I AM A SURVIVOR
How Understanding the ACE Study Impacted a Human Trafficking Survivor
• Trauma escapes language and causes memory loss
• Toxic stress stems from relational poverty
• History repeats itself if you don’t understand it
• Abuse is passed on generationally
• How ACEs affected me and my family
As a victim of Human Trafficking and child abuse, I experienced a lot of trauma. I was very reluctant to revisit them again. I had tucked them away into history and I thought I did a good job. But they kept coming back to me in unexpected ways. I was told I needed to go back to my darkest moments to process them, to make sense of them. I didn’t see any use in it. Plus, my memory failed me.
I’m retired and 63 years old. I worked as a clerk for 27 years. I never went to college nor did I graduate from high school. When I turned 58 years old, just before I retired, I realized that the same questions about my past, my life, and my mere existence were still spinning around in my head, after all these years. I simply needed answers.
I was trafficked for 18 years, from age 15 to age 33. When I tried to put the traumas into words I couldn’t. I had an untold story inside me that was screaming to get out but I only had images in my head of what happened, I just couldn’t find the words.
One day while sitting at my computer at work, it dawned on me that most of my life is recorded in public records. So I decided to go back to those painful memories. I researched and kept a journal for about 3 years. As I searched, I felt the fear, the terror, and the shame all over again. I was determined to keep going but after about 6 months I knew I couldn’t continue on this dark path alone. So I signed up for advocacy services at a local YWCA and I had a wonderful therapist who walked alongside me on this journey. She allowed me to unload it all on her. It was her calming presence that helped me persevere to the end.
After a couple of years, I was finally able to put my life story into words and also change the way my life story ends! Searching public records sparked my memory enough to finally be able to piece it all together and make sense of my life, my story.
My journals ended up in book form. Wrapping my life up into one, nice, neat, little package was huge for me. After the last chapter was written I was able to step back, take a look at my life, from the outside, looking in this time, and I had a burst of gratefulness that I had survived all that mess. I cried and cried after pushing away from my computer but this time the tears were tears of gratefulness. I saw my cat. She was sleeping and purring. I then looked around my house and saw all the comforts of home and I knew then it was over. I knew I was safe and my mind stopped spinning. From doing this inner work and this difficult reflection, I was able to take that toxic shame off my shoulders, for being abused and put it right back where it belongs, back on the abusers.
Even though I can see now why I made those bad choices and became drug addicted, I can also see how I, myself, failed so many as an adult. History will repeat itself if you don’t understand it. Others were hurt by my bad choices and my drug addiction. To help heal these broken relationships I had to learn to learn to look beneath the surface of THEIR anger like others had done with me. That was hard to do at first but it paid off. Apologies and forgiveness took place over and over.
I still write. It’s very therapeutic. I know that what I write down will outlast me. Even if no one reads it now, I did my part. I passed my life lessons on to someone, someday. I let the truth be known and I’m standing on it. I’m standing on solid ground.
Kids need our voice like never before!
Today we say #ItsTime to change the way we represent, treat, and protect our children in America.
JOIN US, as we use our voices against abuse, neglect and injustice!
Pledge to stand up for the right of children to feel safe and protected!
July 2, 2018
Help others by sharing your story of inspiration and hope.