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******* TRIGGER WARNING*******
This blog post will touch on topics of coming forward, speaking up and what that means as a survivor of sexual abuse/assault. While I won’t go into detail, the topic in itself may be triggering for many survivors. It is not my intention to trigger, only to inform. Continue reading at your own risk.
I’m feeling inspired this morning after I came across a social media post from a survivor seeking advice from those that have come forward about their abuse. This person is seriously considering coming forward, filing a report against her abuser and is looking for support.
My personal thoughts on this matter, I fully support her decision and know first hand just how difficult this is.
Could you imagine if all survivors took immediate action against their abuser(s)? A society where we could come forward, be believed, not have to relive our trauma over and over as we explain in full detail the vile acts that we were forced to endure. A society that wasn’t corrupt and the sexual predators weren’t protected but rather all given a minimum of 15 years in prison with no chance of early release, no special privileges. Imagine if that punishment was universal in every State, Province, and Country. The same sentencing should be imposed upon those who knowingly make false claims. I do imagine this and I think the acts of sexual violence would decrease because of harsher punishments with no wiggle room to bribe down to a lesser sentence.
The reality is, that’s never going to happen. Greed and corruption exist, not all humans possess the qualities of integrity and accountability; sadly I don’t see things changing for the better anytime soon.
The best opportunity for a survivor to come forward is within 48 hours of the encounter. This small window of time is the only chance to retrieve any evidence that may be present/left behind. Having the courage to get yourself (or get someone to drive you) to the local hospital is your best chance to ensure that your abuser(s) gets taken into custody.
Without evidence (physical, video, audio) a witness or another survivor that is willing to speak up, the odds of a survivor being taken seriously rapidly decrease. It’s now a matter of a “He said, She said” scenario and it becomes more difficult to prove/prosecute.
Coming forward is especially difficult if there is a Statute of Limitations that prevents survivors from reporting the crime against them after 7, 10, 15 years after it took place. It is frustrating when we process trauma differently and for many of us, our brain has protected us by hiding that trauma for 15+ years. We weren’t aware that a crime against us had been committed until it’s too late. Where’s the justice in that? There isn’t any!
Coming forward within the 48-hour window doesn’t ensure that the brave survivor is granted a “happily ever after” ending. Coming forward doesn’t just affect the life of the survivor, but in most cases affects the lives of those around them. That idea alone is enough for many of us to not come forward at all, especially when the abuser is a family member.
Does coming forward about the abuse you endured make you selfish? Absolutely NOT!
Does coming forward about the abuse you endured come across as “Seeking Attention”? Absolutely NOT!
Yet so many of us are made to believe the opposite is true. That’s because those that are making us feel that way are scared, afraid and don’t want to deal with the aftermath, the judgments, the whispers, the rumors and the hardships that will most definitely follow.
Should that guilt be enough for us survivors to stay quiet and keep our mouths shut? That is up to the survivor. I can’t answer that and speak for everyone.
I was told that there would be “consequences” should I choose to speak up and tell my “story”. I was 9 years and my mother who walked in on my last encounter with her boyfriend was in complete denial. She didn’t believe me even though she witnessed it happening. I knew that this moment was my opportunity to speak up and tell her everything. That wasn’t enough, she was still siding with “him”. I was told that if I was ready to deal with the “consequences” that she would drive me to the hospital and that I would have to endure some very uncomfortable tests and there would be questions that I had to answer truthfully.
I knew that I didn’t do anything wrong, I wasn’t the one lying to my mother about what she walked in on. I had no reason to be punished. I knew that if I couldn’t prove to my mother that I was telling the truth, the abuse would continue and her boyfriend might actually follow through with the death threats he made against my younger brother and mother. How could things get worse for me than they already were at that moment?
The testing and procedures performed at the hospital to collect the evidence took place, not one of my favorite moments. I still have a hard (emotional) time at every OBGYN appointment some 30+ years later. But I knew it had to be done, not just to prove my abuser wrong, but to help protect myself and my brother from possible harm. Also to ensure this bastard doesn’t hurt another little girl. I couldn’t live with that guilt, knowing that I could have done something and didn’t.
The consequences of coming forward appeared shortly after, while still at the hospital. Due to the nature of the crime, me being a minor and the doctors were convinced that my mother was not going to break off the relationship (they weren’t wrong); Child Services were called along with the local police detectives. Long story, short. My brother and I were placed in foster care that evening. What was supposed to be for the weekend, turned into a few weeks, that turned into a few more months. I entered the foster system at age 9 and never got out until I aged out of the system.
Sure, I pressed charges against my abuser and had my day in court. The evidence was tested and obviously came back as his, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. A small victory for me. My younger brother was completely innocent, had never been abused, had no idea what was going on. He didn’t know what was happening or know why we couldn’t go home. I fought for him, pleaded that he should get to go home.
Being 9 years old and not fully understanding the whole picture.
We later learned that our mother was still visiting her boyfriend (my abuser) in prison. It was those secret visits that caused her to lose her parental rights. We were close to coming home (after 4.5 years). After the proof, after all that I endured and sacrificed to protect myself and my brother, this was how I was rewarded. This was my consequence and my brother was an innocent bystander.
Was Justice served? YES. I got to the hospital, evidence was collected and used to put my abuser away for 10 years. One less sexual predator out in public.
Was the outcome what I had hoped? Not in a million years. I can only be accountable for myself, and I did just that. I didn’t do anything to be ashamed of. Just ashamed to have a mother that didn’t believe me and kept putting my abuser before her kids.
My mother has failed me on several occasions, but that’s a story for another day. The best thing she did was to allow me to make my own choice and drive me to the hospital that morning.
While the situations are similar, there are many variables to consider if you are thinking about coming forward/speaking up about the abuse you endured. As much as I love the idea of all survivors coming forward, I know that many can’t, some aren’t aware that they should. All of which is okay, just know that I support your choice.
For anyone considering coming forward:
- Do so when you are ready, not because you are feeling pressured.
- Be prepared to relive your trauma and share your story several times to several people. It’s mentally exhausting.
- Without evidence or witnesses, filing a police report is still helpful. Should another survivor report the same abuser, that might be enough to prosecute.
- Most importantly, Know that you didn’t do anything to deserve this. The abuse you endured was not your fault in any way.
- Start your healing process when you are ready, not because the court mandates it. When YOU are ready.
- You are not alone. There are many support groups that you can join, even online to help you process what you’re feeling. There is no shame in seeking support. Nobody understands better than someone who’s been through it.
- For the Parents of a child that comes forward- bring them to the hospital- be supportive no matter the outcome- Protecting your child comes FIRST- Be the adult they need you to be, hold the abusers accountable, no matter who it turns out to be.
Coming forward and reporting the abuse that you endured isn’t easy on so many levels. The courage and bravery required to speak up doesn’t come easy. When you finally do, it’s possible that your claims aren’t taken seriously or they are dismissed as a misunderstanding, especially without proof/evidence. Even with proof and there is no shadow of a doubt, the aftermath is unpredictable. One thing is for sure, you won’t get a Thank You and your efforts won’t get recognized, because it’s not seen as heroic when it most certainly is.
If the TV and Movies have taught us one thing, it’s that in this world, there are Heroes and Criminals/Villians. Heroes help to put the Criminals away, Heroes protect the innocent. This seems to be an acceptable norm, except when it comes to sexual abuse. Sexual Predators are often disguised, hiding in plain sight right under our noses, posing as heroes. Sexual Predators have infiltrated many positions of power and they use that position of power as a means of protection. Now, these Criminals are able to protect other criminals and the Heroes are the ones that suffer.
Welcome back blog readers,
I just came across this article on my Facebook news feed and felt that it’s worth sharing with all of you.
With all of the stories that have been coming out over the last year and all of the claims of sexual abuse that HAS taken place, I still don’t understand why there are still so many people that blatantly dismiss the vital information that we are sharing.
We’ve come forward, we’ve shared our experiences to help others recognize how abuse of this nature continues to happen and WHY many of us could not come forward right away. I’m beginning to feel like a broken record, repeating the same information over and over again.
I have been silenced for too long, so NO, I won’t stop talking about my experience nor will I stop sharing information that might help save another child from going through what I experienced. LISTEN UP!! I’m not writing and advocating to merely pass the time. We as a society, as families, as neighbors have allowed these sexual predators to get away with taking advantage our loved ones for far too long. When are we going to open our eyes and hold those involved accountable? When are we going to learn that staying silent (because it’s easier than to admit what really happened under our noses) is not the best way to handle these situations?
Can you not see that we’ve allowed sexual predators to continue their vile acts on other people, while their victims that need help, need support get shoved aside and cast out. Can’t you see how damaging that is? Wouldn’t you rather be a part of the solution and not help a sexual predator continue their vile acts on innocent kids?
Now, look at where we are… it’s 2019, and we have a president that openly admits that he’s been able to use his celebrity status to do whatever he wants to women. This same man had 20 women come forward all claiming some form of sexual misconduct had taken place before he entered the White House in 2016. Since his time as president, he has endorsed Brett Kavanaugh to Supreme Court Judge, he too had a woman come forward stating he had sexually assaulted her 30 years prior in high school.
We all know how that turned out. When the president is a sexual predator, naturally he’s going to support any other of his kind and push their careers forward while he can. That’s how they work and how they’ve been able to stay under the radar for so long. Just look at the Catholic Churches. Hundreds of priests have been able to hide behind their religion for decades. So many claims have been coming forward, most are discarded and not given a second look. Why? Sexual predators show a different side to everyone they are not abusing. They are often charming, funny, just a super nice guy/lady that we couldn’t imagine them hurting anybody.
We need to stop turning a blind eye on people that hold a position of authority, an important place within our church, anyone with celebrity status because sexual predators come from all walks of life. They use their job to their advantage, some can afford to pay their victims to stay silent.
Have you ever wondered why sexual predators are housed together, away from the general population in prison? It’s for their safety, seriously! Even in prison, they are still being protected.
If you’ve read the article and have read everything up to this point, are you seeing the signs? Is this all making sense? Is there somebody that comes to mind, someone that checks all of these boxes?
Learn to recognize the signs of abuse and how to handle this type of situation if you or someone confides in you that they have been abused.
I still firmly believe that those who are quick to defend an abuser is hiding something and you should be very cautious around them.
Consider yourself warned. ~ Hannah
Starting Saturday, March 16th and ending Sunday, March 17th!
Free Kindle e-book available for a limited time!!!
My last Free Promotion lead to 37 downloads, let’s see if we can break that record!!
Any reviews and ratings can be left on the Amazon platform to which you received your free copy and also on Goodreads. Please feel free to share this on your social media pages.
Free Kindle weekend starts Saturday, March 16th and ends Sunday, March 17th. Any sales made before or after this promotion are appreciated and 25% of the proceeds will be donated to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Not only are you helping me to raise awareness about childhood sexual abuse, you are also helping other survivors with each purchase. Thank You!
Here’s the full review from Chynna Laird:
Welcome to our Thursday segment.
In keeping with our theme for this week, we’re going to do a review of a book written by an abuse survivor. Hannah Reinbeck bravely shares her story of childhood sexual abuse and neglect in her memoir, Breaking the Cycle of Abuse: My Journey From Victim to Survivor. Stories such as Hannah’s are so important to have out there because these issues happen a lot more often than we are either willing to realize or accept. Sure, there literally thousands, if not more, of people’s stories out there in book form, articles, blog posts or even woven into the lines of poetry. Movies and television shows have touched on it, even in music. So how, then, with all of these sources of real-life accounts of people’s personal depictions of abuse and neglect, can these things still be happening? That’s the main question Hannah is seeking to answer with her book.
Hannah begins her journey by introducing the reader to her mother, who seemed to have enough of her own issues even before she decided to have children. This is a woman who obviously needed some sort of support and guidance herself before she could be the mother all mothers strive to be. The most dangerous aspect is that she got into relationships that were not only harmful to her but even moreso for her children. For example, leaving children alone with a man who not only had a drinking problem but also an abnormal fascination with young girls was, in the most polite wording, simply bad parenting. Hannah tried talking about her discomfort with her mother’s partner, even before the abuse happened, but her worries were pushed aside. Until the sexual abuse started.
It wasn’t until her abuser was caught in the act, and it was brought to the attention of her mother, did any sort of acknowledgment take place. Hannah’s mother took her to the hospital where she was checked out and it was confirmed such abuse took place, but there never seemed to be any remorse on her mother’s part. In fact, she didn’t seem to have any true realization of fault her part for neglecting to ensure the safety or security of her child. This led Hannah and her brother down a lifetime of experiences they never should have had to if the situation had been handled better.
Hannah and her brother were removed from their mother’s care and put into Foster Care. This should have been a relief on some part as they would finally be in a safe, caring environment where they could heal enough to enjoy the rest of their childhoods. Not only were Hannah and her brother separated and put into different Foster Homes, but the homes they were sent to weren’t much better than the one they were removed from. And on top of that, their mother was forced to give up her parental rights. They weren’t given any sort of counseling or support, they weren’t assigned a Child Advocate and there didn’t seem to be any sort of follow up visits to ensure that Hannah and her brother were thriving in their temporary placements. Despite the terrible events her mother allowed to happen to her children, she was still their mother. Imagine how excruciating it must have been to not only lose your main parent but also to be floating in a system, waiting for a permanent home, because most people want to adopt babies and may not have room for siblings.
This led to Hannah basically living the rest of her life in survival mode. What this means is that when a person is hurt at the very core of their soul, it makes potentially happy and positive things almost scary. It’s harder to trust, to believe there is good in you, to be open to new people or situations or to let others close to you. You build up a wall so high and so strong, it makes it impossible for people who truly care to break through. And you inadvertently repeat negative cycles because it’s all you know and where you feel most accepted (such as being in her ‘chaos house’ as a child, then being moved to a different version of it then facing it in yet another way after she got married).
I applaud Hannah for being one of the few who has never given in to the crutches that can tempt you to cope in maladaptive ways. She hasn’t turned to any sort of substance nor has she used her childhood trauma as an excuse not to keep trying to move forward. Don’t get me wrong. That level of abuse and neglect are felt forever, even with proper assistance. And she doesn’t say that she’ll never get help. She says she knows its there for her and she’ll seek it out when she’s ready. That’s an amazing thing.
This memoir doesn’t just focus on the abuse itself. It shows what happens to the person after the act. Just because a child is physically removed from the direct situation doesn’t mean they are properly equipped to deal with all of the aftermath. Child abuse interferes with development, friendships, relationships as well as personal growth. By sharing her story, she is showing the importance of ensuring that every child in the same situation has at least one strong, positive, loving, nurturing person right there with them for all the steps they face on their road to recovery.
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse is a great addition to anyone’s personal resource bookshelf. Having a voice you aren’t afraid to be heard and making others aware of these issues is critical in making this stop. And those who are going through this, or who are trying to go on after it, need these stories if for no other reason than to know they aren’t alone.