault, I did live with shame from other abuses in the "sexual" category, among others, and lived with shame for many years. Suffered from anxiety attacks that took a physical form akin to a seizure. Was tested to kingdom come, with all results being negative. Still suffer from a lesser degree from the anxiety attacks, but they are more focused on heights and performance...but would love to heal from the anxiety overall.

    Finally Did my best to put lots of space between myself and my past by studying in Ireland a year and spending 2 years in California. While there, I found a good counselor and faced the shame a bit, and found an ACoA group, so I started healing. Moved to the Boston area 25 years ago and now have a gentle husband and a lovely daughter, and count my blessings. :0)

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Thank you for sharing this Rachel. We are so grateful for your bravery and for lighting the way.

  • Jane Hanser

    I had a similarly traumatic experience that I could not write about for years, not because the experience was too painful to write about, but simply because it was too overwhelming to know how to approach it. And it's difficult to extract the immediate experience of the sexual abuse and imminent fear of loss of ones life with other factors that come into play - how your family and friends deal with it and you, how it affects your life as a whole, where you choose to live in the future... which in some cases, as in mine, overshadowed the original assault, abuse, trauma.

    Twenty years later i was able to find an angle that allowed me to write about (at least part of) it, which is in a piece called "The Registry" that is published online in "The Persimmon Tree."....  I invite people to read that....

  • Reese Souza

    Thank you very much for sharing this. I'm at the beginning of trying to figure out how to work through PTSD. I've been shocked to find resources to be scarce for women with PTSD, as the main focus is on military veterans. It was very inspiring and helpful to read this. I applaud your bravery. Congratulations on the book- it's extremely needed!

  • Rachel Thompson

    Thank you, Shelah! Shame is a heavy burden, no doubt. And just when we think it's totally gone, it shows up again out of nowhere. But we are strong, we survivors. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing that you, too, are a survivor. We are kindred. xx 

  • Sally Ketham

    So happy for you dear Rachel for finding the courage to voice your experiences and through it a calling to help heal others. I too am a survivor and applaud your activism. Shedding shame is the hardest part and you write about it beautifully. Cheers sister. :)