12 Jul Cathryn’s Story
When I was just entering middle school we moved into the house next door to my oldest sister of 16 years difference and my brother-in-law. I loved my sister and brother-in-law so I was constantly going next door to spend time with them. One day I was over there past dark so my brother-in-law walked me back to my house but halfway to my house he said he needed to talk to me. He started pacing and yelling at me, his anger escalated and I did not understand what I had done. He started screaming at me that I was such a little f***ing tease, a little whore; I was 12.
He got quiet and turned to me. My brother-in-law was about 6’3” and 300 lb man. He grabbed me and picked me up by my jaw and squeezed it forcing my mouth to open and shoved his face into mine. He then tossed me down and yelled that it was all my fault and walked away. I remember slowly walking through my door and into my bedroom, then I just fell down crying. The assaults and abuse continued for almost a year progressing each time. When I would stay away from going next door, I began to catch him staring at me through the window when I was watching T.V. late at night on weekends, and caught him staring through my bedroom window at night.
I started to just shut down each time. I pretended nothing was happening to me and never said a word to anyone, as each time he made sure to yell at me about how it was all my fault and because of me. I felt ashamed and scared that I was horrible and would just get in trouble. I started writing in my little diary that was covered in pictures of horses and pretty little girl things, one day I wrote a letter to him about how I was trying to forgive him. I left it out one day and my mom came across it, and I was confronted. Feeling ashamed as it being my fault was beaten into me, literally, I wanted to just shut down and just said “I’m sorry”. When my mom told my sister she was furious and she confronted me demanding to know what happened. I again thought I was in trouble and did not want to dare really admit how horrible it all was so I just said he tried to kiss me. My parents were very tender in their approach to me and tried to help me. They took me to the police to report it. I remember a male social worker taking me into a tiny interview room with one small bench with animal print on the cushion. There was a large two-way mirror in front of me. Two way mirrors only work if the light is off in the observation room, otherwise they are just a blurry window. Behind it I could clearly see 2 male police officers. I shut down. I told them what I could muster in my state.
Growing up, going on through middle school, puberty, high school, was internally a nightmare. I was confused. I was tainted; broken. As I got into my first serious relationship in high school, I am very thankful that he truly cared about me and was mindful of what had happened to me, but I was a mess. Emotions, any emotions were confusing and overwhelming. I was full of anger, wanting to be loved, held, and protected; but touch and intimacy was a contradictory mix of comforting and horrifyingly painful. Fast forward to me getting married. I had learned to love and let someone in, yet I have continued to randomly become angry and protective over this. A touch on the shoulder from my husband that should be a light comforting form of intimacy felt like an attack to me. Anxiety would flare. I began to cut off intimacy with my husband all together. I had to be a strong woman. Protected. Broken.
Through a lot of work and prayer we have learned to be honest and mindful of our feelings with each other and have grown past the worst and things are getting a lot better. There is hope and potential in every day. Healing.
Then not long ago I took a job that I loved. We were expanding and getting a new building which I walked through before the purchase. I loved it and saw so much potential. I knew my office was going to be smaller and up front to the lobby, but that was okay. When it came time to move however, to my horror they had cut out a window in my office and put in a two way mirror so I could see the front desk in case of a crisis as I work in the mental health field. I tried to make it work but I felt like I was in a constant state of anxiety. I literally could not breath at my desk. My chest was being crushed. Either I worked in the dark so that the two-way mirror was truly a mirror, or I had everyone watching me. I could not handle this and ended up resigning.
I’m learning to know myself and be aware of myself, but there are so many things in this world that can revictimize us after we have survived so much. My husband and family have supported me and I feel like a survivor. I feel strong. The things that happened to me don’t make me weak. They make me enlightened. It is impossible to plan for every way that post-traumatic stress might be triggered, but I am surrounded with support and work to be as educated as possible. I feel more awareness needs to be made, and peer relationships and support from shared stories help keep me and others from isolating and shutting down.